Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Otto Pizza

It's T minus two days until we move from our squalid little sublet and into a cozy new apartment with two (count 'em, two) decks and a working fireplace, and a marvelous kitchen that I cannot wait to christen. But as much as I'm looking forward to moving back across the river, I'll miss Cambridge's quirky atmosphere. (A few weeks ago—and I swear this is true—I saw a Buddhist monk going into an Urban Outfitters.) I'll miss walking through Harvard Yard every morning on my way to work, and I'll miss living within walking distance of Otto Pizza.

Otto started in Portland, Maine, but they have a recently-opened location in Cambridge.
I can't believe that we went nearly the entire summer without the utter deliciousness that is Otto Pizza. It's a tiny (and I do mean tiny) little place in Harvard Square, which I must have passed, oh, about a bajillion times without even noticing. But I've been craving pizza like a fiend lately, so last week we gave their Three-Cheese Tortellini pizza a try, and people, it was stupendous. We gobbled the entire thing up in probably twenty minutes, and the next day I had to physically restrain myself from going to get another one.

This is their Apple, Bacon, and Red Onion pizza. It's also quite good, but honestly, I fell in love with the amazing fresh red sauce on that tortellini pizza. I can't wait to go back and try more of their genius toppings, like Butternut Squash+Ricotta+Cranberry, or Pulled Pork+Mango, or Mashed Potato+Bacon+Scallion.
I've already Google-Mapped the route between Otto and our future apartment. It's 18 minutes, and on a toll road to boot. But don't think that'll stop me.

Otto Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 28, 2011

hurricane lunch

We're spending today inside, since the Eastern seaboard decided that yes, this whole earthquake-and-hurricane-in-one-week thing sounded pretty good. There are books to catch up on, and tea to drink, and writing to finish, for which I hope I won't have to whip out our trusty flashlight.

There's also a cat to cuddle. Actually, I'm beginning to think that she's actually a dog-in-cat's-clothing, from the way she begs when she sees anything even remotely edible in our hands. That, and she never passes up a good belly rub.

On rainy, windy days like this, I make probably a dozen trips into the kitchen, looking for a mug of something hot or a satisfying snack. These thick slices of heirloom tomato, resting on a baguette slathered with homemade pesto, fell somewhere between third breakfast and first dinner, so I suppose one might call them lunch. Our hurricane lunch. The "just in case" cans of soup that we bought for today are staring mournfully at me from the kitchen table, but hurricane or no, who am I to resist a beautiful heirloom tomato at the end of August?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

shrimp and avocado fresh spring rolls with spicy peanut sauce

The best thing about our summer apartment in Cambridge, in the bright blue house with the bright purple door, is that we have a new roommate. Meet Seng. 

I have to say that if I were a cat, I would be Seng, unquestionably. We both use our free time for lounging; we both like to be the little spoon; we both get cranky when we’re hungry. I've also heard that we both do the same huffing-puffing thing with our breath when we sleep. 

But what really solidifies my affinity with this little cat is that she shares my consummate love of all things edible. It makes no difference what she finds: potato chips, olives, salad dressing, once even a hunk of moldy cheese (please don’t report me to PETA). She’ll climb up onto the kitchen table to lap up the leftover spoonful of milk in our cereal bowls. When we scold her, she’ll plunk herself down and then strategically roll over, playing off her adorableness, to get her face as close as possible to the forbidden mana just in case we look away and she can sneak a mouthful.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rami's: Exceptional Israeli Cuisine

Brookline is a town that knows what it likes. Restaurants with good food win loyal regulars in a flash; those with not-so-good food usually end up relocating. So when you find a restaurant that has flourished in Coolidge Corner since 1990, with only a few tables and a very unremarkable exterior, you can be sure that it’s doing something right.

At Rami’s, the cuisine is Sephardic Israeli, and the menu is exactly what you might expect: hummus, falafel, Israeli salad, beef kebabs, and the grilled eggplant spread baba ganoush. There’s chicken grilled with onions, and turkey shawarma—marinated meat layered onto a spit and slow-cooked, rotisserie-style.

But within the expected comes the unexpected—the tastes and textures that whisper, this is how I’m really supposed to taste. The hummus is velvety, nutty, and heavy on the tahini. It’s made fresh, in-house, three times each day. The falafel are golden orbs of ground chickpeas and spice, deep-fried for a crisp crust, but fork one open and the interior will steam with moisture. The delicate little morsels of baklava gleam with honey and nuts. The Israeli salad is a beautiful jumble of color, the cucumbers, red cabbage, and tomatoes, shining under a layer of tart, spicy pickles and tahini dressing.Read the full review at the Brookline Patch...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

MJ Ready: Thai Food Shines In a Puzzling Menu

A bit of innocuous "recipient design" seems to be a trend among some restaurants these days—an alteration of menu, message, or service based on the intended customer. It’s a gentle, bright-eyed version of “give the people what they want,” a noncommittal way to cast the widest net possible. But it can also confuse customers. Is the restaurant Chinese or Korean? Cuban or Mexican?

Or, as is the case with MJ Ready: Thai or Italian-American? If I ever feel like some Fettuccine Alfredo or corned beef hash alongside my steaming bowl of Tom Kha Gai, I guess I now know where to go.

Read the full review at the Brookline Patch...

Friday, August 5, 2011

August 6th: National Mustard Day!

My friend Molly
has convinced me that everybody needs a little mustard in life. Especially during summer, the season of cookouts! and hot dogs! And people, in case you didn’t know, there are so many other choices than Dijon and French’s yellow. Mustards that boggle the mind, like chocolate mustard and root beer mustard and curry mustard.

To me, mustard is the King of Condiments. I've always loved mustard more than ketchup, and (slightly) more than relish. I'm imagining that mustard above, the whole-grain mustard with Guinness, slathered on a thick sausage in a pillowy Portuguese roll.

Can you believe there's a National Mustard Museum? And can you believe that It was less than half an hour from the house where I grew up, and I never knew? They’re celebrating National Mustard Day on August 6th—and there’ll be mustard samples, and mustard games {whatever those are} and even a frozen mustard custard.

(Yes, that's Merlot and Chocolate in that picture. It's a little sweet, not too spicy, and very round. And the museum published a recipe for chocolate-mustard brownies that I must make, post-haste.)

Happy National Mustard Day!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Greek-style bulgur salad

When Merrick and I agreed to sublet a tiny apartment in Cambridge for the summer, we had no idea what we were in for.
By some cosmic hilarity, our apartment (to which I will ironically refer as “shabby-chic”) was already totally furnished before we moved in, leaving no reasonable place for our own boxes. And, because we’re moving again in September, my current mentality can be loosely summarized as, “Why bother unpacking?” 

 The living room is dominated by boxes, while in the bedroom, messy suitcases have entirely taken over the floor like mold takes over cheese—at a creeping but determined pace, until suddenly you look up and realize that the mold has won. There is a good possibility that I will abandon all hope of ever finding appropriate clothes to wear to work and just start showing up in a bathrobe. 

 There is an equally good chance that I will eighty-six all of my cooking plans and we will just live on Indian take-out from the place down the street. Especially since only two of the burners on our stove work. And especially because when I use those burners, the kitchen heats up to roughly two hundred degrees.