Stephanie Eats Out.

I thought it would be fitting to post Stephanie’s food diary today, since she’s leaving for Italy and adventure in about seven hours.   (It’s okay to be envious of her two months abroad.  You won’t be the only one feeling that way.)  Buono viaggio…

Oh, and what Stephanie ate is kind of unusual because she doesn’t usually buy all of her meals out.

10.00 – 11.00 am: I drank four glasses of juice – two glasses of Welch’s apple juice and two glasses of Dole orange strawberry banana juice. My body must have been craving the vitamin C.

3.00 pm: Because it was an hour wait at Stone Park for brunch, I deliberated between the shrimp and grits and what I ultimately decided to order: scrambled eggs, short rib hash, potatoes, wheat toast with butter and apricot marmalade, two glasses of water and a Bloody Mary, garnished with a lime, celery, and the largest caper I have ever eaten.

4.00 pm: I drank a large iced coffee that didn’t quite hit the spot. There wasn’t enough ice in the cup.

4.30 pm: I ate a vegan carrot muffin with not-vegan cream cheese frosting while I sat at Prospect Park.

5.30 pm: I drank a small pot of chai tea with honey at Tea Lounge.

8.30 pm: For dinner, I ordered take-out from China One. I ate General Tso’s chicken with broccoli, pork fried rice and an eggroll.

10.30ish: For a late-night treat, I ate two rice crispy treats that Jasmine made with chocolate, cashews and a dash of curry.

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Dinner at Russell House Tavern.

My cousin Niki’s in town from the Philippines for a month, and since she’s a cook this means we’ll likely be eating out a lot while she’s here.  Last night we met up at Russell House Tavern in Harvard Square, and let me tell you that you should stop reading right now and get yourself over there.

It’s busy and loud at the restaurant, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying your food — especially if you get the crispy soft-poached egg ($7.00) off of the small plates menu.  Don’t pay any attention to the spare, boring-sounding description (“Pecorino aïoli, toasted brioche, house pancetta”).  Honestly, those words do nothing for this dish.  Maybe it should instead say something like “absolutely amazing, will make you want to order thirds, trust me.”

I’m really not being ridiculous here.  The sous-chef is a friend of Niki’s, and after introductions and hellos, we pummeled him with questions about this dish.  Apparently the egg is poached at a precise temperature — I think he said 140° — for something like forty-five minutes before it is breaded and deep-fried.  (Yes, you read that correctly.  Breaded and deep-fried.)  The egg is then placed on a small mound of greens and encircled with a creamy ring of aïoli that just about knocked me out of my chair.  Though the restaurant has only been open for barely over a month, the egg is already considered to be its signature dish.

After such a start, I guess it would be natural to have doubts as to whether other menu items could possibly stand next to that fantastic egg but I’m here to assure you that you have nothing to worry about.  I made a meal of small plates and appetizers — some of which I grudgingly shared — but the very reasonably-priced dinner menu has options that include pizzas, sandwiches and steak frites.  It’s an American gastropub after all, and though I can’t speak for its British predecessors, I don’t think they’d have any objection to Russell House sharing the category.

In addition to the egg (oh, that egg), we ordered the spinach gratin ($9.00) and charcuterie board ($10.00) to share.  I never have anything negative to say about charcuterie, and I dare anyone to try to do that regarding the chicken liver pâté, the smoky pork rillettes and the anise-flavored terrine that I tried to keep for myself.  The gratin was nothing to complain about either; its blue cheese base went so well with the sesame-zahtar flatbreads we spooned the spinach onto.

The one dish I didn’t share was the steak tartare ($10.00), which is probably because I’m just a greedy person at my core.  What I really liked about the tartare was, aside from its tenderness and delicate flavor, that the beef was chopped rather than ground.  Otherwise, I feel as though I’m eating a raw hamburger.

One last thing and then I’ll let you go: make sure to have a safe way to get home because when you see the beer/wine/cocktail list you are going to want to try one of everything.  I don’t advise that, but I do suggest you get the Battle of Trafalgar (which is worth its price of $9.00 and more).  It’s dangerously good, and should be since it’s made with Pimm’s, St. Germain and honey.  If you’re not a mixed drink kind of person, the beer selection will probably make you happy.  I know I was pleased to see Goose Island Matilda, my favorite beer from my trip to Chicago, on the roster.

I can’t stress enough how much I think Russell House Tavern is affordably-priced.  The portions, even on the small plates, are generous (though I’ve got to say that no one at my table ordered an entrée, so I can’t truthfully comment on that).  Gigantic salads passed us, we couldn’t finish the gratin, Keith took half a pizza home.   I truly think that the menu is comparable in value-for-money to Garden at the Cellar, which is one of my favorite places to eat in the area, and if Russell House proves to be consistent both will be competing for a place in my heart.  Or stomach.  Whichever.

So what are you waiting for?  Go already.

Russell House Tavern
14 JFK Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
617.500.3055
russellhousecambridge.com

Russell House Tavern on Urbanspoon

Whirlwind.

I’m in the midst of a few hectic days.  I just got back from a forty-eight-hour trip to Buffalo for a cousin’s wedding — we left for the airport at 5.15 am, and tomorrow morning I take the 7.30 bus to New York to visit Stephanie in Brooklyn for two days before she leaves to go to Italy for two months.  I’m here, on my sofa, for less than a day, and I haven’t had anything to eat since the wedding dinner, and I’m getting that cranky-nauseous feeling from lack of food.  Good thing we’re going to Garden at the Cellar for an early meal.  I’ve already got the taste of chicken and thyme croquettes on my tongue.  I’ll fill you in when I get back.

Ben Eats Meat (and a Veggie Burger).

I don’t get to eat out with Ben nearly as much as I would like, mostly because he lives on one end of the country and I’m on the other.  The few meals we’ve been able to share have been memorable for their own reasons — like orange-chocolate lattes and pretty much everything at Eleven Madison Park — but we mostly listen with extreme levels of envy to the other describing a food-related experience.  Like, for example, the day Ben had recently.  He writes:

On Saturday, Jill informed me that she really wanted to go to a farmers market because she was craving fresh fruit that didn’t taste like plastic, chemicals and/or nothing. So Sunday morning Jill and Dave and Tim and I roamed the Hollywood Farmers Market for tasty fruit and fixings for dinner. We had no concept for dinner, so we let the market dictate what we were buying. Because we got there a bit late the protein selection was not the hottest, so after lunch we went to McCall’s Meat & Fish. (This was my second experience* with McCall’s and, despite my aversion to religion, I might form a cult for that place.) After a back and forth with Chef McCall, we opted for a 2.5 pound Kurobuta Pork Rack. This turned out to be a very good choice.

We avoided recipes with this meal**. There was something really nice about just taking the fruit and veg and herbs we’d purchased and kind of winging it, making it up as we went along. And I wasn’t disappointed: it was simple, unbelievably fresh and delicious.

Try and tell me you’re not jealous of that.

Morning Snack at the Hollywood Farmers Market: random sampling of blood oranges, blackberries, strawberries, English peas, almond butter, cashew butter.

Lunch at Kitchen 24: veggie burger, side of potato salad, Diet Coke.

Yes, I should have eaten at the Market. But K24 is around the corner and their homemade veggie burger was calling to me.

Afternoon snack while prepping dinner: blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, almonds, pieces of olive/fig bread.  2 glasses of Ménage à Trois California White.

Dinner: Herb-crusted pork rack, dill & garlic fingerling potatoes with English peas, baby greens + balsamic strawberry with walnuts & chèvre, olive/fig toast, 2 glasses of Coppola Rosso.

Dessert: Strawberry + blueberry + blackberry in lemon juice with mint sugar.

* Two weeks ago we made a rack of lamb that was kind of a revelation; it was the first times where we prepared something that I considered truly restaurant-worthy. I have no doubt that it was largely due to the beautiful cut of meat, but Jill & I cooked that bastard perfectly. It was the best lamb I’ve ever had.
** That said, Chef McCall very helpfully gave precise directions on the butcher paper on how not to eff up the cooking of the pork.

Darlington Drinks a Lot.

Darlington‘s written a caveat:

I drink inordinate amounts of water throughout the day which are not listed — this is due in part to my affinity for caffeine, part to my profuse sweating usually induced from hot yoga and part simply to my insatiable thirst!  Also, I am trying to limit my sugary/fatty sweet intake these days — normally I have above average consumption of baked treats and ice cream — bad bad habit!

9.30 am: Bunch of grapes and handful of strawberries in the car while driving to meet a friend.

10.00 am: Americano with whole milk (cream was out) from Crema Café.

2.00 pm: Steamed kale and avocado with salt and pepper (surprisingly good); lentil soup at my friend Anne’s house.

3.30 pm: Pot of tea and soy milk at the Sherman Café – encouraged to get it iced given the unseasonably warm temperatures, but I declined.

7.30 pm: Handful of multi-seed chips while cooking dinner at home.

8.30 pm: Relaxed in front of my laptop (is that an oxymoron?) watching Grey’s Anatomy with salad (red leaf lettuce, watercress, steamed asparagus, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds and homemade dressing); whole wheat fusilli with tomato sauce and grated pecorino romano; glass of red wine.

Kelly Disses Croissants.

Kelly‘s the father of two little boys, one of whom is already obsessed with cooking — a toddler after my own heart.  A French transplant, he’s probably tried croissants at every bakery in Metro-Boston, if not New England.

7.45 am: Glass of Simply Orange juice and some generic Mucinex pill (yummy!).

8:30 am: Small black coffee with a very unFrench chocolate croissant from Sally Ann’s in Concord Center.

1:30 pm: Leftover cod with jasmine rice in a leek cream sauce and a copious slice of Iggy’s Extra Long Francese.

6:45 pm: Seitan, roasted red pepper and red onion stir-fry with sautéed ginger and garlic in a fish/soy/black mushroom sauce served with, yet again, more rice and Iggy’s Francese.

9:30 pm: One chocolate chip cookie that our sitter didn’t eat.

Food Diaries.

My love of the food diary is pretty well documented — I’m absolutely fascinated by what people eat.  Instead of journaling my week in food, I got to thinking: What are my friends eating?

So I asked them.

I’ll be posting a day in their eating lives soon.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, check out what New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton’s been eating