Monday, March 31, 2014

Alden & Harlow

In a sprawling subterranean space at 40 Brattle Street in Harvard Square, Alden & Harlow hides out, but its opening was no secret. Chef / owner Michael Scelfo has been creating a buzz for quite sometime on his personal instagram feed, where we got to watch the entire process of creating Alden & Harlow first hand. The interior he (and his wife) have designed is striking, beginning with the bright green "live wallbooths section growing pretty succulents, lush ferns and kitchen herbs. It catches your eye as you first descend into the restaurant, followed by handsome walls of reclaimed brick wood, vintage advertisements and rustic light fixtures. The long bar backlit with warm lighting and shiny white tile wraps around into the main dining room where the open kitchen and marble chefs table reside. The restaurant is so much larger than one would expect, with a smooth, composed energy flowing about it and among the waitstaff. 

In a cozy window side nook table, my sister and I made our way through the cocktail menu and the inventive, share-able plates. The cocktails are well thought out and delicious, however, I wondered why those martini glasses weren't arriving just a little more full. I sipped the bright, herbal McGregor's Garden ($11) made of Fighting Cock Bourbon, Spiced Parsnip Puree, Benedictine and lemon. And later the Plaza Hotel ($11) with McElhone Revived (their draft spirit), Overproof Bourbon, Fennel Infused Lillet and Campari.

The food is excellent. Flavor and ingredient pairings are exciting and unexpected. I've certainly never had Charred Broccoli ($8) this good. It comes elevated with a sweet squash hummus and is finished with a dusting of montasio (fresco cheese) and cashew crumbles. Smoked Moosabeck Farms Mussles ($8) tumble off a parsley crostino with tarragon and aioli, proving a lighter plate perfect to start off the meal. The Secret Burger ($14) is an incredibly juicy 8 ounces of House Creekstone Grind on an extra large, lightly grilled, sea-salted house made roll. It also comes with what the menu describes as "Your Faith" - an anchovy Russian dressing, a pile of crisp shredded lettuce and a parmesan cheese crisp! We finish dinner with a ridiculously rich dish of House Made Rye Pasta ($15) - plump cavatelli coils with chicken confit thigh, crispy skin and fig and liver butter. I can't wait to return. 
40 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

Friday, March 21, 2014

Skiing in The Alps

Skiing in Europe means your typical east coast assembly-line-style cafeteria food gets replaced with cozy alpine lodges and quaint mountainside cafes. The food on the slopes was nothing short of amazing.

One day we skied at Domanie du Balme, starting in the village of Le Tour, and venturing down into the little town of Vallorcine on the Swiss border. Le Cafe Comptoir sat tucked at the edge where the mountain meets the village. We sat outside and enjoyed live music, truffle ravioli with prosciutto, a side of frites and a liter of Rose. We learned it was the cafes birthday when they started handing out free vin chaud. Luckily, the pistes as Domaine du Balme are beginner to intermediate so an afternoon of buzzed skiing worked out well here. 

We spent a day in Courmayeur, Italy, where I was extremely fond of their tree skiing and their perfectly cooked al dente pasta. It was snowing heavy, and visibility on the slopes was low. We skied untouched powder in the glades all morning and then discovered the food at Christiania that afternoon. A warm, family run ristorante; here we indulged in a heaping plate of cured antipasti meats, taggliolini in a hearty ragu, warm poltenta baked with cheese and wild mushrooms, creamy pesto gnocchi and more. All this was followed by fluffy mascarpone infused tiramisu, frothy cappuccinos and sweet limoncello. 
The day we skied Brévent-Flégère we ate mushroom soup with parmesan croutons and jamon et fromage baguettes at La Chavanne.  At this mid mountain outdoor bar they had a live rock band, towers of beer, gorgeous views, a jacuzzi! It was a Monday afternoon, so still the beginning of the trip, and I remember having to pinch myself as I took it all in. Is this really my life for the week? 

On our final day, after a fantastic morning of skiing off piste at Les Grand Montets with our guide Pierre, it felt like Chalet Refuge de Lognan appeared out of nowhere, in between the powder and the trees. At our table for 12 there was red wine, leafy green salads in a mustard vinagrette and croutes au fromage (baked bread and cheese) with mushrooms and tomate. For dessert, soft slices of chestnut cake and steaming cups of espresso.
How I adore this crew! It was the trip of a lifetime.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Albert 1er | Chamonix

Luxury (two Michelin star) dining in Chamonix, France at Restaurante Albert 1er was one for the books. Yes, it was a splurge in comparison to your standard meal in Cham, but for a Michelin starred experience, all of it simply exceptional, the six of us who ventured here considered it a reasonable one. (It was 156 euros each, and this included two bottles of wine, one was a magnum bottle.) All of us would highly recommend it.

 Robert Blanc green asparagus | black truffle, green herb pasta and parmesan
Foie Gras de Canard two ways | sautéed with mango et passion fruit caramel (pictured) | “ballotine” with quince jelly and apple chutney (unpictured)
Grilled Saint-Jacques scallops | fennel et green apple slaw
"Perle de la Dombes" | duck lacquered in an orange crust w. stewed leg, almond, coriander and lemon preserve, chickpea fritters.
Cheese Trolley | choice of fresh and mature French and Italian cheeses
Dessert Trolley | pastries, cakes, homemade sorbets and ice cream
Warm green Chartreuse soufflé | homemade Chartreuse ice cream
(Unbelievable. Hands down the best souffle I have ever tasted.) 
Petit Fours, chocolates and caramels

38 rue du Bouchet 
Chamonix Mont Blanc, France 77400