Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Thor









Thor is a new, trendy restaurant on the Lower East Side that recently opened. It received good reviews and serves interesting, modern food. The dining room is very nice, with dim lighting and spacious white booths.

We started with a trio of fall soups, which were wonderful. The chesnut had a foamy top, similar to cappucino foam and the flavor was creamy and nutty. The pumpkin had a deep, rich flavor that was evocative, especially when topped with pumpkin seeds. The celery root was was suprisingly good, and was lighter than the other two soups.

The white tomato mousse was an unusual and fabulous starter. The mousse was unlike anything I've tasted before, it was light and creamy like whipped cream, except ten times lighter. The tomato compote on top of the mousse was juicy and flavored with opal basil.

The hamachi with avocado was very good. The fish was fresh and had a tangy marinade and paired nicely with the avocado and tomatoes.

The snapper entree with clams, artichokes, and olives was amazing. The broth was wonderful, and full of flavor. The fish was perfectly cooked and had a crispy skin topped with lemon and salt. The vegetables served alongside were crispy and delicious.

The halibut with celery root and wild mushrooms was a warm, substantial fall dish. The fish was roasted and went well with the celery root and mushrooms.

The lobster with figs, favas, and bearnaise sauce was tiny, but wonderful. The lobster was moist and delicate, and the combinations of the dish were imaginative. The small portion made this otherwise heavy dish light.

The vegetable side of figs with fennel was very good. The fennel was buttery and paired well with the roasted figs.

The complementary creamed spinach was the only dud of the dinner. It had a fishy taste and tasted old.

The flight of desserts had a passion fruit gelee with an espresso granita and a coconut mousse, which was the best out of the three. The coconut mousse was light and airy. The chocolate hazelnut pudding was warm, and a good rendition of a classic. The vanilla ice cream with pumpkin seeds was good, but not outstanding.

The pumpkin cheesecake with fall fruits and maple ice cream was good, but was heavy. The pumpkin flavor was nice, but the ice cream was a little too sweet.

The passion fruit souffle with passionfruit ice cream was wonderful. The souffle was light and crispy and had a great passion fruit flavor.

The concord grape float with ginger ice cream and ginger fig newtons was the star of the desserts. It was one of those dishes were the all the ingredients combine to create something new and wonderful. The ginger ice cream was fabulous with the grape and the fig newton was crispy and wonderful.

Thor offers inventive, wonderful food in a fun, hip atmosphere. It was about $60 a person including an appetizer, entree, and dessert.

Thor
107 Rivington St.
New York, NY 10002
212 796 8040

AQ Cafe

AQ Cafe is a Scandinavian place (by the owner of Aquavit) located in Midtown in NYC. It is cafeteria style and is fairly cheap. However the lines are very long and slow and the food is prepared in a space the size of a closet.

We got one Nordic Cuban sandwich, which was the best out of everything we ordered. It was on good, crispy bread and the mustard was a nice touch on an otherwise ordianary Cuban.

We also had the Gravlax Club, cured salmon with avocado, tomato, potato, and cilantro, served on whole grain bread. It was okay, not bad, but not good.

The Broccoli Fennel soup was dull and tasted like the broccoli, fennel, and cream had just been pureed then served.

The meatballs, one of their specialties were heavy and had a strong meat flavor. It was served with a lingonberry jam, which didn't perk the dish up enough.

The side salads served with each dish were terrible, very old lettuce and no flavor.

AQ Cafe serves mediocre food with long lines; not worth anyone's time or money

AQ Cafe
58 Park Avenue (at 38th St.)
New York, NY 10016
P. 212 847 9745
F. 212 686 2115
www.aquavit.org

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Clear Flour Bakery









Clear Flour Bakery has been one of my favorite bakeries since we discovered it a year ago. The overwhelming scent of freshly baked bread and pastries drew us in. They retail shop is very small, but crammed with delicious baked goods. Whenever we go there always seems to be something fresh from the oven, and still warm in its paper bag. We were in the neighborhood after eating at Dok Bua and decided to stop by.

The chocolate bun was wonderful, a pan au chocolat taken to the next level. It had a bun similar to a croissant, that was perfectly moist and flaky. The inside was filled with rich, dark chocolate filling and roasted almonds.

The chocolate shortbread was very rich, with a very deep dark chocolately flavor. Unlike most shortbread, it was not incredibly sweet or buttery.

They make wonderful seasonal fruit tarts and the plum tart was no exception. It had a wonderful flaky crust, unlike most, which have no function other than being a platform for the filling. The plums were juicy and tart and perfectly offset the rich crust.

Canneles are little baked custards that I've seen at only one other place in Boston, but Clear Flour's are superior. They are slightly burnt on the top, but it only adds a nice caramelized flavor. The canneles were chewy and moist and weren't waxy.

The baguette was good, but nothing out of the ordinary, and there are better in Boston.

The lemon roll was good and had nice lemony flavor with a average roll


The buckwheat walnut roll was rather flavorless, but slighlty acidic.

Clear Flour has some wonderful pastries and is one of the best bakeries in Boston. However, some their bread is not up to par with their other goods. Pastries are abot $2-3 depending on each one.

Clear Flour Bakery
178 Thorndike St.
Brookline MA 02446
617.739.0060
www.clearflourbread.com


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Dok Bua







Dok Bua is considered one of the best thai restaurants in the Boston area. I'd read countless raves about it and finally got around to trying it for lunch. The service was rude and it took a while for them to take our order. The decor here is hilarious, a combination of fishtanks, electric palm trees and vampire figurines. The menu is a large as a photo album and not arranged very well, but we eventually decided what to order.

We started with the Miang Kum, which is dried shrimp, peanut, lime, chili and Chinese broccoli wrapped in a leaf. It has many popular ingredients in thai food, including lime, ginger, and chili and was refreshing.

Next we had Pad Ki Mow, which is sauteed rice noodles with basil, tomato, onion, green pepper and chili paste. This was our favorite dish, the noodles had a slightly sweet flavor that was irresistable.

We also had the Rendang curry, which is chicken in a curry sauce topped with toasted coconut. It was a good curry, but was too sweet.

We also had Tom Kha Gai, the traditional coconut chicken soup. It was one of the better versions, with a strong citrus flavor and mushrooms.

Yum Nua is a beef salad with cucumber, tomato, onion, lime sauce and chili. The lime sauce was flavorful and went nicely with the beef.

The worst dish was Yum Woon Sen, which was glass noodles with ground pork, shrimp, peanut, chili sauce and lime juice. The lime juice was extremely overpowering and tasted more like household cleaner than anything else. It made the whole dish inedible.

There were one or two good dishes, but nothing worth going back for. It was about $12 a person including one dish and tax.

Dok Bua
411 Harvard Ave
Brookline, MA, 02446
P: 617 232 2955, 617 277 7087
F: 617 232 2250
www.dokbuathai.com

*Pictures from Dok Bua's website

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Forest Cafe



Forest Cafe is a kitschy Mexican place a few blocks away from us. Recently its famed chef Jim Fahey returned to the kitchen and this was our second visit since then. At five-thirty the restaurant was suprisingly packed, and we were seated at the last table.

To start I had the green beans with garlic and lime. They were amazing, seared until crispy and dripping with lime and garlicky oil. A great, creative way to serve green beans. We also had two specials, the shrimp with an orange colored pumpkin seed sauce and pork with bean puree in corn tortillas. The shrimp were okay, a little spicy, but didn't have much flavor. The pork was great, smokey and spicy with tons of flavor wrapped in a fresh corn tortilla.

For entrees we had the shrimp with a green pumpkin seed sauce. The shrimp were very fresh tasting and the sauce was great, especially when mopped up with the rice. The pork with the chocolate hazelnut mole was great. The pork was nothing special, but the mole was some of the best I've had. The deep chocolate was balanced by the hazelnut and was pretty spicy.

It was a good,casual meal in a fun atmosphere. There were some standouts that are will make us return. Dinner was $20-25 a person, including an appetizer, entree, and tax.

Forest Cafe: 1682 Massachusetts Ave,
Cambridge MA, 02138
Phone: 617 661-7810
http://www.theforestcafe.com/index.asp

Oleana










Oleana is a cozy restaurant serving interesting Meditterean food that is different from anyplace else. This was our 4th visit and it has become one of our favorite restaurants. The service was lovely, our waiter made honest reccomendations and chatted for a bit. From the cushions near the litte stove fireplace to the samples of wine, they go out of their way to make you comfortable.

There are two dining rooms and a outdoor patio that is lovely in the summer, especially when they have the band playing outside. However, the dining rooms are equally nice, warm and cozy with comfortable benches and seats.

I opted for the vegetarian testing menu, and the first course served was a spicy carrot puree & egyptian spice mix with nuts and olive oil acommpanied by the armenian bean and walnut pâté with pomegranate seeds and homemade string cheese. The naturally sweet carrots were perfectly balanced by the spices and fragrant olive oil, a great blend of sweet and spicy. The pâté was rich and nutty and the juicy pomegranite seeds and salty string cheese contrasted nicely.

The next plate was greens with pecan labne, apple, fennel, & pomegranate. The creamy labne combined with the crunchy, fresh tasting greens and crisp apple to make an ordianary salad seem luxurious.

The two appetizers came next, the tamarind glazed beef with smokey eggplant puree and the cabbage dolma with lamb, butternut sqaush & turkish red pepper broth. The tamarind beef was wonderful, the tamarind added a acidic touch to the rich and flavorful braised beef. The eggplant puree was quite smokey, but was light and smooth. The cabbage rolls were very good, especially the buttery butternut squash puree and the pepper broth played along well the the meat filling. A well-done spin on the old classic.

The next course in the tasting menu was the spinach falafel & watercress salad with tahini, yogurt and beets, which were the best falafel I've ever had. They were hot and crunchy on the outside, but creamy and flavorful inside. The cool beets and yogurt made them even better, the contrast of smooth and crisp was wonderful.

The fried haloumi cheese, flambeed with ouzo & grilled pear with spiced dates arrived bursting with flames and aromas. The chewy, moist cheese and tart unripe pear made for quite a textural contrast, but the dates were cloying sweet, yet bitter, almost inedible.

The entrees arrived next, but weren't as strong as the appetizers. The flattened lemon chicken with za'atar & turkish cheese pancake had an exotic flavor from the spices on top and was moist inside. However, the cut of chicken was strange and made cutting it a challenge. The crispy duck with celery root skordalia, forest raised shitakes & rigani was indeed crispy and had a rich duck taste, but was slightly dry.

The next course was the ricotta & bread dumplings with red wine, porcini and kale, which were amazingly rich and flavorful. The dumpling were airy, yet creamy and sauce was fabulous, and full of lake and porcinis.

For dessert we had the chocolate hazelnut baklava, made only for chocolate lovers. The crunch of the pastry and nuts was a nice contrast to the smooth chocolate filling. The salted hazelnuts served on the side were great, especially with the sarelle cream. The pomegranate granita with künefe and rose petal jam was just as good. The icy, sweet granita, rose petal jam,and creamy künefe were an unusual, yet wonderful combination.

The food here is very unusual and served in a welcoming environment. Many of the dishes will blow you away in their subtle complexity. Dinner is around $50 a person, including a three course meal and tax.

Oleana
134 Hampshire St
Cambridge MA 02139
P:(617) 661.0505 F:(617) 661.3336
http://www.oleanarestaurant.com/

Saturday, October 29, 2005

EVOO










Evoo is a cute neighborhood bistro in Somerville serving contemporary food. I went for the first time when they opened a few years ago, but hadn't been back for a while.

Creatively carved pumpkins dotted the entrance as we walked throught the door. Our favorite was the "Tom Delay" that had a plastic doll of him behind bars. We sat down at a corner table near the windows , which was a little drafty considering it was snowing outside. It was only five-thirty, so the room was only partially full. Our waiter was very nice and friendly and gave us a few recommendations.

To start I got the carrot soup with raisins, apples, and mint. It arrived slightly lukewarm, and the carrots had good roasted flavor, but a slight bitter aftertaste. Overall, the flavors blended nicely to create a good fall dish. We also got a pumpkin coconut soup that was asian influenced. The coconut milk added depth to the soup along with some spices. We had a fried green tomato stuffed with maine crabmeat that was crispy on the outside, but the crabmeat was a little bland. The asian baby back ribs were nothing new, with a sweet hoisin sauce.

For an entree I had the salmon with a bulgar pilaf and roasted beets. The salmon had a crispy crust, but was mediocre. Crunchy bulgar provided a nice contrast to the tasteless beets. Duck, duck, goose is a classic here; it has foie gras, duck confit, and goose breast atop a green bean and lentil salad served with a salty pan sauce. The duck and goose were perfectly cooked and had a pleasant flavor. The foie gras was rich and creamy as it should be and paired well with the green beans. The stuffed sugar pumpkin was cute and was filled with a lamb tagine with couscous and green olives. The combination of the pumpkin and lamb was good and creative. The lime cilantro chicken breast was served in a tamale with mashed yams and black beans. The chicken was moist and the lime and cilantro blended well with the yams and black beans.

For dessert I had a brown sugar sweet potato pie with apple butter and whipped cream. The sweet potato filling didn't have as much flavor as a pumpkin one would have, but the brown sugar below it was reminiscent of caramel and balanced well with the tart apple butter and smooth whipped cream. The pear cranberry crumble was warm and crisp and was served with a very subtle lavender ice cream that should have been more flavorful. The best dessert was the lemon raspberry tart with a not too sweet lemon curd and fresh rasberries on top. Combined with the flaky crust, this was a perfect end to the meal.

This is a cozy neighborhood restaurant serving good food at reasonable prices. The food is nothing mind-blowing, but well-prepared using fresh, local produce and is creative. It was about $45 a person for a three course meal including tax.

EVOO: 118 Beacon Street, Somerville MA 02143
T. 617 661 EVOO F. 617 661 8866
www.evoorestaurant.com

Friday, October 28, 2005

Beginning

Welcome!

The reason I am starting yet another food and travel blog?

* For a few years I've been making my own guidebooks. Not fancy things, but small spiral bound notebooks cluttered with xeroxes of guidebooks, torn out pages of magazines, and printouts from online. I start the research weeks in advance and by the end my book is filled. Too many restaurants, cafes, and bakeries to possibly go to. So I have to pick and choose. Which makes every meal important, but who do I tell about this findings? For a while the answer would have been no one, maybe a friend if they are planning a trip to a certain place, but for the most part there wasn't a place to openly record this. Now I have this blog to post these things.