Tag Archives: local

Memorable Meals of Summer: Boston

Fall has officially arrived in Philly, with temps dropping as low as the 40s over the past few days.  While I’m excited for the season’s arrival, along with fall foliage, apple cider, and pumpkins galore, the cold is certainly making me nostalgic for the warmth of summer.

Thinking of summer made me remember some of the truly great meals I had over the past few months, many of which I still haven’t written about (sorry for the backlog, folks!).  Two of the most memorable meals were during my family vacation to Boston, and they couldn’t be more different from one another.

Bondir

The first was at Bondir, an intimate 28-seat restaurant in Cambridge.  Voted one of Bon Appetit’s best new restaurants in the country, Bondir is committed to locally farmed, sustainable cuisine that lets the freshness of the ingredients speak for themselves.  The cozy interior matched the cuisine perfectly: rustic yet elegant and whimsical.

The meal started out with a selection of their homemade breads: 9 grain, The Sea, and cranberry walnut.  All were excellent, but The Sea really stood out against the rest.  Though I was initially skeptical of bread made with seaweed and squid ink, the combination was briny and pleasantly salty.

Next came the red norland potato and sweet corn chowder ($10).  Topped with salmon roe and roasted red onions, the soup had a surprisingly sophisticated symphony of flavors.  The intense saltiness from the roe was tempered by the sweetness of the corn and onions, balanced by the creamy broth.

For our entrees, we ordered farmed and foraged summer vegetables roasted and glacé with Teff polenta ($26), wagyu brisket sauerbraten with saffron glazed carrots, sorrell, and black lentils ($30), and pasture raised concord chicken over a white cornmeal cake, cipollini roasted with San Marzano tomatoes, and courgettes saute ($30) (pictured from left to right).

Every dish was absolutely delicious and carefully prepared.  I was struck by how a dish as simple as roasted vegetables was elevated to elegance and refinement, highlighting the quality of the ingredients and skill of Chef Jason Bond.  My favorite dish, however, was the wagyu beef sauerbraten (better photo available here).  Fork tender from a long brining process, and slowly braised in a tangy glaze, the beef was luscious and flavorful, again highlighting the quality of the meat.

Our meal ended on a sweet note: peach trifle with thyme-buttermilk ice cream and meringue brulee ($10) and chocolate panna cotta with seville orange puree, rhubarb jelly, cocoa nibs, and pistacio ($10).  Refined and not overly sweet, these desserts once again showed Chef Bond’s restraint and simple genius.

Complementing Bondir‘s casual-elegant cuisine is its excellent and knowledgeable waitstaff.  Each server was warm and attentive, carefully describing each dish and happily answering any questions or taking any requests we had.  All in all, a brilliant meal.

279A Broadway
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 661-0009
Bondir on Urbanspoon

Clam Box

The second most memorable meal of the trip was actually 45 minutes outside of Boston, in the adorable town of Ipswich.  Famous for the gorgeous Crane Estate (pictured above) and Ipswich clams, my family and I managed to experience both on our visit.

After our tour of the Crane Estate, we made our way over to the Clam Box, an Ipswich institution since 1935.  Famous for their fried clams and fresh no-frills seafood, we knew we were in for a treat when we saw the massive line outside the restaurant.

Locals and tourists alike flock to the Clam Box for good reason.  Service is friendly and efficient, and the interior is pleasantly kitschy.  But the real standout at this place is the fresh seafood.  The fried Ipswich clams ($14.25; pictured above)  were the epitome of deep-fried deliciousness.  Addictively crisp on the outside, the only thing that makes these clams better than they already are is the addition of tartar sauce.  Other standouts include the lobster roll ($17), piled high with sweet lobster meat on a toasted white bun.

246 High St.
Ipswich, CA 01938
(978) 356-9707 (call ahead for hours)
Clam Box of Ipswich on Urbanspoon

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Silver Diner: Not a Greasy Spoon Anymore

I will admit that I’m somewhat of a food snob. On our first date, I warned my boyfriend that if Chili’s or McDonalds was our destination, he would almost certainly be dining alone that night (luckily for both him and me, he hadn’t chosen either of those places). I avoid chain restaurants like the plague, opting for local joints instead. My food elitism is precisely why, when I received an invitation to attend a menu sampling at the Silver Diner, I hesitated at first. I thought to myself, “A chain greasy spoon? No way.”

But when I read the invitation more closely, I was intrigued. The event was slated to unveil Silver Diner’s newly launched Fresh and Local menu to the DC blogger community. I’m a sucker for anything with the words “fresh” and “local” in the title, so I decided to check out the event with my friend Jen, of Fresh Cracked Pepper.

The evening proved once again that you should never judge a book by its cover. My skepticism was proven wrong, and Jen and I came away with mostly positive impressions of Silver Diner’s new initiatives. The event began with introductions from owner Bob Giaimo and Head Chef Ype Von Hengst (pictured above). Giaimo discussed the rationale behind revamping Silver Diner’s menu and his decision to go the fresh and local route. He explained that after a month of conducting focus groups with Silver Diner customers, he discovered an overwhelming demand for fresh and local cuisine. More importantly, he found that diners were willing to pay more for locally sourced ingredients–compensating for the additional costs that the Diner would incur.

Chef Ype then presented the new menu offerings. Having grown up near a farm in Holland, where his mother brought him along to buy fresh milk and vegetables, he is passionate about bringing local ingredients to the Silver Diner. The first round of tastings included a summer citrus salad, chopped asian salad, and a variety of sliders (salmon, pesto turkey, hamburger, tomato mozzarella).

Chef Ype boasted that the strawberries (in the citrus salad) arrived in the restaurant that morning from a farm in Delaware. They certainly brightened up an otherwise run-of-the-mill salad. I also enjoyed the salmon and turkey burger sliders: both were served on whole wheat buns (sourced from a local bakery) and tasted juicy and tender.

Next, Chef Ype served the entrees (as if the surfeit of sliders and salads weren’t enough!): 600 calorie smothered BBQ meatloaf, 600 calorie vegetarian noodle stir fry, gluten free shrimp scampi with Maryland goat cheese and locally grown asparagus, brown rice with edamame, and guacamole pepperjack burger (which used hormone-free ground beef).

The guac burger was delicious: the patty was cooked with a perfectly pink center, and the addition of avocado, cheese, and bacon pushed the burger over the top–in a good way. The shrimp scampi, made with gluten free brown rice flour pasta, was also surprisingly good–and not an entree you’d expect to see at a diner. The earthy asparagus, along with the tangy Maryland goat cheese, added color and sophistication to the dish. The only dish that I wasn’t a fan of was the noodle stir fry (though I do applaud Chef Ype for using whole wheat pasta). The teriyaki sauce was a bit cloying for my taste.

Of course, I couldn’t leave without sampling some dessert: apple pie, chocolate cake, and a gluten free brownie sundae (sorry, no photo of the sundae available). The desserts were decent, but a tad too sweet for my taste. I did enjoy those fresh, juicy Delaware strawberries, which made another appearance atop the apple pie.

The night ended with some fabulous complimentary gift baskets, which included fresh bunches of asparagus, more of those delicious strawberries, Greenberry’s coffee, a Silver Diner mug, and 2 bottles of Virginia-brewed beer.

I think Silver Diner’s Fresh and Local menu is quite admirable. Yes, “fresh,” “local,” and “organic” have become buzzwords in the food community, and there are many restaurants out there that just slap on those labels without doing the legwork. But Silver Diner is not one of those establishments.

After listening to Bob Giaimo and Chef Ype, it’s clear they have done extensive research and found the best local ingredients they can afford: asparagus and strawberries from Delaware, hormone free beef from New Jersey, eggs from Lancaster County, PA, and locally baked buns. Some would argue these locales are not local enough. But in my opinion, that’s close enough and still way better than buying strawberries from, say, Mexico. And, perhaps most importantly, the food is tasty: not all the dishes were winners, but overall, I was very satisfied with my meal.

Head over to the Silver Diner in Clarendon to try their new Fresh and Local menu for yourselves! (The menu will be implemented at other Silver Diner locations soon.) I’m sure you’ll be surprised, like I was, to find that it’s not your typical greasy spoon anymore.

Silver Diner Clarendon

3200 Wilson Blvd.

Arlington, VA 22201

703-812-8600

Silver Diner on Urbanspoon

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Founding Flurries

The White House, covered in white

Like most DCers, I woke up Saturday morning to a wintery surprise: snowpacalypse 2.0! Since I missed snowpacalypse 1.0 back in December, I was more than excited to see the snow falling. My boyfriend, on the other hand, was less than thrilled to be dragged outside to play in the snow, but he grudgingly indulged my requests. Bundled up in our warmest jackets, we decided to walk to the White House (pictured above), which was beautiful and pristine in the freshly fallen snow.

Entrance to Founding Farmers

Needless to say, we were freezing and famished after our trek. Founding Farmers, located just a few blocks from the White House, seemed like an oasis at the time–a warm and welcome respite from the cold. The restaurant occupies a sleek and expansive 2-story space below the IMF building. But even with two levels, the restaurant was packed when we arrived (apparently, lots of people had the same idea). Luckily, we were able to find 2 seats at the bar–complete with flat screen TVs showing the Duke v. Georgetown game, which my boyfriend was ecstatic about.

FF really does mean homemade!

Founding Farmers (FF) is a Certified Green restaurant and DC’s first Certified LEED (Gold) restaurant. Its cuisine is described as “farm-inspired American true food and drink in a modern, casual and eco-friendly setting”–which means homemade products where possible (e.g. breads, pasta, sausage, sauces)  and everything else made from  locally sourced, sustainably farmed ingredients. While all of  these endeavors are quite admirable (and ones that I wholeheartedly support), they sadly did not translate into the high quality, flavorful cuisine I was expecting from FF.

The menu is quite expansive, offering everything from pancakes and bacon lollis to handmade flatbreads and pasta to enchiladas. Honestly, I think the all-encompassing menu is part of the problem. For the life of me, I couldn’t decipher what the restaurant’s specialty was. Was it the handmade pastas? Or one of the many comfort food dishes? Or maybe it was the random steak enchiladas, the lone Tex-Mex item on the menu?

Sausage, mushroom, and spinach scramble

After much debate, my boyfriend and I finally settled on the  sausage, mushroom, and spinach scramble served with leek hash browns and a homemade English muffin ($12) and the southern pan fried chicken served with mac and cheese, gravy, and waffles ($16). When I read the description for the scramble, I was expecting a huge amount of food (and I was ready to eat it all). So you can imagine my disappointment with the small portion of eggs and hash browns which arrived. Nothing on the plate stood out in my mind–the eggs, potatoes, and even the in-house-baked English muffin with homemade strawberry preserves were all just blah (for lack of a better term).

Pan fried chicken

While the scramble was monotonous throughout, the pan fried chicken had more ups and downs. The chicken itself was very good: moist on the inside,with a crisp and flavorful crust on the outside. The creamy white gravy perfectly balanced the saltiness of the chicken. Sadly, everything else on the plate went down hill. The mac and cheese was mediocre at best: the cheese sauce was watery and the pasta overcooked. The waffles would have been fine, if they hadn’t been drowned in a sea of melted butter. And the broccoli that came with the meal seemed to be more of an afterthought than an accompaniment–soggy and flavorless.

Despite the underwhelming food, I wouldn’t write off Founding Farmers completely yet. It has a fun atmosphere, convenient location, admirable mission, and potential for improving given the high quality ingredients it uses (which may help to justify its higher than average prices). Unpaid gourmets looking for a cheap and delicious bite to eat shouldn’t head here, but if you’re caught in the snow and near the White House, Founding Farmers will suffice.

FF interior

Founding Farmers

1924 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (IMF HQ2)

Washington,DC 20006

202-822-TRUE

Founding Farmers on Urbanspoon