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Zaftigs in Brookline – Almost Kosher

July 1, 2012

It’s a good thing I’m not an observant Jew, or else I wouldn’t be able to enjoy all that Zaftigs has to offer in a cool, dark, yet boisterous dining room on Harvard Street in Brookline staffed by what seemed to be an all-female cast of young women with similar characteristics (suffice it to say, I think Zaftigs is hiring waitstaff with a theme in mind. Or maybe it’s self-selection. I digress.)

Let’s start with toasted bagel slices instead of bread and herb schmear that my dining mates were all too happy to demolish. This might be one of the few times in the last few years that I’ve felt like I’ve had to compete for the free carbs.

Just to give you a sense of the fun decor:

Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of sandwiches to choose from at this deli, but a lot of tempting breakfast-y plates as well. I almost went for a latke plate but then fortunately didn’t. You’ll see why shortly:

The trick with sandwich places and sandwich ingredients is finding the one with all the things you love and I love beef tongue and pastrami.

Jack & Marion’s

It’s hard to tell visually which meat is which because everything was sliced to an impressively uniform thickness but the taste and tenderness of the tongue immediately distinguished itself from the decent but not as delicious pastrami and corned beef. Disappointingly, the bread was a bit on the dry side and I wouldn’t have minded a more generous spread of mustard. The pickle left much to be desired as well, which is really dissatisfying to me at a Jewish deli – the edges were discolored and mushy and it was one of those one-dimensional salty pickles – lacking in sour and any other flavoring.

And then there was the latke, which was more like a frozen flat croquette with no filling than a latke lovingly made by shredding fresh potato and binding it with matzoh and egg.

Still tasty, but not what I was looking for when I made my side dish substitution. All in all, a strangely poor meal in spite of a very nice atmosphere, great staff, and lots of positive word-of-mouth.



Surveying Boston’s Food Trucks

June 27, 2012

I’ve already started thinking in terms of one month to go and Boston seems happy to send me off with heat waves, thunderstorms, and interludes of perfect summer weather. In these short stretches of blue skies and breezes, I’ve been eating from a handful of Boston’s beautiful food trucks in Dewey Square and SoWa Open Market.

BBQ Smith:

June VISTA lunch hour – my friends went to the Clover truck but I had already had Clover at their Cambridge site and I wasn’t going to pay double the price of an excellent Chinatown banh mi for fusion banh mi from the Bon Me truck. I’m sure Bon Me is very good – I saw someone else enjoy a Jamaican Jerk Chicken banh mi from them – but I like my banh mi cheap and Viet-Chinese.

I got roast pork tacos and veggie tacos. The roast pork tacos were outstanding for the generous garnish of crispy pork skin on top of succulent meat and the fresh sprig of cilantro was a super-nice touch. It’s hard to find good Mexican in Boston and I had been missing the flavors of onion and cilantro. The veggie taco was very good too – garlicky collard greens filling.

This past Sunday at SoWa, I finally hit up Roxy’s, Boston Speed Dog, and Staff Meal.

Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese:

Roxy’s is Boston’s most famous food truck, right? Competed in Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race and always boasting a long line. My friend is a fan of the Green Muenster with guac and bacon but I had admired the Mighty Rib on more than one occasion. I’m a sucker for short rib.

From the outside in: The bread is really really good, more or less the ideal of well-buttered grill-toasted white. Melted Fontina is good while it’s hot and melty but kind of off-putting when it’s cooled into cheese putty. And I actually thought it dulled the taste of the meat, which was yummy but somewhat one-dimensional in flavor. The sweet caramelized onions must have melted into the ribs because they weren’t really detected as a separate element.

While we were at SoWa, we were treated to an impressive display of aerial advertising:

I thought the hashtag was going to be “GoSun” but it was apparently “Go Sox.” Of course, this is Boston after all.

Staff Meal:

I usually find Staff Meal’s menu items to be the classiest of the food truck offerings.

I like Staff Meal’s business card:

And their fillings, if not their delivery system:

So I have a problem with this taco just like I have a problem with Boloco – do these ingredients work in a taco and/or burrito? I think I would have preferred just to have a little box of these very yummy rice with Chinese sausage and fried garlic chips and not have had to deal with trying to eat it in taco form. Also, while tacos have layers of ingredients, each individual layer should be uniform to deliver consistency of delicious and texture. This was not so well laid out so bites were uneven. Still very yummy, but the taco delivery system was unnecessary.

Boston Super Dog:

What I’ve really been craving is a snappy Chicago Dog, but a Boston Super Dog will do for now. These things were obscene:

I had mine cut in half for sharing, but I’m pretty sure just one of these bad boys measures 8-10 inches in length, and oh, almost 2-inches in diameter:

Since when does mustard on a hot dog mean honey mustard? This was very good for a jumbo sausage but it was no Chicago dog.

I should try to get some fried seafood off a Boston food truck.

New Grill and other Summer Delights

June 23, 2012

It is not easy to grill oysters when the juices insist on escaping the shell:

Char-grilled jalapenos are wonderful.

I ate almost half a ball of mozzarella by myself.

My brother made his first attempt at sous-vide and then finished this rib-eye on the grill:

We did have a conventionally grilled rib-eye for comparison and the sous-vide method did lend to a more tender, juicy, and sweeter steak.

Finish with my brother’s Very Berry Pie:

I could have used some whipped cream on top #glutton

Eating Vietnamese

June 20, 2012

Now, I know that Dorchester is the neighborhood of Vietnamese Bostonians and I have been lucky enough to have a banh mi and iced Vietnamese coffee from King Do bakery (for breakfast!). Both were fantastic, and I am sure there are many excellent pho and banh mi shops in Dorchester (because how could there not be?), but for those of us who work downtown, Chinatown is your next best bet for finding good Vietnamese.

You already know for banh mi to go to New Saigon Sandwich on Washington Street.

For pho and other noodles, I would recommend Xinh Xinh on Beach St. over the Chinatown outpost of Pho Hoa. It’s smaller, brighter, and more casual. The staff can be brusque but the food is good and cheap. And it’s great for solo dining with its cafeteria-style dining. I did go to Pho Hoa for comparison with a friend and the dark environment made things feel kind of dead inside.

My most recent meal at Xinh Xinh – I had taken photos of the food at Pho Hoa as well but now I can’t find them!

Of course, Pho Pasteur with it’s corner location at Beach and Washington and its big dining room is a default choice for all diners of Vietnamese food. They do a decent job of everything but I like smaller spaces and the food definitely comes quick at Xinh Xinh!

Back Bay: The Salty Pig

June 13, 2012

If you’re near the Back Bay station and looking for something nice yet affordable, go to The Salty Pig just across Dartmouth.

The À bientôt tastes like a grown-up lollipop, quietly bitter instead of sweet but fruity – Aperol, Apricot, Rosé, and Soda. It didn’t need the ice.

Spot-on bread with lovely olive oil. My roommate got Pinot Noir (I think), $7 by the glass, $30? $35 by the bottle. Considering how short his pour was, I almost wish we had just gotten the bottle.

More wonderful bread. Spicy salami. Chocolate salami – funky, not necessarily in a bad way but definitely different. Pickled peppers – terrifically piquant. Weaker pickles – perhaps intentionally soothing? Grainy mustard destined to be eaten with charcuterie. Give me more, more I say!

My roommate wanted to make sure I knew about the bathrooms wallpapered in The Far Side comics. Now you know too.

Come here as soon as you can. Come here when you have friends visiting Boston and they have just finished strolling along Newbury or done some shopping on Boylston. Come here if you’re waiting for the train and get a delicious cocktail.

JP’s Burger Entry: Grass Fed

June 12, 2012

I think Grass Fed on Centre St. got a glowing review in the Boston Phoenix’s Cheap Eats, which is generally enough to get my interest. I’m glad this time I had companions who were just as interested so that we could get a heaping helping of truffle fries along with our specialty burgers and to keep me company in the small space filled with high table tops and unpolished chrome chairs:

The TV wasn’t that helpful considering the sheer number of people milling about but I did appreciate the strategically placed pitches of water:

I got the oyster burger, which may have had a clever name, which I wish I had deconstructed and eaten in two parts:

The yellow substance you see fluffing out over the well-breaded fried oyster is not eggs but remoulade sauce. The remoulade was good but somewhat heavy and applied too generously to an already luscious burger.

The fries were very truffle-y but could have been fluffier. And I think that I find Parmesan on truffle oil fries to have a deadening effect on the flavors even though Parmesan and truffle oil seem to be a popular combination. Maybe it’s an aesthetic thing unduly influencing a culinary decision?

The bun was strong (although I still prefer Flat Patties’s), the oyster was fresh and delicious albeit over-dressed, and the patty was excellent although I failed to detect the difference between grass fed beef and the all-natural? pasture-raised? beef used by b.good and Flat Patties. However, all together in one sandwich, these components were a bit too much with the richness of the remoulade over-powering the surf n’ turf flavor interplay and leaving me feeling unpleasantly stuffed. I mostly blame the remoulade.


Sometimes Government Center can be fun

June 9, 2012

The outfit, community, what have you, known as Drink Craft Beer seems to have adopted The Kinsale in the Center Plaza Complex across the street from City Hall Plaza as one of its go-to locations for product promotion. I went there one day after work to try out a new cider from Downeast Cider House. I was originally lured by the promise of free glassware, but by the time this day rolled around, I really needed the drink after getting unexpected news of a death.

This post is just an excuse for me to show off my new glass (I also took a Downeast Cider House coaster because I steal coasters from bars):

I need to figure out how to transport all my glassware to Austin without breaking anything.

I also wanted to share this funny paper that was stuck on one of the magazine boxes facing City Hall: