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Harvard Square Oktoberfest 2011 @ Grendel’s Den

8 Oct

Many of you know that Joe and I honeymooned in Germany. In fact, while we were in Munich, we stayed very very close to the Oktoberfest grounds on the Theresienwiese. When it’s not being used as a large gathering for drinking copious amounts of beer and eating lots of pretzels, usually there is a carnival going on or some kind of huge flea market.

Every year, Harvard Sq celebrates Oktoberfest with a huge party, complete with parade and music in the form of Honk Fest.

We had a front row seat of all the parade festivities because during every Oktoberfest, we always get lunch at Grendel’s. They are one of the only restaurants that serve actual German Oktoberfest beers. Which makes me a very happy girl.

Unfortunately they don’t sell full liters but Joe and I both had a half liter of Paulaner Oktoberfest. Paulaner isn’t actually my favorite of the big six Munich beers (the other five being Hofbräu, Hacker-Pschorr, Spaten, Franziskaner, and my favorite and totally hard to find on draft in the US, Augustiner), but the Oktoberfest brew was still very very good.

We always start off with the pretzels and whole grain mustard. I prefer the pretzels here over the ones they have at Jacob Wirth’s, they are perfectly doughy with a good exterior.

Also served with the pretzels is Obatzda, which is a popular German cheese concoction composed of Camembert, butter, and other spices. It is a very pungent dish, so it’s something not to be taken lightly.

I went with the traditional bratwurst sandwich served with whole grain mustard and sauerkraut. The brat was grilled perfectly and the sauerkraut was pickled just the way I like it. It was served with some boring chips, so I filled myself up with the pretzels instead.

Joe went with the schweinebraten, which is pork with mashed potatoes and red cabbage. This was definitely Americanized, as the entire dish seemed to be braised in the same pot. It still tasted good, but was definitely NOT 100% German.

It’s Oktoberfest, right? Which means that we must have a second beer. I went with the Weihenstephaner Festbier, which was definitely more carbonated than the Paulaner. It did have a very crisp flavor, but I didn’t like it nearly as much as…

The Kostritzer Schwartzbier, which is a black lager. I had this lovely brew in Munich and it was one of my favorites of the entire trip. It has a really smooth taste, and if you don’t like aftertaste with your beer, you will DEFINITELY like this one.

And now I’m craving beer. Must remedy that.

I’m really pleased at how much larger and better Harvard Square Oktoberfest has become. It still has a long way to go (PLEASE sell more ACTUAL German beers and not just Harpoon and Sam Adams? Not that I have a problem with that…) but we definitely enjoy making our annual pilgrimage.

Grendel's Den on Urbanspoon

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OM Restaurant with Boston Brunchers

27 Aug

This past Saturday I had the FANTASTIC opportunity to dine with some fabulous Boston Brunchers for Brunch at OM Restaurant.

I have to admit, while I’ve certainly walked by OM many a times in my forays in Harvard Square, I never really considered dining there, nevermind eating brunch there. I actually didn’t even know they served brunch! Learn something knew everyday.

While we didn’t get to sit outside we did sit on the second floor right next to the windows which provided 1) ample light (they know their food bloggers!) and 2) provided a great view of Winthrop Square on the edge of Harvard Square.

I was immediately impressed with the brunch menu. Small, but it provided both breakfast (sweet and savory) and lunch thrown in. Everything on the menu looked great, and I really liked the Asian touches the menu had to offer.

We started off with a Lychee Bellini. I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to go back to boring Peach or Orange Bellini’s because this was delicious! The lychee was wonderfully thick with small bits of lychee mixed with the champagne. It was a wonderful start to the meal.

The sweeter side of the menu looked absolutely to die for, but we all didn’t really want to have all that sweetness. Luckily our server understood our needs and we were able to sample the delicious chocolate and banana stuffed french toast served with maple syrup. The bread was nicely eggy, and the chocolate was amazing. I actually didn’t taste any bananas in the french toast, so I don’t know what was up with that.

We also decided to share an order of the Lemon Buttermilk Pancake which was served with the most amazing orange honey butter. I seriously just wanted an entire bowl of that butter. I generously slathered it all over my pancake quarter and ate it happily.

What made this pancake extra special was the lemon curd surprise found on the inside. I don’t know how on Earth they did this, but they managed to sandwich this amazing curd into the middle of the pancake. Slightly tangy and slightly sweet, it complimented the pancake perfectly. My only gripe with this dish? At $9.00, you only get 1 pancake. 1 Pancake!!! At least give me 2 pancakes!

While there were a couple of items that caught my eye, I ultimately went with the Duck Confit hash, which was served with 2 eggs any style (I copied Kathy and went poached) served with a Spicy Tomato Sauce. A couple things about this dish. The eggs were cooked PERFECTLY so when I stuck my fork in the yolk, it blessedly split open and covered the potatoes and the duck. Can you say Heaven? Second, the spicy tomato sauce? I’ll take an entire VAT of that please. It had just the right amount of kick to it and it added a perfect amount of flavor to the dish. There was also a generous amount of duck confit that literally melted in my mouth. I loved everything about this dish.

I was able to snag a few bites of Megan’s Biscuit, Egg, & Ham dish which was served with some of the best home fries EVAH. I’m really a hash brown kind of gal, and I always prefer if there is only the home fries option, that the potatoes are on the smaller side. I can’t stand huge chunks of potatoes. But that’s a rant for another day. Let’s concentrate on these babies. Perfectly seasoned, crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. Yeah, these were good. And the biscuit? It lovingly sandwiched some delicious eggs, cured ham, and the most unbelievable tomato jam I’ve tasted. Out.Of.This.World. The ham was so-so for me, it was definitely a little more salty than I would have liked. The biscuit was VERY heavy on the butter, dare I say maybe too much butter? It definitely had the flakiness of a great biscuit and it melted in my mouth, but I could tell there was nothing healthy about THAT biscuit.

While there were some minor misses, brunch at OM Restaurant was most definitely a home run. I would love to come back to try some of the other brunch items, and I’m also curious to return for dinner. A great time had by all, hanging with some fabulous bloggers and eating some delicious food. Definitely check out brunch at OM if you find yourself in Harvard Square!

Disclaimer: Brunch at OM Restaurant was provided at no cost to me (besides tip!) but all opinions are my own and were in no way influenced by the fact that it was free. It was really that good.

OM Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Getting in Touch with my Portuguese side at Atasca

28 Jul

Atasca is probably one of my favorite restaurants ever. Considering that I live in Brighton, and Atasca is located in Kendall Sq, it’s not the most convenient for me. So the fact that I’ve been there about 10 times or so shows how much I love this place.

My Mama was born on the island of Terceira in the Azores, a group of islands about 1500km off the coast of Portugal. The last time I went I was probably 3 or 4 years old, but I still have memories of spending time with my grandparents at their huge stone mansion (in my eyes) and sitting on a huge ledge watching the parades go by. And eating amazing food. I hope to one day go back (very very soon).

Eating at Atasca brings me back to those times. I’ve brought my mother here many times in the past as well and she loves it. The inside is decorated with colorful plates, paintings, even a little guitar which my mom remarked to me one time that she used to own one just like that.

This particular time that we went, we finally were able to snag a seat outside. My profuse apologies for not taking a picture but it is beautiful. Shaded by grape vines, and decorated with tomato, thyme and rosemary plants, it’s difficult to think you are steps away from huge corporate buildings.

Whenever I come to Atasca I always need to have a glass (or carafe) of Sangria. With a refreshing fruity taste, I could drink this all night. They also include a nice offering of fruit with your Sangria.

Each table starts out with some delicious olives that are served with bread and olive oil (pictured below). I LOVE olives. I pretend they are like popcorn I eat them so much. Atasca always managed to have a slightly different assortment every time we come, and they are always equally delicious.

The bread is moist and tender, with a good crust, and the olive oil with garlic is out of this world. I could come here for just the bread alone and I would be happy.

For our appetizer this time around we went with Grilled Sardines with roasted peppers (Sardinhas Grelhadas). These aren’t your sardines that come in a can, no they aren’t. My Mama used to go to a Portuguese market in Hudson and would buy a dozen sardines exactly like these and bake them up nice and pretty. My favorite part is the tail, it’s nice and crispy and packs quite the crunch. These were cooked perfectly, and the cool peppers contrasted nicely with the grilled fish.

For my husband’s main meal, he went with Sauteed pork loin with clams, paprika, garlic and cilantro with cubed fried potatoes (Carne de porco a alentejana). I snuck a bite from him and it was amazing. The paprika was really pronounced (in a good way) and the clams were cooked perfectly. I’m slightly (read, very) obsessed with their potatoes. They are usually sliced thinly and fried to perfection. I don’t know what kind of seasoning they use, but it’s amazing.

For my meal, I went with the Cataplana, which is clams, mussels and shrimp, steamed in a copper steamer (the cataplana), with onions, red peppers, procuitto and linguica served with jasmine rice. The broth soaked up the rice beautifully, and the shellfish was in abundance. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. This ranks as one of the top dished I’ve had at Atasca.

I think over our many visits to to Atasca, we’ve managed to eat almost every dessert. From the sweet rice pudding (Arroz Doce) to the creamy custard tart (Pasteis de Nata) you really can’t go wrong with their desserts. This time around we went with the indulgent Chocolate mousse. This mousse was dense and intensely chocolatey, but not in a way that settled heavily in your stomach. It was the perfect ending to a great meal.

If you find yourself in Kendall Sq, make sure to pay a visit to Atasca.

Atasca on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review: Wagamama

17 Feb

I feel like Wagamama has some kind of cult like following all over the world. People just love Wagamama. Every time I’ve gone to a Wagamama, whether it is in Harvard Square or Faneuil Hall it’s always PACKED. I just don’t get it!

I mean, let’s be honest here, Wagamama is ok but it’s not like the end all be all of noodle dishes. Yes, I enjoy that everything is freshly made and that the food comes out when it’s ready and doesn’t sit under a heat lamp for 20 minutes (I wish more restaurants did this), but every time I go I feel like I’m having just a mediocre meal.

In case you are unaware of how Wagamama works, they basically write this equation on your paper mat of what you’ve ordered. I don’t know how they make sense of this, but it seems to work.

For our appetizer (which actually came AFTER our meals came) we went with the Wagamama Glazed Ribs. I enjoyed these a lot, the meat was very tender (fall off the bone even!) and had the right amount of sauce. Definitely the highlight of the meal!

For my meal I had the chicken chili ramen. It was pretty tasty, but I wish there were more veggies and accoutrements included. This reminded me a lot of Pho, except that it was more expensive and not as flavorful. Granted, I liked it, but I wasn’t over the moon about it. The hubby basically got the same dish but without the spice.

Our particular table was great for people watching (And people attempting to park watching) as it looked out on the fringe of Harvard Square.

The service was less than stellar. After our meal was served our waiter basically forgot about us. And not to mention it took probably about 20 minutes for us to get the bill. Granted, we weren’t in a hurry, but it was still kind of annoying!

So the verdict on Wagamama? If your trying to introduce yourself to the world of noodle dishes then come here. If you are bringing your country bumpkin family to the big city and want to introduce them to something “exotic” come here. If you’re in the mood for a chain restaurant and don’t feel like going down the street to Uno’s, come here.

If you want delicious (and cheap) noodles or something a little more authentic, head some where else.

Wagamama on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review: Hell Night @ East Coast Grill

13 Jan

When I deduced that the next Mystery Meet was going to be Hell Night, I was ALL over that. I had been wanting to go to Hell Night ever since I had first heard of it. Unfortunately, my husband is not a spice maniac like I am, and my Dad lives in Central Mass and cannot get out here on a weeknight. I knew from the first clue that it was Hell Night @ East Coast Grill:

“If you can’t take the heat, get your ass outta the kitchen.”

 

I thought to myself, The next Mystery Meet is HELL NIGHT?!?!?! HELL YEAH!!

What other restaurant makes you sign a waiver beforehand?

In case you aren’t familiar with Hell Night, their menu is all spicy, all the time. The more “bombs” on a dish, the spicier it is. I believe the “bombs” go up to either 8 or 9. Their most famous dish is the Spaghetti, and unfortunately it was not included on the Hell Night menu. Oh well, that just means I need to come back again!

As you can see there are a lot of bombs on that menu. The appetizers were family style, which was great, as it gave us a chance to sample a lot of the menu. We then had a choice of two entrees, and then one dessert. The only dish on the menu that was not spicy was the dessert.

We started out with the Russian Roulette Style Spicy Meatball Challenge with Angry Tomato Sauce (2 bombs to 8 bombs). What happens is that everyone takes a meatball, and they all vary in spice, and one lucky (unlucky?) person gets the hottest (8 bombs) meatball. There was some argument on who had the spiciest meatball, and if I had to guess, I would give mine a 4-5 bombs. The spiciness settles at the back of your throat and stays there. I went through 6 glasses of water that night (Our table went balls out and did NOT get any milk), and this tiny meatball made me go through at least one glass.

The second dish, the Smokin’ Hot Pork Spare Ribs with Guava Lava Glaze and Inner Beauty Hot Sauce (3 bombs) were waaaaaaay spicier than the meatballs. This spice stayed right at the front of your mouth, numbing my lips and causing some of us to break out in a sweat. The meat was tender and the sauce was delicious, but MAN they were HOTT!

Next came the Wings of Mass Destruction “Phuket Style” with Ghost Chile Oil, Aromatic Herbs, and Nuoc Cham (7 bombs. I was most excited and most fearful of this dish. I had never before had Ghost Chili before, and if you weren’t aware, Ghost Chili is the spiciest chili pepper on the planet. ON THE PLANET. And I voluntarily ate it (I have the waiver to prove it).

 

You can SEE the glistening ghost chili oil

Looking at it on my plate I was shivering in fear of these wings. I very gently pulled away the meat and ate it.

It burned.

Slowly.

And it didn’t go away for at least 20 minutes.

Surprisingly enough I didn’t sweat or shed any tears. I actually found myself shivering for most of the night. So explain THAT one. I remember the chicken being tender and actually quite tasty. But I think I was more worried if I was ever going to return to normal ever again.

The last appetizer that we had was the Korean Fried Chicken Thigh with Apple Kim Chi and Super Charged Kojuchang (4 bombs). This thankfully was actually not very spicy, so I was surprised by the 4 bomb designation. It was actually very hot temperature wise, and my mouth was still feeling the affects of the chicken wings so I couldn’t eat them for a good 10 minutes. The chicken was tender and the sauce was pretty good.

For my entree I of course went with the spicier meal, Jamaican Jerk Grilled Pork Chop with Banana Guava Ketchup, Real Inner Beauty Hot Sauce, Curried Sweet Mashed Potatoes, and Cumin Seared Greens (6 bombs). The sauce is what REALLY made this dish spicy but there was a nice spicy crunch on the pork chop. The sweet potatoes and the greens were not spicy either, but still very good.

Last but not least came dessert. It was a perfect ending to Hell Night. The Mango-Berry Crisp with Fresh Whipped Cream and Vanilla Ice Cream was not spicy, and it definitely cooled whatever spice was left in my mouth.

So the verdict? At the beginning of the night (right around the time of the Chicken Wings) I was telling myself that I would only do this once. By the end of the meal I thought, Well this isn’t so bad. I just finished retelling my tale to my Dad and he asked me when the next Hell Night was and that he wanted to go. Well then. See you at the next Hell Night!

 

East Coast Grill on Urbanspoon

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