Monday, December 3, 2007
We had 8:45 reservations and had to wait 15 minutes to be seated, but the bartender cleared a spot for us at the bar and brought our drinks right away, as well as a plate of chunks of warm, toasty, airy peasant bread with olive oil and olives, which we could have easily filled up on if not careful. After we were seated and ordered, the adorable pregnant Irish waitress brought us a free order of calamari as well. Now that's service.
I like the menu at Pomodoro because there are lots of main-dish pastas -- sometimes pasta is relegated to the "first course" section of the menu at nicer Italian restaurants. And many of these pasta options are vegetarian. They all sounded delicious to me, but I went for the roasted vegetable lasagna. This comes with a very rich, delicious tomato sauce -- must be where the place gets its name. It's a very sizable chunk, too, with plenty of vegetables among the layers of delicate pasta and cheese; I could only manage to eat about 20% of it after all the pre-meal delights.
To make matters better (or worse) we were also served a free dessert -- a little cube of tiramisu that tasted like it included Irish cream -- methinks this spot has the same owners as the nearby and lovely Matt Murphy's Irish pub.
A great romantic spot for a date.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Village Sushi is one of our Roslindale staples -- always good for a last-minute dinner out and great for sushi takeout too. I finally tried a non-sushi item off their extensive menu recently -- the vegetarian bibimbop in a hot pot (the hot pot version is an extremely-worth-it extra $3). I love all things crunchy, and the rice gets cooked to the bottom of the hot pot, and forms a crunchy crust, and then you stir it and more parts get crunchy...mmm. The rice also has tofu, mushrooms, daikon radish, sprouts and possibly another vegetable I can't remember. All good things, and with a red spicy sauce on the side that really makes the dish's flavor. The bibimbops all come with an egg on top, and warning -- it's eggy. I had to do some quick yolk containment with my spoon and Brian's help so it wouldn't get on everything. I really don't think there's going to be anything better on cold nights this winter than this dish. The hot pot keeps it all so warm till the last bite, and I actually felt overheated when I finished eating -- no small feat for me between November and March around here.
Ramen at Wagamama
Wagamama recently opened in Faneuil Hall, and I think it's the best and most veggie-friendly sit-down restaurant in that immediate area. The first time I ate at a Wagamama was 10+ years ago, in London, and it was this total veggie zen moment for me. It was probably the first place I had eaten out as a vegetarian that had multiple meat-free dishes marked on the menu, and definitely the best noodles I'd had up till that point. The first time I ate at the Boston one, a few months ago, I was disappointed -- but things like that are hardly ever as yummy as you remember. Especially 10 years later, and not in London.
Anyway, it's been freezing here this week -- very much soup weather. I'd only had ramen once before, at this place in Denver, and I loved it. I hadn't come across ramen anywhere in Boston though. But Wagamama serves ramen, and the vegetarian version at Wagamama really warmed me up the other night. The broth had a pretty mild flavor, with a touch of soy sauce and sesame oil. The tofu was excellent, nice and browned, and the scallions, leeks and bean sprouts added crunch. The enormous bowl came with an oversized, bamboo-handled spoon, which held a huge slurp of soup in each bite. (It might have ruined me for other utensils, though. I want to eat everything with a giant spoon.) The wheat noodles weren't so flavorful, but all in all this was a perfect vegetarian meal for a cold and windy night in Boston. It made me warm on the inside.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
I know, it's a little hard to imagine. I love vegetarian sandwiches with hummus, of course, with some cheddar cheese and a bunch of veggies. However, it's a really nice change to have a vegetarian sandwich that's different from the usual and that you probably wouldn't (or couldn't) make at home.
I got the "Elephant Walking on Eggs" sandwich at Parish Cafe, on Boylston Street near Arlington. It's filled with a fluffy omelette that hardly tastes eggy at all--my favorite kind of eggs. It tastes more like the shredded vegetables and salty goat cheese that make up the omelette. And the buttered crusty-outside-soft-inside baguette is a yummy counterpart that made this sandwich a hearty dinner. The chef at Elephant Walk created this veggie gem (apparently chefs from other Boston restaurants invent the sandwiches on Parish Cafe's menu), and I think I like Elephant Walk's cuisine better in sandwich form than I did when I ate there.
The one other veggie sandwich, which my friend ordered, did indeed have hummus, but a nice twist in a white bean variety.
We shared the vegetable potsticker appetizer -- also excellent with the simple, salty kind of soy dipping sauce that I always find really satisfying, with bits of something (garlic? ginger? scallions?) floating in it. The other vegetarian app was corn cakes. The atmosphere is bar-like, and the restaurant is a busy place where you'll be cozied up to the next table. I don't really know how much fancy sandwiches should cost, but $20 each covered the bill and tip, which seemed reasonable. The Parish Cafe has a good drink menu too, though we skipped drinks to be totally clearheaded at our next destination--the Tori Amos show at the Orpheum. My not-eggy egg sandwich was ideal fuel for the following few hours of Tori adoration.
Monday, October 15, 2007
I had dinner at Exchange Street Bistro in Malden this weekend, and it was yummy. The bistro was lovely and the food delicious, and it's near the Orange Line (I think. We drove, and I definitely couldn't find it again without my Maldenite friend's help.)
We shared the broccoli rabe and provolone egg rolls, dipped in spicy mustard sauce...the bitter greens and crunchy shell were a fabulous, unexpected combination.
There's just one vegetarian entree, the eggplant napoleon. The flavors were similar to eggplant parmesan, with an orangey-colored tomato sauce as the base layer and then a pile of (definitely homemade) wide pasta noodles on top of that. The breaded eggplant alternates layers in a tower with portabella mushrooms, pesto, mozzarella and some ricotta, too. I love meals that are full of surprises and different flavors, and the napoleon was fun to eat and offered a nice variety of tastes and textures through the layers. Also, the mushrooms were very removable, which made me happy.
Exchange Street was pricey, so the other benefit to being vegetarian here is that the eggplant dish was by far the cheapest dinner option. The veggie pickings are pretty slim here, but the ones I tried were yummy enough to warrant four stars.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Here are my top three tofu choices, in Boston/Cambridge:
1. At Pho and I, on Huntington Ave. near Symphony Hall. Pho and I's fried rice comes with perfectly sized, perfectly crispy and flavorful chunks of tofu. The tofu chunks are about the size of ice cubes, so you can eat them in one bite, and the inside is just as yummy as the fried outside -- no bland mealiness to be found.
2. In the salad bar at the Whole Foods on Cambridge Street near MGH. They offer amazing sesame tofu in the salad bar. It's the only tofu I can actually eat cold. It has the best firm texture and a sweetish flavor, with tons of sesame seeds and scallion pieces. It's perfect on a basic salad with some kind of light soy dressing.
3. At Anise in Kendall Square, near the Landmark theater. Anise's Sichuan-style flower tofu appetizer is sort of soupy (spoon definitely required), with silken tofu and little crunchy bits on top. This makes the top three primarily because it made me appreciate silken tofu, which is a huge feat. The spicy saucy stuff and the crunchy bits with the smooth tofu--mmm. It's a delectable combination.
(Totally off the tofu topic: the green beans entree at Anise is wonderful.)
Bonus (but definitely not in Boston): The best tofu ever is actually at a Thai place way the hell up in New Hampshire -- Spicy Lime, on the side of the White Mountain Highway in North Conway. The tofu in the noodle/veggie/cashew sauce dish I had actually rendered me speechless while I was eating it. I felt so sad when it was all gone. It was fried, so it had a nice crispy outside, but the inside had great flavor and texture, like it had been marinated just right. The waiter was also really nice when I wanted to mix up sauces and noodles vs. rice to make the concoction I ended up with. It was probably two years ago that I ate there, and I like to dream up possible weekend trips around another dinner at Spicy Lime.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Pizza is a great equalizer in a veggie/carnivore crowd. Even meat eaters like cheese pizza, so there's almost always a veggie option when there's pizza ordering going on in a group (I'm thinking mostly of work right now, when we get 15 pizzas delivered for a meeting). And then most people like onions, peppers or mushrooms, so those are pretty standard pizza toppings and some good dependable toppings for vegetarians.
Ah, but there's a whole world of fancy-pants vegetarian pizza out there beyond the cheese, none more satisfying than at Emma's in Cambridge. I really devoured the #3 sweet potato pizza, with caramelized onions, goat cheese and spinach, and lots of delectable rosemary leaves too. My friends went carnivore for our other pizza, so I didn't have to share too much of my tasty veggie-friendly pie.
I do like my classic cheese pizza, though, so I could have used a bit more grease and saltiness than Emma's provides. It feels more like going out for dinner than going out for pizza, so I'd stick with standard pizza if you're having a craving.
I am a little afraid to gush about Delfino, because it is so delicious and close to my house, and I want to keep it a delicious secret. But really, everyone should eat at this fantastic Italian restaurant in Roslindale Square. The bread alone, served when you sit down and dipped in their olive oil, is enough to make me weak in the knees.
The vegetable antipasto appetizer is very share-able for a group, but plan ahead to save some bread to dip in the cheesy olive-y oil that's left on the plate. The best appetizer, I think, is the broccoli rabe sauteed with garlic and olive oil. It's just a plateful of perfectly cooked greens in perfect oil. For this, too, ration your bread, because the oil left at the end is superb. To avoid any too-much-of-a-good-thing syndrome, I like to share this app too.
There are probably four or five vegetarian pasta entrees on Delfino's menu at any time, since they change their menu slightly every few months. My favorite standby is pasta puttanesca with no anchovies. That's followed closely by pasta rounds, which are like manicotti tipped on their side in a puddle of tomato sauce. After that, when I'm trying to mix it up a little, I go for the ricotta gnocchi in whatever vegetarian incarnation is on the menu.
OK, so I have obviously eaten at Delfino many, many times...but after lots of happy meals, I can honestly say they've earned their five stars with consistently flavorful and satisfying (pants-expanding) food. The only negative last time was a probably new waitress who wasn't as helpful as other waitstaff usually are in making slight changes to dishes -- anchovy-free puttanesca or leaving tomatoes out of a dish.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Veggie friendliness: One star
This pub near Park Plaza is great for group gatherings, drinks outings and watching the game. Not so much for the vegetarian crowd, however. This is a strictly salad-and-french-fries establishment, and the salad I had wasn't even that tasty. The lemon-basil vinaigrette mostly just tasted like oil and some of the lettuce was suspicously on the verge of not-so-freshness.
The french fries with curry sauce were yummy, though, and there was also a cheddar cheese sauce option with the fries. I think this is a good place to satisfy a french fry craving and have a beer, and meet up with friends, since the restaurant is enormous and well situated. Otherwise, though, eat dinner elsewhere. Also, the service was barely passable.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Brookwood Community Farm, a new (that I've noticed, anyway) farmer's market participant had a table set up today. They sold colorful heirloom tomatoes and exquisite, shiny little peppers of many varieties -- this list of vegetables covers their offerings. The Black Cherry tomatoes looked like red grapes on steroids, and the Sun Golds were teeny. I added to my veggie loot with a few of Brookwood's tomatoes. The guy working the table explained Brookwood's scheme -- the recently started farm near the Blue Hills sells shares to stakeholders, who then get a box of vegetables each week during growing season.
Here's what I did with the tomatoes for dinner:
Just olive oil, red wine vinegar, basil from our Boston Organics box, parsley, salt and pepper, and slivers (sort of thick slivers) of Parmesan on top.
This fleeting harvest always feels to me like a harbinger of the dreary, flavorful-tomato-free New England winter to come. I know, we still have all of wonderful fall with pumpkins and apples, and I bet even another few weeks of these perfectly juicy tomatoes--but this tomato bounty is so precious when I think of waiting a whole year before tasting such late-summer deliciousness again.
Friday, September 7, 2007
Only drawback to this place is they don't have a liquor license, but if you aren't in the mood for beer or wine they offer a selection of wacky liqueur-based bevs like the "Venetian spritzer" -- Campari and prosecco. Bitterlicious.
Mmm, mmm, this stuff is good--a really simple and unique pasta dish. The first time we made it, Brian and I dubbed it an Instant Classic. We made it again the other night and it was even better, since the first time we forgot to reserve some cooking liquid, which left it a little dry. The ginger is one of those ingredients we never have in the house, so I got a big hunk of it, chopped it all up and put it in a bag in the freezer to have on hand.
4 long carrots (about 9 oz.), peeled into long ribbons
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 tbsp. packed, finely grated lemon peel
1 tbsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
2 yellow or orange bell peppers, cut lengthwise into skinny strips
8 ounces linguini (fresh is best)
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Melt butter over medium heat. Add lemon peel and ginger; stir one minute. Add carrots and bell peppers. Saute until just tender, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling salted water till just tender. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of cooking liquid.
Add pasta, 1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid, cheese and lemon juice to skillet. Toss until sauce coats pasta, adding more cooking liquid if dry. Season with salt and pepper.
This is from Bon Appetit, which isn't a notably veggie-friendly magazine, but once in a while has a good find. That's where I stole the above picture from too.
Veggie friendliness: Four (out of five) stars
Lolita is a fabulous Mexican bring-your-own-tequila restaurant in Philadelphia. It's funky Mexican, with sides like smoked hominy and green apple-grapefruit salsa, and plantain and thick corn chips alongside the jicama guacamole. It gets four stars for veggie friendliness primarily because there's an all-important asterisk at the end of many of the entrees, which means that pan-seared tofu can be substituted for the meat. This is key, because otherwise there aren't any meat- or fish-free options. The four stars are also for general deliciousness.
I got the tofu substituted for a duck dish, with jicama slaw and fried plantains on the side. The flavors were so interesting -- a little spicy, a little Caribbean -- and the tofu was nice and crispy on the outside and seasoned well. The fresh margarita mixes are phenomenal. The first time I went to Lolita a few years ago, we had a blood orange mix that I have actually craved many times since then. During the most recent visit, in August, the nightly mix was watermelon, which was also delicious with the brought-our-own tequila.
Brian and his sister got meaty things, so I didn't try anything other than the wicked yummy guacamole and my tofu entree. Brave Brian tried an appetizer with huitlacoche, a scary-looking corn fungus that I'd recently read about in Edible Boston--check out the summer cover for the picture. I know that fungus is technically vegetarian, but seriously--it has a life of its own (yes, I'm talking to you, Quorn).
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Veggie friendliness: Four (out of five) stars
My disclaimer about Ten Tables is that I've only been there on one of their fixed-menu nights, which they have once a week. I didn't see a regular menu when I was there. But everything I had was excellent, and I got an extremely veggie-friendly vibe from the whole experience. I've also heard that they have a vegetarian fixed-price menu available every night in addition to the regular menu, which is very cool.
I'm usually wary of fixed menus, since my biggest restaurant fear is being brought unspecified plates of things. There's too much mushroom risk involved. But at Ten Tables, the waiter actually asked me what ingredients I didn't like, and if there was something special I was in the mood for. That is serious veggie friendliness, and personalized dishes just taste that much better. I got four courses in all: a salad with jicama and other crunchy parts; a pretty carrot risotto; a crispy and cheesy potato galette; and a caramel-y fruity dessert. It was satisfying, and it was actually fun to get four different surprise courses without fear of mushrooms.
This place feels fancy, like we could have been celebrating an anniversary, but the price was decent--I think it was a $35 set price for the food and wine too.
So, four stars to Ten Tables, and a place I'll definitely go back to.
Monday, September 3, 2007
I think my fellow vegetarians may understand that a salad-and-french-fry dinner means only one thing: There were no other veggie-friendly options. To be fair to the Swizzle, there was another option -- a veggie quesadilla. But, the description of this quesadilla mentioned that it had mozzarella cheese, and that didn't sound quite right to me. I like my quesadillas with more, you know, Mexican-sounding cheese.
So it was a Greek salad, decent, with good dressing, and a basket of very hot but not salty enough french fries. Not a bad dinner, really. I think the reason the salad-and-french-fry dinner was so unsatisfying was because the first thing I had seen on the menu was a tasty-looking veggie burger. The ingredients mentioned had included lentils, mild curry, and caramelized onions on top. Mmmm...now that sounds like a veggie burger that's worth its place in the burger world. However, the veggie burger is only available at the Swizzle before 6 p.m., inexplicably. And, it was close to 8 p.m., and we came back home to Boston today, so it looks like it'll have to wait till the next trip. The tantalizing, unavailable veggie burger certainly made my salad and french fries just a few degrees less appetizing than they were anyway.
And while I was eating, I was thinking how much I would have loved some kind of warning that it would be one of those nights, where my restaurant dinner options would be a salad and french fries. I'd especially like to know how veggie-friendly a restaurant is here in Boston, where I eat out much more often than I do in Bermuda. So, here goes: my blog about vegetarian eating in the Boston area (and other places I go sometimes).
OK, so this post can serve as my first review: I give the Swizzle Inn three stars. I thought I'd go with two stars, but in retrospect, I think it deserves three stars instead of two, mostly because of the mere existence of the lentil/curry/caramelized onions burger. Also, the hummus added at least half a star, as did the waiter's shared bafflement about the unavailability of the burger after 6 p.m.
However, on another, non-veggie-related note, the service was really, really slow. I'll probably chalk that up to the whole island time thing.