This post, as all of my posts are it turns out, a retelling of the dark and twisty path I took to get to the featured final product. So here goes, the story of the drawn-out birth and lightning-fast demise of Hibiscus-Tequila cocktails.
I brought back a big bag of dried hibiscus flowers (flor de Jamaica) from San Antonio, one of many kind gifts from Lara and Anthony. I had been staring at the bag for a month trying to think of a fitting use for the flowers. Sure, I could have made plain tea or karkade, but it would be missing something. It would be missing alcohol.
Food and Wine came to the rescue with a recipe for Hibiscus-Tequila cocktails from Jacques Pepin. And so the preparations began. I couldn’t just brew up some half assed version of Jacques Pepin's vision. I needed a proper occasion and I needed the proper ingredients. The proper occasion turned out to be easy – it was Thursday. That was it. That was the occasion. AA, here I come.
As for the ingredients -- I got quite a few limes in my last Boston Organics box and at least half of them had yet to become desiccated and sad little versions of themselves in the bottom of my gapingly empty fridge. So I had the lime juice taken care of. It was organic and aged! Aging is good for lime juice, right? Like balsamic? Yeah, no, but that's ok. It did the trick.
On to the tequila. I have half a bottle of Cuervo Gold sitting up on my liquor shelf -- it has been there ever since I can remember. Since I am not in college and not a member of a fraternity, I decided to skip the Cuervo and get something a little more befitting the adult that I am. [That last part is a joke.] Turns out that the utterly shady liquor store (are they all shady?) near my house doesn’t have any decent tequila - no Don Julio, no Patron. Bugger. I got a bottle of Sauza and was pleasantly surprised. It has a lot more flavor than Cuervo (in that it doesn’t taste like gasoline) but lacks the smoothness of Don Julio. Good enough.
The hot sauce (how can you not love a drink that has hot sauce in it?) I used was some that I brought back from my last trip to the BVI. It’s not the best hot sauce in the world but it has sentimental value.
I was, at last, all set to make the cocktails. I steeped the hibiscus flowers in boiling water for far less time than I was instructed to (Come on. How long am I supposed to wait for a drink?). The flowers turned into purple baby octopi, a little rubbery and somewhat Halloween-looking.
And yes, I did taste one. Why? I don’t know. They had released all their flavor to the water, so my curiosity went unrewarded. The hibiscus tea was a beautiful deep maroon color and painfully tart. I added sugar purely out of fear of having the enamel stripped off my teeth without it. I was careful not to add too much (I actually added half the recipe-stipulated amount) so as not to go in the gag reflex-inducing candy drink direction.
The drink was light, tart, not too boozy yet certainly not plain juice – although it did go down like juice. Lisa and I went through a whole pitcher of it. Yep, just us. Aside from the fact that we are aspiring alcoholics, the drink really was quite good. I will be less shy with the hot sauce next time. It made the drink absolutely addictive. Yeah it was the hot sauce that did it and not the tequila. Really.
Hibiscus-Tequila Cocktails, my futzed-with version
Food and Wine, July 2006
2½ cups water
½ cup dried hibiscus flowers
3 tbsp sugar (or to taste)
½ cup tequila (or to, uh, taste)
¼ cup fresh lime juice
4 dashes of your favorite (for whatever reason) hot sauce
1) Bring the water to a boil. Add the hibiscus flowers and boil for one minute. Let infuse for as long as you can stand it – ideally about 15 minutes but I was perfectly happy with the result after 7. Strain the tea into a bowl and stir in the sugar till dissolved. Chill the tea thoroughly – this I did in the freezer due to the aforementioned impatience.
2) Stir in the tequila, lime juice, and hot sauce. Pour over ice and… bottoms up.
P.S. Pardon the not-so-great picture of the cocktail itself. I may have been drinking at the time...
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
I saw Little Miss Sunshine last week and decided that I need a routine of my own. It took me forever to work it out.
And here it is, set either to N.E.R.D. "She Wants To Move" or The Raconteurs "Level," whichever your pleasure. Pleasure being the point here, of course.
Turn it up.
That's all you get. Don't be greedy.
Please note: no cheese was harmed in the making of this post. In fact, I think it rather enjoyed itself.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
I don’t know who came up with it, I don’t know how they came up with it, nor do I care. All I know is that deep fried pickles are pure brilliance. They are just about the most perfect thing I have eaten in a long time.
I have had deep fried blue cheese-stuffed olives (Linwood Grill) and they are fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but they have nothing on deep fried pickles. The ones in the picture above are on the menu at Cambridge Common on Mass Ave – really not a place worth traveling to, except for the aforementioned deep fried genius.
The pickle spears are battered and deep fried, served blazing hot with a side of chipotle mayonnaise (they call it aioli but face it, it's mayo) and ranch dressing. The pickles are a perfect combination of textures and flavors – the batter is crisp on the outside but gives to some chewiness, the pickles are (obviously) salty, juicy, and still a bit crunchy, the salt balances with the subtle sweetness of the batter. The ranch dressing is pointless, as always, but the spicy and slightly smoky chipotles in the mayonnaise elevate the deep fried pickles to status of the best deep fried thing I have ever had. With a pint of Oktoberfest from Nashoba brewery, the deep fried pickles were my salvation from a weekend in lab.
1667 Mass Ave (Harvard Square)
Cambridge MA 02138
Sunday, September 17, 2006
I have been remiss in my blogging. I have kept my personal life locked away and shrouded in mystery. The time has come to divulge all. So here goes. Clotilde has Maxence, Michelle has LB, Beckham has Posh Spice, and I…
... I have my Wusthof 8” chef’s knife.
We have been through a lot together, my knife and I, both good and bad. I owe my knife a great deal. It was the reason I started cooking as much as I do now. I have always baked, even when I was little (weird, huh?) but never cooked. I had been making the same three things my Mom taught me, interspersed with the occasional veggie burger. That was pretty much the extent of it. For some unknown reason, likely to do with the need to divert the attention onto myself, I convinced myself that I really really need a really really nice knife…while registering with Gopi for her wedding. Unlike most fairy tales, our love was not the instant, at-first-sight kind. I weighed my options, deliberately and carefully. And I do mean weighed. I tried a number of different knives to see how they would balance in my hand and how heavy they were.
The final decision came down to a Global chef’s knife and the Wusthof. Upon consideration, I realized that my feelings for the Global did not run deep, they were not were not true. I was being seduced by the Global’s connections - it was featured in a GQ article earlier that year. In actuality, I found the Global’s handle slippery and uncomfortable. It just didn’t fit my hand well. The tip of the blade kept wanting to point down - the handle wasn't weighted enough. Once the veil of unfair influence was lifted, I realized that it is the Wusthof and I who must be together. It felt right - heavy enough to cut through dense things yet light enough for minute manipulation. We were meant to be together. At this point, the Bed, Bath and Beyond sales guy said he had to walk me to the register with the knife, totally ruining the romantic moment. Apparently, they don’t trust people to walk around the store with a potential murder weapon. Pity.
And so I brought my knife home and everything changed. I realized that I didn’t cook much because it always took so damn long to chop everything with the awful knife I had been using since college (*shudder*). Hmmm… I guess size does matter. With the Wusthof, everything was so much faster and easier, requiring far less effort. It even cut through butternut squash. Squash used to be the bane of my existence, regularly reducing me to tears as I tried to pry my unfit college knife out of its clutches, having to utilize limbs that don’t belong on cutting boards. Herbs and garlic got minced by milling, just like on TV. Tomatoes were cut without shaking the knife off their slippery skins directly onto my finger. It was brilliant! Somehow, making dinner after getting home from a full (and likely shitty) day in lab didn’t seem like such a horrendous proposition. Dinner, in actuality, became an event – an excuse for me to spend time with my awesomely significant other, my chef’s knife.
I put the knife to good use and, eventually, all the chopping and the milling and the occasional falls to the floor (narrowly missing my bare toes) took their toll – the blade had dulled and was all out of whack, the edge no longer straight. The magic had seeped out of our relationship. The same problems I had with the college knife came back to haunt me. Everything was taking far too much effort, too much time - chopping became a chore again. The Wusthof was even starting to draw blood from my hands as it slipped off the item being chopped.
An immediate intervention in order, I took the knife to Sur La Table to be sharpened and honed. Sharpen it they did, but left their mark. The sharpening left scars, scuffs along the blade. [Also, the few (ok, many) times I tossed the knife into the sink in a semi-drunken haze without washing it straight away led to some discoloration of the blade.] I happen to think that scars add dimension, to knives and people both, so I was ok with it. And it cut just like new! It was back, and I was happy once more. I won’t wait so long to sharpen it next time.
So now you know my story. That’s it. Nothing else to tell. I owe my many dinners, and likely this blog, to my chef’s knife.
P.S. No, Wusthof did not sponsor this blog post, although I am willing to entertain any offer that comes my way.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
I went on an eating rampage yesterday. I really think I hurt myself. This was a very food-intensive day the likes of which haven’t been seen since my trip to Texas. The day started innocently enough, a normal breakfast and tea, as every morning. And then it all went downhill. A giant experiment blew up in my face (not literally. Not this time, anyway), the head of the lab was out of town, and I needed a drink. Note the needed. Not wanted, but needed. That’s probably a bad sign.
We had decided on Pizzeria Regina prior to the experiment blowing up – now it looked even more attractive. I cannot believe that I have lived in Boston for 5 years and had never been to Pizzeria Regina until yesterday. It’s a disgrace, really. Pizzeria Regina is a North End establishment – has been there for ages (since 1926) – and is said to have some of the best pizza in the city. Their pitchers of beer aren’t half bad either.
After taking an absurdly long time to decide on a pizza – this is not a trivial matter, the final vote was: sausage, mushrooms, half eggplant and half cherry tomatoes. The crust really made this pizza. It was crunchy but chewy enough, with a good balance of cheese and sauce. I did not feel my usual compulsion to blot the grease off the pizza with a napkin – such an unattractive thing to do but I can’t help it. Fresh tomatoes on a pizza are so great – sweet, acidic, and juicy all at the same time.
The beer calmed me down and the pizza put me in a food coma, thus making the rest of the lab day a little easier to swallow (ha). Oh if only the eating had stopped there. But no. I had plans to meet Gopi and Girish at one of Girish’s favorite restaurants in the city, Shabu Zen in Chinatown. [I am all kinds of multi-culti, by the way: lunch in Little Italy, dinner in Chinatown…].
My first shabu-shabu experience was definitely worth the 40 minute wait for a table – the place is insanely busy. As soon as we were seated, I ordered a watermelon smoothie that I had been eyeing from the entryway for about 38 minutes of the 40 minute wait. The smoothie was made with fresh watermelon (melons were piled up on the bar) and ice. I think that may have been it. It tasted like watermelon on crack – as though 10 melons were squeezed together into one glass and chilled. Very smooth, not too sweet, fresh and perfect. The second thing we ordered was a gigantic bottle of hot sake. Apparently, at Shabu Zen, when they say bottle of sake, they actually mean a bottle, not those dainty carafes I was expecting. Sooo much sake. Together with the green tea and ice water, I probably had enough for a liquid dinner. This was only a sign of excesses to come.
Each diner gets their own bowl of broth boiling over a hotplate and a choice of thinly sliced meat (chicken, pork, lamb, seafood, various cuts of beef, or Kobe beef (!)).
The meat is slightly frozen and sliced on a deli slicer to make super thin slices that can cook quickly in the boiling broth. [That’s the whole kitchen! A bunch of deli slicers. A brilliant business plan.]
The combo dinner includes and vegetables (enoki mushrooms, napa cabbage, carrot, corn, watercress, tofu, tomatoes) which are dipped into the boiling broth to cook quickly, dipped in soy sauce with various flavorings (garlic, hot chili, scallion) and eaten with either rice or noodles. I had the surf and turf which consisted of mixed seafood (scallop, squid, salmon, and some variety of white fish), and sirloin. Combined with the vegetables, it was a truly obscene amount of food. Ridiculous, even.
The salmon was the star of the show. I actually don’t like salmon very much (one of two foods on this planet I am not crazy about – the other being anything anise flavored, excluding fennel, in case anyone was curious) but this was extraordinary – cooked only lightly in the spicy broth, with the interior of the salmon slice still raw, it melted in the mouth. Just melted, leaving some of the soy sauce and chili behind, along with a perfectly subtle flavor of the salmon.
The beef I ordered didn’t do a whole lot for me – there was an awful lot of fat on every piece. I simply cannot justify chewing a plain piece of fat, straight up. I may be alone in this. Girish, however, is a clever, clever man. He ordered Wagyu beef (variety of Kobe beef). Oy. These cows have a better life than I do – they are fed beer and sake and massaged. Yes, massaged, to distribute the fat and improve marbling. I have to distribute my fat all by my sad self. No fair. Wagyu beef was like meat crossed with butter. The texture had nothing in common with the beef I am used to – there was nothing to chew. It dissolved, leaving a very smooth and intense taste of beef behind. It was unbelievable. Should I one day win the lottery, I will 1) buy an SLR McLaren (and pretend I don’t know that Paris Hilton has one) and 2) eat only Wagyu beef for the rest of my life. That life is likely to be rather short due to my driving at 150 miles an hour and eating fatty beef, but it sure will be short and sweet.
As if all that wasn't enough... The meal ended with red bean dessert soup – well-chilled and sweet, with a barley tea flavor, it went remarkably well with the rest of the meal.
Shabu-shabu may not be the best first date place (or fourth, for that matter) since you leave a little smelly. Although some people may find the scent of boiled beef alluring, I do not. Shabu Zen in particular, is loud and in constant motion – great fun for a group, but not the most intimate of settings. The food was great - fresh, and certainly plentiful.
A long walk to the car was deemed mandatory for our continuing cardiovascular health, following which I was kindly dropped off by my apartment. Incidentally, my neighborhood is currently overrun by newly returned college students. Why do they think everything is automatically funnier if it is yelled? I don’t understand. Regardless, I am on food lock down for the next 2 days. As if I will even be hungry before next week. Nothing like gluttony to salvage a perfectly crappy day.
11 1/2 Thacher St
Boston MA 02113
16 Tyler St
Boston MA 02111
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
I propose a commentary on our life and society based on my last two markedly contrasting posts. How about this: while an eggplant stack is the high school cheerleader with perfect dimples who is dying to be taken seriously (obvious flash, subtle substance), corn and potato soup is the awkward wallflower at the sock hop who just wants Billie-the-football-player to look over (all substance, desperately lacking flash). An extended metaphor, I know, but an apt one. The soup I made was ugly. It really just was. So, no picture of the final product. To give you an idea, my poor soup bore a striking resemblance to what I would imagine was Oliver Twist’s gruel. If it is any consolation, my soup had a lovely personality - it wasn’t much to look at but I’ll be damned if it didn’t taste good.
This all started as a result of my choosing beer and cheese and crackers for dinner over actually cooking anything for an embarrassing number of days in a row. The sweet corn I received in my Boston Organics box was crying for action and attention -- I had to use it before it quit on me.
Two disparate thoughts came together to generate the idea that would later become my wallflower of a soup. First was the broccoli soup that Clotilde deemed her best ever; the base of the soup was enriched with an aged cheese rind and parsley stems. [This is why I have had a cheese rind and parsley stems in my freezer for the last six months (six months due to the fact that I choose beer and cheese over a real dinner routinely)]. The other idea came from a Boston Globe interview with the chef at Lineage, the somewhat new restaurant that has replaced my beloved Lucy’s on Harvard St. in Coolidge Corner (interesting tidbit – Lucy was Mitzi-the-owner’s dog. Much better name for a restaurant than Mitzi’s).
Using seasonal ingredients is, of course, de rigueur in new Boston restaurants, as well it should be. The soup of the moment at Lineage is a sweet corn soup that is started by sauteing leeks, shallots, and onions, then adding sweet corn, Yukon Gold potatoes, a stock made from corn cobs, chicken stock and some cream to finish. I see a number of problems with executing this recipe in my own, limited, kitchen. For one, do I really need to include every possible form of onion in my soup? No, indeed I do not. Secondly, cream scares me, so I never have any around. I am working on getting over this debilitating phobia of liquid fat, I promise. But a stock made from corn cobs sounded like a pretty neat idea.
I set out to “build” my soup with as much flavor as I could shove into it. I started by making a corn stock with parsley stems, corn cobs, and an aged Gouda rind. [The picture of the stock is there to replace that of the final, unappealing gruel-like soup product]. The smell coming from this pot was unbelievable. While the stock was infusing with corn and cheese, I was chopping onions and garlic (and drinking beer) for the second stage of the soup making. I sautéed the onion and garlic in some olive oil until softened, added corn and potatoes and stirred them about until the potatoes released some starch. I then added the strained stock and let it all bubble contentedly away while I continued on my merry cheese-eating way.
Once the potatoes were tender, I pureed the soup with my stick blender, which I still get a dorky thrill from using. It was at this point that I realized my soup was going to have a difficult life ahead of it. The other kids were not going to play with it. It looked plain and slightly consumptive: a pale, chunky puree. But I still loved it, as any mother would.
Upon tasting my outcast of a soup, I was surprised to find it lacking the depth of flavor I would expect from a soup infused with cheese. It is too bad I was drinking beer and eating, um, cheese while making the soup – I made the mistake of using water for the base of the soup as opposed to chicken stock. To remedy, I thinned the soup with chicken stock, added more salt, a bit of white pepper and parsley. That did the trick. The chicken broth made the corn flavor stand out and added a roundness to the soup that I was missing. The fresh parsley made the parsley-infused base come forward. And salt is just salt and my life would be incomplete and meaningless without it. [In case there was any doubt of my dork status, I actually keep a baggie of my own salt in lab so that I do not have to stoop to using the iodized craziness that lives in the lab “food” drawer.]
Clotilde was right: the cheese rind and parsley stems gave a great depth of flavor to an otherwise plain soup. I didn’t even miss the other 15 varieties of onion that I was meant to include.
So that is it. That is the story of my ugly soup with soul. So don’t judge. Some things are worth a second look, even if they are wallflowers and you are Billie-the-football-player. Lesson learned?
Corn and Potato Wallflower Soup
Aged cheese rind (any aged cheese, I suppose. I used an aged Gouda rind and a bit of Parmesan rind)
2 cups water
2 ears of sweet corn, kernels cut off the cobs
3 baby Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced
½ medium white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
salt and freshly cracked black pepper
dash of white pepper
1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley leaves
1) Simmer corn cobs, cheese rind, and parsley stems in 2 cups water for about 30 minutes (or until you get really bored of staring at the pot). Strain the stock. [The smarter thing to do here would probably be to make the corn stock in chicken stock instead of water. Either way would work].
2) Sautee onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add the corn and potatoes. Cook stirring for about 5 minutes, until the potatoes begin to release some starch. Add the strained stock, season with salt and pepper(s), bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender.
3) Puree the soup with a nifty stick blender (or a regular blender, should you be so unlucky) leaving some texture in the soup – I actually removed some of the corn from the soup prior to blending to leave some kernels whole.
4) Add 1 cup of chicken stock, or as much as will give you your desired soup consistency. Bring to a boil, add parsley, and it’s all done.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
As is usually the case when my mind wanders, I was thinking about food while sitting in a 7PM meeting in a torturously stuffy room with torturously eager 1st year grad students (That’s just cruel. Ask anyone). Specifically, I was thinking of something interesting and quick to make for dinner. And then it came to me! A timbale - basically, a snob way of describing something that is stacked, or formed in a circular (or otherwise) mold. I am all for presentation when it comes to food, but only when it is as good to eat as it is to look at. I am not particularly interested in a stack skewered with a poof and topped with foam if all it tastes like is, well, poof.
Luckily, substance and beauty are not mutually exclusive in the world of food. Lisa had a gorgeously colorful timbale with yellow and red beets, layered with goat cheese and candied pecans. It was great! All the layers remained separate till the flavors mixed in your mouth – it was almost as though the dish evolved as you chewed it. Extreme description, I know. I may be prone to hyperbole. So that’s how I thought of a timbale. There. Now you know.
Of course I am only a food snob in spirit – I don’t happen to have various timbales laying around my apartment. I don’t even have a pastry brush, which is just sad. I had to make do with what I had on hand. I was so very happy to get Roma tomatoes and a big beautiful eggplant in my last Boston Organics box (top right corner). It was perfect – heavy, with tight and shiny skin… Not exactly what I look for in a man but it makes for a damn fine eggplant. So, roasted eggplant and Roma tomato timbale (or stack. I think I prefer stack) was the decision. No snobbery molds required.
I was originally planning on making the stacks with goat cheese, a la the Tavern, until I found out that my goat cheese had gotten a little too ripe for my taste. Yeeeaaah it was covered in mold. And not the good kind of mold. So, no goat cheese. Parmesan came in to save the day. I also wanted to use some of my home-grown basil until I discovered that my lovely plant was afflicted with some sort of basil-rot-scabby blight (clearly, a prapple and pecan orchard is not in my future. I can’t even keep basil healthy). So, no basil. Striking out right and left! Balsamic vinegar and good olive oil would have to suffice (a layer of fresh basil or oregano is definitely happening next time I make this).
The roasted eggplant stack was as good as it looked. Roasting brought out a sweetness and depth of flavor in the tomatoes– so much so that the taste reminded me of sundried tomatoes. The sweetness of the tomatoes was balanced by the acidity of the balsamic and the sharpness of the parmesan. The skin of the eggplant remained firm while the flesh practically melted. The eggplant skin helped maintain the integrity of the stack as it was being sliced (this may not be entirely evident in my picture). The eggplant would have greatly benefited from some fresh herbs – the oregano in the picture was purely decorative.
The left over roasted eggplant was happily reincarnated the next day as an eggplant and spinach quiche. Quiche is such a strange food to love, isn’t it? I feel like I should be a grandma playing bridge in order to enjoy quiche as much as I do. Oh well. I am more likely to become a grandmother than play bridge, and that’s saying something.
Roasted Eggplant and Roma Tomato Stack
1 medium eggplant, sliced into ½ inch thick rounds
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced lengthwise into ½ inch thick slices
1) Salt eggplant slices thoroughly and place in colander to drain for about 15 minutes. Wipe off salt and dry with paper towel.
2) Place on a baking sheet along with the tomatoes, brush with olive oil, season with freshly cracked black pepper.
3) Roast under the broiler set to low (maybe 425F if your broiler doesn’t have a low setting?), turning the eggplant occasionally, for about 40 minutes, until the eggplant is browned and soft and the tomatoes have collapsed and lost some moisture. Let cool.
4) Stack as you see fit, pouring a little olive oil and balsamic over each layer. My stack was: eggplant, parmesan, tomato, parmesan, eggplant, parmesan.
P.S. My first post on my brand new MacBook! I love it. Problem is, I loaded it up with all sorts of image processing software that I shamelessly stole from lab and am now spending hours messing with every picture I take. I think I have a wrist cramp. From the mouse. Oh, and Federer is killing Roddick while Tiger Woods looks asleep in the stands. How can someone who plays golf find tennis boring?? Oooh Roddick looks piiiiissed.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
If I were to have a Native American name, would it be something eco-aware like Gurgling Creek or Running Deer? No. It most certainly would not. It would be Uncomfortably Full. I haven’t quite learned the fine art of moderation. Not so much with the moderation.
Kanchan and I went to Toro after she (and others) raved about it [they have no functioning website, if you can believe that]. Toro is Ken Oringer’s (Clio) new tapas restaurant in the South End. It being in the South End meant that I could stare at very pretty gay boys all night, to my heart’s content. The restaurant was absolutely packed when we got there. I felt like I was in a mosh pit full of well-dressed young professionals. This was clearly not the mosh pit of my youth (lack of cigarette burns and surplus of oxygen argued against it) but I got shoved about pretty well while trying to make my way to Kanchan at the bar. And this was on a Wednesday night! Surprisingly, we only had to wait about 30 minutes before scoring a table outside.
Unfortunately, it took us about the same amount of time to settle on a decent wine by the glass as it did to get a table. The frazzled by cooperative server brought over a few wines to try till we found one that was ok among the not so great ones. The wine list by the bottle was much more impressive than by the glass. I was not wimping out, I swear. I drove to the restaurant and was already one cocktail down. An entire bottle of wine was not the best idea, given the circumstances. Next time though, no fooling around - we go for the bottle.
I think that the best way to present everything that we ate is in chronological order. So here goes. First up were veal sweetbreads with a yellow tomato puree and wild mushrooms. Neither Kanchan nor I were crazy about this. The texture of the sweetbreads themselves was far less light than I was expecting and to be honest, the taste rather resembled uh, chicken. The tomato puree was very smooth, thick, and enriched with cream, which took away the acidity and most of the flavor of the tomatoes. Eh.
The specialty of the house is grilled corn on the cob (in the back of the sweetbread picture – got too involved with eating to take pictures, bad blogger that I am…). Grilled corn doesn’t sound all that interesting, admittedly, but holy crap is it good: drenched in a thick garlicky butter sauce, topped with shredded hard goat cheese and served with a wedge of lime. The corn was juicy and crisp and so full of sugar that the blackened grilled parts actually tasted like caramel. For the first time in my life I can say that the cheese wasn’t entirely necessary.
Garlic shrimp was as it sounded, swimming in garlicky olive oil and grilled to a nice crunch on the outside. Rabbit and snails with carrot marmalade and parsley puree was meltingly soft and far on the sweet side from the carrots. The presentation of the rabbit was involved – the rabbit was impaled with a long wooden snail kebab, a dab of bright green parsley puree on the side.
Time for the important part, the part that led me to my Native American name and all the pain it implies – the paella. The paella was traditional, as far as I could tell. Short grain rice was cooked in a thick broth with chorizo, saffron, pan fried chicken, mussels and clams, and sprinkled with fresh peas at the last minute. The amount of saffron was just right – not overwhelming yet markedly present. The paella got so much better as it sat (I am pretty certain this was not due to our continued drinking). I think the flavors of the dense and salty sausage needed some time to spread throughout the rice. It tasted a lot better 20 minutes after it had been served. Very odd. Some of the best mussels I have ever had were on that paella – they were giant and meltingly creamy. The fresh peas were neat bursts of freshness among the rice and sausage. We thought we would have lunch for the next day. Ha. That was a lot of food for two people. To be honest, it was a lot of food for four people, but Kanchan and I aren’t quitters. No sir. I earned my way to distended discomfort the hard (but pleasant) way.
There are many reasons to go to Toro – the gorgeous bar, the gorgeous gay boys, the great paella, the tons of things to try on the long menu. Turns out that Kanchan and I are not the only ones to think that Toro is the place to be - Lydia Shire (Excelsior, Locke-Ober) was there! I think Lydia Shire and I may have the same taste in uber-trendy, semi-new restaurants. The last time I saw her I was eating at Mare. The entire kitchen and house staff was hovering over her the entire night. If given another opportunity, I am so going up to her. She is not the most approachable woman in the world and a stranger mumbling something incoherent about a blog and undying adoration will probably not earn much more than a disoriented stare, but I still think it’s worth a shot. Maybe she needs a chauffeur. Or a dog walker. I won’t clean though. I draw the line at cleaning. I think.
1704 Washington St
Boston MA 02118