Leisure Station (Boba Tea) + Giveaway!

>>  Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My friends and I were arguing the other day over what "Taiwanese" food really was. One person tried to suggest typical Taiwanese breakfast items such as sweet soybean milk with deep fried crullers, but then another person (who's from China) said that these types of dishes were all over China. Another tried suggesting shaved ice, but the Chinese friend again pointed out that you could find shaved ice all over China as well.  Finally, there was only on thing that everyone unanimously agreed was totally Taiwanese.

Boba Tea. (also called bubble tea, tapioca milk tea, pearl milk tea)

Boba tea was invented in Taiwan in the 1980's and has since gained in popularity, first throughout Asia and now throughout the world. Boba tea is a tea drink that typically consists of sweetened tea, milk, and chewy tapioca balls. The balls come in different sizes, but the classic Pearl Milk Tea usually has the bigger balls (about the size of a large blueberry). The drink comes with its own special over-sized straw, through which you simultaneously slurp tea and tapioca balls.

Boba tea connoisseurs typically consider two things when judging tea: excellent tea flavor (brewed tea is typically better than reconstituted powdered tea); and good boba consistency (soft and chewy with a bit of resistance, otherwise known as "Q" in Taiwanese). The boba chewiness factor can make or break a tea drink.

Two months ago, Leisure Station, a franchise of Easy Way in Taiwan, opened its first tea shop on the East Coast. Lucky for me, it opened right in Kendall Square, a mere T-stop away from my workplace!

I had a chance to visit this place last Wednesday.

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CNN Eatocracy: Featured Blogger

>>  Monday, June 28, 2010

Just wanted to let you know that I was featured in CNN's blogger spotlight yesterday. Click on the image below to see the full article.

Eatocracy CNN

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All-Clad Pan Review

All-Clad Fry Pan
I've never had a nice pan in my life. As a college graduate, I had a few of those cheap, $10 nonstick pans that gets flaky within a year or two. Even heating? I didn't even know what that meant. Furthermore, I abused my pans, sometimes heating up those nonstick pans to high heat in order to properly stir-fry Chinese food that I was making (note: not safe!).

You would have thought that when I got married, which, not coincidentally, was also when we bought our first property together, I would have finally decided to buy some nice pans for myself. After all, I finally had own kitchen! And I was going to be in a place for more than one year at a time.

Oddly enough, I told Bryan, "I already have pots and pans and most kitchen supplies. We don't need to register for any." Clearly, this sent some sort of unintended message.

I should not have been surprised when we started getting things like an XBOX as a wedding gift. Or when we returned the brand new toaster oven that we had received in exchange for a brand new Tivo.

So it wasn't until this year (yes, it's been how many years since we got married?), that I finally got my hands on my first nice pan ever. The kind folks at Cookware.com were kind enough to send me an All-Clad pan for review.

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Sauteed Beets and Radishes with Dill

>>  Friday, June 25, 2010

I have been receiving quite a bit of root vegetables in my farm share lately - multicolored beets, various types of radishes, turnips, and rainbow carrots. I have also been receiving some beautiful fresh herbs, such as cilantro and dill. Having had almost no experience using dill, and hardly any with radishes and turnips, I had been roasting everything in the oven.
There's nothing wrong with that. Root vegetables always taste delicious roasted, and you can throw any variety of combinations together and it will still taste pretty good.

But what if you don't want to wait 30-60 minutes for your vegetables to be ready? What if you need to get dinner on the table, fast, and all you have is root vegetables?

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Effie's Homemade Oatcakes & Corncakes WINNER

>>  Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thanks everyone for participating in this giveaway. It was really fun to read about all of your favorite cookies growing up. I thought it was funny how popular Oreos and Girl Scout cookies were! :)

Congratulations to Cavity Buster!

Cavity Buster's favorite cookies were "thin mints girl scout cookies."

Cavity Buster - please e-mail me at jen[at]tinyurbankitchen[dot]com with your mailing address so that Effie's can ship the cookies out to you!

Thanks all for playing. I have more giveaways coming up soon, so check back often!

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Trattoria di Monica

>>  Wednesday, June 23, 2010

When Bryan and I were planning our honeymoon to Italy, we prepared by learning a few key Italian phrases. Certain phrases became invaluable, such as scuzi (excuse me), grazi (thank you), and, most importantly, quanta costa? (how much does it cost?)

Another nuance we soon picked up was the difference between the words ristorante and trattoria.

Trattorias are typically casual, family-run restaurants that serve an ever-changing menu of seasonal, locally produced dishes. They are more rustic, cozy, and typically much less expensive.

Ristorantes are more prevalent in large cities, and are typically more sophisticated, upscale, and expensive. They often provide dishes with pricier ingredients, like seafood, for example.
After our first dinner at a ristorante in Rome where we spent upwards of $100 USD, we quickly learned that trattorias were the way to go. The rest of our meals in Rome cost, on average, about $25 USD for both of us (and that included gratuity, bottled water, and wine!). Admitted, Italy was still on the lira back then so we took great advantage of the strong exchange rate. The best thing is, there’s so much excellent food in Italy, it’s hard to go wrong, even if you pick the cheaper, more rustic trattorias. Italians are quite serious about their food. Furthermore, they have the added bonus of access to amazing local produce.
In the US, the distinction between the terms ristorante and trattoria seem to have largely evaporated. I’ve seen trattorias that cost an arm and a leg, and places called "ristorantes" that almost look like hole-in-the-walls. There are even restaurants called “Ristorante Trattoria.”

Despite all that, there are still some Italian restaurants in America that stay true to this form. One example would be the Monica restaurants in the North End, Boston.

Monica’s Trattoria is one of our favorite restaurants in the North End. The more casual cousin of its upscale counterpart, Vinoteca di Monica (which, until they remodeled not to long ago, used to be called Monica's Restaurant), Monica’s Trattoria serves up fresh salads, beautifully rustic bruschettas, and fantastic homemade pasta dishes.

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Giveaway! Effie's Homemade Oatcakes and Corncakes

>>  Monday, June 21, 2010

Remember my post a few weeks ago where I raved about these delicious oatcakes made by a local Bostonian company? Oatcakes that sort of reminded me of a less nobby version of Hob Nobs?

The kind folks at Effie's have agreed to give away TWO PACKAGES of their delicious biscuits to one lucky winner! You'll get to try a package of the corn cakes and also a package of the oat cakes.

In order to enter, please comment below telling me your favorite cookie growing up. As a child, my mom never really baked that much at home because she didn't love sweets (most Asian do not!). I did love anything made with Oreos, my favorite being Cookies & Cream ice cream!

For more chances to enter, you can do any of the following:

1. Retweet the Giveaway
2. Become a Facebook Friend of Tiny Urban Kitchen
3. Subscribe via RSS

For each additional entry, please post another comment letting me know which one you did.

Thanks! I will leave this open until Thursday night, MIDNIGHT. Winner will be announced on Friday.

Good luck!

P.S. US addresses only

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Gran Gusto

>>  Sunday, June 20, 2010

Neapolitan pizza
There was a time when Gran Gusto was one of those off-the-beaten-path hidden gems tucked away in a residential neighborhood in North Cambridge. We discovered this authentic Neapolitan restaurant back in 2008 when it had only been open for about nine months. It became our go-to place on a Friday night. We loved how it had ample parking, incredibly delicious  food, and no wait on a Friday night!

Of course, two years later, the secret is now out. You can't necessarily show up on a Friday night during peak time and expect just to get seated. The restaurant's pizza alone has been written up in Serious Eats and named "Best New Pizza" by StuffBoston. Area magazines have written great reviews as well.

It had been awhile since our last visit. When I realized my last review was about two years old and had no pictures (!), I decided it was time for an updated post on one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Cambridge.

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Tiny Urban Tidbits #9

>>  Friday, June 18, 2010

Lots of Chocolate For Me To Eat . . .
Imagine my shocked response when I saw this tweet from my husband while he was in Switzerland on business.

By the way, 262 CHF is $236 USD.  Things in Switzerland are expensive! For example, a cappuccino and a bottle of water from Starbuck's costs $12 USD.   Anyway, of course I wasn't mad. I mean, how can I be mad when I get to enjoy these?
Sprungli AM Paradeplatz
I fell in love with Sprungli's liquor-filled chocolates the first time he brought them back from Switzerland. I even wrote a whole post about them. This time he brought champagne-filled chocolates too! Can't wait to try them . . .

I'm loving my farm share . . .
Siena Farms: Week 1
I haven't been posting pictures each week about my farm share, but I'm loving it just the same. Compared to a different farm share that I had tried a few years back (where it felt like we just kept getting tons of kale and lettuce each week), Siena Farms' box share is fun because it includes a lot of unique, heirloom varieties of stuff. The program is a bit more expensive (about $30/week), but the quality of the veggies are top notch. This past week, I got rainbow carrots, bok choy, French breakfast radishes, fennel, different colored beets, escarole, purplette onions, shelling peas, and Tuscan kale.

I recently checked out their website and found a list of really nice local restaurants that serve vegetables from Siena Farms. Here's the entire list with hyperlinks to my reviews.

Oleana (updated review with pictures here)
Sofra Bakery and Café
No. 9 Park
The Butcher Shop
B+G Oyster Bar
Henrietta’s Table
Beacon Hill Bistro
Upstairs on the Square
Market by Jean-Georges
Hungry Mother
Coda Bar and Kitchen
O Ya

These are some really nice restaurants! So happy I get to enjoy the same quality of veggies at home.

Morel Mushroom Giveaway At Marx Foods
Sauteed Morels and Shallots
I just recently discovered my love for morel mushrooms after trying them at a few local Italian restaurants (Mare and Rialto) and also in my own kitchen. Just the other day Marx Foods contacted me and told me about this cool giveaway that they are doing. 2lbs of free morels! Yummmmmmmm . . .

I just signed up for it! Click on the image below to enter.
Marxfoods.com is giving away 2lbs of fresh morels!

Have a great weekend!

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Blue Fin

>>  Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Blue Fin
"To everything - turn, turn, turn, There is a season - turn, turn, turn, And a time for every purpose under heaven."

For some odd reason, the lyrics to this song started running through my head as I thought about our recent experience. There was a time when this was one of my favorite sushi restaurants in Boston. The place was so authentic, it had great sushi, and the prices could not be beat.

Situated in Porter Exchange, basically Boston's version of Japantown, you could eat lunch here (paying only $1/piece for sushi), go shopping at the Japanese market, and then pick up some boba tea or Japanese baked good on your way out. I always loved getting some mochi ice cream treats from the ice cream shop.

Unfortunately, many things have changed since those glory days a few years ago.

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>>  Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sandrines Tarte Flambée (Flammekueche)
Alsace is a small region in northeastern France adjacent to Germany and Switzerland. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the region itself changed hands between France and Germany four times within a 75-year period. It stayed with France until World War II, when Germany again annexed the region. It wasn't until after the war that France got it back.

As a natural result, Alsace is dominated by a mix of German and French influences, which makes for an interesting cuisine as well.

Sandrine's Bistro in Harvard Square is the only Alsatian restaurant of which I am aware in the Boston area. They serve several types of traditional Alsatian dishes, such as the classic tarte flambée (flammekueche) and the choucroute garnie (dressed sauerkraut). It had been three years since we had last visited the place, so we thought it might be a good idea to visit again.

I was tickled to find out (after the fact) that we had ordered almost the exact same dishes three years ago. I guess sometimes people just don't change. Here's an updated summary of our second experience there (this time with photos!).

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Milanese Veal Osso Bucco

>>  Monday, June 14, 2010

Osso Bucco
If I told you I just made a classic Milanese dish that costs $38 at one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Boston for only about $5, you'd start listening, right? I was so surprised how easy it was to make a classic Milanese Osso Bucco. Admitted, it does take quite a bit of chopping and a lot of time. The more time, the better, as the long braising period really softens the meat until it truly becomes fall-off-the-bone tender.

Osso bucco in Italian literally means "hollow bone." The bone and its marrow are what makes this dish unique. The shank is cut in a way that the bone marrow is exposed, and thus can permeate the soup, making it extremely flavorful. This relative inexpensive cut of meat (I paid $16 for 4 shanks at Costco) contains quite a bit of connective tissue, which is why it needs to be cooked for long periods of time before it is really enjoyable.

I served this to a group of guests this past week and they loved it. It's a great dish for entertaining on a weeknight because you can make most of it the night before and then just heat it up right before serving. I bet this works great in a crock pot too!

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Gremolata is a chopped herb condiment that is most commonly accompanied with Milanese Veal Osso Bucco. It's such a simple combination, though, you could really use it with lots of other types of food, such as fish, scallops, mussels, or even chicken. Heck, I've even seen recipes that put in over stew or on top of pizza. The possibilities are endless.

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Taiwan Cafe

>>  Sunday, June 13, 2010

Crispy Beef Roll Pork with Fresh Bamboo Shoots from Taiwan Cafe Boston
Roast Beef with scallions roll in scallion pancake - $5.95
I'm a sucker for Taiwanese street food. In the end, I think it's what the Taiwanese do best, and I love it. I even tried  cooking a whole Taiwanese street food dinner once, complete with Taiwanese meat balls (bawan), tea eggs (ca ye dan), meat sauce over rice (lo bah bng), and pork and bamboo shoot soup (ba genh). Since I'm Taiwanese, these dishes just hit that comfort happy zone that no other food can hit.

It's gotten better in the last few years, but for a long time, Boston had very few Taiwanese restaurants. As a college student, we basically went to Wisteria House (which used to be on Newbury Street), because that was all we had. Thankfully, in the past decade, several new restaurants serving Taiwanese food have opened, including Jo Jo Taipei in Allston, Shangri-La in Belmont, Chung Shin Yuan in Newton, Mulan in Cambridge, and more recently, Formosa Taipei in Lexington and Unique Dumpling in East Cambridge.

Taiwan Cafe was one of the first of these Taiwanese restaurants to open soon after I graduated from college. Now, after all these years, it's still one of my favorites. The food is excellent, the kitchen is insanely fast, (serious, like 3-5 minutes and your food arrives), and it serves all of my favorite Taiwanese dishes.

I'm sure the entire menu is good, but I like to stick to the super traditional Taiwanese brunch / street food type dishes, which are usually listed in the appetizer section. Here's a sampling of what we got on our last trip and also some of my recommended favorite dishes to order.

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Tiny Urban Tidbits #8

>>  Friday, June 11, 2010

Tiny Urban Tidbits is where I share with you some insights, "tidbits", or just random encounters from the week. I carry my camera with me everywhere I go, and I love capturing photos of interesting things that I discover. These may include new dishes from a restaurant that I've already reviewed, updates on what's going on locally, or encounters I've had in the kitchen. It could even include a beautiful sunset, a funny sign, or just stuff I find amusing. Think of it as snapshots (literally!) of my weekly experiences with food - intertwined with stories, of course.
All-Clad Fry Pan
A Pan That Heats Evenly? Finally!
For someone who write a food blog, I own embarrassingly cheap equipment. Maybe it's the fact that my kitchen is so small. Maybe it's because I decided not to register for any kitchen stuff when I got married. Whatever the case, I have never liked my pans. They heat woefully unevenly, the non-stick quality is not very good, and they are old. I feel like we are still college students, cooking on single burners with cheap pans and sleeping on twin beds.

So, when I was contacted by CSN to pick an item from their site to review, I immediately jumped on the opportunity to review a new pan, since I desperately felt like it was time to finally see what a high quality pan was like.

Stay tuned next week as I discuss my own findings regarding this beautiful pan!

Macarons! Macarons!
Financier Macarons
A kind friend who was staying at our place over the weekend brought these maracons from a place in New York that I'd never heard of before. Up to this point, I had only tasted macarons from Bouchon, Pierre Hermes, and my own kitchen! These are from Financier Patisserie, a bakery in New York that specializes in traditional and signature French pastries. The macarons were delicious, but they really don't last that long. After about a day or two, they get really dry and crumbly. :( So eat them fast or don't buy too many to take back with you!

Easiest Ever Marinara Sauce
Tomato Butter and onion sauce
I found this recipe through Smitten Kitchen, although it originally comes from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I was dubious that it would taste good, but after getting approval from my harshest critic (Bryan!), I decided that it was a keeper, especially considering how few ingredients it uses and how little work is involved.
Tomato Butter and Onion sauce
I almost feel like you don't need a recipe. Basically, take 1 onion (cut in half), 5 T unsalted butter (almost a stick!), and a can of whole peeled tomatoes (I used San Marzano tomatoes from Whole Foods). Bring to a medium heat and then simmer for 45 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes occasionally over the course of the cooking time. At the end, remove the onion, salt to taste, and serve! So easy, and Bryan thought it was surprisingly good for such a simple sauce.

Crazy Rain Storms in Boston
We've had some crazy windy rain storms here this past week. On Sunday we saw a bunch of fallen branches and trees all over the place while we were driving home from a wedding.
Weeks Bridge Storm trees
After the storm, however, the city was a completely different scene. The sun came out. The storm had cooled down everything, and it was actually really really pretty outside.  I was torn between jogging and walking. Finally, I compromised by taking my camera for a walk.
Boston Rain Storm
I love puddles and taking pictures of reflections.
Charles River
The Charles River. I love having these awesome views within walking distance of home and work.

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>>  Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Redbones Deep fried oysters
Fried Oysters (served with chipotle mayo) $6.99

Redbones has been serving up excellent Southern barbecue in Davis Square since 1987. "Pitmasters" prepare the meat at Redbones using the authentic Southern method of smoking it over an open pitfire.  The restaurant has won countless awards, most notably Best of Boston, Barbecue in 2000, 2002, and 2003. I know, it begs the question, who won all the subsequent years?

The reigning champ (up until 2009) for best barbeque was Blue Ribbon Barbecue in Arlington. But the two places really are quite different beasts and serve different purposes. Blue Ribbon is mainly a take-out place with hardly any seating. Redbones, on the other hand, has two floors of seating, 28 beers on tap, a festive ambiance, plus much more non-BBQ Southern dishes.

We decided to check out Redbones the other day to see if it was really worth the hype. Keep in mind this place often has lines out the door on weekends. Fortunately, we were able to land a table on a Saturday afternoon without any problems. Here's a peek at some of the food we enjoyed.

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Olive Oil Ice Cream

>>  Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Olive Oil Ice Cream
To a non-Italian like me, this ice cream flavor initially sounded really strange. I mean, olive oil is almost never served in a sweet capacity, right? We enjoy it dipped in bread, drizzled over fresh mozarella, or poured over a savory soup. But then this past year, I started hearing about other ways in which olive oil could be used in a  sweet dessert.

First, there was the olive oil cake I had in Napa Valley at the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef's Competition Welcome Reception. Then I started seeing tweets from a certain food blogger who was basically obsessing over olive oil ice cream she had just enjoyed at Momofuku. She then somehow managed to procure a few pints (a secret supply that they keep in the back) from my favorite ice cream place in the world. A week later, after getting this exciting message on twitter, I walked, no I ran, down the street to pick up my own secret pint that was hidden in the back for me.

Though at first it took a little getting used to, the ice cream definitely grew on me. By the third night, I was craving the stuff, and would anticipate my bowl of olive oil ice cream every night.

So of course when I ran out, what did I do? I learned how to make it, of course. The recipe is surprisingly simple, and after doing just a tiny bit of research, I realized that this stuff is actually quite common in Italy. The quality of the olive oil matters a lot, so try to get the fruitiest, most floral olive oil you can find.

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Top Chef Master Mini-Series Part II: Rialto

As Top Chef Masters comes to a close, I thought I would do a tiny-mini-series highlighting the two chefs from my hometown of Cambridge who competed this season. Check out the first post in this series, Oleana, Ana Sortum's Mediterranean restaurant in Cambridge. Ana Sortum was eliminated early in the show. Jody Adams, on the other hand, made the final eight and did not get eliminated until her undercooked goat dish in the "Exotic Surf & Turf" episode.
Rialto is Jody Adams' restaurant and it sits in the Charles Hotel right in the middle of Harvard Square in Cambridge. Known for rustic Italian food with a local, New England flair, Rialto has long been regarded as one of the best modern dining experiences in Boston.

Unlike many chefs who competed in Top Chef Masters, Jody was never formally trained in culinary school. In fact, she graduated with a degree in Anthropology from Brown University (!). She then started by working as a line cook at Seasons restaurant for Lydia Shire, and moved up the ranks, opening Hamersley's Bistro as a sous-chef with Gordon Hamersley and eventually opening up Rialto in 1994. 
Since then she has won numerous awards, from the James Beard Foundation Award for the Best Chef Award, Northeast to having Rialto named  as one of the best restaurants in the country by Esquire Magazine.

We visited Rialto on a beautiful Friday evening when we were able to book an early reservation for a wonderful seat right next to the window.  The critics are right - the food is fantastic and definitely worth trying. Currently, Jody Adams is featuring foods inspired by Venice, so you'll see some dishes reminiscent of that region.

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Top Chef Masters Mini Series Part I: Ana Sortun and Oleana

>>  Sunday, June 06, 2010

As Top Chef Masters comes to a close, I thought I would do a tiny-mini-series highlighting the two chefs from my hometown of Cambridge who competed this season. Of course, that would be Ana Sortun from Oleana and Jody Adams from Rialto. I first reviewed Oleana back in 2007 (in the super early days of this blog when it still had a different name!) right after I had passed the bar exam. Because it's been 3 years since then, I thought it was time for another review.
Hot Pepper Labne with Olive Oil & Dried Mint
Hot Pepper Labne with Olive Oil & Dried Mint $4

Oleana is a Mediterranean restaurant tucked slightly off the beaten-track in between Central Square and Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA. Interestingly, Chef-owner Ana Sortun is actually Norwegian-American by background, but she learned and fell in love with Turkish cuisine on a trip to Turkey in the late 1990's. Before long in 2001, she incorporated these ideas into her new restaurant Oleana, which focused on inventive dishes made with local, organic* produce using the unique spices of the Mediterranean region. By 2005, Chef Sortun had already won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Northeast.
Siena Farms: Week 1
Oleana sources its vegetables from Siena Farms, a local farm that practices sustainable organic methods of farming. Conveniently, Ana's husband Chris Kurth is a farmer and together they own this farm. I recently received my first shipment of vegetables from them.

Some of my favorite items on the Oleana menu include Whipped Feta with Sweet & Hot Peppers($5), the Deviled Eggs with Tuna & Black Olives ($6), and the Vegetable Tasting Menu (5-course + dessert $40). Here's a sampling of photos from our last visit. I ordered the Vegetable Tasting Menu and Bryan ordered a traditional appetizer and meat entree.

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Tiny Urban Tidbits #7

>>  Friday, June 04, 2010

Tiny Urban Tidbits is where I share with you some insights, "tidbits", or just random encounters from the week. I carry my camera with me everywhere I go, and I love capturing photos of interesting things that I discover. These may include new dishes from a restaurant that I've already reviewed, updates on what's going on locally, or encounters I've had in the kitchen. It could even include a beautiful sunset, a funny sign, or just stuff I find amusing. Think of it as snapshots (literally!) of my weekly experiences with food - intertwined with stories, of course.
I am a member of the wellness committee at my workplace, and I love some of the benefits we dream up for our workers in an effort to keep them healthy. This year, we provided an opportunity for our employees to participate in a CSA (community supported agriculture) with Siena Farms in Sudbury, MA. Employees pay in advance for a "share" of the season's produce. From June until November, crop share members receive a new box of vegetables every week, delivered straight to our workplace.

Siena Farms is owned by Farmer Chris Kurth and his wife, Ana Sortum, chef/owner of Oleana and Sofra Bakery (not to mention Top Chef Masters contestant this season!). The farm is named after their daughter, Siena.

Here's a peek at what I got this week. I decided to share a box with a co-worker, so what you're seeing is half a box (~$15 worth).
French Breakfast Radishes
Related to the turnip and the radish, these babies are milder in flavor and typically are harvested early in their growing season. If they are harvested too late, they become bitter and pithy.
Also known as coriander, this herb has a very distinct flavor, loved by some (like Bryan), and despised by others. About half a dozen unsaturated aldehydes make up the flavor profile for cilantro. Some of these aldehydes are very similar to aldehydes found in soaps. Other aldehydes contribute to the pleasant cilantro-like aromas that cilantro-lovers embrace.

There are several theories as to why people are so divided about cilantro. Some say that people who hate cilantro do not have the ability to detect the positive smelling compounds in cilantro, and thus only taste the soapy stuff. Harold McGee in an oft-quoted New York Times article surmises that our brains make associations between various compounds and food experiences. If a particular flavor does not match a food experience, some people may automatically classify it as "chemical" or "soap" and thus reject it outright.

I'm somewhere in the middle. I'm not like Bryan, who will happily eat cilantro in handfuls like he's eating a salad. Yet, I am not turned off by it either, and will happily enjoy food garnished with the herb.

An interesting fact: in Mandarin Chinese, cilantro translates to "fragrant greens." Maybe most Chinese people have the gene that allows them to smell the sweet smelling compounds?
This fragrant herb is best used fresh as it loses its flavors pretty quickly. I hope to make some delicious gravlax with it, maybe using the same method I used in making my citrus-marinated salmon.
Mottistone "Summer Crisp" Batavian Lettuce
This relatively uncommon lettuce is uniquely speckled with patches of red. Trevor from Siena Farms cautions against dressing these delicate leaves too heavily with strong acids or thick dressings.
Broccoli Rabe
Broccoli Rabe
Also known as rapini or broccoli rape, this relative of broccoli has a much more pungent and slightly bitter flavor. It pairs wonderfully with sausage for a fantastic Italian pasta dish.
Romaine Lettuce
Romaine Lettuce
You see this at every supermarket, but I have to say this is the largest Romaine lettuce head I have ever seen in my entire life. Keep in mind I was sharing this, so I had already removed half the leaves of this giant for my box-share buddy.

Though most people associate Romaine lettuce with salads (most notably Caesar), I personally love stir frying it with garlic,a little bit of salt, and a splash of soy sauce. It's a great way to use up such a large head of lettuce (since vegetables shrink significantly when you stir-fry them), and it tastes light and refreshing.
Mixed Greens
Salad Mix: Mini Green Oak Leaf Lettuce, Arugula, and Peppercress.
I've never had peppercress, but Trevor says it's tangy and peppery. I can't wait to try making some salad with this delicate bunch of leaves.

Next Week: Mini Top Chef Masters Series
As Top Chef Masters is coming to a close, I thought I would do a mini-series based on the show. Some of you may be aware of this, but Cambridge was fortunate enough to send TWO chefs to compete in this season's show. Ana Sortum from Oleana (wife of Farmer Chris from Siena Farms), and Jody Adams of Rialto, who made it pretty far before being eliminated because of her undercooked goat.

Bryan and I visited both of their flagship restaurants in Cambridge pretty recently. Next week, you'll get a detailed look into the meals that we enjoyed at each of these two very different yet excellent restaurants.
Oleana Ana Sortum
Ana happened to be in the kitchen the night we dined there. Bryan caught a photo of her inspecting the dishes before going out.
No sighting of Jody, but I did think it was cute how all the waitstaff were dressed in that same white top and orange apron that Jody wears on the show. It felt like dozens of Jodys were roaming around the restaurant serving us.

Stay tuned next week for detailed descriptions and many photos of food from both of these excellent restaurants.

Until then, have a fabulous weekend!

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Sous-vide Steak

>>  Thursday, June 03, 2010

Sous vide Steak
One of my most popular posts of all times is my tutorial on how to make perfect steaks in a tiny apartment by first cooking the steak at low heat in the oven and then briefly pan searing it. I have used this "oven to pan" method countless times, and it was my favorite way of making perfect steaks at home.

Until now.

Last week I figured out a way to use my Magic Cooker (which, frankly, had been basically collecting dust up to this point) to make sous-vide salmon. I was so thrilled with the results that I knew I had to try it with steak.

As you can see from the above picture, the steak turned out beautifully. And honestly, using this method, you spend even less time searing it, which means even less smoke - perfect for a tiny kitchen in a tiny condo.

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El Potro

>>  Wednesday, June 02, 2010

El Potro (5 of 5)
I love cheap ethnic hole-in-the-walls that are hidden finds. When I started reading about El Potro online, I became excited at the prospect that this just might be another one of those gems. Though El Potro calls itself a Mexican Grill (most likely in order to attract enough business), it's actually arguably a Salvadoran/Colombian restaurant at its roots. Maybe all around "Latin" or "South American" cuisine would be a more accurate description of this place.

Bryan always likes to ask the server for recommendations whenever we visit a place for the first time.

"What's your favorite dish? What do you like on the menu?"

In this case, I think the server was the teenage son of the family. He was quite cordial and very kind. Of course, he said he liked "everything" on the menu, but in the end he recommended Plato Montañero ($11.95), which is a traditional Colombian dish complete with plantains, fried pork belly, a skirt steak, and a fried egg on top. It sounded interesting, and definitely different from the typical Mexican food we'd tried, so we went for that. We also ordered up a storm, since we had purchased one of those restaurant.com coupons where we had to spend $35 in order to receive our $25 discount. Not an easy task when most menu items hover around $10!

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