>>  Thursday, October 11, 2007

Note: an updated post from 2009 on this restaurant has been written here.
We went to Prezza on Sunday evening as part of Bryan's birthday weekend celebration. We wanted to go on Saturday, but it was impossible to get a reservation at a decent time. Clearly, this place is popular.

I chose this restaurant for several reasons. First, it consistently had very positive reviews from various forums, websites, etc. Second, it was a classy, high-end restaurant - appropriate for a birthday celebration. Third, they make fresh pasta, which is very important for Bryan, since he absolutely LOVES fresh pasta. Finally, it had been recommended to me by a friend who used to live in the North End. This is the same person who had recommended Monica's, now one of our favorite North End restaurants.

Prezza did not disappoint. The waitstaff was very professional and knowledgeable. He recommended an excellent French wine (E. Guigal Hermitage 1990) to go with our meal and also was very attentive.

Since Bryan loves pasta so much, we decided to order 2 appetizers and 4 appetizer portion pastas. For appetizers, we ordered the butternut squash arancini with lobster, brown butter, and sage; and the spicy mussels in tomato fennel stew with chorizo polenta. Both were excellent. The arancini was lightly fried and was paired with a fragrant sauce. The spicy tomato fennel sauce was deeply fragrant and flavorful, and the mussels were fresh and tasty [though still not as good as the mussels we freshly picked from the ocean in Maine and grilled at our campsite right after].

We ordered four pasta dishes to try: the pumpkin ravioli with lobster, marscapone, brown butter, and sage; potato gnocchi with mushroom, rabbit, marscapone, and parmesean; corn raviolini tossed with toasted corn, pancetta, rock shrimp, white wine, and butter; and tagliatalli a la Bolognese.

We both agreed that the corn raviolini was fabulous. The mixture of flavors between the sweet corn, salty pancetta, shrimp, wine, and butter was beautiful. I even said that if we went back again, I would just order a plate of corn raviolinis and a glass of wine and be very content. The gnocchi was also very good. I typically don't like freshly made gnocchi because it is often too mushy and soft. I like my gnocchi with a bit of chewiness. The gnocchi here had excellent texture - just the right amount of bounce ("kwew" in Taiwanese). Bryan also really liked the Bolognese. It was much lighter than the Bolognese we are used to at Basta Pasta, but the flavors were nice and the pasta had good texture. The pumpkin ravioli was good, although the flavor was similar to the arancini that we'd ordered as an appetizer. Although we both liked it, we thought it probably ranked 4th out of the pastas that we had ordered.

Over all, an excellent meal. I would definitely recommend trying this place. They accept reservations on OpenTable and also over the phone. They got a Zagat's food rating of 27, which is pretty high. Next time we go, maybe we'll try some of the meat dishes. Although, I'm really tempted to just order the corn raviolini's and call it a day. :)
Prezza on Urbanspoon

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Grill 23

Bryan recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal that talked about how steak houses age their steaks. Ever since then, he's had a craving for really good steak. Well, we went to Grill 23 as part of his 30th birthday weekend celebration in Boston in past weekend.

I'm not much of a steak eater, so unfortunately I cannot offer as good of a review as someone who knows a lot more about steak. However, I'll try to give the opinions of everyone at the table.

Bryan ordered the kobe cap steak, one of the most expensive items on the menu ($59 for 10 oz steak without sides). One friend ordered the "Berkeley" which is a 16oz Dry-Aged Ribeye and comes with a twice baked potato and creamed spinach with bacon and cheese. Another friend ordered the Steak au poivre, and I ordered the filet mignon.

In fact, the restaurant was very accommodating to my needs. I told the waiter that I did not eat a lot of meat, and asked whether he had any recommendations. He told me he would sell me half of the "twin filet mignon" dish, which typically has two 4-oz filet mignons. I was very pleased. Doesn't the USDA or someone say we should only be eating 4 oz of meat with each meal?

We also ordered some sides - truffled "tater tots" and mushroom ragout. Although I don't love steak houses, I had this great memory of incredible side dishes that I'd ordered at Craftsteak in Las Vegas (MGM Grand). We had ordered this deliciously flavorful mushroom side dish (an assortment of roasted wild, exotic mushrooms - including hen-of-the-woods) and also the most incredible sweet corn side dish. I was anticipating something just as yummy here.

In general, all agreed that the steak was very high quality - well aged with good, solid flavor. The kobe cap steak was well marbled, and according to Bryan, it was really good. I thought my filet mignon was a bit flavorless, but then people say that filet mignon isn't that tasty. My friend's steak au poivre was flavorful, and the Berkeley was quite good as well.

Over all, the steak was good, but we were disappointed in other ways. Two people (in our party of four) had ordered medium rare steaks and had received medium to medium-well steaks. Half of Bryan's kobe capsteak was well done. The restaurant happily offered to re-cook the steaks, and both people who had returned the steaks thought that the second properly cooked batch tasted much better.

I was a bit disappointed with the sides. The tater tots were OK, but honestly, I think the tater tots and the truffle French Fries at Garden at the Cellar are so much better (and about half the price). The mushroom ragout was nothing more than sauteed button mushrooms with a bit of oil and salt. My visions of exotic mushrooms from Craftsteak quickly disappeared when the stir fried white mushrooms appeared on the table. Both sides tasted pretty ordinary.

People say this is probably the best steak place in Boston. If that's true, then Boston has a long way to go before catching up with the quality of steakhouses in bigger cities.

Grill 23 & Bar on Urbanspoon

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Craigie Street Bistrot (now Craigie on Main)

We went to Craigie Street Bistrot for our anniversary dinner.

Craigie Street Bistrot is tucked away in a residential area about a 5-10 minute walk outside of Harvard Square. The chef, Tony Maws, has won countless awards, including America's top 10 new chefs by Food and Wine Magazine and also Best of Boston 2007 for General Excellence.

The food is French by cuisine, but the ingredients are all local, New England, fresh produce - at least for most of the year (winter is sometimes a bit tough). Every morning Tony collaborates with local farmers and picks out the best organic produce and meat for that day. He then designs the menus based on his picks. The menu changes every day, and is usually printed out right before the restaurant opens at 5 PM.

We decided to try the Chef's Tasting Menu for our anniversary. This is essentially a chef's whim type of tasting. "Tony will cook whatever he wants for you!" It's a 7-course meal plus another 3 courses of desserts. There's basically a regular version and a vegetarian version. We both ordered the regular version (both people at the table have to order the same tasting menu).

The food was absolutely fabulous. Tony Maws is an excellent cook. I won't go into detail describing each dish, because that would take forever (see below for the menu of what we ate). Suffice it to say - it's definitely worth trying the tasting at least once. This is a chance to try the best of what a chef can do - he is truly at the peak of his creativity. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal. Even though French cuisine is not my favorite, Craigie Street Bistrot is probably one of my favorite restaurants in Boston.

The Chef's Tasting Menu is not cheap. Ours was $115 a person plus the cost of wine. If you want to experience Tony's creativity for a little less money, you can try the Chef's Whim, which is available Wednesday and Sunday evenings after 9 PM. For either $39.99 (4 courses) or $55 (6 courses) a person, Tony Maws will cook a spontaneous meal for you. I've never personally tried this, but it sounds like a lot of fun and I definitely want to try it in the future!

There's also the prix fixe deal, which is $36 for a three course meal. It is available Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday; and after 9:00 pm Friday and Saturday. Bryan and I have tried this once. Although it was fine, it did not compare to the complexity and flavor of the other dishes that he makes.


Assiette of Kona Kampachi Sashimi
melon, peanuts, green olives, salmon roe, ginger-chile vinaigrette

Salad of Farm Fresh Tomatoes and House Cured Anchovies
lovage vinaigrette, mizuna, salt-cured foie gras

Squid and Vegetable noodles
squid ink-dash sauce, trout roe

Slow-Cooked Farm Fresh Egg
summer succotash, Spanish octopus, chorizo sauce

Roasted Red Chile-Marinated Kampachi Kama

Roasted Beef Bone Marrow
smoked beef tongue confit

CSB Boudin Noir Stuffed Vermont Organic Quail
summer vegetables, smoked farro, black trumpet mushroom puree

Tea-infused Panna Cottas
rooibos, jasmine

Warm Sweet White Corn Grits
local blackberries, poached peach puree, anise hyssop ice cream

Market Fruits Crisp
walnut topping, buttermilk ice cream

Chille Mariposa Plum Soup
yogurt sorbet

Craigie On Main on Urbanspoon

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Sushi Candy

>>  Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I was inspired by various foodblogs to make some sushi candy last night.

I made rice crispy treats according to the recipe on the Rice Krispies Cereal box. While the marshmallow rice mixture was still hot, I took half of the mixture and individually shaped the nigiri rice pieces. I then took the other half, flattened it onto a cutting board, and used a small cleaned out tomato paste can to cut out discs.

I bought Odense brand marzipan at Shaw's Supermarket ($7 a tube).

I mixed various portions with food coloring and then shaped the ebi, sake, maguro, and tamago pieces. I used a knife to "paint" on a chocolate ribbon for the tamago (egg) sushi.

I also made a green strip out of marzipan as the nori for the maki pieces. The wasabi is also marzipan.

I found marzipan to be pretty easy to use and pretty tasty with the rice crispies. I had seen versions of this dish online that used Swedish fish and fruit roll ups. The idea of eating rice crispies with fruit roll ups or gummies did not appeal to me, so I decided to try this instead.


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