Food Trucks: Lefty’s, Bon Me & Roxy’s

August 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Our neighborhood has this gem of a Sunday market—the Sowa Open Market. With our summer travel schedule – both work and pleasure –  it’s a not a place we get to a whole heck of a lot. And that’s a darn shame. We definitely are able to get there during the “shoulder seasons” – spring and fall. And if you like to explore all the artsy-craftsy stuff going on in Boston and New England, this really has been the place to go for the last eight years.

More recently – maybe in the last couple? – they’ve also had a pretty nice array of food trucks. I put a question mark down there because, like I said, we don’t get there a whole heckuva lot. With the food truck craze that’s traveling in the left lane nowadays, it’s probably one of the major draws of the Market.

And considering that one of their usual food trucks is participating in the second season of Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race, we decided to take one of our atypical in-town weekends are check out Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, among the other dozen or so trucks parked within the Sowa Open Market.

Of course, I scheduled only an hour (including walking time) between my various work-related activities to check out the food trucks. Seriously, not a smart move.

We decided to divide and conquer. We didn’t get far.

I stood in the Roxy’s line while Jennifer stood in the Bon Me line. Guess which line was longer? Jennifer decision to hit the Vietnamese street food truck was smart. My standing in the ‘order waiting to be picked up’ line at Roxy’s was not.

Jennifer was already chomping on her tofu and shitake mushroom banh mi (aka a sandwich on a baguette) before I decided to abandon my chance to nibble on a TV star. She shared, of course. Excellent flavor in the marinated tofu and mushrooms, a nice pickled topping. Great filling. Bread? Not the best, but I’m a bread snob. I’d definitely line up there again.

I was determined to have my own food truck experience, so I lined up for Lefty’s Silver Cart for a specialty sandwich. What drew me to that one? Pressed for time, it was close by, the line wasn’t long, and I judged a book by its cover—I really liked the old-timey font they used. Menu items were intriguing, too. It took me a good couple of minutes to realize they had a vegetarian menu, that’s how fun their combos were. I was torn between the Granny-B-Good – a grilled cheese with Vermont cheddar and Granny Smith apple – and the Figment, which was baguette with truffle-dressed mixed greens, goat cheese and fig jam. LOVE fig jam, so ordered the latter. Can’t go wrong with fig and goat cheese, and putting it on bread makes it a very healthy thing, I’m sure. Very happy with my order. Plus, Lefty’s baguette rocked. Now, if Bon Me had that baguette, they’d kick it up a notch. The difference? Baking technique, definitely. More steam produced a better crust for whoever is making Lefty’s bread.

Dainty Rates: 4 Dots.

If you’re around Boston Sundays through October, take a walk down to Sowa. Save room for lunch.

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Clover Food Lab

March 24, 2011 § 3 Comments

Guys, I’d love for today’s post to be more of a discussion. I don’t know much about Clover and I’d love for you to chime in.

I met friends at the Clover Food Lab in Harvard Square for lunch yesterday. Like I said, I don’t know much about it—except these two things:

  1. This particular brick-and-mortar location developed from a wheels-and-engine business. Am I right about that? Clover was originally a food truck, I take it, and there are a herd of them now in the Cambridge/Boston area.
  2. They serve all (or mainly?) vegetarian food.

Food trucks are on fire right now. And to see that a nomadic business can settle in and put down roots seems pretty cool. I mean, that’s how “civilization” started. (Hey, I used air quotes, and I’m not saying that today’s nomadic societies aren’t civilized.) I would have loved to try the Clover food truck experience first.

My friend Deb, on the other hand, had tried the food truck first. Raved about it. Loved the food. And when she saw that I’m eating “veganish” she suggested we meet up with friend Sonya to try out the steady digs.

What did we think? Here are my quick impressions as a first-timer, and an observation from Deb as a food truck customer:

The electronic “sandwich boards” as you walk in: Interesting technology there. It’s a vertical flat screen. Rather than erasing and re-writing a sign, they erase and rewrite something on their computer in the back (?) and reload or whatever. What’s the point? Not sure, except when you don’t need two “menus,” you can switch one of the screens to whatever it is you want. When we walked in both boards were menus. When we walked out, one was a menu, one was Clover’s website/blog.

Clover's Chickpea Fritter with a side of Brothy Barley & Spinach Soup. (See the indentation where my falafel ball once sat?)

I ordered the Chickpea Fritter – aka, falafel – in a pita. It came highly recommended by Deb. It was awesome. The slaw was tasty, as was whatever Mediterranean-esque sauce that was in it. The falafel was nicely done, still moist inside. There were a lot of things inside my pita I couldn’t quite pinpoint, but that was okay because I loved it all. Especially the pickle slices. BUT, folks, DO NOT put a falafel ball right on top of the stuffed pita. Mine did an “On Top of Old Smokey” thing and rolled onto the floor. Sad face.

Deb ordered the Egg & Eggplant pita. She loved that, too. Looked good. Can you get that without the egg? Next time.

We all ordered the Brothy Barley and Spinach Soup. Do you know what the word “brothy” brings to mind? Broth. A clear, flavorful liquid. No broth in this soup. If you want to be alliterative, try Burly Barley. Because it was a burly soup—any soup in which a spoon can stand straight up in (without assistance) is burly. As for taste … I’m a barley lover, and I did enjoy it. Add a touch of salt. My companions weren’t very fond of it. Oh, and where was that spinach? (Add more.)

Rosemary fries for the three of us. Yum. Dude, they were awesome.

I love that “city water” was on the menu and listed as $0.

Deb was a bit disappointed that the restaurant menu was the same as the food truck. I think she was expecting a few other choices.

If you’re going to serve pitas that are hefty and stuffed, maybe provide “holding docks” at each table—things like the U-shaped diner napkin holders. So, when you’re settling down into your seat, taking off your coat, etc., this thing can hold your pita without the food falling out (and rolling onto the floor). Just a thought.

The space needs a living wall either in the front windows above, or on that back wall. I know there’s those supports on the back wall and it looks like there’s grape ivy being training on them. Long, slow process. Clover may be looking into this—but, I do know a little something about living walls and know people in the biz. It doesn’t have to be complicated. AND, how cool would it be if they grew their own herbs and salad greens right there on location? It’s possible. Plus, as you may not know, plants “clean” the air, provide oxygen, and also help regulate temperature. Like I said, I know a little somethin’ somethin’ ’bout the topic.

Dainty Rates: 3 out of 5 Dots.

Scott Conant’s Scarpetta in South Beach

March 8, 2011 § 1 Comment

Where’s Dainty been these last few days? Not blogging, obviously. It think it’s a misdemeanor to blog while in the big warm world of South Beach. We jetted away last week to find some relief from this lagging winter.

While down there, I had to make good on a bet. Thanks to the Pittsburgh Steelers, I owed Jennifer a meal at the Fountainebleau Hotel – a fabulous haven for the young and rich who want to be seen. We just wanted to check out the glitz.

After a little research, we found that Scott Conant had a restaurant in the compound call Scarpetta. Scott Conant – he’s one of the judges on Chopped, the one who practically had someone cuffed and thrown into jail for including cheese with a fish dish, apparently a big Italian food no-no. You don’t know me if you don’t know how I feel about such restrictions. Wanting to learn more about the man’s culinary viewpoint—and secretly wanting to put cheese on fish while on the guy’s turf—we decided that Scarpetta would be it.

The restaurant  – dimly lit, private, modernly comfortable. The front-of-house girls – Jennifer even called them vacuous to their faces and they giggled. The waitstaff – well-trained. Although our guy looked vaguely like a thin Charlie Sheen. We were seated on the veranda, which typically has ocean and pool views but was enclosed due to high winds. Maybe our seating had something to do with 50 Cent and his entourage dining inside. Who knows.

Anyway … I’m not going to tell you about our entire meal – I’m sure there are enough reviews out there for your reading pleasure. You can assume it was great. If it wasn’t, I’d write all about it. What I’m going to tell you about is my appetizer, which – and I’m not kidding – may be the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life.

Burrata atop heirloom tomatoes. I will forever remember this dish, and here’s why.

A burrata is a fresh cheese creation consisting of a solid mozzarella shell and mozzarella and cream interior, served at room temperature. It takes a caprese salad and makes it look like McNuggets. The burrata is like a pillow of dairy with a creamy dairy filling. This topped a thick slice or two of fresh heirloom tomatoes, perhaps lightly tossed in evoo – it was a little hard to tell after I cut into the burrata, but more about that later. When I ordered, I was skeptical of the “fresh heirloom tomato” bit, but silly Northerner that I am, Florida can grow fresh produce during the winter. I do wish they had specified which tomato variety they used. I know they’d have to change out the menu frequently if they did that. Perhaps the waitstaff could relay that info as the “heirloom tomato of the day” like the “fish of the day.”

Now, about that burrata – this was a mozzarella that must have just begun to form and was immediately served to us, it was that fresh. And delicate. So, so delicate. Cutting into the burrata released a small dose of warm cream, coating the ripe yet firm tomato. Someone’s Italian grandmother was in the back making this. I just know it. So, there was this small bite of rich and creamy cheese contrasting with the bright light tang and texture of the thick slab of tomato. The taste and texture could make me believe angels exist, it was that good.

I had wanted to save a small corner of the burrata to put on my turbot entree, but I just could not leave a drop of it for later. I must learn to make burrata.

Dainty Rates: The burrata – off the charts.

Dainty Rates: Snickers Peanut Butter

February 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

Snickers Peanut Butter

Bleh. Save your dollar.

I’m a HUGE fan of Snickers from back in the day. Hungry? Grab a Snickers. The original power bar. Chocolate, nougat, caramel, peanuts—it’s all right there and in great proportion. And, it gives your molars and jaw something to really get workin’ on. They aren’t kidding when they say Snickers really satisfies.

So, I’m thinking a peanut butter version of Snickers, let me have it, right? This is gonna be awesome. I LOVE peanut butter.

It’s a dollar I’ll never get back.

Thumbs down, and here’s why:

  • The nougat was too … too … what’s the word … whipped. More like a Musketeer than a Snickers. It didn’t have that Snickers nougat density.
  • And was that nougat supposed to taste like peanut butter? Because that flavor hit me like bad cooking oil.
  • Hello? Peanuts? Did you forget to jump in?
  • Something had a crystalline texture to it. Was it the chocolate? The “caramel”? Whatever it was, I had a mouthful of tiny crystals. Like when you bit into some bad candy. Was that texture there on purpose? Who’d want that?
  • There was no satisfying chew. My jaw was disappointed.
  • It left me feeling heavy. Like I had just too much oil. Not a good feeling.

As a life-long Snickers fan, I was looking for and expecting a Snickers with peanut butter. What I found was nothing like a Snickers. Take the name off it and call it something else, folks, and save your brand.

Dainty Rates: 0 Dots

Dainty Rates Sel de la Terre

January 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

“Half off bar menu tonight at Sel de la Terre.”

That tweet convinced me get out of my sweats and into some real clothes after a snow day that shut down the City of Boston. I love the French-inspired menu – absolutely. But put a deal on it like 50% off and I’ll push old ladies over to … well, yeah, I guess I’m a bit of a frugal person.

Boots on, Jennifer and I trudged through the gloppy banks of slush in the South End to SDLT’s Back Bay location.

In My Glass:

Fig Manhattan

Sel de la Terre's Fig Manhattan

Fig Manhattan: fig-infused bourbon and sweet vermouth. I’m a big Manhattan fan but drink them sparingly (can’t have as much of the hard stuff as I used to …). I made an exception for this savory-sweet version of the classic leather-chairs-and-wood-paneled cocktail.

First Up:

A half-dozen moon shoal oysters served with a garnish of red onion and … couldn’t really tell you. Maybe some champagne vinegar in there? Jennifer thought the oysters were terrific. Me? “Meh,” I think is the latest fashionable grunt for “not that impressed.” Maybe the tiny bits of oyster shell left in my mouth had something to do with it. I could have used another accompaniment option.

On Our Plates:

Grilled flatbread pizza with smoked chicken, feta, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms and sage. That’s A LOT to put on a pizza that’s about 5 inches in diameter—and that’s only okay when the result is as AWESOME as this. One of the best flatbread restaurant pizzas we’ve had in quite some time. Was it lightly touched with balsamic vinegar? There was a sweet tang to the flavor that went nicely with the feta. Mmmmm feta …. love it on pizza. Big thumbs up on this plate.

Panko crusted yellowfin tuna with citrus salad, honey and chili sauce. If you order this, bypass the chili sauce: 1) it’s way too hot and 2) it covers the natural flavor of a wonderful hunk of tuna and the nice touch of the somewhat spicy panko covering. Tuna was cooked perfectly – meaning barely at all. Panko played the perfect second fiddle. And the citrus salad – there were a couple of tiny hunks of red grapefruit I think but the real stars were the spattering of dried fruits. Love dried fruit in my salad. Lightly dressed with something – not sure what – again, it let the flavors of the salad and fruit come out big rather than weigh it down with oiliness.

Bread basket and butter: An assortment of breads – all done well – came with a sweetened butter. Was that honey? There were little flecks of something in there – not sure what. If you know, please give me a shout out in the comments section and let me know. To me, sweetened butter belongs with brunch. On pancakes.

Just realized, I need to eat breakfast …

Dainty Rates Sel de la Terre: 4 Dots

(Dainty Rates perfect score is 5 dots)

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