Sagra, Flour Bakery+Cafe, Anna's Tacqueria, Le Tene & Taza Chocolates
Sagra, Davis Sq., Somerville
Rustic homey cooking. Straightforward, and while not the best food I'll ever had, was very good for the price range (all but 2 secondi were less than $20). A great neighbourhood place.
Green olives were the central flavour in the fried green olives, as it should be, rounded out by a stuffing mixed meats - pork and chicken, I think. Good breadcrumbed shell, clean tasting without traces of greasiness; looked a little dark, perhaps not the freshest oil but that's a quibble. Garnished with chopped olive bits and slivers of parsley (or was it basil?).
A solid lamb dish for a main course. A good medium rare hunk (loin?), with two thinner pieces that were a shade overdone. Reasonable flavour, with bonus bone marrow sucked out from one of the pieces. Great accompaniment - smoky red sauteed red peppers against the tang of olives, cut by sharp bitter leaves of arugula - lovely interplay and balance of flavours that worked very well with the lamb.
The dessert cake made with a batter flavoured with red wine was basic, with a sticky, crunchy edge, moist in the centre, and fared reasonably well with the long drizzles of balsamic.
Flour Cafe+Bakery, Fort Point Channel, Boston
Good bread (a nice point between fluff and firm) on the lamb sandwich, the only redeeming feature. Cold, clammy mushy slices of lamb, low on flavour probably because of the temperature, somewhat sinewy. A disappointment compared to the flavoursome lamb at Artu. Tomatoey chutney was sweet and fruity, but fairly one-dimensional, could use more spices, especially in concert with lamb.
Competent apple spice cake, nice crumb, somewhat moist.
Standard MEM teas, a drinkable mao feng.
Anna Tacqueria, Davis Sq., Somerville
A basic super burrito, nothing offensive, nothing outstanding. Al pastor was a bit dry, prechopped, a mildly tangy (citrusy?) marinate. Decent rice.
Le Tene Chocolates (www.latenechocolate.com)
Tasted some on a revisit to Serene Chocolates - see http://www.chowhound.com/topics/350853 - and also at their open studio in Somerville with Taza chocs ("Paper and Chocolate"). There seemed to be some batch to batch variation, the ones at Serene had great temper, but a touch weaker on flavour, which the reverse was true at the open studio.
But overall, chocolates were outstanding (despite the batch or storage variation) with interesting flavour combinations. Skilled tempering of the chocolates on the whole -- brilliant snap, good shiny surfaces. Smooth ganache, nuanced flavouring. A half notch down from the elegant Michael Rechiutti, but I won't be surprised if he closes the gap. The chocolates are made locally by a guy who used to work at L A Burdick's.
Black velvet - the advertised stout flavour was faint on one, more pronounced nuttiness on another piece. The champagne version was more lively, the complexity of the champagne asserting itself more confidently.
Apricot Madeira - a faint hint of fruitiness, sometimes hard to distinguish from the natural fruit of certain chocolate varietals. Hard to sense the madeira.
Palet d'Argent - a blend of dark chocolate decorated with sliver leaf - I liked it for what it was, a basic but suave chocolate combination
Dazu - at its best, a zesty lemony overtone, followed by a spicy hit of sichuan peppercorn. One of my favourite, but the flavour was more pronounced only for the piece I had at the open studio; the piece at Serene was more subtle and the flavours harder to pin down.
Chu'lel - the chili brings a spicy smoky glower to the chocolate, a pleasant piece.
Savarin - Loved this one! The creamy cheesy flavour of brillat savarin with the soft pungency to round of the chocolate, mellowed by salt and brought alive by a touch of black pepper at the finish. Imagine a sublime version of a cream cheese chocolate brownie.
Peppermint - carries a breeze of peppermint in the chocolate.
Madagascar - a fine crunch from a layer of candied cocoa beans. Silky flavour.
Ume - with Japanese plum wine -- the plum flavours quite elusive, but I did catch a light alcoholic hit at the beginning from the wine.
Peanut Butter cup - an elevated version of Reese's rendition
Pomegranate Heat - a strong fruity current of pomegranate in the chocolate, a good resonant combination
Website says they're sold at Serene Chocolates, Lionette's and Formaggio Kitchen.
Taza Chocolates (www.tazachocolate.com)
Free samples at the open studio, and a little guided tour of their chocolate making machinery.
Good chocolate coated cacao nibs, with what I thought of as a malty flavour in the coat.
Samples of their bars (not sure what varietal or blend) but nicely balanced, without too much of an acidic finish (I'm betting its a blend of some sort).
Hot chocolate was made in a thinnish milky style, with coarse undissolved bits that gave it a lovely earthy and raw sensation. Great rich choc flavour.
These guys are a serious chocolate operation, making chocolate bars from scratch, sourcing beans directly from producers that they have cultivated. That makes them one of the handful of artinsinal chocolate makers in the country. I've tasted some of their stuff at Mariposa Bakery on Thursdays when they take over as Taza chocolate lounge. Will be looking for the stuff at the shops listed on their website. Needless to say, I was quite impressed.
Last week I went to a La Tene tasting meet-up put on by Caroline and Temper Chocolates. La Tene's owner/chocolatier, Brendan Gannon, talked about his work and his passion. He's only been doing this professionally for a few months, and his chocolates are amazingly exquisite. My favorites -right now- are the Tia (coffee) and the Chu'lel. I'd never understood or liked chocolate/chili combinations, but Brendan hit it just right: the burn builds, slowly, leaving a lovely bloom and heat in your mouth. Since his chocolates are ganache based, they're not so sweet as fondant or caramel filled ones. And the tempering/physical dipping skills are incredible: the coatings are so thin! I'm in awe of his skill, and his approach to flavors is so passionate. The only chocolates that come close (but not that close) are Burdick's - but Burdick's has muddy nearly indistinguishable flavors and nowhere near the lovely couverture. One evening, and I've become a devoted fan!
Base on your review, I stopped in at Serene Chocolates and bought one of the heart-shaped sampler boxes of the Le Tene chocolates for my wife for V-Day. Oh my, they are beautiful to look at!
Just had a couple of them last night, but first impression is that these are outstanding chocolates - and we look forward to trying all of the different inventive flavors.