Dinner at Kingston Station.

Darlington, Amanda and I had made plans to see a movie downtown; we knew afterwards we would want to discuss it over dinner and drinks. We didn’t have a specific cuisine or eatery in mind, but we agreed that we should try someplace new instead of falling back on the usual suspects… which is how we ended up at Kingston Station, a restaurant/bar sitting in that anomalous area of Boston that borders Chinatown, Downtown Crossing and both the financial and theater districts.

The first thing we did once we were seated in our booth was fight over the cocktail menu. Even though my beloved Kir Royale was listed, I could not bring myself to order it once I read the description: “Champagne, Chambord, fresh raspberry purée.” My friends, that is not a Kir Royale — that is a Kir Imperial. I may not know much about alcohol, wine and spirits, but the Kir Royale is another story altogether. Instead, I requested the Moscow Mule (Skyy Citrus, lemon, ginger beer and fresh ginger, $7.00), which was bright, fizzy and refreshing. The only thing I would change was the garnish; instead of chucking in a piece of ginger root, I’d suggest slicing thin planes of ginger and notching one into the glass’s rim à la a lemon.

Though there were several interesting options on the menu, I couldn’t resist the call of the marinated chicken sandwich ($12.00). The combination of grilled apples, brie, scallion aiöli, honey and greens sounded too tempting to pass up. Not to mention I am madly in love with all kinds of sandwiches… This one was just as sweet and tangy the next day, when I had one of the halves for lunch. The accompanying salad was nice, nothing memorable, aside from the fact that it was dressed a bit too heavily for my liking.

I love fries just as much as I love sandwiches, so I managed to convince Amanda and Darlington that we should all split an order of an order of truffled frites ($10.00), which were served with melted Gruyère, a sprinkling of sliced scallions and more aiöli. Crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, they were tasty and delicious — though I will say the Gruyère was almost superfluous. Now I know that may seem odd coming from me, a completely unabashed cheese-aholic, but the aiöli was more than enough zip for the frites.

Truthfully, I don’t know if I’ll go out of my way to drop by Kingston Station, since I neither live nor work nearby. The food, while great, was not so extraordinary as to warrant a special trip to one of its tables. It is, however, perfect for a bite after a show — whether that show is a movie at the cinema, a play at one of the nearby theaters or a concert at the Orpheum. For that reason, I’ll definitely keep it in mind.

Kingston Station
25 Kingston Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02111

Kingston Station on Urbanspoon

Dinner at The Del.

I knew ahead of time that Keith and I wouldn’t have too many chances to meet up with my friends while we were in LA, so when Amee told me that she was free for dinner on Thursday night, we immediately started looking around for places to eat. We had arranged to stay in Manhattan Beach, an area that I’m completely unfamiliar with; for that reason we chose The Del in Playa del Rey, pretty much a straight shot from our hotel.

From the outside, The Del looks, as Amee described it, like a lodge, with its ivy covered exterior and chocolate-colored beams. We expected to walk in and see mounted deer heads and moose antlers on the walls; instead in interior is modern and spare. The bar is dark and moody, with crazy wallpaper that made me think that a Jackson Pollack wannabe went a little wild with a paintbrush. The dining rooms are done in gray and cream, with wainscoting and washed wood tables, and for some reason have prints of propeller plans spaced evenly above each banquette.

Keith and I arrived early, so we sat at the bar to have a drink while we waited. The bartender was friendly enough, but looked confused with Keith requested a Sazerac; he quickly switched to a Manhattan on the rocks. Before I ordered, I asked if the bartender could make a Kir Royale, but when she confirmed the components — “Cassis, right?” — I should have taken her crinkled nose as a sign of something… because I ended up with a Chambord and Champagne. I don’t recommend it.

I had higher hopes for the dining room, not that I had any reason to aside from optimism. I decided to make a meal out of appetizers with the sippin’ summer shrimp ceviche ($9.00) with lime juice and avocado wedges, and the caramelized onion tarte tatin ($8.00) with warm goat cheese, a balsamic glaze and Minus 8 vinegar. Our server mentioned that the appetizers would be on the small size, but filling, especially since Amee, Keith and I would be sharing an appetizer of calamari as well. Keith and Amee ordered an entrée each; Keith also got an appetizer of his own.

Once our food started arriving, the weirdness began.

My appetizers — my meal — got to the table before anything else. I didn’t expect my plates to come before our shared appetizer, and I certainly didn’t want to start eating my dinner before Amee and Keith even received theirs.

Next to arrive was Keith’s appetizer; it was several minutes until the calamari was placed before us. At that point, I started picking at my ceviche and my tarte, neither of which were anything to write home about. I’ve never made either, but I’m certain I could have thrown together that tarte, which was pretty much just a mound of goat cheese layered upon a pile of caramelized onions and spooned into a shell. The ceviche tasted like Spicy Hot V8, which shrimp and avocado tossed in, so I bet could’ve whipped that up too… not that I would ever want to.

I was still hungry at this point, so I added to my meal with another appetizer — buttered littleneck clams ($10.00) served with vegetable pearls, chorizo and celery. It also arrived before Keith and Amee’s entrées.

Soon after, their meals came to the table… except Keith hadn’t finished his starter yet. I don’t think he had even gotten a chance to taste the calamari. The runner just set the plate down at Keith’s elbow and walked away.

(A few brief words on the littlenecks: overly salty, and where’s the chorizo?)

Amee had barely taken the first bite of her burger when our server approached the table… to ask if we wanted to take a look at the dessert menu. At first I thought it was a joke, but our server was way too earnest to engage in any sort of fooling around. When we explained that we weren’t even remotely ready for dessert, he said he just wanted to know since he was leaving for the evening. Now, having not worked in a restaurant before, I’ve always wondered how things such as servers’ shifts are handled. However it is done, I doubt it is normally like this. I mean, we were surrounded by empty plates, the wreckage of my clams and Keith’s untouched pork.  Who would be considering dessert at that moment?

All in all, it was a pretty ridiculous evening, from the bartender to the scheduling of the food to the offering of the dessert menu. I don’t know if I’ll be in Playa del Rey any time soon, but I can say for sure that I won’t be making another stop at The Del.

The Del
119 Culver Boulevard
Playa Del Rey, California 90293

Del on Urbanspoon

Sandwich from Bloc 11.

img_2182.jpg I’ve lost track of the many times I’ve remarked upon my love for certain foodstuffs. Most recently, there was mention of peach Lambic and the Kir Royale. Prior to that, it was choreg. Prior to that it was, what, cookies? Cupcakes? Crêpes? Corn fritters? This is precisely what I mean. While there are far too many items to tick off, that is in no way going to stop me from adding another to the list: sandwiches.

Oh, how I love them. I love that the bread serves as both packaging and major ingredient; I love the collection of flavors and textures and colors jam-packed into each bite; I love that they can be eaten in my most favorite fashion — messily, and with my hands.

I spent most of Sunday morning drinking lattes at Union Square’s Bloc 11; given the intensity of my feelings for sandwiches, I wasn’t able to resist the long list of options for very long. To slim down the lineup, and for that reason alone, I decided to limit myself to ordering exclusively from the cold sandwich section of the menu. Still, I was overwhelmed. There was, to indulge in, the Terrace: rosemary focaccia laden with roasted red pepper hummus, Gruyère, tomato, sprouts, greens and cucumber. Also beckoning me from behind the counter was the Fuse: apple curried tuna with tomato, cucumber, greens and onion atop sourdough.

At last, I settled on the Station 11, though in this case “settle” is a horribly inaccurate word. By choosing the Station 11, I wasn’t settling at all. The combination of flavors — bitter greens, salty and buttery prosciutto, bright tomato, soft and comforting herby ricotta, crusty ciabatta and a veritable pile of sweet caramelized onions — was exceedingly delicious. I will say that, at first, I wished for more ricotta but as I ate I realized that the cheese melded so thoroughly into the rest of the ingredients, adding a subtle creaminess to the sandwich.

The perfect size, the Station 11 left me completely satisfied. In terms of fullness, that is. I easily could have consumed another sandwich, if only to further savor the taste.

Bloc 11
11 Bow Street
Somerville, Massachusetts 02143

Bloc 11 Cafe on Urbanspoon

My New Obsession.

img_2177-2.jpg This year we decided to celebrate New Year’s Eve in a very low-key and sort of impromptu fashion. At what could only be described as the very last minute, we gathered a small group of friends in our living room for some snacks and drinks. We spent the evening chatting, eating, drinking and laughing, only turning on the television at exactly 11.58. After the ball dropped, we promptly turned the television off and focused our attention again on each other. In my opinion, it was pretty much the perfect way to ring in 2008.

Something else that made this New Year’s extra memorable for me was the fact that it was my introduction to Lambic. I’m not much of a beer drinker; I mostly drink Belgian-style beers like Allagash. I suppose it made sense that I fell madly in love with the peach Lambic that Darlington brought over on a whim.

Lambic comes in a variety of fruit flavors, but thus far I’ve only tried the peach and the raspberry (framboise). I’ve got a particular interest in the black currant, as my love of the Kir Royale (Crème de Cassis and Champagne) is boundless. The apple is also appealing, but at the moment I am still so enamored with the golden brightness of the peach that even the fizzy raspberry couldn’t sway my affection. That said, I noticed last month that Picco‘s dessert menu includes one especially intriguing item: an “adult” ice cream soda. It is described as “your choice of Belgian Lambic poured over vanilla ice cream,” and certainly sounds as though for it alone is a visit necessary.