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Belly is all bubbles

I don't know why Belly in Kendall isn't always packed. Between the great outdoor patio space, knowledgeable and friendly service, and eclectic collection of things to drink and munch on, it's one of our favorite spots. Heading there this past weekend, we were surprised and pleased to see that their entire wine list right now is comprised of bubblies. Red, rose, white- all with varying degrees of sparkles. Head there now and taste 2 oz pours for $4-5. But don't tell too many people because I love that I can always get a seat without waiting...

toddler-friendly fine dining?

Island Creek Oyster Bar is a favorite here with excellent seafood and a lively scene that could easily accomodate a toddler.

Oleana is a personal and board favorite and if you're able to make it over to Cambridge on a nice day, the outside patio garden is so wonderful to dine on with kids. Fountains, birds, things to look at. You're probably eating on the early side anyways, so if you go right when they open your odds of snagging a patio seat are good. That would be my personal pick.

Live Lobster prices- please share what you see!

Would you mind telling me which MB? Never can find much bigger than 1.25# at Somerville.

Ramen in Chinatown (with the kids!)??

Well, this is completely not what you're asking about but since others have chimed in with recs in the Porter Square area, I'll just put in a plug for Snappy Ramen with little kids. They will bring extra bowls for sharing, do a side of extra plain noodles for $2, and it's not rushed or crowded unlike Yume. So if your tykes want to do a ride on the red line, consider Davis for Snappy Ramen. Our kids also have liked Sapporo in the Porter Exchange building which is a fun outing on a bad-weather day because there's plenty of space inside to run off steam for little ones.

Iced coffee on Nitro?

That's about the same price as an iced latte. To me, it's comparable in that it's a specialty cold coffee drink. So I think the price is completely fair. Had one yesterday from Forge as well (they must be wondering who's posting about it)- since it's the only one I've had, I don't have a basis of comparison. I agree it didn't seem very carbonated, but on par with a lot of cask beer I've had. I liked it. If you're a cask beer afficionado, I can see this being a regular thing. Otherwise, it was an interesting novelty but not something I'd drink all the time.

Popular (and Successful) vs. Good

Agree. I had to struggle to prioritize and Painted Burro bothers me the most and is so often packed, but there are at least 5 other places I'd put in this category in Davis. Will this change?

2 days in Boston with 12-13 yr olds, what eateries not to miss?

I think ice cream is our hometown favorite dessert. I read that MA leads the nation in per capita ice cream consumption. You might try to find something like Moose tracks or grapenut ice cream- New England specialities, but someone else will have to direct you to what's nearby the rest of your agenda.

Popular (and Successful) vs. Good

It's easy to point to chains and celeb chef outposts in this category. The type of place that gets me is somewhere like the Painted Burro which is always packed and hits way below the level of food I'd hope for.

And just to give a contrarian viewpoint, I LOVE eating outside. Not that I will put up with mediocre food to do so, but it does elevate my overall experience, traffic and all.

What to do about adulterated EVOO and what to cook with?

Having read some exposes on the olive oil industry, I'm looking for opinions on what types of oils you use. For those who haven't read up lately, apparently the supermarket extra virgin olive oils are basically a scam. Unless it's from California or super-high-end, your average EVOO is a blend of various crap with additives and flavor enhancements and maybe some coloring. So, we have switched to buying a small bottle of CA EVOO for salads and raw uses. But what am I supposed to cook with? I can't afford to use larger quantities of the good stuff, nor does it make sense due to the lower smoking point. Do people just use canola oil? Sometimes that seems fine, but as example what about for brushing on veggies to grill? What would you use for that? Have company coming over and will probably use 1/2 cup on the grill. Canola seems kind of boring. What about plain "olive oil" (as opposed to EVOO). I put it in quotes because who knows what's really in it- the exposes I read didn't cover that! Thanks.

Jun 07, 2015
Parsnipity in General Topics

June 2015 Openings and Closings

Kindred Tea & Tonic in Davis is now papered over and I haven't seen lights on there for quite some time. They were "opening" for what, two years? And open for about two months...

Giant Subs?

Anyone know if the Somerville Market Basket can do these? They have such a limited deli area and don't make subs to order, I would want to confirm from someone who's actually had a 6' one before ordering that it's comparable to the Market Baskets with more extensive prepared foods areas.

Itchy skate wing question and possible Roche Bros. downhill alert

Yeah, I'm guessing some sort of ammonia contact-irritant. I returned a piece of skate to whole foods once for an overwhelming ammonia smell. Some distant zoology lesson about cartilaginous fishes including sharks, skates & rays processing ammonia and urea differently comes bubbling to the surface. Bob, it would be exceedingly rare to have 3 people (2 unrelated I assume ;)) have simultaneous development of an anaphylactic-type allergy. By the way, I like your style in feeding the little hound skate.

True Japanese-trained sushi chefs?

They are about to again soon...

Dinner Tuscan Kitchen Burlington ?

I was actually just there for a work dinner meeting recently. It would never otherwise have occurred to me to leave my normal stomping grounds of Camberville for a chain restaurant in a giant office park. We were in a private function room with seating for at least 150. I can't say for sure to settle the above argument, but there is a lot of seating there. Someone I was sitting with also mentioned that she'd tried to get a reservation recently and was unable to, and arrived a separate time to a 3 hour wait. I don't really comprehend how that's possible, but them are the facts.

The food was okay. Granted, it was a buffet style catered corporate dinner. Specifically, there was a mushroom ravioli that was excellent with obviously house-made pasta and slivers of short rib in a rich sauce. Other items were less stand-out, and the slabs of beef were extremely tough- not even clear what cut they were- and completely unseasoned. I'd give it a solid "B". Dessert was served on a platter in the middle of the table with an assortment of pastries. A few has some ice cream component and had obvious freezer-funk like they'd been cut a week ago into single servings and sat uncovered next to a bunch of other food.

I don't know- I can't see waiting hours to eat there, or driving up from Boston/Cambridge/Somerville/Brookline, but if you get the option of a free dinner, well, load up on the pasta.

Noor Mediterranean Grill -Excellent Shawerma!!

Yeah, we're switching to Noor exclusively even though the location is not as convenient. Shawarma Place last week was a disaster. Smaller wraps, incompetent counter help, and they've moved the prep area so you can no longer see and point at which toppings you want or see them make the shawarmas. Boo.

Strip T's is going Izakaya

They did this for a week a couple of years ago just before the re-re-invention as sandwiches only. We had an anniversary dinner planned well in advance and were unaware of the Izakaya-only menu. I can't say we were wowed by the food, and actually haven't been back since although we were huge fans their first few years and made the trek quite a few times.

A little fancy, feels like a good value, veggie friendly?

I think Bergamot is a good option. The vibe, availability of parking for someone coming in from out of town, excellent service. It's worth a look by the OP at least.

April 2015 Openings and Closings

Oh, wow. I never knew how to spell oounc oounc before. This board is such an education.

Meju in Davis Sq.-Anyone Excited?

We made it over here last night finally. I love what they've done to the space- hard to believe it used to be McDonalds! It was pretty busy at 7, possibly due to the independent film festival going on. We followed some recs from the Globe review and tried the flat dumplings, which had a bit of a kick to them, but were kind of greasy. I liked, but did not love, them. I went with a scallion pancake and roasted mushrooms for my dinner and my DC had the spicy pork bulgogi (spicy is their characterization; not mine). The pancake was light and crisp so I figure their oil temp is good, which makes the greasiness of several other items more troubling. The mushrooms were a highlight- a generous portion, nicely seasoned. I was happy to pay $10 for them. Some of the other dishes did not justify their price tag. The pork bulgogi was tender, but lacked any sort of sear or evidence of exposure to high heat. It was also quite sweet for my palate and not at all spicy. Personally, I prefer Buk Kyung's version, as does my wallet.

Service was very friendly, but not that capable. Ban chan did not arrive til after all the other dishes, which I found odd especially given the Globe review had mentioned that as a problem. You would have thought they would corrected it by now. We received complimentary mochi due to a very long wait between dishes, which was thoughtful but did not altogether make up for other lapses such as having to wave my empty water glass over my head repeatedly to get it refilled. The food in general was pretty salty, so this is an issue.

I'm not sure what to think about Meju. I love the space and vibe, and can't comment on cocktails as we weren't drinking. Perhaps its function is best for drinks and nibbles? I think there's an inherent difficulty in doing upscale Asian because diners make the calculation that they can get twice as much food which also tastes delicious somewhere else. It's really a question of whether people are willing to pay for the experience on the whole because nothing convinced me that their food was qualitatively different than other Korean joints in the area, with the exception of some fusiony menu options. It will be interesting to see how this pans out longer term.

Knife sharpening recs (NOT on the edge)?

Can't believe no one's mentioned them yet either as a negative or positive, but my practice sends our surgical scissors and tools to Siraco Sharpening in Somerville- they do all sorts of blades including lawnmowers, scissors, whatever. My husband and I use a Chef's Choice Pro for our regular knives and have been very happy with it- we have the Wusthof Cordon Bleu as our main knives, and a couple of other odds and ends. Our 12" serrated bread knife goes to Siraco every so often and they do get it sharp although you can see some significant wear and scratching around the serrations. I'd be curious to see what all you knife enthusiasts have to say about Siraco. They pick up at Tags Hardware in Porter so you can leave blades for sharpening at the desk downstairs.

Budapest 4/15 trip report

Just got back from a lovely week in Budapest and wanted to share my experiences since there seemed to be a bit of a dearth of information.

Our first dinner was at Konyha which my sister picked because it is right around the corner from our hotel and I'd just gotten in from 16 hours of travel. It turned out to be a lovely restaurant and we returned for breakfast another day. It's near Deak Ferenc, which is a main public transit hub on the Pest side of the river and turned out to be an excellent location overall. The restaurant is simple, very friendly English-speaking staff, and they do make a real effort to source fresh local ingredients. Their whole trout stuffed with lemons and herbs, grilled, and served over a bed of arugula, was excellent. The rest of my party was vegetarian and we weren't drinking but our bill still came out to about US $12 each for dinner and a few shared salads and soups. Amazing. Breakfast a few days later was really excellent- a nice chewy bagel with poached egg and a sort of a creamed spinach/pesto hybrid topping. Kept me completely filled up all day for about $2.50 US.

Other breakfasts were not as successful. We loved the coffee at Bluebird Cafe and Coffee Roastery (in the Gozsdu plaza area, a giant mass of mostly bars and restaurants), but their pastries and breakfasts were pretty awful. Get an americano to go and pickup food elsewhere. Also, in what just strikes me as weird, they sprinkle just about everything you order with peanuts. This would be a giant no-no in the US due to allergy concerns. I really did not expect my cinnamon bun to be slathered in sauce and peanuts when it came to the table, and when I asked if those were in fact peanuts on top, they first denied it, then confirmed it, and never offered to take it off the bill or get me anything else. (I'm not allergic; I just don't like unexpected peanuts) The next day, we went back because the coffee was just such a good antidote for jet lag and I was served a small plate of pancakes... covered in peanuts.

For lunch, we fell into the tourist trap of Fashion street once. It's hard to pass through and not eat. I enjoyed a plate of sausage and stuffed cabage, but compared to food everywhere else, it was quite expensive.

However, do NOT miss the Kürtőskalács "chimney cake" pastries in the fashion street tourist area. They are fantastic and unlike anything else I've had. I tried to convince a vendor to move to the US, assuring him he'd become rich, but no deal. They are rolled sweet yeasted dough which is wrapped around a special wooden dowel then roasted on a spit over coals. The layer of sugar on the outside caramelizes and the dough on the inside remains soft and puffy. Please, someone come make them in Boston.

Our one fancy meal ended up being lunch at Borokhonyha, also near Deac Ferenc and which recently received a very good write up in the NYT. Probably owing to that, they were unable to take us for dinner. No matter, lunch was fantastic. When they heard us discussing the term "pike perch", the waiter brought over a fish atlas and gave us a very nice zoologic explanation. This is the kind of service that gets you a Michelin star. I would highly recommend making a reservation and having a meal there because although it's a fancy restaurant by Budapest standards, the prices are still very reasonable overall so this is your chance to experience a high level of dining on a budget.

A few other meals- a nice dinner at Trattoria Pomo D'Oro. Very old-world Italian feel. I had an excellent duck breast and the vegetarian members of our party were happy with their flatbreads and pasta. Even with a few glasses of wine, our party of 4 had dinner for $60 US.

We had one dinner at Pater Marcus, a Belgian Beer pub on the Buda side of the river near the castle. Let's just say they didn't convince me they'd been to Belgium. They only have about 10 beers on tap, trending heavily toward very fruity selections, and the food was really not very good. I got off flavors from some mussels, and the "frites" were mushy wedge fries of the Sizzler Steakhouse circa 1980 type (a lousy American chain steakhouse for those wondering what I'm talking about). Budapest seems to have a pretty good wine culture going, but if this was their venture into beer they're going to have to step it up a notch before I'm impressed.

We had an interesting Georgian dinner at Hachapuri- I was completely unfamiliar with Georgian food, and would love to explore more. I liked the ambiance at the restaurant and we were able to order by pointing at pictures on the menu which had good English descriptions. This was good, because the staff didn't speak much English. Dessert after that was a trip to the Bookstore Cafe, an architectural gem of a mirrored, gilded ballroom hidden upstairs in a bookstore. Again, stale awful pastries and cakes. Have a cup of tea and then get some gelato if you must, but worth it for the decor and wow factor of the space.

That about sums up the eating. Oh- if you're there on a Sunday, do try to visit the Farmer's Market which is located inside the Ruin Bars not far from Deac Ferenc. We had to have someone help us find the entrance but it's pretty amazing once you're in there. Lunch of fresh yogurt, sausage and cheeses is a nice break from restaurant meals and you can find lots of nice food gifts which are a cut above the typical tourist bag of paprika.

Apr 16, 2015
Parsnipity in Europe

Places to eat near Tufts?

Do you know where? I must have missed this...

Don't Waste Your Allowance on Ordinary Sweets! Hold Out for the Good Stuff; Hold Out for Paris Baguette!

Is that a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang reference? If so, I *heart* your post.

ISO: Thick-shelled white eggs for pysanky (Ukrainian dyed Easter eggs)

Thanks!

ISO: Thick-shelled white eggs for pysanky (Ukrainian dyed Easter eggs)

I am looking for some higher-quality white eggs. As a kid, we used to blow out raw eggs to dye for pysanky- Ukrainian dyed Easter eggs. Most of the eggs I buy now are brown, and I tried blowing out some super market white ones and they are so thin and fragile that I couldn't do it. Meanwhile, I have beautiful eggs from 25 years ago that have survived. Are they making eggs thinner these days? Anyone have a lead on some uniformly-colored and thick-shelled white eggs?
Thanks!

Meju in Davis Sq.-Anyone Excited?

Huh. Thanks for sharing. It had kind of fallen off my radar, largely due to lack of chow chatter, but also partly due to the higher-than-expected prices based on the initial soft opening menu. It's back on my list now. Will report when I can...

Where to take four young kids in Cambridge/Somerville

Highland Kitchen is a great choice for that age group, but as for getting a table it depends on the night. If it's a weeknight, we've done well at 6, but not on a Friday or Saturday. Sometimes even Thursday it can be pretty busy by 6, and if you miss that "first seating" where all tables have just sat, it can be a long wait.

We've enjoyed Christopher's with kids. You could also do "dinner for breakfast" somewhere like the Friendly Toast. Kids love that.

ETA- Mary Chungs! See my prior posts on the amazing kid friendliness of the waitstaff- to the point where they will somehow get your kids to eat greens. And what 3 year old wouldn't be excited about their own order of dumplings? Only downside I can think of is a bit of a busy street and walk with the little ones either from parking or the T.
By the way, you're brave. Wanna add two more little girls to your party?

Durkee spices

As much as I love Cooks's Illustrated, remember they're writing for a national audience and need to point people toward brands they have a chance of finding. I take their national brand recs with a grain of salt, given that we have much more availability of smaller name or ethnic products here. While they write for people who love to cook and eat, I think they consciously steer away from a foodie or Chow take on products, in other words settling for "available" vs "obsessive searching for the absolute best or cheapest". I'd be interested to hear if anyone does find Durkee and compare it to say, Badia or a brand from an Indian market.

Budapest - rustic/traditional? help, please

Bump.
Boston hound here. Will be in Budapest in April visiting my sister who is a vegetarian (I'm not) and who, despite living in Budapest for a year, claims to have not eaten much noteworthy. Looking for interesting dining that I wouldn't be able to find here in a major US city.
Simon, any finds to report back?

Feb 26, 2015
Parsnipity in Europe

What new spot would you try?

And I personally would pick Alden & Harlow over Ribelle and Giulia, although I think you would not go wrong with any of those.