Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Stoli Bar and Restaurant: From Russia, with Love

Honey, cranberry, and raspberry infused vodkas at Stoli

I still remember my first Russian meal in Brookline; a bunch of us slurping down bowls of borscht over lace tablecloths, while a fellow diner warbled Tchaikovsky over the tinny notes of an upright piano in the corner.
That place has since closed, and Stoli Bar and Restaurant is decidedly more posh than that restaurant of my memories. Stoli is a tiny place, with red leather booths and a TV looping rap performances over a bar that’s well-stocked with vodka. The housemade infused vodkas at Stoli, like black currant, cranberry, and mint, are smooth, juicy, and perfect for sipping. We loved the honey vodka, which was soft and sweet, but I’ve also heard that the horseradish vodka makes a killer bloody mary.
Start with an appetizer like Samsa ($7), pockets of puff pastry filled with lamb, beef, and onions served with fresh dill and a yogurt dressing. Or, enjoy the Russian tower ($12), an artful layering of favorite Russian elements that blend into lovely roundness of flavor. Each bite offers a bit of chewy blintz, smooth sour cream, the saltish depth of smoked salmon, and savory caviar, which linger gently together in the mouth.
Read the rest of this review on the Brookline Patch...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

In Brookline, a Visit to the Cook's Illustrated Kitchen

The prep kitchen at Cook's Illustrated headquarters

Cook's Illustrated magazine founder Christopher Kimball likes to recount an anecdote about one reader who wrote in to complain about a recipe for chicken breasts, only to finally disclose a substitution of shrimp for the chicken.
“So of course the recipe didn't work!” Kimball chuckles.
As the driving force behind the magazine's characteristic preciseness, Kimball would gladly expound at length upon the reasons why that shrimp substitution failed.  From 1980, when it showed up on the racks in its original form as Cook's Magazine, and later in 1993 when it relaunched as Cook's Illustrated, this test kitchen empire has churned out precise yet approachable recipes, the kind that readers dub 'foolproof.'

Welcome to America's Test Kitchen!
The Test Kitchen
Dishes stacked high, sorted by color, in the prop room

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Super Fusion Cuisine: Balancing Quality and Value

It's not hard to find good sushi in Boston, this oceanfront seafood mecca, this polestar for fishermen and pescatarians alike.  But after dinner, I often find that I spent more than I intended on those perfect little strips of protein, and I still come away hungry.  It's a perpetual balancing act between fresh, good quality sushi and great value.
Super Fusion Cuisine has that balancing act figured out.  I've driven past this closet-sized restaurant underneath its gaudy red awning dozens of times, wondering with every pass what the appeal could be.  Is it bigger inside than it looks?  What could set this place apart from the many sushi places in Brookine?  And what exactly is “super fusion” sushi, anyway?