Monday, February 25, 2008

My Fancy

My fancy. I’d like to offer a dining recommendations to all of my fans. Let me begin with Newport. Several years ago, my family celebrated the Thanksgiving weekend in Newport, RI. Naturally, my father extensively researched our dining choices and settled on The Mooring and Mamma Luisa’s. Lucky for me, I continue to be an avid lover of The Mooring, but have not revisited Mamma Luisa’s…until this weekend. My memories consisted of a long walk on Thames (thanks Richard), with skepticism and annoyance. When we arrived at the restaurant 30 minutes later (no exaggeration) after our pleasant jaunt, we were greeted by a non discrete house and a hokey sign bearing what I believe to be Mamma Luisa herself, swinging ever so slightly over the doorway. Once entering the threshold, the rest was history. The interior was cozy and romantic and the food wildly delicious. Seven years later, I trekked back, this time by car, and was no less impressed than I was the first time.

I always retained the fond memories of the restaurant and I was determined to experience ML before the winter season ended. I was on a mission. The last few months, I purveyed several locals, inquiring about their feelings towards the off the beaten track restaurant, and all feedback came back marvelous. I knew I was ready to re-experience the hokey house. We set the date for Saturday. Our outing included the Ball in Chain, his sis and her esteemed colleague (read: double date). We had previously pre gamed at The Reading Room, over a friendly game of pool, salted nuts and Chardonnay and were all excited to experience the restaurant I had so lived up. We began our order with a bottle of a Montepulciano; the wine menu was very wallet friendly, always key with a mid-20s something crowd. For appetizers, we settled on a goat cheese, roasted tomatoes and red pepper crostini and carpaccio bresaola over fresh greens and shaved parmesan. For entrees, we ordered a pork tenderloin with a béchamel and proscuitto sauce, pan seared sole, penne with spicy marinara and aged goat and homemade butternut squash ravioli with sage butter reduction. The winner of the pack was the ravioli. In addition, I ordered a salad that deserves the spot light as well; arugula and radicchio, goat cheese, whole dates, walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette. I was slightly disappointed with my penne. I was expecting fresh ricotta, enabling the dish to be creamy. Instead, ricotta salada was shaved onto the penne and the sauce tasted more like a puttanesca than the decadent creamy concoction I desired. I am still kicking myself over the Special, homemade truffled ravioli, one portion left. What was I thinking? Hours later, I was still kicking myself. Although I can't complain about the dessert. We chose a homemade cannoli with a chocolate and orange bit shell and home made tiramisu, which I am drooling for right now. Mamma Luisa’s is perfect for a 1 on 1 setting for a small group party. It is intimate, friendly and delicious and is perfect for that savory winter meal.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Armpit

As always, my sojourn to the promise lands, aka NJ, proved to be a gastronomic indulgence. I’ll happily stream past Friday since my 11PM “dinner” included Quaker Oats mini ranch rice cakes and chugging the nearest bottle of red wine that I found. Saturday was much more elegant. My esteemed colleague and I met my grand parentals at their go-to UES seafood eatery, Atlantic Grill. Bear in mind, this was my third visit in the past 5 months to this delightful resort, furthermore, please note, I am not complaining.

I immediately was set on starting our luncheon with oysters. Together my colleague and I decided on Pine Island, Fisher Islands and PEIs; all delicious, minus the Fisher Islands that my Grandfather heartily helped himself too. But after all, he was paying the bill. After having oysters in three different restaurants in the past week, I am pleased to say that I am impressed with the different pairing options they all offer. No more traditional cocktail sauce. Lately I’ve seen a diced shallot accoutrement or red wine vinegar, surprisingly refreshing and a lovely complement to the old basic red clumped sauce. We also sampled the shrimp dumplings that were served alongside a soy dipping sauce and spicy wasabi mustard.

For the entrée, I stuck with my gut and chose the NORI WRAPPED BIG EYE TUNA Stir-fry Bok Choy, Sticky Rice, Wasabi Soy Vinaigrette (my apologies for the cut and paste), a dish I had ordered in the past and liked, but didn’t love. But this time, I was in luck, the tuna came to me blue and black and literally melted in my mouth. The wasabi mustard added a nice tang to the simple seared fish, which was served over a mountain of sticky sweet rice and stir fry vegetables. Please order, and ask for the tuna RARE and order the recommended Chardonnay. Other table orders was a golden grilled snapper, seared scallops and grilled shrimp. My newest thing has been ordering capuccinos in lieu of a dessert. But naturally when the chocolate fondue arrived I found myself helping myself, just as my Grandfather did with the Fisher Islands. Three hours later, we rolled out a little fuller and drunker than expected.

Dinner commenced back in the Armpit. We began our appetizer binge with Pernod Ricards and sweet sherry next to the roaring Duraflame fire (so Olsen of us). We snacked on a French hard bodied goat (the name escapes me), capanata and olives. Our first course was fresh proscuitto wrapped around succlulent mango. The flavors were fresh and married perfectly. Our entrée was spaghetti with fresh crab, clams and seared scallops, sprinkled with parsley. I made my French salad, courtesy of my cooking class; radicchio, arugula and frisee dotted with toasted pine nuts, fresh shavings of parmesan and lightly tossed with shallot and mustard based dressing. Oh and four bottles of wine, one being Alamos, an Argentinean Malbec that my parents had in South America. Smooth and full of flavor, my new favorite. *Oh and in case anyone was wondering, I am going to start including radicchio in more of my salads).

On Sunday, my parents hosted a cocktail party so much of the day was spent in preparation. My colleague and I volunteered to make the mushroom and Roquefort galette that we so liked in the cooking class and a leek and potato gratin. Although the galette had a time challenge component (ie. make pastry dough), I was determined and not let down. The appetizers consisted of our perfectly jeweled galettes, flakey and scrumptious and even better than the instructors, duck liver pate, goat cheese, capanata and old bay seasoned shrimp. Richard prepared one of my favorites, steak au poivre with steamed asparagus accompanied with the creamy, gratin that was gluttonously gruyere infused.

I’m so full thinking about my consumption this past weekend, I can’t even begin to touch upon the Nolita panini bar Bread, except to say that it’s tasty, inexpensive and in a really fun neighborhood; a great lunch place.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Thanksgiving

As you all know, I am not a huge Valentine’s Day girl. Well let me explain. I don’t do stuffed animals, period. I don’t like heart shaped chocolate boxes unless it has a European imprint. No Russell Stovers for me. I don’t like cheesy cards, although jokes are always welcome for this genre. No mushiness. What I do value are dinners out, roses sent to the office and fine chocolate (this has already been covered above). Oh and sometimes I will wear a little red, subtle of course.

Per my request, I did obtain the dream dinner without the overly gross feeling that Valentine’s Day can so often offer. As many of you know, and this may come as a surprise, I like to plan. So micromanaging for my perfect dinner began in January. I immediately made a list of all acceptable restaurants and settled on Gaslight, the new French Bistro in South End. Gaslight is part of Aquitaine's Group, which manages Aquitaine (another French hit) and Union Bar and Grill. I had attended the opening ceremony and was immediately impressed by the beautifully executed aesthetics and décor. Once OpenTable gave me the go, we were all set. Then the waiting began…

But finally, it was February 14. Pre dinner, we hit up one of my old favorites, Monica’s Vinoteca, a chic, yet surprisingly quiet bar that is a nice change from boisterous BHP or the if-you-want-to-get-spilled/stepped-on, Sail Loft. We settled on two different reds and ogled over the menu, noting the dishes we would definitely return for; crostini with chicken pate, figsand a caramelized cranberry reduction and a pizzetta with caramelized onions, figs and prosciutto (the MMO Holy Trinity).

After getting our hearts pumping with the vino, we sped to Gaslight. My partner in crime was immediately impressed with the interior. I, on the other hand, was immediately impressed that they were playing Carla Bruni, Sarkozy's newest wife and one of my favorite French singers. Although they boast a large space, Gaslight was still able to imbue the intimacy AND liveliness that an authentic brasserie has to offer. The space is absolutely beautiful; vintage French clocks, street signs and Metro tiles decorate the walls. The floor consists of tiny pearl-like tiles that dance in the candlelight. Other small details, such as the small glassware and white marbleized granite tables, reinforce the authentic brasserie feel. Every table was even served their own paper-bagged baguette, recreating the wondrous routine of unwrapping a fresh warm loaf and then ultimately biting into the crusty, doughy sublime; tres Francais, I could’ve been there.

We began our meal by ordering a bottle of Vouvray and starting with oysters to whet the appetite. The oysters were absolutely delicious; a small amount of red wine vinegar and the homemade cocktailsauce went a long away and added to the flavor of the refreshing jewels. For the appetizer, we agreed on the Fondue Piemonte, which was presented as quite a surprise. Expecting the tradition sterno base and skewers, we were delighted to find our fontina and saucisson presented in a black iron skillet dish with crusty bread serving as our skewers. Delicieux. With saucisson in every bite, the fondue ultimately tasted like a gourmet pepperoni pizza.

For an entrée, I chose the skate, an unfamiliar fish to me, yet most Frenchies recommend. My counter part decided on the steak frites, Grace a dieux. The skate was delicious, pan seared and served with a Dijon sauce; the combination melted in my mouth. The steak frites were accompanied with Bernaise and tasted best when all three fats were eaten in the same orgasmic bite.
Dessert was a generous portion of crème brulees escorted with a (small, mais oui) glass of port.
All-in-all, the ambiance, décor and service were sensational and the food was delicious despite a packed lovey-dovy house.


Monday, February 11, 2008

We Sleep, We Laugh, We Gorge

I had the crème de la crème of the Finer Things Club™ this weekend. Friday evening began with a mission of celebrating my first commission check. The journey commenced at the much-raved about Beehive; aka the closest thing Boston has to the LES. Think modern cafes des artistes for the Bohemian (wanna-be's) of the city. You have an option of sitting on the ground floor or the subterranean level so we chose the latter because the bar had openings. There we were greeted with antique chandeliers, exposed brick and funky starving-artist artwork exploding on the walls. Salsa was delicately echoing the room (although the club boasts live music every night) and the clientele was diverse and funky, no Ned Devine’s for this crowd. We started off cocktail hour with our stand-by’s; vodka and Jack. I got the Moscow Mule, a drink that was popular in the 50s with vodka, ginger beer and lime. My counterpart ordered his go-go, a Jack and coke. To coat our bellies, we ordered the bite-size beef Wellingtons (the cheapest offering). Small beef medallions surrounded by puffed pastry and coated with a sweet reduction. Not great, but it was a start.

After feeling like I had finally found the artist’s niche of Boston, we headed to B& G Oysters to sample fresh sea fare. The décor was icy, sleek and modern, a different pace from the warmth and eclectic atmosphere of Beehive. The oysters were delicious (Ningret, Montauk and Malpeque), especially accompanied by the fruity French Muscadet we chose. Barbara Lynch was even cooking in the open kitchen, which the oyster bar surrounds. (Barbara is the proprietor and chef of B& G as well as some other top Boston restaurants).

Still wanting more food and drinks, we changed paces and jumped to Newbury and settled on Croma; an Euro-Italian pizzeria where we got homemade sangria and salads. I ordered a goat cheese salad, which I expected to be very run of the mill. However, I was extremely surprised. On top of the bed of greens was a disc of hot bread holding a mound of warm gooey goat cheese with roasted red peppers and tomatoes. It was incredible. After bar hopping galore, I finally felt like I had reached my max and decided to call it a night.

Saturday I had the honor of reconnecting with an old friend, NBH and her mere, Loulu. The gorging continued. I met my hostesses at the infamous Stephanie’s, where I was greeted with pushy teenagers and overly dressed middle aged women. However, since my entourage travels in style, and we were immediately seated in a lovely booth (birthday white lies are key), where we sipped chilled Chardonnay and sampled an incredible tuna tartare and arancini balls. For our entrée, I ordered a grilled jumbo shrimp salad, full of flavors and textures. Dessert was a molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, hot bittersweet chocolate and panna cotta. Yes, please.

The gorging continued once we were ensconced back in Newton. For our evening food choices were Thai (chicken satay, perfectly crisp Thai rolls, pad thai smothered in peanut sauce and lime, which offers a very refreshing bite and masaman curry over nutty brown rice), Teuscher truffles and a lovely, bold Cab.

As Sunday rolled around, we started the morning with a Jewish brunch; bagels, lox, homemade scallion cream cheese and an assortment of juicy fruits. By the time 4PM rolled around, we were hungry again and feasted on a French version of flat bread (think baguette flattened) and the most delectable roasted red pepper aioli, goat cheese spread and tapenade. The weekend proved to be lovely, relaxing and full of gorging, sleeping and giggling…sigh.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Lipliner Sahara

Did anyone else tune in to watch the much-anticipated Lipstick Jungle, created by the makers of the cult classic Sex and the City? Because I did. Not one to follow trends (excuse me while I choke…Gossip Girls, anyone?), but anything remotely related to the fantastic scripts of “great beadwork though,” and gruelingly cool fashion and chic restaurant shots was tempting enough. I think I can say for all womankinds “We miss our ladies.” (I hope that was enough homage to SATC).

Now, I don’t know about you, but I was disappointed. Perhaps obsession takes it time, but I couldn’t relate to any of the woman. I didn’t feel bad for any of them! I mean come on, look at your apartments! And the clothes weren’t even that stellar either! If I was a fashion designer (disastrous line, to boot), I’d hope I would look a million times better than Victory Ford. Although I do give the writer’s props for the label name, sort of. Her affair is just preposterous. But maybe I’m just jealous. Eh, I don’t know. I’m not one for Bentley’s, although I do like flowers.

Was it just me, or did it take anyone else a while to catch on to what Wendy actually did? I get it, you get to drop Leo’s name, but what exactly do you do? Or, I could just be stupid; always a possibility. Personally, I can’t believe he called her back; I didn’t find her convincing enough. I did like the deliberate take in the opening scene of her dropping her purse, just like CB did when she first met BIG. Rip off. But she’s clumsily like me, so I got a chuckle.

In addition, I had no idea Wendy was played by Brooke Shields. Must have missed that, ouch.

And what about that lil hottie of a hunk? Why was he interested in Nico? And what kind of name is Nico? Isn’t that the name of soon cool retro band? Honestly, I didn’t feel bad for Nico. Hello? Your husband is awful. What a terrible plot line. And trite script. I could honestly write a better script. Also, I thought the aggressive salt salad was a little over the top.

What about the cheesy scene on the balcony? Gross feeling anyone?

Needless to say, I could foresee myself loosely following the next few episodes…Let’s be honest, I just wanted to get to blog before NYMag did.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Communist Gym

Ah the gym. The quintessential American establishment that houses spandex-hugging gym rats, body builders, walkers, joggers, runners and the occasional grunters. Of course each gym varies depending on its level of sophistication. I once was the proud member of the Chatham Club; a state-of-the-art exercise facility that offered unlimited towels (gasp), two spin rooms, water coolers everywhere, squash courts, locker rooms with saunas, hair dryers, lotions, individual tvs for each piece of equipment and even a zen-like stretch room, purely for the purpose to stretching in the dark. It was heaven and definitely worth the 15 minute drive from my house and even that one minor car accident, oops.

Now one of the perils of moving out of the house is the quandary of a new gym. Things to keep in mind: location, cost efficient memberships and some sort of cleanliness level. After relocating to Boston, I did what all new comers to the city did; joined the gym my friends all went to. How could I complain? It was only $30 a month (and we have a sauna! My NYC counterparts all paid upwards of $80 - $100. I felt like I landed the best deal ever. Little did I know, the former SuperButtFitness, now acquired byPlanetoftheApesFitness, would become the biggest joke of all exercise facilities.

Let me give you all a few facts about this cost-savings gym (prior to Planet Fitness's buy out). There are no lockers. Seriously. 99% of the lockers are occupied. Even lockers that are unlocked contain valuables galore (this reads: steal from me please, I am begging you). If you are lucky to find an unoccupied locker, it is surely the small one, which is great for your dry cleaning bill. (Note that towels are not handed to you upon entry. Nor do they exist. Although, urban legend says that they did. ) After finding a secure location for your personals, your next quest is to find a machine. Bear in mind, most machines are taken and the few that aren't, are broken. Fun! Welcome to Conn Coll's Athletic Center! (Side note, please read: "Students Have a View of the Thames River While They Run on the Treadmills-The Facility Recently Added Four Satellite Television Viewing Stations" what?) Then there is the challenge of hydrating. The only water fountain offered is down stairs in the boy's lair where the main grunters reside. And for a limited few week's time, water was not even offered due to a broken fountain. Bring your wallets, fellas, because that Vitamin water and HydroProtein shakes are not cheap.

Although SuperFitness had its challenges, at least we had our classes. I became addicted to the pilates class, abs class and total body conditioning. Enough with those antiquated machines. I had it all; these classes were the silver lining that made SuperFitness worth staying for.

Until PlanetFitness acquired the gym two weeks ago....No more classes. Instead, we get tanning booths and free pizza at every month! What? Tanning beds? Aren't gyms supposed to promote well-being and fitness? Not melanoma-inducing sloths? And what about pizza? Are you trying to motivate me to work out harder? Or just make me feel worthless, bloated, pathetic, and add a few inches to my hips? Thanks a lot. I'd rather work out and take an abs class that sit in a coffin and inject fake sun into my skin while wearing funny googly glasses.
Oh, and I was told that we would receive free massages to. Wow, things were starting to change. Until I read the little print shouting "massage chairs." Please. I'd rather lounge in BrookStone for free then pay to linger in some infested, worthless massage chair. Mall trip anyone?

To all of you grunters out there, be no more. PlanetFitness has done away with your silver lining as well: all heavy weights. Sorry guys, I guess it's "lean and mean," they say.

A few other things worth mentioning: the sauna no longer appears to be working. Management has also taken attack on our coat hangers. Like stuffing your freshly laundered blouses into that little ring box wasn't annoying enough, now we have to stuff our expensive wool coats to boot. After politely approaching the new staff assistant at the front desk (who looks like she just spent the last five years in Cancun), I was shocked and dismayed to find out that PlanetFitness is purposely taking away our rights to hang coats and refusing to restock.
Enough with this Communism! I say a mutiny is in order!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Super Bowl Weekend

As many of you may know, I am not a huge sports fan.  "Go sports," tends to be my go-to cheer during that awkward question about my team preference, sporting event or athlete.  (does Michelle Quan still count?)  That being said, I was so looking forward to eating my heart out during Sunday's game, with no other than the all-American cuisine, Thai.  (Does anyone else crave Thai as much as I do on Sundays?)  However, much to my dismay, my favorite Thai nook was ferme pour les joues!  Quoi? C'est vrai.  I couldn't believe my eyes, even my Asian companions were more pro-American than me.  I needed to move on and move up soI fixed my craving with another domestic stand-by; Middle Eastern.  My dear friend Rachel and I shared a crisp green Mideastern salad with a spiced, lemon vinaigrette and char-broiled chicken breast served over savory rice pilaf and accompanied by a wonderful homemade yogurt.  Delicious, light and filling.  

Now in case any of you were wondering, yes, I did watch the game, while judiciously clicking to Iron Chef battle of chocolate.  Could a bigger polar opposite tryst exist for me other an a sporting game and chocolate competition?  No, but I compromised and that's what counts.  

But let's get back to topic.  This weekend proved to be a lovely culinary adventure.  On Saturday evening, I hosted an impromptu dinner party for my New York guest and former roommate.  We started off the evening with a variation of a bellini; prosecco served with a dash of mango lemonade juice (organic, of course), and the zest of lemon peel.  Cool, refreshing and tasty.  As dinner was served, we paired our meal with an every day cab and then switched gears to a homemade espresso martini as dessert.  Dinner comprised of a chicken balsamico (courtesy of Giada), roasted and charred carrots, brussels sprouts, shallots and onions, several more veggie-lite dishes and Bova's whole wheat bread.  The chicken was absolutely phenomenal and surprisingly easy to make.  I also had the help of some fresh herbs bought locally at Polcari's Coffee and Spice cult shop.  Where else can you buy the strongest espresso, herbs de Provence, parsley and bay leaves for an astounding $4.50?  Anyways, I strongly recommend the chicken dish, served with the reduction of the balsamic dressing and topped with fresh  parsley and lemon zest.  Voila.