Monday, February 9, 2015

Friend or Pho?



Lately, I’ve been remiss in writing this blog.  Unfortunately, health issues with the King of the Chinese Buffet (my dad) have taken priority, but I did want to discuss a few new places.  In his honor, let’s talk Asian cuisine.

First, ChineseMirch, with two locations:  Route 9 in Framingham and Mass Ave. in Boston.  They have a unique spin on Chinese cuisine, merging Indian spices and flavors with the cooking style of Chinese cuisine.  I’ve been there a few times lately, for lunch, and have been really impressed with their delicious food and presentation.  A few weeks back, Mrs. Palate and I enjoyed dinner at the Framingham location.  It was a big hit.
Salt and Pepper Gobi

We started with Salt and Pepper Gobi, which is cauliflower florets tossed with ginger, garlic and onion.  These were some serious flavor bombs.  IMHO, cauliflower on its own doesn’t really have any flavor, but fry them up with ginger, garlic and onion, and it’s a party in your mouth.  This was a grand-slam (if I knew anything about Cricket, there might be a more appropriate reference) and a dish Mrs. Palate said she would order again.

For main courses, we settled on Mirch 65, which is chicken spiked with curry leaves and red hot chiles and Chicken Hot Garlic, which is diced chicken in a crushed garlic and chili sauce (George likes his chicken spicy!)  With a lot of exotic names, and meats, the menu is varied, with a number of Chinese based specialties and an overlay of Indian cuisine, all looking, smelling and tasting delicious.  I strongly recommend Chinese Mirch, just make sure you bring your own fire extinguisher…for your mouth!
Mirch 65
Chicken Hot Garlic






















About a year ago, after the closure of the classy, and aptly-named “Limey’s Pub” at the location of the former SamPan (a great source of business from my criminal defense days), in an effort to establish a renaissance of Downtown Framingham, “Pho Dakao” of Worcester opened their second location.  I had heard good things about Pho Dakao…the Yelp reviews (not that I usually rely on those) are generally positive, but I had to try it for myself…winter time is a great time for Pho (pronounced “fah” for the uninitiated, like me).

Pho Ga 
My dining companion, “Critical Lisa” and I met for lunch on a cool January day.  We both decided on the pho (noodle soup, for the uninitiated, like me).  I got a large Pho Ga (chicken) and Critical Lisa got beef meatball pho.  The pho is Vietnamese beef broth soup, served with scallions, onions and cilantro. Accompanied with a plate of bean sprouts, fresh basil, sliced lime and chili peppers (sliced fresh jalapenos) on the side.  Also, if you’re like me, please pass the Sriracha, which they gladly did.  Served with chopsticks, a spoon and fork, it really hit the spot.  A large was hard to finish, but it was delicious enough that I forced myself.

Pho Dakao really is in deep, downtown Framingham, but a really nice addition to the neighborhood.  It’s clear the owners pumped some money in to redecorating, and it was bright and airy, and very clean.  The staff was friendly and efficient; it can be hard to go to an ethnic restaurant where the food is unfamiliar, but the staff was more than happy to describe and explain the choices, and there were several repeat customers around us more than happy to share their suggestions.

While I don’t find myself in downtown Framingham often, with Pho Dakao, and the recent addition of the Deluxe Depot Diner, there’s finally culinary reasons to venture down there.  You should go too.









Thursday, December 25, 2014

Connoisseur’s Corner December 2014

Thanks to Jordan Rich for having me be part of the Connoisseur’s Corner stable.  For those of you unfamiliar, CC runs every day at 11:58am on WBZ 1030AM or on CBSBoston.com (where podcasts are also available).  Each stable member has an area of specialty in the food or beverage realm.  Me?  I'm just happy to be able to talk about food and food related issues.  I had some minor technical difficulties with the website, but here's a recap of things we chatted about and are currently running on the air:

1.         There are certain things people do on Christmas and certain food that we all eat.  Certainly, my people, the Jews, love their Chinese food and movies.  To that end, there are a couple of Chinese places that I particularly like:

Sichuan Gourmet, with locations in Framingham, Brookline, Sharon and Billerica.  I like my food spicy and Sichuan Gourmet does not disappoint.  Food is fresh, place is always busy, but it’s my go-to spot for decent Chinese food.  Laosichuan.com

2.         I have recently discovered Chinese Mirch, with two locations:  route 9 in Framingham and Mass Ave. in Boston.  Their’s is a unique spin on Chinese cuisine, merging Indian spices and flavors with the cooking style of Chinese cuisine.  I’ve been there a few times lately, for lunch, and have been really impressed with their delicious food and presentation.  These spots, with their multiple locations, seem like perfect places to grab Chinese on Christmas day.  Chinesemirch.com


3.         Similar to Thanksgiving, sometimes you just don’t feel like hosting a huge dinner and having your family come over and trash your house.  So why not eat out on Christmas?  There are many places both in the city and suburbs hosting a Christmas dinner.  Bar Bouloud at the Mandarin Oriental hotel on Boylston Street, a highly respected and regarded restaurant with locations also in London and NY is offering a prix fixe meal.  Buca Di Peppo in Shrewsbury, MA is also offering a set menu of Christmas foods.

Most Legal Seafoods are open for Christmas, and I’ve eaten at a Metrowest location  on Christmas day.  Everyone knows Legal, and there’s nothing wrong with a nice seafood dinner on Christmas day.  Just remember to treat your waitstaff right, because they’re working on your holiday.

4.         Tipping on the holidays:

This is a time of year where we really should show our appreciation for our service providers…people that provide us service throughout the year and who really are the unsung heroes of our daily life.  For me, I like to leave something for our postal employee, our UPS of FedEx delivery person at the office, or our Poland Springs delivery guy, my Starbucks barista.  These, among many other people, make my life easier and work hard all year-round.

5.         When customers begin pounding on your front door weekend mornings, begging you to open up, you know that it’s time to offer brunch.  And, with football and hockey seasons in full swing, Menotomy Grill & Tavern has bowed to popular demand and now offers a weekly-changing blackboard menu of brunch items, served every Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 AM until 4:00 PM.  Proprietor Billy Lyons has lined up some cool live jazz to complement the Tavern's warm stone fireplace and coppery bar. 

Executive Chef Mark Thomson (formerly of CHEZ HENRI) offers:
 The Monte Cristo: The ultimate hangover reliever. Challah French toast filled with smoked pork shoulder and ham, gruyere, apples and onions – jpeg available
 * Cream Cheese-Stuffed French Toast with Mixed Berry Compote – jpeg available
 * Southern Fried Chicken, Buttermilk Biscuit, Sausage Gravy – jpeg available
 * Seasonally-inspired Omelets and Quiches
 * Classic Eggs Benedict
 * Huevos Rancheros
  
Menotomy Grill also pours its “secret family recipe” Bloody Mary, along with hefty 20-ounce draught beers from its list of 40 varieties, including Battle Road 1776 Tavern Ale … Slumbrew Attic & Eaves … Wormtown Be Hoppy IPA … and Allagash White.
  
Menotomy Grill & Tavern
25 Massachusetts Avenue
Arlington, Massachusetts   02472
781-468-1775 / www.menotomygrill.com

6. No one complains about getting gourmet food as a gift

Why go nuts shopping for the perfect gift when a call to either of FRUIT CENTER MARKETPLACE’s two South Shore locations can almost instantly result in an impressive and imaginative gift basket, tailor-made to foodies’ interests ?

In addition to its ever-popular deli, fruit  and dessert platters, FRUIT CENTER MARKETPLACE this year offers a wide variety of well-priced, customizable gift baskets. 

See the baskets and platters at www.fruitcentermarketplace.com

Fruit Center Marketplace
10 Basset Street, Milton and at 79 Water Street, Hingham

7.   For a unique holiday gift for the foodie in the house, how about a cooking class, offered at local restaurants, or cookware stores like Sur La Table, with locations in upscale malls all across Massachusetts.  There are many selections of classes, from knife skills, Italian and Chinese cuisine, to classes on how to use cast iron or La Creuset cookware.  Or How about a food tour of the local area.  Boston Food Tours (http://www.bostonfoodtours.com)offers tasting tours of the North End or Chinatown, with stops at shops for instructional shopping and discussions with the shopkeepers.

9.  While people in the United States have their favorite holiday dishes, such as Christmas Ham and figgy pudding or fruitcake, many other countries have their own traditional foods.  Our friends to the north, in Canada, celebrate with a meat pie; in Puerto Rico, roast pork shoulder is the celebratory food, Lebkuchen in Germany are soft, deeply spiced an sweet cookies; Herring and beet salad in Sweden; In Hungary, stuffed cabbage rolls heavily seasoned with paprika, a perfect deep red, for Christmas, is the celebratory food.  Perhaps for the next holiday, the listeners can try to incorporate some holiday dishes from foreign lands and try something new.  For a collection of recipes, check our Saveur Magazine.

10.  Potato latke recipe.

People of our heritage celebrate Hanukah and with that, comes greasy, fried foods to celebrate the miracle of oil lasting 8 days.  Here’s my tried and true recipe.

4 large potatoes
2 medium onions
4 tablespoons of flour
1 vitamin c tablet dissolved
salt and pepper

hand shred the potatoes and onions, and mix all ingredients together (the vitamin c keeps the potatoes from turning brown).  Heat vegetable oil in a pan (for a real traditional method, use olive oil), and drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil, and cook until they look done.  Put on a paper bag to absorb the excess oil and eat.  Or freeze and reheat in a 300 degree oven.

11.       While not necessarily a food event, on December 24, 2014, Sean Altman of Rockapella fame will be performing at Club Passim in Harvard Square at 6:00pm and 8:30pm.  Sean has written and sings several Jewish parody songs, from benign to slightly bawdy.  I will be performing in one song, as I have the past several years.  While the kitchen at Veggie Planet is being renovated, there will be snacks and beverages available.  More information at Club Passim.org.  Check out a previous performance here:  


Saturday, November 22, 2014

How do you get there from here?


For years, charter subscribers of this blog have been screaming about the North Shore.  My experience with the North Shore area of Massachusetts is somewhat limited to Rockport, but in recent months, I have ventured to the great North Shore to sample the goods.  Here are some comments…

From where I live…you can’t there from here.  Seriously, could the civil engineers who designed the highway system made it any more inconvenient to get to Marblehead/Swampscott or Salem?  You drive for 45 minutes on the highway, and then another half hour on back roads…rule number one for me:  unless it’s bbq, I don’t like to be inconvenienced for food.

However, having decided to pack a bag and take the long journey north, Mrs. Palate and I discovered a few places up in the north shore area that are worth the trip.

First stop…Marblehead. 

Killer Knish!
Evan’s New York Style Deli-I wrote about Evan’s last springtime, when I ventured up there the first time.  Though I don’t usually travel, and wait, for food, a pastrami knish at Evan’s is worth the drive.  A sublime mix of puff pastry dough and fatty pastrami, no words can do this justice.  Eat one, eat two, but eat this!  Really, this should be on your bucket list.  Of course, but you better hurry home, because your heart might just explode in the car.

Evan’s can be found at 31 Smith St, Marblehead, MA.


Shubie’s is a fantastic gourmet marketplace and liquor store, selling groceries, prepared foods and kitchen gadgets.  I love this place!  I was so taken with it, that I invited the owner on to the radio show back in July.  Doug Shube brought us delicious snacks (the cauliflower was like veggie meth…extremely addicting, but I don’t think it’ll rot my teeth) and discussed what it takes to run a successful business.  This is a family-run market, offering up delicious foods in a great atmosphere.  We need more places like this.

Shubie’s can be found at 16 Atlantic Ave., Marblehead, MA or at Shubies.com.

Off to Newburyport

Mrs. Palate and I walked along the water, and after being shut-out of most of the sit-down restaurants, we found the most delightful sandwich shop, the Port City Sandwich Co., winner of the “Best of North Shore” for sandwiches 2 years in a row! 

Tuna melt
I was very impressed.  This is a small, clean, efficient and courteously run shop.  They gentleman taking orders was very accommodating with my wife’s food allergies, and the service down the line was prompt.  We dined al fresco at some picnic tables on the water, watching the ships and kayakers.  With a variety of made to order salads and sandwiches, some gourmet choices like Grilled jerk spiced chicken strips with red peppers, lettuce, tomato and ranch dressing; Southwestern Chicken-Grilled Cajun spiced chicken strips with lettuce, tomato and sour cream, and The Mediterranean-Grilled chicken strips, crisp romaine lettuce, feta cheese, black olives, tomatoes and Greek dressing.

I was really pleased to return to dining on well-prepared and deliciously simple, and simply delicious foods. 

You can find Port City at 40R Merrimac Street, Newburyport or at http://portcitysandwichco.com/

(This was a partial re-post from August 2014).

Chococoa Bakery, Newburyport

What more needs to be said about Chococoa?  I have been touting them for years.  These are without a doubt, the greatest whoopie pies on the planet. 

I had never actually been to their brick and mortar location, now located in The Tannery in Newburyport (where I expected to see cow hides hanging on the walls).  I love re-purposed mill buildings…tall ceilings, brick walls, wide-beam wood floors, and Chococoa has located in a beautifully repurposed spot.  Finally meeting Julie and Alan, the husband and wife geniuses behind the whoopies was a real pleasure, and these whoopie pies are even better when they are served to you by the hands of the baking masters that created them.  Kosher, and offering several gluten free options, race to your computer and order some of these bite-sized beauties!

Chococoa can be found at 50 Water Street, Newburyport, MA or at http://chococoabaking.com/

Burger and rings at Sylvan Street
We ended our day with a quick, late dinner at the Sylvan Street Grill in Peabody.  This is a large sports bar, and it was a beautiful night, so we ate outside. The outside seating area was built around a pool/fountain, and it was a very pleasant; the menu is typical sports bar food, but it was good enough, and did nothing to dampen our spirits.

Sylvan Street Grille can be found at 12 Sylvan Street Peabody, MA or at http://www.sylvanstreetgrille.com/.

I’m sure we’ll be heading back up north some time soon, and certainly will be encouraged by my north shore peeps.  Until then…order those whoopie pies!






Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What to watch?

Month ago, I read an article by Neil Swidey of the Boston Globe on his introduction of the Brady Bunch and other classic 60’s sitcoms to his young daughters.  Their impression of sexist dialogue was interesting, and it got me thinking again about the state of today’s sitcoms.

At the risk of offending some readers, with few exceptions, I think today’s sitcoms are crap.  For every great show like “Modern Family”, there’s “Jesse” or “A.N.T. Farm”, and I could name many, many more.  How did we get from “Must See TV” on NBC Thursday nights (Cosby Show [before we learned "The Cos" was a rapist], Night Court, Cheers and Wings, throw in Seinfeld and Frasier for good measure), or a strong CBS Monday night in the early 1990s (Designing Women, Evening Shade, Murphy Brown) to “Must Avoid TV” like “Two Broke Girls” where every joke is about the size of the girls’ equipment, or their bosses’?  Why, why, why the proliferation of such garbage?

500 channels on satellite or cable certainly do not help.  Those stations are on air, paying broadcast and transmission fees, so they have to fill their airwaves with something, so anyone with a half-baked idea for a sitcom can push their ideas to someone.   In the past, with so few channels, the networks and production companies had the luxury of cherry-picking the best of the best.  Now, with so many shows, networks, production companies, etc…any person with a sharp enough pencil can get a show. 

Even the semi-mainstream cable channels like Nickelodeon or Disney put on quite a bit of junk.  Check out the aforementioned “A.N.T. Farm” or “Austin & Ally”, “Jessie” or an oldie but a goodie…”Zoey 101”. 

Many of the most terrible shows feature or star young actors.  In the past, we only had to worry about the kids from the “Brady Bunch” or “Diff'rent Strokes”, now, there are probably hundreds of young actors that may struggle with work in the future, and only a half-step away from turning in to Dana Plato.  Exhibit A-Jamie Lynn Spears, the younger, yet slightly more promiscuous sister (if possible) of Brittany Spears.  Pregnant at 16, it’s too early to tell how she’ll crash and burn, but if her sister is any example, it won’t be long. 

 

Conversely, outlets like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix are creating or carrying shows of such quality, they have been recognized with Emmy nominations.  Where the Fox Network would rather run episodes of “Bob’s Burgers” than Emmy winning “Arrested Development”, Netflix has been happy to fill the gap, run the fourth season of this great show, and be rewarded with an Emmy nomination.  In fact, Netflix, certainly not a traditional network by anyone’s measure, also received nominations for “House of Cards” with Kevin Spacey.  It won’t be long before we are all watching Emmy award-winning shows on our cell phones at Starbucks.  As Seinfeld has said about “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (one of my current favorites), he tried to create a show that could be watched on our phones…can’t say I’d really mind…TV and coffee, what could be bad about that?