Brunch at Orinoco and Exploring Boston's SoWa Market

Thursday, June 17, 2010

HungryChemist's moving home so we wanted to explore Boston together. Since returning to Boston inspired by the Renegade Craft Fair(see here),  we made plans to visit an open market like SoWa after having brunch in the South End. We started off by getting some sticky buns (Flour Bakery) and then making our way to Orinoco.

477 Shawmut Avenue
Boston, MA 02118-3838
(617) 369-7075

Food (3.5/5.0)-based on what I had and low value-for-money brunch
Service (3.4/5.0)-based on the slow service + forgetting my drink + not apologizing after being reminded.
Yours truly is mellower on Sunday. I wasn't even that bothered by the fact that everyone's eyes widened in shock at the super tiny portions served (except for hors d'oeuvres, never seen them this small in the US, ever). HungryChemist's other half was not amused--M was whining throughout the day in response. The food, once served was ok. It was tasty because of the imported Guayanes cheese, but the arepas were hard to cut with a knife. B and I agreed. Her's were so much better.
B ordered a tamarind juice but mine was forgotten; towards the end I didn't care for it so whatever. When quizzed, the waitress just smiled (?) and walked away...Would it be too assumptive to blame it on the second language? A sorry would be nice too.

Trio De Empanadas
 cazon, domino, and mechada empanada with signature mojo-M was not happy at all. He likened it to a less tasty Indian samosa, to which he said was cheaper and bigger too.
Chicharronada-stewed pork with onions, tomatoes and guyanes cheese.
Hmm, no tomatoes and no onions... I can't even remember if I had pork.... that's how small it was. Was not happy with the arepas. Incredibly tiny portion (2.5-3 inches wide?) Very hard and difficult to cut. The imported cheese was yummy though.
Arepitas Dulces - infused with panela and star anise with berries and passionfruit reduction, or seasonal berries with passion fruit reduction-
It was TINY!!! 3 inches wide x 2 pieces, split between B and I. Taste-wise, I liked the accents of anise but.... nothing stellar.

SoWa food stalls. it was a dreary day but temp-wise, just the way I like it.
So after a disappointing brunch at Orinoco (apparently dinner is better at the other location), we made our way to SoWa. 
Sherbrook Farms-brightly-colored jams
Plants for sale
Whimsical wall art, cups and teapots
HungryChemist got jewel-tone pendants.
Looks kinda like gumdrops
Awesome idea of growing plantlets in teacups.
I got myself a necklace too. *guess! (answer at the end)
Nice rings! But we were more enamored by the live moss growing on the plate. Feels soooo good to touch. In fact, we spent more time chatting with the seller about how she plucked it off some rocks by her home.... oops. And after that it was shopping at this amazing millinery shop and boring shopping on Newbury St. followed by dinner at Stephanie's. Ciao! (kinda lost steam towards the end)

*The tiny chair!

NYC Grub Crawl and Wandering Weekend-Day 3 (Sunday)

Monday, June 14, 2010

[This series of posts are not entirely about food!]
Our first stop was an unplanned, oh-i-think-i'll-try-this venture around Tiff's neighborhood. Ultimately we got complacent about research and we got a little too comfortable with the high hit rates of good food in NYC. After all, the bad ones get eliminated quickly, right? Beware, because Los Primos has been lurking around for ages, catering to hipsters (in the early am's with nowhere to go) whose tongues must be desensitized with drink.
Us girls were conned into entering this establishment with their enticing $9.99 paella. Sounds like a good deal cos paella usually costs about $20-$30++. But this was the worst $10 I've spent this weekend. Los Primos didn't even bother to cracking the crab for us. When I tried to signal to the waitresses for a shell-cracker, All of them made blatant effort to ignore me so I gave up. Paella was too dry, too salty, not tangy enough and worst of all, the seafood was stale and rank. Fearing for our lives, Tiff and I terminated our tasting upon discovering that the seafood was mushy. Not a good sign.  Bad food and lousy service plus the excessively-neon and gaudy interior were all cosmic warnings to run! Unexpectedly, they made a decent soursop smoothie and cuban sandwich with tender hunks of pork, ham and provolone cheese. But Cuban sandwiches are one of those things that are difficult to mess up, you know? Winning formula of toasted bread, melted cheese and ham! I went to Yelp after this and it seems that other reviewers shared my distaste for Los Primos too. Urgh. 

Most disgusting paella ever. Do not order this visit Los Primos!
Yummy Cuban Sandwich. Which you can get at any place that serves them. Still, no compelling reason to return.
Brooklyn Flea Market
I went there to check out stuff but the selection paled in comparison to the Renegade Craft Fair (which sold high-quality, hand-made art and crafts)
Stuff at the Brooklyn flea were mostly marked-up thrift finds. Yawn. I bought a feathered headband here and wanted a new piece instead of the display and the seller gave numerous excuses (blah blah just made). When I went back home, the feathers were broken off. Think about it. Feathers are flexible and are not supposed to be that brittle! Some glued bits came off too. Urgh. quality Fail.
After a disappointing time at the Brooklyn flea, we ventured off to Park Slope and dropped by Gorilla Coffee. I'm not a coffee person and I spent 2 hours sipping their frosty iced coffee (not shown) and people-watching. Gosh, there were so many filf's (and milf's) and good-looking people around + good food I considered moving to this zip code. After a successful haul at Beacon's Closet (hello, Phillip Lim bib top!) we settled in for another frosty concoction, just more adult this time.
yummy Los Pollitos Sangria. loved the bite-size of the apples. Wish they gave more. 
alking towards Washington St, you see all these colorful murals around a school. Loved the grandma's.
and the towering, inspirational lady at 781 Washington ave.

Tiff, not caring for the likes of my (food) photography, trudging ahead.
The Islands
Tiff brought me to this hole-in-the-wall Jamaican place which was run by 2 older ladies who were so cute and friendly. I chatted with them for a bit and urged them to come to Boston and open their restaurant there :) Service was very very slow (1 hr for food to arrive) but the food was so so so good that I cannot help but rave about the place. One of the best Mac and Cheese I've had and hands down the Best Jerk Chicken I've had. OMG. The mac and cheese as you can see is baked to perfection. Beneath the thin cheesy crust is a bouncy and soft cake of egg and macaroni. So so good. It came piping hot and I had to remind myself not to finish it before the mains arrived.
We tried the curry shrimp and while it was very good, it reminded me of Thai food.
The Star of the night. Jamaican Jerk Chicken. Well-roasted. Crispy on the outside, fall-off-the-bone on the inside. The beans and rice were appetizing and I loved the stewed cabbage and salad as the sides. I would come back here again, no hesitation!
The Majestic Brooklyn Museum. 

NYC Grub Crawl and Wandering Weekend-Day 2 (Saturday)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

[This series of posts are not entirely about food!]
Here's today's impromptu line-up (click to link to Yelp for addresses etc):
Saturday was hot hOT HOT!!! My friends know that precisely because I'm from Singapore, I do not tolerate heat well (hail the A/C's) so I left the apartment late. I wilted instantly. We ventured to a Polish neighborhood to get Peter Pan Bakery's red velvet pecan ice-cream sandwich donut. The ice-cream was soft and runny (I prefer cold and hard and chewy ice-cream!) and disappeared in a NY-second under the sweltering heat. Overall, I enjoyed my brekkie and I'm not even a donut person. In fact, Tina Fey told Esquire recently:
The best doughnut? That's Peter Pan doughnuts in Brooklyn. It's a Polish bakery. We shot nearby once for 30 Rock. It's a white-cream-filled powdered doughnut. And I really believe, when I first tried it, if I had a penis, I would put it in this doughnut. I finally understand what you guys are thinking about and what motivates you guys.
High praise right? I love Tina Fey! (apparently the elderly owner of PP didn't like the penis-in-the-donut part. hahahaha!)
Peter Pan comes complete with waitresses in old-school diner uniforms.
Renegade Craft Fair Brooklyn.
While exploring, we chanced upon a craft fair. I had no idea that this was such a HUGE event and when I learned that Etsy sellers put up tents, I gave a mental squeal and made a beeline towards. I have an eternal soft spot for kitsch and tchotkes. Knitted octopus, squid? I want! (but didn't get)
Amazing Handmade jewelry. I bought a brass monocle necklace (not pictured) and I want all of these. I love taxidermy too but think it's too creepy to display at home (bad Fengshui) so these metal-cast versions below are perfect :). Lazer-cut pendants like the shark and knot graphics are thin and sleek and sharp and minimize metal wastage. Nautical is a summer classic and I love the crab and seahorse!
All Handmade!!!! How talented are these people? Hahahah caped super hero fashions for children and Jersery Shore Baby Guido/Guidette Gear. "The Situation" and Snookie would be so proud! I made a mental note to go to Boston's SoWa upon my return. I MUST!
On to the Van Leeuwen Ice-cream truck, Williamsburg. The ice-cream truck was a mirage in the heat. The flavors all looked pretty darn amazing as well but of course I had to get the EARL-GREY ice-cream.
Rishi Black Tea from Antique Tea Trees with Bergamot Citrus, Italy and Yunnan.
OMG this flavor wasn't even on their website so if you have to binge on this all summer, DO IT! My favorite frozen treat wasn't too sweet, which allowed the delicate flavor of the immensely fragrant bergamot (which gives Earl Grey its ambrosia) to peek through the cream. Another feat, it helped to quench my thirst instead of contributing to it. Van Leeuwen, I might have to relocate to NYC to get closer to you. 
La Menu at Num Pang's.
This little cambodian sandwich joint has been favorably-reviewed by
seriouseats, NYMag and is close to Parson's. Plus it's cheap too :) and if the spiciness isn't enough, there are ample bottles of Sriracha chilli sauce lying around for added heat. 
five spiced pork belly, pickled Rhubarb.
Genius combination. Pickled rhubard and veggies gave tart and crunch, cutting through the perfectly-spiced and pork belly. The rolls, from Parisi bakery were perfectly toasted (soft on the inside with a delicate crust on the outside) and mopped up all of the glorious sauce....
Peppercorn catfish, house made sweet soy sauce.
Perfectly grilled, perfectly spiced catfish was flaky and tender. 
Seasonal Pomegranate Fro-yo with raspberries, pineapple, blackberries, mochi and cheesecake @ Ktown
While waiting to get some Lamb plate at 53rd and 6th, we had some active bacteria to aid in digesting all the food. Psychologically, Pinkberry helped me get rid of the bloat but in the end I wasn't up for greasy street food in the end. My gut. Fail?
We went back to binge on Bok Choy, bean sprouts, fish cake and tofu for dinner. My gut is recharged for Sunday!

NYC Grub Crawl and Crawl Weekend-Day 1 (Friday Night) @Sel de Mer

Friday, June 11, 2010

[This series of posts are not entirely about food!]
I wandered from my nerd-cave in Boston to NYC last weekend! Amidst last minute packing, last-minute technical engineers who scheduled a last-minute instrumentation troubleshooting session, I managed to secure a 4 pm Fungwah bus from beantown to the big apple to visit Tiff. Incidentally, my B, Tiffany Z., Ws and D scheduled a grub crawl at the same time so I was pretty excited about eating and shopping with them too! (Unfortunately, I didn't managed to join up because I was distracted with everything going around) I reached Manhattan around 8.30 pm but didn't get to Brooklyn until 9.30 pm because of interesting happenings: 
  • I helped a German couple with the subway system and missed the L train, 
  • in the train, helped a woman who fainted suddenly; this woman also awoke suddenly, jumped to her feet and ran out of the train..bizarre 
  • gained an admirer who witnessed my first-aid skills, and then proceeded to molest my cool bag (bday present from Keiko)...
  • Upon reaching my stop, I ran into the largest rats I've ever seen (cat-sized and curiously hanging out 1 foot away from me).....I heart nyc!
Anyways, once I left my bag at Tiff's and finally got a seat at Sel de Mer, it was 11 pm and the restaurant was still full. It was disconcerting but I felt out of place in Brooklyn! I had no tattoos, wasn't wearing high-waisted American Apparel outfits, had no Rayban Wayfarers, wasn't wearing thrifted or vintage gear... Ok back to the food...

Sel de Mer
374 Graham AveNew York 11211
  • (Btwn Skillman Ave & Counselyea St)
  • (718) 387-4181
Service (3.8/5.0)
Food (4.0/5.0) 

I liked the reasonable prices of SdM ($2 oysters) and the fresh produce the most. The food is unpretentious, Williamsburg-chill and hearty. Although service was slow and they ran out of ceviche and their famed fried green-tomatoes (bummer!), yours truly was not in a hurry + I've heard rumors of SdM's cute and talented chef Jeffrey Slagg (didn't really get to see him though). Individual reviews to follow. 

Oysters of the day, pickled watermelon mignonette. East coast Oysters on the left and West Coast Oysters on the right. Tiff and I prefered the leaner East Coasters for their briny complex taste over the meaty and regular "oystery" flavor of the West Coasters. Melon mignonette was piquant and cut through the richness of the oysters..very appetite-inducing.
Fries were over-fried and not tender enough for me. But i still ate it all. 
Special of the Day-Grilled cod on a bed of risotto with poached pear and fennel. The fish was perfectly cooked but bland. I also don't usually care for overly-sweet risottos. That said, together, the fish and the risotto complement each other and offset what I disliked about them individually....So after further thought, I do like this dish :)
Failed attempt at taking a picture with White Castle. Background was too lighted. Also in the poster... Chicken Rings?! Sounds interesting hahahh :)
A tour of Tiff's Neighborhood to walk off our midnight dinner
Hale & Hearty Soups
Calling it a (long) day!

Dinner at Harvard Club of Boston

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

374 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215-2860
(617) 536-1260

Food (3.0/5.0)
Service (3.5/5.0)

Keiko and I went to our department's annual dinner yesterday and I'm not surprised that it is held at one of the Harvard Clubs (Check out last year's dinner at the Harvard Faculty Club here). The interior of the building is a similar clone of the one by Quincy Street (dark woods, maroon colors) but I liked this location better because it is closer to the T stop. Like before, the club foods aren't great and the service was blah-The server didn't ask if I was done and promptly took my food away. Tsk. But considering I wasn't paying the bill, I let it slide. :D
My favorite course of the night was their lobster bisque. It was creamy and potent with flavor of my favorite crustacean. Within, the lobster pieces were thick and bouncy, yummers! The main course of short ribs and haddock was disappointing for various reasons. Yours truly had to section off the beef (don't eat beef remember?) and jus using the already-tainted asparagus and built a separation moat using risotto in the middle. The haddock on the other side of the plate was a little overcooked and un-juicy :( so I left most of my plate uneaten and had a snack upon reaching home. The last course was strawberries and yogurt, not exciting but tasted very good because the strawberries were sweet and the yogurt was light and creamy.

Maine Lobster Bisque-Best course
Baby Spinach Salad with Crumbled Chèvre Cheese, Red Onion, Tomatoes Toasted Walnuts. A blah salad with blah raspberry vinaigrette. 
Baked Boston Haddock w/ Maitre d’ hotel Butter sauce on one end & apple cider coulis red wine braised short ribs on the other. In the center, steamed asparagus, seasonal vegetables on a bed of sweet potato risotto. FYI: The risotto was the best part of the plate.  
Pretty lace-wrapped lemon to keep the seeds out of the way. Love the touch!
strawberries and yogurt. Sweet and creamy and surprisingly light. 
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