Shake Shack

>>  Tuesday, August 28, 2012

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This is the seventh post in the Eating the Big Apple series. Other posts include Soba KohSylvia's Restaurant (Gospel Brunch), Torrisi Italian SpecialtiesIppudo,Tasty Hand Pulled Noodle, and Il Buco Alimentari & Vinera.

Who has the best burger?

It's a touchy, touchy subject. Those from the West Coast (like my husband) swear by In & Out, citing their soft buns, high quality meat, and the variety of secret "off-menu" styles that are available. Friends from the DC area absolutely love Five Guys, a burger joint originally from Virginia that offers generously sized burgers with a wide variety of fresh, high quality toppings.

Up until this point, those were the only two I had tried. Bryan always insisted on stopping by In & Out every time we were in California, and I have several friends who are so obsessed about Five Guys (this is a couple years back), we would regularly make the trip to Dedham from Cambridge just for a bite of that burger.

Yet I would always hear about Shake Shack.

New Yorkers rave about Shake Shack. Fans point to the soft potato bun and deliciously juicy beef patty. Apparently their shakes are incredible too. Lines are notoriously long.

This past year Bryan and I finally tried Shake Shack. We visited twice - once at the original location in Madison Square Park and once at a newer location in the theater district (not too far from Times Square!).

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Temple Bar

>>  Friday, August 24, 2012

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This is the third restaurant post in the new series, Welcome to My New HoodOther posts in this series: Rafiki Bistro and Super Fusion Sushi.

I utterly can't believe it, but it's been just a little over a year since we moved into our our new place just north of Harvard Square.

This most certainly confirms that I am guilty of being just a tad sluggish on this "Welcome to my New Hood" Series. It isn't that I haven't been chowing down around my home (I have!). It's just harder to get inspired about my neighborhood joints when photos from trips like New York, Rome, Napa Valley, and Las Vegas vie for my attention.

But that's no excuse. There are some real gems just around the corner from where I live. I had originally expected to be secluded on my woodsy, tree-lined street, far away from any restaurants. I was pleasant surprised to find out how many really cool places are within a 5-minute walk from my home.

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Hard Rock Cafe Boston

>>  Tuesday, August 21, 2012

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A long time ago - during my awkward, braces-wielding, teeny-bopping days - I used to be obsessed with Hard Rock Cafe.

It wasn't because I liked hard rock. In fact, I sort of hated it. Seriously, it was only because so many other people at school wore their shirts. You know how it is in middle school - you scope out what everyone else is wearing and you desperately try to copy it.

Hair-sprayed tall hair? Check. Huge Esprit tote? Check. Guess jeans? Hmm, actually my mom never let me get those, so I guess that's not a check. But I tried as hard as I could.

I also liked visiting Hard Rock Cafes because they served as badges representing cities I had visited. My hometown did not have a Hard Rock, which meant we had to travel to get the coveted T-shirts. My sister and I relentlessly dragged my parents to multiple Hard Rock Cafes every time we traveled. If there was a Hard Rock Cafe in a city we visited, we had to go there.

I have Hard Rock memorabilia from Boston, Chicago, New York, Washington DC, Beverly Hills, and Orlando - not to mention Banff (Canadian Rockies), Tokyo, Singapore, and Honolulu.

We were nuts.
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Then I went to college and proceeded to completely forget about the Hard Rock Cafe.

That is, until a couple weeks ago, when I got an invitation from My Blog Spark to try Boston's Hard Rock Cafe's new menu.

Hard Rock? Wow, that totally brings back such funny nostalgia. It's been years since I've even thought about that place. 

I decided that, after almost 20 years, it was worth revisiting this place I'd sought after with such zeal during my childhood. I really had no idea how my new adult, food blogger self would see this place.

There was only one way to find out.

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Happy Birthday Julia Child!

>>  Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Julia Child's Birthday
Julia Child, the iconic TV chef who introduced French cooking to everyday Americans, would have turned 100 today.

Julia Child lived in North Cambridge, not too far from where I live now. She loved shopping at Formaggio Kitchen and Savenor's (both of which, by the way, are fantastic gourmet markets). She regularly dined at Sandrine's and Harvest, both in Harvard Square.

In 2001 Julia Child donated her kitchen from her Cambridge home to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

I had the honor of being at the Smithsonian Museum of American History today to attend a special birthday celebration in honor of Julia Child.

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Il Buco Alimentari & Vinera

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This is the sixth post in the Eating the Big Apple series. Other posts include Soba KohSylvia's Restaurant (Gospel Brunch), Torrisi Italian SpecialtiesIppudo, and Tasty Hand Pulled Noodle.

I rarely visit the same restaurant twice.

OK, perhaps I exaggerate slightly. Maybe I should say, if I’m not in Boston, I hardly ever re-visit a restaurant that I’ve written about in a blog post. Why “waste” a meal on a restaurant I’ve visited before when I could be trying dishes, photographing, and writing about a completely new restaurant?

Instead, my typical modus operandi involves scouring my favorite sources (my “go-to’s include Chowhound, the Michelin Guide, Zagat, and various “Best Restaurant” lists on the internet”) and planning the trip itinerary around the food.

I broke my own rule the last time I was in New York.

Come to think of it, I think I regularly break that rule in New York. I’ve visited Le Bernardin and Sushi Yasuda (two of my favorite restaurants in New York), at least three times each.

And now I think I’m adding another restaurant to that category.

Il Buco Alimentari & Vinera, the closest thing to Roscioli (our favorite Italian marketplace/restaurant in Rome) this side of the "pond", is definitely a place that is worth visiting over and over and over again.

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Park (Harvard Square)

>>  Monday, August 13, 2012

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Harvard Square is forever a changing scene when it comes to restaurants.

 Back when I first moved into the area (over 10 years ago!), it seemed like the only way to get really good food was go somewhere really casual (e.g., Herrell’s ice cream, Bartley’s Burgers, Veggie Planet) or really fancy (Craigie Street Bistrot, Rialto, or Upstairs at the Pudding).

There was a gaping hole for nice, gastropubs that offered excellent food, a great drink list, and reasonable prices.

The past five years, several casual yet great food-focused options have popped up right in the Square. Russell House Tavern is by far the most popular one, serving excellent new American cuisine along with a great selection of drinks. The Monday Club just recently opened its food bar, another great alternative for reasonably priced and fantastic small plates, pizzas, and pastas.

Add to that list places like Tory Row, Ten Tables, Garden At the Cellar, and now Park, you have a solid list of great gastropubs serving innovative and well executed dishes that go with great beer on tap.

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Pasta Carbonara

>>  Tuesday, August 07, 2012

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Pasta Carbonara is so misunderstood.

I misunderstood it for years.

{OK, to be fair, I haven't known pasta carbonara for that long. In fact, I first knew the name as a server at MIT. Yes, MIT named its servers after pasta dishes, likes Primavera, Carbonara, you get the picture.}

But even after I knew that it was a pasta dish, I always thought I hated carbonara. Why? I really don't care for cream sauces. Fettuccine Alfredo makes me shudder, and I would choose a rustic tomato or simple olive-oil sauce any day over a cream sauce (with only a few exceptions).

But then I tried carbonara in Rome.

It's so different there.

In Rome, we tasted some of the best carbonara we'd ever had in our lives. At Roscioli, a restaurant known for obsessing about the source of its ingredients, it's all about the eggs. The pasta carbonara at Roscioli is much "eggier" than any carbonara we've ever had. The intensely yellow-yolked eggs come from Paolo Parisi, a well-known egg farmer whose free-range hens feed on goats' milk.

We also learned that pasta carbonara in Rome has absolutely no cream.

In fact, the ingredient list for this rich, velvety pasta is ridiculously short and simple.

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Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles

>>  Friday, August 03, 2012

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This is the fifth post in the Eating the Big Apple series. Other posts include Soba KohSylvia's Restaurant (Gospel Brunch), Torrisi Italian Specialties, and Ippudo.

I started eating hand-pulled noodles at a very young age.

At that time, I didn't even appreciate how awesome it was. We were fortunate, I guess. In the middle of Toledo Ohio, there was this Chinese couple (who grew up in Korea, interestingly), that opened a simple Chinese restaurant called Peking City.

Sure, the restaurant had its fair share of Americanized Chinese food (hello Orange Chicken!) and (oddly enough) Korean staples like Jja Jang Myeon. But the most beautiful thing? The husband knew how to make hand pulled noodles.

I didn't really appreciate the rarity of this treat until I moved to Boston. All of a sudden, I was living in a city where (at most) you might have one hand pulled noodle shop (if you're lucky) exist for a few years before shuttering (ah, Noodle Alcove, I miss you).

In desperation, I tried learning to make my own. I even took a noodle pulling class in Beijing to learn from the masters themselves (yes, check out the video of the class that I made!). When traveling to other cities, we continued to eat noodles - in Beijing, Shanghai, TokyoLas Vegas, Los Angeles, the Bay Area - even a place that Anthony Bourdain visited.

Thankfully, I need not travel that far for noodles. New York City is pretty close to Boston, and there are tons of hand-pulled noodle shops there. This past year, I visited my first hand pulled noodle shop in Chinatown.

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Formaggio Kitchen Barbecue

>>  Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Formaggio Kitchen BBQ
We've had a gemstone hiding under our nose this entire summer.

Of course we've known about Formaggio Kitchen the store. How could we not? It's the most famous cheese shop in Boston and likely one of the best gourmet markets as well. It's not a surprise that Julia Child (who would have turned 100 this August) was a loyal customer of this market.

But Formaggio Kitchen is not just a store. On Saturdays from March to October, they serve a mean barbecue right outside the store.

Bryan and I decided to stop by one Saturday late morning (around 11AM) and were floored by how good it was.

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