Friday, August 31, 2012

life, lately.

August has been intense. I have traveled every single weekend. But around here, there is still so much to explore. I have been visiting local bistros, bars and cafes, and soaking up the atmosphere and architecture. I love to wander the quaint and charming side streets lined with elegant gas lamps, discovering colorful painted doorways and stained glass windows.  We have also been cooking and grilling quite a bit, hosting BBQs and visitors, and I've been whipping up fun summer cocktails like St Germain Margaritas (Espolon Blanco, St Germain, fresh squeezed lime) and Sage-Advices (homemade sage simple syrup, prosecco, lemon).
I've been on a serious homemade chicken salad kick, mixing in red grapes, chopped walnuts and celery, seasoning it with dill and fresh garlic chives (that I grew in my garden!)

Yes, I have a garden. It is lacking produce, but abundant with herbs, greenery, a lush dogwood tree, and a few colorful flowers. I'll have to take some photos.
The endless slew of weekend travel included a wedding in Chicago, a bachelorette party in Newport and then a trip to Cape Cod. One of my favorite days all summer was spent with my Mom on Chapin Beach in Dennis. We collected sea glass and driftwood on the flats and went swimming a lot. 
Wedding season is still going strong into September, I'm looking forward to seeing more of my dear friends get married.  
So that's what is up with me. 

How was your August?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Heirloom Tomato Celebration | Bistro 5

All hail the magnificent heirloom tomato. I love that chefs around the city not only look to embrace the summer fruit in its prime, but become giddy at the prospect of cooking with it. They patiently wait for the high season, eager to get their hands on fresh, ripe, perfectly imperfect, locally grown heirloom varietals. In its peak the tomato is incomparable to those mealy, off season, uniformly round and shaped for the consumer brands. The in-season tomato is so beloved, so cherished. 

Chef Vittorio Ettore is one enthusiast, he practically worships them, and in their honor prepares a five course tasting menu annually at his West Medford restaurant, Bistro 5. The excitement is palpable and the anticipation of this years menu builds as I listen to the chef speak about his inspirations while munching on soft, herb studded foccacia bread with chickpea puree over fruity green hued olive oil. What follows, is a parade of courses that celebrate the late summer fruit in a sophisticated meets ethereal fashion. 
For our first course of Cherokee Tomato Gazpacho, a gorgeous pearly white scallop ceviche is punctuated with a beautiful Cherokee tomato broth and a qunielle of refreshing cucumber-jalapeno sorbet, garnished with a leaf of lemon basil.

Then, the chef swirls in an enchanting gazpacho cloud, he's creating a masterpiece, the foam itself is velvety and frothy while adding remarkable depth and flavor. The dish strikes a high note, it is truly outstanding. 

The wine paired with this course is a 2011 Cantina Santa Maria La Palma, Aragosta, Vermentino di Sardegna. I think this is my first time trying the Vermentino white grape varietal and I adore it (along with that lobster on the bottle!) The wine is fresh and lively with notes of ripe apple, it finishes dry and is a particularly divine match with the scallops.
A whimsical presentation, the Potted Tomato Panzenella is thoughtfully conceived and brilliantly executed, inspired by the scent of a tomato garden with actual tomato plant leaves fancied as a garnish. Pineapple tomato and crusty bread mingle in a mini terra cotta pot with black olive "soil", topped with a mozzarella balloon that has been fused with a tomato mousse and then dusted in panko breadcrumbs. 
Another lovely bottle of wine accompanies, 2011 Domaine de Saint Pierre, Sancerre, Liore. It's high in acidity and tasting of green melon and citrus with a distinct chalky finish. 

Course number three is a dynamic Lemon Boy Tomato Risotto laced with soft tangy goat cheese and crispy prosciutto, paired with a 2011 Domaine de la Solitude, Rosé, Côtes du Rhône. I am fond of both the Risotto and the Rose, in this instance they are a perfect match. This dinner is turning out to impress far beyond my expectations and making that crowded bus ride all the way out to quiet West Medford square and later my cab ride home, well worth it. 

The fourth course presents a Rohan Duck, expertly seared and served with sweet and sour butternut squash, thai basil and pickled ginger alongside a head turning Smoked Speckled Roman Tomato Creme Brulee

A savory, smokey creme brulee? For the entree course? Yes and yes, for the win. The wine continues to impress, we've moved to a red, a 2007 Vingneti Zabù, Il Passo, Sicilia which is a Nero d'Avola and merlot blend with ripe blackberry and cherry, leading to a long, velvety finish. It is fantastic with the meat.

Chef labels the dessert course Tomatina, it's equal parts creamy Organic Peach Tomato Mousse and a fanfare of a presentation inspired by the famous tomato fight in Spain. It's a splattering of vanilla creme anglaise and sweet pistachio pesto with a neat little bowl of basil yogurt gelato on the side. The dessert wine is a sweet, slightly effervescent, 2011 Zagara, Moscato d'Asti, Barolo

This heirloom tomato tasting menu is not tomato as you might expect it; Chef Ettore elevates classic Italian dishes with an innovative use of ingredients and playfully inspired twists which translate real life moments and experiences into the plate. Additionally, the wines are interesting and expertly paired. 

Bistro 5 will be offering the tasting menu, which changes daily based on the heirloom varietals availability, from September 5th   - 29th. {3 courses for $45/wine pairing $20 or 5 courses for $65/wine pairing $25} I attended this preview tasting as media and my dinner was complimentary. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

eats in charlestown, lately

Drum roll, please! Presenting a long overdue round up of what and where I've been eating in Charlestown. I regret that not all these plates are accompanied by photos to do them justice - sometimes the camera doesn't quite make it.

*Roasted Game Hen w/ swiss chard, chorizo, cornbread, gravy | Navy Yard Bistro*
I had a really nice time on my first visit to the Navy Yard Bistro, however, it was not without some misses. The appetizers were not quite up to par; fried oysters lacked crispiness and the mussels were far from plump and rather stringy. My entree, on the other hand, was flawless, and more than made up for a disappointing start. The roasted game hen offered incredibly juicy, succulent white meat, falling off the bone with perfectly crisp, almost caramelized skin that came dusted in fresh parsley. Alongside were nuggets of spicy chorizo with bitter swiss chard greens in a light but smokey gravy bath and a massive slice of soft, sweet cornbread pooling with butter. That handsome looking bird proved to be one of the most exquisite plates of food I've had all year.  
I wish I took more notes on the bottle of white wine we enjoyed (next time!) Another positive was our impeccable, personalized service. Specifically, I appreciated that our waiter was quick to move us inside as impending thunderstorms and large drops of rain threatened our quaint table on the patio. And because it was my sisters birthday he generously comped our dessert - a hot fudge strawberry sundae alongside flutes of limoncello.
Navy Yard Bistro & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

*Sweet Potato Bravas ($9) w/ feta, honey, jalapenos, avocado cream | Olives*
On a recent trip back to Olives, I am happy to report (after all the mixed reviews and varying levels of press) that our food was better than I expected. Though I've only noshed on small plates and appetizers, I thought every thing was delicious and the portion sizes were just right for sharing. Besides the tasty Sweet Patatas Bravas inventively paired with feta, honey, jalapenos and avocado cream for dipping, there was a guilt inducing Mac N Cheese ($8) with truffle, porcini, taleggio and fontina. TE's rendition was rich, flavorful, creamy, piping hot and over-the-top cheesy. The atmosphere felt a bit too intense for casually enjoying cocktails, appetizers and conversation on a Wednesday night. It was much louder than I expected, with music blaring and voices up ten more octaves as a result. As crowded as it was, we did manage to get a table right away, and service remained cheerful even though it was on the slow side.

*The Cottage Burger ($11.95) w/ fried organic egg, bacon, sharp cheddar | The Warren Tavern*
For post work brews this historic watering hole has become our go-to, and while not everything I've ordered off their menu has been a win, their burgers served on a lightly charred sesame seed studded bun have easily become crave worthy. The Cottage ($11.95) with a perfectly fried organic egg is my #1, but they have a plethora of equally fantastic options when I'm looking to switch it up like the Blue Cheese ($10.95) or the Paul Revere ($9.95) with sauteed mushrooms and swiss cheese. The richly wooded interior is classic and comforting and the bartenders always friendly and eager to refill your drinks.

*Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict w/ red onions & tomatoes | Grasshopper Cafe*
Warm and welcoming staff, prompt iced coffee counter service on my walk to work, homemade honey butter, excellent breakfast dishes - I'm not sure what the Bunker Hill side of the neighborhood did without this place before it opened a couple years back. The decor is simple and casual, overall it's a lovely little cafe that I'm happy to live so close to.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Bean

After a mimosa filled brunch, wishing the happy couple farewell, and saying goodbye to all our friends, Adam and I made our way over to Millennium Park to check out  "The Bean".

Technically, this shiny stainless steel sculpture shaped like a legume by Anish Kapor is called Cloud Gate; it was brilliantly constructed to reflect and distort images of the Chicago skyline, and its visitors. It's an iconic work of art, stunning and complex, and crowded.

We had lots of fun here. We wandered down to the banks of Lake Michigan and throughout the park, where I finally got to enjoy a Chicago hot dog! I loaded her up with yellow mustard, sweet relish, onions, tomatoes, spicy sport peppers and a pickle. These last few hours were a perfect and relaxing end to a great weekend in Chicago.