Monday, June 8, 2009

Restaurant Recommendations

I went to a number of restaurants in central/eastern MA this weekend, and I want to recommend them all.

Bocado, in Worcester, MA
This is a tapas restaurant, the first tapas place I'd ever been to. I had the "Central Spain #2" wine flight, and I foolishly did not write down the three wines in this flight. One was a very fresh rose that seemed like the kind I'd want on a picnic, and the other 2 were very zesty reds, possibly reminscent of shiraz. My friends had the Navarro martini, which had lychee juice and possibly (based on the color), cranberry juice (very tasty), sangria (tasted just like my version of mulled cider, but cold and with red wine- delicious) and the mamasita (mango liqueur, vodka and pineapple juice). We had fried goat cheese with honey, almonds and quince paste (excellent); duck with balsamic glaze; a simple salad with manchego; kobe sliders; roasted tomato and artichoke salad (a warm salad) with a tomato/garlic sauce served over toasted baguette; chicken fritters; and crab empanadas. I must go back here.

Addis Red Sea on Tremont St in Boston, MA
EXCELLENT. We lucked out and got there before the crowds, so didn't have to wait. I'd never had ethiopian food before (I've had other African food, I think Kenyan-inspired, in NH at the farmer's market) so had never had the real experience of an Ethiopian restaurant. The food is served over injara bread on basically a giant tray. I had a spicy lamb dish with red pepper sauce, a friend had a different kind of lamb dish, and my fiance had a spicy fish dish. The bread is kind of like a cross between a crumpet and pita, and is lovely, soft and flavorful. For drinks we had a sweet red wine, a honey white wine, an Ethiopian lager and an Ethiopian stout. Everything was excellent, the only complaint I had was that my stomach was not big enough. I actually woke up the next morning wishing I'd taken the sauce-soaked bread home with me. For anyone who's never been to an Ethiopian restaurant before, you eat the curry-like dishes by scooping it up with the bread. No forks! So it can be a little messy, but it definitely worth it, even for a fussy girl like me.

J's Restaurant at Nashoba Winery, in Bolton, MA
I love Nashoba. I love doing their wine tastings (I have never had a wine I didn't want more of) and getting free glasses. I love buying cheese in their shop and eating it outside at the picnic tables. But on Sunday, my parents came up and we and my fiance had brunch.
The brunch had kind of a random assortment of foods, french toast, bacon and sausage like any regular Sunday brunch, but also salmon en croute (only... I never could find the croute, just some rice), mushroom calzone, seaweed salad, and a green salad with a giant side dish of roasted tomato, artichoke, olives and other antipasti type things. The dessert table included a selection of cheeses (bleu, brie, a local cheddar), bananas foster (a rare treat!) and a number of bite-sized sweets (raspberry tarts, super chocolatey brownies, blondies, and lemon tarts). They also serve all their wines at the restaurant, and have a variety of mixed drinks, like a mimosa and a madras (fortified cranberry wine and OJ).
The next thing I have to try there is a picnic lunch. You can call ahead and order a picnic lunch so you can "have the J's dining experience in a casual setting". I really like that idea, Nashoba is a great place for a picnic on a nice afternoon.

The Sole Proprietor, Worcester MA
Great seafood. I had lunch here a week ago, and checked out their dinner menu and knew exactly what I wanted. Unfortunately, we went during lobster fest, and I'd had my heart so set on maple-glazed fried scallops that I didn't even consider a steamed lobster dinner for $17.99. oops!
My scallops were very tasty (the mashed sweet pot it came on was very stringy, rather odd). Fiance had salmon and shrimp that he seemed to enjoy, Dad had fish and chips that was "nearly as good as Lenny and Joe's" (the highest compliment any fish and chips can get from him) and Mom had a chilled lobster with shrimp cocktail. The cocktail sauce was excellent.
Fiance and I also had house salads to start, and I really need to recommend everyone to try the teriyaki, orange and sesame dressing. I need to find a recipe for this after trying it. Fiance had some sort of creamy peppercorn (or parmesean?) dressing that was almost as good, I had to have both of ours (luckily, we always order it on the side).

So, come to the Worcester or Boston area, and have some good food. (and you know Boston has far more good restaurants than the one I've mentioned here... I need to get out there more often and partake in the deliciousness).

Found: on special at Shaw's

Lately I've been stopping at the grocery store after Zumba class. It's extremely convenient, the dance studio is right in back of Shaw's. Also, I tend to buy more fresh and healthy foods after an intense workout.

Last week, I saw cherries were on sale. I added them to the strawberries I've been eating (averaging about 3lbs a week... I hope ODing on strawberries has no adverse effects). They looked beautiful, and were a really good price. However, they had no flavor at all. I was really disappointed!

So I turned them into ice cream, and I have to say, this is about my best batch yet.

Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream

approx. 1.5lbs of cherries, destemmed and pitted
3T sugar
2T (yes, tablespoons) vanilla

In a wide fry pan or wok, start to simmer cherries. Sprinkle sugar over, and cook until they start to soften. Add the vanilla, cook until the liquid turns into a syrup. Let cool. Puree about 2/3s of the cherries and leave the rest whole.

3 cups 2% milk
scant 2/3 cup sugar
8 egg yolks

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, scald milk. Meanwhile, combine yolks and sugar, whisk together. Add about half of the scalded milk (ladle slowly, ladleful by ladleful) to egg/sugar mixture, then add back to the saucepan with the remaining milk. Cook over low heat until slightly thickened, anywhere between 3 and 8 minutes. It won't thicken much, just enough to notice, and you definitely don't want the eggs to scramble.

Remove from heat, strain and add the cherry puree. Let chill (I usually put it in the fridge, but today I was too impatient, so made an ice water bath, which worked rather well, so I suggest an ice water bath).

Whip out your handy-dandy ice cream maker, and start it up according to the directions. When the custard/cherry puree mixture is just about done, slowly add in the whole cherries. Freeze a couple more hours, until it's the proper ice cream consistency, or, if you can't wait, set aside a small bowl to taste immediately. This is good.

(the recipe I followed for this was adapted from the basic gelato recipe that came with my Kitchenaid Ice Cream Maker, and I made up the cherry part as I went.)