Dinner 1/6/23

Chicken pot pie empanadas with gravy

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered this appetizer anywhere else, but it is a brilliant idea for fall/winter. Empanadas filled with chicken and veg as you would find in a chicken pot pie, with the gravy served on the side as a dipping sauce. I had this at The Derby in dowtown Salem on Friday night and it was really good. The dough is standard empanada dough, and they’re deep fried, all of which was fine but I wonder how it would work, or even if it can work, with puff pastry and baked. I might have to try making it myself both ways.

This is on the menu as an appetizer, bur I had it as my main because I’d eaten a big lunch at work and did not feel like having a big entree. The Derby is pretty much focused on apps, sandwiches, and such in the first place, so that was no issue. My wife had the fish tacos and our daughter had buffalo mac and cheese. We’ve been to The Derby a couple of times now and have enjoyed the food, sticking to apps both times. At least in the middle of winter there aren’t a gazillion tourists, though it was normal Friday-night level of busy.

Weekend Dining 12/10-11/2022

Hokkaido-style shoyu ramen, gyoza, aji-tama, edamame

Had to run an errand in Harvard Square on Saturday, which was a perfect excuse to go to Santouku Ramen for lunch. The weather was freezing cold and windy, so a hot bowl of ramen really hit the spot. As usual, the place was packed, but we didn’t have to wait much more than 10 minutes to get a table.

Hokkaido-style ramen uses a miso-based broth, which you can easily tell from the cloudy beige color of the soup. I am more partial to tonkotsu ramen, where the broth is made by slowly braising pork bones, but Santouku makes such good soup that there’s no reason to quibble. My other favorite ramen joint, Amateras Ramen, made the best tonkotsu, but they closed for business a few months ago. I ate the gyozas, which did not come out of the kitchen hot, but I skipped the aji-tama egg this time, mainly because the soup itself was very filling.

Ramen had a real moment in the Boston dining scene a few years ago, but it has definitely faded somewhat. The large number of Japanese students at Harvard, along with tour buses of Japanese tourists in Harvard Square keeps this restaurant doing well, so I don’t expect it to disappear any time soon.

Pepperoni pizza

On Sunday, we went to see Phil Rosenthal, the star of Netflix’s “Somebody Feed Phil”, doing a book tour appearance at the Wilbur Theater. Phil is as adorable in person as he is on the show. He’s one of our favrotie things to watch, and has been inspirational to us as we plan and dream about places to go on vacation. Even though it was the first snowy evening of the season, we took the train into town and trudged to the theater. The show began at 7:00 and was over by 8:30, but the train back home wasn’t until 10:00, so our plan was to go back over to North Station and check out the new food hall there. Even though there was a big concert at the TD Garden, most of the places in the food hall were closed, so we ventured across the street to Halftime Pizza and had a couple of slices.

Pizza-by-the-slice is always a crapshoot, because who knows how long the pizza has been sitting around, and a lot of pizza places manage to barely re-heat the slices. This pizza must have been pretty fresh, and they definitely got it back to piping-hot to the point that I would not have guessed it was reheated at all. It was exactly what I had been in the mood for – the right level of greasy, the right proportion of sauce to cheese, thin crust that had a little crunch but wasn’t overbaked. During his appearance, Phil admitted that his favorite food is pizza, and I am right there with him on that.

Vienna Pastries

Apple strudel

Cardinal cake

Dobos torte

Here are a few more photos from Vienna. Even though we weren’t allowed to eat inside restuarants thanks to having Covid, many of Vienna’s cafes have outdoor seating, and the weather was agreeable while we were there, so we did get to go to a couple of cafes.

You undoubtedly know apple strudel, and this was a very good example of one. The filling is not unbearably sweet, which was appreciated. When I was in cooking school we did strudel, and I know what a pain it is to get the dough right.

The cardinal cake was a delightful surprise. The cake itself is extremely light. It’s a combo of yellw and white cake. Then there is a thick layer of patisserie creme, and a layer of raspberry jam (the red color of which is how it gets its name), then a final layer of yellow cake on the bottom. On this particular one, the jam layer was not spread all the way across the cake, but that helped to make a nice pocket of jam in the slice.

Dobos torte is thin layers of cake interspersed with thin layers of chocolate ganache and topped with a layer of crispy caramel. Decadent does not bgin to describe it. I had this with a melange coffee — the Viennese specialty coffee that is basically cafe au lait topped with a helthy dollop of whipped cream. TBH, it was all a bit much, but that didn’t stop me from eating and drinking all of it.

Breakfasts in Vienna

Top – sunnyside eggs with ham and rye toast. Bottom – soft-boiled egg with ham and cheese, rolls, jam

The weather for our week in Vienna was pleasant and mild, so that gave us the oppotunity to have breakfast in a couple of cafes near out hotel that had outdoow seating.

The top photo is from a cafe called Ulrich (named for St. Ulrich’s Church right next door). Ham and eggs, Austrian style, with delicious country ham (which you can see barely peeking out from under the eggs). I also had a latte there that was probably the best latte I have ever had in my life. So I had a second one.

The next day, we had breakfast at Cafe Adlerhof, just up the street. I had this pretty typical European-style breakfast plate of ham and cheese with a soft-boiled egg and some rolls. i used one of the rolls to dip into the egg, though some toast might have been better, and then had butter and strawberry jam on the other (which, again, I probably would have preferred toast). I had a cafe mocha which was not especially mocha-y, and a latte that was okay but not as good as the one down the street at Ulrich.

Room Service

Top – Flammenkuchen with prosciutto. Bottom – cheese tray with fruit and hummus

Though our Vienna hotel did not have a restaurant or kitchen of its own, they still managed to put together some very nice boards for us to enjoy for the couple of days we were stuck in our room.

Flammenkuchen is a pizza-like flatbread that originates from Alsace and southwestern Germany. The crust is crisp and very thin, but not cracker-like, and the toppings vary. There used to be a lovely restaurant in Cambridge called Sandrines that did a variety of flammenkuchen, and there was a caramelized onion and blue cheese one I loved. This one had prosciutto and melted cheese. It looks bigger in the photo than it really was. There was just enough for one person.

The cheese board was lovely to look at as well as yummy. It featured Muenster, Brie, a thinly-sliced smoked cheese that might have een Gouda but I am not sure, and an intensely black-peppered goat cheese.

They also provided us with breakfast a few times. We had some little croissants with different jams (raspberry, strawberry, apricot, and an excellent orange one), toasted brown bread, and coffee.

The hotel staff were very accomodating and concerned for our well-being the whole time, which really took the sting off being sick on vacation. We gave them a thank-you gift when we were on our way out, and I thought the front desk person was going to cry, she was so appreciative.

Dinner 10/15/22

Cafe Ansari,Vienna

First night in Vienna. We didn’t really get any sleep on the plane, but we did crash for the afternoon once we got into our hotel room so we would have enough energy to go out to dinner.

Cafe Ansari is a Georgian restaurant,recommended to me by my friend who lives here. We’ve never had Georgian cuisine before, so it seemed like a good adventure. Our goal is to not just have schnitzel all week,but to try a bit of whatever Vienna has to offer. Tomorrow night we’re going to a traditional Viennese place that specializes in those sorts of dishes.

It’s a cool,wet evening,but there were people dining outside. Luckily we were sealed inside. The atmosphere was warm and friendly.

Khatchapuri
Baba ghannoush, purple carrot,and sweet potato with sheep cheese spreads

We started with khatchapuri, which is a soft pita style bread stuffed with cheese ,sort of like a Middle Eastern quesadilla. With that, we also had a trio of spreads – a baba ghannoush, sweet potato with sheep cheese, and a purple carrot hummus. They were all delicious, but the sweet potato one was the best of the three.

Broiled eggplant with administration paste and mango yogurt sauce

Bridget chose this eggplant dish. As a non meat eater, traditional Viennese cuisine is not her thing, so I was glad this place had entree choices that were up her alley.

Chackapuli

I had chachapuli, which is a braise of lamb,with quince slices and served with a side of buttery mashed turnip. The fruit really cut the richness of the braised lamb,and it was perfect for an October evening.

Destination: Vienna

I wantd to mention that my wife and I are going to Vienna for a week. We’re leaving Friday night and will be back the following Saturday. We’ve got a food tour booked, and dinner reservations at a number of different restaurants, so please stop by to see all the adventures in one of the greatest foodie destinations in the world. I am very excited to be traveling internationally again. Hopefully we won’t get the ‘vid while we’re there!

Dinner 10/7/22

Frutti di mare over fettucine

The kid came home for the holiday weekend, and we knew she would be lobbying to go out to dinner, but, as mentioned in the post below, there was no way in hell we were going to try to go out to eat on a Friday night in October in Salem. So we pre-emptively made a reservation at Berry Tavern and presented it as a done deal when Herself walked in the door.

As it was with our previous visit a few weeks ago, the place was slamming. It was a very warm evening, so all the outside tables were full, and the inside was as loud and buzzy as we found it earlier. Nevertheless, we were able to easily find street parking, and did not have to wait for our table.

Because this is a “more is better” kind of place, I knew enough not to order an appetizer this time, even though I really liked the meatballs app on our first visit. I am always game for a seafood pasta dish, though. The frutti di mare special was mussels, clams, scallops and shrimp in a tomato, white wine, and garlic sauce served over fettucine. The clams were especially good – sweet and succulent. Some of the mussels were huge but not too chewy. The sauce was a little more brothy than saucy, so it didn’t particularly stick to the pasta very well, but it was delicious, and I had the waitress bring us a second serving of bread so I could sop it all up. For dessert, I had a slice of carrot cake that seemed to be made elsewhere, but that’s forgiveable for this sort of restaurant. We are two-for-two on this place now, so I’m sure we’ll keep going back.

Dinner 9/26/22

Macaroni and cheese with pulled pork

We had dinner at Opus in downtown Salem a couple of weeks ago. My wife had a particularly aggravating day at work that day and wanted to go have a cocktail to try to soothe her nerves. Her first choice was Mercy Tavern, but the options were to sit outside on a cool night or wait forever for a table inside. So we came back down Derby St. and tried to find parking for American Flatbread, but no luck, so Opus was the last-chance-or-go-home choice. Because it’s that time of year again in Our Fair City. But that’s okay, because we liked Opus on our earlier visit.

Things were a lot quieter when we got there than the last time. It was a Monday night, so you might expect that, but a very different vibe than the previous visit. We got seated and had cocktails in hand soon after. Crisis averted.

I ordered the pork belly bao as a starter, and they were excellent. The pork belly was super crispy and obviously came straight out because it was sizziling hot. For my entree, I had this macaroni & cheese with pulled pork. It was quite good, but hoo-boy did it sit in my stomach like a ton of lead. I was still full when I woke up the next morning.

We’ll be avoiding downtown Salem as much as possible until afer Halloween, thank you very much.

Birthday Dinner 8/27/22

Tagine Djaja – roasted chicken with preserved lemons, garlic and olives on Israeli couscous

Cigar sampler – spinach and feta, Brie and honey, spiced ground beef with raisins

“Blue Fez” martini – orange vodka, blue curacao, champagne

I didn’t particularly feel like going out to dinner for my birthday on Saturday, but my daughter seems indignant about that, so we called an audible and went to Blue Fez, a Moroccan place in Salem that we’d been to once before the pandemic and had been meaning to go back to evere since. We sat indoors, in part because the weather was fairly humid, but also because my daughter has a phobia of bees and other flying insects and hates to eat outside. We were the only diners inside, though the outside tables seemed well-occupied.

Though I was unenthusiastic to begin with, the meal itself was excellent, and by the time we were finished, I was quite pleased that we’d gone. The Blue Fez martini was delicious and not too boozy tasting, even though it was all booze. We shared the appetizer, so I got one spinach-and-feta and one beef, but they were crispy and tasty. The combination of spiced meat with the sweet raisins is a common flavor pair in Moroccan cuisine that I really like. My chicken tagine dish was a nice combo of the sharp flavors of perserved lemon and olives, with spices like cinnamon and saffron.

We skipped dessert, since we had treats from Caramel Patisserie waiting for us at home, but it made for a fine birthday dinner.