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The Food Issue

50 food finds

Tasty, satisfying, fun, yummy, surprising, finger-licking, scrumptious, enticing finds

At Savenor's butcher shop in Boston, the butchers teach hourlong classes on barbecue techniques and how to cut up a chicken. At Savenor's butcher shop in Boston, the butchers teach hourlong classes on barbecue techniques and how to cut up a chicken. (Erik Jacobs for The Boston Globe)
By Lylah M. Alphonse, John Burgess, Scott Haas, Nancy Heiser, Stephen Jermanok, Marni Elyse Katz, Jenna Pelletier, Rachel Travers, and Lisa Zwirn
June 28, 2009
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Make nice with a butcher

Everything is first-rate at the family-owned Savenor's butcher shops that also supply meat to area restaurants. On Saturdays at the Cambridge location, the butchers teach hourlong $25 classes on such topics as barbecue techniques and how to cut up a chicken. Call the office (617-576-0214) to sign up and get 10 percent off purchases the day of your class. Savenor's, 92 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, 617-576-6328, http://savenorsmarket.com

Flower Power

You can almost taste the summer sun in the rose petal raspberry float at Beacon Hill Bistro. The fresh, sweet flavor actually comes from the drink's rose soda (with raspberry puree), made by pastry chef Shannon Black with help from chef Jason Bond -- he forages for the rose petals in Westport. Poured over just a spoonful of litchi sorbet, it's nothing like any brown cow you've ever sipped. Beacon Hill Bistro, 25 Charles Street, Boston, 617-723-1133, http://beaconhillhotel.com/bistro

Small Wonder

George Germon and Johanne Killeen -- the chef-owners behind Providence's lauded Al Forno restaurant -- took a lighthearted approach in creating the new 20-seat Tini. Ideal for a first date, the restaurant offers elbow-to-elbow counter-style seating, moderately priced small plates made for sharing (delicate gnocchetti with button mushrooms, fries doused in hot sauce and aioli) and cheekily named (Monks on the Beach) cocktails to get the conversation flowing. Tini, 200 Washington Street, Providence, 401-383-2400, http://thetini.com

Devil's Due

The Lobster Deviled Eggs at North 26 in the Millennium Bostonian Hotel near Faneuil Hall are pure New England in just two bites. Simply prepared from native lobster, local eggs, lemon, herbs, and chilies, the $5 appetizers are made with a deft hand -- not too much or too little of anything. North 26, The Millennium Bostonian Hotel, Boston, 617-523-3600

Market 101

As part of the Harvard dining services' Food Literacy Project, a new Tuesday farmer's market -- it's open to the public -- got underway this month. So far, 20 vendors are participating, and chef demos are scheduled with some pretty pedigreed teachers, Tony Maws (Craigie on Main) and Jody Adams (Rialto) among them. Corner of Oxford and Kirkland streets, Cambridge (near Sanders Theatre); Tuesdays 12:30 p.m.-6 p.m.

Core Score

Fresh apples in June? Bolton Orchards (just off I-495 and less than an hour's drive from Boston), a fifth-generation farm on 250 acres of land, uses high-tech so-called controlled atmosphere storage so that fall-quality local apples are available year round. And in just a few weeks, there will be sweet peaches, just off the trees. Bolton Orchards, 125 Still River Road (junction of Routes 117 and 110), Bolton, 978-779-2733, http://boltonorchards.com

Musseling In

It's an appetizer, but the dish does well for dinner. Catch in Winchester has a $10 bowl of Pemaquid Bay mussels with Spanish chorizo and smoked tomato broth. All it needs is some sliced bread, a glass of wine, and, of course, thou. Catch, 34 Church Street, Winchester, 781-729-1040, http://catchrestaurant.com

Fill 'Em Up

Think you could best Godiva, Lindt, and the rest? Connecticut-based Knipschildt's chocolatier kits ($12) contain 21 white-, dark-, or milk-chocolate shells plus a pastry bag and instructions for filling them with your own clever concoctions. Chocopologie Cafe, 12 South Main Street, Norwalk, Connecticut, 203-854-4754, http://knipschildt.com

Taste of Paradise

Slightly sweet and slightly hot, the paradise beef appetizer at Ronnarong Thai Tapas Bar in Somerville's Union Square -- it used to be known just as Ronnarong -- looks like candied beef jerky might. Bite down, though, and it's grilled perfectly. Ronnarong Thai Tapas Bar, 255 Washington Street, Somerville, 617-625-9296

Hangover Helper

Skip that Bloody Mary and go for something gentler: the Biltmore Bar and Grille's red beer, a mix of tomato juice with Miller High Life Draft. The restaurant's food is equally imaginative. The Biltmore Bar and Grille, 1205 Chestnut Street, Newton, 617-527-2550, http://thebiltmoregrill.com

Quite a Range

The Viking Center in Westwood is 10,000 square feet of kitchen fantasy, with 20 full model kitchens set up for window-shopping (it's a showroom, not a store, so you can't walk out with a new range -- you'll need to buy through a dealer). Call before you visit. The Viking Center, 400 Blue Hill Drive, Suite 3A, North Lobby, Westwood, 781-329-0638, http://vikingcenter.com

White Pies

Tina Santoro's potato pizza at Santoro's Scilian Trattoria in Dedham is a revelation. Its crispy crust gets doused with bechamel sauce, dotted with rosemary, garlic, and thinly sliced red potatoes that border on al dente, and topped with Parmesan, mozzarella, and a drizzle of olive oil. Santoro's Sicilian Trattoria, 211 Bridge Street, Dedham, 781-329-3354, http://santorosdeli.com

Dinner (Way) Out

Hop aboard the special ferry leaving Long Wharf at 6:15 p.m. on Thursdays, and you'll soon arrive at the weekly Spectacle Island clambake with food from Jasper White's Summer Shack. At $75 per person, it's not cheap, but it comes with all the fixings and an amazing view. Reserve through Boston Harbor Island Alliance, 800-838-3006, http://spectacleclambake.com

Slurp Specials

Presumably to entice recession-thinned crowds, numerous local restaurants, usually at the bar only, are discounting oysters on the half shell to $1 from the usual $2 to $3 per. Do your part to help the economy recover by downing a dozen. Rialto, 1 Bennett Street, Cambridge, 617-661-5050, http://rialto-restaurant.com; Mondays, 5:30 p.m. until they run out. Sel de la Terre (Back Bay), 774 Boylston Street, Boston, 617-266-8800, http://seldelaterre.com; Mondays, 5 p.m.-7 p.m. McCormick and Schmick's, 34 Columbus Avenue, Boston, 617-482-3999, http://mccormickandschmicks; Tuesdays, 3:30 p.m.-midnight. Dante, 40 Edwin H.Land Boulevard, Cambridge, 617- 497-4200, http://restaurantdante.com; Friday-Saturday, 4 p.m. till they run out. 28 Degrees, 1 Appleton Street, Boston, 617-728-0728, http://28degrees-boston.com; Tuesday-Thursday, 5 p.m.-10 p.m. and Friday-Sunday, 5 p.m.-7 p.m.

Better Than Cheap

In a related trend, some chefs are serving up free hors d’oeuvres at their bars for an hour or so on weeknights. One recent evening at SOWA’s Gaslight Brasserie du Coin (which sells $2 beer, by the way), there were deep-fried house-made ravioli with aioli, a crouton with a bite of steak tartare, and a hunk of crab meat with a mustard sauce. The Aquitaine in the South End sends out a tidbit to anyone lucky enough to score a seat. Gaslight Brasserie du Coin, 560 Harrison Avenue, Boston, 617-422-0224, http://gaslight560.com. Aquitaine, 569 Tremont Street, Boston, 617-424-8577, http://aquitaineboston.com

Neighborhood Joint

Every neighborhood needs its own Local. The West Newton gastropub serves refined comfort food (pictured, macaroni and cheese) at great prices with plenty of parking outside. Even if you’ve sworn off fried food for good, try the house-made ruffled potato chips served with sour cream-onion dip. You’ll want to make an exception. The Local, 1391 Washington Street, West Newton, 617-340-2160, http://thelocalnewton.com

This Cheese Stands Alone

Providence-based Narragansett Creamery’s rich small-batch ricotta puts the supermarket stuff to shame. It recently scored a “best in class” award at the World Championship Cheese Contest (think of it as a dairy Olympics), where one judge described the cheese as “fresh, gentle, and glowing.” Find the coveted curds at Savenor’s Cambridge location and The Dairy Bar at Kickass Cupcakes in Somerville. Kickass Cupcakes, 378 Highland Avenue, Somerville, 617-628-2877, http://kickasscupcakes.com

Animal Attraction

At a Chip-in Farm birthday party, 12 children ages 9 and under can get up close to (and feed) the goats, sheep, pig, chickens, rabbits, and cows. For $75 you get a two-hour time block, animal feed, and access to the “birthday room,” where you can feed the kids, too. Party dresses are not advised. Chip-in Farm, 201 Hartwell Road, Bedford, 781-275-2545, http://chip-infarm.com

Scene To Be Believed

Early evening at Tory Row brings a crowd of locals who know this is the best people watching in Harvard Square. The flatbreads are delicious, the littlenecks plentiful and tasty, and the beer and wine keep flowing. Tory Row, 3 Brattle Street, Cambridge, 617-876-8769, http://toryrow.us

Out of Her Shell

Food writer Erin Byers Murray has traded the trappings of urban life (she was Boston editor of the online newsletter “Daily Candy”) for hip boots and a year working – and blogging – at Island Creek Oysters in Duxbury. The thing that makes her blog Shucked a good read is discovering along with Murray just what hard work oyster farming is – and how much fun it seems to be. Shucked, http://shucked.wordpress.com

Wine Store for Food Lovers

Patrick Dubsky, originally from Brno in the Czech Republic, worked in the restaurant business for 17 years before opening Winestone in late 2007. As a trained sommelier, he tends to choose food-friendly wines; he also favors new varietals from Campania, Puglia, and Sicily in Italy, and wines from Spain and from the Loire Valley in France. For weekly tastings, extensive notes are e-mailed in advance to anyone who signs up. On July 11, join Dubsky as he explores wines “Off the Beaten Track.” Winestone, 1160 Boylston Street, Chestnut Hill, 617-264-0393, http://winestone.net

Taco Departure

Go around the world at Ole Mexican Grill in Inman Square for just $3.50 to $5.50 per trip. Filipino pork adobo, fried tofu, and Korean barbecue beef with kimchi are just a few of the globally influenced tacos now on the menu. Ole Mexican Grill, 11 Springfield Street, Cambridge, 617-492-4495, http://olegrill.com

Spice Girl

Dukkah is a nut, seed, and spice condiment originally from Egypt. Natick-based chef and cooking instructor Yvette Taylor is selling dukkah blends at area Whole Foods and gourmet shops under the name Queen of the Pantry. Dip bread into olive oil and dukkah, or use it to top roasted vegetables or fish, or mixed with yogurt as a rub for meats. Available at these Whole Foods: 340 River Street, Cambridge, 617-876-6990; 647 Washington Street, Newton, 617-965-2070; and 40 Railroad Street, Andover, 978-749-6664; http://wholefoodsmarket.com

Hot From Your Oven

Chef Michael Gagne’s award-winning 72-Layer Cream Cheese Biscuits – drawing patrons since 1996 to his restaurant, Robinhood Free Meetinghouse in Georgetown, Maine – are now distributed (they’re frozen in six-packs) in retail outlets, including Hannaford supermarkets. At all Hannaford markets in eastern Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine

Summer Sipper

Think of the Blueberi Squeeze as your cosmo for 2009. Cozy, comfortable Burtons Grill (in Hingham, Boston, and North Andover) shakes up organic blueberry juice, fresh lemonade, and blueberry vodka and serves it in a martini glass with a sugared rim. Burtons Grill, Derby Street Shoppes, Hingham, 781-749-1007, and other locations; http://burtonsgrill.com

Tropical Trip

Craving an island experience? Jamaica’s Flavor restaurant in Lynn delivers on the promise in its name. Try the traditional Jamaican patties – beef or chicken – plus dinners of curry goat or oxtail. Everything is cooked and served with truth, love, and respect, man. Jamaica’s Flavor, 121 Pleasant Street, Lynn, 781-477-9517

Sweet Charity

The idea behind Drop In and Decorate is simple but profound: Bake a bunch of sugar cookies, invite friends over to help ice them, then donate the dressed-up sweets to a food pantry, women’s shelter, or other nonprofit. “With that tiny cookie, we try to reach out and say somebody values you as a member of our community,” says founder and food blogger Lydia Walshin. The organization recently got national nonprofit status, helping Walshin take a concept that started in her Boston kitchen as far away as California. Anyone can host an event. Drop In and Decorate, http://dropinanddecorate.org

Don’t Be Late

It’s not a secret (GQ magazine just named Galleria Umberto in the North End one of the best pizza joints in the country), but this is still the best Sicilian slice around – and at $1.45, it’s a bargain you don’t want to miss. The slices – thick crust, tomato sauce, and fresh mozzarella – are served from 10:45 a.m. “until we run out,” says owner Paul Deuterio. Galleria Umberto, 289 Hanover Street, Boston, 617-227-5709

Dining Getaway

Portland, Maine, has all you need for a weekend of gustatory exploration. Start on Friday with a tour of the Allagash Brewing Company, noted for its artisanal ales. Find an evening berth at the elegant Portland Harbor Hotel and arise to breakfast on its garden terrace. Stroll the city’s Old Port, stopping by waterfront Browne Trading Company for caviar or to ogle the seafood. Make Standard Baking Company your destination for an afternoon pain au chocolat and cup of coffee. Have dinner at Hugo’s (its chef, Rob Evans, was recently named Best Chef in the Northeast by the James Beard Foundation). Can’t get a reservation? Try Five Fifty-Five, where Chelsea Clinton dined during Mom’s campaign. Allagash Brewing Company, 50 Industrial Way, 207-878-5385, http://allagash.com; tours Monday-Friday. Portland Harbor Hotel, 468 Fore Street, 207-775-9090, http://portlandharborhotel.com. Browne Trading Company, 260 Commercial Street, 207-766-2402, http://brownetrading.com. Standard Baking Company, 75 Commercial Street, 207-773-2112. Hugo’s, 88 Middle Street, 207-774-8538, http://hugos.net. Five Fifty-Five, 555 Congress Street, 207-761-0555, http://fivefifty-five.com.

Get Bowled Over

When life hands them leftover bread, the York, Maine, bakers at When Pigs Fly Bread Company make dense, rich, individual bread puddings. Flavors include malted milk chocolate, lemon blueberry (pictured), and rum raisin ($5 each, $3 with the purchase of a loaf of bread). When Pigs Fly Bread Company, 378B Highland Avenue, Somerville, 617-776-0021, and 1378A Beacon Street, Brookline, 617-232-1077; http://sendbread.com

On the lamb

Lamb bacon just might be God’s gift to carnivores. Certainly the house-made stuff chef Scott Hebert is serving at Troquet in the Theatre District is a near-religious experience. It’s currently served only as part of a lamb platter (pictured) but will soon be found elsewhere on the menu as Hebert figures out how to spread the lamb around. Troquet, 140 Boylston Street, Boston, 617-695-9463, http://troquetboston.com

Deep Nantucket

Yes, the Triple Eight Blueberry Vodka uses Maine blueberries, but Triple Eight Distillery is firmly planted on Nantucket Island, where sweet local water (from well number 888) is the basis for its vodkas, gin, rums, and Notch (not Scotch), a single malt whiskey that sells for $888 per 750-milliliter bottle. If you’re on the island, stop by for a tour and a nip. Triple Eight Distillery, 5 and 7 Bartlett Farm Road, Nantucket, 508-325-5929, http://ciscobrewers.com

Free-for-All

The chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies from New Hampshire-based HomeFree taste homemade – you won’t even miss what’s not in these organic allergen-free treats. None of the HomeFree cookies contains eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, or wheat (but since they do contain oats, they’re not quite gluten-free). At most Shaw’s supermarkets, http://shaws.com, and http://homefreetreats.com.

They Dig It

Having trouble getting that backyard garden started? Maybe you need a “personal farmer.” Green City Growers co-owners Gabriel Erde-Cohen and Jessie Banhazl construct and maintain raised-bed organic produce “farms” just about anywhere the sun shines (backyards, rooftops, driveways, balconies). It sounds expensive, but Erde-Cohen says the mini-farms actually save money: Plots start at $500 for a 4-by-4-foot bed of vegetables, about 20 percent less than the cost of buying the same yield of produce. Green City Growers, 508-395-1987, http://growmycitygreen.com

It’s the Bees

Cambridge Brewing Company’s brewmaster, Will Meyers, has crafted a new summer barleywine called Arquebus, a strong golden ale made with one hyper-local ingredient: honey produced by bees kept within 5 miles of the Kendall Square brewery. Arquebus took the gold medal in the experimental beer category at the Great American Beer Festival in October. “It’s our beer interpretation of a white dessert wine,” Meyers says. Cambridge Brewing Company, 1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-494-1994, http://cambridgebrewingcompany.com

A Waiter You’d Wait For

Originally from near Naples, server Mario DePascale brings Old World respect, humor, and theater to Scampo, on the edge of Beacon Hill. His voice is soft and melodic as he describes the menu specials, and his warm welcome makes you feel like a regular after just two visits. Scampo, The Liberty Hotel, 215 Charles Street, Boston, 617-536-2100, http://scampoboston.com

Great Goat

Husband-and-wife team Greg Bernhardt and Hannah Sessions have a system: She manages the goats, he makes the cheese. One of their finest joint ventures is Lake’s Edge, a three-week-aged ash-veined round that’s creamy, with a pleasant bite. Buy it locally at Formaggio or Wasik’s, or visit Blue Ledge Farm, situated along the “cheese trail” in western Vermont, where it all starts. Formaggio Kitchen, 244 Huron Avenue, Cambridge, 617-354-4750, and 268 Shawmut Avenue, Boston, 617-350-6996; http://formaggiokitchen.com. Wasik’s Cheese Shop, 61 Central Street, Wellesley, 781-237-0916. Blue Ledge Farm, 2001 Old Jerusalem Road, Salisbury, Vermont, 802-247-0095, http://blueledgefarm.com.

Points Well Taken

At restaurant reservation website Open Table, users earn either 100 points (worth $1 in gift-certificate form) or 1,000 points (worth $10) every time they use the service, and may redeem them at any of the site’s restaurants. Over the last several months, more area restaurants began offering 1,000 points. Among them: Dante, KO Prime, and Rialto. Open Table, http://opentable.com

Souped-Up Scraps

Maltagliati, the odds and ends left over after making pasta, are always used by thrifty cooks. Now the chefs at Wellesley’s Alta Strada are serving a dish of maltagliati with braised guinea hen and chanterelles (though for these “maltagliati,” they’re actually cutting odd shapes to look like remnants). The thick-cut pasta pairs beautifully with the meaty mushrooms and flavorful sauce. Alta Strada, 92 Central Street, Wellesley, 781-237-6100, http://altastradarestaurant.com

Talking Tomatoes

This summer and fall, Vermont Fresh Network is holding farmer dinners around the state. Enjoy the freshest products – in many cases just a few hours after harvest – and hear from the growers as you tuck in. Burlington restaurant Sugarsnap collaborates with Half Pint Farm on July 19; Ariel’s Restaurant in Brookfield teams up with Brotherly Farm Organic the next evening. Find more options on the network’s website. Vermont Fresh Network, http://vermontfresh.net/vfnfarmerdinner

Milling About

Talk about slow food. Gray’s Grist Mill, which straddles the town line between Westport and Rhode Island’s Adamsville, has been in operation since the mid-1700s. It is best known for its meals from native-grown corn, particularly Narragansett White Flint Corn -- the cornmeal is ideal for authentic johnnycakes. Pick some up at the mill shop. Gray’s Grist Mill, Adamsville Road, Adamsville, Rhode Island, 508-636-6075, http:// graysgristmill.com

Honey, Do This

The chef at Orta in Pembroke has taken his beekeeping hobby to the table. The restaurant now serves Gorgonzola dolce – cheese, crostini, fresh thyme – but the star is the drizzle of Jimmy Burke’s earthy amber-colored honey, flavored by the flowers of the area’s horse-chestnut trees. Orta, 75 Washington Street, Pembroke, 781-826-8883, http://ortarestaurant.com

From the Farm

The Farm Market Collection from Black Dinah Chocolatiers on Isle au Haut off the coast of Maine is just what it sounds like. Blueberry black pepper, Maine mint, and chevre-and-cocoa-nib truffles are all flavored with ingredients from nearby farms. Have them delivered to your door in one day (New England) or two (elsewhere in the continental United States). Black Dinah Chocolatiers, 1 Moore’s Harbor Road, Isle au Haut, 207-335-5010, http://blackdinahchocolatiers.com

Sweet Satisfaction

The Greater Boston Food Bank is all moved in to its new facility in the South Bay neighborhood. Volunteers are needed to sort donated food at the Yawkey Distribution Center and in other capacities. The Greater Boston Food Bank, 70 South Bay Avenue, Boston, 617-427-5200, http://gbfb.org

Something Fishy

How’s this for a swimming little dish? Smoked ahi tuna “bacon” is cured overnight in a spice rub, smoked for two hours, then thinly sliced and served with a poached-and-tempura-fried quail’s egg with chervil and toasted brioche. At Harvest in Harvard Square. Harvest, 44 Brattle Street, Cambridge, 617-868-2255, http://harvestcambridge.com

Guy Walks Into a Bar

Adam Lantheaume started The Boston Shaker so he could enjoy the occasional Alaska – a drink made with hard-to-find yellow Chartreuse liqueur and orange bitters, among other things. His exotic supplies and ingredients (including more than a dozen types of bitters) are available at the Union Square home boutique Grand. Visit his website to sign up for a bartending class or just to watch his how-to videos. The Boston Shaker, http://thebostonshaker.com. Grand, 374 Somerville Avenue, Somerville, 617-623-2429, http://grandthestore.com

Stir Things Up

Slow Food Boston, in collaboration with Haley House Bakery Cafe in Roxbury, is offering a Sunday series of $45 cooking classes that will make the beach look boring: smoking and curing meats and seafood, tomato sauces and salsas – all with local and sustainable in mind. Register at the Slow Food website (click on SF Events at top). Slow Food, http://slowfoodboston.com. Haley House Bakery Cafe, 12 Dade Street, Roxbury, 617-445-0900, http://haleyhouse.org

Say Cheese

Russo’s market is known for its high-quality produce at good prices. But another real draw is the cheese, thanks to Mark Trumble. Down to earth and knowledgeable, the cheese buyer and in-house expert draws upon his background as a former English teacher to explain passionately what he loves about certain provolones, bell-shaped goat Clochette, or different Manchegos. He’ll convert you, too. Russo’s, 560 Pleasant Street, Watertown, 617-923-1500, http://russos.com

Fresh Vegetables

Here’s a tip from a farmer: Look this summer for Round Mauve eggplants, which keep their lovely white flesh when cooked and frozen, and Jenny Lind cantaloupes, bigger (and prettier) than Charentais but just as perfumed. These are among the new offerings from Stillman’s farms, a growing family-run enterprise in and around New Braintree. Look for their vegetables and meats (try the hormone-free, pasture-raised smoked pork chops and lamb chorizo) at farmer’s markets around Boston every day of the week. Stillman’s at farmer’s markets in Brookline (Thursdays), Cambridgeport (Saturdays), Boston City Hall (Mondays and Wednesdays), Copley Square (Tuesdays and Fridays), and other markets; http://stillmansfarm.com

Earthly Delightful

From the outside, you might not guess that the nondescript Sichuan Garden in Brookline Village (or the Colonial-style one in Woburn) is an incredibly authentic Sichuan restaurant. Get the Dan Dan Noodles with Minced Pork Chili Vinaigrette, and ask your server to recommend the day’s best greens. Once the subtlety and heat of the peppers hit you, you’ll see why a visit to either one beats a trip to China. Sichuan Garden, 295 Washington Street, Brookline, 617-734-1870, and 2 Alfred Street, Woburn, 781-935-8488; http://sichuangarden2.com

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