Thursday, July 28, 2011

Where the F*** have we been?

Most of you probably haven't noticed our absence, but the loyal few of you are probably wondering what happened to us.  We appreciate your concern, and are happy to let you know that we are safe.  We have a million excuses for why we haven't written recently; among them are wedding planning, triathlon training and Angry Birds.  The simple truth is that we have been uninspired to write.  Although we have been going out to eat less often, we have eaten some decent burgers including Flat Patties, Back Bay Social Club, and 5 Napkin Burger. 

They were all very good.  We just weren't up to writing about any of them. 
Recently though we have been reinvigorated.  Why you ask?  We discovered fire. 

A little over a month ago we bought a grill.  Not just any grill - a shiny new Webber charcoal grill.  Since then we have been grilling instead of going out.  We have grilled everything: beef, pork, chicken, seafood, vegetables, fruit, pizza and even lettuce.  I don't know if I will ever go out again.

On our first date we started with the basics - burgers and corn - and in the process may have found the best burger in Boston.  Well at least we think so.  Our house burger is made with only the best ingredients.  We use 85% lean pasture-raised ground beef, perfectly ripened avocados, bright red juicy tomatoes, uber melty orange cheddar (nothing fancy) and the secret ingredient ... a fresh baked burger bun from Hi-Rise Bakery. 

The chef is obviously quite talented, as my burger was cooked perfectly.  As a side note, a burger doesn't have to be rare to be juicy.  The high heat of the grill seared the juices in without leaving a crispy outer shell.  The patty was then moved to lower heat at the right time to finish cooking and to let the cheese melt around the burger.   After a quick toast of the bun, the burger was served with a side of homemade coleslaw.  I don't know if it was because I grilled it myself, but this was one of the most satisfying burgers I have ever eaten.

We followed this up with grilled white peaches topped with Heather's homemade vanilla ice cream.  It was only her first attempt at making ice cream and I think she has mastered it.  Homemade ice cream is softer than your normal store bought variety because it only contains a few simple ingredients and leaves out the gums and thickeners needed to make it last longer in the freezer case.
For our second date we had surf and turf. The surf was shrimp marinated in garlic and olive oil then sprinkled with smoked sweet paprika.  The turf was a grass fed dry aged ribeye seasoned simply with salt and pepper.  The knock out  dish was the duck fat roasted brussels sprouts prepared on the grill.  Cast iron is remarkably versatile and perfect for use over an open fire.  Just two tablespoons of rendered duck fat in the hot pan and the Brussels sprouts and shallots caramelized beautifully while we seared the steak over the coals. 

Once the steak was off the heat and resting we threw some mesquite chips on the coals and grilled the shrimp.  The quick smoke gave the shrimp and intriguing flavor, but a bit too much paprika over powered the flavor.  We weren't left too disappointed however, as the steak was perfect and the crispy Brussels sprouts were ridiculous.
 As you can see we have been very busy.  We continue to grill a few times weekly and hopefully will have more posts soon.  We also promise to begin eating out again and posting our adventures as we search for the area's best cheeseburgers.  Again sorry for the long delay, we hope this holds you over for a little while.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Foundry on Elm

Overview: Foundry on Elm opened last year in Davis Square.  It is one of the few upscale bars in the area, but there is quite a demand because on a Friday night the bar is packed with groups of young professionals.  The restaurant has a familiar feel to it, almost too familiar.  The space looks nearly identical to Eastern Standard in Kenmore.  Classic cocktail menu...check, long dark wood bar with indirect lighting...check, the red leather booths with high top tables...check.  Even the menu looks eerily similar.  It is as though they picked up Eastern Standard and moved it across town,but along the way attracted a clientele 15 years younger from ES.  The similarities were so hard to ingnore that that we asked the waitress if they were affiliated; she must get this a lot because she replied with an emphatic "No!".  There are a few things that set Foundry apart from Eastern Standard.  First the prices are better; dinner for two with drinks for about $40 each can't be had at Eastern Standard.  Second the beer menu at Foundry is much better; they have over 20 beers on tap with rotating selections and a number of other craft beers in bottles.  Third as crowded as it was, we didn't have to wait for our reserved table.

Medium Well: I should have gotten the Spatezel. Or maybe we should have gone to Eastern Standard. Either would have been a much better decision than ordering the burger, which disappointed me not once, but twice in one night. During the Burger Sutra era, I have developed a particular expectation for how my burger should be cooked - slightly pink on the inside and cooked (not, ahem, charred) on the outside. Of this, I am sure many of you are well aware, as you have read my laments when a chef does not get it right. Foundry on Elm not only failed to cook my burger appropriately, but may be the reason I never order a burger again.

I ordered my mushroom cheeseburger medium, expecting it to come out slightly pinker than I like, but willing to make the sacrifice in hopes of avoiding the taste of burnt beef. What did I get? Rare. R-A-R-E. Not only was it rare in comparison to my expectations, but it was rare compared to Mike's rare bacon cheddar burger. The waitress, who could not have been kinder or more attentive, insisted on having a new burger prepared for me. Fifteen minutes later, burger number two arrived, medium on the inside but crispy as ever on the outside. What is the deal? I admit my expectations may be high and a tad unreasonable, but I also know a properly cooked, medium to medium well burger can be made by everyday chefs, because Mike does it every time he is at a grill. If Mike can do it, why can't Foundry? The biggest dissapointment about Foundry on Elm is that I wanted it to be good. Really, really good. But truth be told, it wasn't anything more than a mediocre restaurant with a stolen identity.

To be fair, Foundry wasn't all bad as the atmosphere was enjoyable (albeit stolen from Eastern Standard) and the gravy fries were delicious. I don't know whether I'd go back, because although I would like to try an entree, I am haunted by the memory of the Scallops our neighbor ordered, which smelled errily like the inside of an old tuna can.
Medium Dead: After a long burgerless winter we were looking for a restaurant that would pull us out of hibernation and get us excited for burgers again. While Foundry didn't blow us away it was a good burger. I like choices and Foundry offers just enough choices of toppings and cheese. Sometimes I like to be traditional so I ordered mine with bacon and cheddar. The bacon was thick and chewey which is actually how I like it. The melted cheddar wrapped around the burger like a blanket. My roll was a large white bakery roll lightly grilled and soft in the middle. So far we are off to a good start. The burger however was a little over cooked for my tastes. Despite being "overcooked"- in quotes because I like mine rare so medium rare is considered overcooked- it wasn't dry and had decent seasoning though a little too salty. Equally as important as the burger are the sides served with it, I give foundry an A on sides. The big dill pickle spears are housemade and taste very fresh. The french fries are thin and fried to a dark golden color and very crispy. Foundry might not be the best burger in Boston, but it surpasses most bar burgers.

The Verdict: We came to Foundry on Elm hoping for a burger to break us out of winter blues. Heather found disappointment, Mike found a familiar bar burger, and we both found very good poutine.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Island Creek Oyster Bar

Overview: Island Creek Oyster Bar recently opened in the space vacated by Great Bay in Kenmore Square. The restaurant was founded by Skip Bennett of Island Creek Oysters in Duxbury, Jeremy Sewall, and restaurateur Garrett Harker.  The management tag team of Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli, formerlly of Craigie on Main, and Bob McCoy of Eastern Standard also means the cocktail list is top notch.  The dinning room is innovatively decorated themed after the oyster farm that shares its name; the back wall is adorned with crates of oyster shells and the side wall has a curious upside down picture of the shore.

Medium Dead:  The burger at Island Creek Oyster Bar is a well thought out and executed burger.  Just from looking at it you can tell this isn't just an obligatory burger for the seafood averse.  Island Creek Oyster Bar actually wants you to come in and order the burger, albeit with a dozen oysters on the side.  The presentation is fun with the fries served in an aluminum pail lined with paper baring the restaurants logo. The burger has a great grilled crust but has no crunchy bits and was cooked with a perfect red rare center. Paired with the fresh onion roll to soak up all the flavor there wasn't a bit of left over juice on my plate. The burger is the perfect size -- not an overbearing monstrosity but also not a minuscule slider. I finished everything plus oysters and didn't feel like I needed to be rolled home.  The fries were the best I have had in some time.  Every one of them was golden brown and exceptionally crispy; like they were fried individually until each was perfect.  The side of house made pickled vegetables is a perfect accompaniment to the burger, cutting through the bite of the sharp cheddar. Its been a while since we have had a burger and this was a great slump buster.

Medium Well:  Hello Dear Friend, we meet again. I have to apologize for my long hiatus, and explain that it was partly due to my desire to avoid the fate of third season Adam Richman (I love you burgers, but you're unhealthy) and partly due to the burger boredom I had fallen into. After consuming many restaurant burgers that were nothing more than, well, blase, I quite frankly became sick of cheeseburgers. Alas, an oyster bar, yes an oyster bar, has saved me from the slums of the anti-burger community. Served on a tender poppy seeded roll that was topped with caramelized onions, my medium-well burger came out of the kitchen smelling of sharp Grafton cheddar (and not of *ahem* burnt meat).  The presentation was far superior to even the best pub burgers and right on par with what you would expect from a top restaurant in Boston.  These factors in combination with superior service and excellent drink options put Island Creek Oyster Bar on the list of our favorites. 
The Verdict:  We came to Island Creek on a whim after indecisively walking around deciding where to eat, but left with a new favorite restaurant in Kenmore Square.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Miracle of Science

Overview: We ended up at Miracle of Science by accident, but it must have been fate. Our plan was to go to the CBC pumpkin beerfest but at 6pm the line was wrapped around the block. With some quick thinking and step by step directions courtesy of a Blackberry, we found our selves at the casual Central Square bar.

The menu at Miracle of Science is very simple. They serve burgers, chicken sandwiches, skewers and quesadillas. The menu obviously doesn't change often because it is written on the chalk board as an effigy of the periodic table of elements. The beer list is also small but well thought out and made up of beers from local breweries.

Medium Dead:  The server warned us that the burgers tend to be on the red side which was fine with me. I ordered the basic burger rare with cheddar and mayo. The first impression was pretty disappointing as the patty was thin with an undersized piece of cheese melted in the middle. The roll was also huge and untoasted. I am glad we eat with our mouths and not our eyes because the taste outshines the presentation. The roll is a big soft bakery roll with a nice crusty outside. The burger was cooked perfectly despite being thin and was surprisingly juicy.  The roasted potatoes and savory tomato chutney are a nice change from the norm.

Medium Well: After my dreadful experience at RF O'Sullivans, I have taken on a new practice of ordering my burger "with the slightest trace of pink" instead of relying on the ambiguous terms of Medium or Medium-Well. I am glad I let the waitress translate my request into chef-speak (she encouraged me to order medium-well), because it came out, sure enough, with the slightest trace of pink. I ordered the Ronie, which had jalapenos inside the burger and was topped with pepper jack cheese. It was good, but not good enough to keep my interest after more than a few bites. A few weeks from now, I probably won't remember anything distinguishing about this burger. What I will not forget however, is the quesadilla. It's such a simple quesadilla - cheese, tortilla, tomato salsa - but yet another example of how high-quality low-quantity ingredients always prevail. Two lightly grilled flour tortillas were filled with a mild-flavored cheese, and a bowl of garden salsa topped with a dollop of sour cream was served on the side. When spooned on top of the quesadilla, the salsa completed a pairing that would make even Rick Bayless proud.

The Verdict: The choices are limited but the food is good.  Check out Miracle of Science because they understand what they do well and stick to it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

RF O'Sullivan's

Overview: Since we started this blog we have been asked the same question over and over.  "Have you been to R.F. O'Sullivan?"  That was quickly followed by, "You have to go they have the best burgers."  Now that we live in Cambridge we decided to finally go over and see what all the hype was about.

Medium Dead:  I would like to say that I was disappointed by the burger at R.F. O'Sullivan's, but it was exactly what I expected.  The burger was an overcooked crispy charred meatball.  I am glad we went for one reason, now when everyone asks if we have had the amazing R.F. O'Sullivan burger we can say: "Yes! and it sucked."  In my experience any restaurant that has a whole menu devoted to burgers can't really figure out how to make 1 good burger so they make many all covered up with different combinations of toppings.  I had the bacon cheese burger with cheddar ordered medium rare, I was afraid to order it fully rare because of how thick it was.  In retrospect I should have ordered it rare, because their idea of medium rare is a mostly gray center with a slight amount of pink.  The meal wasn't a total loss because the onion rings are actually really good, very thick and battery piping hot right out of the kitchen.

Medium Well:  Had I known this is what Mike expected, I would not have agreed to go.  I found the no-frills atmosphere to be suiting for a casual Friday night burger, but the burgers were sadly disappointing.  As my name suggests, I like my burgers cooked through more than any normal person, however this was well beyond the acceptable cooking point for any piece of meat.  My first (and only) bite of the burger patty tasted of nothing but charcoal and smoke.  I was also confused since the couple next to us had two burgers that were about as rare as they come.  I agree that I probably had it coming to me since I ordered my "Paddy-O Melt" medium well, but what was it about Mike's order that said "medium, with an extra coating of carcinogens, please."  My hair is going to smell like charred meat for weeks.

The Verdict:  Regardless of what readers say, RF O'Sullivans is not even close to the #2 burger in Boston.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Overview: On our first trip to Christopher's in Porter Square we immediately dubbed it our new "Harry's". Harry's was our go to bar in Brighton, now that we live in Cambridge we had to find a new spot. They have a constantly rotating selection of beers on draught, many of which are seasonal and hard to find. There is always a great selection of bitter ales to suit Mike's unusual taste for beer.

Medium Dead: During my first visit I just about strained my neck watching burgers fly out of the kitchen in every direction, so I was very excited to eat the burger this weekend. Christopher's has an entire page on the menu dedicated to "Burgahs", but there was little doubt that I would order the English burger. My favorite burgers are simple: burger, cheese, bacon, tomato and red onion. The English burger fits this definition exactly. I was a little skeptical that it was served on an English Muffin, but instead of a flimsy Thomas's English Muffin, I was surprised with a thick Wolferman's original English Muffin. This burger is a great bar burger. Christopher's uses naturally raised Coleman beef and marinates the burger in ale before grilling it exactly how I wanted it. I order my burgers rare and I am usually a little disappointed when its closer to medium rare or worse. Not so at Christopher's; the burger came out with a perfect red center. I know its cooked perfectly when Heather is afraid to take bite. The English burger is rounded out with thick applewood smoked bacon and melted cheddar. I also added a healthy smear of mayo. The excellent burger sealed Christopher's fate as my new "regular" bar.

Medium Well: Although Christopher's has an extensive list of burgers to choose from, it seems as though the one they are most proud of is their homemade veggie burger. I love veggie burgers, sometimes more than a regular burger, but I have had very bad experiences when ordering one in a restuarant. They are often disappointing, a token item added to appease vegetarians, with toppings haphazardly chosen because they seem like earth-loving favorites. When the toppings aren't off, the spices are usually too strong, as though the chef decided the natural taste needed to be covered up. I am happy to say that Christophers has done none of this, and offers a good, yet not exceptional, vegetarian burger. The pesto and roasted peppers compliment the whole grain and vegetable taste, and the side salad made with field greens, tomatoes and kalamata olive is a pleasing side. This is not my favorite vegetarian burger, but just like everything else at Christopher's, it makes for a fine choice.

The Verdict: The food is reasonably priced and the beer list is extensive, making Christopher's the ideal spot to launch a night out or grab a quick meal with friends.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Washington Square Tavern

Overview:  Washington Square Tavern sits right off of Beacon St on Washington St in Brookline.  The restaurant was unexpectedly busy for a Tuesday night.  The bar was crowded and the small dining room looked very full, but there was one intimate table in the corner left for us.  The dining room is painted in gold and decorated with vintage Le Tour photos framed along the walls.

Dinner at Washington Square Tavern was another one of those "its good, but..." experiences.  The food was very good, but it was overshadowed by some negatives.  The Tavern broke the cardinal rule of restaurants...Don't forget the appetizers.  Shortly after ordering, our burgers arrived and we were both wondering what happened to the cod fritters.  When we alerted the food runner of the mistake, the fritters appeared table side in minutes.  Thank goodness because they were excellent.  The smoked cod gives them a very rustic flavor, and made a great side dish for the burgers too.

We both ordered the burger with cheddar; rare and medium well.  Heather's first reaction was "thats a lot of meat!"  Really thats what she said.  The truffled fries were crispy, but with the slightest flavor of truffle. 

The highlight was the Porkslap Ale, not only for the great name and equally as creative can design, but because its actually a great tasting beer.  I was disappointed when the waiter brought over the bright orange 12oz can, but quickly got over it when I tasted the fantasic bitter flavor.

Overall the burger was great and despite the negatives we would go back.