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Trendy and Yummy: Cook, Newton

8 Feb

Newtonville finally has a spot worthy of gastronomes, and it’s called Cook. It’s no wonder this place is packed on weekends, even when it’s bitterly cold outside. It can sometimes take a while to be greeted by a host when you first walk through the door, and then wait times for a table easily exceed half an hour.  But it’s all worth it. After my husband and I first visited Cook, we came back for a second meal within a week!

While waiting for a table, we’ll usually grab drinks at the bar – I love the unique habanero blood orange margarita (which I ask for on the milder side because I’m weak sauce when it comes to spice). Cook’s beer and cider list has many of our favorites – Jack’s Abby’s Hoponius Union, Kentucky Bourbon Ale, and Downeast cider, to name a few.

We always kick off our dinner with a couple shrimp tacos – the best I’ve had in the Boston area. The lightly breaded shrimp are delicate and fresh, with avocado, red onion, and crema on a soft tortilla.

Cook, Newton - shrimp taco

The fried calamari is a large portion, with fried pickle slices and mild peppers. Again, lightly breaded. It’s a solid dish, though it doesn’t particularly stand out against the versions at other good restaurants.Cook - calamari

One appetizer that does really stand out is the French onion soup, where melt-in-your-mouth beef accompanies the Gruyere and bread.

Hubby always orders the Bolognese for his main. Hand cut tagliatelle is tossed with veal, pork, beef, and marscapone. We can’t order Bolognese anywhere else now, because it can’t come close to the version at Cook!

Cook - Bolognese

Every night there is a list of specials. I’ve had haddock with hearty heirloom carrots, a chorizo flatbread with goat cheese and cute fingerling potato chips, as well as this lamb sandwich on pitas that are fluffy on the inside but crispy on the outside. Yum!

IMAG2948

One popular dish which I forgot to nab a photo of is the NFC – three gigantic pieces of delicious fried chicken with a flaky biscuit, fluffy mashed potatoes, and awesome coleslaw. During a recent visit to Cook, 3 out of 4 patrons at the next table all ordered the NFC!

My husband and I usually don’t order dessert at Cook (because we’re stuffed after the appies and mains!) but on one occasion we got the brownie sundae – a big brownie square topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, crunchy chocolate pearls, and a cherry. Definitely large enough to share, though you might not want to.

Servers and bartenders are always attentive each time we’ve dined at Cook .The decor is unpretentious and the atmosphere is warm and lively. My only gripe is that the bench seats at Cook are a bit low and soft, making me feel a bit like a child when I first sit down. All in all, Cook is one of my favourite restaurants in Newton – that ‘s why I keep going back!

Info: Cook, 825 Washington Street, Newton, MA 02460 USA

Cook Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Pesto Chicken and Ravioli

28 Jul

I bought freshly made porcini mushroom and cheese ravioli, and sweet pea ravioli packed with whole peas from Russo’s Market in Watertown, MA. The sweet pea ravioli is not always available, but when it is, it sells fast. One lady told me she will plan her dinner around the availability of the sweet pea pasta!

I am also excited about my basil plant – it’s now two feet tall! I used fresh basil to make a pesto sauce. A light sauce lets the richness of the mushrooms and the crispness of the peas shine. Shown below with grilled chicken breast.

ravioli with chicken

Spinach and basil pesto

In a food processor, pulse to blend:

  • 2 cups packed basil and spinach
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced

Add and continue to blend:

  • 1/2 cup (or a little less) olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pecorino-romano cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Sometimes I use leftover pesto to stir-fry with zucchini and summer squash. You can also freeze pesto in ice cube trays to store for longer (don’t add cheese to the pesto if you plan on freezing it).

Basil-spinach pesto

Pretentious: Clink @ Liberty Hotel, Boston

14 Oct

I haven’t quite figured out the Liberty Hotel – Walk up to the entrance and you’ll find two men in period costume chatting with each other and getting in your way as you try to enter the building. My boyfriend and I arrived on a rainy Friday evening, in search of a late dinner. Having just returned from a business trip, he was dressed in casual business attire and had a small suitcase with him. That combination enabled us to enter the building without too much hassle. We quickly saw signs enforcing a dress code, and a cluster of decked-out yuppies hovering around some sort of coat-check table. I worried that my dark jeans wouldn’t pass muster. Luckily, the bouncer blocking the narrow escalator was distracted by a too-casually dressed man, and my bf and I snuck behind him, pulling along our suitcase. At the top of the escalator, we found ourselves in the midst of a loud, sparsely populated bar. A hotel bar aspiring to be a nightclub. Two levels of balconies looked down upon us. I quickly realized that my heels were neither high enough nor pointy enough, and my clothes revealed too little. My bf’s now-seemingly ridiculous suitcase seemed to attract some stares. Perhaps because we had made it this far anyway, the hostess at Clink let us into the restaurant and we were quickly seated. We sat near the back of the restaurant where it was quieter and we could actually have a conversation.

Bread was served warm! And our entrees were tasty, if slightly overpriced. My pappardelle with lamb ragu was hearty and delicious, topped generously with fresh shaved Parmesan.

My boyfriend’s chicken was beautifully presented and served with a mini chicken pot pie.

However, side dishes were underwhelming, despite their outrageous price tag ($9-$10 each). I could barely taste the truffle salt in the mac n’ cheese. The apple raisin pie ($10) was also a laughable disappointment. The small tart was just about crying out for more apple pieces.

The bottom line: Visit Clink solely for the novelty of dining among old jail cells. While the food is decent, you can’t help but feel slightly ripped off. And, while Clink’s second floor dining room is comfortable and elegant, getting from the hotel’s front door to the restaurant can be a pain in the ass.

Clink on Urbanspoon

Crab Mac n Cheese

15 May

The Easy, Slightly Less Unhealthy Version

This is not exactly a lazy dish to make, but you can prep it on a Sunday night, and then pop it in the oven for a few minutes for a weeknight dinner.

I don’t normally like mac n cheese, because I’ve always associated it with bright orange, goopey Kraft Dinner or cafeteria junk. But during a visit to Bubby’s Brooklyn (1 Main Street, Brooklyn, NY), I had amazing mac n cheese! Given my normal distaste for the dish, I don’t have a lot for comparison, but I’m fairly confident that Bubby’s makes the best mac n cheese ever!

This inspired me to try making my own. I wasn’t going to attempt to emulate Bubby’s version. Instead, I made a slightly lower-fat crab mac n’ cheese.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb whole wheat macaroni (cooked for 4 minutes, al dente, drained and rinsed)
  • <1/2 lb crab (I used a little less than half a can of crab meat)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/6 cup all purpose flour
  • 1.5 cups skim milk
  • 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 rounded cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 rounded cup cheddar, shredded (I used 50% reduced fat cheddar)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Melt butter in pan, then set aside.
  2. Cook vegetables until just soft. Set aside.
  3. Return butter to pan, add flour, and stir.
  4. Add milk, and bring to a bubble. Add salt and pepper.
  5. Stir until mixture coats the back of spoon.
  6. Add mustard, Gruyere, and cheddar.
  7. Add the vegetables back in, as well as crab.
  8. Add macaroni, combine well.
  9. Put into casserole dish.

At this point, you can cover and store the mac n cheese.

When you’re ready for dinner:

  1. Melt a bit of butter and toss in bread crumbs. Let cool.
  2. Toss in Parmesan and parsley.
  3. Sprinkle over casserole.
  4. Bake ~10 minutes at 375 F.

P.S. Bubby’s Brooklyn also has a gorgeous night time view of Manhattan.

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