Category Archives: Food

Highland Kitchen

You don’t need me to tell you that Highland Kitchen is awesome. The Somerville restaurant is constantly packed and they offer some of the best comfort food and cocktails in greater Boston.

But let’s take a look at the photo below. This was my recent order at Highland Kitchen. Let’s go around the table (from top left, clockwise):

  1. North African Dip Plate
  2. Fried Green Tomatoes
  3. Buffalo Fried Brussels Sprouts
  4. Creole Party Mix
  5. Jambalaya
  6. Lamb Tacos
  7. Potato Gnocchi with Braised Short Rib
  8. Deviled Eggs (not pictured)

Highland Kitchen

It was a diesel and rather ambitious order. Full disclosure, I had to bring most of the jambalaya home. My apatite just isn’t what it used to be. Anyways, the best thing on that table was the Gnocchi and Short Rib. The braise broth was packed with flavor and the potato dumplings were on point—not too heavy, sauteed lightly before incorporated with the sauce. The Lamb Tacos has a great yogurt tzatziki and I loved the sauce that accompanied the fried green tomatoes. The creole mix was spicy start to the meal and the dip plate went beyond the usual suspects. The Brussels Sprouts came highly recommended and they did not disappoint. They were a new and tasty take on the buffalo trend.

So basically, show up early and order half the menu. The staff is great and you’ll have an great time. But you already knew that.

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OTTO

There’s a new pizza boss in New England and it’s OTTO. They’ve been around Portland, ME for a few years and have now infiltrated Boston, staking their claim in a city once dominated by the super shady Upper Crust.

Otto Pizza

OTTO offers diesel pizza with creative topping combinations and a thin, yet perfectly crispy and chewy crust. So far I’ve had their signature Mashed Potato, Bacon & Scallion slice, the Eggplant, Ricotta & Basil and the Butternut Squash, Ricotta and Cranberry — all delicious. What makes OTTO so good is that they have perfected the necessary balance of dough, cheese and toppings where the parts are not greater than the sum of the whole. It’s easy to throw bacon on everything to make it better. But is it serving a purpose?

OTTO is already king of Portland and well on it’s way in Beantown. Forget the tired mainstays of the Hub and expand your palette to the next big thing in pizza.

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Top 5 Meals of 2012

I’ve been very fortunate to have eaten some great meals from across the country in 2012. Here are the best.

Scallops, corn chowder, clams, caviar from Joe Beef

5. ABV
Honorable Mention: Smorgasburg, Momfuku Milk Bar

I love ABV’s small menu and drink selection. Inventive, familiar and delicious.

4. Toro
Honorable Mention: Otto

I’m late to the party on Boston’s South End Tapas destination. I had my birthday dinner here and was floored. Aioli, paella, tortilla–Spanish excellence.

3. Fore Street
Honorable Mention: Duckfat, Novare Res

Portland, ME is a food lover’s dream. Fore Street is at the top of the mountain. The restaurant is the definition of fresh, local and amazing with its open kitchen and nightly menu changes.

2. Franklin BBQ
Honorable Mention: Easy Tiger, Frank

I waited for an hour and a half in line outside of Franklin’s in Austin, TX and I would have waited for another two hours if I needed to. Simply the best BBQ I’ve tasted.

1. Joe Beef
Honorable Mention: Au Pied de Cochon, La Banquise

Montreal is possibly the most underrated city in North America. I’d heard the hype around Joe Beef and it delivered on all levels. Get a reservation now.

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Thanksgiving Is Not Hard

Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year? Are you so stressed over cooking a whole turkey and trying to live up to Mom’s recipes? Take a deep breathe and suck it up. Thanksgiving is not hard. Intimidating? Maybe. But with the proper preparation and guidance, Turkey Day can be enjoyable and delicious. Follow these steps and you’ll be passed out, happily stuffed by halftime of the Cowboys game.

1) Know Your Limitations, Have Realistic Expectations
Right off the bat, how many people are you cooking for and do you have the tools to execute? Always make more food than you think you’ll need (leftovers are the best part) and they they make tin foil everything nowadays so just buy a couple pans to be safe. Now, are your guests foodies or do they want Stove Top stuffing? Either way, who cares? You’re cooking and they’re guests. Cook what you want. Cheat on the cranberry sauce, but make your own gravy from the pan drippings. Know that everything will be fine. Nobody is Julia Child. Follow your recipes and leave the family drama at the door.

2) Shop Early
Hopefully, you’ve already made your shopping list and made it to the grocery store once, if not twice. If not, well, you’ll be fine, but you’ll be fighting over that last box of Bell’s Turkey Seasoning and waiting in checkout lines for a while. Point is, by shopping early you can avoid the traffic and crowds that easily heighten stress levels.

3) Brine Your Turkey
The single biggest tip I can give anyone undertaking Thanksgiving Dinner is to brine your turkey for 24 hours before putting it in the oven. I use Martha Stewart’s recipe. Hasn’t failed me yet.

4) Prep
Get plenty of sleep on Wednesday and wake up ready to work on the big day. The turkey will go in first, but then go down your check list: peel potatoes, cut squash, baste turkey, bake stuffing. Put on some music and focus. Everything should be done about fourty-five minutes before you’d like to sit down. Give the turkey plenty of time to rest before carving. Set the over to 200 degrees to keep things warm if needed. Take a shower. Have a drink. Put on a smile when the doorbell rings.

5) Balance Your Sides
Mashed potatoes, stuffing, butternut squash–all staples. But don’t be afraid to balance the rich, heavy side dishes with a light spinach salad, sauteed green beans (instead of casserole), or a homemade, tart cranberry sauce.

6) Delegate
Don’t try to do everything. No one’s giving you a medal at the end of the day. Arrange for someone to bring dessert or the wine. If you insist on cooking everything, assign jobs once guests arrive. Parents greet, siblings set the table, kids clear dishes.

7) Pair Beverages
I love pairing season beers with Thanksgiving dinner. It’s fun, a conversation piece and makes the toast a lot easier. Go with something dark, but not heavy. I recommend Southern Tier Pumpking or Mayflower’s Thanksgiving Ale.

8) Give Thanks Now, Clean Later
Dirty dishes can wait until Friday. Put away the leftovers then go hang out with your family or whoever you ate with. Reflect on the year. Drink. Watch football. Then pass out.

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Drunk Pumpkins

Woodstock Inn

No segment of the craft beer market has exploded more than the fall seasonal/pumpkin trend. Breweries large and small all across the country are producing dark, robust beers that pair excellently with Thanksgiving dinner. The beer isle can be overwhelming this time of year, so here are Chef Diesel’s choices for the best beers of the season.

Woodstock Inn Autumn Ale Brew
This is not only my favorite fall beer, but a top ten overall brew for me. I wish they produced it year round. The Autumn Ale (pictures) is sweet with a strong cinnamon and nutmeg nose, but not overpowering when tasted. It’s smooth and at 4.6% ABV, very sessionable.

Southern Tier Pumpking
Pumking is intense. The beauty of this imperial pumpkin ale is its balance. A gorgeous copper color with vanilla and clove notes that is surprisingly smo0th. Southern Tier specializes in beers that pack a punch but don’t sacrifice taste.

Cody Brewing Cider Donut
I had the pleasure of sampling this beer at The Tap’s Brewfest in late September and it was easily a top three beer of the day for me. It combined all the typical fall flavors of nutmeg, cinnamon and apples with a wheat yeast that created a cloudy complexion and hints of banana. I need me a growler of this ASAP.

Shipyard Pumpkinhead
When I toured the Shipyard brewery this summer, they were already cranking out Pumpkinhead. Our guide told us its easily they’re most popular beer and growing every year. It’s pretty obvious why. It’s a crisp beer with a great finish. It’s the lightest seasonal on the shelf but still delivers on taste. Shipyard may not want to be known as only a pumpkin beer maker, but this beer is nothing the be ashamed of.

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Guy Fieri Reviews Bonecrusher Brews

Super Duper Celebrity Chef Guy Fieri swings by the Merrimack Valley to review beers by Boncrusher Brews.

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Joe Beef

Joe Beef is legit. Believe the hype. Go. Eat.

I suggest you improve your French culinary vocabulary to at least have some idea of what is laid before you on their massive chalkboard menu that changes daily. But if you’re a lazy American tourist like most of the restaurant’s customers these days, the servers are are bi-lingual and a great help in explaining the menu and offering suggestions.

We started with the lobster sausage (saucisson chaud de homard, petit farcis; not pictured below, sadly) on the recommendation of our waiter and it was fucking delicious. I stuck with the seafood for my entree and ordered the scallops (petoncles, corn chowder, clams, caviar) and Mrs. Diesel got the BBQ ribs and frites. For a pairing I went with the house Joe Beef pilsner and she tried the Bloody Caesar, basically a bloody mary topped with an oyster and shrimp garnish. Everything was excellent. The food was perfectly cooked, unpretentious and completely satisfying. The vibe was great and the staff really made sure we had a pleasant experience. It was the perfect meal to end an extremely gluttonous stay in Montreal.

 

Rant
To all the Joe Beef haters out there, step off. If you didn’t enjoy yourself, that’s on you and your horrible personality. Maybe you ordered the wrong thing or couldn’t get over the French barrier or were uncomfortable in the close quarters, but don’t try to take others down with you on Yelp. And to the heinous couple that clearly cut us in line while we were waiting to be seated: you can sit on your obnoxiously large Cannon DSLR lens that you busted out in the middle of dinner to take artsy photos of your dozen oysters. (I get that it’s the foodie thing to take pictures of your food and post them on your blog that no one reads, but have a little discretion. I’m guilty of this too (uh, gallery below!), but I used my phone with the flash off and didn’t immediately whip out my camera when I saw our plates approaching the table. There is no need for an 18 megapixel photo of French Fries unless you were hired by Savuer.) Besides the camera, the girl had to get up from her seat and stand in the middle of the dining room to stare at the menu board for a solid 5 minutes, only to decide to split the same BBQ ribs entree with her date. Really? You come to Joe Beef, probably with a reservation made weeks in advance, and you go with oysters and share probably the safest menu option? No wonder the French hate us.

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