Tuesday, February 28, 2012

North End Progressive Dinner Part 5 | Bricco

Post-Dinner Cocktail
Last Stop! This wouldn't be my first glass of Prosecco to end an evening at Bricco's bar, and it certainly won't be my last. For a lively scene long after dinner, neighborhood locals tend to flock here. Bricco's no slouch in the creative Italian cuisine department either. Read my other posts featuring the Hanover Street big shot here (dinner), here (restaurant week dinner) and here (bar).
I was infinitely pleased with the hospitality at each restaurant on our crawl. Not only did our single course meals flow without any qualms; our various hosts, servers and bartenders throughout the evening nailed every element of service. And they did so with a warm, genuine embrace; only reinforcing why my North End favorites are who they are. A progressive dinner is a great way to get to know a neighborhood, and I can't wait until Michelle, Megan, Meghan and I embark on another one!

Monday, February 27, 2012

North End Progressive Dinner Part 4 | Prezza

At this point in the evening, my picture taking is getting progressively blurrier, heck I probably shouldn't even be using a nice camera. The four of us were thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Despite all that food, this was a serious booze infested dinner crawl, as I went from perhaps the strongest gin martini ever at Fiore, to a bottle of sparking wine at Mare, a bottle of red wine at Mamma Maria, and now a Bailey's on the rocks at Prezza. They don't skimp on pours, three of us were the recipients of glasses loaded with the stuff. Given the fact that most restaurants in the North End don't serve dessert (kindly leaving it to the pastry shops and caffes) either that or they give you two options (tiramisu and cannolis) Prezza's menu is certainly a rarity and branches out from the neighborhood norms. The grand finale began with White Chocolate Bread Pudding ($10) with vanilla bean ice cream and creme anglaise. It was thick, moist and bursting with balanced sweet flavors. We also shared the Fig and Cocoa Turnover ($10) with a lovely pistachio gelato and port wine sauce. The turnovers were crisp and flaky, beholding rich warm fig with hints of cocoa. The gelato in both instances was perfectly creamy and a thoughtful addition to the desserts
The staff at Prezza were a delight. Despite the restaurant being busy at peak Saturday night dining time, and the fact that we did not have a reservation, the hostess didn't hesitate to seat us at a four top in the crowded dining room, simply to indulge in dessert.

Read my full review of dinner at Prezza here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Max & Dylans | Mac & Cheese Mania | Contest

Happy Thursday! I am interrupting the week of progressive dinner posts to let my local readers know about a fun little competition that Max & Dylans is hosting for the next two weeks. Known around town for their incredible Mac & Cheese variations, the restaurant is giving you a chance to submit your own creative ingredient ideas via their Facebook pages - Max and Dylans Downtown and Max and Dylans City Square. At the end of the submission period on March 6th, the chef will choose his 5 favorites which will then be judged (by yours truly and some other bloggers!) in a blind taste test on March 14th. The winner will have their mac and cheese featured on the menu and will also be invited to come in and enjoy the dish with 3 of their friends.

What would you add in your perfect Mac & Cheese?! Tell me in the comments and then go tell Max & Dylans here or here!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

North End Progressive Dinner Part 3 | Mamma Maria

For the third stop on our progressive dinner crawl, Mamma Maria warmly welcomed us into her 19th century brick row house and provided us with exceptional homemade pasta entrees. My Taglierini ai Funghi Porcini was creamy, earthy and comforting, and paired well with a bottle of Umani Ronchi Cumaro Reserva, a smooth and spicy montepulciano.

Read a detailed review of Mamma Maria here.

P.S. Indulge Inspire Imbibe turns two today!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

North End Progressive Dinner Part 2 | Mare Oyster Bar

This evening marked my inaugural visit to the revamped Mare, a favorite restaurant of mine in its former life and now an even better asset to the neighborhood as an oyster bar. It feels less formal than it once was, and with this casual approach I am much more inclined to pop in for some cocktails and raw bar fare on a whim. We made a reservation for the four of us this evening, to keep our progressive dinner on schedule. Thankfully, our fantastic waiter had no qualms about our appetizers only meal. We sat in a corner table dressed in crisp white linens set with flickering tea lights. Through the gaping windows as the sun dipped behind the city scape in the distance we sipped from a bottle of Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut ($45) and noshed on seafood apps from the redesigned clipboard menu. We started with some beautiful, briny Cape Cod Oysters ($1.95) from Wellfleet and Pleasant Bay, Orleans and followed those up with a bowl of Steamed Wellfleet Mussels ($12.99) prepared in a lemony white wine garlic sauce. I relished the zesty citrus flavor in this dish, which was heightened by shaved lemon peels. Rounding out the shellfish offerings was a bowl of Native Clams ($12.99) which were served roasted with sopressata and herbs over smooth, creamy polenta. Everything was excellent, though these appetizers were merely a teaser of what Mare has to offer. Tonight it was all about progress, and so we swiftly paid our bill and were off to destination number three for the entree course!
Read my review of Mare (during restaurant week) in its former life here.

P.S. I turn 28 today!

Monday, February 20, 2012

North End Progressive Dinner Part 1 | Fiore

Pre Dinner Cocktail
Girlfriends and I kicked off a 5 stop Saturday night tour-de-north-end at Ristorante Fiore. We caught up over martinis at the sparkling granite bar where I sipped one of their specialties made with a sturdy amount of gin, fresh muddled basil and lime. It was equal parts herbal and refreshing, but mostly it was strong. Really strong. As we progressed to the next location, I was already feeling buzzed, not to mention ready to fill my empty stomach with some of the North Ends finest cuisine. And especially to be spending time with some of my favorite ladies.
Stay tuned this week for a new post on the progressive dinner each day!

Read about a previous visit to Fiore (the roof deck) here.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Four Courses at Deuxave

In early September of 2010, 26 year old chef Christopher Coombs opened Deuxave, named creatively for the two avenues (Commonwealth and Massachusetts) that intersect the location, hoping to fill a niche for less expensive high end dining in the Back Bay.We began our evening at the polished marble bar lined with flameless candles, the space was dimly lit and exuded a romantic elegance. From an admirable craft cocktail menu I chose the Red Charlotte ($11) a blend of vodka, red wine reduction, allspice, double citrus and champagne. The red wine and allspice were doubly fitting for the holiday and the wintry weather, balanced by bright citrus flavors and bubbles. I adored this drink.
Shortly after ordering drinks, we were lead down a narrow hallway bordered by plush booths, into the sophisticated gray toned dining room past a crackling fire set in an exposed stone fireplace. Sharp nooks lined with dark wood tables were offset by creamy gauze curtains. Bulbs glowed from behind white rectangular panels of a funky oversized chandelier. Through large arched windows offset with brick we gazed at the fancy residences on Mass Ave. With three fantastic sounding options for each course, we had some tough decisions on our hands. We never felt rushed though and took our time deciding while mingling with the friendly couple next to us. They were fishing up dessert and eager to offer recommendations. (And quick to comment the second I whipped out my camera, they seemed excited about the fact that I was photographing the meal.) I started with the Coeur a la Foie Gras Torchon (Coeur means heart in French! loving this) which came with equally adorable crispy toast hearts. The smooth buttery foie was nicely accented by a persimmon and pistachio chutney, perfect swirls of pomegranate pepper syrup as well the juicy airils and tangy hearts of fire. This course was so pretty and creative, not to mention the perfect portion. (Not too filling, but not too measly, either.) The meal was off to a great start. The "Night Moves" Scituate Lobster Gnocchi is both quizzical and typical on paper; whats with the night moves?! / lobster gnocchi - been there, done that. Our nice neighbors recommended this first and without hesitation, so I had to go for it. Turns out, "Night Moves" is the name of the ship that brings in the catch and you'd be hard pressed to find it used in such extraordinary fashion, so been there done that this dish is certainly not. Unexpected ingredients like green grapes and pearl onions, along with curried walnuts and foraged mushrooms mingle with plenty of lobster chunks and a whole claw. The potato gnocchi is browned just so to offer a wisp of crispiness with every bite. The citrus fricasse is complex as it mingles with the flavors of the six components. I loved creating different bites with each of them. I loved this dish. For my main course I feasted on the Lamb Trio including a Colorado Rack Persillade, Merguez Sausage and a Pave of Milk Braised Shoulder. The rack was served rare, bright pink and tender, encrusted by a crispy persillade which added a nice garlicky flavor. This was my first time ever having Merguez, (a fresh lamb sausage) it was soft in texture and heavily spiced, complimented by green flageolets (a type of kidney beans). Finally, the shoulder was a small rectangular cube which was braised until crispy on the outside, with strands of shredded meat on the inside. Everything was served over the natural jus, a bright fennel-parsley puree and crispy escarole. This was another dynamic plate of food, and once again I truly enjoyed everything about it. I was also impressed at how swiftly and evenly paced this meal was. The wait time in between each course was spot on, never rushed but never too long.
Ending the evening on another high note A Chocolate Love Affair was a whimsical plate of what I crave most on Valentines day. A brushstroke of sticky sweet raspberry was a necessary contrast to the rich dark chocolate torte, a dense chocolate cake and white chocolate bombes.
A plump quinelle of homemade milk chocolate glace over oreo-esque crumbles was my favorite element of the bunch. A close second was that shot of creamy chocolate milkshake to wash it all down.
The prix fix menu this evening was $99. Regardless of the high priced holiday, a meal here can certainly add up. If you were to indulge in four courses of a similar nature here on any other day, your food would be about $90. (But then, you wouldn't get foie gras shaped hearts!) Adam realistically (and generously) spent more simply because it was Valentine's day. However, assuming your average meal is not going to be four courses to yourself, the good news is it can only get more affordable from there.
Deuxave is at once an establishment that caters to its wealthy neighbors and a destination worthy of a splurge. At the forefront are charismatic plates of exemplary food and cocktails. Add this Back Bay restaurant to your Boston must visit list for sure!
Deuxave on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

february fourteenth.

Ours went a little something like - cupcakes from Modern Pastry, a bouquet of red roses and a dinner at Deuxave for her, tickets to the symphony for him. I love giving and getting gifts that are things we can do together! (Cupcakes and roses never hurt.)
The vanilla cupcakes were delicious. The roses were lovely. Dinner was incredible. The symphony happens later this week. Can't wait to recap the details!

How was your Valentine's Day? 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ni Neu | San Sebastian

On our last night in San Sebastian we decided to check out Restaurante Ni Neu, located at the edge of the Gros District just beside Zurriola Beach. Previous research indicated the restaurant, which means I Myself in Basque, offered a reasonably priced tasting menu highlighting adventurous modern cuisine. The New York Times article 36 Hours in San Sebastian noted it as the stage upon which the stylish set gathers to dine. Enticed by these sentiments, the sleek and contemporary Ni Neu managed to coerce us away from another night of txikiteo. (The Basque term for a pinxto bar-crawl.)
We did not have a reservation and hesitated once we entered the bustling space where it was apparent the International Film Festival crowd filled nearly all the tables. We were greeted by a friendly hostess who lead us to a separate dining room, where we breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of empty tables. We're in! The restaurant is also adjacent to the Kursaal, an Auditorium and Convention Center where the zinemaldia (cinema!) is located. In the above photo, Ni Neu is the glowing space on the first floor. In all my San Sebastian posts, I have somehow neglected to mention that we were in town during the film fest! It's a pretty big event as International Film Festivals tend to go; the streets radiating with that movie premiere fanfare was an infectious scene that Adam and I relished. It felt like an added bonus to our time here. What also felt like an added bonus was everything included in our meal at Ni Neu. We chose the Xortak tasting menu, which in addition to six courses included a cocktail aperitif, a bottle of Rioja, bottled water and coffee all for 38 euros. That's an outstanding deal. The courses were well paced, thoughtfully prepared plates of creative food. For the aperitifs, a Cherry Martini for her (though I guess our definition of martinis vary - no worries, it was delicious with hints of Campari) and a Tequila Sunrise for him (now that's a martini!) The Salade d'Anchois was the least impressive course overall, but not a complete disappointment. Under a bed of slightly wilted lettuce and tomato confit hid the ample portion of fresh anchovies over an emulsion of praline seeds. Anchovies are a staple in Basque cuisine, so I was savoring their fishy, briny essence every chance I got. Pairing them with a slightly fruity and nutty sauce was unique and I enjoyed the contrast. I only wished the greens freshness matched that of the fish! Next, the Cuttlefish is simply radiant with its glistening black ink complexities over a bed of creamy chickpea puree. The bold umami flavors are persistent yet elegant and there is something to be said for eating jet black food. (It's exciting!) The Grilled Hake was the recipient of a super sleek presentation (how fantastic is that plate?) over a black olive cream with sun dried tomatoes and roast aubergine. The piece of hake was nicely grilled with a light flakiness to it and the cohesive flavors of the Mediterranean were a splendid pairing. The Boneless Roast Lamb was salty enough without the addition of coarse sea salt sprinkled on top. It permeated every corner of the tender meat and I didn't fully enjoy the lamb because of it. I did appreciate the flavorful butternut squash puree and stroke of coffee and cardamom. Never a brushstroke out of place, the three main plates nailed the aesthetics; embodying an elegant and artful simplicity. A duo of desserts were exemplary, beginning with a Pain Perdu which had been prepared in the traditional style, soaked in egg yolk and fresh cream and caramelized in a pan. This breakfast turned dessert was topped with a green lemon juice compote that nicely balanced the sticky sweetness with bright acidic notes. A scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side was perfect. Finally, a whimsical bowl of lemon gnocchi in pineapple juice with coconut ice cream is probably my favorite course. Plump little dessert dumplings mingling in a pina colada pool strike a perfect balance of fluffy to chewy. This is an inventive ending point that certainly leaves a lasting impression. Thanks Ni Neu for making our last night in San Sebastian a memorable one! And thanks to the random gal on the Zurriola Bridge who handed us tickets to the premiere of Le Skylab. The Zinemalda experience (where the movie was in French, the subtitles were in Spanish and the sub-sub titles were in English) was the icing on the cake. P.S. This meal was photographed using my Canon Powershot (point and shoot)

P.P.S Happy Valentine's Day!