chowing with mom -- long review
My chowmom came to visit for the long weekend, only four days in all, but with diligent planning we were able to sample some of the best of what Boston has to offer. Here are some snippets --
Bivalves at East Coast grill -- I decided to go to East Coast Grill for the arrival supper, only because visions of raw tuna taco were floating in my head by the time Wednesday night rolled around. We sat at the bar and managed to work our way through much of the appetizer menu. The oysters (a cape variety starting with B that I couldn't catch) were small and briny. Served with the ECG's excellent minionette sauce, they got the ball rolling nicely. The raw Littlenecks grew on me -- at first too strongly briny, with that slightly chewier texture that can put people off, I found myself really enjoying them another glass of wine later. We had the divine tuna tacos (called black and blue tuna tacos for the uninitiated) and a new menu item -- two-curry shrimp in the shells. We swooned over both. The bartender indicated the shrimp aren't selling that well yet and we speculated that people might be unfamiliar with the pleasure of eating shrimps in their shells -- because these had been seared and crisped with the added curry powders, the flavor and crunch of the shell was not to be missed. By the time we worked our way to them, the divine thai style mussels were 86'd so we tried the stone crab claws -- the only dissapointment on the menu. chowmom thought they had been frozen, as they were too watery for fresh, but I just thought they were bleh and not worth the price. We had more littlenecks to drown our sorrows. I wish we had been offered bread and I didn't ask since I recall too much cornbread for my tastes, but the white wine was very cold, the bartenders were game for our grazing plan, and it was a super start to the weekend.
Next day we ended up in Gloucester at a middle eastern restaurant on Main street called El Souk -- very good falafel, even better pita bread, in a charming setting that claims belly dancing some evenings, call 978-281-0169 for details.
Lunch at the Daily Catch in the North End was another winner -- by this time the heat had broken and we could consider eating substantial food again. We shared the calamari and linguini in white sauce and a simple garden salad, accompanied by their decent bread. I have to say the Catch's calamari in that style is my favorite rendition of the dish I've found in Boston. Sooo garlicky, pasta perfectly cooked, and served in the pan with plenty of tentacles and rings of squid to please all comers. (For fried calamari I'd head next door to Pomodoro for my idea of the best, but for the pasta version, I think the Catch can't be beat.)
While in the North End I had intended to stop into J. Pace for supplies, but found they have moved to another location -- which we then had to go suss out. In the Mass General area (Blossom Court)the new store is large, spacious, and in my opinion lacks the charm the old Causeway street location had. They used to have a large counter with hanging salamis, huge wheels of parmegiano reggiano, vats of olives to test, and a smaller counter for sandwiches made to order. Now they seem to have cleaned it all up for their new clientelle -- bulk herbs which used to be prominently displayed, are now in a corner out of the way, the italian specialty pasta is sort of hidden too, but once you look you can find what you need. The butcher counter looked great, though, and I picked up some fennel seeds, the excellent carnaroli rice (in preparation of the world's best risotto) and some polenta while chowmom picked up a big bag of white beans not easily found in her market. I wonder how they'll do now in their out of the way spot with a decidedly different feel? And I wonder where all the old couples are shopping in the North End now that they're gone?
Dinner at Khao Sarn was great -- as always -- but I thought I might give a warning; forgive me if this has been discussed before. Upon ordering the appetizer "Sleeping Shrimp", I had one of the hottest things in my mouth I've ever encountered, to the extent that it made me actually shake, and I'm no wimp. These little seemingly innocent shrimp were served butterflied and half-cooked, marinated in "the devil's own" chili sauce (according to chowmom)and topped with a large slice of garlic. The effect upon popping one in the mouth was a familiar pungent biting into strong raw garlic rush, but when swallowed, the shrimp actually became nuclear and the only thing to do was to weep, drink water, and wait. Blinking at each other and wondering what we had done, we moved on to the rest of our meal, but I grew increasingly worried about what might happen as the morsels of fusion made their way through the system. ("you think it's hot now....") Luckily, the half-life of sleeping shrimp was shortened by a great yellow curry, the chicken larb salad with lime and cilantro, and the fabulous miang kam appetizer. All's well that ends well, but I just thought I'd mention it. Be afraid, or at least be warned.
Lunch at the summer cafe at the Decordova museum in Lincoln was a bust, but we didn't know it's best to take your own picnic. If you go, and you SHOULD as the sculpture is delightful, don't buy the expensive and lame veggie roll-ups, nor the mealy orange, nor the overpriced water. Who knew? I guess everyone else sitting there eating their brought-in lunches knew and now we do too.
The only regrets I have of chowing with mom was 1) the heat on July 4th which made us not want to eat much at all(!!), effectively ruining one eating opportunity and 2)not getting over to chinatown for banh mi. Chowmom and I are going to Vietnam in the fall so I think it would have been a nice way to share a chowhound find. But, there's always next time.
Thanks all who chimed in on bivalves, and hope some of the above proves useful.
Actually, we were considering them, but it's 4 for $5.95..Psmith and I had them, I didn't think they were too hot, but they WERE very good! They use the same sauce as on the fish with 3 chilis, except it isn't cooked, another reason I didn't think they'd be a good choice...3 different chilis, garlic, fish sauce, lime juice..I think I'll head over there tonite! (Amy will have to be severely dealt with...)
Snort!!!!....Not only that, but we followed it with the Shrimp Papaya Salad, and Fish with Three Chilis!!! And we ate at the bar, so after chatting with them for awhile, they knew who we were, and what our limits were (none!!) and pulled out the stops....He said there were 10 Thai Bird chilis in my salad that nite! He also said that sometimes you can't predict how hot the chilis will be...Better bring that asbestos mouthwash!
(Rubee says you can tell if the food is good by the tears flowing down your cheeks...)
Hmmmm.....nuclear shrimp sounds intriguing. The few times me and my pals had good Thai back in SF were when we begged them for stuff as hot as legally possible. It might sound counterintuitive, but hot stuff actually great for tropical weather. All that sweating has a cooling consequence. Now I'm really looking forward to dinner there! Thanks for the warning -- can't afford to be reckless this time round though, since this sounds like the real deal.
Coconut-milky dishes are great for washing down the heat. Remembered that I once accidentally chomped on a "bird" chilli (that's what we called the little green inch-long dynamite chillis back in Singapore) at a Thai place in Singapore and was in agony with a numbing burn at the back of my mouth until I continued eating the rest of the food and washed down the fat-soluble capsaicin.