Thursday, April 28, 2011

Boston-area food, 2011 edition

Seems like the only time I swing by here anymore is when we travel or have other special-occasion meals. Until I finish Girl Guides, that's going to have to do. I can't wait to get back to regular blogging this summer.

Chris and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Boston area to visit friends last weekend, over Easter, and as usual, there was some very delicious eating. We returned to Addis Red Sea on Friday night, the delightful Ethiopian restaurant on Tremont Street in the South End. (We got to take one of our favourite Boston walks to get there, from the Copley T station to the restaurant and back. So much pretty.) J and D graciously let me order this time, so we had the mild chicken stew (Doro Alcha), the spicy lamb (Lebeg Tibs?), the collard greens, the mixed vegetables and a lemony ground chickpea thing that was very tasty and had the texture of hard-boiled egg yolks. We split a yummy bottle of Riesling and all had lovely desserts (fruit tart, tiramisu, baklava) and left fairly stuffed, but very happy. I do love eating with my hands.

Saturday night we stayed in and cooked dinner (though we did enjoy a quick lunch at Mr. Crepe in Davis Square - the turkey and cranberry one is highly recommended), but Sunday night we went to Elephant Walk in Porter Square, Cambridge, a place I've been wanting to try for some years now but it's never quite fallen into place.

Elephant Walk is a French and Cambodian restaurant that has both traditional and original dishes from both cuisines on their menu. The decor is done in warm oranges and reds and yellows, with gorgeous lighting, soft couches, dark wooden chairs and tables, and lots of windows. It's a very welcoming room. The service was good; our waiter was a bit overly-solicitous, but that's better than the alternative.

I began with an appetizer that looked custom-built for me, a timbale of avocado and cubed raw red tuna, with a sweet-spicy-herbal dressing atop a bed of mixed greens, as fresh as can be. It was delicious, unctuous and flavourful and satisfying. Chris had the soup of the day, which was parsnip and pear, and I have to say, despite my dislike of parsnips, I found it well-balanced and smooth, without being overly sweet. He loved it and practically licked the bowl.

J and D shared a plate of rouleaux imperiaux, crunchy spring rolls served with herbs, sprouts and lettuce to wrap them in and a sauce to dip them in. From my side of the table they looked awfully good and disappeared in little time.

For mains, Chris and I both chose shrimp in different preparations. He again chose a daily special, which had shrimp sauteed in a sauce with coconut milk and aromatic spices, along with baby bok choy and some other fresh vegetables, with rice alongside. My shrimp (known as "crevettes Amrita") were in a sauce that contained tamarind, chilies and palm sugar, with lots of green onion, chopped peanuts and vegetables for colour and flavour. It tasted for all the world like pad thai without the noodles, and I absolutely loved it. The rice was a perfect mop for the delicious, spicy-sweet sauce. I left no grain or sea creature behind.

J selected the steak roquefort from the French side of the menu - it came sliced and sauced with cubed roasted potatoes and looked gorgeous. D had the Cambodian-sauced ribs and I didn't hear any complaints from him either.

We shared a bottle of Reserve Perrin Cotes du Rhone, a wine I know well and which never lets me down. Excellent value, too.

We all found room for dessert - the portion sizes are pretty muich perfect at Elephant Walk. I had the chocolate and caramel tartlet, a classic French-style tart perfectly executed, its caramel filling soft and buttery over a thin layer of dark chocolate tucked into a lovely pate brisee crust. J's passionfruit mousse reminded me of Brazilian desserts - lovely. David went for the full chocolate experience with the truffle cake, while Chris went low-key with ginger ice cream. We left satiated and very, very happy despite the persistent rain. I'd love to eat there again.

We broke up our long drive home with stops in Lebanon, NH for lunch and Burlington, VT for dinner. Lunch, at the Lebanon Health Food store, consisted of excellent housemade soup (carrot for me, sherried mushroom for Chris) and mesquite turkey sandwiches with cheddar, apple and cranberry-mayo. Lovely spot - we'd go again. Dinner was at our old standby, the American Flatbread outpost in Burlington. Nothing like sharing a large pizza with maple-fennel sausage, sundried tomatoes, caramelized onion and mozzarella (most ingredients organic, local, or both) to re-energize us for the boring half of the drive.

All in all, up to the usual standards for the Boston area. Always a trip my stomach looks forward to. After all, good food is even better when eaten with good friends in a great city.

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