MichaelB's Profile

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If You Could Clone a Boston Area Restaurant Space, Which Would It Be?

On the nostalgia front, I still miss Curious Liquids on the corner opposite the statehouse. If you scored one of the 2-3 upstairs tables on the park street side, you had a stunning view down the Common, and the downstairs was full of cozy nooks and corners. Great mix of people and friendly staff too.

Back to today, I think Steel and Rye (mentioned upthread) is a great-looking room.

Return of the Ataulfo mangoes 2015

Early sign of spring: yellow mangoes from Mexico are back. Whole Foods had a few underripe ones at the Newton store (Washington street) along with some small Puerto Rican ones which are still ripening on my counter. But H-Mart (Cambridge) has the jackpot - stacked cases, loose ones, all looking pretty ripe and ready. I had one this morning and it was delicious. They're pricy right now - 2.50 apiece at H-Mart - which will drop as the season goes on, but I was willing to pay for a treat.

(The Indian markets in Waltham are reliably much cheaper sources - for Mexican mangoes as well as the platonic ideal Indian mangoes during their short May/June season - but I haven't checked if they have them in yet. Worth a look.)

Mar 03, 2015
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Blackbird Donuts?

Mmm, donut economics! Re the actual donuts, I tried them a few weeks ago and didn't get a very good batch. Chocolate old-fashioned was fresh with good chocolate flavor, but both sodden with grease and not quite cooked enough. One of those cases where almost great = quite bad. The stack of cinnamon sugar mini donuts were over-cooked; both greasy and kind of dry.

I won't write them off yet since it seems to take a while for donut places to execute consistently - I found Union Square pretty mediocre when they first opened, but generally excellent when I finally tried them again last year - so hopefully they'll improve.

Feb 06, 2015
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Where to buy bulk chocolate?

I third (fourth?) the suggestions for Marty's in Newton. If you like Callebaut then the Trader Joe pound plus bars are a good option as well (and probably the cheapest), but Marty's has a wider selection both within and across brands. They have a good range of Valrhona bars and discs (i'm nibbling on a Manjari disc right now!), as well as multiple kinds of Callebaut and some El Rey too. Whole Foods has some of those too, but Marty's selection is better and their prices are MUCH lower (by several dollars per pound).

Just remembered that Trader Joe's also has some Valrhona bars (branded, not repackaged as TJ's) - definitely the 100g bars in ~70 and ~80 % cacao (I think this is the "Noir Amer" line) as well as mini bars - maybe 20g? - in the milk chocolate and 56% cacao dark versions. Not as interesting as the Manjari, Guanaja, etc. but still very good. I think the mini bars are a dollar each and the 100g bars are about 3 dollars; not as economical as buying in bulk at Marty's but better than anywhere else.

Nov 06, 2014
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Just started watching "The Wire" - Lake Trout sandwiches?

Star Fish in Egleston square was my first thought as well. Not the cornmeal/cracker breading that seems to be the Baltimore standard, but it's great and under 3 bucks. It also meets the requirements for vinegary hot sauce and cheap sandwich bread (I think it's actually "wheat" but excess whole wheat flavor/texture is not an issue.) I like it with some hot sauce and tartar sauce; I generally pass on the optional slice of american cheese. Eat immediately as it gets soggy pretty fast. The whiting sandwich is the one you want - the pricy haddock version (4 bucks!) is good but no better.

I think they also offer one with bones (which - based on googling - seems to be the real Baltimore version) but I've never tried it.

Sep 04, 2014
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Pepes Pizza coming to Boston

I've been to that Manchester location twice recently and both times the pizza was equal to what I had at the New Haven original. I didn't have the clam pie - iffy clams are definitely a Bad Thing so I understand how that experience wouldn't instill confidence, but my experiences have been great.

I'm pretty excited that they're opening here - I love Regina's but it'll be great to have a New Haven style pie available.

Jul 29, 2014
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

If you love strawberries...

Thanks for this tip - I got some this weekend and they really are great. A little step below local berries but leaps and bounds above Driscoll etc.

May 27, 2014
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Awesome burgers: new thread

+1 on this. I tried it a few weeks ago for lunch and it was delicious - tasty and juicy. The bacon, caramelized onion, and pickle sauce put the richness a little over the top for me - I might leave off the bacon and onion next time - but overall it was great. When I had it the fries were a bit tough and not very hot, but that may have been a good thing since the burger plus a scottish cider put me into a partial food coma for the rest of the afternoon anyway - eating all the fries might have done me in!

It's about a half-block from the 39 bus stop and I think a half-mile from either Stonybrook or Jackson Square T is about right, but I'm happy to have it in walking distance. Very friendly service and mellow vibe as well.

May 22, 2014
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Late May Farmers' Markets, Farm Stands, CSA updates

Central Square market on monday didn't have much produce, although I did get some excellent fat asparagus from Hutchins Farm.

Two new vendors there - Union Square Donuts (surprisingly great donut holes!) and a new hard cider maker called Far from the Tree. They were sampling two ciders, both very crisp and dry. One was straight apple and the other one was fermented with hops and mint, which was unusual and refreshing, although I preferred the straight apple version.

May 22, 2014
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

indian mango?

Late reply, but I was at Waltham India last sunday (the 18th) and they said they would be getting some Kesars in on monday. I went for the sure thing and got a case at Patel Bros. 34.99 for 11 mangos but they're ripening nicely.

Not the same thing, but Patel Bros. also had about a zillion cases of beautiful looking Ataulfo mangos for 11-12 dollars, which is a great deal.

May 22, 2014
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Who has great tart raspberry lime rickeys?

I've always had excellent ones at Richardson's ice cream in Middleton. They do a nice job of squeezing and muddling so you get lots of lime juice and a bit of lime oil to offset the sweetness of the raspberry syrup. Haven't been yet this year so I have no idea if they are affected by the Great Lime Crisis of 2014.

Apr 27, 2014
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

H Mart Open in Central Square!

LOTS of misting! I noticed it several times while I was walking around the produce section.

They've used the space really well. It's MUCH nicer than the Burlington store, although of course it's only day one; hopefully it stays relatively clean.

Harvest downsized so much when they moved across the street that there's not as much overlap in products as there would have been before. I think their real target is Whole Foods, especially re the meat/fish/produce sections. I looked at the fish counter and it was MUCH better looking than at Whole Foods, and the meat selections looked excellent too.

I tried a sandwich and a canele from Paris Baguette. Both were good; neither made me swoon. I'll definitely be back for the other food court stops.

Apr 23, 2014
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Apricot Kernals in bulk bins?

I've seen these in the past at Trader Joe's (bagged), but it was a while ago and I don't know if they still have them. I think it was at the Coolidge Corner store, which usually has a wide selection of nuts and dried fruits; some of the smaller stores stock fewer selections.

Mar 24, 2014
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Canadian foods sold anywhere?

I don't know specifically if they have Canadian foods, but it's probably worth trying Cardullo's in Harvard Square - they have lots of international candies and cookies, etc.

Mar 24, 2014
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Quattro North End?

Too late to make suggestions for your dinner, but I've been twice and both times it's been good, though not great. I've had the roasted chicken, which was nicely cooked: well-seasoned, with nicely rendered skin (not especially crisp, though), and mostly moist meat. It came with grilled vegetables, which were fine if not especially exciting (or seasonal - asparagus in January?). More recently we tried the pizza, which was definitely Neapolitan - from the charred puffy rim to the somewhat soggy middle - but again, good not great. The meatballs ("meatball madness"!) were just okay - I wouldn't get them again.

It's definitely got a more modern vibe than many North End places, and a less trapped-in-amber menu - I'd go back to try other dishes. The service has been friendly but kinda nervous and amateur - not a problem but not a strength either.

btw the proper Neapolitan pizza has arrived in the neighborhood since Slim posted - up the street at Locale. If I were just going for pizza, I'd go there, but Quattro has a much broader menu. I'd be curious to hear other people's impressions since I've only tried a few things so far.

Mar 07, 2014
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Large format dinners in Boston

Anh Hong does 7 courses of fish as well - also delicious.

Feb 20, 2014
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Tenoch Mexican in the North End....mini report

I didn't see any beer or wine when I was there; don't know if they're planning to try for a license or not.

Feb 14, 2014
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Bondir Concord Just Okay

Ditto - Domenic's was one of my favorite things about working in Waltham. It was a happy day when I discovered a side route that shaved about 10 minutes off the round trip there by avoiding Main St. traffic. I could eat an eggplant panino right about now!

Feb 14, 2014
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Tenoch Mexican in the North End....mini report

Just tried this tonight - thumbs up! I'm excited to have this as a more T-friendly option than the one in Medford.

We shared a torta (carnitas and chorizo - I forget the spanish name for this), an order of chicken enchiladas with mole sauce, and a pork mole tamal. The torta was fantastic, just as good as in Medford, and better than any others I've had since Tacos Lupita in Porter Square changed names and went downhill. Nice mixture of flavors from the shoulder meat and sausage.

The enchiladas were very tasty although we had actually ordered them with green sauce rather than mole, but they were pretty busy and it seemed silly to have them redo a whole plate. I chose the chicken to match with the green sauce - it was a little overwhelmed by the flavor of the mole but perfectly fine. Good rice and black beans alongside.

The tamal was good, and a little different from ones I've had - it was steamed in a banana leaf (rather than a corn husk) and the masa was *very* tender and had a bit of sweetness in the mix. Very comforting on a cold night; I might try it with green or red sauce next time to balance out the sweetness. The mole itself was a bit sweeter than I expected (but I am no expert in mole) but was velvety smooth and rich.

It's a nice little space - not fancy but modern-looking and comfortable. I think there are just 22 seats, but they were already doing a lot of takeout. The owner was at the register and was incredibly friendly and gracious. I got the impression that the kitchen was still working its way into shape (not surprising on their 3rd day open) - the owner said he was getting used to not being right next to the line as he is in Medford - but overall everything was really solid. I look forward to working my way through the menu, especially all the different tacos and tortas.

Feb 12, 2014
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Best in Watertown?

Yes to those (especially the walnut macaroons), and I'd add the persian baklava - sweet and flaky, with lots of crushed pistachios and a strong cardamom flavor. I don't love most baklava but I really like these.

Jan 27, 2014
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Roland Demerara Sugar Cubes -- anyone know a (cheap) local source?

I've seen them, very intermittently, at Ocean State Job Lot stores.

Dec 16, 2013
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Canary Square seafood dish + scallop guts question

Oh, this was *definitely* not roe. Roe would have been cool. This was just connective tissue - digestive tract, membrane, etc. As Bob Dobalina suggested above, I did kind of think, "hmm, steamers?" Or as a co-worker commented when I told her, it's "nose-to-tail!"

I can get over the skeevy factor but I definitely think the sweetness of the scallop meat got lost in all the other stuff. Although some of that may have been the prep - the strong flavor of preserved lemon is an interesting idea but might go better with a sea scallop.

Dec 09, 2013
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Canary Square seafood dish + scallop guts question

I was at Canary Square this weekend and had one of their special appetizers: cream-poached oysters with tarragon and cape scallops on the shell with preserved lemon and olive oil. 3 of each nicely presented on individual beds of salt. The oysters were fantastic. My question is about the scallops. They were simply steamed open and served guts and all. (By "guts" I mean the connective material that is usually removed to leave behind just the muscle.) I tried one, guts and all, and it was … fine, then i abandoned manners for a minute and forcibly separated the muscle from another one and it was sweet and delicious.

So, is this a thing now? Scallops served with all the innards? My tablemates thought it was fine. I have two objections: 1) All that connective stuff obscures the sweet delicate taste of a very delicious little scallop meat. 2) It's skeevy!

Am I being too squeamish about the guts? (Entirely possible.) I know it's technically fine to eat as long as the scallop is fresh. Do other places serve them this way? Does anyone prefer it?

Dec 08, 2013
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

White Clam Pizza

I believe there's one on the menu at Locale in the North End. I haven't tried it, but their other pizzas are fantastic. Neapolitan style, not New Haven style, but very likely worth trying.

Dec 08, 2013
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Clementines that actually taste good

Not exactly clementines, but Whole Foods has been stocking satsuma mandarins for several weeks and they're very good. More sweet and tart than super-sweet, but much more flavorful and juicy than most clementines. Russo's has had them in the past as well, almost certainly at a lower price than WF, but I haven't looked there lately.

Less shelf life than most clementines, so check them for soft spots, and note that the attached stems (which look very nice) sometimes poke holes in their neighbors in the bin.

Also not a bargain source, but Formaggio Kitchen usually has a really excellent supply of unusual and frequently delicious citrus fruits in the winter months.

Dec 05, 2013
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Star Fish Market, Egleston Square - home of the $3 fish sandwich

The last thread about this place was about 7 years ago so I think it's time for a new one. It's located right in Egleston Square in JP, on Washington St. just before the intersection with Columbus Ave.

There's a fresh fish counter, but most of the action is at the fried fish counter, where they sell various takeout platters of fried seafood and french fries. I haven't tried those yet (though I plan to); what I have tried are the ridiculously cheap fish sandwiches. The whiting sandwich is about $2.75; the luxury option, haddock, is $4.00. (Plus 30 cents for cheese, which I tried just to confirm that American cheese does not improve fried fish. Indeed it does not.)

It's a pretty damn good sandwich! Served on "whole wheat" Sunbeam-esque bread, which does not interfere with the fried-to-order fish. I've tried both the whiting (aka pollock, I think) and the haddock, and without having them side-by-side I'd be hard-pressed to state a preference - both are freshly fried, nice and crisp, and go nicely with the tartar sauce and hot sauce they provide at the counter. The fry job is excellent and just thinking about it is making me eager to try the full seafood platter.

The fish market side has had a very limited but fresh-looking selection when I've looked - usually some salmon, haddock, pollock, and porgy, which they'll cut/filet/etc. to order.

Hot Dog hole-in-the-wall's in Boston Metro?

Ditto on Casey's. I've never been inside but I love stopping at the side window when I'm nearby. Not a super-snappy dog but great flavor. I love the big copper cauldron just inside the window where they cook the dogs and steam the buns.

Nov 17, 2013
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Nantucket / Cape Scallops

This is south of the city rather than west, but I saw some at the Fruit Center marketplace in Milton a few days ago. (I think the seafood counter there is run by Rocky Neck seafood?) Price in the mid-twenties I believe.

Nov 17, 2013
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Locale - North End

I've been meaning to post about this place - glad you put up a review. I've been twice and I think it's great - some of the best Naples-style pizzas I've had in Boston (meaning *actual* Neapolitan - cooked quickly, puffy high crust, plenty of char), with the major caveat that I still haven't tried Gran Gusto (i know, i know).

Pretty short menu - about 5 or 6 pizzas, salads, antipasti, and a few other items. We tried the meatballs right after they opened and they were just so-so: nice texture but kinda weak-tasting. I think they were beef-only and some pork and more seasonings would have livened them up. Perfectly fine tomato sauce on top though. I'd try them one more time to see if they've improved since then. The meat antipasto was solid - good selection and good quality (and quite a lot of it), though nothing to make you forget Coppa.

Short, focused list of wines by the glass and some interesting-sounding beers which are lost on me since I'm not a beer lover. Friendly, quick service - I think it's always been the owner (big guy) who's waited on us. The main story is definitely the pizza - which is really really great.

We've eaten in both times, so it's good to know that takeout is solid as well.

Nov 08, 2013
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area

Donuts!

I tried it too and while the experience was fun, I agree that the donuts themselves weren't great. I thought the cake flavors in particular seemed over-fried - they were a bit dry and tough and had absorbed a lot of extra oil. The yeasted varieties (the tarragon-lemon and another glazed one - coconut?) were better but also a bit too dark and greasy. The mexican chocolate one was just lame all around - barely chocolately, no spice flavors to speak of, and unpleasantly dense.

But the glazes were excellent - mai-tai very mai-tai-esque and boozy, the maple bacon would be GREAT if the basic donut had been better, and that lemon-tarragon was nicely bitter/sweet. Hopefully fryer-execution and their basic recipes will improve with practice (their tweets during the morning were entertaining but a bit frantic). I don't think it's a matter of frying on-site - a hot donut is best but a good one can certainly have good taste and texture several hours after frying.

Oct 20, 2013
MichaelB in Greater Boston Area