Monday, February 14, 2011

Recent Boston food adventures!

Bon Chon Chicken

The Korean fried chicken franchise. Fried chicken strips - crispy and excellent. Skewered hard-boiled quail eggs wrapped in bacon (from the kushiyaki section) - terrific. Bulgogi bibimbob - also terrific. Volcano roll from the signature makimono section - good, but the weak point. It sounded interesting - salmon, kimchi, and cucumber in the roll, topped with mayo, mozzarella, and tobiko, broiled, and topped with chili sauce and onion chips. But the salmon ended up cooking, and that's just less interesting than raw, and mostly what you taste is slightly spicy salmon and a little cheese.

The main thing about Bon Chon is how expensive it was - almost twice as much as some other places we've tried in Boston.


A barbecue joint that makes the best fried chicken I've had this far north. That alone is going to bring us back. The fried chicken was just absolutely amazing. It's a shame they only fry up wings. I suppose they have a reason, but when you can fry chicken that well, it's a shame to limit it. But yes, it's a barbecue joint, and we got other stuff too -- brisket served in chunks, in a sauce that made it taste like smoky chili; ribs that were properly smoked (still clinging to the bone as they should); smoked sausages; and croquettes of fried macaroni and cheese. Now, the interesting thing about the sausages is that, because it's Boston, they were spicy Italian sausages that had been run through the smoker. Trust me, that's not what they mean by hot links in Texas, nor anywhere else in the South as far as I know. But it's the kind of sausages they can get here, I guess. Still very good! But it wouldn't satisfy a hot link craving.

Mt Everest Kitchen

Nepali food! Boston actually has multiple Nepali restaurants. Because Nepal shares a border and a lot of history with India, there is a similarity to Indian food, and a lot of Nepali restaurants - Mt Everest included - serve some non-Nepali items like naan to offer more food that's familiar to people who are used to Indian joints. As it turned out, the garlic naan wasn't very good, and the lentil soup that comes with most of the entree orders was bland. But the rest! Oh man. We ordered a goat dish because we both love goat and don't see it on menus very often -- in this case it was pieces of goat on the bone, in a stew that was slightly spicy, somewhat reminiscent of Indian curries but not as strongly flavored, with some cilantro. Very good.

But even better was the quatee and the momos. Quatee is also spelled quantee some places on the internet, and apparently there are both vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions. Ours was vegetarian -- a curry of 16 different kinds of beans, in a spicy sauce that I don't know how to describe. The menu refers to "Himalayan herbs" -- there was a fresh herb that tasted a little like mint, and one (it may have been the same herb) that tasted a little like lemongrass, and I don't know what else. It's not often that I run into flavors that are completely new to me, as opposed to being used in new ways and new combinations. But this was such an occasion. It was delicious, and I'll definitely order it again.

The momos were steamed dumplings filled with chicken (pork and vegetable are also available, and they can be pan-fried instead of steaming), with a chutney dipping sauce that, again, I don't know how to describe except to say that it was delicious. In fact the quatee and momos were both so good that I can't imagine getting food from Mt Everest and NOT getting these two things.

Flour Bakery

We stopped by the Cambridge location on the way back from a movie, mainly to get the famous sticky buns - which certainly earn their fame. Covered in pecans and infused with caramel goo. Fantastic. The pain aux raisins (a brioche spiral with raisins), brioche with creme fraiche and cinnamon (like a danish, kind of), and "homemade pop tart" were all good too, but the sticky buns are something I'll get every time.

Central Bottle

A wine shop next to Flour, but we weren't there for the wine. We were there for the fantastic cheese selection. It may not look like a lot at first - the grocery store down the street from me has more kinds of cheese. But then you look at what they have, and it's like a greatest hits collection mixed in with some well-chosen deep cuts. For instance, they only have a couple cheddars, but one of them is the Cabot clothbound cheddar. I was happy to see that they sell O'Banon, made by folks in Indiana (Capriole Farm) who I used to see at the farmer's market all the time when I lived in Bloomington.

We got small amounts of lots of cheeses:

a very old (I would say 3 year) gouda.

Bijou, from Vermont Butter and Cheese, which is now my favorite goat cheese - incredibly flavorful and creamy, with absolutely none of the pungency you get from the rind of so many young cheeses. The texture is a lot like fudge. Yes, I now have a goat cheese I like better than Humboldt Fog.

Pecorino Ginepro. Oh my God! Okay, one of the discoveries for me the last couple years has been realizing how much I love Pecorino Romano, so I keep an eye out for other Pecorinos (a family of hard Italian sheep's milk cheeses). "Ginepro" here is juniper - the cheese is submerged in balsamic vinegar and juniper berries. It's not as aged as Pecorino Romano - it's a little crumbly, and not too salty to eat straight. It's amazing. I love this cheese so much.

Some brie-like fresh cow's milk cheese I keep forgetting the name of, which was great on sandwiches.

They have some stuff made in-house, too, like mozzarella, ricotta, broccoli raab pesto, and chicken liver pate. I was hoping to find burrata, but they didn't have any that day.

They also have a good selection of Italian and Spanish cured meats -- including jamon iberico bones, which you can use in soups and beans and whatnot. I love it when people sell that sort of thing instead of letting it go to waste. Now I'm wishing I'd bought some to cook with greens! Ah well. What we did get was lardo (flavored with lots of black pepper), guanciale (Italian jowl bacon), and nduja (soft spreadable salami).

I hadn't had any of the three before, though I'm familiar with them, and when I lived in Indiana, jowl bacon was quite common. The guanciale was spiced a little differently, but it's still recognizably the same thing.


Caitlin noticed a Korean store on the way to the bus stop from Central Bottle, so we immediately hopped in. Hell of a find. Korean food is one of those things I don't have nearly enough experience with: Asian markets in New Orleans were Vietnamese, in Indiana were Chinese, Japanese, or Filipino, and up here are Cambodian. So I was glad to not only replenish my supply of barley miso, which I'd run out of - and to do so with an imported brand this time instead of a domestic (we'll see if it makes a difference) - but to pick up leek kimchi, sliced cooked pigs foot, corn tea (it tastes like Corn Pops!), kabosu juice (a citrus juice), and some gummi candies (muscat and mangosteen).

I had some of the pig's foot for lunch today - steamed rice in my just-reviewed rice cooker while steaming the sliced pig's foot in the tray, then picked any bones out of the pig's foot slices and mixed them into the rice along with some of the leek kimchi and the hot sauce that came with the pig's foot. Good good stuff.

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