Monday, October 11, 2010
I love Motorino. I got really spoiled when I lived next door. As far as I’m concerned, their pizza is perfect. The crust is chewy but lightly charred and quality of the toppings is top notch.
I was practically giddy when we went back there last weekend. We went for lunch on Sunday, which is my favorite time to go. The tiny space gets jam packed on the weekends, but is usually much quieter in the afternoon.
We usually each get a glass of Gragnano, which Motorino has dubbed “pizza wine.” It’s a light, fizzy red wine that is served cold. It goes really well with the rich pizza.
Matt usually orders the Margherita. It’s incredibly simple, but made with the best ingredients. Their mozzarella is phenomenal.
I always have a hard time choosing what to order, but this time I went with the Brussels Sprout and Pancetta. It’s a white pie loaded with mozzarella and pecorino cheeses and topped with garlic, brussels sprouts leaves, and pancetta. Most people probably aren’t as obsessed with brussels sprouts as I am, but I promise this pizza is worth a try.
The Stracciatella pizza also holds a special place in my heart. This picture was taken from a previous Motorino trip, but it’s tied with the brussels sprouts pizza for my favorite. Stracciatella is a really creamy type of mozzarella. The pizza is another white pie and is topped with the cheese, garlic, olive oil, and basil leaves.
Now I need to find a comparable pizza place in Boston. Let me know if you have any suggestions!
349 E 12th St
New York, NY 10003
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Matt and I didn’t feel like wandering too far for dinner last night, so we checked out a little Italian restaurant called Locando Vini e Olii a couple of blocks from his apartment. The restaurant seemed full, but we were able to get a table in about 10 minutes without a reservation.
When we sat down, we were given 3 wine bottles that were actually the wine lists: a little kitschy, but fun.
We were immediately given some delicious homemade bread and a lettuce pesto. It looked like an Italian salsa verde, but tasted like a mixed green salad. That description probably doesn’t sound appetizing, but it was actually refreshing and tasty.
We got the Crostini Plate for appetizer, which had four different types: classic Tuscan, zucchini/anchovy, swiss chard, and tomato/basil. The classic Tuscan was topped with a creamy chicken liver spread. If you’re wary of chicken liver, I highly recommend you give it a try. It’s rich, earthy, and a little bit sweet all at the same time. The rest of the crostinis were good, but that one was the stand out for me.
We both ordered pastas for our main dishes because they're all made in house. I got the Chestnut Lasagnette with Chick peas and Luganega. Luganega is an Italian pork sausage that is seasoned with nutmeg, coriander, pepper, and cinnamon. The pasta had kind of a strange texture, almost like whole wheat pasta, but had a great nutty flavor from the chestnuts. I also didn’t think the dish looked very pretty, but it tasted like fall and I couldn’t stop eating it.
Matt ordered the Thyme Maltagliati with Golden Chanterelles and Nepitella. He loved it, and I kept sneaking bites. Maltagliati means "badly cut," so this pasta shape is typically made from scraps of pasta. Nepitella is an Italian herb that the waitress described as a cross between mint and oregano. That and the thyme were incorporated into the pasta dough, and the wide noodles were tossed with some olive oil and chanterelles.
This is a great little neighborhood place that has very solid food. I’d love to come back and try more of their menu.
Locanda Vini e Olii
129 Gates Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11238
Friday, October 8, 2010
Muqueca is a little Brazilian restaurant in Inman square, and it quickly became a favorite when my parents first moved to Cambridge a few years ago. We even had them cater my college graduation party. At that time, prices were dirt cheap, they occupied a little hole in the wall space, and didn’t have a liquor license. They specialize in a seafood stew called Moqueca served in handmade clay pots. They recently moved to a slightly larger space across the street and got a liquor license. I hadn’t been to the “new” Muqueca yet, so my mom and I checked it out last weekend.
Let me preface this by saying that I generally really like the food here and that the service couldn’t have been friendlier, but they are definitely still working out the kinks in their new place. It was unclear whether or not we needed a reservation when we called. They also had only one bartender, and it was her first day. Luckily the owner is super friendly and constantly walked around to make sure everyone was okay.
We had ordered a couple of Caipirinhas and a frog leg appetizer at the bar, but got seated sooner than we had expected. The drinks eventually arrived and the appetizer shortly after. The frog legs were nicely crisp and well-seasoned, but I felt that the meat was a little over-cooked inside. I have to admit that I have never had frog legs before, so I can’t really compare them to anything. They have the texture of chicken, but taste kind of like fish. I’m not going to lie – I was a little weirded out that the frog legs seemed to still have toes, but I tried to not let it bother me!
This amazing spicy sauce was on the table, which was great with the frog legs. It tasted kind of like a piri-piri sauce. It was really, really spicy…in a good way.
We ordered two main dishes, but one would have been enough for the both of us. We went with the Fish and Calamari Moqueca and the Feijoada Completa, which the menu said is the Brazilian national dish. The Moqueca was really fresh and surprisingly light tasting. I thought it needed a little bit of salt, but the fish was all perfectly cooked. It came with a bowl of pirão, which is a yucca flour porridge that you can add as a thickener.
The Feijoada Completa was described as “Black beans stew with fresh & dried meat, pork, sausage & bacon." Served with collard greens, fried plantain, farofa & orange.” I’m seriously not sure what kinds of meat were in it, but it was really good. It was like a black bean stew with really intensely flavorful meat. It was a perfect contrast to the light seafood dish.
It came with a side of rice, shredded collard greens, fried plantains, and farofa. I had never tried or even heard of farofa, but apparently it’s a type of toasted flour. The highlights of the side platter were the plantains and the collard greens. The fried plantains were literally the best I have ever had; they were amazingly sweet, but still firm enough, and perfectly fried. The collard greens were shredded and probably sautéed, which is a different, fresh twist on the typical slow-cooked collards.
Muqueca isn’t perfect, but I think it will only get better. Despite the quirks with the service, I really enjoyed my dinner here.
1008 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
Monday, October 4, 2010
I noticed that my mom had bought some prune plums last week that were ready to be eaten. I’ve seen Ina Garten make this Plum Cake Tatin on her show Barefoot Contessa many times (you know how Food Network likes it’s reruns), so I thought it would be the perfect thing to bring when we our neighbors invited us over for dinner.
The recipe is kind of like a Tarte Tatin, which is an upside-down tart typically made with caramelized apples. The plums gave it an interesting twist, and the tarte was replaced with a lemony cake batter.
The recipe starts by pitting and slicing the plums in half and then arranging them split-side down in a buttered glass pie dish. I couldn’t find the glass pie dish, so I used a cast iron skillet instead:
Next, I made the caramel out of sugar and water and poured evenly over the plums. My last few attempts at making caramel have been kind of a disaster; I usually manage to get it right after the second try, but it clumps together and hardens on the first try. I always Google the issue when it happens and I found out that this is called crystallizing the caramel. Supposedly, you can prevent this from happening by not stirring the mixture while it’s cooking and making sure the pot is totally clean. I used a new pot for the second batch and, again, tried really hard to resist the urge to stir and…sure enough, it worked. I’m still a little baffled, but I guess practice makes perfect?
Finally, I poured the cake batter over the plums and caramel. The batter was really simple and consisted of eggs, sour cream, lemon zest, vanilla, flour, baking powder, and salt.
After putting the cake in the oven in 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, the cake was lightly golden on top:
The final step is to flip it over so that the plums and caramel are on top. I first let it cool for 10 minutes, then put a plate over the skillet, flipped (carefully!), and then transferred to the serving platter. The cake is really moist, so it may have been easier to just flip directly onto the platter. I dusted the top of the cake with some confectioners’ sugar and served with whipped cream. It was a huge hit!