Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Poop Briar

I'm giving the Green Briar Pub in Brighton Center negative stars for extreme un-veggie-friendliness and general crappitude. I ended up here with a few friends, two of whom wanted to watch "the game," and we scored a booth whereby that half of the party had a great view while the other half could fix our gazes elsewhere. Good company and decent wine saved the night, but the food did its damnedest to suck. "Supreme nachos" were tricolored chips from a bag with an extremely meager amount of cheese congealing on a few of them, and a few canned black olives and jalepeno slices thrown on as an afterthought, with a little watery salsa on the side. I think the management confused "supreme" with "piss-poor." Due to an extreme shortage of vegetarian options, John and I ordered the "Chopped Salad" sans chicken. This was described as "Chopped lettuce, grilled basil chicken, Feta cheese, vine ripe tomatoes, cucumber, and toasted pine nuts tossed with fresh thyme and sherry vinaigrette." Sounds passable, right? Wrong. This salad had zero flavor thanks to anemic lettuce, horrible, cold, pasty tomatoes, and generic Balsamic vinaigrette in place of the described dressing. The feta and miserly pine nuts not only didn't improve the flavor, they tasted pronouncedly funky. We complained loudly about the $11 price tag on this plate of shit and, at least, our waitress nicely removed it from the bill. We asked for the mac 'n' cheese as a replacement, hold the "Tasso ham" (the waitress okayed this request). The dish arrived and was tasty enough ... but guess what? The ham was in force. I ate around it and my semi-veg boyfriend sucked it up. All in all, highly unrecommended for vegetarians and conscious humans.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Eggs poached in tomato sauce

Tomato sauce may be my favorite food, so this super-easy dish really, uh, buttered my toast? (I did serve it with buttered toast, sliced from a day-old Whole Foods baguette.) If you like cheap, easy, satisfying meals that can be served at any meal time, this recipe is for you. I don't think I'll ever try to poach eggs in water again. I always screw them up, and this is so much more flavorful.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

"Bulgur" doesn't sound delicious

But it can be! I have twice recently cooked with bulgur -- first to make these bulgur veggie burgers from Gourmet. Never having made veggie burgers before, I followed the recipe exactly. The mix, which is vegan and middle-eastern-y, was really delicious, but it didn't bind very easily into patties, so next time I'd either chill the "dough" for a while before forming burgers or add something like breadcrumbs (I did cover the outsides with panko so they wouldn't be so sticky/hard to handle). Quite tasty served open-faced on toast, or just by itself as I ate the leftovers. John suggested using them in wraps which I think would be a good solution to the crumbly-texture problem, and would be almost like falafel.

Since I have lots of bulgur now, I decided to make tabouli this weekend. I winged this one, soaking the bulgur in boiling water until tender and then mixing with garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, green onions, tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, lots of fresh parsley and mint, and feta. Mmmmm! This was sooo much better than packaged tabouli (duh). And super refreshing and healthy-feeling on a hot day. Alas, tragically, after we'd eaten only a little, John dropped the container and spilled most of it all over the kitchen floor. I almost cried but managed to keep it together. It now lives only in my memory.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Two restaurants for Boston vegetarians to daydream about

I know I'm supposed to be searching out good vegetarian eats here in Boston, but sometimes I have to take the show on the road. The show has been on the road a lot lately, and happily I had two transcendant veggie experiences out there. One was at Malabar in Santa Cruz, CA, and the other at Maoz in Philadelphia.

It's probably not really fair to wish Boston could have a Malabar, because Santa Cruz is such an absolute happy hippie land, but I can still dream. Malabar is completely vegetarian, with a really simple, nice Asian-ish interior. The menu is extensive, with a mix of Indian-type dishes as well as some Italian-style and American food. The Indian influence seemed strongest though: see, the five different kinds of kofta on the menu. We shared two appetizers, one a spring roll with watercress and crunchy spiced tempeh bits, and the other an avocado stuffed with a sort of pico de gallo. Both were incredible--the tempeh especially was unique, and memorable. I got garlic ravioli with fennel, spinach and walnuts. Everything was really fresh and the ravioli was definitely homemade. The entree that really blew me away, though, was Brian's pistachio kofta. The kofta nuggets were sort of barrel shaped, and really dense and chewy, covered with a thick nutty, creamy sauce. The taste was closest to Indian, but not exactly the usual malai kofta I've had. I was so, so full when we left this restaurant. Having more than one or two vegetarian options was actually pretty overwhelming--in a good way, of course.

Maoz, though, is a place that's totally easy to imagine in Boston--in Coolidge Corner, maybe, or JP, or even the Financial District. And, I just found out it's a chain. Franchise that, somebody, please! I was at the one on South Street in Philadelphia. It's a tiny falafel place that also serves Belgian french fries. The menu is really basic, with a few different sizes of falafel wraps and the fries. Then there's a counter area where you add your own toppings to the basic falafel, and with maybe five or six sauces to add. The pickles are wonderful, and there's a coleslaw-type salad, seasoned carrots, and some other yummy toppings I don't remember. Everything is cheap ($5 or $6 for a meal), fresh, hot and dee-licious. I've been there a few times, and this last visit I just got french fries and enjoyed every second of eating them. They come in a paper cone, like in actual Belgium, and Maoz has the mayonnaise-y Belgian sauce too, which I skipped in favor of extra salt. Such good stuff. Sigh. I wish it wasn't so far away. I'm thinking I could use maybe a twice-monthly dose of those fries.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Wow, we get a whole week?

This week is World Vegetarian Week, with a few places in Boston offering special menus. That is cool, but damn, I wish they offered those menus all the time!

It's a good excuse to take yourself out for a veggie dinner this week, though. I might have to take this opportunity to return to My Thai Cafe in Brookline, my favorite new restaurant, which I have still been unable to blog about because I just don't know how to express its sheer deliciousness. My other favorite place to celebrate World Vegetarian Week might be Ten Tables in JP, which has a vegetarian tasting menu every night, and where they ask you what you like and what ingredients you don't like when you order it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Speaking of hummus

To follow up on Christine's insistence upon above-average hummus, a quick note about my favorite store-bought hummuses (hummi?). John and I really like Sabra hummus, but you have to get the kind that comes in the flat container with the red-rimmed top as pictured on the website. (I've seen the same brand in a taller, typical-hummus-shaped container and it's not the same.) This is worth searching out; some Boston grocery stores carry it but not all. The roasted red pepper and pine nut varieties are particularly delicious. This hummus is extra smooth and creamy. I must warn you against the "Supremely Spicy" version however; I dig hard on spicy foods and this is one of the few commercial "spicy" products we found overwhelmingly too hot, i.e., really not pleasant to have in your mouth in any quantity.

I also like several varieties of hummus carried at Trader Joe's, namely the horseradish hummus (nicely tangy but not hot) and the three-layer hummus (or the "triple threat" as my brother has termed it), of which layers the cilantro is my very fave. I wish the cilantro hummus was available solo, because it's sooo yummy; it's on the thick/chunky side and good in sandwiches. TJ's also has several new varieties of hummus, including a white bean and basil kind I just bought and really loved. Very creamy and pesto-y. I find that when TJ's starts carrying a product I really like they discontinue it within weeks, so go seek this stuff out now before it's too late!

I require my hummus to be extremely delicious

I was so disappointed to be disappointed by Cafe Jaffa, on Gloucester Street near the Pru. On the veggie friendly front, Cafe Jaffa passes muster, but on the actual tastiness front, not as much. Middle Eastern food is so naturally vegetarian friendly, and I was anticipating some delicious plateful of chickpea products, pickled things and fresh vegetables. I sort of got that, piecemail, but nothing about it was amazing.

I split the potato bourekas with my husband for an appetizer, and they weren't bad. I liked the texture and the sesame seeds on top of the little dough packets. But the flavor overall was bland. Then for dinner I ordered a falafel and hummus plate, which came with a salad and pita. I think I was expecting a plate with all that on it together, some kind of varied entree with nice garnishes. My salad came first though, and it was pretty good--a Greek salad with firm pickle slices and feta. Then my entree came, and it was just hummus and four falafel balls on a small appetizer plate, with a shared side of pita bread. So then I wished I had saved some salad and feta to mix with the hummus and put on a pita. The hummus was just OK, but not that flavorful, and same with the falafel, which was too oily and without a distinct flavor other than oil. The hummus was the biggest disappointment. I really think that homemade hummus, when it's the foundation of a vegetarian meal, should have great flavor and consistency (like Farm Grill Rotisserie's, for example). Cafe Jaffa's hummus had too much of one flavor--maybe cumin or red pepper--that overwhelmed it.

I left feeling full, but Cafe Jaffa fell short of what I had been craving.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Finally, a decent burrito

Veggie friendliness: Four out of five stars

It's sort of terrible that a national chain restaurant is by far the best Mexican in the Boston area. But really, Chipotle's burritos are an order of magnitude better than any other place I've been in Boston. Anna's Taqueria is just bad, with no salsa options, cheese in American slice form and weird, tasteless vegetables that should not be in burritos. And their rice is not vegetarian. I liked the burritos at Piquante in Central Square, but Chipotle in the Dedham Mall is the only really decent burrito I've had since moving away from my beloved Illegal Pete's in Boulder.

Chipotle is veggie friendly too, which maybe isn't so authentic (the slogan at another Boulder Mexican place was "Praise the lard") but I'm not complaining. There are tasty sauteed peppers and onions, two kinds of vegetarian beans--pinto and black--and plenty of flavorful salsa options. And, the rice is just so yummy, with cilantro and lime. The tortillas are just right and they have the big warmer/steamer thing for them. The guacamole is also excellent. The only thing that could be improved is if they mixed all your burrito fillings together at the end before wrapping. But that was always what set Illegal Pete's apart, so if that's the only thing missing, I can happily eat Chipotle's burritos until my next Colorado visit.

Also, Chipotle is cheap and they have a big vat of real brewed iced tea. They're in Dedham, Somerville and Brookline that I know of in the Boston area so far.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Vintage's gnocchi is newfangled

UPDATE on 3/25: Apparently Vintage is now closed. It must have closed in the past week or so...one of my fellow Restaurant Week diners drove by over the weekend and saw it was closed, and read that the restaurant had financial troubles. Sad!

Veggie friendliness: Three out of five stars

I can't believe how much I enjoyed eating at a steakhouse, but my food was really, really good at Vintage, in West Roxbury. I went during Restaurant Week, and couldn't get anything on the RW menu because it was almost entirely meat-based (there was one good looking salad, but they don't let you order just one part of the RW menu). I ordered a basic salad to start, with Boston lettuce and a tangy dressing--so delicious and pretty too. There's only one vegetarian entree on the menu, and it's not specifically described--it's just called "for the vegetarians" or something like that. The night I went it was a gnocchi with caramelized onions, peppers and fontina cheese. It wasn't a traditional gnocchi in little dumpling shapes; it was gnocchi dough formed into two spirals with the vegetables and cheese wrapped up inside, with a dab of sauce on the plate. It was really delicious and the texture was also great. The "gnocchi" part of the spiral was a little grainy, almost like polenta.

Vintage is a really nice place; it still feels pretty new and the atmosphere is not very Route 1 at all. We had great service too -- no funny looks from the waiter when asking veggie questions. I don't know if I'd go back there for a non-RW dinner since it really is meat-focused, and it's also pretty expensive. My entree was of course much cheaper than steak, but still over $20. But if I was dragged there by steakhouse-loving friends, I wouldn't be too upset about it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Nothing but side dishes at Sonsie

Veggie friendliness (at brunch, anyway): Two out of five stars

I got shot down by the waitress during brunch at Sonsie more than I liked. She told me that they didn't accept any substitutions on any dish, which immediately cut my options down. The side dishes I got were yummy, but it was frustrating not to be able to order any egg dishes at all. To be fair, they did offer French toast, which was vegetarian, and the huevos rancheros could be ordered without the sausage side -- but I’m always skeptical of the true vegetarian-ness of refried beans, and the eggs could only be made sunny side up (not even the way the eggs were cooked could be substituted), which I am not a fan of.

Anyway, I enjoyed the home fries immensely -- crisp with onion slices and plenty of salt. The yogurt with honey and granola was also very good, with chewy, probably homemade granola. The English muffin wasn’t that warm and by the time the butter finally arrived, it was too late for it to melt.

So, it was a nice place to be for Sunday brunch, but sadly lacking in veggie friendliness. I had better luck there another time for drinks and appetizers, so I think I'll stick to the later-in-the-day Sonsie.