Dave's Fresh Pasta

>>  Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dave's Fresh Pasta
We had a freak warm spell a couple weeks ago.  It was seventy degrees in Boston and it really felt like the entire city was outside soaking in the sun.  Especially after we had all been literally soaked by inches and inches of rain just a few days before.

On days like that I love love love sitting outside and enjoying a relaxing meal.

Two Saturdays ago, I was able to do just that.  I sat outside my favorite lunch spot in Davis Square, soaking up the sun, and enjoying great conversation.

So what exactly makes Dave's Fresh Pasta so cool?

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Dragon Fruit (pitaya)

Dragon Fruit
Have you ever seen a dragon fruit?  This exotic, beautiful fruit, also known as the pitaya, actually comes from a cactus plant.  I saw this on the streets of Chinatown in New York this past weekend.  Even though I had no idea what it was, I was drawn to its exotic and beautiful color.

I had to buy one.

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Unique Dumpling

>>  Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Beef Tendon Noodle Soup
Ever since Noodle Alcove closed in Chinatown, we have been lamenting the loss of fresh, handmade noodles in Boston. More recently, we discovered that Beijing Star in Waltham makes their own "dao xiao mian," or knife-cut noodles.  Though pretty solid, it was a bit far to drive for a weeknight meal.  We had high hopes for East by Northeast as well.  Unfortunately, that place was quite expensive and had unconventional flavors, which again left us with no comforting, authentic fresh noodle soup restaurants nearby.

Imagine our delight when we received a phone call from our good friend Peter.

"Hey guys - guess what took over the old Wisteria location?  A Taiwanese/Northern Chinese place that  makes fresh noodles."

We had been circling around Union Square looking for parking to try out a new Mexican restaurant. Moments after he called, we immediately stopped looking and headed straight to East Cambridge to try this place out.

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Veggie Planet / Club Passim

>>  Sunday, March 28, 2010

Club Passim
I've lived next to Harvard Square for over ten years. I can't believe I had not visited Club Passim/Veggie Planet until this past month.
Club Passim
Club Passim is a really intimate venue for small concerts. When you buy tickets for a show, your seat is actually a table. You can order dinner and drinks from Veggie Planet while you enjoy the show.
Club Passim
The space is tiny, and the chairs are squeezed really close together.  It's slightly uncomfortable, but in a way also adds to the charm of the venue.  The room is really small, which makes the concert that much more intimate and enjoyable.

Of course, having a perfect venue is only half the equation. The food has to be good.

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Sunchoke Chips (Jerusalem Artichoke)

>>  Friday, March 26, 2010

Sunchoke Chips
Have you ever heard of a sunchoke?  Or a Jerusalem Artichoke? (which, by the way, is neither from Jerusalem nor is an artichoke)  The sunchoke is the root of a species of sunflower plant that is native to eastern U.S. (like Massachusetts!!)
They look like tiny potatoes, or, if they are knobby, they might resemble ginger root.  If you cut one open and eat it raw, it is white, crunchy, and a little sweet - sort of like a cross between a potato and a jicama. Any flavor that it might have is quite subtle when raw.  Oh, but when these are baked into chips, they have a beautiful, slightly sweet, slightly nutty and earthy flavor that is oh-so-addictive.

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KO Prime Winners!

>>  Thursday, March 25, 2010

KO Prime Cash
Using Random.org, I generated two numbers between 1 and 21.  The winning numbers?


Congrats to Lisa and Dianna!  Please e-mail me at jen[at]tinyurbankitchen[dot]com and let me know where you want me to send the KO Cash cards!

Enjoy, and please tell me how your meal was!!!

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Henrietta's Table

>>  Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Charles Hotel Courtyard
Harvard Square is such a magical place at night.  I especially love the area around the Charles Hotel right now, where crystal blue trees light up the courtyard.
Henrietta's Table
Enter the Charles Hotel, and you'll encounter a quaint restaurant called Henrietta's Table.  The moment you step, in, you'll feel like you're walking into someone's home, someone's kitchen.  It's almost as if Henrietta personally invited you over to her farmhouse for a home-cooked meal using the vegetables from her garden.
Stuffed pigs
The plush pigs at the front add to the warm and welcoming feel of the place.

In many ways, eating at Henrietta's Table is like going to a farmer's house for dinner. The restaurant focuses on locally grown, organic, and sustainable food.  In fact, it has been doing so ever since it opened thirteen years ago, arguably long before it was the "in" thing to do. It's most known for its amazing Sunday brunch buffet, which is a sight to see and a price to behold ($48pp).

Alas, I will not be describing the brunch to you today (sorry! It is amazing, and one of these days I will!)  Instead, a group of girls and I decided to check out Henrietta's Table for Restaurant Week a few nights ago.  The great thing about Henrietta's Table is that the Restaurant Week menu is no different from their regular menu.  In fact, the entire menu is part of Restaurant Week.  You just pick an appetizer, entree, side, and dessert.  It's that simple.

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KO Prime + Giveaway!

KO Prime
KO Prime, despite it's name and the fact that it charges up to $45 for a steak, does not serve USDA Prime beef, or even aged beef, for that matter. So what's the draw?

Well, for one thing, KO Prime is one of Ken Oringer's restaurants.

Ken Oringer is a local hot shot. Well, first off, he did beat Iron Chef Cat Cora on Iron Chef America in 2008.  And yes, he is the brains behind Clio, consistently hailed as one of the best restaurants in Boston. He was also nominated for the James Beard Northeast Best Chef Award four times, finally winning it in 2001.  According to the restaurant's website, KO Prime's difference lies in its extensive menu, with creative takes on both the main entrées and the sides. This is what they say: "Leave the "classics" to others. KO Prime is edgy, appealing and totally 21st century."

So is it true?  We made a reservation this past weekend to find out.

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Oven Roasted Kabocha Squash

>>  Monday, March 22, 2010

Roasted Kabocha Squash
It's official.  I love love love kabocha squash.  It's like candy for me.  Not too long ago I made my first kabocha squash dish, kabocha squash gnocchi, and I loved it.

More recently I decided to try simply roasting it in the oven, sprinkling it with a bit of sea salt, pepper, and truffle oil.  This stuff, I really could not stop eating.  It tastes good warm, cold out of the fridge . . . it's a fantastic healthy snack if you're just craving a little bite to eat.  In fact, more than once, I found myself sneaking a few slices of this stuff right before midnight.

How funny . . sneaking slices of kabocha squash as if it were cookies or something.

But really, it's so good.  And sadly, the last time I went to the market, I didn't see them anymore.  Is the season already over?

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The Oceanaire

>>  Sunday, March 21, 2010

What would you say if I told you that a Midwestern-based seafood restaurant wanted to open up in Boston to compete with the likes of old establishments such as Legal Seafoods, Atlantic Fish Company, and Neptune Oyster, what would be your response?

Don't lie. You'd probably laugh right?  Midwest? Aren't they landlocked? (I'm from Ohio, and people used to say that about my state all the time)

The Oceanaire Seafood Room, which originally started out in Minnesota, has successfully opened up restaurants in cities such as Baltimore, Boston, Miami, and San Diego.  In fact, they have twelve successful restaurants throughout the US. The concept? You're dining on extremely fresh seafood on a 1930's luxury ocean liner.

I recently had an opportunity to dine at the one in Boston. I was so surprised I had never heard of this place before.  Isn't it beautiful inside? Look at those high ceilings!

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The French Laundry

>>  Friday, March 19, 2010

French Laundry Clothespins
May I distract you for a moment to take you on a brief journey?

A journey to Napa Valley, into a little town called Yountville, inside a quaint, rustic, French house. I would love to share with you a particular meal I had on my last night in Napa Valley.
French Laundry
The French Laundry is surprisingly unassuming from the outside.  It looks like any other quaint, rustic country home.  As Bryan and I were walking down Washington Street, we almost missed it.
But if you look really hard at the bottom left corner of the "house," you'll see a sign surrounded by playfully bright flowers.  It's almost like it's trying to hide . . . sort of.
French Laundry Garden
Look across the street, and you'll see The French Laundry's own vegetable garden. The garden supplies many of the vegetables on the menu each day.
French Laundry
We walked around the corner and peered in. Look! A beautiful hidden garden. Could there be more?
French Laundry window
A quick glance through the window revealed chefs hard at work.
French Laundry Garden
We continued on to discover a beautiful secluded little area behind the rustic house. Oh, if only we could stay.  But food was beckoning inside the house.

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>>  Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I'm still floored by the concentration of world class restaurants on this one street in Yountville.  Redd, which is right next door to Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc, is no exception.

Executive chef Richard Reddington worked at a number of prestigious places before opening Redd in Napa Valley in 2005. Example include Restaurant Daniel in New York, Spago in Los Angeles, Masa in San Francisco, Michelin 3-star L'Arpège in France, just to name a few.  Like most restaurants in Napa Valley, his style is a contemporary interpretation of wine country, with a focus on fresh, local ingredients.  Of course, the wine selection is fantastic.
We loved our lunch, which was actually reasonably priced.  Each of the dishes ranged between $13-$14 - a great deal for such amazing food.*  Did I mention this restaurant has one Michelin star?

Incredibly fresh fish, a delightful mix of tastes and textures -- Richard Reddington is a genius when it comes to food, and we absolutely loved everything we had here.  Definitely worth a visit!

Here are our dishes!

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Our Own Excursion: Vineyards (Opus One and Robert Mondavi)

>>  Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Opus One
When you see the Opus One Vineyard from afar, you immediately think "wow." It's grandiose, beautiful, and imposing all at the same time. It clearly was designed and built to impress, and impressed I was.
Opus One
The views are top notch from the vineyard - almost unrealistically picturesque.
Opus One Tasting
You can do a "tasting" which means you can buy individual glasses of wine for (gasp) $30 or $35 each!!!  I guess since their bottles go for $195 and up, I can sort of understand why the tasting has to be so expensive.  We shared one glass of the 2004 Opus One.
Opus One Balcony
We slowly sipped and savored it at the gorgeous second floor balcony.
Opus One Balcony
So yummy!
Lovely vineyard, definitely worth visiting, even if it's just for the views, which don't cost a cent!

Robert Mondavi Vineyards
Robert Mondavi Vineyards
Do you recognize this arch?  It's on the front of all Robert Mondavi bottles. We signed up for the Signature Tour for only $25, which I think is well worth the money.  The tour guides are really good, and it's a fun peek into the winemaking process.  The best time to come is August, when the grapes are about to be harvested! (right now the vines are empty - sad!)
Robert Mondavi To Kalon Vineyards
These are the To Kalon vineyards, which, according to some, produce some of the best cabernet grapes in all of Napa Valley, if not the entire world.  The soil here is mostly clay loam, which drains well and does not retain lots of nutrients.  The harsh conditions put the grape vines in stress, causing them to produce more concentrated clusters of fruit with very intense flavors. To Kalon produces some of the most sought after cabs in Napa Valley.
Mondavi French Barrels
Although modern technology uses stainless steel fermentors, Robert Mondavi Winery uses small amounts of oak fermentors for some reserve wines. Tim Mondavi, winegrower and managing director at the vineyard, found that "[o]ak fermentation imparts complexity, richness of texture, intensity, and depth of color, which is ideal for our reserve and district red wines, and particularly enhances the fruit from our To Kalon Vineyard.”*
Robert Mondavi Barrels
They also only use French oak barrels (remember my thoughts when I pitted French oak against American oak?).  They paint all the barrels with wine so that if there's any dripping, it won't cause any stains.
Mondavi Wine Tasting
We enjoyed a lovely tasting of 3 different wines.  Our tour guide was fantastic. He's worked at the vineyard for decades, and really knows his stuff.  We tried asking him all sorts of questions and he seemed to know everything!  We tried a 2008 Napa Valley Fume Blanc ($20/bottle), a 2008 Napa Valley Pinot Noir Reserve ($60/bottle), and a 2006 Oakville District Cabernet Sauvignon ($45/bottle).  Nice wines, but I couldn't help thinking about the Opus One earlier, which (for obvious reasons), was way better.
Robert Mondavi Vineyard
Over all, if you've never visited a vineyard and want to learn about the basics of winemaking, this tour is interesting and fun.  Plus, the property is really pretty.

Other posts from the Napa Valley Series
Welcome Reception
Mystery Basket
Signature Dish Competition
Del Dotto Caves / Winery
Antica Vineyards
Bouchon Bakery
Caldwell-Ewart, "Robert Mondavi Winery: Creating a Winery to Match a Vineyard" Practical Winery & Vineyard, Jan/Feb 2001

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>>  Monday, March 15, 2010

Bouchon Yountville take away
I still can't believe that my hotel room in Napa Valley was within walking distance of Bouchon, Ad Hoc, and the French Laundry!  Not to mention other amazing one-star Michelin restaurants such as Redd and Bistro Jeanty.
Bouchon Yountville
We woke up early on Saturday morning, walked five minutes down the road, and sauntered into Bouchon bakery for breakfast.  I'm so jealous of people who live in places like New York City or Las Vegas where they can do this everyday.
Bouchon Bakery
OK, I confess -"saunter into Bouchon" was inaccurate.  There was this crazy line out the door of the tiny little bakery.  But the line moved fast, and soon we entered!

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Napa Valley Guide

Please use this guide as a "roadmap" for all the Napa Valley related posts, including all the aspects of the San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef's competition and our own little excursions.




Welcome Mystery Basket
Signature Dish
Del Dotto Caves Antica
Bouchon Dining At Redd
French Laundry Opus One

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Antica Vineyards

This post is part of a larger Napa Valley series centered around the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef's Competition. To see other posts in this series, check out the Napa Valley Guide.
On Sunday morning, before the Signature Dish Competition, S. Pellegrino organized another amazing outing  for their VIP guests at Antica Vineyards.
Antica is owned by the Antinori family, one of the oldest winemaking families in history. The Antinoris have been making wine for over 600 years! Most of their vineyards are located in Tuscany and Umbria in Italy. Antica is derived from Anti (from their name) + ca (from California), since this is their California vineyard.
It took about 40 minutes to drive up the mountain to arrive at this beautiful, beautiful vineyard.
Antica Vineyards
It's hard to capture the vastness of the vineyard from pictures alone, but here's a shot at it. :)

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you can contact me at: jen[at]tinyurbankitchen[dot]com
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