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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Rendezvous Begins the Beguine

"I keep asking myself: why don't I go to this place more often? I can't wait to go back," says snowcone about dinner at Rendezvous, a Cambridge spot that has what Pia calls "wonderful food and cocktails, intimate setting but not so fancy that you feel like you have to dress up."

Hounds aren't the only ones who love this underrated spot; Chef Steve Johnson was on this year's James Beard list of top chefs in the Northeast.

Good orders:

• The mint and cucumber cocktail, an elegant combination of those two ingredients plus lemon, gin, and simple syrup-- a perfect summer refresher
• Arugula and escarole salad with shaved fennel, breadcrumbs, and anchovy dressing
• Maine crab cakes with Berber spices and purée of fresh peas
• Toasted orecchiette with pork and veal meatballs
• Roasted chicken with morels, leeks, spinach, and mustard sauce

There are great deals to be had here, too. The Sunday prix fixe menu, a steal at only $38, includes an appetizer, entrée, and dessert. Monday night is also tapas night, with reasonably priced small plates.

Rendezvous [Cambridge]
502 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge
617-576-1900

Discuss: Great meal at Rendezvous

The Basics: How to Make Italian Meatballs in Sauce

The Basics: How to Make Italian Meatballs in Sauce

Cooked right in the sauce. READ MORE

Tastings Fit for the Gods

Trying the chef's tasting menu at an upscale restaurant is a long and involved event, with a price to match. Craigie on Main's six-course tasting menu is $90 per person ($115 for ten courses), but mbasnack sighs, after a recent dinner, "if I could somehow afford the $300 price tag (with cocktails, coffee, and tip) I would fast all week for it ... Love, love, loved it." The menu included squid noodles, pork belly, sweetbreads, veal tenderloin; it went on and on, proving to be, says mbasnack, "the most fantastic dining experience I've ever had." Tony Maws came out to the table to thank them for coming, too.

Hounds also recommend the tasting menus at Clio and O Ya and warn that L'Espalier's menu has slipped a bit since the restaurant's move.

Craigie on Main [Cambridge]
853 Main Street, Cambridge
617-497-5511

Clio [Back Bay]
370-A Commonwealth Avenue, Boston
617-536-7200

O Ya [Downtown]
9 East Street, Boston
617-654-9900

L'Espalier [Back Bay]
774 Boylston Street, Boston
617-262-3023

Discuss: Died and Went to Chowhound Heaven ... Craigie on Main Tasting

Overheard on the Boston Boards

"Was amused yesterday when, upon ordering this for the first time at Peach Farm, we were offered the choice of fresh shrimp (over frozen) for an extra dollar. That dollar was WAY worth it." - litchick on salt-and-pepper whole shrimp at Peach Farm

"What they do best, I've vexingly found, is a barbecue chicken sub. Long after having partaken in my last visit here (and sworn off meat of unknown origin), I still dream about this thing. The rolls they use are rich and hold up very well to the sauce, which is a) abundant b) very sweet c) EXCELLENT. The chicken pieces they've got for those things are unfailingly white and juicy." - FinnFPM on Chacho's Pizza & Subs

"The chow simply shined here as a result of a common-sense (but still all too rare) combination of flawless cooking technique and truly inspired, slightly unconventional combinations of top-quality ingredients." - finlero on dinner at Erbaluce

Breastfeeding and the Milk of Human Cruelty

"Over 700 comments" is all you need to read to understand that breastfeeding in public still retains a whiff of controversy. A story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press about a breastfeeding woman being booted from a Maplewood, Minnesota buffet touched off a firestorm of comments that reflect a) the diversity of opinions about breastfeeding, b) how little of an article is actually read before the typical commenter weighs in with his or her "thoughts" and c) how far the national discourse has sunk, since, say, the relatively enlightened era of two or three years ago.

READ MORE

It’s Not a Bong, It’s a Vegetable!

Here's the kind of food story that warms the cockles of your heart: When a guy at the newly opened Target Field in Minneapolis decided to fire up a delicious batch of marijuana (or "oregano," as he later described it to security guards) he chose to do so in a red pepper hollowed out into an improvised pipe.

READ MORE

A Kinder, Gentler Yelp?

On the heels of a rash of lawsuits accusing the site of extortion, Yelp.com CEO Jeremy Stoppelman posted to the Yelp blog about the new ways the site would up its transparency by adding a link for users to see reviews that were automatically filtered off a business's page, and eliminating the "Favorite Review" feature from its advertising package, which had previously allowed an advertiser to select a review that would appear at the top of its listing. READ MORE

Is It Cleaner? Is It Tastier? The Story of Bottled Water

While they may have gone a step too far when they equate drinking bottled water to smoking while pregnant, the creators of "The Story of Bottled Water" make it pretty clear that there is really no reason to be buying and throwing away countless plastic bottles a year. READ MORE

The Tres Leches Horchata Chili Mango Cupcake!

Hotcakes Bakes has a truly unique cupcake, says bulavinaka. "The cake portion is based on the popular tres leches cake; it's moist, flavorful, and slightly spongy, and has a tres leches-like filling piped in the middle," explains bulavinaka. "This is topped with a horchata frosting, then garnished with fresh slices of mango that have been adorned with chili powder. It really is the little package that sums up some yummy sweets found in Mexican cuisine and beyond." The horchata frosting is nice and cinnamon-y, and the mango is fresh. The whole shebang is moist; quite unlike the dry cupcakes peddled at some other bakeries.

Hotcakes Bakes [Westside - Inland]
4119 South Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles
310-397-2324

Discuss: Hotcakes Bakes in Culver City/Mar Vista: Tres leches, horchata and chili mango all in one cupcake!

Westside Lebanese Winner

"Everything we ordered hit high on the taste meter," says bulavinaka about the new, slightly dressy Westside Lebanese restaurant Mezza Grill. Fried cauliflower by itself justifies a visit. The seasoning highlights the cauliflower's natural nuttiness, and the cauliflower is cooked "just enough to give a slightly crispy texture on the outside" but leave it "still steamy and fragrant on the inside."

Falafels are perfectly fried, with a soft inner warmth, says bulavinaka. The accompanying tahini is excellently lemony, and balances well with the falafel.

Succulent, sweet shrimp kabobs come perfectly cooked, with a nice char on the outside. They are served with creamy garlic condiment. "Creamy garlic and shrimp, what a perfect match," says bulavinaka. "I can't say enough about the kitchen's chef. His name is difficult for me to even think about pronouncing but he is a magician."

Mezza Grill [Westside - Inland]
9901 Washington Boulevard, Culver City
310-202-7888

Discuss: Mezza – Chow Alert for Excellent Lebanese Cuisine in the Southern Hemisphere of the Westside