Bond Boston (Langham Hotel)

>>  Thursday, May 31, 2012

As I get older I am sometimes appalled at how inaccurate my memory is.

Has this happened to you before? You swear by a certain memory until a photograph from the time period totally proves you wrong - like 100% wrong. No wonder eyewitness testimonies only hold so much weight.

Having said that, there are certain memories - the types that induce a certain deja-vu moment - that remain long after your conscious memory has forgotten about it.

I swear this happened when I walked into Bond Boston a few weeks back.

Bond Boston is in the Langham Hotel. This building was formerly the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, which explains both the restaurant name and all the money references throughout (large dollar bill murals on the wall, a vault in the basement, etc).  I had been invited to attend a media tasting of Bond Boston's new spring menu here.
The moment I walked into Bond Boston, I instantly felt a sense of familiarity.

The super high ceilings, the chandeliers, the location right inside of a fancy hotel.

It all seemed so familiar. Then it hit me.

I turned to Bryan. "Doesn't this look like Julian? Look at the ceilings. Do you think it's the same space?"

We had gone to a restaurant called Julian for a special occasion dinner back in college. It was one of our first "fancy" dates. It was the first time we had ever enjoyed a free amuse bouche before a meal. I still remember being absolutely tickled by the the "free" grapefruit sorbet palate cleanser that they passed out between dinner and dessert.
The Sawbuck: Greygoose  la poire, domaine de canton, fresh lime juice, basil leaf

Bryan had wanted to go there because they had these cushy armchairs you could sit in. For some reason, he thought that was so cool.

"No. That was in another hotel," he quickly replied.

Seeing as he's often right, and I tend to doubt my memory so much anyway, I took him at his word.
It wasn't until much later, as we were talking to the chef at the end of the evening, that he happened to mention "Julian" in passing.

"Wait," I interrupted, "did you say Julian?"

Indeed he had. My hunch was correct. We were sitting in the very space that we sat in fourteen years ago on our first "fancy" date.

Fourteen years is a long time. The traditional high-society French restaurant with the high-backed armchairs that Bryan loved so much is long gone. In its place sits a trendy bar that serves excellent cocktails and decent bites where, if you just look up, elements of glamour from its former life still linger.

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Shabu Ya

>>  Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sometimes I just feel like eating something light and simple.

An aromatic broth, thinly sliced meat, and an abundance of vegetables.

When I'm in that mood, I often seek out shabu shabu (Japanese), or hot pot (Chinese). Although shabu is much cheaper to make at home, sometimes it's just a lot less hassle to pay the $10-$20 and have someone else take care of all that slicing, chopping, and washing of ingredients (not to mention doing all the dishes afterwards!).

The other day while we were in Harvard Square, I was craving just that - something simple, hearty, healthy, and warm. Our favorite shabu place felt just a bit too far away that day, so we decided to check out this local one within walking distance of our home.

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>>  Tuesday, May 29, 2012

This is part 7 and the final post of the Napa Valley Adventures series. Other posts in this series: Ad HocBottega RistoranteJoseph Phelps WineryEtoile, and Terra Restaurant.

My husband is from California, and like almost all Californians, thinks that California is "the promised land" and "the happiest place on earth."

"Why would you ever want to live anywhere else?"

Yes, it begs the question why he lives in Boston now. Let's just say there was this girl . . . ;)

Having lived my whole life either in the Midwest or the East Coast, I like to think I have a more balanced view of the world, including the ability to appreciate great things about all different regions.

Having said that, there is one thing I love about California more than any other place in the U.S.

The produce.

Yep, the produce in California is astounding. Trying stopping by the farmers market at the Ferry Building (where you're bound to see produce you've never seen before), or visit the Berkeley Bowl, one of the coolest markets ever.
The abundance of fantastic produce allows unique restaurants like Coi to exist in California. Coi is really interesting because the entire menu is built around foraged ingredients.

Chef Daniel Patterson has been doing the foraging thing long before it became in vogue. He began 18 years ago when he opened his first restaurant Babette in Sonoma County. At Coi, he continues his commitment to the concept, creating menus that are so focused on foraged ingredients, they would "fall apart" without them.

Patterson remarks, "once you go down that road [of foraging for your ingredients], it’s merciless. You can’t just call a purveyor for a delivery because it’s cold and raining. You do it, every day, under every condition."

I've always been a huge fan of vegetables and herbs, so of course I was intrigued to see how Patterson's philosophy would play out on the plate.

Before heading out to Napa Valley to cover the 10th annual S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition, Bryan and I snuck in a meal at Coi after landing at SFO.

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Midnight Ramen at Uni Sashimi Bar

>>  Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ramen is hot hot hot in Boston right now.

It's inexplicable, but for some reason there's apparently a vast shortage of good ramen in this city, and people are sitting, glued to their computers, hoping to have a chance to experience a seriously good bowl of ramen.

In some ways it's true. There really aren't that many ramen places in this city. Ken's Ramen Shop in Allston closed last year, and it seems like the only other place left is Sapporo Ramen in Porter Square, whose five or so tables just can't seem to fill the demand of the entire city (evidenced by the perpetual long lines outside).

So what do you do when there's tons of demand?

You fill it, of course.
Soon after the Guchi's Midnight Ramen craze began, Ken Oringer jumped on the ramen train by offering late night ramen at Uni (his Sashimi bar next to Clio) from 11PM - 2AM on Friday and Saturday evenings. Oringer says he's been wanting to do ramen for years, and this worked perfectly with the reopened renovated Uni space. Soon after, Myers + Chang followed suit and added it to their lunch menu as well.

A couple weekends ago, a group of us decided to skip normal dinner to visit Uni to slurp some ramen into the wee hours of the morning.

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The Monday Club's new Food Bar

>>  Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I love dining at the bar of a nice restaurant.

The bar is a bit more relaxed, a bit more personal, and the food is just as good. Usually, you have an expanded menu, consisting of both the bar menu (typically a bit less expensive), and the dinner menu.

Not everyone eats at the bar, so there's less pressure to order an entire full-length dinner without feeling like you're being cheap. It works great for people with smaller appetites like me.

In fact, we almost always eat at the bar at our favorite local haunts.

Imagine how thrilled I was when I found out that my favorite al fresco dining spot was opening a bar, complete with a new bar menu.

Perhaps Monday Club will become a year-round destination now?

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Terra (Napa Valley)

>>  Monday, May 21, 2012

This is part 4 of the Napa Valley Adventures series. Other posts in this series: Ad HocBottega RistoranteJoseph Phelps Winery, and Etoile.

Usually, I don't pay much attention to the people dining around me at restaurants. Occasionally I may glance at other diners' dishes for inspiration, or perhaps I'll overhear a funny conversation. In general, however, I'm pretty oblivious to my surroundings (hello inner Myers Briggs "N" personality type).

But then there was that dinner at Terra in St. Helena, Napa Valley.

An older couple, probably in their seventies, was enjoying a meal right across the (small) room from us.

I think we were struck by how sweet they were to each other. Throughout the night, the man referred to promises he had made to his wife, and how he intended on keeping them.

And then we found out they had been together for fifty years. They were celebrating their golden wedding anniversary.

Bryan quietly pulled our waiter aside.

"We'd like to treat them to their drinks. Whatever they are drinking, just put it on our tab."

Bryan turned to me.

"Fifty years is a long time!"

I briefly had a flashback. Probably 15 years ago, a year after we started dating, Bryan had given me a card. It had a picture of a really old couple, riding bikes, holding hands.

"I look forward to growing old together with you."
What better place than Terra to celebrate such a momentous occasion. We absolutely loved this restaurant. The ambiance is really romantic, the service is excellent, and the food is top notch.

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Korean Bulgolgi

>>  Friday, May 18, 2012

Up until I was around eighteen, I was woefully unenlightened when it came to certain Asian cuisines.

My family rarely, if ever, dined at Korean restaurants when I was growing up. I still remember finally visiting a local Korean restaurant with my parents while I was in college and being tickled at all the lovely free "appetizers" or "tastes" that came out (think various types of pickled vegetables, tofu, and other little bites).

Ever since college, I've learned to love Korean food. The rich, fiery, and complex flavors of this delightful cuisine borrow influences from China and Japan yet maintain much of their unique originality.

Alas, since Bryan's not the biggest fan of Korean food (and we've been together essentially since college), I have never really explored cooking the cuisine that much (notice the dearth of Korean restaurants and recipes on this blog?).

Thankfully, I still get my fix at times. I hit the jackpot when my sister married a Korean (Hi Mike!). Mike's a fantastic cook and knows how to make all sorts of amazing Korean dishes.

One favorite I've always been dying to make is bulgolgi, Korean barbecued beef. Perhaps you've seen it at Korean restaurants where they have the grill right at the table. Mike was super kind and shared with me his recipe for making this timeless classic.

This dish is a huge crowd-pleaser. I've made it at various potlucks and it's always super popular. It even won a competition at my church years back.

Try it out - you won't be disappointed.

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Firebrand Saints

>>  Thursday, May 17, 2012

When I was in college at MIT, dining choices around campus were really, really slim. We usually ordered out from places like Quan's Kitchen, Pu Pu Hot Pot, or Mary Chung. For Italian, we would trek all the way to Bertucci's or Cinderella's on Main Street (a pretty far walk from west campus dorms!). Once in a blue moon, we would hop on the T and go to Chinatown or the North End.

How much more fortunate are today's students! In the past two years, Kendall Square has transformed from a hungry, relatively food-starved techland to a vibrant area hailed by many to be the "next hot restaurant neighborhood."

So many new restaurants have moved into the area recently. Lucky students even have a great boba place virtually on campus.

I've tried Abigail's, Area Four, EVOO, Catalyst, and Think Tank. Mead Hall, Fuji, Voltage Coffee (and many others, I presume), are still on my "to try" list. It's hard to keep up with all the openings.

A couple weeks ago, we came one step closer trying all these new offerings in Kendall. After hearing great things about Firebrand Saints, a friend asked us if we wanted to try it together. Within two hours of that phone call, we found ourselves in Kendall Square, ready to check out yet another new restaurant.

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Bridlewood Wines at Harvest

>>  Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Several weeks ago, I received an invitation to attend a unique dinner called "The Art of Winemaking" hosted by Bridlewood Wines at Harvest in Harvard Square.

It's been years since I'd last visited Harvest, so I was excited to see what Mary Dumont (former contestant on The Next Iron Chef) had to offer. Furthermore, how could I say no to an evening of sampling dishes that Chef Dumont had personally designed to pair with a variety of Santa Barbara wines?

Even with that, the entire evening turned out way above my expectations. Of course the food was great, and Chef Dumont gets a ton of credit for pairing the food so well with the wine.

However, it was the discussion with the winemaker that night that I found the most fascinating and memorable.

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Spontaneous Weekend Trip to Rome

>>  Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It's been over 10 years.

Bryan and I took a semi-spontaneous weekend trip to Rome this past weekend. Spontaneous because we tacked it onto a business trip I had in England, and frankly, with our busy schedules, we hadn't expected to actually be able to go.

But somehow, surprisingly, the dates worked out, schedules opened up, and  . . . . we just decided to go for it.
Jen & Bryan in Rome September 2001

Rome is special because we spent our honeymoon there. In September of 2001 (right before the attacks actually, but I'll save that whole crazy story of being stuck in Europe during 9/11 for another post), we visited Rome, Florence, and Venice.
breakfast at Hotel de la Ville
Revisiting (and enjoying cappuccinos) at the hotel we stayed at 10 years ago

It was really special going back. We visited old haunts, discovered new ones, and (of course), sampled tons and tons of incredible food.

Here's a sneak preview of some food we had, to be explored more in future posts, of course!

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Cilantro Foam

>>  Wednesday, May 09, 2012

This post is part of a larger series devoted to a Molecular Gastronomy focused meal I made: Molecular Gastronomy with an Asian Twist. Other posts in this series include Spherification (making "caviar"Pho Inspired Grilled Steak with Mint, Cilantro, and LimeSweet Basil Pesto with Rice Noodles, and Bok Choy Agar Noodles

Are you tired of molecular gastronomy yet?

This is the last post in the Molecular Gastronomy with an Asian Twist series.

Today we'll talk briefly about foams.  Foam is essentially a semi-stabilized emulsion of liquid and air bubbles.   We've all seen foam in our own familiar settings, whether it be in a cappuccino, a milkshake, or whipped cream.

It's when the the flavor of the foam becomes something unconventional that people start associating it with molecular gastronomy.

Even though Ferran Adria (one of the spear headers of this modern type of cuisine) hasn't used foam for years, the trend is still quite popular at many other restaurants. It's a unique way of adding flavor to a dish without a sauce. To get a good solid foam, add a stabilizing agent such as gelatin or lechitin before mixing up your flavoring agent with a hand blender.

For my crazy molecular molecular gastronomy meal, I decided to make a cilantro foam (Bryan's favorite herb!) to use alongside my deconstructed Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup dish.

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Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Matcha Caviar

>>  Monday, May 07, 2012

This post is part of a larger series devoted to a Molecular Gastronomy focused meal I made: Molecular Gastronomy with an Asian Twist. Other posts in this series include Spherification (making "caviar"Pho Inspired Grilled Steak with Mint, Cilantro, and LimeSweet Basil Pesto with Rice Noodles, and Bok Choy Agar Noodles

I'll never forget the first panna cotta I ever had.

Bryan and I were celebrating some sort of special occasion at Craigie Street Bistro (now Craigie on Main). It was one of the first multi-course tasting menus we had ever tried, so everything was new and exciting.

Near the end of the meal, the server brought us out two little cups of panna cotta. Mine was infused with Rooibos and it was fantastic. Creamy, fragrant, and oh-so-rich, I fell in love with this Italian version of custard.

For years I thought it was a fancy dessert, sophisticated and smart, difficult to make well.

I finally tried making panna cotta this past weekend and was floored by how easy it was.

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Bok Choy Agar Noodles

>>  Saturday, May 05, 2012

This post is part of a larger series devoted to a Molecular Gastronomy focused meal I made: Molecular Gastronomy with an Asian Twist. Other posts in this series include Spherification (making "caviar"Pho Inspired Grilled Steak with Mint, Cilantro, and Lime, and Sweet Basil Pesto with Rice Noodles

Playing with molecular gastronomy is fun, although things can get a bit wacky at times.

Like these crazy bok choy "noodles," for example.

Admittedly, making my own "caviar" using spherification was by far the "nerdiest" thing I did this past weekend. Nevertheless, I would give these green noodles a close second.

Here's the back story. As part of my original proposal to Foodbuzz for this Foodbuzz 24, 24 meal, I had promised to make bok choy "noodles" as part of a larger, molecular interpretation of a deconstructed Taiwanese beef noodle soup.

Funny thing is, I really had no idea how I was going to make these. I find that I often like to invent absurd and overly ambitious meals in my head, sometimes promising to deliver them without really thinking things through.

It bites me back sometimes when my fantastic proposals actually get accepted and I have to deliver.

Thankfully, the internet is full of solutions, and my friends had given me a nice, big bag of fun powders to try.

At the end of the day, under the pressure of time, I was actually able to deliver a meal that came surprisingly close to my original proposal.

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Giveaway! 2 tickets to Coppa brunch this Sunday

Clio cod
Cod from Ken Oringer's restaurant Clio


Congratulations to A.M. who won the giveaway!

A.M. said:
this sounds ah-mazing. I want to go so badly. i am drooling over the pictures of this place

Thanks all for playing!

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I won! Best Restaurant & Dining Coverage

>>  Friday, May 04, 2012

I have some amazing news to share.

I'm still in shock, actually.

You won't believe this but . . . I won! Saveur's Best Food Blog Award for Best Restaurant / Dining Coverage.

It's a bit surreal, actually.

Winner was chosen by votes, so obviously I could not have done this without all your votes. I am floored at the amount of support that I received. I seriously did not expect to win this at all.

Thank you.

Seriously, thank you so much.

I really appreciate those of you who nominated me, voted for me, and shared about my blog to your friends. I'll continue to work my hardest to provide the best content I can create.

It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by one of the most respected food magazines out there.

Definitely check out the rest of the nominees - no doubt an incredibly talented and impressive bunch.

Snap Food
Kevin Eats
The Ulterior Epicure
Judging Your Breakfast
Paris Patisseries

Just for fun . .


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Sweet Basil Pesto with Rice Noodles

This post is part of a larger series devoted to a Molecular Gastronomy focused meal I made: Molecular Gastronomy with an Asian Twist. Other posts in this series include Spherification (making "caviar" and Pho Inspired Grilled Steak with Mint, Cilantro, and Lime

This Asian pesto recipe I'm about to show you is so ridiculously easy, I was skeptical about whether it would actually taste that good.

It's sort of like normal pesto, but with a few major changes.

First, it's made with sweet basil (also known as Asian basil or Thai basil), which I think is more floral and a bit sweeter than Italian basil.

Second, since it's Asian, there's no pine nuts nor Parmesan cheese. In fact, it's just fresh garlic, sweet basil, oil, and salt.

It's so easy, yet the pungent garlic and the aromatic sweet basil make a fantastic combination. I tossed this with some simple pho noodles and I was hooked.

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"Pho" inspired Grilled Steak with Mint, Cilantro, and Lime

>>  Wednesday, May 02, 2012

This post is part of a larger series devoted to a Molecular Gastronomy focused meal I made: Molecular Gastronomy with an Asian Twist. Other posts in this series include Spherification (making "caviar".

I am really starting to think that Southeast Asian cuisine is one of my favorites in the world.

I'm addicted to the fragrant and exotic herbs and spices typically used in the cuisine, From floral lemongrass and herbaceous Thai basil to the intensity of fish sauce and Sriracha sauce - I love it all.

This steak recipe incorporates many Southeast Asian flavors, adding an intense but flavorful kick to an otherwise mundane grilled steak recipe.

I tried it with skirt steak the first time, which worked out OK, but I may recommend trying a nicer cut, such as flank steak, if you want to avoid the chewier, stringier texture of skirt steak.

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Spherification (Making "Caviar")

>>  Tuesday, May 01, 2012

This post is part of a larger series devoted to a Molecular Gastronomy focused meal I made: Molecular Gastronomy with an Asian Twist

Spherification is a modern molecular gastronomy technique that was first invented at El Bulli by Ferran Adria in 2003. While visiting a company called Griffith España, Adria and his team discovered a cool Mexican sauce with little spheres floating inside. They learned from the company sodium alginate was the key ingredient used to make these spheres.

Adria and his team got some samples of the ingredient from Griffith España and started experimenting on their own. Soon they were making all different kinds of spheres with all sorts of liquids.

Armed with sodium alginate and calcium chloride, I set out to try my own hand at making some spheres.

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