Boston's Newest Biergarten, Bronwyn



We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

A 'sausage and beer emporium'

Sausage + beer — what more could you need from Boston's newest biergarten? Chef Tim Wiechmann, of the restaurant T.W. Food, is bring his take on sausage and beer to a high-concept biergarten, Bronwyn, opened this week.

The Boston Globe has called it a "refined take" on a biergarten, and features all kinds of sausages — kielbasa, currywurst, bierwurst, made in-house — plus more traditional German fare, like rebekuchen, knodel, sauerbraten, and jagerschnitzel. And of course, that includes a hefty German beer selection, but Eater also reports that the beer list includes Czech, Polish, and Central European beers. And we really enjoy the Globe's description of the scene at Bronwyn: "Somervillains in plaid-shirt finery. Man dates. Beer geeks. Teutonophiles. There is music playing, but it’s almost too loud to hear what it is. In one room, tattooed women hoist steins at the bar and newly made friends debate the merits of different dishes seated on benches at rough-hewn communal tables. In the adjacent dining room, seating is more elegant: ornate wood chairs upholstered in velvet."


The Green Barn looks like a promising German eatery with its big, emerald structure and masculine basement-level dining room, but the shoddy decorations, inattentive waitstaff, and second-rate food make this one of Phantom’s wurst dining experiences.

For wiener schnitzel, sauerkraut, and strudel, the Hofbrauhaus in West Springfield is the closest to Munich you can get with out leaving New England.

Old-guard Boston meets Bavarian beer hall at this Theater District gem.

Watch Us

Saturdays & Sundays – 10 and 11am

Phantom Gourmet Restaurant Gift Cards


From Munich with love

GERMAN TREAT: Chef Ben Hennemuth displays his flammkuchen at Glass House in Cambridge.

It&rsquos still September, but Oktoberfest is upon us. The annual Munich folk festival, celebration of Bavarian culture and excuse for Americans to drink uber-amounts of German beer kicked off on Saturday and runs through Oct. 3. Naturally, plenty of Boston-area restaurants are getting in on the festivities. Here are a few dishes designed for at-home Oktoberfest meals from businesses that are also hosting their own exciting events.

Pork schnitzel with paprika sauce and riesling sauerkraut by chef Tim Wiechmann of Bronwyn

Tim Wiechmann is a local culinary treasure, a chef who quietly and confidently excels in any cuisine &mdash from the French-bistro-inspired dishes served at his new Cambridge restaurant, the charming and intimate Self Portrait, to the hearty German and Central European cookery offered at his Somerville spot, Bronwyn. The restaurant, lovingly named for Wiechmann&rsquos wife and business partner, taps recipes that reflect the toque&rsquos ancestral roots to great success. His schnitzel even &ldquoBeat Bobby Flay&rdquo on the popular Food Network show.

Naturally, Bronwyn is going all-out for Oktoberfest. Tomorrow, Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone will tap a ceremonial keg to kick off several weeks&rsquo worth of events, including near-nightly oompah bands. But if you don&rsquot have time to raise a stein in the Bronwyn biergarten or indulge in some Oktoberfest menu specials &mdash such as platters of house-made wurst and konigsteller, a 2-pound beer-braised pork shank with roasted apples and German meatballs &mdash here&rsquos an at-home recipe for a Wiechmann specialty.

Pork schnitzel with paprika Sauce and Riesling sauerkraut

8 pork loin medallions, pounded out thin, about 2&ndash3 oz. each

1 c. pretzel crumbs (or panko/store-bought crumbs)

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, sliced very thin

2 qt. raw, fermented sauer- kraut

2 medium white onions, sliced thin

2 medium apples, cut into small chunks, skin on

For the sauerkraut: Melt butter over medium heat in a heavy, ovenproof pot. Add onions and apples, season with a pinch of salt. Cook for about 10 minutes until soft, then add the sauerkraut. Add juniper berries and wine, and cover with a piece of wax paper directly on the cabbage. Let simmer a few more minutes, then transfer to a 300-degree oven. Bake for an hour, or until the cabbage is very tender. Make sure to stir from time to time to make sure it isn&rsquot sticking to the bottom of the casserole.

For the sauce: Combine sour cream with lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, par­sley and paprika. Keep cold.

For the schnitzel: Season the meat with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour, frothed eggs, then crumbs. Heat some canola oil in a cast-iron pan and set over medium-high heat. Add the schnitzel and fry each side until they are crispy and golden. Remove from the pan to a paper towel, then drain off the oil. Season again on the outside and squeeze a lemon over the schnitzel.

Serve the schnitzel on top of sauerkraut with sauce on the side. Serves 8.

Flammkuchen by chef Ben Hennemuth of Glass House

With so many Oktoberfest activities seeming to revolve around beer, it can be challenging to find celebrations for the whole family. But grab the kinder and bring them to Cambridge restaurant Glass House on Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m. There will be plenty of adult beverages, including Oktober­fest brews on draft and cider rose, plus live music and activities suitable for every member of the brood, from lawn games to pretzel necklace-making. Among the special bites being served is flammkuchen, a south German flatbread with soubise sauce, an onion sauce similar to bechamel. Here&rsquos chef Ben Hennemuth&rsquos at-home recipe, which should make even more family fun in the kitchen.

Flammkuchen

1 c. soubise sauce (see directions below)

1 store-bought or frozen pizza dough

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Roll the pizza dough flat into a square or oblong and place on a baking sheet. Cover the dough with a layer of soubise sauce. Cut burrata in slices and place evenly across the dough. Sprinkle pancetta pieces and green onion over the top and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are browned.

For the soubise sauce: Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and add 1 cup of chopped white onion. Stir in 2 tablespoons of flour for about 2 minutes or until it bubbles, just make sure it doesn&rsquot brown. Stir in 1 1/4 cups of heated milk until the sauce thickens. Bring the mixture to a boil and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Lower the heat and continue to stir for 2 to 3 minutes more.

Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte by chef Howie Haywood of Olde Magoun&rsquos Saloon

Somerville gastropub Olde Magoun??s Saloon knows how to have fun &mdash from the extensive list of German beers on draft to each month&rsquos special Wednesdays-only menu based on a different timely theme. For September and October, Magoun&rsquos is going German on hump day, offering plates such as reuben knockwurst, schweine­braten, roast pork with potato dumplings and Brussels sprouts in a rosemary-cider jus, and schwarzwalder kirschtorte, or &ldquoblack forest cake,&rdquo a traditional German treat of layered chocolate cake with cherries and a cherry-based liqueur. Chef Howie Haywood shared this sweet ending to Oktoberfest feasts. Try it at home or at Magoun&rsquos, which will also host an all-day German celebration on Sept. 30, plus different German meat roasts every Sunday in September and October.

1 c. double-Dutch dark cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa

2 c. King Arthur unbleached cake flour blend

2 T. King Arthur Cake Enhancer, optional, for moist texture

(2 c. buttermilk may be substituted for the buttermilk powder and water)

28&thinsp1/2-oz. jar sour cherry pie filling, or 1 can cherry pie filling

1/8 t. cherry flavor, optional

4 oz. grated dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease individual cake rounds. Combine the cocoa, flour, sugar, buttermilk powder, cake enhancer, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, oil and vanilla. (If using buttermilk, mix it in with the liquid ingredients.) Gradually add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add eggs and pour the batter into individual cake pans. Bake about 20 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool.

For the filling, whip the cream, slowly adding the sugar, and then the vanilla. Whip until stiff peaks form.

Cut each cake in half. Spread a 1/2-inch layer of cream onto the cake, and top with a few spoonfuls of the cherry pie filling. Use the remaining cream to coat the top of the cake and add more cherry pie filling as needed on the side. Grate chocolate on top. Serve.


Bronwyn | German Sausages and Beer/Wine | Somerville, MA Boston

highly anticipated Bronwyn opened up in Union Square last night. we were lucky enough to get a reservation. i am a huge fan of t.w. food in cambridge. bronwyn is wiechmann and her husband’s new venture. i was super excited for the german wurst and bier meaning sausage and beer in german.

we sat in the back room, a european feel.

couple beers were sold out already by the time we got there around 830pm

i was in love with this grapefruit beer. i usually dont like fruit beers, but this one was really good.

house made sausages: not overly salty and very well flavored.

Bierwurst – pork, egg, spice.

Kielbasa – coriander, garlic, pork

Smoked Soft Shell Crab grilled chestnut, red onion relish, cucumber sauce

Knödel bacon bread dumpling, fiddlehead purée – i didnt really taste the bacon tho

Biernudeln dark beer pasta, artichoke, mustard, blue cheese
somehow i misread the dark beer pasta as deer pasta, so i was expecting deer meat at the entire time. -_-

Jagerschnitzel thin veal schnitzel, foraged mushrooms, walnuts, honey
i really liked this dish.

Oat-honey Challah, Rye Roggenbrot, Bauernbrot, juniper-sesame crisp, butter, sea salt

chocolate cake – i liked the richness of the chocolate, but i found the cake was a lil bit too floury

since it was our first time there, we wanted to sample a variety of dishes. although everything we had was FANTASTIC, i would probably skip the pasta, desserts and some of the starters next time. they have an extensive list of german beer and wine. i would come in for drinks and order bunch of their house made sausages and maybe a pretzel if im super hungry. just now as im writing up this post, i realized i didnt try any of the rieslings. i freaking love german riesling. ughhhhhhhhhhhhh how could i not try any?! service was awesome, fast, and accommodating! cant wait to return to try their riseling and more beer!


With sausages and beer as cornerstones, Bronwyn is off to a hot start

Bronwyn’s Wurst Platter with sauerkraut, potatoes, bretzel, and Weihenstephaner hausbier. Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Foie gras creme brulee is a lovely thing, the kind of funky pudding (this should be the name of a dance) only a fine chef could pull off. At Cambridge restaurant T.W. Food, it is one of Tim Wiechmann's signature dishes. And Wiechmann is a very fine chef, make no mistake. His cooking is elegant, clear-eyed, and true.

But sometimes man need sausage.

Wiechmann has German roots and has always been drawn to the cuisine of Central Europe. (A few years back, asked to create a riff on turkey for a Globe Thanksgiving menu, he offered an oversize sausage of wild turkey with Ipswich fried clams: holiday surf and turf.) In May, he and his wife, Bronwyn, opened a second restaurant in Somerville's Union Square, showcasing the dishes of that region. The place is named after her.

Where T.W. Food is light and clean, the new restaurant is dark and heavy. Inside, it is hard to see and even harder to hear, decorated with iron chandeliers that belonged to Wiechmann's great-grandparents and ornate wood chairs upholstered in velvet. Long communal tables flank the zinc bar Somerville hipsters and Teutonophiles wait patiently and protractedly for seats. (Bronwyn doesn't take reservations.) In warm weather, the "biergarten" is open — a grand term for a sweet sliver of outdoor space beside the restaurant. Bronwyn feels located at the midpoint between Brooklyn and Bavaria.

And one finds oneself unusually full after just a few bites of sausage, the crown jewel of the menu, a tribute to the fat content of the food.

Oh, but it's worth it. Wiechmann makes sausages to swoon for, turning food that can be rustic and hearty into, somehow, something again rather elegant. No matter the dish, the chef's sensibility will out. Take currywurst, usually a bit of a gut-bomb, a popular German fast food consisting of pork sausage in curry sauce. At Bronwyn, it is reimagined with the curry inside the meat, a fragrant note in the background, supporting the veal and pork sausage's richness rather than smothering it.

Weisswurst is another stunner, smooth in texture and flavored with bright lemon. Kielbasa is coarser, bold with garlic, crying out for more beer. Although they're not all standouts, each of Bronwyn's sausages is at least worth tasting, from spicy bierwurst to zungenblutwurst (made with blood, tongue, pork, and roasted pears). To this end, the menu offers a sampler, the Giant Wurst Platter, which also includes some of the finest sauerkraut in town.

Not that there's exactly a glut of the stuff, despite recent interest in fermentation among chefs and food types. Restaurants featuring this region's cuisine are few and far between in Boston. It is one of the reasons Bronwyn's opening was so highly anticipated. And many of the menu's finest moments have nothing to do with sausage at all. They are refined, Wiechmann-esque renderings of other, less-familiar dishes, depicted in the medium of New England's seasonal ingredients.

Knodel is a tender, rich bread dumpling infused with the smoky flavor of bacon, served with sweet white peaches. It tastes like the world's best breakfast. Spatzle is served with corn, tarragon, and Comte, but the cheese bogs the dish down it's just too fatty. Biernudeln are a better option, the wide, silky pasta made with dark beer, combined with lively, strong flavors: sugar snap peas, Swiss chard, mustard, and blue cheese.

Rosti is a compellingly crisp potato pancake, any oiliness cut with arugula, radishes, and goat cheese. And Wiechmann's is a fine rendition of sauerbraten, the back note of vinegar saving the pot roast from dullness. Among the fat and meat and starch, it is a relief to find the rare lighter dish like roast nectarine salad, bright with fruit, pickled radishes, greens, and gingerbread vinaigrette.

Perhaps no dish better shows Bronwyn's strengths and weaknesses than jagerschnitzel. One night the veal cutlet is perfectly cooked, almost ethereal in its tender greaselessness, served with flavorful foraged mushrooms, walnuts, and honey, everything in perfect balance. It is over-the-top delicious. On another visit, it is greasy, underseasoned, and unremarkable. Likewise, the giant, dark brown bretzel found on just about every table is sometimes hard to stop eating, other times just hard, a challenge to the jaws. (Either way, it is notable for the excellent apple mustard with which it is served.) A dessert of doughnuts filled with raspberry jam and served with chocolate sauce is either brilliant or boring, depending how much jam winds up inside. A meal at Bronwyn can truly be transcendent, which makes the nontranscendent meals — when things tip out of balance, becoming too heavy and not quite seasoned enough — that much more disappointing.

But there is always the exceptional beer list, exposing customers to an impressive range of lager, pilsner, hefeweizen, and more, from Germany and beyond. The friendly, knowledgeable staff members have a grasp of what's on offer that bespeaks many sodden training sessions. A friend falls in love with a grapefruit hefeweizen I sample Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen, a smoked beer. Both are recommendations we might not have thought to try on our own. Of course, the truly thirsty can always go straight to the Brownyn hausbier, Wei-henstephaner lager, available by the liter.

The wine list also stays true to the region, showcasing grapes from fruhburgunder to furmint to blaufrankisch. A sparkling riesling, another staff recommendation, steps into champagne's shoes. Also available: house cocktails and bracing schnapps in pear, apricot, cherry, and more.

Recommendations aren't always needed, however. A folksy server pushes the bretzel and the wurst plate hard, making Bronwyn's regional focus feel like a gimmick. Most guests may want these dishes, but that doesn't mean all do, just as one may not order the Peking duck every time one visits a Chinese restaurant. The menu is more nuanced than that, and thus deserves nuanced exploration.

But at the end of the day, sausages and beer are the cornerstones of Bronwyn, and they may be the best reason to return. Personally, I will be back for the lemon weisswurst and currywurst, and a Sunner Kolsch or two. A giant bretzel will probably land on my table while I'm at it. This kind of food is hard to come by in these parts, and Wiechmann does it justice.


Located in Boston's North End, Ernesto's Pizza is affordable and unique, staying genuine to the hole-in-the-wall restaurant biz. Ernesto's has a small menu featuring only pizza and salad, but the specialty pizzas, like the 'Chicken Roni Ricotta' (chicken, pepperoni, seasoned ricotta, and mozzarella), will have you dying to come back.

My personal favorite, Zaftig's, a Jewish delicatessen, does not compare to any other brunch spot. You can't go wrong with anything from the extensive menu, but the potato pancakes, challah french toast, and fresh cheese blintzes are a serious, yet totally-worth-it carb overload. Speaking from experience, you'll definitely want to have all three.


Bay Street Biergarten

I’ve long been a fan of Bay Street Biergarten’s party scene. They sure know how to throw a killer brunch and trivia night. I’ve been to so many events there, and they’ve all been even more fun than the last. So when I heard they were introducing some new menu items in honor of their 5th birthday, I was excited to say the least.

Almost as excited as when I found out this tiara exists.

The first thing(s) I sampled was the The Biergarten Experience (the full meat and haus boards served on a giant platter. Serves 8 – 10, $40). And let me tell you, it was an experience. So you’ve got smoked wings, smoked ribs, smoked kielbasa, pickled veggies, a giant soft pretzel, pimento cheese bites, freaky taters, and the BSB Spatzle. Phew. It was all delicious, so instead of doing everything individually, I’m just going to highlight my faves: the freaky taters (tater tots topped with smoked cheese sauce, demi-glace, bacon jam, green onions) are always a winner, as are the pimento cheese bites and the soft pretzel. The BSB spätzle (spätzle, sautéed spinach, mushrooms, onions, smoked cheese sauce, smoked kielbasa, pretzel breadcrumbs, asiago cheese, served with fried pita chips) was basically like spatzle mac and cheese, and it was probably my breakout favorite of the entire board.

Ok, who’s on my squad to conquer this next time?

Because we hadn’t gotten enough pretzel, we also tried the Pretzel Bombs (Haus made daily, pretzel balls stuffed with sausage and white cheddar cheese, served over smoked cheese sauce with Lusty Monk mustard, $12). These made my tastebuds so happy! They were nice and doughy and soft and I loved the smoked cheese sauce and the sharpness of the mustard.

Is there such a thing as too much pretzel?!

One of their new sandwiches was really intriguing and tasty. The Beary Club (smoked turkey, bacon, avocado, swiss, blueberry jam, bibb lettuce, tomato, semolina, $14) was unexpectedly good. The blueberry jam, avocado, and swiss went really well together, and the bacon added a nice bit of crunch. This is something I’d definitely order again next time.

I’m not normally a fan, but their Reuben (smoked pastrami, kraut, pickles, swiss, Lusty Monk mustard, remy, dark rye, $14) was actually pretty addictingly tasty. I loved the combo of the spicy mustard with sharp swiss and smokiness of the pastrami.

Because we needed to balance all those carbs with some veggies, I also tried a bit of their new Summer Spinach Salad (spinach, candied walnuts, blueberries, strawberries, feta cheese, red onions, champagne vinaigrette, $13). It was definitely very summery tasting with all the fruit, and honestly refreshing after the sea of brown foods I’d just ingested.

My body: VEGETABLES THANK GOD
Me: can we order more pretzels for the table? mmkthanks

The Nürnberger (two traditional german brats, garlic aioli, kraut, pickled onion, side of mustard, hoagie, choice of side $10) is their newest option under “brats & sausages.” Brats in general are not my favorite, and although this was definitely a good combination of flavors, a brat sandwich is just not necessarily my cup of tea. If you’re into that sort of thing, you’d probably enjoy it.

And if you’re ever there during brunch, I’d like to recommend their Chicken and Waffles (fried chicken, Belgian waffles, bacon, green tomato jam, hickory syrup, side of fresh fruit, $13). I’m normally just kinda meh about chicken and waffles, but I’m really a fan of their, especially if they’re being offered in sandwich form, which they occasionally do at their themed brunches.

Brunch isn’t a game. It’s a way of life.

So while this might not be the most authentic German cuisine you could eat, it’s pretty tasty for what it is, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a good time when you go.

Bay Street Biergarten
549 E Bay St,
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 266-2437


Fork it over, Boston!


A podcast is rich media, such as audio or video, distributed via RSS. Feeds like this one provide updates whenever there is new content. FeedBurner makes it easy to receive content updates in popular podcatchers.

Current Feed Content

Escape to the Cape: Pain d'Avignon (Hyannis, MA)

Posted: Fri, 07 Jun 2013 07:13:07 PDT

I grew up in Massachusetts, but we weren't one of the many families who regularly vacationed on the Cape. Trips to see New Hampshire's Old Man in the Mountain (may he rest in peace, crumbled in a gorge somewhere) and the Flume were more our style, so my only real exposure to the Cape growing up was a quick trip to P-town in a friend's four-seat plane. So when I was invited to sneak out of Boston on an April evening to take a media field trip to Pain d'Avignon in Hyannis, I was immediately on board. We'd get the chance to tour the facilities, taste a sampling of products, and meet the new executive chef, Matthew Tropeano, a native of Randolph, Massachusetts (right near my hometown of Sharon). Before coming to Pain d'Avignon, Tropeano had been in New York for a decade, including a stint as executive chef at La Grenouille.

The French-style bakery and cafe/bistro is known in particular for their gorgeous handmade breads, many of them meant for display purposes (followed, of course, by eating). When Valentine's Day comes around, for example, they create a heart-shaped chocolate and hazelnut bread. Even if you don't frequent the Cape, you've probably already spotted their bread closer to Boston Pain d'Avignon's goods appear at many local farmers' markets and grocery stores.

When we arrived at Pain d'Avignon, we spent some time perched around high tops in the bar area sipping cocktails. A popular choice was the Snowbird, a collaboration with Bully Boy Distillers and Bonnie's James. This description is snagged from a press release, but it's rather lovely:

When it was time to eat, we finally had the chance to taste some bread, and it was just right: soft and springy on the inside, crunchy and full of character on the outside, and perfectly complemented by a small spread of butter.

I decided to go a stereotypical bistro French route for my meal, starting with French onion soup - the best in recent memory. There were generous amounts of the best part, the crispy melted cheese clinging to the side of the bowls, just waiting to be peeled off indelicately and popped in my mouth, table manners be damned.

Next, the steak frites. (See? I warned you I went the stereotypical route.) Full of cocktails, wine, bread, and cheese, I couldn't make much of a dent here, but the fries were irresistible - just a little bit flexible and precisely the right amount of salt.

And finally, the heavenly crêpes Suzette, two delicate crêpes swimming in a cloud of citrus and caramelized sugar.

Pain d'Avignon also serves breakfast and lunch (soups, salads, grilled pizzas, sandwiches), and there's a small patio outside, perfect for the warmer days ahead. I'm not sure when I'll find myself in Hyannis again, but I'd certainly make a point to return to Pain d'Avignon if I were in the area. Until then, I'll be adding the loaves I find at the market to my standard rotation.

Disclosure: This meal was complimentary, but all opinions expressed are my own.

First Impressions: Bronwyn

Posted: Mon, 20 May 2013 13:02:17 PDT

As a Union Square resident, I've been eagerly keeping an eye on Bronwyn's progress in the old Ronnarong space for months now. It's finally open, and I was fortunate to be able to get reservations last night to see if it would live up to everyone's expectations. I had a great experience, and I'll definitely be back. My detailed opening night report is posted on Eater, and my photos with a few quick thoughts are right here:

Brot: Oat-honey Challah, Rye Roggenbrot, Bauernbrot, juniper-sesame crisp, butter, sea salt. We were really curious about the "Giant Haus Bretzel," but we ended up settling on the bread basket to try a few different things. The clear winner was the challah, and if they packaged and sold it separately, I would buy a loaf every Friday. And I'm not even much of an observer of Shabbat.

Augustiner Brau Lager. When I almost ordered the Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel, which I've enjoyed in the past, the waiter recommended that if I wanted to try something new in the same vein, this was the one. It was a perfect recommendation. I was also a fan of the wide honeycomb-like beer glass, which I had to hold with two hands!

Knödel (bacon bread dumpling, fiddlehead purée). Quick, go and try this before fiddlehead season is over. They describe it as a dumpling, but it's really more like bread pudding, and it is absolutely amazing. I'm still thinking about this one. And the fiddleheads were sauteed just right.

Bavarian Roast Chicken (citrus-pineapple cure, grilled red cabbage). This was my mom's dish, and she said it was the best chicken she's had in recent memory. They were kind enough to substitute sauerkraut for the cabbage on request. There's grilled pineapple as well, which is my favorite thing to eat from the grill. This dish is not only delicious but will even appeal to the most picky member of your party, most likely.

Blutnudeln (Trentino blood pasta, spring onion, citrus). Stunning colors and flavors. There were small, tender bits of pork in there as well. Even if you're a little weirded out by the blood, this is worth a try.

Kaiserschmarrn. The Kaiser's pancake! This Austrian dessert was a surprisingly small portion, but every bite was full of delicious apple flavor. It paired perfectly with an apple Schnapps that came in a tiny stein-shaped shot glass.

German chocolate cake. Or whipped cream with a side of cake? A little dry for my taste I'd get the Kaiserschmarrn again or try out the Berliner (doughnut) next time.

Overall impressions: Welcome to the neighborhood, Bronwyn! I can't wait to bring Joel and others here, and I really can't wait for the biergarten to open. There are plenty more things on the menu I'd love to try, too. My mom and I didn't even get to the Wurst section because there was so much else we wanted to eat. Based on the huge, excited crowd on opening night and the high quality of everything I tried, I'm guessing Bronwyn will do quite well in Somerville.

Catch Me on TV This Friday on the Better Show's 'License to Spill' Tour

Posted: Wed, 17 Apr 2013 06:11:37 PDT

Since wrapping up production of TEN back in December (which is now in post-production - check out the teaser trailer!), I've jumped at the chance to get back on camera as much as possible, so I readily agreed to an appearance with the Better Show, a nationally syndicated lifestyle TV program. In March, the Better Show embarked on a cross-country tour dubbed 'License to Spill,' which involves stopping by food events in various cities and partnering with a chef to provide samples of a messy local dish that spectators try. and then spill on a carpet provided by sponsor Mohawk. Fun! (I'm not being paid to say this: the carpet was actually amazingly stain-resistant.)

Boston was actually the first stop on the tour, and the License to Spill van came to the Home Show at Patriot Place, where Chef Ben Lacy of Tastings was participating in the Home Show's Chef Fest. The day of the event, I reviewed my email exchange with the show producers and realized I had missed one key feature: the signature dish was baked beans! Now, I've gotten a lot less picky over the last few years, but I still really don't like beans and hadn't tasted baked beans in probably more than 20 years. But my rule for blogging-related events is that I'll try whatever I'm offered, and as it turned out, I did enjoy the beans. I'd had Lacy's cooking once before at a visit to Tastings and was impressed by his emphasis on local ingredients and beautiful presentation.

Aside from eating beans, I spent some time chatting on camera with charming host JD Roberto about Boston's classic foods, particularly seafood. I think I said something about how scrod isn't an actual species of fish - like gefilte fish - and babbled about the molasses trade, which was hopefully accurate. I dutifully mentioned that Boston baked beans are the ultimate signature dish of the city because the script - and the fact that baked beans were the signature dish of the event - called for it, but to be honest, I don't think they're really a thing anymore. People who live here don't eat them all the time (well, I certainly don't), and I suspect that tourists don't really look for them. Tangentially related, no one who is from here calls Boston "Beantown." Just don't do it.

Beans aside, I had a blast shooting the segment, although I didn't actually get to spill anything on the carpet. Too bad! It'll air this Friday, April 19th, on the following stations:

  • Boston (Manchester) - WBIN (IND Channel) at 1am
  • Springfield-Holyoke - WBQT (CW Plus) at 5am
  • Springfield-Holyoke - WSHM (CBS) at 6am

Lamb Duo: Harissa and Date "Lambanadas" with a Lamb Sous Vide Spring Salad

Posted: Thu, 18 Apr 2013 09:33:53 PDT


Let's hope this post is coherent creating this lamb recipe culminated in a last-minute feast with nine friends and a baby, and as these evenings always do, it ended with many rounds of drinks and a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity. I'm thrilled to participate in this year's American Lamb Pro-Am challenge alongside some of my favorite local bloggers and food-loving friends. (Well, I guess we're temporarily enemies since we're competing against each other!)

When I first started brainstorming what to do with the gigantic leg of lamb I was provided for this contest, I kept thinking about stuffing lamb into things - ravioli, maybe? Dumplings? - and incorporating some spring vegetables into the mix. But these ideas required ground lamb, and it seemed like a shame to just grind up such a beautiful cut of lamb. As a compromise, I decided to use the lamb two ways: ground in one part of the recipe and cooked in a different way for the other half.

The first draft: harissa and lamb empanadas (eventually dubbed "lambanadas" by one of my dinner guests) with a spring salad topped with sliced, roasted lamb. With some input from Joel, my dining companion/boyfriend/lamb slicer, I settled on adding dates to the harissa and lamb empanadas and using our makeshift sous vide (inspired by Cooking for Geeks) to prepare the lamb for the salad. For the ground lamb, I actually went out and bought the food grinder add-on for my newish KitchenAid stand mixer. Now I want to grind everything! For the salad, I raided every last bit of the final Somerville Winter Farmers Market of the season and came away with a gorgeous selection of late winter/early spring root vegetables. To tie the two pieces of the dish together, I used a Turkish spice blend in both lamb preparations.

This lamb duo pulls together fairly easily timing-wise. Allow at least 90 minutes for the lamb in the sous vide - but the nice thing about the sous vide is that you can actually leave it there all day and it'll still come out perfectly. The empanadas can also be made ahead of time just warm them in the oven right before serving.

HARISSA AND DATE "LAMBANADAS"
Makes 20 empanadas

  • 2 lbs ground lamb
  • 1 tbsp Turkish spice blend
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 20 empanada shells (such as Goya Discos)
  • 1 1/4 cups harissa
  • 6-8 Medjool dates, chopped coarsely
  • 1 egg (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Season raw ground lamb with the Turkish spice blend and caraway seeds.
  3. Brown lamb over high heat on the stovetop until fully cooked, approximately 6-8 minutes.
  4. Spread empanada shells on a lightly greased baking sheet.
  5. On the lower half of each shell (leaving a half-inch border all around), spoon about two tablespoons of cooked lamb. Top with about a tablespoon of harissa and 5-6 chopped date bits.
  6. One shell at a time, use your finger to wet the bottom half of the circumference of the shell and fold over the top half, pushing down to seal.
  7. Using the tines of a fork, make indentations along the edge to reinforce the seal.
  8. Optional: In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk an egg until well-blended. Brush onto the top of each empanada for a shiny finish.
  9. Bake empanadas for 15 minutes.

  • 2 lbs leg of lamb
  • 1 tbsp Turkish spice blend
  • 1 head red leaf lettuce or other greens
  • selection of root vegetables (I used 6 parsnips, 1 moon radish, and 2 sweet potatoes.)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper (optional: garlic salt)
  • Optional: honey (Our root vegetables were sweet enough on their own because the time of year is just right, but add a drizzle of honey if you'd like.)

  1. Preheat oven to 400F and sous vide to 135F.
  2. Slice lamb into large (steak-sized) chunks and rub with Turkish spice blend before vacuum sealing for the sous vide.
  3. Cook the lamb in the sous vide for at least 90 minutes or up to a whole day.
  4. Meanwhile, slice the root vegetables, season with salt and pepper (add garlic salt if desired), drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 45 minutes at 400F.
  5. Remove lamb from sous vide, sear at the highest possible heat for no more than 2 minutes per side, and then cut up into small slices.
  6. Arrange lamb and roasted vegetables on top of a bed of lettuce or preferred greens serve with Harissa and Date "Lambanadas."

Passover Treats from Rosie's Bakery

Posted: Sun, 17 Mar 2013 09:21:11 PDT

I didn't grow up in a Kosher family. A little bit in the spirit of keeping Kosher, we didn't cook pork products in the house, but you can bet we were eating bacon and sausage at restaurants - and especially Alice's inimitable pork-filled Peking ravioli at Mandarin Taste. But every year when Passover rolled around, we'd dutifully celebrate two Seders and eat only Kosher-for-Passover food for eight days. I don't remember doing a strict removing and burning of all the chametz in the house - the forbidden leavened foods - but we'd keep all the kitchen cabinets closed and slowly eat our way through the boxes that accumulated across the counter: boxes of matzoh, egg kichel, those little jelly fruit slices, and other traditional Passover goodies of questionable quality.

My favorite Passover food is undoubtedly my mom's breakfast fried matzoh. Others call it matzoh brie and make it mushy, but we'd keep the matzoh fairly solid and crunchy with just a quick swipe under a running faucet. Now that I don't live at home, I can never make it quite as well on my own, and there's no one around to force me to drink a tall glass of apple juice with every portion. (I'll leave you to piece together that connection on your own.) But whenever I smell eggs frying, even if it's French toast being cooked, I immediately think of fried matzoh.

I'm also a fan of egg kichel - airy little cookies with sugar on top. In general, though, Passover foods - and especially baked goods - are notoriously bad. I won't go into a whole discussion of foods that are prohibited during Passover, but in a general sense, most leavened things are out, and many Jewish families (mostly Ashkenazi) also omit rice and corn. This knocks out everything containing corn syrup, which, in the processed food world, is pretty much everything.

When a representative from Rosie's Bakery reached out to me to see if I'd sample their line of Passover goods, I was a little worried that I'd be disappointed, but I like Rosie's and figured that if anyone can make Passover desserts taste great, it'd be them. Fortunately, they succeeded, so I wanted to share my recommendations based on the products I tried. Rosie's Passover menu is available in stores for the duration of the holiday, but to pick up an order on Sunday 3/24 and Monday 3/25, you must place it by 5 PM tomorrow, Monday 3/18.

First up, the Passover Brownie ($2.75 each): not only is this brownie outstanding for Passover, it is the best brownie I've had in ages. (This isn't too surprising to me as I had previously found Rosie's non-Passover brownies to be excellent as well.) From the cracked, crispy bits on top to the fudgy, melty interior, the Passover brownie thoroughly impressed me. You will probably not regret ordering a whole platter of these - unless you eat them all at once, that is.

The Chocolate Caramel Matzoh Crunch ($19.95/pound) was the only one in the bunch that didn't completely wow me, but I think that has more to do with the fact that I'm not a huge caramel fan. I did manage to eat quite a lot of it, and it went something like this: "Too sweet! But wait, I need another bite to make sure." (And repeat.) The texture's great, a gradient that starts chewy on the caramel side, gets crunchy in the middle, and ends with the smooth chocolate on the opposite side. I'd probably be happier with just plain chocolate-covered matzoh, but those with a sweet tooth for caramel will adore this.

The Chocolate Delirium ($5.50 small, $32 large) is appropriately named as its richness will make your eyes roll back in your head as you slowly take a bite, and then another, and then another. at least that's what happened to me. This flourless cake is decadently rich, and I could only handle a few bites at a time. True chocolate lovers may sneak away from the table with this only to be found later whimpering in a corner and covered with melted chocolate.

So, I guess it's possible to make excellent Passover baked goods after all. I'll definitely still be found munching on box after box of commercially-produced egg kichel, but without hesitation, I can also recommend Rosie's Bakery's Passover menu.

Disclosure: Rosie's Bakery provided me with complimentary samples of several of their Passover menu items. While I agreed to post a review of the products, positive coverage was not guaranteed, and all opinions expressed in this post are my honest thoughts.

New Eats in Union Square: Donuts and Ramen

Posted: Tue, 21 May 2013 05:37:28 PDT

I've now lived in Somerville for more than two-and-a-half years, the last six months of which I've spent in Union Square. I've loved the food in this neighborhood since before I lived here, and I'm excited that a couple of new treats have popped up in the last few weeks.

Two tenants of the Kitchen Inc. community cooking space, Josh Danoff (Culinary Cruisers - my kombucha obsession - and Ocean Ave Pops) and Heather Schmidt (City Chicks), began baking donuts a few months ago and selling them at farmers' markets, and they just opened up a retail shop in the front of Kitchen Inc., right across from Target on the outer edge of Union Square.

Union Square Donuts opened on Valentine's Day, and I was there right at opening to grab some photos for Eater Boston. Of course, there was no way I could go home empty-handed, so I bought two chocolate chipotles, a maple bacon, and an orange ginger cream to split with Joel. The chocolate chipotle was my favorite: light and airy with just the right amount of chocolate. I'd love more heat, but as you probably know, I'm a bit addicted to spicy things. The others were great as well, although a little more decadent, so I wouldn't recommend trying too many at once!

At $3 a pop ($3.50 for the maple bacon), these aren't your average Dunkin' Donuts donuts (but there's one of those down the street if that's what you're after). I found them to be worth the splurge, but I wouldn't make a frequent habit out of it. If you want a taste, be sure to keep an eye on their Facebook page for announcements as they've been selling out pretty early most days. They're open from 9 AM until selling out on Thursdays through Sundays, and they also carry dulce de leche cinnamon rolls, Ocean Ave Pops (fun-flavored popsicles!), coffee, and Spindrift sodas.

The other new treat is at Backbar (which itself isn't new): ramen! It's available between 4 PM and 6 PM every day (except for Tuesday, when the bar is closed). The catch is that there are only 10 portions available each day. Kathy and I checked it out Saturday, arriving about 15 minutes early with one couple ahead of us in line. By 3:58, eight of the 10 portions had been claimed.

I haven't had nearly every ramen in Boston, so I can't verify Backbar's claim that it's the best, but it was certainly enjoyable (not to mention close to home). The egg was absolutely perfect, and I loved the housemade noodles, which had just the right amount of chewiness. I'm not sure if I'll be willing to battle hungry customers for one of just 10 helpings once the secret's out, but I'm glad I got to try it. Plus, I love spending time with Kathy, and I love Backbar, so this was a triple-play of an afternoon!

Meanwhile, more delicious ramen lurks less than two miles away. My go-to spot is Sapporo at the Porter Exchange, and I suspect that I will fall in love with YumeWoKatare, also in Porter Square, once I finally get around to trying it.

But getting back to Union Square, there's more excitement on the horizon as well. Bronwyn, from the owners of T.W. Food, is getting ready to open in what used to be Ronnarong, plus the adjacent space. I miss Ronnarong terribly (Thai tapas!), but it sounds like Bronwyn could be pretty awesome, from a beer garden to hand-twisted Bavarian sausages to artisan breads. Here it is in its under-construction glory:

And it looks great under a few feet of snow, too!

Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie Recipes (Vista Magazine)

Posted: Sat, 01 Dec 2012 17:07:53 PST

I recently started doing a little bit of food writing for Vista Magazine, a "leading Latino publication celebrating 25 years in print. Focusing on family, food, entertainment and lifestyle, Vista highlights Hispanic life. Plus, it reaches about 2 million readers per issue." Check out my first post, "Simple Smoothie Recipes with Peanut Butter and Bananas," for a ridiculously easy set of variations on a banana smoothie. Frozen bananas really make an awesome smoothie because they give it a thick, velvety texture that you don't really get from other fruits. Plus, testing these recipes gave me a chance to perfect my banana-opening technique! Turns out most of us open it from the "wrong" side. Monkeys do it from the other side, and it's actually easier. You don't squish the end, and you get a convenient handle. Life-changing skill right here, folks.

Cauliflower "Risotto" (TEN Recipes)

Posted: Sat, 01 Dec 2012 16:52:01 PST

Lately I've been spending most of my time preparing for TEN, an independent horror film that begins shooting next week. I'm acting in it as well as doing some behind-the-scenes work, particularly documenting the whole experience through photography and blogging. Since we have a cast and crew with varied dietary needs, it's easiest for us to maintain a vegetarian diet while we're all on set 24/7 for a week. There are some great cooks amongst the group, so I'll be sharing some recipes during the process. The first recipe is a cauliflower "risotto" (with vegan and non-vegan options) by Porcelain Dalya, who is playing a co-ed. Visit the TEN blog to see the recipe.

An Evening at Moxy in Portsmouth

Posted: Tue, 20 Nov 2012 15:43:56 PST

Joel and I don’t go out to dinner much anymore for budget, health, and schedule reasons, we often find it preferable to cook at home. That’s not to say that we don’t love a nice restaurant date night - or at least I do! - but it’s just not a frequent occurrence anymore. So when we were invited to try out Moxy up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I was thrilled for the opportunity to take a quick road trip and spend an evening away from our home and our usual routine.

I had already heard great things about Moxy from a few other bloggers who had made the trip up for an earlier press dinner, so I suspected it was worth the drive. Richard, the Passionate Foodie, gave an exceptionally glowing review. I was also intrigued by chef/owner Matt Louis’ impressive background (more on that in a bit) and the restaurant’s commitment to local sourcing, and I’m a sucker for shareable tapas-style meals. More things to taste!

Hasty pudding "frites" and fried tomatillos with a house molasses barbecue sauce
We met Matt briefly on the way in and were amazed by how humble he is, considering his beyond stellar background. Since we didn't have much of a chance to talk, he took the time to fill me in on his background via email afterwards. It began when he was just a kid and his dad managed a hotel. By age twelve, he was working in the kitchen there and found the chef to be a great mentor. The chef was also a huge advocate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and took Matt to visit it when he was fifteen years old.

Poached hen egg with fingerlings, bacon, and lobster
"That was it," Matt wrote to me later. "There was no other option, and I pursued it like a football player getting into the NFL." When he began studying at the CIA, his eyes were opened to a level of fine dining he had never experienced, and he began obsessing over Thomas Keller’s legendary French Laundry. "It was like something out of a myth," Matt wrote. "Is this place real? Can a restaurant like that really exist? I honestly didn't believe it."

Grilled apple and pear with chili-scented crispy kale, pumpkin-sunflower seed granola bites, melted Vermont chevre, caramelized onions
Matt was traveling to California for a wine program portion of his studies, and he asked an instructor for help getting a reservation for The French Laundry. He got the reservation but also handed Matt a letter of recommendation, saying that he could only go dine there if he also brought the letter and a resume. He did, and he never expected to hear anything, but the restaurant asked him to come in for a tryout.

Fried clams with pickled peppers, cocktail onions, Raye's mustard aioli
"It was extremely hard," wrote Matt. "So hard that I just wanted to get through the day and get out of there. It was on the flight home that I remember waking up, and when I did, when my head cleared some, I immediately knew that I had to work there. All the reasons it was so hard were all the reasons I needed to be there." Matt started emailing Chef Keller telling him that he needed to work there. He knew he wasn’t up to the level of the others yet, but that was why he needed to go so badly. "I think I basically bothered him to the point that he told me he would give me a job at Bouchon and go from there."

Pan-seared pork tenderloin with cranberry marmalade, collard greens, marinated pear

He spent about a year working at Bouchon, Keller's bistro, and spending every free minute staging at The French Laundry, finally transitioning to full-time at the Laundry - the first one to make that transition from Bouchon. He later traveled to New York City to be part of the opening team for Keller’s Per Se. Of working for Keller, Matt writes: "There is so much you learn working for him, it can't even be documented. But most important: true leadership, passion, dedication, hard work, and that anything is possible if you are committed to achieving it. He is an incredible human being who is a role model for everyone, not just cooks."

Apple cider lacquered pork belly with roasted pearl onions and poached apples
Before opening Moxy, Matt also completed stages at other notable restaurants, including Clio, Momofuku Ko, Eleven Madison Park, and Noma (in Copenhagen), and he spent time as a culinary teacher in his home state of New Hampshire, plus five years running the culinary operations at The Wentworth by the Sea Hotel, a New Hampshire resort.

Romanesco cauliflower and Brussels sprouts with sugar pumpkin puree and crispy sunchokes
While time spent with Keller and other world-renowned chefs certainly influenced Matt in the opening of his own restaurant, Moxy is something different, something that is not meant to be an imitation of the places he has been already.

Roasted tomatillos
Wrote Matt: "I feel that many cooks (myself included) go through the process of working for great chefs, great restaurants, gaining great skills, and then the time comes to do their own thing, and in a lot of ways they want to try to simply replicate where they have been in some sense, many times bringing the 'city' to a smaller town, where they immediately set themselves apart because they are doing things no one in that town is. Cooking fancy food on fancy plates, plating in fancy ways. but is that cuisine. Is that your voice?? Is that your identity. I didn't even realize all this until I was doing some serious stages at Torrisi, Ko, EMP, and Noma before opening Moxy."

Monkfish with sunflower-arugula "pesto"
"This process, being exposed to a lot of great restaurants, especially Torrisi and Ko, made me realize that I had no idea what my identity was," he continued. "I had no soul, no personality, no thread bringing it all together. I was setting up simply to cook fancy food, on fancy plates, plating it fancy, wearing a fancy chef coat, just because that is what I thought you did. Torrisi has soul, Ko (and all Chang's places, for that matter) have identity, have personality. Noma has a vision, and everything is directed towards that vision. I realized I had none, which was awesome, because it made me find it."

Beef short rib marmalade with grilled bread, pickled onions, Great Hill bleu

So what exactly did he find? "I love tapas-style dining," he told me. "I love small plates, I love sharing, I love the non-pretentious vibe, I love the energy, I love trying many things, I love the music a little louder. I realized that my two favorite restaurants are Toro and Ssam Bar, so why don't I do a restaurant in the style of places I want to eat? Well, I'm not Spanish (though I did travel to Spain to make sure I fully understood the true tapas culture and history of it), and I’m not Korean. I actually don't know much about truly cooking either cuisine."

Accoutrements for johnny cake community
"But I am American," he continued. "And I live in New England. So why not a true tapas-style restaurant, all American, with a strong focus on New England. THAT WAS IT! The identity, personality and soul were there. I knew what I had to do! Everything to do with the restaurant would come from this thread. Tapas in style, American in execution. All food would be driven by the history and culture of New England, twists on traditional tapas to make them American, the bounty of local farmers and producers. As long as a dish comes from at least one of these sources, if not more, than we have it. Nothing ever hits the menu that doesn't fall into one of these categories. Keep the price point low (true tapas), keep the music loud, keep the vibe totally warm, relaxing, comfortable, and non-pretentious. That’s where I want to eat."

Misty Knoll Farms pan-seared chicken thighs with creme fraiche, pickled ginger, cilantro, and lettuce for wraps
The verdict? I think Matt achieved exactly what he had hoped. We weren’t sure what to expect from the vibe ahead of time, so we were probably the only people not in jeans. It was casual, fun, loud, and full of energy, all great things as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know much about the Portsmouth dining scene, so I can’t definitively say whether it’s bringing something new to the table, but on its own, it’s outstanding all around. It could certainly hold its own in a bigger city like Boston, but it’d be shame, because it would probably end up with higher prices and more pretension. It’s perfect for a place like Portsmouth, because it blends a laid-back attitude and solid dedication to local produce with influences from far and wide.

Johnny cake community: cornmeal pancakes, brown sugared pork shoulder, house sauces, crispy onion, pickled cucumbers
Matt treated us to a tasting menu which drew from the "great eight" experience, plus a number of supplemental dishes. (I'm not sure if the eight-course line-up is still available now the website shows a "fab five" menu.) We loved everything, but the poached hen egg and apple cider lacquered pork belly really stood out. The plating was consistently pretty and fun many courses were served on a wooden slab with a thick flourish of an aioli or similar sauce. I was delighted to find some tasty fall ingredients repeated in multiple dishes, like delicate roasted pearl onions, apples, and pears.

Whoopie pie slider with chocolate dipping sauce
If you’re already in the Portsmouth area, you have no excuse not to give Moxy a try right now. Even from Boston, it’s absolutely worth the drive.

This meal was complimentary, but all opinions expressed in this post are my own.

30 Under 30 (Zagat)

Posted: Sat, 01 Dec 2012 16:52:16 PST

Over the last few months, I've had the immense pleasure of working on a project for Zagat that features 30 local restaurant industry folks under the age of 30 who are all doing great things. (I wrote a bio about each honoree and took photographs of ten of them who didn't have recent headshots.) From a food truck owner to the general manager of one of Boston's most high-end restaurants to bar managers honing the craft cocktail scene, the list represents a wide variety of fun, interesting, and talented young people.

Last night, Zagat held an event at the Boston Public Library to announce all of the honorees, and I had the opportunity to do a live broadcast where I spoke with a Zagat blogger from New York about the people on the list, their restaurants, and the Boston food scene in general. Here's the footage, in which I spend some time talking and a lot of time standing awkwardly, kind of able to hear what's going on from the simultaneous broadcast on the other side of the room. It was a little nerve-wracking while I love performing and acting, it's kind of terrifying to do unscripted things!

It ended up being really fun, though, and I was glad to be able to get in a few mentions of some of my favorite spots that weren't represented on the list, like 3 Little Figs and Highland Kitchen.

And here are some of my favorite outtakes from the photo shoots with some of the honorees:

Jason Kilgore, Beverage Manager, Catalyst
Kurt Gurdal, General Manager, Formaggio Kitchen
Marcos Sanchez, Executive Chef, Tres Gatos
Selena Donovan, Restaurant Manager, Towne Stove & Spirits


Meredith Devinney, General Manager, Menton
Mike Smith, Chef de Cuisine, Toro
Patrick Gaggiano, General Manager, Trina's Starlite Lounge and Parlor Sports
Samuel Monsour, Executive Chef, jm Curley

First Impressions: Fogo de Chao

Posted: Wed, 08 May 2013 11:18:59 PDT

"You had me at 'Meat Tornado,'" said Joel (quoting his hero, Ron Swanson) when I asked him whether he'd like to partake of an evening of endless meats on sticks, a preview dinner for the newly opened Boston location of Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão. For the record, I said nothing about meat tornados or tournedos, but anything after the word "meat" is generally a blissful blur anyway.

The 26-location chain was founded in Brazil in 1979, and the 320-seat Boston location opened to the public this past Friday in the The Palm's former space at the Westin Copley (plus a little extra on the side). The total renovation and build-out cost? $8 million. On Wednesday, I stopped by to shoot some interior photos for Eater - the place looks pretty snazzy - and on Thursday night, Joel and I joined hundreds of diners for a complimentary preview dinner.

As I've admitted in the past, I generally don't have high expectations for most chains, but I was cautiously optimistic that this would at least equal the one Brazilian steakhouse experience I'd had in the past at a different chain (delicious but overwhelming). If you're a meat lover, it's hard not to enjoy it. The details vary amongst restaurants like this, but in general, servers (who are also the chefs) bring skewers of various meats to your table and slice portions off right onto your plate. You guide the timing by flipping a card to green or red to request more meat or to take a break. There's a salad bar and sides to help fill you up with non-meaty things as well.

I was particularly impressed with a few things at Fogo de Chão (keeping in mind that this was a complimentary press/friends/family dinner, of course). First, the salad bar - it was actually good. Forget Iceberg lettuce and wilted, unappetizing veggies. Everything was fresh and colorful, and there were even some nice cheeses and cured meats. The salad bar is included in the all-the-meat-you-can-eat price ($46.50/person for dinner), which also includes a bunch of side dishes. If a vegetarian somehow gets stuck going here with you, he or she can eat from the salad bar for $28.50.

Secondly, the service was like a well-choreographed dance. It all seemed effortless. We hardly saw the same server twice different people handled drinks, sides, and clean plates, while an endless stream of chefs handled the different cuts of meat. Perhaps there were a few too many times when a server showed up to check on us, but we always had what we needed (and more), and everyone was friendly and knowledgeable about the menu.

Thirdly, the caipirinha, a traditional Brazilian cocktail. well, I'm a sucker for a good caipirinha. It's like a mojito, but even better. These were the perfect mix of sweet and sour and boozy, and by the middle of the meal, I couldn't tell if I was lightheaded from the drinks or if I slipping into a meat haze. Probably a little bit of both.

Finally, and most importantly, the meat was outstanding. I can hardly recall which cuts we tried at this point, but I remember particularly loving a perfectly rare bottom sirloin (fraldinha) and lamb (cordeiro). The chefs ask which temperature you prefer and then slice off the appropriate portion. We were told that the chefs get a feel for which tables like which cuts of meat and meat temperatures, and as the night progressed, we did have more chefs approach us with the rarest cuts still available.

The sides were great, too. I was a huge fan of the caramelized bananas and easily could have made a meal of those. I also loved the pão de queijo - warm cheese bread - a Brazilian treat that is fortunately (or dangerously) also available right in my neighborhood at Fortissimo Coffeehouse. And we were given the most heavenly toasted cheese at the start of the meal. That one doesn't seem to be on the menu, but hopefully it'll make a repeat appearance.

My advice for health and comfort - but not for getting more than your money's worth of meat, if that's what you want to do - is to start the meal leisurely with a nice big salad. Enjoy the pão de queijo and side dishes liberally, and flip your card to red after each portion of meat arrives rather than loading up your plate with every meat in the room, devouring it all quickly, and then getting even more. And skip dessert. It's unnecessary and forgettable.

Fogo de Chão is definitely not an experience I'd recommend for frequent visits, but it's a fun special occasion place. Maybe not for date night, though. You won't feel romantic after participating in this meat orgy. There's no way to avoid the meat coma. It'll probably become a meat hangover the next morning.

Next month, I'm playing a small role in an independent film as well as doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work, so in preparation for the very intense week of shooting in early December, I'm spending November getting into peak physical condition, which includes cutting way back on my meat intake. Fogo de Chão was the perfect farewell-to-meat dinner.

Hot Wiener Special: A Night in Providence with Balkan Bands

Posted: Mon, 08 Oct 2012 07:30:30 PDT

Last month, we drove to Providence for a great line-up of Boston-based Klezmer/circus/Balkan bands Joel's band, the Somerville Symphony Orkestar, opened the night, followed by the Klezwoods (on their latest CD release tour), followed by Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band. Lots of friends, lots of fantastic music. Unfortunately, although the club (Fête) was a gorgeous steampunk-y space that was perfect for the line-up, it was located in a pretty isolated part of the city, and very few people showed up that hadn't come with one of the bands. Nonetheless, it was a great night of music and an enjoyable change of scenery.

After loading in the equipment at the beginning of the night, Joel and I were ready for dinner, but due to the middle-of-nowhere location, there weren't many options. At the corner of the street, we had seen a diner that looked kind of run-down, but we were intrigued by a sign outside of it that advertised a "hot wiener special." Maybe 'amused' is more accurate than 'intrigued.' After joking about it for awhile, we realized that it actually sounded like a pretty great dinner adventure. It was either going to be amazing or terrible. Either way, how could we not give it a try?

Olneyville New York System has been doling out late night hot wieners to the people of Providence since 1946 (but not pizza, pasta, pastry, poultry, or peppers, apparently). The restaurant - a long counter along one side and take-out-joint-style booths filling the rest of the space - was full of intimidating instructional signage that gave the place a Soup Nazi-esque vibe, but the signs must have just been for decoration as the men working behind the counter were ridiculously friendly. We suppressed giggles and inquired about the hot wiener special, which we learned includes two hot dogs, fries, and a soda. The hot dogs, served in a steamed bun, are topped with a seasoned ground meat, chopped onions, and - the magic ingredient - celery salt. Celery salt is one of those seasonings that's always been lurking in the back of the spice rack, but I've never used it. In fact, I don't think I really knew what it tasted like until I tried it on these hot wieners. (No real surprise: it tastes like celery. And salt.)

The ground meat "sauce" gave me a flashback to my time in Rochester, New York, home of a "delicacy" known as the garbage plate. While there are many variations, classic garbage plates have a few components. First, the plate is half covered with mac salad and half covered with home fries, or completely covered with one of those. (In some places, other options are available too, like beans.) Then, the diner has a choice of meat for the top. In many places, the plate includes two meats, so a diner might get two hot dogs (red hots or white hots), two hamburgers, or one of each. (Some restaurants have even more options, like chicken or fried fish.) The whole mess is topped with various condiments and a "hot sauce" that is actually spicy ground meat, not really a liquid sauce. And finally, white bread is provided to sop up whatever's left on the plate.

The hot wiener special wasn't quite as overwhelming as a garbage plate, but it was still pretty impressive. While the hot dog itself wasn't my favorite - I vastly prefer grilled to steamed - I loved the whole combination of flavors, especially that celery salt, not to mention the overall charm of the old-fashioned greasy spoon ambiance. The crispy, salty fries were the perfect accompaniment.

The hot wiener special adventure was a success, and then we headed back to Fête for the show. Nights in Providence always turn out to be pretty fantastic.

Sweet Basil

Posted: Wed, 26 Sep 2012 07:41:18 PDT

The best type of restaurant for me is the kind where you walk in and feel special, not in a VIP way but rather the way in which every single guest feels like a regular, from the actual regulars who have been going there since opening day decades ago to the tourists who will probably never have the occasion to stop by again. At Sweet Basil in Needham last night, while Joel and I did receive some special attention as we were there on an invitation from the PR rep, it was clear that every single person in the restaurant (and it was packed) had either been going there for years or might as well have been attention was lavished throughout the cozy room by chef/owner Dave Becker, who is without a doubt the warmest, most genuine restaurant owner I've met. While plenty exude friendliness, you can still feel the sales pitch underneath, but as Dave glided around the room chatting with guests and manning the host stand and presenting us with plate after plate of food (on pottery he actually made himself), it was clear that he was there simply because he absolutely loves it and wants every guest to love it just as much as he does.

I had been to Sweet Basil once before, on a lunch expedition during my stint at Tasted Menu last year. The team would occasionally go out to random destinations and order as much of the menu as possible, partly with the intention of seeding the website with some thorough reviews and photos (but mostly because we all genuinely loved to eat). We hungrily ate our way through quite a few of the sandwiches, and I fell in love with the food as well as the quirky/rustic ambiance, from the turquoise walls (with coat hooks by each table!) to the hanging plants threatening to overflow their pots.

But from the location (Needham, a half hour from Somerville if there's absolutely no traffic) to the menu (Italian, not Thai, although the name could go either way), I knew it'd be hard to drag Joel out there for a future visit. He just doesn't get excited by pasta like I do. I figured I'd probably never get the chance to head back out there.

When Sweet Basil's PR rep recently contacted me to see if I'd like to meet Dave and try out dinner, though, I was able to convince Joel that it'd be worth the drive. Now that we're home digesting the epic feast (and with Dave's beautiful cookbook in hand as well, along with plentiful leftovers), I don't think he regrets the trip, despite the painstaking rush hour trek that took an hour.

As the meal began, Joel, as usual, immediately took note of the music. It was a great and eclectic selection - everything from classic jazz to Jane's Addiction - and the level wasn't disruptive but could still be heard even as the restaurant filled up. And a wall in the back was even covered with records, again a great mix: Curtis Mayfield, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Simon & Garfunkel, and Crosby, Stills and Nash. (It pains me to leave out the Oxford commas in two of those, but I looked them up, and that seems to be the standard way of punctuating them. I'm a nerd, and I drive myself crazy.) Aside from the records, the walls were mostly decorated with a beautiful mix of art by Dave's late grandfather.

We soon broke into our half-bottle of wine (Sweet Basil is BYOB), a lovely 2007 Italian Barolo that was given to me by Central Bottle as part of a package promoting their new sister venture, Belly Wine Bar. We figured it'd be the perfect fit for a place like Sweet Basil, and it was.

And then the food began to arrive. So much food. Big portions have become almost a gimmick there, like at Vinny T's, Dave said, admitting that he ate a lot more in the beginning, but even now that he watches his own portions more, regulars probably wouldn't appreciate the restaurant portions shrinking. (Keep in mind when viewing the photographs in this post that some of these portions were merely sample sizes, not the real thing.)

As with most Italian restaurants, Sweet Basil sends out a basket of bread to start the meal, but instead of plain old olive oil, there's pesto for dipping. Really good pesto. Next, we tried the sweet corn agnolotti (with sautéed vegetables in lemony broth, topped with arugula salad and herb aioli), beet risotto, Greek lamb meatballs (simmered in spicy tomato sauce and topped with tzatziki), and steamed mussels (in a garlic and wine broth with tomatoes, olive oil, and crostini). While everything was delicious, it was the meatballs that nearly made me moan inappropriately. It was an unexpected Greek-Italian fusion - tzatziki with tomato sauce?! - but it worked surprisingly well, resulting in a flavor that was bold yet comforting and nearly sinful. They'll soon be replaced with a fall meatball, though - most likely a pork and chicken liver combination, maybe in a preparation including Armagnac, said Dave. The agnolotti will also be gone soon. I asked how often the menu changes, and Dave replied, "Not often enough! It's a constant battle to the keep the regulars happy and the chefs from getting bored."

We continued with the rosemary chicken (with crispy pancetta and asparagus in a creamy parmesan cream sauce with ziti), a bestseller. "Not my favorite," admitted Dave, "and I think it's going to be solely responsible for shortening people's lifespans."

My lifespan, though, is more likely to be threatened by a good bolognese, and Sweet Basil's was no exception. Even the inclusion of mushrooms, typically a mortal enemy of my tastebuds, barely bothered me, and the housemade pappardelle was outstanding. At the end of the evening, we got to see the giant pasta machine in the basement, and Dave told us about the person who makes the pasta, but I got confused because he employs several brothers (and an uncle, I think) whose names all rhyme: Nilson, Admilson, and I think the other two were Jilson and Jailson, although I'm probably butchering the spelling. (I verified the first two in the cookbook but couldn't find mention of the others.) In any case, one of them makes the pasta, and one of them - maybe the same one - is constantly mistaken for being the owner of the restaurant because of the aura he exudes in the dining room, one of authority, pride, and some good-natured grumpiness.

Just as we were about to explode, the final dishes arrived. First, a gigantic hunk of phyllo-wrapped baked gouda, oozing its seductive insides all over a mixed greens salad, which was embellished with slivers of dried apricots and strawberries. Then, a tender slow-cooked lamb shank with roasted vegetables and amazingly fluffy polenta.

This was last night and Yom Kippur is still a day away, but I have a feeling this year will be an easy fast, because I won't really feel like eating for quite some time!

A few details to note: Sweet Basil accepts cash or check only (no credit cards) and does not serve alcohol (but you can BYOB for a $5 corkage fee). And no reservations. You'll likely have to wait during peak times, but there are often snacks coming out of the kitchen for people who are waiting, and we saw at least one party getting into their first bottle of wine before getting seated.

After we ate, Dave enthusiastically swept us down to the basement for a tour of the inner workings, including the aforementioned pasta machine as well as bottles of housemade vinegars. We left with a bag full of leftovers and the gorgeous Sweet Basil cookbook, which I began to skim through as soon as I got home. It's packed full of relatively simple recipes as well as stories and photographs, and I'm looking forward to trying out some of the recipes. Perhaps even more useful than the recipes themselves are the pieces of advice Dave offers in the introduction. My favorite: "Have fun, cook for people you love, and drink lots of wine."

Even though this dinner was a special complimentary tasting and therefore leaves me at least a little biased, I have no hesitation wholeheartedly recommending the restaurant based on the way I saw other patrons treated, as well as based on my very positive lunch experience last year. On our way out, we spoke to a woman who has been going to the restaurant since the very beginning, and from her enthusiasm and that of the other patrons, many of whom talked to Dave as if they'd known each other forever, it's clear that everyone who walks into the door at Sweet Basil gets that special feeling that comes along with exceptional food and service.

A Bacon-y, Cake-y, No. 9 Park-y Birthday

Posted: Mon, 24 Sep 2012 04:30:04 PDT

The dreaded September 1st move has kept me away from the blog for a few weeks there are still boxes to unpack, but we're making progress! Aside from unpacking and cooking a lot, we've been playing as much Cards Against Humanity as humanly possible, because we're horrible people. (Think "Apples to Apples" but offensive. It's pretty much the best game ever.)

Since I've been gone awhile, I'll use the next couple weeks to catch up on some long overdue posts and some very long overdue posts. I had a very delicious birthday weekend back in June, so I might as well start there and relive the glory.

On the day before my birthday, I was invited to attend a bacon competition and judge a cake competition. Not a bad way to kick off the celebration, right? Here are some photos from the Bacon Takedown in Somerville, part of a series of nationwide "takedown" events. (More recently, Somerville also hosted the Heaven and Hell Takedown - ice cream and hot sauce, two of my favorite things. I'm not sure how I didn't manage to squeeze this one in my schedule.) It was great to run into some other bloggers there: Sarah from Can You Cookie, Jessica from Oh Cake, and Leah from Oh Baby, Boston, who were all competing, as well as Katie and Rich from The Skinny Beet, who were judging the bacon dishes.

In the end, it was a bacon caramel that won both the people's choice and the judge's first place award. It was definitely one of my favorites. (In fact, in general, I definitely preferred the dessert uses of bacon.)

Just a few hours later, I found myself on stage at the Middle East Downstairs, being presented with cake. Lots of cake. Happy birthday to me. It was the Boston Cake Experiment, part of another national tour of cook-offs, and it was kind of insane being a judge as I had to sample something like 20 cakes.

Photo from Brooklyn Food Experiment on Flickr
I've been on stage at the Middle East Downstairs one other time, but under very different circumstances: my band was releasing our debut album to a sold-out crowd in early 2011.

Both experiences were pretty awesome.

That wasn't it for the birthday festivities, though. The real feast was still to come. A few days earlier, I had heard that Google+ was giving away some tickets to a Zagat-sponsored six-course cocktail dinner at No. 9 Park, one of those restaurants that's always been on my "I'd-really-like-to-try-this-but-it's-out-of-my-budget-and-there-are-probably-other-fancy-restaurants-I'd-try-first" list. I got to work on a reviewing spree on Google+ in order to enter the contest and ended up winning a pair of tickets to the event, which conveniently took place on my actual birthday. (Joel was really let off the hook planning anything this year!) Turns out our dear friends Jon and Kathy (Kathy Can Cook), also horrible Cards Against Humanity-loving folks, were also attending.

The menu was challenging for me one course, for example, was a terrine of foie gras. Ethical issues aside, I really don't like the taste or texture of foie gras, and more generally I can't get by the revulsion I feel towards the texture of terrines, pates, and the like. I think it might have something to do with the time my grandfather tricked three-year-old me into trying a scoop of chopped liver. He told me it was chocolate ice cream. It did not end well. Overall, though, the food was quite good. My favorite course was dessert #1 - or a palate-cleanser, I suppose - a Pimm's Cup-inspired concoction of sorbet and gel. The pig's tails were also amazing.

The cocktail pairings were intense. Some of my favorite ingredients made an appearance in the earlier drinks (Hendrick's gin, Chartreuse, mescal, root beer). With later courses, the drinks entered into the brown, bitter realm, which seemed very appropriate for the restaurant and the menu I'm just not really into the ryes, bourbons, and bitters.


6 Healthier Popcorns to Munch on During the Oscars

When it comes to TV-watching snacks, popcorn has always had a pretty good rep for being healthy. It’s touted as a whole grain, and, when air-popped, is naturally low in calories and fat (unless you douse it in butter).

But then there’s the matter of an estimated 90 percent of corn crops in the U.S. containing GMOs. On top of that, many popcorn manufacturers made headlines years ago when news broke that certain chemicals used in the liners of the microwavable popcorn bags were linked to cancer. Yikes.

That’s why chefs, bloggers, and snack brands are going back to basics and making delicious, artisanal popcorn with just (non-GMO) kernels, the stove, and the yummiest additions of flavors like rosemary, dark chocolate, or goat cheese.

Plan to make a bowl for your Oscars viewing party&mdashor ten, so you’re not too busy popping more in the kitchen to catch the show. &mdashMolly Gallagher

(Photo: Clean Food Dirty City)

Registered Dietician and Today Show nutrition expert Joy Bauer‘s line of non-GMO and gluten-free snacks is healthy, but that’s not the only thing it’s bringing to the table (or couch).

“Most popcorn bags are filled with multiple servings so you eat way more than you bargained for,” says Bauer. Her version comes in perfectly portioned bags, plus they’re half-popped, giving you a crunchy new way to enjoy an old favorite.

Is there a way to improve upon the classic savory and sweet combo of sea salt and chocolate (AKA one of the best pairings, ever)? Yes, by using 80 percent dark chocolate and sea salt, and sprinkling it on organic popcorn, like David Frenkel and Luise Vindahl did in this recipe for their blog, Green Kitchen Stories.

Orange-Rosemary Popcorn by Chef Galen Zamarra

Leave it to Galen Zamarra, the chef-founder of super-seasonal New York City restaurant Almanac, to create a culinary popcorn recipe filled with winter herbs, fresh orange zest, and chopped rosemary. Zamarra serves it at the restaurant’s bar, where non-coincidentally everyone arrives early for their dinner reservation.

Orange-Rosemary Popcorn

2 cups of air-popped non-GMO, local popcorn kernels
2 tsp butter
1 pinch Fleur de sel
1/2 orange, zested
1/2 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
1 pinch esplette pepper or paprika

Melt the butter with all the seasonings and toss the warm air-popped popcorn in it.

“It’s easy to pack smoothies full of superfoods, but I’m always looking for ways to add them to other dishes,” says Lily Kunin, the healthy brains behind the pretty Instagram and blog, Clean Food Dirty City.

So she created an herbal popcorn, inspired by one from Erewhon market in West Hollywood, loaded with spirulina, turmeric, cayenne&mdashand some Himalayan sea salt and olive oil for good measure.

(Photo: Clean Food Dirty City)

Quinn Popcorn makes brilliant flavor combinations&mdashwe’re talking a kale and sea salt mix, and a cheddar and chipotle combo&mdashand the company does it cleanly. Founder Kristy Lewis considers it her mission to clean up supermarket popcorn options, so she created the organic, non-GMO line with pre-popped snacks and a microwavable popcorn in a paper bag that doesn’t use chemical coatings and is compostable.

Gourmet Popcorn &ldquoAu Chèvre&rdquo (Aged Goat Cheese Popcorn) by Chef Tim Wiechmann

French-trained chef Tim Wiechmann&mdashof Boston’s renowned Bronwyn and T.W. Food restaurants&mdashmakes this snack special with a touch of fromage. “Cheese popcorn is something I make at home for my wife&mdashit’s great for guests or just late-night snacking when we get home from the restaurant,” says Wiechmann.

Gourmet Popcorn &ldquoAu Chèvre&rdquo
Makes 8 cups, popped

Ingredients:
1½ Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp olive oil for topping
1/2 cup non-GMO popcorn kernels
3&ndash4 Tbsp hard, dried goat cheese (Bucheron, Valencay, etc), grated
1 tsp sea salt

Directions:
1. In a medium saucepan, add 1/2 tablespoon of the oil and heat over medium-heat. When the oil is hot, add the popcorn kernels. Cover with a lid and wait until you hear kernels start to pop. Once they begin, give the pan a good shake and repeat until kernels are popped. Remove from heat.

2. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to bowl and add a solid handful of the hard grated goat cheese. Toss in the fresh-popped popcorn and swirl it around.

3. Add sea salt and toss to coat.

More Reading


Scrambled eggs with mushrooms and herbs

Luxurious ingredients like foie gras and caviar haven’t vanished from menus, but next to them are far more down-to-earth dishes such as roast chicken, quiches, and hearty soups. T.W. Food in Cambridge, known for its elegant tasting menus, is catering to the times with rustic, bistro-style fare. Chef and co-owner Tim Wiechmann, who trained at three-star Michelin restaurants in France, tweaked his menu out of necessity. He says that he and his wife, Bronwyn, are enjoying the dishes. “We’re still just as dedicated to purity of ingredients and local sourcing,’’ he says. “It’s just that now T.W. Food is less of a tasting-menu restaurant, where flavors are isolated, than a craft-oriented, artisanal restaurant.’’ The chef is making lots of gnocchi, offering more of his own charcuterie, and also lending a refined touch to more ordinary foods. One appetizer features local farm eggs scrambled with heavy cream, mushrooms sauteed in butter, and fresh parsley whirred into a puree. The mixture is layered in martini glasses. It’s a dish that wows guests. With the right eggs, plenty of extra yolks, and good heavy cream, it can be made by almost anyone.

8eggs plus 4 extra yolks
Salt and pepper, to taste
1bunch parsley (leaves only), rinsed thoroughly
2teaspoons olive oil
2ice cubes
2tablespoons butter
1/2pound mushrooms (morels, chanterelles, crimini, or shiitake), stemmed and chopped
1/4cup heavy cream
1. In a bowl, combine the eggs and extra yolks set aside.

2. In a pot of boiling salted water, blanch the parsley for 1 minute. Drain and rinse with cold water. Pat the parsley dry. Transfer to a blender. Add the olive oil and ice cubes. Blend the parsley until it forms a thick puree.

3. In a saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes or until tender. Transfer to a bowl.

4. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the saucepan. Add the eggs and whisk vigorously over medium-low heat, without letting large thick curds form on the bottom or sides of the pan. The eggs should form small grains. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the heavy cream.


Watch the video: Biergarten Restaurant Review! Germany Pavilion Epcot Disney


Previous Article

Arpacas (boiled grade)

Next Article

Tavalita cake dessert