The food of the Venetian Republic is diverse: prosecco & snapper risotto, Croatian roast lamb shoulder with olive oil potatoes, the sweet & sour red mullet of Crete, zabaglione from Corfu, or Dubrovnik’s ricotta & rose liqueur crepes.
These are recipes steeped in history; dishes from the days when Venice was a world power. How did this small city-state rule the waters of the Mediterranean, enjoying unrivalled wealth and prestige? How could this serene, safe-haven city of canals come to play a defining role in shaping the cuisine, culture, and architecture of her Mediterranean neighbours? Yet, for a thousand years, the ships and merchants of the Republic dominated salt, silk, and spice trade routes.
To tell this story, respected writer and restaurateur Nino Zoccali focuses on the four key regions that geographically encapsulate the Venetian Republic, each of which has its own distinct cuisine: Venice and its lagoon islands; the Veneto, of which Venice is the capital; the Croatian coast and the Greek Islands formerly under Venetian rule. The 80 dishes he has selected all have strong traditional Venetian roots or influence, celebrating ingredients and techniques that show how, to this day, food in this magnificent region continues to be influenced by neighbouring cultures.
I seem to be surrounded with people who are obsessed with food. Everywhere I go that’s pretty much all folks want to talk about. My friends and family have long hinted around about getting in on the blogging action. So why not let them? Here is a guest post courtesy of my friends Tony and Lyana. Enjoy!
What happens when you combine three of my favourite foods, sweets and drinks together? Easy. Magic in a bowl.
I experienced that magic when my wife and I were invited to CoolFoodDude’s place for dinner. This dude pulled out all the stops. The meal was incredible from beginning to end. But one dish resonated with both my wife and I: his spin on Thomas Keller’s Five-Spice Roasted Lobster with Port-Poached Figs and Beurre Monté from The French Laundry restaurant cookbook. We spoke about it on the drive back home. Imagine this: chocolate, lobster and coffee… all in one dish. That happened to us that fateful night. Listen, you wanna talk about palette overload? This dish had it all. It was savory, sweet and injected with my go-to drink that keeps me going day in and day out: coffee (salivating as I type). Man, it was bananas. Arguably one of the saddest moments of my life was saying goodbye to that last bite. I almost ate the plate!
Keep in mind that this is coming from a guy (me) who was privileged enough to grow up in a family of chefs, so the CFD should be proud. His cooking is always extraordinary and top-class, but on this night, it was on a whole other level, and, we were honoured to be a part of it.
I still dream about it at least once a week. I think about it at least twice a day. Thanks CFD, I’ll never be able to enjoy another lobster. Unless you make it for us again! But you know, whenever you have the time. No rush or anything.
Is it wrong to use food as a reward? I mean, everyone has got everything these days. How do you say ‘well done’ in an extra special way? Beautiful baubles? Tantalizing tchotchkes? Nyet! Food is the answer. What says ‘I love you and thank you for being exemplary human beings’ better than Thomas Keller’s Five-Spice Roasted Lobster with Port-Poached Figs and Beurre Monté? Nothing else, really. So I set out to reward two individuals that I hold dear with a full-out extravagant gourmet feast.
Seafood is essential to Boston’s very being. Living near the ocean affords you to have plenty of digs brimming with the catch of the day. But only one place turns fresh-from-the-ocean fare into a history lesson: Ye Olde Union Oyster House.
JFK ate here. Already, I’m sold on the place. The American president and icon (and personal hero of mine) loved to feast in privacy in the upstairs dining room. His favorite booth “The Kennedy Booth” has since been dedicated in his memory.
Billed as the oldest restaurant in Boston and the oldest restaurant in continuous service in the U.S., the doors have been open to diners since 1826. The building itself was built around 1704 and has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. Before it became a restaurant, a dress goods business occupied the property. In 1771, printer Isaiah Thomas published his newspaper, The Massachusetts Spy, from the second floor. The restaurant originally opened as the Atwood & Bacon Oyster House on August 3, 1826.
During the revolution the Adams, Hancock, and Quincy wives, often sat in their stalls of the dress goods business sewing and mending clothes for the colonists. In 1796 Louis Philippe, king of France from 1830 to 1848, lived in exile on the second floor. He earned his living by teaching French to many of Boston’s fashionable young ladies. America’s first waitress, Rose Carey, worked there starting in the early 1920s. Her picture is on the wall on the stairway up to the second floor. The toothpick was said to have been popularized in America starting at the Oyster House.
Along with great history comes good food. Take a seat at the raw oyster bar on the main floor or try the dinning room which serves up rich and creamy clam chowder, sweet scallops and live Maine lobsters as well as poultry, baked beans, steak and chops.
As popular with locals as it with tourists, the Union Oyster House is ripe with history and awash in seafood standards. It’s a mandatory stop to complete your authentic New England experience.
Clover is my go-to place for breakfast when I am in Boston. And the Harvard Square location is my favorite. It doesn’t matter where I am staying in the city, HSQ Clover is where I need to go for breakfast. It’s fast food done right. It’s vegetarian. There are no freezers. They cut up the food as close as they can to when we’re going to eat (e.g., tomatoes are cut when you order). Everything is done in an open kitchen visible to the customers. 100% of what they hand us is compostable. The menu changes daily. If you can’t already tell, I’m nuts about this place. You should definitely check it out when you’re in town.
On this occasion, I had the oatmeal with fruit compote with a hibiscus green tea. If you’re in for lunch, I highly recommend the chickpea fritter.
This enormous mural installation was posted in Harvard Square near the Coop in order to bring attention to homelessness. 60 3-by-4.5 foot photographs and one 15-by-17 foot photograph cover the entire Palmer Street building in Harvard Square. The installation, called “I am…. More Than Just Homeless,” is a dramatic testament to the strength, resilience, and survival skills of these vulnerable youth. Anthony Pira partnered with Youth On Fire, a drop-in center for homeless youth ages 17-24 in Harvard Square, to present the images in this second public art installation in collaboration with the Outside In Project national campaign “Creating Art to End Homelessness.”
I had heard about this place that served the best lobster sandwiches in New England. Not lobster “rolls,” but “sandwiches.” I took the T to Central Square and then walked for what seemed liked decades. It didn’t help that I wasn’t familiar with the area and that in typical Boston fashion, squares turned into circles, streets were in illogical order and signs were often missing. Definitely not a place you would suddenly stumble upon. Did I mention that it was also raining? Finally, FINALLY, I arrived at my destination, Alive & Kicking Lobsters.
By the time I arrived, I was parched, starving, and I JUST WANTED SOME FREAKING LOBSTERS!!!! And that’s exactly what I got. A generous portion of lobster smushed between two slices of warm and toasty bread. And for $13.95, the price was right. Oh yeah. They even have their own line of drinks. Ginger Ale, Birch Beer, Iced Tea, Root Beer, Lemonade, Diet Root Beer, Cream Soda, Black Cherry, Raspberry Lime, Grape Soda, Water, Sarsaparrilla. I had the orange soda. Quite refreshing after such a long trek. I would definitely recommend this place. But suggest using a GPS to find your way.
I visited Boston on Memorial Day weekend. Volunteers planted an estimated 30,000 flags representing the service men and women from Massachusetts who have died in the line of duty since World War I. The sea of flags were quite stunning yet very sobering.
Another sad moment was when I visited the Boston Bombings makeshift memorial near Trinity Church. Although right in the middle of a busy city, the site was eerily silent. Not much more to say other than I do hope that my favorite city recovers from this tragic event. Its people are so kind, resilient and truly Boston Strong.
Visiting my friend and going to Fenway are the chief reasons why I come to Boston. The concourse at the ballpark has a wide variety of offerings but I like to stay with the tried and true. Fenway Franks and peanuts. This is baseball after all!
What a find! A Red Sox sandwhich container!!!!
Joanne Chang is a Boston celebrity. An honors graduate of Harvard with a degree in Applied Mathematics and Economics, Joanne left a career as a management consultant to enter the world of professional cooking. In 2000, she opened Flour, a bakery and café, in Boston’s South End. Flour features breakfast pastries, breads, cakes, cookies, and tarts as well as sandwiches, soups, and salads.
Flour has been featured in Gourmet, Food&Wine, Bon Appetit, the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Lucky Magazine, Inc. Magazine, and Boston Magazine and has received numerous Best of Boston awards. Flour was also featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay on the Food Network in which Joanne’s sticky buns won over Chef Flay’s. I visited the newly opened Back Bay location and feasted on the lemon-raspberry cake (lemon pound cake brushed with lemon syrup, filled with lemon curd, crushed raspberries and buttercream). Ms. Chang has built an empire in Boston and certainly does not need endorsement from little ole me, nevertheless I urge you to visit Flour as soon as you can and you’ll see why in 2012 it was voted as Best Bakery and received runner-up status for Best Reason to Cheat on Your Diet. Although I would have given it first place!
Pizza is always on my mind. I had heard about Otto’s greatness but in all my visits to Boston, I had never feasted upon “the pie” for myself. I chose to remedy this situation. I picked the Coolidge Corner location and dined on suggestions from the server. Margherita and Baby spinach, chicken and asiago. Delish. Otto is noted for combining unique toppings. Try the Butternut Squash, Ricotta and Cranberry or the Apple, Bacon and Red Onion or maybe even the Mashed Potato, Bacon and Scallion. Opt for pizza topped with three-cheese tortellini or maybe even pulled-pork and mango. With these wonderful creative pies, it’s easy to see why Otto was recently chosen by the Boston Globe as one of the 10 best pizza shops in New England.
My pal and I made our way to Inman Square to a local sandwich shop deserving of its name, All-Star Sandwich bar. The wild colors, the people, the friendly wait staff and the chaos from the kitchen somehow brings this place together and makes it very unique. It’s exciting and welcoming all at the same time. All-Star runs seven different specials for every day of the week, specific to that day.
We tried out some mainstays from the menu. The Veggie Cubano (Grilled eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, roasted peppers, portabelo mushrooms, jack cheese, Swiss cheese, with cilantro aioli and Dijon mustard pressed on French bread) and the classic Reuben (Corned beef with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and russian dressing on rye). The Cubano was perfect. It’s hard to make a veggie sandwich that’s not mushy or watery. Not in this case. All of the ingredients blended in perfect unison. The Reuben was, well, classic. Great tasting corned beef with just the right amount of dressing on nicely toasted bread.
It’s a fun place with delicious food. And I will be returning. Often. If only to try out one of the special sandwiches that’s right in my wheelhouse. Buttermilk fried chicken, braised collard greens, country gravy and cheddar cheese. That sounds crazy good, no?
Oh, and I forgot to mention that I visited for the first time, the Christian Science Center. Check out my pics from a beautiful sunny day in Boston 😉
And with that it was time to bid adieu to my fav city. But not without a clam roll and some chowder from an old mainstay, Legal Seafoods. Boston I miss you already. I’ll see you in September! Stay #bostonstrong! Go Red Sox!!!!
Once a year I like to feign that I am a real chef. Maybe Thomas Keller or possibly David Chang or perhaps even Daniel Humm. I spend a solitary night in this make believe world channeling their talent and artistry. Although I unabashedly admit that I do possess one minor ability. I have no fear in the kitchen. I am absent of any anxiety or worry of failing. While other areas of my life leave me hiding under the covers, I see the kitchen ripe for trial and experimentation. Not certain why I exude such culinary confidence but I don’t question it much. No thinking allowed, just doing. So with the help of some cookbooks to guide me and some close friends to come along for the ride, I attempt an annual fancy dinner party with the goal of honouring some of the great chefs and restaurants of our time.
First up, Duck Confit Croustades. This dish is from the Bromberg Bros. Blue Ribbon Cookbook. A baguette smeared with dijon, topped with duck confit, fleur de sel, olive oil and parsley. Simple and delicious.
Croustades with duck confit
The next course was foie gras with a maple balsamic reduction. This recipe is by Daniel LaGarde, Chef
Instructor at Le Cordon Bleu. Foie gras (with black truffles) set on sautéed apples, strawberries, shallots and basil and served with a maple balsamic reduction. This was my favourite dish of the night.
Seared foie gras with black truffles and maple balsamic reduction
The third course was from the Eleven Madison Park cookbook. This restaurant currently sits at #10 on Restaurant Magazine’s list of best restaurants in the world. The recipe of Beet Salad with Chèvre Frais and Caraway was by far the most challenging dish of the night. It took a while to bring together the roasted beets, the goat cheese mousse, the caraway tuiles, the beet raspberry vinaigrette and the rye crumble, but it was certainly well worth the effort as my guests raved about this creation. The variety of textures and tastes made this dish unique and memorable.
Beet salad with chèvre frais and caraway
A side view of the beet salad
My second favourite chef of all time is Thomas Keller, he of French Laundry and Per Se fame (Julia Child is my favourite). I’ve turned to the The French Laundry Cookbook on numerous occasions and it has never let me down. For the the main course, the recipe I chose was the Butter-Poached Lobster with Creamy Lobster Broth and Mascarpone-Enriched Orzo. Some of the interesting features of this recipe included the lobster broth (made form scratch), the beurre monté (emulsified butter), the coral oil (canola oil infused with lobster roe) and the parmesan crisp (mine were a bit oversized but I have trouble resisting their appeal). I do hope that I was able to bring some French Laundry justice to this dish. My guests were rather pleased with the results.
Butter-poached lobster with creamy lobster broth and mascarpone-enriched orzo
A top view of the lobster
Dessert is my favourite part of the meal to eat but my least favourite to cook. Finding something to complement such a rich repast was not easy. I went with a recipe from LCBO’s Food & Drink magazine, Coconut Lime Mousse with Berries. It was a good counterpart to the other dishes and a bang-up way to end the meal.
Food & Drink’s Coconut Lime Mousse with Berries
Another year passes, another fancy dinner party is now under my belt. I am forever grateful to have friends that endure my culinary experiments. It could all go horribly wrong and yet they are forever willing to weather the gastronomic storm with me. The great chefs of our time are my inspiration. But the people in my life are truly what drive me to do better and be better.
The New York Times reported recently that the price of lobster has hit a 40-year low. A combo of warm weather and good conservation techniques has led to a record lobster harvest. An abundance of inexpensive lobster is a gift that doesn’t come around too often. Why not take advantage of this lobster bounty by serving your guests a knockout dish?
Dating back to 2008, this recipe is courtesy of the always brilliant LCBO Food & Drink magazine. Lobster, mango, avocado, cilantro, mint, lime and a host of other ingredients make up Thai marinated lobster with avocado and hearts of palm. I’ve served up this recipe on a number of occasions and it has elicited infinite praise and even marriage proposals. One guest proclaimed it to be the best thing he ever ate. Try this recipe for yourself and let me know what you think.
I’m not an lobster roll aficionado. But Neptune Oyster‘s lobster roll has been touted as the best in New England. So why not try it? It came on a toasted brioche with whole pieces of tail and claw drenched in buttery goodness accompanied by a mound of fries. It was wicked tasty. Next time I’ll try the more traditional cold version mixed with mayo. And I should have sampled the Oysters for Pete’s sake. It’s called Neptune Oyster. Not sure what I was thinking.
Neptune Oyster, 63 Salem Street, North End, Boston, MA