m

MaxEntropy's Profile

Title Last Reply

Best seafood restuarant in Cambridge or Somerville?

East Coast Grill. Chris Schlesinger parted ways long ago, but they wisely keep some of his seafood standouts on the menu - seared tuna tacos, white-pepper crusted grilled tuna, grilled mahi mahi with Latin flavors. And a decent raw bar.

Besito (Chestnut Hill)

Fair enough, and I certainly am in no position to judge. However I never would have considered leaving out lime when I make it at home, so I was surprised to find I liked the Besito version too.

Besito (Chestnut Hill)

Finally made it to CH Besito last Saturday for lunch with SO and daughter. In the mean time I also learned a bit about guac recipes from the manager of the West Hartford Besito. They intentionally do not add citrus, and there seems to be support for the authenticity of their recipe. He sent the following:

" Here is a good site about traditional Mexican guacamole: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/articles...
Also here is Besito's guacamole recipe: https://www.facebook.com/notes/besito... "

As for the CH location - we enjoyed the guac immensely, ordered a second mid-lunch. I had street tacos al Pastor, 3 generous tacos and a nice rendition. My daughter had the carne asada skillet tacos, also a generous portion, but could have used a bit more kick.

I've been a fan of the house pomegranate Margarita at West Hartford, and the CH version was spot on. Service was pleasant and efficient, with only one small hiccup. A drink order that went missing was quickly corrected once we inquired.

We're delighted to have them in the neighborhood.

You can't go home again ...

Yep, they did hand lettered place cards at Voyager.

Great wineries that will ship directly to MA/Boston?

Wine.com invested in the fees/infrastructure needed to legally ship to MA residents. They were caught running a scam a couple of years ago trying to expose small CA wineries and retailers that were skirting the law - and gained my undying enmity in the process.

Roast goose

They do produce a lot of fat, the reason my SO refuses to let me roast them in the kitchen. But I did roast a pair using the outdoor BBQ rotisserie for a Christmas dinner - it was a hit with the family and my SO loved having the mess outside. Got my birds at Savenor's, although apparently you can order them up at Whole Foods these days.

Liquid Art House

Many thanks, MC. I missed your review prior to going, and largely concur. Hard to imagine that we both had the same coconut desert, though. I'm working on rounding up enough carnivore friends to justify the duck or suckling pig off the rotisserie.

Besito (Chestnut Hill)

I know...puzzling why the reports from Chestnut Hill indicate no acid

Besito (Chestnut Hill)

Avacado oxidizes so quickly it can turn an ugly shade in a hurry, especially if there's no added ascorbic acid (citrus). The reports of absent acid or personalization are odd because they reliably personalize the guac at the West Hartford location. Hopefully its just a matter of getting fully up to speed.

Dinner for 4, newish place in between Newton and Somerville?

Cutting cross-town can be such a pain. You both have easier access to Boston. Try the Fort Point area: you can get there easily via I90 (South Boston exit, they can get there easily via I93. Consider Sam's (a gem on top of Louie's Boston, overlooking the harbor), Row 34, Legal Harborside (2nd floor for a quiet splurge-worthy dinner, main floor for a more adventurous menu than your average Legal), or Trade.

Menton: late to the table

Hounds, I got snookered. In a good way.

I have been hesitant to visit Menton, but my SO changed that on a recent weekend.

We are huge fans of Barbara Lynch, but we'd yet to visit Menton, in part because of some mixed reviews from fellow CH's.

I celebrated a birthday ending in zero, and my SO invited my dad and a family friend to join us for a "surprise" birthday dinner on Saturday - surprise in the sense that she let me know the plan but not the venue. All I could get from my dad was he was expected to wear a jacket and tie. Two things to know at this point about my SO: she loves No. 9 Park (as do I) and she hates parties. So I was pretty confident going in to the weekend we would have a nice quiet evening at No. 9 indulging in the tasting menu.

I was mildly and pleasantly surprised when we got in the car and she told me to drive to Menton. A nice b-day present and a great excuse to visit a place I hadn't been.

I was floored, though, when the hostess led us in the opposite direction from the dining room. Turning the corner, there were friends and family from California, South Florida, England, and France (and New Jersey and MA). It was an evening I’ll long cherish. My SO had been telling me seemingly forever not to ever expect her to plan a party. I guess she had been setting me up for years.

But the main point of this post is to describe the experience from a foodie perspective.

A waiter by the door was pouring a grower Champagne from the Aubry brothers (I suspected at this point my SO had enlisted co-conspirators, at least to select the wines, which proved to be true). The room was softly lit, with very nice artwork lining two walls with separate illumination for the art. The far wall was dominated by a picture window overlooking Congress Street. Passed hors d’oeuvres were biased toward raw seafood (east coast oysters with beet, caviar and chive; fluke crudo with butternut squash, pear, and basil; tuna tartare with saffron and caviar; frittata-potato, black truffle, aioli; duck pastrami with mustard on rye) that were perfectly complemented by the Champagne.

The room was set as two long tables, perpendicular to the picture window. Despite the soft room lighting, the tables were well lit, presumably by directed downlighting. First courses were a leek & cauliflower veloute or beef francobolli pasta with ricotta, fennel, and rosemary. Portion sizes could be described as “delicate”, but beautifully presented. Barbara Lynch is famous for her pasta, and the perfect texture of the francobolli was just another example from her empire. A lovely chenin blanc (Chidaine Monlouis-sur-Loire “Les Choisilles”) accompanied the first course; it’s been years since I last tasted a chenin, and I had forgotten (if I every fully appreciated) how distinctive yet food-friendly the grape is.

Mains were cod or Berkshire pork . I’m normally not a fan of fish skin – it often seems that if it is crispy, the flesh is overcooked, or vice versa, with the skin oily. The skin on the cod was perfectly crisp and savory, yet the flesh was just so – delightfully moist. Didn’t sample the pork, but the presentation was lovely, a rosy cylinder of meat nicely bedecked with chestnut, bacon jam, and black truffle.

Following the main course I was ushered out of the room for a bit. The manager attending our party suggested a tour of the kitchen. At first I thought he might be joking, because it was mid-service. He wasn’t - I was ushered into a corner near the entrance that offered an excellent vantage point. The kitchen was packed with people, but as hushed as a library. Everything was in precise order; each staff member has a mise en place that occupied no more than about 10 square feet, meaning they could probably simply lean to reach anything. The chef de cuisine, Scott Jones, stood at a table in the center of the room, surveying orders and plates. He would call out orders – not loudly – and everyone in the room would respond in unison with “oui chef!” He graciously took a few moments to introduce himself. I was mesmerized by the action and could have spent half the evening just watching.

Across from the entrance to the kitchen from the main dining room there was a large picture window. Behind the window is the “chef’s table”. It looks like it could comfortably accommodate 8-10 people. Note to self – bucket list. On the way back to the private dining room, I got a good look at the cheese cart – another note to self.

Dessert consisted of mascarpone cheesecake (that my SO raved about for days) and a “Bete Noire” flourless chocolate cake with hazelnut, sherry, and sultana.

Aside from the first-hand experience of the gracious service, I can report a few experiences my SO shared about organizing a private party at Menton. She described the staff as extremely helpful while planning the dinner. Surprisingly, she said of the various venues she considered, Menton was very reasonably priced. The private dining room meant that one didn’t need to buy out the restaurant - and there was no room charge. They were very respectful of her budget constraints, and with the help of a co-conspirator, some lower-cost wines from their impressive list acquitted themselves admirably. With wine being charged based on consumption, some venues will “push” wine, keeping glasses constantly filled. The staff didn’t push, but neither were they stingy.

All in all not simply a delightful evening – but one I’ll long treasure. Perhaps not a proxy for the experience in the main dining room, but I can say that the experience whetted my appetite for a return visit to try the tasting menu.

Raw Bar Scallops?

Had them once at Royal East in Cambridge. They weren't on the menu, but we went with a friend of the owner and got the "Royal" treatment. Served in the shell, they were fabulous.

Fun 40th birthday dinner in Boston

Second that - Salty Pig is perfect for a light-hearted celebration.

Best Boston spot for 50th Wedding Anniversary @35 ppl?

Consider Menton. My SO just organized a suprise b'day for me with 26 people; their room could handle 35 comfortably. I think many people assume the $$$ for a private event at Menton would be stratospheric, but my SO reports they were very accommodating of a strict budget; no room charge and you don't have to do a buy out. The room is gorgeous - large window overlooking Congress St., and doesn't feel like a banquet room. I'll post more about the event in a separate thread.

Liquid Art House

Visited Tuesday 11/5. The space is more impressive than the photographs convey. The high ceilings in the central room/bar lend an air of grandeur that's amplified by the gorgeous glass (Murano) chandelier. The stone-faced columns have been restored and look fabulous. Whether the art (that rotates) resonates with you or not, there's no denying it's space that is meant for displaying art. The dining room has lower ceilings and a more intimate feel, and the light fixtures (also Murano?) echo the pieces of the larger chandelier.

The highlights of the evening had to be the dumplings. The tart cherry/foie gras dumplings are amazing. Though I agree with other Hounds that the prices seem a bit dear, they (cherry/foie gras) are in a class with the prune gnocchi at No. 9 Park. I also loved the beautiful piece of Faroe Islands salmon with crisp skin but medium-rare flesh that also garnered praise from a DC. A trio of sorbets ranged from coconut that lacked conviction to a delicious (but wholly conventional) fruit, and a carrot-ginger that stole the show (and woke up any snoozing tastebuds).

Rachel Klein stopped by the table and was funny and gracious. After dinner (and service was winding down) we got an invitation to visit the kitchen. One of the line cooks (Carolina?) gave us a tour. The impressive rotisserie had been broken down already - it would be fun to see it loaded in action. Had a nice chat with her and the pastry chef. Their enthusiasm and affection for the place was infectious.

Interesting that despite the ambitious menu prices, the wine list included more than a handful of bottles at very reasonable tariffs - e.g. an Argyle pinot for $45 - very reasonable. Didn't have a chance to try any of the cocktails, but I look forward to a return visit to sit at the bar.

Who's featuring local (New England) cheeses?

Can't make it but would love to read a report from a Hound who can!

see http://lespalier.com/events/cheesetue...

Who's featuring local (New England) cheeses?

Made it to Salty Pig over the weekend. Lot's of fun, although only two local cheeses were on offer - a stracciatella from MA, delicious - and a bloomy rind cows milk from Jasper Hill (VT). The Jasper Hill was a bit of a dissappointment - nice texture but fairly bland, reminding me of mass-market brie.

Sadly chicken liver mousse wasn't on offer. In general, the web site is outdated. And my SO and daughter were a bit put off by watching the "hands on" approach in the open kitchen. My SO cringed at the hand-portioning of salads after watching the same fingers put to mouth for tasting. My 10-year-old described it as watching a chef teach someone new "how to put his hands in food".

Two desserts were wonderful - a pear budino with chocolate and hazelnut and a millefoglie with apple and caramel. We liked that neither was overly sweet.

Overall we enjoyed it enough to look forward to a return visit. We love the approach to grazing.

Who's featuring local (New England) cheeses?

No doubt Ihsan would have the definitive say on this topic, though where's the fun in that?

I recall past mentions of Salty Pig on CH but never looked into it before. Checking out their web site it looks like they have my number. Can't believe I ignored them.

Who's featuring local (New England) cheeses?

sounds great - the festival web site is a quick way to scout the VT cheese producers

it's great that L' Espalier is featuring local cheeses...but I would love to find a more casual Boston-area venue where you could describe what you like to the bartender and have her assemble a plate of local cheeses

is it just me or do American cheese makers in general face a nomenclature problem? we don't seem to yet have our own vernacular...and some artisanal cheese names - great though the cheeses may be - are, well, silly...and not terribly helpful

How do I replace Hamersley's as my "go to" special occasion restaurant? (Very detailed list of criteria inside!)

Jenny - fired up a separate thread on regional cheeses - and I'm learning already.

Who's featuring local (New England) cheeses?

Wow - interesting combination as Woodcock use only sheep and cow milk, Ruggles appears to use only goat. Haven't experienced Ruggles, looking forward to popping by Formaggio Kitchen to pick some up. Today Woodcock was selling a ripened sheep's milk "experiment" at the Norwich farmer's market - stinky in the extreme, went beautifully with the last of the heirloom tomatoes, a baguette from King Arthur Flour, and a bottle of '05 Landmark Steel Plow Syrah.

Who's featuring local (New England) cheeses?

Thanks Penny - nice to know about the Salon option. Do you know what local cheeses they've offered?

Who's featuring local (New England) cheeses?

A thread devoted to finding a successor to Hamersley's (thanks johnblacksox) raised the interesting question of why local cheeses seem to be MIA from Boston-area tables. Given the farm-to-table movement, you would think places would be featuring the phenomenal artisanal cheeses now being produced in MA, VT, and across NE. Cases in point: Vermont Creamery, Jasper Hill Farm, and my new favorite, Woodcock Farm. The are all producing cheeses that do not take a back seat to the best from Europe. Are they making their way to Boston tables? Where??? (Thanks to Jenny Ondioline for suggesting this thread.)

How do I replace Hamersley's as my "go to" special occasion restaurant? (Very detailed list of criteria inside!)

Well, here we are. My SO is smiling and saying I told you so.

I mentioned to Gordon he should check out this thread - I've certainly enjoyed it. Many thanks JBSX for sharing the journey.

And I agree with you about local cheese. We've fallen hard for several from Woodcock Farm in VT - we pick them up at the Norwich VT farmers market. In WI you see local cheeses featured prominently (try Etoile in Madison) and Chicago too for that matter (try Blackbird for artisanal Illinois and Indiana cheeses). Why not in Boston???

How do I replace Hamersley's as my "go to" special occasion restaurant? (Very detailed list of criteria inside!)

Made our pilgramage to Hammerley's last night for a final farewell. Four of us dined well, of course, and made it through 4 courses in just under two hours without feeling rushed - a testament to the efficiency of the kitchen and waitstaff. Gordon was gracious as always, but there were two notable differences - he spent much of the night off the line greeting patrons and signing menus, and he was wearing a Patriots cap instead of his normal Red Sox cap (a statement about their season, I suppose). Our server confirmed that the Gallows team is taking over the space. But more interesting was her response when we asked what she knew of Jason Hanelt's plans. She smiled broadly and would only say that her future was tied to his - and to stay tuned. Perhaps Jason will take up the mantle of Hammersley's and provide the special-occasion venue we are looking for in the post-Hammersley's era. She also mentioned that they are taking normal bookings for the final night (in contrast to the final night in the previous location across the street, which was a fund-raiser). That is likely to be a lively evening.

Fiona was not in the house, apparently working at home devising a plan to wind down the wine collection gracefully.

October 2014 Openings and Closings

MC - any insights into Comedor you can share?

Looking forward to Besito - the West Hartford location is one of the few Mexican restaurants my SO can abide. Tableside guac service is awesome.

ISO north-of-Boston stores with extensive wine selections

True enough, but even the blind squirrel gets a nut once in a while. They occasionally have amazing deals on wines you would hardly expect. The web site for the NH state liquor stores is fantastic. Their entire catalog is online and you can find near real-time inventory, so you don't need to drive or call around to see which stores have a particular wine. It's wise to keep an eye on their sales (which change monthly) and their "power buys".

ISO north-of-Boston stores with extensive wine selections

The best tool for locating specific wines is wine-searcher.com

Better yet, start with cellartracker.com, for crowd-sourced rankings and reviews. Then use the cross-links there to find a place that sells it on wine-searcher.com

How do I replace Hamersley's as my "go to" special occasion restaurant? (Very detailed list of criteria inside!)

JBSox: thanks for revisiting the thread. Enjoyed your thoughtful replies up and down.

Since last posting, I've had a change of heart about my Sycamore recommendation (been there at least 4 times in the interim). It is NOT the Hamersly's replacement we are looking for - only in the sense that it should not be reserved for special occasions. It lacks formality - bare wooden tables - but the food is alluring. My SO and I have come to the conclusion that it is our new "Rendezvous".

And I concur that the trend is toward informality - though I miss the theatricality of places like Maitre Jacques, Maison Robert, Locke Ober. What's wrong with a starched linen table cloth now and then?

That said, I think I have a new suggestion, long a favorite but it didn't occur to me to suggest it. Unfortunately its a bit of a drive, but worth it for those once or twice a year special occasions. Simon Pearce in Quechee, VT. In an old mill building, overlooking falls and a covered bridge (new since the floods, but still charming). Lunches are informal, but at dinner the linen comes out. As romantic as the setting is, the food is what keeps us going back. A few of their classics - they've tried to remove them, but can't - include roasted cod topped with crispy leeks (not doing it total justice - check their menu) and a dessert of walnut meringues with raspberry sauce. Excellent wine program too. A bit over two hours from Boston, so it requires an overnight stay, but that only adds to the specialness of the occasion.

Looking forward to my last visit to Hamersley's in a couple of weeks, which reminds me of a couple of Hamersley's anecdotes. Before the move to their current digs from across the street, Deanna worked the front of the house and dated Nick of the Blue Room. In my bachelor days I was in a bit more frequently. One evening I brought a date to the Blue Room. Nick looks up with a big grin as I enter and says "So you're slumming tonight? Heard you were at Hamersley's last night!" As much as I love Nick, that was awkward, as it was a different date the night before.

The VERY LAST NIGHT in the old location, Hamersley's had two seatings. When I arrived for the second seating, it turned out Julia Child and company had the same table at the first seating. We chatted at the cross-over - standing in the middle of the restaurant - for close to 15 minutes.

Let us know your decision on a Hamersley's replacement, and Bon Appetit!

September 2014 Openings and Closings

Respectfully disagree about Market. No one is making soups/infusions with such intensity of flavor and rich mouth feel without cream. I don't know how Vongrichten does it. This is one of the reasons I love Jean-George, too. The sous vide salmon was other-wordly. Other than Sunday brunch, when the room could be sparsely populated, we found dinner to be well-attended on the half-dozen or so times we visited.