Thursday, October 25, 2007

A vegetarian sandwich without even a trace of hummus

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

A tower of tastiness in Malden

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

The joy of tofu

I've been vegetarian a long time, but it's still taken a lot of dietary evolving for me to put those words together. It wasn't long ago that I wouldn't have even been able to conceive of "joy" followed by "tofu." However, I have come to appreciate the bean curd beast, especially since moving to Boston.

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.