Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Parish Cafe

Parish Cafe is a social hub of sorts, intention and end. A bar and sandwich restaurant (and really more of a pub than a bar), the unit focuses on a type of customer loyalty, a relaxed ambiance, and inventive menu concept to draw people in other restaurants only dream of - it's designed to make people talk.



What makes Parish Cafe unique is perhaps twofold: one is its beer loyalty program, whereupon drinking through a menu of 100 brews in under 120 days or something of that sort, you are awarded a large glass mug with your name inscribed to be stored at the bar, the advantage being that from that point onward when you order a beer, there is a fuller pour and some recognition awaiting.

Second, the food. Parish Cafe's menu is comprised of sandwich items recipe'd by various popular local chefs. As expected, the dishes may not have quite the common denominator most restaurant menus should, but they're all sandwiches, and the variation somehow fits if but in a different yet delightful way.

Third, and perhaps this was just the effect of squeezing 8 people in next to a window, this restaurant feels a bit straight out of TV.


The Hot and Cold Chicken Salad / $11.75
Grilled and chilled chicken breast marinated in olive oil and garlic served with arugula, caramelized almonds, shaved carrots and chilled snap peas over warm sticky rice with a sesame-soy vinaigrette.

Another menu item I would probably only come up with at 3am, the hot and cold combination is strikingly delightful. Arugula often is the leaf of choice for such heated variations, and the olive oil thankfully doesn't drench the rest of the dish. The warm sticky rice fits the Asian-themed dish and salad better than expected, and though I'm never going to like any species of peas, the dish is cohesive and enjoyable, especially to share. It actually reminds me of bibimbap in ways.


Le Mistral / $19.25
Created by: Mitchell Randall, Executive Chef – Ostra, Boston
Garlic and rosemary marinated beef tenderloin grilled to medium rare, served on ciabatta with caramelized onions, chive mashed potatoes and melted Bel Paese cheese. Topped with seasoned arugula, a truffle aioli and crispy onions. Sided with Cape Cod potato chips.

Just read that description again. Doesn't it sound delicious? To me, it tasted as expected and sounds, enough of a compliment on its own. I'm never going to love ciabatta or any of the harder crusted breads, even with their purposes; it takes an exceptionally moist and creamy sandwich in order to compensate or rationalize it, and this one does. Regarding the truffle oil - I know its a bit of a trend ingredient used typically in splash just to bump the price and class up a bit more, but I think it has a nice way of balancing the largely heavy components of the rest of the sandwich. Surely citrus or some other cheaper ingredient could have done the trick too, but what's the fun in that?


Spicy Tuna Burger / $19.25
Created by: Tim Cushman, Executive Chef/Owner – o ya, Boston
Sashimi grade yellowfin tuna, finely chopped, formed into a patty and grilled to medium rare. Served on a classic seeded burger bun with homemade spicy mayo, thinly sliced pickled ginger, chopped scallions, mixed greens, Roma tomatoes, toasted sesame seeds and a kabayaki drizzle. Sided with Cape Cod potato chips.

Perhaps the most interesting sandwich out of the bunch, the yellowfin is served seared fairly thouroughly, hurting my inner expectation and desire for sashimi. I will readily admit though that it is served quite deliciously, the patty a fairly different concept to me, and the scallions rounding it out nicely.



An example of other dishes available, quickly snapped but not sampled:







It's not difficult to see why Parish Cafe is popular. With one of the cooler and more relaxing restaurants I've been to in Boston, the atmosphere allows for talking, but wasn't too loud to hear each other - thank goodness. More importantly, we enjoyed our time here, and as good as the food is at Parish, I think that's even more the goal.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Chicken and Rice



I can't be 100% sure why the truck was parked on an essentially deserted center of the Financial District on a holiday weekend, but it served my needs particularly well, if it meant that there was no line or wait. Hailing from a similar brand of food from New York, curiosity obviously grasps at wanderers and tourists, wondering if it's just as good.



What you get: a combo plate of chicken and lamb, extra white garlic sauce and a bit of hot sauce, some pita bread, yellow rice, and crisp salad; eat it together! Apparently its even better if you mix all the ingredients together first, and some people say the more white sauce the better.



For the price you end up with some decent food and portions, though I could offer perhaps two suggestions: first, though I did like the overall taste, the flavoring/cooking of the rice has the notable room for improvement. Secondly, it would seem that this lunch truck is primarily that, and I could only imagine that this would serve just as well after hours around bars and college campuses. I liked it; just don't compare it to Manhattan.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

James Hook

Part of the charm Boston has is its city's size - you can virtually walk the entire thing in a day if you pleased, though few somehow choose that course. A delightful byproduct of such a city is the ability to traverse any restaurant as you please, as within reason, distances are all virtually the same (especially on LA terms).


Near the financial district is James Hook, an interesting piece somehow fitting in the scenery despite its older tired wood construction, cramped quarters, and school-cafeteria reminescent outdoor seating. Its not that I'm complaining per se, but more that it provides an noteable contrast to the banker-oriented steak and wine houses lining up and down the waterfront just down the street.


Once inside you see alongside a few random beachy items a freezer full of drool-worthy chunks of fish and lobster, something any seafood market should present. The scenery is much like a dock or galley, a little grime helping the ambiance in a rather genuine way, not that it's disconcerting - just notably different from most cities of modern, clean lines and bright colors. For a city without a true sandy beach, it sure can feel like one.


I wouldn't consider the lobster roll cheap by any means, though that could possibly be due to season; the bread leaves a bit in the want, but the lobster meat itself comes in recognizable and delicious chunks, satisfying to any casual tourist or enjoyer of food. There's no indication to the type of lobster used (though one can guess).


The packaging leaves much to be desired, but the core of the food is great. Chilling seafood always has the effect of making it taste better, especially on hotter days, so though it's not a completely fair assessment, I can say that I did enjoy the meal and found it refreshing.

Restaurant competition has increased lately though, even among the market-restaurant front, and environmentally friendly packaging, user experience, and house-made or locally grown products being much more the norm. It would be a shame to see a classic lobster roll and seafood shop fall victim to complacency, though perhaps James Hook's can survive by its somewhat beachfront charm.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Flour Cafe - Central/Mass Ave.


It was the morning I landed in, a red-eye from Los Angeles on two hours of sleep seated between a rather large couple, that I found myself at Flour Cafe. Full of energy and probably secretly wondering when I'd end up crashing, the time-zone change didn't help. Flour Cafe was the first destination for food, and perhaps my first travel eaterie in a while that I didn't depend on Yelp to at all steer my choices, wise indeed.


It wasn't the overly crowded description upon my visit, a few people in line and my turn to order coming up to soon. Or perhaps I was simply engrossed in conversation too much to read the menu. Or I was too tired to comprehend elegant descriptions of food. In whatever case, my companion and guide ordered for me, to share, a quiche, knowing we'd very soon be ordering lunch two states away. Ah.


We sat outside, myself then only to blame for this unfortunate lighting and shadow, but I didn't feel like moving enough to reprimand the sun.


The quiche itself tasted good, a hearty breakfast, and flaking well. I don't tend to order quiches on the regular, so I did end wondering how other things would be on the menu, as I found this favorable.

Upon checking Yelp later, I discovered there were two particular pastries that I should have gone ahead to sample: the sticky bun and butter breton. Small regrets are to be had with a willful lack of information, but for the time everything was in reason, and I have no regrets, small or not. Another day?

--

Update: I came back a few times, and tried a few sandwiches as well as the sticky bun and the quinoa salad. In short, the sticky bun wasn't really all that extraordinary, though I think being from LA might have a big hand in that opinion. If I lived in Boston and this was my only opportunity for such a pastry, I might think differently. As for the sandwiches, they tasted good, and I probably enjoyed them more than they deserve, but enjoyed them nonetheless. I am a sucker for horseradish. As a side note, walking in here in the humid Boston summer is amazing in itself, and almost worth an extra star.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Boston - Summertime






Old on New.








Park Street Station!




Standing where Michael Bloomberg would stand just a little later.





Thursday, August 7, 2014

Food and Emotional Pornography

I remember reading an article once, I think on a Christian website or some related nonsense. The writer had issue with a terminology becoming popular - "food porn", and disliked that an evil word such as pornography could become associated with something so necessary and pure as food.

Let's set something straight. Food is important and vital to life - healthy, even. But fancy, designer, perfectly plated, pretty, and made of exotic and rare ingredients? Highly fatty, dessert, and unbalanced in diet? Manmade, frozen, un-expiring, modified, sprayed, canned, and whatever else - these foods are not, and I really wouldn't consider it a stretch to categorize websites catering to those interests (foodies) as pornography, as they work in your mind and body in similar ways to the traditional meaning of the word.

Weddings aren't off the table either, evidenced by the fact that the term bridezilla exists. Jealousy and a desire for perfection build up upon this one day, where people dream up their ideal from a very young age, likewise imagining what a perfect spouse will be. Its a lust of the heart, an emotional pornography.

And so a photographer such as myself comes to a dilemma perhaps slightly over thought, though I think culture's overindulgence bears much weight in my moral responsibility. One purpose artists serve is to enrich lives by communicating emotion. But if my pictures can only invoke a lust of the stomach and imagination, it becomes difficult to say that I have contributed to society rather than contributing to its indulgences, profiting from and encouraging its flaws.

But neither is the consumer exempt in responsibility, so ask yourself: what you are looking for, and what catches your eye? For if a selfish or unwholesome motivation strikes you, be aware that you may have given into temptation. You choose, for your soul is your own responsibility.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Pastiche


Pastiche: pasttime, takeoff, pastry chef, imitate. "Creation from a number of different sources; work created mainly using techniques or styles borrowed from other artists". That's the results upon my lookup through Google in my lame attempt to find out what the word means, though truly, I don't think it helped too much at all.


Pastiche though is a cute little Rhode Island dessert shop cottage, a bit like you'd imagine things to be based on TV or the whatnot, not that Rhode Island is often featured there. Nonetheless, parking and people are both a tad friendlier than Los Angeles - even the cop cars aren't painted as intimidatingly. And back on subject.


We had a bit longer of a wait than the normal group probably had, though the shop did seem a bit overwhelmed by patrons; it was a holiday weekend after all. Our compensation: three free delicious chocolate chip cookies to mull the menu over.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Fresh Fruit Tart
A buttery tart shell filled with vanilla custard, topped with fresh fruits of the season.

Fruit tart. I'm told that this is the go-to item here, and it was remarkably crisp and fresh, its fruits carrying a delightful quality while somehow not sogging up the fruit tart or fruits themselves. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Italian Mascarpone Torte
Our version of Tiramisu! Light vanilla sponge cake brushed with espresso rum syrup, then layered with creamy mascarpone filling and unsweetened cocoa. Finished with a coffee buttercream.

Italian Marscapone - we ordered tiramisu, and was told that this would be their version. Indeed! We agreed that it was better than any expected tiramisu, though I believe the consistency is a bit different (does tiramisu come in such layers? I wouldn't know...)