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Birthday celebrations at Asta!

Blogging has always been a labor of love for me. It’s a constant work in progress because I like to do justice to each post, particularly if it’s one where I’ve dined out. Writing about something I love has proven to be more challenging than I’d originally thought when first embarking on my official Katie Eats Boston adventures. There are definitely times when I’ll drag my feet. Then, there are times when I’m so excited to post that my fingers can’t possibly type fast enough.

Pizza and Pasta

My experience at Asta had me joyfully jotting down notes throughout my meal, eagerly building this magnificent piece in my mind. Co-owners Chef Alex Crabb (hailing from a 5 year run at L’Espalier) and girlfriend Shish Parsigian opened Asta in January 2013, taking over the former Café 47 space. What they created was a dramatic dining experience that sitting at the bar, had me right in the action. The decor was simple, highlighted by this hilarious and awesome drawing on the wall of Zeus wielding a lightning bolt. The owners have taken out of the box flavor pairings and elevated foods to levels that not only could you not believe could be achieved, but also levels that you could no longer imagine coming down from.

Alex and Shish make being bad ass bosses look adorable

Mr. E treated me to an early birthday dinner at Asta. We were immediately greeted by Matt, our bartender who poured me a glass of champagne. Upon learning of Mr. E’s choice to not drink alcohol, Shish swooped into the conversation ready to offer a mocktail of Pinot Noir grape juice topped with some San Pellegrino. I find this level of flexibility and willingness to serve invaluable to a restaurant. It’s as much about feeling welcomed as it is about the food itself.

Lured in by the dramatic cooking stage

Sweet corn salad with corn butter

The ending summer sweetness of the corn was captured in this simple salad of onion, chive, a light vinaigrette, and corn butter. Yes, corn butter. RUN TO ASTA NOW!

Honeydew melon, zebra tomato, mushroom

The melon was served with the classic mint pairing but also had some pleasant hints of anise running through the background. The very thinly sliced tomato offered just a breath of acidity to the fruity sweet melon punctuated with umami of the mushrooms.

b.l.t. gazpacho

Again, in the essence of bringing summer to a close, Asta offered a light gazpacho playing off the flavors of a standard BLT. The soup was garnished with bacon, charred lettuce, oregano, and a very punchy horseradish cream. Mr. E described this as “campy”, an adjective he likes to use when there is any level of smokiness to a dish. If I was served this in the outdoors, I’d definitely be a happy camper.

mushroom on a rock

This was a beautiful lobster mushroom served with charred eggplant puree and porcini rice chips. The lobster mushroom held a tremendous amount of moisture, imitating a juicy piece of meat. The chips were a neat addition, contributing a light mushroom-y crunch. Plus, I got a good kick out of the presentation and the fact that you had to go caveman style by foregoing your utensils.

duck breast, fennel, and carrots

This dish seriously flirted with strong fall flavors that enveloped me in a forward homey, earthy hug. Excellent contrasting textures here with the light crisp of the fennel and the heartier crunch of the carrots. The duck dressed in one serious “au jus” was reminiscent of an enchanting Thanksgiving.

sweet & sour eggplant

Mr. E couldn’t even with this dish. He described this as “an ice cream snickers bar left in the sun… in the tastiest of ways!” I too believed this dish toyed with some heavy dessert tones, but in the end the savory notes rang true. Shish brought out an unfiltered sake to pair with the eggplant. It was creamy and strong and had the right amount of milkiness that really emphasized the hyssop and sweet and sour. The eggplant was smooth and silky, hardly able to hold its form. Peanut puree brought an interesting mouth feel and chopped peanuts lent a much needed crunch.

pork rib

Brilliant presentation! I felt like I was rolling around the farm with the poor little pig that ended up on my plate. The pork practically fell off the bone with little coaxing. The rib was served with a sauce of apple and the braising liquid. The hay, the apples, the pork totally embodied the concept of terroir.

seared foie gras

Some people think seared foie gras is overplayed. I am very much not one of them. Shish and Alex sent out this additional treat, which happened to be my favorite of the night. Thanks guys! The foie gras was served on the sweetest of sweet potatoes and surrounded by a broth that I believe was flavored by coffee malt or actual coffee. If you asked me, I don’t think I could name you a more perfect bite. The combination of the sweet potato and the coffee reminded me of my morning joe. The bitterness of the coffee offset some of the heft of the salty rich liver. The combination of the sweet potato with the bitter coffee, the herbaceous freshness of the cilantro, and the salty rich liver gob smacked me. Every flavor was in harmony.

strawberry and rose ice

I wasn’t a huge fan of this little palette cleanser only because I’m not a huge fan of rose. At first bite, the temperatures and the rose laced strawberry flavor was refreshing. At bite 2 and 3, I felt like I was sucking down perfume. Mr. E happily ate my portion and I’d imagine anyone without a hypersensitivity to rose would enjoy this.

fig leaf panna cotta

I had a small bite of Mr. E’s panna cotta dessert. It was served with tomato and nectarine, which was a combination I wasn’t overly excited for, but tasted pretty darn good. I can’t say it was a standout amongst other panna cotta I’ve eaten and it certainly was a hard battle to outshine some of the earlier dishes of the meal.

blueberries, milk bread, lemon verbena

Sweet delicate crumble topped the milk bread. The light tartness of the blueberries cut through the creamy milk the bread floated in. The bread was very tasty with a nice almost caramelized outer “crust.”

Crazy lady notes – can never take too many notes right?!

Thanks Mr. E!

To close, I say [H]asta la vista, baby! And because there can never be too many Arnold Schwarzenegger quotes, I’ll be back!

47 Massachusetts Ave
Boston, MA 02115
(617) 585-9575

It’s all French to [Bánh] mì

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.