It’s been a while since I last visited Stir, the South End’s small 10 seater demonstration kitchen. If it sounds familiar to you, it’s because Stir has been a talent mill for chefs like Kristen Kish and Stephanie Cmar, Top Chef winner and current Top Cheftestant. As a lovely birthday surprise, Mr. E nabbed us two spots for the All About Mushrooms dinner.
The night’s fungus variety
From the very beginning of our relationship, Mr. E has come to know that I love mushrooms. It was our happy medium when Mr. E was toying with the idea of becoming a full fledged vegan, which thankfully for this carnivorous girl was short lived (but not short enough, cough).
chanterelle, cremini, creme fraiche
2009 Chindaine Montlouis sur Loire
Eric LeBlanc, the Chef de Cusine, said his mushroom broth had 4 beautiful hours to simmer down. Man, oh man, could you tell. The taste was so pure. The soup was so luscious and velvety finished with my favorite and yours, sherry vinegar. Sherry vinegar is a superhero ingredient in my kitchen. You cannot make rich soups without it. Next time you make a chowder, throw a splash in towards the end. Such a game changer. On top was a truffle creme fraiche and some homemade croutons. There were some grumblings among my fellow diners that there was not enough truffle flavor, but I’m going to be honest, that soup stood on its own two feet.
2012 Terre Nere Etna Bianco
The risotto dish was earthy both in flavor and in appearance. It looks like mother earth planted these little morsels in my dinner! This was preconceived many days in advance and the planning really paid off. Mushroom risotto is a very classic dish, but the addition of squid ink took this unctuous beauty from Awesome to Star World level. It added just a touch of ocean brine, which paired so well with the Terre Nere wine pairing. It was as if wine pairings suddenly all made sense to me. The wine was crisp and light, with a mineral essence likely from the vineyard’s rich volcanic soil. It’s also a Sicilian wine, so hey, I have no problem with that. Before you judge that last comment, I’m no wine expert. In fact, I put my wine knowledge in the same bucket as my college football knowledge. I pick brackets based on jersey color and mascot. So needless to say, I pick my wine based on label appeal and cost.
The chicken of the woods mushroom was our first really beefy mushroom of the night. It is the light orange mushroom in the picture of the uncooked mushrooms above. The underbelly is a neon yellow, which is pretty daunting as a diner. Is neon even a natural color?
Mr. E getting fancy with the camera
galantine, chicken of the woods, egg
2011 Rion Bourgogne Pinot Noir
I loved this dish. It was definitely a playful move by the chef. He deconstructed a chicken, turning the insides of a chicken into a galantine encased in its own skin. Still didn’t top the risotto, which was such a stand out for me. Maybe it’s a surprise, maybe not, but chicken of the woods is one of those foods that actually does kind of taste like chicken. As if the neon didn’t puzzle me enough. My mind was a bit blown by that particular mushroom.
Slow poached eggs and the anatomy of a chicken
The egg, a very slow, low temperature poached egg was like a thick comforter on top of the galantine. The method for cooking the onsen egg leaves the egg in its shell, like a boiled egg at a much gentler temperature, resulting in a very thick pudding like yolk. Texturally, this dish could have used some snap, crackle, or pop, but it was still a yummy dish nonetheless.
porcini dust, hen of the woods, truffle
2011 Dei Rosso di Montepulciano
At this part of the meal, I started feeling extremely full. Watching Eric prepare the pasta and seeing the handfuls of butter he kept adding to the rich sauce made me want to take a timeout and come back to tackle the pasta an hour later. The pasta itself incorporated dehydrated porcini, which was turned into a powder. Amazing. Then to revisit the sauce, he used his mushroom broth, an obscene amount of butter (not complaining), and not one but TWO truffles. I would have liked my pasta to have a bit more bite, but the truffles and the healthy dose of parmigiana drove me bonkers. So so good.
apple, chanterelle, lobster mushroom
2009 Heinrich Red Cat for the Butcher Shop
The finale of the meal was the scariest mushroom of them all, the lobster mushroom which seriously smells like fish. Whoa baby. It was prepared in very thin slices, so really not that intimidating at all. It also lent itself as a side to the pork, which was accompanied by a very smooth, tart apple sauce. Now, I’m not one to turn down bacon, but I’m definitely beginning to feel the effects of the bacon bandwagon. That being said, the dish was delicious and tasted like fall on a plate. Beyond it tasting good, nothing was too memorable about the dish.
Big thanks to Chef de Cuisine Eric LeBlanc and his assistant Christine Milam
We left with good notes and very full bellies!
102 Waltham Street
Boston, MA 02118
Happy Birthday to my best friend (and me too because, you know, we’re twins)!
A few days ago, I celebrated my 27th birthday with my best friend. On my birthday, I assume super human powers, where calories fall to the wayside and I can eat whatever I want. Traditionally, Krissie and I go all out, selecting one Boston restaurant to get whatever ultimate chef’s tasting menu they can offer. This year, we went to Bistro Du Midi, which was out of this world phenomenal. It was such a memorable and special dinner. I couldn’t have imagined bettered. That being said, I took that night off and left my camera at home so I could fully enjoy myself.
In spite of knowing about the onslaught of food coming that night, I decided I couldn’t forego the quick Vietnamese subs from the Bon Me food truck. I tried to evade it, but it intercepted me with its savory scents on my way to the parking garage. Damn it. Of all the Asian cuisines showcased in Boston, I probably eat Vietnamese food the least. After a very sad experience with pho, star anise is one of my natural born enemies as it turns out, it should come as no surprise when I detected its slight presence in my pho broth, I swore off pho for good. Such a shame since bottomless bowls of noodles sound like heaven on earth. Occasionally, I’ll have a hankering for a spring roll, but that’s usually when I’m not sober and am feeling like a true fatty mcfatterson. This past month, I’ve been craving bánh mì sandwiches often. For anyone who is unfamiliar with this wonderful treat, it is grilled meat (my favorite is pork), with mayo, pate (YUM!), whole cilantro sprigs, fish sauce, pickled carrots and daikon, and hots.
Miso braised pulled pork sandwich from the Bon Me Yellow Truck!
All of these ingredients are encased in a very light baguette that has a very nice crisp outside and a soft inside. This translates into it will flake all over you as you eat it. Be ready with a solid leaning sandwich stance, lest you fall victim to the bread crumb storm.
I love this sandwich not just for its rich flavors and wonderfully tart carrot/daikon mix, but also for its history. The sandwich showcases some of Vietnam’s French roots, and not that I’m necessarily all for colonization, I am for food fusion. I have a deep appreciation for flavors that change because of the times. Someone was innovative enough to think, let me mix what I have locally and throw some French lipids on it (pâté and mayo) and serve on a delicate French influenced baguette. Or maybe it was someone who had all this food on its way out and figured, Oh fine I’ll just throw it all on a piece of bread and deal with it. Whatever the case may be, thank you! You’ve given me the one Vietnamese dish that makes my heart sing.
P.S. Go ahead and let this post title sink in. Yes? Yes? I’m basking in my cleverness.