Showing posts with label cocktails. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cocktails. Show all posts

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sumiao Brings Hunanese Cuisine to Kendall Square (Cambridge, Boston, MA)

Boston honestly doesn't have too much regional Chinese cuisine, but this is changing with the arrival of Sumiao in Kendall Square. Sumiao brings Hunanese cuisine, which is hard to find in most places, and combines it with a chich decor and solid cocktails.
Sumiao

The regular menu already has a number of authentic Hunanese dishes, but on weekends they add even more authentic recipes as specials. I got to try the Homemade La Rou with Mushrooms ($28)
Sumiao
La rou is like Hunanese bacon - it is pork belly that's been smoked then hang-dried. This is one of the quintessential Hunanese food. In Hunan, they like to smoke their meats, which is then stir fried with some chili and vegetables (because Hunanese also love their chilies!). They also have la rou with a different preparation on their lunch menu for $13, and I encourage you to try it.

Hunan tofu pot, pork belly, green chili, black bean chili sauce, $18)
Sumiao
As I mentioned, Hunanese love their chilies. Chairman Mao hailed from Hunan and reportedly once said "you can't be a revolutionary if you don't eat chilies!" The Hunan tofu pot was one of the spicier dishes. The spice isn't too bad but it does build up (but if you want more, you can ask for "authentic spicy"). This was one of our favorites that day, with the nicely fried tofu and the flavorful pork belly.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Meats and Mixology at Boston Magazine's The Cue, Back on August 15, 2017

Summer is a time for bbq and day drinking. It's also the season for food festivals in Boston, including Boston Magazine's annual food festivals. In August, the two-night affair The Cue and Battle of the Burger is returning to the Cruiseport.

Last year, I was invited to attend - since I was flying out for a friend's wedding, I only managed to check out The Cue right before heading to the airport!

The Cue
Pecan smoked baby back ribs from Coppersmith

The Cue is a celebration of BBQ and mixology - what a great pair, right?
The Cue
There are meats and ribs galore - prepare your heart and stretchy pants before you come here! Guests get to vote for the best bbq and the best cocktail, no naturally you have to be fair and taste everything, right?

Last year's participating restaurants include Andy Husbands' The Smoke Shop BBQ
The Cue

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Get a Taste of Iceland in Boston

For the past couple of years, Iceland Naturally has brought Icelandic culture to Boston with Taste of Iceland. This year, Taste of Iceland is coming back to Boston from March 16-20. The five-day festival brings Nordic cuisine, music, art, film, and literature.

The main draw for me, of course, is the food and drinks. This year, they are bringing in Chef Sigurdur Helgason (a.k.a. Siggi Helga) of  Grillið restaurant to create a four-course Icelandic menu at The Merchant (not to be confused with the MIT mathematician Sigurdur Helgason - not that most of you would). Grillið is located in the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel. This hotel is actually owned by the Icelandic Farmers Association and is also known as Farmers Palace. As you can imagine, the farm-to-table vision is very much alive and well at a place like this.

Siggi also represented Iceland in Bocuse d'Or in 2015. Here, he brought many of the Icelandic ingredients for the 4-day stint in Boston. The first course is a "taste of Icelandic nature", composed of three different bites.

The first: Langoustine with black garlic-herb garden
Taste of Iceland
I look forward to a bite of langoustine each year for the Taste of Iceland event. If you've never had Icelandic langoustine, what are you waiting for?

Second: Forest mushroom in volcanic croquettes
Taste of Iceland
These bites are not only inspired by the flavors in Iceland, but also the landscapes.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Exploring Senegalese Cuisine at Teranga (Boston, MA)

Tucked in Boston's South End is an OG Senegalese restaurant called Teranga. Teranga means hospitality in wolof, a Senegalese language. The restaurant first opened in 2009 and closed down temporarily but reopened in December. I've only had Senegalese food once before and didn't remember much, since it was a long time ago, so I welcomed the chance to give it another try at Teranga.

We started with some Fataya. These are similar to samosas, or pastels, basically a fried dough pie filled with minced meat and vegetables. The ones at Teranga are served with a sriracha aioli.
Teranga
The fatayas are common street food in Senegal, and it is thanks to a big Lebanese presence and influence!

Next, we had some nems. Yes, these are Vietnamese fried spring rolls. What am I doing eating Vietnamese food in a Senegalese restaurant?
Teranga
As it turns out, there's a big Vietnamese influence in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, due to all the expat laborers there! Nems (sometimes also called rouleau de printemps - literally, "spring rolls") are very common there. Who knew!

Next, we had some attieke, which is a couscous made of cassava root. This was prepared simply with onion, mint, tomato, and served with lime. Simple yet perfect!
Teranga

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

From Lunch to Jazz, Beat Brasserie is a Crowd Please Any Time of Day

Beat Brasserie was already a popular spot in Harvard Square, known for its live jazz music and drinks, accompanied by some great food. But recently, Beat Brasserie also opened its doors for lunch on weekdays, adding another great option for nearby workers and students to grab a bite during the day.
Beat Brasserie
The restaurant is much quieter during weekday lunches than during live jazz sessions, of course, which means it would be good for a working lunch as well.

I recently tried the lunch and started with an appetizer of Fried Rhode Island calamari, vegetable frito misto, green goddess dressing ($13.50)
Beat Brasserie
Instead of the traditional heavy calamari plate, I liked that this was more like a salad.

For lunch entrees they have some overlap with the dinner menu, like the bowls and burgers, but they also have a quiche of the day, tuna nicoise salad, and others. The day I dined there for lunch, they had a rabbit pasta on the menu.
Beat Brasserie
The pasta was delicious and it was a good lighter option for lunch as well.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Rediscovering the Italian Food in Boston's North End at Artu

All the tourists and locals alike know that Boston's North End is the place to go for Italian food, yet most of the time I go there, I end up at Neptune Oyster for a lobster roll, instead - I can't help it! Sure, I've had my cannolis and I've been to a couple of the Italian places there, but for the most part, North End remained fairly unexplored to me. But thanks to a recent blogger dinner at Artu, I got the chance to experience another part of the North End.
Artu
Our dinner started with a simple salad of Roasted beets, pistachio vinaigrette, gorgonzola
Artu
Polpetti (homemade meatballs, parmigiano, $8)
Artu
I love meatballs when the texture is right, just like the ones here. Tender homemade meatballs with traditional Italian tomato sauce - why mess with something so simple and perfect!

Grilled country bread, smoked mozzarella, prosciutto, Backyard Farms tomato
Artu
I loved the smoked mozzarella on these!

Artu also had some solid cocktails, and the bar is open until 2 AM every day. Every day! That's one of the latest places to grab in the drink in the area, especially on a weeknight. I stuck with the classics, which they do very well.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Devouring the Bar Menu at Grill 23 and Bar (Boston, MA)

Grill 23 and Bar may be celebrating 30 years of being one of the best steakhouses in Boston, but don't forget about the "Bar" part of the restaurant! Grill 23's bar menu features some great cocktails and satisfying bites like these Foie gras slider on cider doughnut with jalapeno jelly.
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No, really. Seared foie gras on a donut! I went to the bar menu launch party there and I think I ate 3 of these babies, and still wanted more. I would definitely come back for these - Foie gras lovers have to try them!

Grill 23 and Bar also has some nice cocktails - I love Death & Taxes in particular, with the smokiness of the cigar infused bourbon and the sweetness of the peach.
Grill 23
Grill 23

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Diplomatico Rum Tasting and Dinner at Barcelona Wine Bar (South End, Boston, MA)

I recently had the opportunity to taste the line of Diplomatico Rums at a tasting and dinner held at Barcelona Wine Bar in Boston's South End with Diplomatico's master distiller, Maestro Gilberto Briceño.
Diplomatico Rum @ Barcelona
Diplomatico was founded in 1959 and adhere to the traditional Venezuelan way of making rum. They have their own yeast strain for fermentation and use sugar cane molasses and honey from sugar cane for their rums. Diplomatico's distillation process differs from most Caribbean countries which use column distillation. Diplomatico uses column distillation for their light rum, copper pot (to get heavy alcohols), and batch kettle for medium alcohols. The copper pot tradition came about because Seagram's used to make whiskey in Venezuela.

Anyway, the rums. We tasted six different rums from Diplomatico.
Diplomatico Rum @ Barcelona

Diplomatico Anejo
This is their youngest product, which is aged up to 4 years and a mix of light and heavy alcohols (which they get from the different distillation processes). The rum itself has a hint of vanilla and with light sweetness. This rum is good for cocktails and a great value at about $15 a bottle!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Chinese BBQ, Cocktails, and More at Wu Er by WOW Barbecue (Brookline, Boston, MA)

First started as a truck serving Chinese BBQ skewers in Chinatown, Wow BBQ has a brick and mortar location in Malden and has recently expanded with Wu Er in Brookline. Unlike the truck, Wu Er serves a lot more than skewers.

When they get seated, each table gets a plate of fried mantou drizzled with condensed milk. Dessert first? Sort of, and why not?
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Originally, Wow BBQ is all about the Chinese BBQ skewers, so of course, I had to get those here as well. The lamb is definitely one thing to get, but they also have all kinds of other options - both meat and vegetarian skewers.
Wu Er Wow BBW
While these are not for everyone, some of my favorite skewers are the chicken hearts and the lamb kidneys! I also tried the beef neck tendon, but that was too chewy even for me.
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What I also particularly like about Wu Er is the cocktail program. It's pretty uncommon to have great cocktails at a Chinese or Asian restaurant, in general (although I have to say this is not particularly true in Boston, with Sichuan Garden II and Shojo and all). If you're ever curious about trying baiju, or cocktails made with baiju, Wu Er is a great place to try.

Moonlight over the Lotus Pond (Citadelle gin, lime, kaffir lime, jasmine tea, absinthe, egg white) - a nice sour with kaffir lime and jasmine, two of my favorite ingredients!
Wu Er Wow BBW

Friday, May 6, 2016

Waxy's Modern Bar + Kitchen Opens Modern Irish Bar with Great Cocktails in Brookline (Boston, MA)

A new Irish bar just opened up in Boston's Brookline neighborhood, but don't expect a dive bar with nothing but Guinness. Waxy's Modern Bar + Kitchen is a modern Irish bar concept from Waxy O'Connor's, a departure from their previous old school pubs, and that means great craft brews and cocktails. The name comes form the term "waxy", which colloquially means a lucky event.
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The cocktails and beer list come courtesy of James O'Brien, an Ireland native who learned the trade at New York City bars. Waxy's will feature 40 rotating beers on tap. The beer list is separated by styles (cider, sours, IPAs, etc) and feature breweries such as Founders, Sixpoint, Harpoon, Firestone Walker, Allagash, etc. Not to worry, though, they'll still have Guinness and Magner's.
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As for cocktails, he's concocted some fun cocktails to fit a wide range of palates, from the Tiki-style
Shake Rattle & Rum (Three Olives Elvis coconut water vodka, The Real McCoy 5-year rum, pineapple, ginger, and Angostura bitters) ...
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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Modern Mexican Finally Hits Long Beach with Playa Amor

The newest hot spot for Mexican food in the LA area is in Long Beach, but Playa Amor doesn't just serve great, traditional Mexican dishes. What sets it apart for me is Chef Thomas Ortega's own modern take on it, like what you will find with his Mole tot poutine (tater tots, mole negro, queso, cress, cilantro, onion, $8.50)

Playa Amor
I've actually had a slightly different version of this a couple of years ago at Thomas Ortega's other restaurant, Amor Y Tacos in Cerritos. I feel that he's improved the dish even more since I like it even better now.

You may find the ubiquitous Charred brussel sprouts with a touch of Mexican flair with some cotija, lime juice, red wine vinegar, smoked jalapeno remoulade ($8.75)
Playa Amor

On the other hand, you'll also fine very well executed versions of more typical dishes like the Shrimp ceviche (Mexican shrimp, pico de gallo, citrus juice, jalapeno, garlic aioli, cabbage, cotija, corn tostada, $12).
Playa Amor

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Thirst Boston Celebrates New England Cocktail Culture on May 20-23, 2016

There are so many great cocktail bars in Boston, and what better way to explore them all (plus more New England bars) than at Boston's cocktail week, Thirst Boston? Well, lucky you, the next Thirst Boston is coming up soon on May 20-23 of 2016.

Hawthorne Thirst Boston
Thirst Boston took a hiatus but the last one in 2014 was a fun whirlwind of events! Here are some of what you can expect to happen this year, plus a recap of last year's events:

This year's opening night gala (dubbed The Thing) will take place at The Hampshire House. In addition to Boston's top bartenders, the winner of the Best Home Bartender competition will also get to showcase his/her drink here! If you're interested in entering this competition, you can still apply until April 1 (get the info here).
Thirst Boston
The gala is a night of extravaganza where cocktail lovers and bartenders don their finest garb and dance the night away - helped by live music and more than enough bar stations manned by the city's finest bartenders.

Another confirmed event is State Lines on Saturday evening, in which great bars from all over New England will hold pop-ups throughout the city!
Thirst Boston

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Happy Hour at Estate Restaurant and Bar (Santa Monica, CA)

by guest blogger @btsunoda

When the conversation at the next table is easier to hear than the person that I’m eating with, I’m generally not having a good time. This type of occurrence has been more frequent of late because many restaurants have adopted a bistro format with small tables and uncomfortable chairs. I recently had the opportunity to visit Estate Restaurant and Bar to experience their new happy hour menu, and luckily, Estate's layout provided plenty of space to diners to be comfortable.
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The interior of the Estate Restaurant and Bar is a modern take on what restaurants used to be like. Estate Restaurant and Bar has different seating areas and plush booths and individual seats. Because they don’t attempt to use every square inch of the restaurant, there is a general feeling of spaciousness. Even the bar has cushioned comfortable chairs.

Their happy hour menu had plenty of discounted food and drinks. We started off with the Tuna Crispy Wonton Tacos  ($9)
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Instead of frying taco shells, they use wonton shaped like a tortilla, just like classic tuna tartar. The contrasting colors and textures were both visually stunning and delicious. The tuna was fresh and the ginger nicely enhanced the tuna.

Char siu pizza with hoisin sauce? I had to see what that was all about.
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Monday, May 4, 2015

Southern Fare at Kendall Square's State Park (Cambridge, MA)

I'm pretty lucky to live within walking distance to Hungry Mother and its sister restaurant, State Park. State Park has more of a sports bar vibe with more casual food and beers, but you can still look for great Southern food here from the James Beard Award winning chef Barry Maiden. Instead of the refined dishes at Hungry Mother, think sandwiches, fried chicken, and the likes.

Try the Snappy's Famous Pork Chop Sandwich (chili, cole slaw, tomato, mustard, $12)

State Park

For those who are not familiar, this refers to Snappy Lunch in Mt Airy, North Carolina. The diner is famous for their pork chop sandwich where the boneless pork chop is covered in a sweet milk batter - yes, very much reminiscent of french toast. Think french toast stuffed with pork chop, then made into a sandwich with chili and cole slaw... The pork chop itself is ridiculously tender! A wondrously messy sandwich worth digging into.

Another surprise for me was the Memphis BBQ Spaghetti (pork shoulder, sarvecchio cheese, garlic bread, $12)
State Park

Who knew spaghetti would work so well with BBQ sauce? It's just a bit saltier than bolognese, with a subtle kick. Bold and sweet, served with fluffy, buttery garlic bread. This has become another favorite of mine.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cocktails and Bitters at Coco Laurent

Rivera was one of the propellers of craft cocktails in restaurants, and now one of its bartender alum, Krishna Vutla, is striking out on his own. 
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Krishna headed the bar and created the current cocktail menu at Coco Laurent in downtown LA, although he unfortunately left earlier this week. His cocktails are staying on the menu, thought, and there are quite a few exciting ones.

My favorite is the Insane Bolt, which helped Krishna win an Angostura cocktail competition. There are usually only a couple dashes of angostura bitters in cocktails but this one has 3/4 oz! It's combined with Smith and Cross rum, orgeat, and maraschino liqueur.
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Sounds crazy? It was actually really good, both sweet and dry with a really nice balance. You just have to try it.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Strong Spring Cocktail Menu at Drago Centro

Drago Centro's bar had been in a limbo recently, when their bar managers/bartenders left one after the other and no one new was coming in, but now it's made a strong comeback with Kyle Ackley's new spring menu. His face and name was familiar to me and I finally remembered that I had met him at Lexington Social House. Kyle worked at The Bungalow at the Fairmont Miramar between Lexington and Drago Centro (and was at XIV prior to Lexington).

Kyle Ackley

Grappa cocktail
I went through the whole menu starting from the lightest, Bella Bionda: Grappa, kumquat syrup, citrus, orange bitters, club soda.
Drago Centro wanted grappa cocktail because, well, it's Italian, and Kyle came up with this drink. Here you can taste the grappa but it is not too strong. It's a very refreshing drink and great for those who want something lighter in alcohol.

There are a lot of long cocktails for the spring menu, while he plans on having many stirred drinks in the fall. He also makes his own pickles and syrups.

IMG_5222The Vibrante is made with Aviation gin, sloe gin, pickled grape skins (housemade, natch), tarragon, lemon. The cocktail is tart and herbal-y, tastes almost like a shrub.

There's no shrub in here, though.  His shrub makes an appearance in the All Dolled Up: Karlsson’s vodka, Campari, vanilla rhubarb shrub, grapefruit, lemon, egg white
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This obligatory vodka drink looks like a girly drink but has more bitterness, a nice touch from the grapefruit and Campari. Ackley likes putting the two together, bitter on bitter. The Campari and the shrub are the stars here.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Savor the Midsummer Cocktails and Patio at Big Bar (Los Feliz)

It's September but it still sure is warm. That means you still have time to head over to the Big Bar in Los Feliz for their midsummer cocktails, designed to be the perfect patio drinks! Big Bar is part of the Alcove Cafe and Bakery and yes, they have a beautiful patio that you can sip them in, although we enjoy sitting at the bar watching Dan Long and his bartenders do their work.

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A few weeks ago I made my first visit to Big Bar and tasted through the midsummer cocktail menu. Here are some highlights from the menu:

I loved the Gin and Tonic cocktail.
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This was obviously not your usual gin and tonic, as you can see it's served up. The cocktail was made with Beefeater gin, quinquina, lime, bergamot, kaffir lime spray. the quinquina gave it that "tonic" flavor. You can also smell the kaffir lime as he is serving it to you.

The next one may be my favorite find that night. I can sip this one all night!
The Picon Punch is made with Amaro Montenegro, Pierre Ferrand 1840, lemon, grenadine, orange bitters
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The Picon Punch is a traditional Basque after dinner drink. Traditionally it is made with Picon but that's not available in its original form anymore so they tried to find a substitute with similar flavors. The base is Amaro so it had strong herbal flavors, but if you like that flavor profile you will love this. I thought it was really perfect to calm your tummy after dinner.

Of course, you have to try a cocktail named Most Interesting Cocktail in the World, made with Vida mezcal, lime, cinnamon syrup, Miracle Mile chocolate-chili bitters, cayenne peppers

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