Monday, March 28, 2011

One Appetizer, Two...and Stew at Korea Garden

I was barely seated at Korea Garden on Harvard Street in Allston, when the waitress brought me a cup of tea. And 12 appetizers. No joke. Known as banchan, I have never eaten at Korean restaurant that offered this range of little dishes. And, the waitress even checked with me that I liked the assortment! I tried each of the following (and all served with silver chopsticks): Pickled bean sprouts, Pickled garlicy garlic scapes, Spinach, steamed and served cold, Seaweed, Spicy daikon, Kimchi, Hot dogs with chilis!, Slices of sweet fish cake, Chewy anchovies, Spicy parsley, Sweet potato stems. And yes, this is all included.My main dish was divine. Soon Doobu comes in a hot dish served with a raw egg to be cracked into the molten soup, thickening it instantly. The stew itself is full of soft tofu, bits of zucchini, and, by my choice, chunks of pork. They all rest in the spicy, yet soothing broth, ready to be scooped up with white rice. This may not be everyone’s comfort food. But it is mine. And if this is a taste of Korea Garden, I will soon be back.

Korea Garden, 122 Harvard Ave, Allston

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It Is That Good: Bon Chon

When I was little, I was not a fan of having a babysitter. However, there was a twist-on some of those nights my father would pick up a bucket of, yes, KFC. While I haven't been near one in a good 25 years, I can still smell that mixture of fat, spices and chicken. So, when I heard about the Korean fried chicken chain, Bon Chon, I couldn't wait to try it. But the original Bon Chon closed. Then it reopened, and, on a recent night, my friend Kiersten and I went to see what it was about. Our waitress helped to steer us to a range of tastes and by the end we were full and content.

We sampled:
"Rice Cake Skewars": First, ignore the menu. They list these as "deep fried rice cakes." In fact, what you get are chewy, pillowy Korean rice cakes that are actually pan-seared. Served on skewars, they resemble savory toasted marshmallows with a sweet, warm sauce. If you enjoy Dok Boki (also known as Tteokbokki), you will love these.
Corn Butter-We tried this based on a positive review from the Boston Globe. That being said, we were both a bit hesitant about a mixture of corn, crabmeat, tobiko and cheese. After a few bites, we both grinned happily at this ridiculously good comfort food. Think sweet, warm, nutty, yummy.
Pork Belly Shiyaki-This was fine. It consisted of thin slices of pork, served on a garlicy sauce with scallions. It was served lukewarm and just wasn't as memorable as the other dishes.

And, of course, the chicken, pictured at the top of the post. You can get strips (really huge slices of white meat chicken), wings (as in wings and drumettes) or drumsticks. You also get to choose between soy garlic and spicy. I loved both versions as the meat was juicy and the skin was crispy and flavorful. The spicy version is not only hot, but it is the subtle kind of heat that kicks in after a few minutes. The pickled daikon radish and thick cole slaw helped to temper the heat. The soy garlic version was just as tasty.

The place is friendly, inexpensive and the menu has enough variety to bring us back. Though, truth be told, we may just return for the chicken and corn!

Bon Chon, 123 Brighton Ave, Boston/Allston; 617-254-8888

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Toast To Taste of the Nation and Share Our Strength

(All photos courtesy of Share Our Strength)
In one night, you could:

After attending the glorious Taste event that was offered by Boston Magazine back in November, I was honored to be offered a chance to attend this year's Share our Strength Taste of the Nation Boston. And, in fact, as soon as I started researching the event and the organization Share Our Strength, I am hoping others will join me in eating fabulous food and supporting such a critical organization.

Other details:

The event will take place on Thursday, April 14 at the Hynes Convention Center from 6:30 to 9:30 (with a VIP reception at 5:30). The cost is $90 in advance/ $100 at the door for General Admission or $150 advance/ $160 at the door for VIP. To purchase tickets, call 1-877-26-TASTE or visit or

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Reviews: The Good, the Not So Good and the Etc.

Over the last few months, I have been lucky to receive a range of samples from meats to yogurt to dessert. Some have been good, others have been great. Here is the low down:

From Applegate Farms: Savory Turkey Sausage, Classic Breakfast Sausage, Natural Roast Chicken and Natural Pepperoni. It is hard to explain how much I love Applegate Organic and Natural Meats. My finicky older son (5), lives off of a few foods, hot dogs being one of them. And the Applegate Uncured Beef hotdogs and Organic Dogs, which are completely free of nitrates and chemicals make it relatively easy for me to give him hot dogs without too much guilt. I regularly buy their sliced turkey for easy lunches for the kids. Of course, their Natural Roast Chicken was a hit with my kids. The sausages are great, and though, yes, they have sodium, they are good for those nights that we have "breakfast for dinner." But my favorite of my samples? The Applegate Pepperoni. These big huge circles, made from sustainably raised pork, went beautifully on homemade pizza dough.

From Dancing Deer Baking Company: I am really belated here! The kind folks at the lovely company, Dancing Deer sent me a package of their Gourmet Sandwich cookies. They gift box includes two flavors, Boston Cream Pie and Chocolate Peppermint. Did I love these? I really enjoy their Chocolate Tangerine and Sugar Cane Lime Cookies as they are not too sweet and crispy and crunchy. However, the sandwich cookies were a bit too sweet and dense. Point being? Dancing Deer cookies are a wonderful present (you can send their gift towers and baskets without spending too much money), but skip the sandwich cookies.

From MyBlogSpark, I received:

Cinnamon Cherrios-these reminded me of the cereal we weren't allowed to have as kids! They are actually delicious, but so sweet that I immediately hid them from my kids. Sorry, my mom's lessons about not having sugar cereals at breakfast worked. Plain Cherrios rule at my house.

Yoplait Kids Yogurt -I am a Stonyfield Farm kind of mom. It is organic, low in sugar and is what my kids have eaten obssessively since they were babies. But I am open to other yogurts, as long as they and low in sugar. But my biggest gripe with the Yoplait Kids Yogurt? The branding. My kids love Dora. But I want them to request food because it is good, not because she is on it. Sorry. Doesn't work for me. The other problem-I literally can barely find it. Instead, it is far more common to find their Go-Gurts, that are branded and come in ridiculously artificial and supernatural colors.

Yoplait Frozen Smoothie-I will admit...I still haven't tried this. See, you get a bag of, essentially, frozen berries and yogurt pieces. And you blend it with milk. But it is far too easy for me to watch my kids grab their own pre-made Stonyfield Farm Smoothies from the frig. I just don't have time to deal with a blender. Sorry.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Favorites, As of Late

Melissa Clark-I have developed a huge crush on her as a food writer and on her recipes. The broccoli with shrimp is a perfect example of her cooking. In a few minutes, with a few ingredients (including the citrusy spice coriander), you have a marvelous dinner. Clark also, finally, taught me how to sear tofu. And her wonderful olive oil lemon banana bread is not only ridiculously simple, but the addition of lemon just adds depth to the bread. Her new book is In the Kitchen With a Good Appetite.

Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table. I raved about that here.

Winter Markets: Providence, Somerville, Wayland, Natick each have their own. Go. Try. Enjoy.

Farmer's Market Eggs-I love that they are shades of blue. I love that they taste so good. I love that they are (if you find the right ones) organic.

Winter Carrots-All I can tell you is that winter carrots direct from the Winter Farmer's Markets are the sweetest I have ever had.

Stillman's meats-you can find Stillman's meats at Farmer's Markets. This is what both a farmer's market and good meat is about. You get a range of organic and sustainably raised, and delicious meats that are far better than any you will find at the grocery store.

Honey from Aquidneck Honey. This is my favorite honey. It is lemony and fruity. It goes perfectly on scones, bread, muffins. In fact, it is so good I have eaten it with a spoon. You can purchase it at the Providence/Rhode Island Winter Farmer's Market.

High Lawn Farm Milk. Yum.

The new Salt and Pepper bar from Taza. I still adore the Salted almond, but this is so good.

Citrus at Russos and Trader Joes: blood oranges, meyer lemons. I am also loving their Italian Style Pink Grapefruit soda (better still with gin...or vodka!)

The array of coffees from at Diesel Cafe in Somerville. For that matter, there is no other place that I would rather grade, if anybody really wants to grade in the first place!

The Mole sauce at Viva in Wayland. I know that many people here have been disappointed with their service. So take out a dish with their heavenly mole. It is as good as I have had outside Puebla, Mexico.

Everything at Rod Dee. Each time I return (and I even tried their new space in Porter Square), I ask for the cook to choose something from the original Thai menu. I have been happy every time to much on the sweet, spicy, noodle and rice dishes.

Harold McGee's method of cooking pasta. Silly, I know. But with one son that lives on pasta, the time saved at the end of the work day is pretty critical. In McGee's method, you put pasta and COLD water in a saucepan, heat it to boil and cook til done.

Scott Conant's pasta with tomato sauce. You wouldn't think you need a recipe for this. But just check it out. Essentially you make an incredibly simple tomato sauce. You then toss fresh pasta in the sauce, along with fresh basil, Parmesan and butter. Heaven.

The Splendid Table (for food interviews and recipes) and Spilled Milk Podcasts (for laughs)

Feel free to share other favorites that you have discovered...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Best Tastes of Taste (and a Preview of Taste of the Nation!)

It is a rare night that you can have glorious 360 views of Boston, while tasting some of the best food the city has to offer. And I was incredibly grateful that in a week filled with low points, I received a ticket from Boston Magazine to attend their Taste event back in November. It took place in a loft style area with floor to ceiling glimpses of the Boston skyline at 1 Marina Drive. Throughout were many of Boston's top chef's offering a chance to try their food and to talk, even for a minute about their cuisine. It was an indulgence that I won't forget anytime soon.

Some of the bites I enjoyed, in order of delight:

Menton’s Colin Lynch offered my absolute favorite of the night: A smoked salmon sabayon filled with caviar, chives and rye (pictured below before the eggs were filled.) It was an unctuous mixture that I had to try...twice. They also had a wonderful Hiramashi tartare.

Summer Shack’s Chef Jasper White had a simple sounding squash-lobster bisque served with pumpkin oil. But despite how full I was, I ate the entire bowl and am hoping to figure out how to recreate it at home.

Lala Rokh’s Babak Bina's eggplant puree was my favorite surprise of the night. It was the ultimate dish in being more than the sum of its parts. And, in fact, it persuaded me to head to Lala Rokh. The official title: Kashk-e- Bademjan served with goat’s milk yogurt, house infused mint oil and caramelized onions.

Il Casale/ Dante’s Dante de Magistris was frying up ravioli filled with a chocolate-chestnut puree. They were topped with a Sicilian citrus: candied Cerdo. Per usual, Chef de Magistris took a dish up a notch as the citrus made the dish.

O Ya’s Tim Cushman offered hamachi nigiri with banana peppers, black pepper, white truffle oil and chives. It reminded me of my incredible meal there almost 2 years ago.

Tiffini Faison from the now defunct, Rocca, served olive oil grilled homemade bread with house made ricotta and grape mosta and served with salt and black pepper. This was so good that I am tempted to try to replicate it at home, heavy on the olive oil, salt and pepper.

Market’s Chris Damskey had bay scallops with ginger-soy dressing and fine herbes. For dessert, the restaurant offered a Vietnamese chocolate coffee tart with condensed milk and whipped cream. However, my favorite part of their offerings: the salted caramels and passion fruit marshmallows.

Asana’s Nathan Rich had an incredible dessert (that is typically served on their menu): A lollipop with 5 different types of chocolate cheesecake: 28% cocoa, 64% CocoaBerry, 38% Valhrona, 70% Valrhona, 80% Valrohna and a Cocoa Nib Tuile. Yes: it was fantastic.

(These desserts were perfect with Jim’s Organic Coffee)

Neptune Oyster of the North End offered Dayboat scallop crudo with feta crema, orange, mint and tandoori spices

Radius’s Michael Schlow served up a mashed potato bar that was comfort food-jazzed up.

Harvest’s Mary Dumont had a ginger pork slier with root vegetable slaw. I adored the side drink: a bourbon with a mint lemonade/iced tea mix; 1 month family focused on the second Wednesday.

Russell House Tavern's Michael Scelfo had a great riff on a traditional Jewish dish: House smoked arctic char with Baldwin apple latkes, caraway and buttermilk crème fraiche and Verrill Farm micro-greens.

Bistro 5’s Vittorio Ettore offered Duck confit and apple on brioche with fois gras mousse and fennel pollen. It reminded me of my lovely tomato meal that he served to local food bloggers.

Tremont 647’s Andy Husbands served up pan seared salmon grit cakes, with grilled salmon salad and chives

Woodward’s Mark Goldeberg had glazed pork belly with apple compote and cheddar biscuit

Sorellina had a lovely looking buffala mozzarella with Mangalista ham and concord grape syrup

Clink’s Joseph Margate had an equally gorgeous yellowtail that was served with pomegranate seeds and walnut puree.

There were other restaurants, but I ran out of both appetite and space to keep track of all the treats I had. Boston Magazine treated me to these tickets. The cost of the event is $95.00. So, no, it is not an inexpensive night out and trust me, I appreciated the opportunity. But you did get unlimited wine and cocktails, as well as unlimited chances to eat some pretty fantastic food and to talk to the chefs who created the gems in the first place...

Better, still, if you are interested in this write up, you can also go to a similar event: Taste of the Nation Boston. This event, taking place on April 14, 2011 will feature over 70 restaurants and chefs. And, the best news? 100% of the proceeds go directly to Share our Strength, a not-for-profit working to end childhood hunger. (I will write a more extended post on this event in a few weeks...)

Boston Magazine's Taste took place on November 1, 2010 at 1 Marina Place at Fan Pier