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Mike & Patty’s (Boston, MA) – A “Fancy” Breakfast From A Neighborhood Gem

April 25, 2011

When I’m in a new city, I love finding places like Mike and Patty’s because I feel like I’ve stumbled upon the neighborhood gem.

Situated on a quiet street corner, behind an unassuming storefront with no visible signage (excluding its little paper sign hanging in the window), Mike and Patty’s feels cozy and familiar as soon as you walk through the swinging screen door. It’s a little space – it barely seats 12 – but honestly, I couldn’t imagine it any other way. This place has character…and the best breakfast sandwich I’ve had in a long time.

The bacon and egg (fancy) – a couple slices of bacon, semi-runny eggs, cheddar, avocado and red onion placed between two lightly toasted slices of multi-grain bread – has the ideal balance of texture and flavor. The smear of house mayo – a smoky, garlicky, peppery concoction – elevates this sandwich from ordinary to awesomely satisfying.

Mike & Patty’s
12 Church St.
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 423-3447
Website: http://www.mikeandpattys.com/
Twitter: @MikeandPattys

Mike & Patty's on Urbanspoon

Cooking with Fel – Time to Cook the Books

April 17, 2011

Now I realize that it’s been a while since I’ve done a Cooking with Fel post and it’s not because I haven’t been cooking or that I’ve been lazy (which always seems like the reason I don’t post) – I’ve just been uninspired recently. Although it’s spring, the weather in NYC has been very fickle recently so I haven’t been able to explore the farmers markets as much as I would like.  Without my farmers markets, I’ve just been buying and cooking the same old stuff and…well…honestly, I’m bored of it all.

To get myself pumped about cooking again, I’ve decided I’m going to do two things:

  1. I’m going back to the farmers market once the weather starts warming up again.
  2. When I really feel uninspired, I’ll try to cook my way through the Williams Sonoma Cooking at Home cookbook.

Why this particular cookbook? Well, quite honestly, it’s the only cookbook I own right now. But, I think it’s a good one to work from – the techniques are straightforward, the recipes don’t involve a gazillion ingredients (which is one of my pet peeves about most cookbooks, seeing that I’m typically just cooking for myself and can’t afford to fill an entire fridge for one recipe) and the book is 640 pages long, with recipes for salad, dessert and everything in between, so I doubt I’m going to run out of things to cook anytime soon.

So let’s see how this new project of mine turns out! Hopefully this will get me back into the cooking groove again…

Sportello (Boston, MA) – A Lucky Find

April 8, 2011

Usually when I go to a new city on vacation, I heavily scout restaurants out before hand and make reservations long before I arrive. However for this past Boston trip, with the exception of Neptune Oyster (which was the only “must-go” on our list), Jenn and I winged the entire thing.

Sportello was one of these impromptu dining choices and it paid off, big time. The restaurant is primarily counter-seating, with its long marble counter zigzagging through most of the space and an open kitchen behind that. This is a place where you can either dress up or down – your choice – and still feel perfectly at ease and comfortable wearing whatever you decide. Walking in, I already had a feeling that this was going to be a fun meal.

As usual, the meal began with bread; however, a little dish of ricotta cheese, figs and olive oil was provided instead of butter. (It’s hard not to fill yourself up on bread when you’re provided with a creamy, sweet start like that – I think we went through at least two of them.)

The warm octopus salad was fantastic as well – tender octopus, sweet roasted peppers and fingerling potatoes linked in a light dressing.

The gnocchi in my main course were light and fluffy but were tossed in a creamy, rich sauce with peas and mushrooms. Although tasty, the serving was rather large given the heaviness of the sauce – this is a dish best shared with another.

We finished our meal with an affogato. Essentially a chilled sabayon (which had the consistency of semi-melted soft-serve) topped with two shots of espresso, it was the perfect pick-me-up after my heavy entrée.

With it’s casual yet classy atmosphere and fantastic food, Sportello was definitely a lucky find!

Sportello
348 Congress Street
Boston, MA 02210
(617) 737-1234
Website: http://www.sportelloboston.com/

Sportello on Urbanspoon

M. Wells (Queens, NY) – Brunch Food of My Dreams

March 16, 2011

So let’s talk about brunch. Brunch is a big deal in NYC. Like, a big effing deal. Crowds congregating outside, lines out the door…Seriously, you don’t mess with brunch.

M. Wells doesn’t mess with brunch. Although they now serve dinner, there was once a time when this little diner in Long Island City only served food from 10AM-4PM. Basically, it served brunch. But brunch food here isn’t your typical eggs and toast or pancakes and maple syrup. Oh no, with a chef formerly from Au Pied de Cochon, a restaurant in Quebec known for its liberal use of foie gras, this is the brunch food of my dreams.

———-

Upon ordering, the originally indifferent waitress gave us a little smile. “I love the way you eat!” (Btw, I love the way I eat too.)  What did we order? Well…

We started brunch with bone marrow with escargot…

Plump escargot on the bottom, fatty marrow on the top. Give me this instead of butter and toast any morning.

Followed that with a plate of frog legs in a garlic cream sauce…

The crispy frog legs were fantastic, but the garlic cream sauce was the deal sealer. Don’t let them take away your plate unless you’re positive you’re not going to want any more – they took ours away early in the meal (granted, the frog legs were all gone) but we eyed every subsequent plate of cream sauce with longing faces.

Then moved onto the beef tartare…

It’s like steak and eggs! Only not.

And ended brunch with the daily special: a blood sausage hash with braised leeks.

Deliciously offal, the blood sausage was luxuriously smooth and had none of that graininess that I’ve experienced with other blood sausages. The braised leeks and apples in the hash were a sweet compliment.

———-

Like I said before, brunch is serious business in New York, and M. Wells is serious about brunch. (Now to go back to see if it’s as serious about dinner…)

M. Wells – CLOSED
21-17 49th Ave
Long Island City, NY 11101
(718) 425-6917
Website: http://www.mwellsdiner.com/

M Wells on Urbanspoon

Bodega (Manhattan, NY) – A Pop-Up with Top Chef Dale Talde

March 15, 2011

It may have been on hiatus but I think it’s time for a revival – the Tour de Top Chef is back, NYC style!

———-

Let me just start off by saying, I got lucky with this one. I knew Top Chef Dale Talde was doing a pop-up in NYC. I knew that the only information Eater and the other food sites had was that it was going to be called “Bodega” and that it was going to be on the Bowery. And I knew I wanted to get in. Desperately.

Enter the wonderful world of Twitter. I follow Dale on Twitter and happened to see this particular tweet on a fateful Sunday: “I’ve got a couple of spots that opened up got this Saturdays pop up of bodega who’s interested?

…A couple twitter messages and an email later, I was IN.

I had read about how the locale for Bodega was going to be a converted warehouse; however, considering it was essentially a storage room, they dolled up the space quite nicely. Metal shelves were pushed to the side to form a relatively large dining room complete with five small communal tables covered in tablecloths and heavy flatware. The area was covered in a dull, comforting glow thanks to the Edison bulbs hanging from the ceiling. (I assume these were in the space originally but they really contributed to the ambiance of it all.) On the far side of the room by the window was “the kitchen” – based my quick peek, it looked like a bunch of folding tables covered in cooking equipment.

Snacks were passed around upon arrival:

Bacon, Egg and Cheese – Deviled Egg, Benton’s Bacon, Aged Wisconsin Cheddar

Bacon, eggs and cheese – it’s a tried and true combination. Simple, but tasty.

Tuna Melt – Tuna, Melted Lardo, Saltines

I had a brief conversation about Dale’s tuna melt with another attendee and we both agreed – this is one of the best things we’ve ever eaten on a saltine cracker.

Milk Style Ramen – 6 Minute Egg, Pork Belly

First off, can I just say – presentation-wise, serving ramen in a Cup Noodles cup? Freaking awesome.

Comfortable and familiar in flavor, this was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The runny yolk from my 6-minute egg accidentally melted into the broth while I was taking the above picture (I know I should have just eaten it but then you wouldn’t have gotten a picture!) but, if anything, it made the broth even more rich and savory. I did wish there were more noodles with a bit more bite to them – the ones I fished out of my cup were short, limp pieces. (However, considering this was the first entree and given the portions of the subsequent dishes, it was probably better that I didn’t overload on carbs.)

Pork Tamale – Green Chile Braised Pork, Cheddar Grits, Chicharron

My other favorite of the night. Served in a corn husk, the usual masa was replaced with a pile of grits, which I thought was a clever swap. The combination of cheesy grits, tender pork, fried chicharron, creamy sauce (sour cream? creme fraiche? can’t remember) and crisp radish made for a satisfying bite.

Pastrami Style Beef Brisket – Rye Croutons, Braised Cabbage

The only course I questioned throughout the night, I couldn’t understand what made the brisket “pastrami style”. My understanding of pastrami is that meat is cured, dry rubbed and then smoked and steamed. However, from what I could tell, this brisket was sauced, with flavors more on the sweeter side. The meat also had a funny chewiness to it that I couldn’t put my finger on. (I was just thoroughly confused.)

Rack of Venison – Cervena Venison, Dried Blueberries, Buttermilk Crumble

Right before this course came out, I overheard that the “kitchen” was freezing cold and that the chefs were trying to keep the venison warm – if there were any problems though, I wasn’t able to detect it from tasting that piece of meat. Perfectly cooked, absolutely tender, without a hint of gaminess… this was one of the best prepared pieces of venison I’ve had. I also liked the buttermilk crumble, which tasted like little shortbread pieces with a slight hint of graham cracker.

Chinese Broccoli – Pickled Banana Peppers, Spiced Corn Crumbs

The menu states the little red things above were made of corn but our waiter said it was chicharron – not quite sure who’s right. (I personally think it was corn; they tasted exactly like Flaming Hot Cheetos!). Whatever it was, I liked it – the slight spiciness complimented the tangy banana peppers; the crunchiness contrasted against the vegetables.

Potato Chip and Pretzel Tart with Salted Chocolate Ganache, Avocado Milkshake

We ended the meal with an avocado milkshake and Dale’s $5,000 cookie from the recent cookie/Muppet episode of Top Chef.

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Dale said himself that Bodega’s concept “is all about having the old Dominican guy who’s been in the neighborhood for 25 years walk in, not knowing it’s my joint“, and I definitely saw that that night.  The food was solid; the tastes were familiar. I had a good time and can only thank Dale (and Twitter!) for the amazing opportunity!

(Thanks again to Chef Dale Talde for the invite!)

Bodega with Dale Talde
Twitter: @DaleTalde