Friday, August 28, 2015

MEat Butcher Shop and Lil's Cafe: More Kittery Foreside Hotspots

After a fine lunch at Anju Noodle Bar, I made a couple quick stops to two other food businesses in the Foreside neightborhood. I really need to spend more time in this area, lingering at these two and the other food businesses. I suspect that this neighborhood will only continue to grow and prosper, adding other independent businesses and enhancing the appeal of the area.

The MEat Butcher Shop, which opened in 2014, is a local, whole animal butcher shop and they
source their animals only from farms within 100 miles of Kittery. In addition, they focus on humanely, naturally raised animals, with no use of hormones or antibiotics. Their beef may be pasture raised or grass fed, and some is organic as well.  Here is a list of some of the farms they use, and you can also find a blackboard at the shop which lists the current farms. Besides meat, they also sell fresh produce, wine, beer, some pre-packaged foods and more.

The meat looked very good, ranging from various cuts of beef to sausages, lamb to pork, chicken and ducks. If you desire a certain cut that you don't see, you just have to ask. And they also can provide recipes if you so desire.

Their deli has plenty of charcuterie and cheese, including homemade roast beef, kielbasa, and Italian truffled ricotta. They make about 30 sandwiches a day, the type changing day to day, and once they sell out, there are no more for the day.

I bought some Sirloin Tenders, which were sourced from PT Farm, in North Haverhill, NH, and marinated them in my own homemade Garlic Teriyaki sauce. I then grilled them and they came out quite well. The meat was tender and flavorful, lean and juicy. If this is an example of the quality of all of the meat at MEat, then it is well worth visiting this shop.

After visting MEat, we made a quick stop at Lil's Cafe, which serves breakfast and lunch every day. They also make all of their own pastries and bread on premises. In addition, they have a variety of coffees and teas, including fresh brewed iced tea. Dan Ford recommended that I try one of their Crullers ($2.35), which looked like a glazed and grooved cake donut.

However, I was pleasantly surprised when I really it was actually light and flaky, more like French Cruller. The exterior is sweet and crusty, almost like fried dough, while the interior is flaky (like a croissant) and eggy (like the interior of a popover). Despite being fairly full from lunch, I still was able to devour this cruller because it was so damn good.  This is an addictive treat and I understand why they are so popular. Next time I visit Lil's Cafe, I'll bring several home with me, as well as try some of their other baked goods, like their Cinnamon Rolls or Monkey Bread.

Get to Kittery and explore the Foreside neightborhood.

Anju Noodle Bar: A Kittery Foreside Hotspot

It seems many people think Kittery, Maine, is just about the discount outlets. Sure, the outlets can be fun for shopping, however the culinary options are lacking in many respects. You'll mostly find chains like McDonalds, Burger King, and the Weathervane. Bob's Clam Hut is one of the exceptions and a good option. However, there is more to Kittery than the outlets and you would benefit from exploring other areas of Kittery, including the Foreside neightborhood.

The Foreside neighborhood is located across the water from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and it has become a small area dedicated to music, arts and cool food spots. Earlier this week, I visited Dan Ford of the Blue Current Brewery, a new Sake brewery in Kittery, and he introduced me to a few of the food options in the Foreside area. I was impressed and will be returning again in the near future to explore more of the culinary offerings. Food lovers need to put Kittery Foreside on their radar.

We began our exploration by having lunch at the Anju Noodle Bar, which is owned by Gary Kim and Julian Armstrong. The term "Anju" is a Korean word which roughly translates as food intended to be consumed with alcohol. The concept seems similar to a Japanese izakaya, Anju is open for lunch and dinner every day except Mondays. It is a small restaurant, with about 38 seats, including a counter area and a small number of tables. It has an intimate vibe and was fairly busy on a mid-afternoon Tuesday. I can easily see this place being packed at night, especially on weekends.

I got to meet one of the owners, Gary Kim, who has worked at previous restaurants including Pesce in Portsmouth and The Black Birch in Kittery. His partner, Julian Armstrong, has also previously worked in a number other restaurants and has also been involved in wine sales. In 2013, they opened Son-Mat Foods, a company to make Korean kimchi and other similar products, and then in 2014, they opened Anju Noodle Bar, They have garnered some well deserved raves though it is clear that more people need to know about this interesting and delicious restaurant.

We sat at the counter and it overlooks both the bar and tiny kitchen, so you can watch the chefs preparing your dishes and marvel at how they accomplish so much in such a small space. They make their own kimchi and hot sauce. Their Menu was divided into Small Plates ($6-$12), Medium ($9-$11), and Mains ($13-$18). It is an eclectic menu in some respects, as you'll find dishes including Meat Balls and XO Roasted Corn alongside more traditional Asian dishes such as Okonomiyaki, Ramen and Shrimp Toast. You can also get sides of different Kimchi ($4). I found plenty of the menu which appealed to me, ending up selecting three dishes to sample.

The Pork Bun ($6) is made with cucumber, pickled red onion, hoisin, and kimchi  mayo. As you can see, the bun is packed full, and included a large, tender rectangle of pork. It was a tasty blend of textures and flavors, sweet and salty. The bun was soft and slightly chewy and it was a good value for the price. If you don't want meat, you could instead try their Eggplant Bun.

The Rice Cakes ($11) are made with onigiri. 5-spice duck confit. and dragon sauce. It is an ample dish with lots of tender, flavorful duck, some crunchy rice, and an intriguing sauce that added a little spicy heat. There were some unknown veggies in the dish, which I didn't ask about, but they only added some flavor and texture to the dish. It earns a hearty recommendation.

The Shoyu Ramen ($13) is made with MEat bone broth. tare. slow-roasted pork shoulder. ajitama soy egg. and nori. The bones comes from MEatthe butcher shop next door which sources animals from local farms, and their noodles come from Sun Noodle. I was impressed with the depth of flavors in the broth, which was salty and tangy, with a strong umami element. It was well balanced, so that no flavor overwhelmed the others, instead working together in harmony. The noodles were thin and chewy, just the right texture, while the egg was soft with that wonderful gooey yolk. There were plenty of pieces of tender pork and the entirety of the dish was satisfying on several levels. Damn tasty ramen and highly recommended.

For drinks, you can get Wine, Beer, Cider or Sake. Their wine list has plenty of interesting choices which should appeal to wine lovers. A number of their beers are local to New England though there are some unique brews from elsewhere too. They have seven Sakes available by the glass or bottle. With our lunch, we enjoyed some Blue Current Junmai Ginjo Sake, which is available by the glass ($8) or 375ml bottle ($30). I will be posting a full article about this brewery next week, but I will say that it made an excellent accompaniment to the food. It is the type of Sake which I can sit and drink all afternoon.

I was thoroughly impressed with the cuisine at Anju, feeling it is a good value for the quality and quantity of food you receive. The dishes are well composed, with balanced and complex flavors. They have a very good drinks program and it is a fun atmosphere. I definitely will return here to try more items on the menu and it earns my highest recommendation. Check out the Kittery Foreside neighborhood and sample the bounty that can be found.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.. **********************************************************
1) What began as a supper club run out of husband/wife team Tse Wei Lim and Diana Kudayarova’s Somerville apartment later became Journeyman, an intimate, almost naked dining experience in Union Square that turns five this month. Marking the milestone will be a week-long throwback menu highlighting some of the top dishes from the restaurant’s first five years.

In keeping with their no-menu approach, the Journeyman team – led by Chef Tru Lang – will carefully craft memorable moments through a multi-course meal that reinterprets such standout dishes as:
· A Salad of Every Seasonal Vegetable
· Clams and Oysters with Watermelon, Dill and Fennel
· Ricotta Gnudi with Corn, Tomatillo, Huitlacoche and Jimmy Nardello Peppers
· Blueberry, Banana and Black Sesame

The anniversary celebrates the restaurant’s journey while also nodding to the transformation of its Union Square home. Though now a serious stomping ground for established local chefs and food/drink enthusiasts, Union Square wasn’t always a polished dining destination or even one with much personality at all. When Journeyman opened in 2010, Tse Wei and Diana recognized that the neighborhood was on the cusp of something big. From their perch on a quiet side street off Union Square’s main drag, they now have a front-row seat to the continued development that they helped catalyze.

WHEN: Wednesday, September 16 – Sunday, September 20 5:30 – 10:30 PM
TICKETS: $65 - $95/person (exclusive of beverages and gratuity); $55/person for beverage pairings; Tickets available for purchase here
INFO: For more information, call 617-718-2333.

2) On Tuesday, September 15, at 6pm, Legal Harborside will host a special burgundy seminar and wine dinner with Maison Bichot, ideal for Burgundy collectors and aficionados. Since its inception in 1350, the family-owned winery which has been passed down over generations has created some of the greatest wines in the world. Bichot’s label encompasses four separate vineyards located at the heart of the four major wine regions in France that create Burgundy: Chablis, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune and Côte Chalonnaise. Each vineyard is dedicated to the vinification and aging of each wine’s structure and character and each wine represents the essence of their expertise and style. Legal Sea Foods will team up with Guillaume Suss, to host an exclusive seminar and five-plus-course dinner featuring signature cuisine paired with selections from the Maison Bichot vine.

The menu will be presented as follows:
Domaine Long-Depaquit, Chablis Grand Cru “La Moutonne,” 2012
Chateau Gris, Nuits-Saint-Georges “Les Terrasses” Blanc, 2012
Domaine du Pavillon, Beaune Premier Cru “Clos des Mouches” Blanc, 2012
Domaine du Pavillon, Meursault Premier Cru “Les Charmes,” 2009
Domaine Adelie, Mercurey Premier Cru “Les Champs Martins,” 2012
Domaine du Clos Frantin, Gevrey-Chambertin “Les Murots,” 2012
Domaine du Clos Frantin, Nuits-Saint-Georges, 2009

Hiramasa Crudo, Cucumber, Tosaka, Kombu Vinaigrette
Striped Bass Rillettes, Puff Pastry
Local Oysters, Mignonette Foam, Dulce
Gruyere Gourgéres
Domaine Long-Depaquit, Chablis, 2013
Seared Diver Scallop (couscous, apricot, marcona almonds)
Domaine Long-Depaquit, Chablis Premier Cru “Les Vaucopins,” 2012
Striped Bass (heirloom cauliflower, anchovy butter, tarragon)
Albert Bichot, “Secret de Famille” Pinot Noir, 2011
Albert Bichot, Mercurey, 2011
Hudson Valley Duck Breast (parsnip, spaetzle, chicories, red currant)
Albert Bichot, Gevrey -Chambertin Premier Cru “Lavaux Saint Jacques,” 2009
Époisses (coriander shortbread, wild Maine blueberry)
Albert Bichot, Gevrey-Chambertin, 2009

COST: $175 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)
Reservation required by calling 617-530-9470

3) Papa Razzi Metro, in Burlington, is launching a brand new brunch menu. Guests can now enjoy a variety of freshly-squeezed juices and a selection of top caffe while dining on brunch items designed to satisfy every palate.Whether sipping on a Special Roast Illy Blend Coffee while catching up on the morning news or enjoying a bountiful brunch with your closest family and friends, Papa Razzi Metro offers an opportunity to enjoy a delicious, Italian meal in a casual yet exciting atmosphere.

Some of the menu items include:
Prosciutto & Melon (Cantaloupe, honeydew, crispy prosciutto, baby arugula, ricotta salata)
Caprese Bruschetta (Avocado, marinated grape tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, sunny side egg)
Steak & Eggs (Grilled sliced 7oz sirloin, local over easy eggs, onion, pea greens, potato hash, romesco sauce)
Cast Iron Poached Eggs (Red onion, pancetta, red chile, pomodoro sauce, local eggs, ricotta, grilled bread)
Stuffed French Toast (Ricotta & raspberry mousse, warm maple syrup)
Metro Frittata (Three egg omelet, sweet Italian sausage, fennel, baby spinach, tomato jam, grilled bread)
Daybreak Panini (Local egg, fontina, double thick smoked bacon, black pepper aioli, toasted ciabatta)

WHEN: Brunch is now available every Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 3p.m.

4) This Saturday night, August 29, from 5pm-11pm, head up to downtown Portsmouth, NH, for the Vida Cantina Pop Up at Moxy. Dave Vargas, Chef/Owner of Vida Cantina, is taking over the Moxy restaurant and kitchen for one night only, cooking pop-up Tacos, Guac, Pigs Head Platters, and More. And they will be serving the signature Vida Margaritas too, with several tequilas available.

Chef Vargas explains, “We’ve been talking about how great it would be to bring our tacos and margaritas to downtown Portsmouth. And now it’s happening – I am thrilled we are doing it this Saturday night at our sister restaurant Moxy. Matt Louis has opened the kitchen for us – and it’s all ours, all night on August 29th. We’ll keep cooking as long as the people keep coming and we still have food!”

The Vida Pop Up Menu includes:
Single Enchiladas $11 chicken, beef, or bean with rice & beans, and choice of sauce: red sauce / green sauce / xmas sauce
Rice & Beans $4 Just Rice $2 / Just Beans $2
OG Lettuce Tacos $13 house chorizo, lime crema, local corn salsa
Sonaran Dog $12 Mexican style hot dog, house bacon, crema, salsa fresca
Kale Salad $9 OG kale, masa croutons, almonds, cotija, sherry viniagrette
Fried Queso Fresco $10 bitter greens, apples, spiced nuts
Belly Taco $5 pepper aioli, salsa fresca, fried kale
Fish Taco $5 masa tempura, pickled slaw, avocado
Mushroom Taco $5 NH mushrooms, salsa de aguacate, pickled habaneros
Potato Tacos $8 Maine potatoes, salsa cruda, lemon onion
Tamarind Chicken $10 confit drumsticks, pickled mustard seeds
Tamales $11 local squash, chile verde, peanuts
Guacamole $9 served with chips and salsa
Chips & Salsa $4 corn tortilla chips, salsa fresca
Salsa Flight $6 mango habanero, salsa verde, salsa fresca
Local Pig Head Platter $50 tortillas, salsa flight, cilantro, onions, limes
Ceviche $13 yellowfin tuna, mango, avocado, peanuts, aguachile
Ribs $12 Fried hominy salsa, pickled tomatillos, chipotle BBQ
Fried Chicken & Pickled Jalapeño Mac & Cheese $11 chihuahua cheese, cilantro bread crumbs
Churros $8 Mexican fried dough, spiced chocolate sauce
Ghost Chili Frosty $8 3 times cooked fries

A Ghost Chili Frosty? Now that sounds very intriguing., Skip the Kale Salad and go for a Belly Taco or a Pig Hed platter.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Rant: PAUL Bakery. It's You Not Me

I'm a huge fan of unsweetened iced tea, whether black or green, and I'm not alone. According to the Tea Association of the USA, the wholesale value of the U.S. tea industry is over $10 Billion and Americans annually consume over 3.6 Billion gallons of tea. Each day, over half the U.S. population drinks tea, though people in the South and Northeast consume the most. You might be surprised to learn that 85% of the tea consumed in America is iced.

Despite the huge popularity of iced tea, too many restaurants seem oblivious to this fact. They seem to have fallen for the myth that iced tea is only a summer drink so once Labor Day arrives, iced tea vanishes from many restaurant menus. You'll still be able to get cold sodas, ice cream, and other cold items after Labor Day, but poor iced tea often gets banished until summer returns.  That is simply wrong and needs to change.

Iced tea is refreshing, thirst-quenching and the unsweetened version doesn't have the sugar content of sodas and other such drinks. It is also easy and very cheap to make so there is no reason why it shouldn't be available year round. At home, I have an iced tea maker and make it year round. In fact, I generally drink it every day, year round.

PAUL Bakery, which has almost 600 locations around the world, is starting to make inroads into Massachusetts, with locations in Boston, Somerville and Burlington. They make excellent breads and pastries, all with a French flair. However, despite their quality products, I won't stop there too often because they fail in another area. I would like to dine there more often, but I'm not satisfied when I currently visit it. And it all has to do with iced tea.

Though Paul offers iced tea, you generally can only get flavored iced teas. You can't get a simple black or green iced tea, unless it is decaffeinated. Why not? It makes no sense. You can get a simple, unflavored iced coffee but not iced tea. Its discriminatory to iced tea lovers and there isn't a valid reason to justify it. I don't drink coffee and don't want flavored iced tea, so if I go to PAUL, I end up with a bottled water and that isn't satisfying enough. I want a simple iced tea.

Until PAUL starts offering a simple, unflavored iced tea, whether black or green, then I will patronize them only rarely. PAUL, it's you, not me. Are you listening?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.. **********************************************************
1) Chef & Owner Brian Poe is rolling out an expanded brunch menu at CLUCKIT! in the South End. Beginning this Sunday, Chef Poe will be serving up more heat-filled piri-piri offerings and other classics on the corner of Tremont Street and Massachusetts Avenue.

For starters, options include Zanzaipoe Pizza (goat cheese, peaches, mint, prosciutto, tandoori naan & arugula - $7.95); Calamari (piri lime sauce, honey glaze - $9.95); Wings (grilled - $9.95); House Salad (Bibb lettuce, avocado, mint, tomato, onion, cucumber, cumin, lemon yogurt dressing - $6.95); and the Portuguese-style Cassava Fries (molho cru mild dipping sauce - $4.95). CLUCKIT! also will offer a variety of side orders ($3.95 each) such as Cucumber Salad; Watermelon Salad; Black-Eyed Pea Salad; African Rice; Corn on the Cob; Piri Grilled Vegetables; and, Bacon.

Chef Poe also is serving up nine signature brunch plates with selections like French Toast (molasses grilled banana, blackberry piri jam, whipped cream - $12.95); Breakfast Plate (cheesy scrambled or fried eggs & piri confit potatoes and toast - $11.95), Signature Omelette (mushroom, basil, cherry tomato, truffle & brie cheese - $12.95); Omelette (ham, bell pepper, American cheese, home fries, toast - $13); Chicken & Waffles (piri fried wings, apple maple butter & cranberry compote - $10); Ja-Nee Taco & Egg (piri braised chicken, mango slaw, roti & a fried egg - $6.95); Moons Over My Roti (ham, Velveeta, fried egg, roti - $6.95); Pork Belly (fried egg, spicy watermelon piri salsa, arugala - $10.95); Brunch Burger (classic Estelle’s burger, cheese, fried egg and fried onions - $13.95); and, Waffles (sundried cranberry gastrique - $10).

CLUCKIT! is open for brunch from 11:00am to 2:30pm on Sundays.

2) Happy Hour” is about to get even happier at Haru in the Back Bay. Beginning August 17, Haru will revamp its afternoon and late-night bar and lounge menu to include seven newcomers that are brimming with treasures from land and sea.

Available for $8-and-under, Haru’s new offerings infuse Japanese culinary delights into a social bar experience and include Kushiage, skewers of flash fried shrimp and avocado with yuzu ponzu sauce ($6); Char Sui Pork Bun, a steamed bun with grilled pork belly, namasu, cabbage and cilantro ($6); the four-piece Yuga Roll, with spicy salmon, lemon and cucumber rolled in rice, sesame seeds and nori, topped with eel and massago and served with spicy mayo ($7); the soy-and-curry braised Tempura Short Rib, with romaine lettuce, herb salad and pickled onions ($8); a tender Chicken Satay, marinated in coconut curry with almond dipping sauce ($6); the spicy Wasabi Fritters, seasoned with Ichimi Togarashi flakes and infused with shiitake mushrooms, served with lemon dressing ($6); and slow-cooked Spare Ribs, marinated in lemongrass and chilies, grilled to perfection.

3) Chef Jacky Robert of Ma Maison Jacky Robert and a quartet of his well-known colleagues from the culinary community, will cook up a storm to raise funds for On Board For Kids, a charitable foundation that has donated close to $50,000 since 2012 to a trio of causes aimed at feeding hungry children in disaster-ridden foreign lands.

The one-night event will take place on The Music City Queen, an authentic steam-driven paddleboat departing from the Rowes Wharf Ferry Terminal in Boston at 5:30 PM on Saturday, September 12 with a live jazz band on board.

Every cent raised for On Board For Kids directly:
* Feeds street kids aged 7 thru 12 in the Philippines thru school meals
* Provides basic nutrition to kids affected by earthquakes in Nepal
* Contributes to building a pre-school for at-risk kids in a remote Colombian village

Chefs cooking aboard the sunset cruise this year include:
Peter Ballarin, Chef-Owner, The Hungry I, Boston
Dante de Magistris, Chef-Owner of Dante (Cambridge) and Il Casale (Belmont and Lexington)
Jacky Robert, Ma Maison, Boston
Thomas John, Chef-Owner, Piperi Mediterranean Grill, Boston
Chris Chung, Chef-Owner of AKA Bistro, Lincoln, MA

4) Chef Brian Poe is introducing new dishes to the brunch menu at Bukowski Tavern in Cambridge. Beginning this Saturday, Chef Poe will be serving up classic comfort food and other favorites in the heart of Inman Square.

For starters, “Hungover” options include Chips (homemade sweet potato chips, prosciutto, onion strings + green kosho tabasco - $8), Cauliflower (celery root, cauliflower chips, charred cauliflower, creamed kefir and onion - $6), Sweet Tater Tots (sage maple butter, French sea salt - $9), Fontina Bites (Prosciutto-wrapped fontina cheese, corn sauce - $9), and Grilled Corn (chipotle aioli, Cotija cheese, lime - $4.95).

“Dainty” options will include the Grilled Caesar (parmesan toasted croutons, dressing - $11.95), Summer Salad (mixed greens, watermelon, strawberries, feta, roasted pistachios, dried cranberry champagne vinaigrette - $11.95) and, Heirloom Tomato Salad (heirloom beefsteak tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, balsamic vinaigrette - $11.95).

Poe also is serving up nine “Eggscessive” brunch plates with selections like the Buk Breakfast (scrambled eggs, bacon, toast - $10.95); Signature (basil pesto portabella, tomato, brie cheese, cherry tomatoes, truffle - $12.95); White Trash Cheese Chilequiles (flour tortillas casserole, white trash cheese dip, weenies, jalapenos, topped with fried egg - $12); Moons Over My Dilla (breakfast quesadilla stuffed with Velveeta, ham, fried egg, salsa fresca & Poe’s taco hell sauce - $10); Buk Burger (tomato, onion, pickle, lettuce, cheese, veal demi - $12.95; with an egg -$ 14.95); Avocado Burger (black beans, potatoes, black quinoa, cilantro lime crema - $12.95; with an egg - $14.95); and, Crab Cake Sandwich (poached egg, serrano chile- cilantro crab cake, mango hazelnut puree on a bun - $13.95).

Bukowski Tavern is open for brunch service on Saturday and Sunday from 12:00pm until 2:30pm.