Tag Archives: review

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

Cook’s Tortas: Where the Westside Meets East LA

Though many of my Westside-centric friends believe East LA begins in Silver Lake, they are woefully wrong.  They speak proudly of venturing as far east as Echo Park, where all the hipster bars and new age restaurants are opening.

But true Los Angelinos know that East LA really begins off the 60 highway, encompassing Boyle Heights, Montebello, and Monterey Park.  While authentic ethnic food abounds in these neighborhoods, few would ever venture to describe the dining scene here as anything resembling hipster.  With the opening of Cook’s Tortas in  spring 2008, however, things have started to change on a formerly sleepy stretch of Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park’s main drag.

Many reviews of Cook’s Tortas have noted that it is more reminiscent of Westside eateries, with its daily-changing chalkboard menu, bright mint green walls, gourmet ingredients, and upscale flavor combinations.  I agree, but where I think Cook’s has succeeded the most is upgrading a classic Mexican sandwich while keeping prices down and flavors accessible to the general public.  This success is apparent in the never-ending lunch lines at the restaurant, the crowd a mix of East LA College students, neighboring firefighters & police, office workers, and adventurous foodies (like myself).

Cook’s menu features over 20 rotating varieties of tortas, each one with a unique flavor profile.  There are heaping entree salads and an array of sides as well.  I ordered the Ranchito torta ($7.39), filled with chorizo, carne asada, nopalitos (cactus) salad, queso fresco, and guacamole, with a side of sweet potato fries.  The Ranchito is not for the faint of heart.  Though smoky and rich from the steak and chorizo, the intensity was balanced by the slightly acidic nopalitos and creaminess of the cheese and guac.  The best part of the torta to me, however, was the bread–made fresh in-house everyday.  Porous and light, but still dense and chewy enough to stand up to the fillings, it was truly a feat of engineering genius.

To wash down the torta, I ordered a melon agua fresca.  Aguas frescas, a popular Mexican beverage made by infusing water with fresh fruits, grains, or flowers, are also made daily in house and are available in rotating flavors.  The melon agua fresca was refreshing and not too sweet–a perfect compliment to the intense flavors of the torta.

I found the desserts at Cook’s to be a bit disappointing.  Grandmother’s corn cake, topped with raspberry preserves, had a slightly goopey texture that was off-putting.  And while the chocolate chip cookie was large enough to share, it wasn’t really worth the effort.

The stars at Cook’s Tortas really are the tortas.  Fresh, innovative, and affordable, these tortas are definitely worth the drive and may even lure insular Westsiders further east than Echo Park.


Cook’s Tortas
1944 South Atlantic Blvd.
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(323) 278-3536

Cook's Tortas on Urbanspoon