Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Mélange of Beets and Mushrooms

Chocolate truffles.  Cheesy croque-monsieurs.  Buttery mashed potatoes.  Macaroni and cheese (for two meals in one day).  Okay, so my holiday diet hasn't been what you might call stellar.  But didn't I read somewhere that laughing burns calories?  Boy do I hope that's true, because it might help even things out.  This holiday was big―as in, Brady-Bunch-style big, Times-Square-style big, opening-ceremonies-of-the-Olympics-style big―and very boisterous.  Five days, four generations, three rowdy brothers, two barking dogs, and one green pine tree dressed up in its finest.

Of course there was cooking, two days of it: butternut squash soup, cornish hens in a balsamic glaze, broccolini with garlic and lemon, prime rib au jus, and those aforementioned mashed potatoes, which turned into a very amusing group effort and resulted in one bent potato masher.  But I don't want to talk about any of that; I'd rather tell you about something earthy and wholesome, like this dish, which is the kind of simple fare I go for when everything else seems too rich.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jimmy's Bar and Oven: Pizza from the Oven, and More

Let's talk about pizza for a bit—that indispensable element at slumber parties, college cram sessions, and weekday office lunches.  Thin-crust, deep-dish, wood-fired, extra cheese; you name it, you can find it.  One might find a hundred different pizzas on one city block, but all of us keep a mental note of our favorite topping combinations (mine is sausage with black olives and mushrooms) to fall back on, ready to roll off the tongue when the swarthy, stubble-cheeked pizza guy frowns at us for taking too long to order.

Though Boston might not have the pizza definitude of, say, New York, or Chicago, we know what we like, and we have some dang fine pies to our name.  Which brings me to Jimmy's Bar and Oven on Beacon Street, where the 'oven' in the restaurant's name is a Wood Stone model, churning out pizzas from a fire that burns close to a thousand degrees Farenheit.  The benefit of that heat appears in the crust: a high baking temperature produces a crispier crust and more even cooking.  Jimmy's crust is substantial enough to hold all the toppings, but not so thick that it overshadows the toppings.  And, it's crispy all the way through—a rarity, even among some of the best pizza makers.
Read the rest of this review at the Brookline Patch...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Taberna de Haro: The Soul of Spanish Cuisine

 Casanovas, take note: I’ve got a recommendation for your next date.  There’s a cozy little tapas place on Beacon Street called Taberna de Haro, with mustard-and-cobalt tiles gleaming under dim yellow lights.  Ropes of garlic and garnet-colored chili peppers drape across the red-brick oven, like so many holiday garlands in Rockefeller Center.

Using your best Castilian Spanish, you’ll order seductive tapas like Codorniz al Xocolat, braised quail with a sauce made of cocoa, almonds, and hazelnuts, and meant to be shared, your fork accidentally clinking into your date’s as you both reach for seconds.  The warmer months promise charming outdoor seating, but now, in December, the restaurant door sends in a crisp draft of chilly air each time it opens; your date will shiver and lean in a bit closer.  This is food romance, a rhapsody of aroma and color and élan that enchants like nothing else.

Read the rest of this review at the Brookline Patch...