boston, Italian

North Square Oyster- Boston, MA

Ah, to be back home in Boston once again. After taking just, you know, a little trip to the Bahamas for New Years being back in Boston is nice…even if it is -13 with the wind chill. Any-who, its become a sort of tradition now that when I’m home my parents and I treat ourselves to a fancy North End meal. I mentioned this in my Mammamaria post, but treating yourself to a special meal is fun and well worth it. This time we tried Mammamaria’s neighbor, North Square Oyster.

Located directly across the street is North Square, a lovely older building where the restaurant takes up two floors overlooking the square and an adorable little bar next door. The building is timeless, beautiful ceilings that look foreign in comparison to newer buildings in the area. Chairs and booths situated in the rounded out windows make for a cozy feel when sitting there and mood lighting certainly does, well, set the mood!


As we looked over the menu it is not the typical Italian one is expecting. It’s up there with Mammamaria in terms of how upscale and sophisticated the menu is. You won’t find classic rigatoni with sauce, but items like mushroom risotto and gnocchi in a sweet broth. All the items sound superb and any choices we made that night would have left our taste buds feeling a sense of expansion.

The first dish we ordered was actually a special that evening. Gnocchi in a sweet, sour broth. The gnocchi was definitely homemade, perfectly cooked and absolutely divine. The broth was delicious, a different sweetness to it than you’d expect. Not the typical gnocchi dish one would be expecting, but certainly a delicious one.


The next dish we got was the NY strip steak with caramelized onions, trumpet mushrooms, and pommes purée (mashed potatoes). Okay, first of all, I know mashed potatoes are just potatoes and butter, but these pommes purée were insane. So rich and buttery and seasoned perfectly. There really is nothing like good steak and potatoes. The steak was really juicy and had good flavor to it and was cooked well. The onions were so fragrant and had a strong taste to them, certainly fresh and I’m sure picked at the market that morning. 


Lastly, and certainly the best of the three dishes, was the mushroom risotto. I like getting risotto when I go out if I can (and feel like it) because risotto is a rice that needs time, not something chefs on “Top Chef” like to make. This mushroom risotto was just incredible. With pickled chanterelles, maitake and cepes, and pumpkin spiced almonds it was out of this world. So creamy and warm, the flavors coming together between the mushrooms and pumpkin almonds. I guess, and I could just not be paying attention, but I never thought of mushrooms and pumpkin spice together! What a combination! It truly took the risotto up a notch with that hint of spice. 

North Square is a higher end kind of place, being in the same square as Mammamaria you kind of have to be. Both restaurants have a bit of a reputation of serving superb Italian food and I can honestly say that it’s true. Different vibes, but one common goal…to serve incredible, high end, innovative Italian food. As you tour the Paul Revere house when you’re in Boston, think about just going up the street. Whether it be for drinks at North Square’s cute little bar or having dinner there, it’ll be worth every penny…your taste buds will thank you. 

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American, boston, Italian, Uncategorized

Monument- Charlestown, MA

If you’re from Boston then you know all the buzz about Monument in Charlestown. Charlestown is on the map, millennials are taking over, moving outside of Boston across the river to once rough Charlestown. Monument is only feeding into that with a vibe similar to Brewers Fork on the other side of town. Having only been open for a week, I got the chance to check out the new place.

Some people don’t know this, but there is a history here. Remember that adorable, lovely neighborhood trattoria Paolo’s? Monument replaced it. Same owner, but they decided to change it up. To be fair Paolo’s was never full, but it was great food and perfect for a date night or for families. The staff was family and to the owners credit they rehired all the Paolo’s staff, but I miss our little trattoria. Monument has the opposite feel to it, which is good and bad! Monument is definitely a gastropub, basically meaning a fancy pub. We went on the busiest night and they are still figuring out kinks, but the bar was loud and full as well as tables. They expanded the space, so looking over to the Paolo’s side you can only miss it. Talking to a waitress from those days whom we’re friendly with only agreed, but is excited for this next chapter. I think us regulars can agree.

Upon looking at the menu it’s different and interesting, really great ingredients and combinations. And they kept the pizza oven so we only assumed the pizza would be Paolo’s pizza. Although front of the house was maybe flustered, telling us a thirty minute wait that would only turn into an hour, the kitchen was firing food and getting it out at a good speed…especially since it was so busy. The staff was doing their best though and once we did get seated our waitress was bubbly.

We started with two appetizers, short rib poutine and calamari. Both were great, the poutine had a nice gravy and I liked how they used mozzarella curds. The meat was a little cold, but it was tender and had nice flavor. The calamari was really good, the fry was perfect and cooked nicely. The pairing of it with the pickled cucumbers and feta was delicious and the tzatziki sauce brought it all together. 
Now onto the entrees, let’s start with the pizza. Imagining that they wouldn’t try to fix something that isn’t broke, I assumed the pizzas would be that of the Paolo days, but when we order the soppressatta pizza our waitress told us that it’s a different dough from before. I got a little nervous, but was optimistic. When it came I knew immediately it wasn’t going to be great. The crust was huge and doughy and when I bit into it it had a sweetness to it that my tastebuds weren’t prepared for. And you’d think with the North End right there a restaurant would get soppressatta super easy, especially since Paolo’s had a really delicious one. This stuff was pepperoni and it may have been the saltiest pepperoni I’ve ever had. It was not soppressatta, I kept saying to my parents “it’s like having a pizza in Fort Worth”. The cheese made up for it all though, a nice bake and taste to it.

Even though the pizza was a little disappointing, the main entrees were superb. First we got the baked gnocchi that was cooked perfectly with a pink vodka sauce sausage bolongnese and taleggio cheese. It came to the table in an iron skillet, the aroma of melted cheese and sausage filling the air. The sausage was seasoned very well and this dish is what is going to bring me back here.

The other entree we got was the seared scallops with sweet potato purée and assorted vegetables, including snap peas and carrots, in a lemon beurre blanc (which translates to “white butter”) and topped with crumbled bacon. This entree was perfection with the scallops cooked and seared beautifully. The vegetables and sauce complimented each other harmoniously. It wasn’t overly salty and all the flavors came together, and obviously bacon. This scallop entree is another reason I would go back to Monument. 

Overall Charlestown is going to have a different feel to it as the new restaurant draws people from all over Boston, full of young singles and couples making the trek north to check out the new hot spot. It’ll be good for Charlestown to reach that demographic, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to miss our little trattoria. Lots of memories have happened at Paolo’s and I’m sure new ones will happen at Monument…once they work out the kinks, like any new restaurant. 

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Burgers, Cape Cod, Seafood

Orleans Public House- Orleans, MA

Vacations are a time to relax, be with the ones you love, and enjoy your favorite places to eat. When it comes to food, we tend to go to the same places because they are our favorites, they make great food, tradition, etc. It can be hard sometimes when you go on your yearly vacation to try a different place. It’s like “why would I go here when I need to get this dish at this restaurant?” Well, for you Cape Codders I have the restaurant that you need to make an exception for. 

I too fall victim to the ‘tradition restaurants’, but now that going to the Cape is a more frequent thing I can afford to save the favorites for actual vacations and try new places on the short trips! So this trip we decided to try Orleans Public House

Located on Cove Road, a bit off the beaten path, sits the little restaurant OPH. At first glance you can tell it’s a nice place, not necessarily made for the six crazy kids kind of place, but perfect for a casual yet fancy dinner. The main parking lot is pretty tiny, but there is additional parking across the street.

Upon walking in you immediately feel the warmth of the restaurant. Don’t worry there is air conditioning, but it has a sophisticated, welcoming feel to it. The dining area is pretty small, but there is a bar and outdoor patio, when available. The waitstaff were just darling, girls from Eastern Europe who come to America to work over the summer and pay their way through university. Props to them and their work ethic, the tips go a long way and I know makes me feel good knowing what the money is going towards. 

Onto the food: the restaurant had just changed their menu to the seasonal fall menu. I’m sure a good amount of the menu items are year round though. We started with the Shrimp and Grits. Living in Texas now, I said to my parents “I come all the way to Cape Cod to have grits” but these grits were something else. They were crispy and divided into three triangle patties. They were cooked beautifully and tasted amazing. The shrimp was also cooked beautifully. I’m not the biggest shrimp fan, but I could have ordered this as my meal and be happy as a clam. In the dish was also ham and fried brussel sprout leaves. Now ham is ham, hard to go wrong, but brussel sprouts can either be really good or not, depending on how you cook them. When you fry them, how could you! Again, not a brussel sprouts fan, but I could have eaten a plate of them. The sauce they came in was extraordinary too, be sure to save some bread to eat it all up (since licking the bowl is socially impolite). The chef really wowed us with this dish, and it was only the appetizer!

  
As a family we decided to order separate dishes, but we almost always share them around. We settled on the house made gnocchi, Public House burger, and cod cake sliders. 

Gnocchi can be a hit or miss, not every chef is capable of cooking them properly. However, this gnocchi was cooked to perfection. I’m going to use that word a lot in this post, but this meal truly was perfect. It came in a fall vegetable ragout with pan roasted mushrooms, parmesan, and truffle essence. Now I would say, if you’re not a truffle fan (truffle=mushroom), then I wouldn’t recommend this dish. Between the amount of mushrooms and the extra essence it was very ‘truffly’. If you are a fan, though, I highly recommend this fall menu item.  

I’ve had my share of burgers, as you can see from my past posts, so when this burger came out I was truly amazed.  I ask that you all, before, continuing to read, quickly refer to my Cape Cod Food Trail post and read about the Rock Harbor Burger. Have you read it? Proceed:

The Public House burger was better. From the first moment it was placed in front of me to the last bite, this burger was better. The meat was cooked superbly, each ingredient complimented each other, you got everything in one bite and it worked harmoniously. The house pickles were definitely house made, they were actually sweeter pickles than I expected, but they weren’t overly sweet. The bacon bourbon aioli and smoked jalapeño ketchup really gave the burger a nice smoky flavor, so much so you would have thought they had a smoker in the back. The bun was also very complimentary, it wasn’t dense and didn’t make the burger feel like this huge monster as you ate it, it just condensed and fluffed up as you enjoyed it. With the burger we got the parmesan truffle fries and they were fried exactly the way you want them. Not as good as the Sesuit Harbor fries (see previous post) but very close. The truffle wasn’t overpowering either, which can be another thing chefs tend to overuse, but this chef really knows his stuff and knows when to stop adding.  

   

The third entree we ordered was the Cod Cake Sliders. How can you not eat cod on Cape Cod? The sliders were an excellent portion, three was even too much! Of course you nibble on the fries at the same time, which are equally as delicious. The cakes were cooked beautifully, they had a nice crispy fry. As you bit into the slider, the inside was soft and full of tender cod. The funniest thing about the cod cakes was there was something the chef used, a spice, that we just couldn’t figure out! Our last prediction was thyme, but please if you go and get it, comment what you think it may be! 

  
Being that this was their fall menu, the dessert and drink menu had fall inspirations. Everything was pumpkin spice and fall flavors. With that being said, how could we even pass over the thought of Pumpkin Spice Gelato? Now, let’s be real, pumpkin doesn’t really have a taste. It’s the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and other fall spices that makes it ‘pumpkin’. Still, it all tastes of fall and it’s hard to resist those flavors. The gelato was very delicious, it was denser than ice cream however it certainly didn’t take me back to Italy… For those who don’t know gelato starts with the same base as ice cream, but has a higher milk proportion and less cream and eggs (or no eggs at all). Gelato is also churned at a slower rate so there is less air being incorporated into the gelato leaving it denser than ice cream. Again, it was delicious, but I think they used the word ‘gelato’ to make it sound fancy. The spices were not overpowering, there was a nice hint of them. It came with a delicious ginger snap that was soft and complimented the ice cream wonderfully.

  
Orleans Public House is definitely going to become a regular vacation restaurant, at least the fall menu convinced me! I am assuming, with having a fall menu, this means it’s a year round restaurant. You never know with the Cape though, it may close come October/November. When it’s the Cape Cod season it may be hopping, but we won’t know until next year! It’s off the beaten path, but Orleans Public House is worth the adventure…and the food! 

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