Sunday, August 26, 2012

Amsterdam Falafelshop

I'm no expert on falafel, but I think many people would agree with me that the best falafel (at least what you can find in the States), resides at Amsterdam Falafelshop. I discovered this heavenly place when I lived in D.C. after college, and since leaving D.C., I always lamented that I didn't go more often. But now the falafel gods have answered my prayers... Amsterdam Falafelshop has opened a second location in Boston!!

Seriously, best news ever.

Alex, Lauren, and I ventured to the Boston location very recently, and I'm already plotting a return trip. It's located in Davis Square in Somerville (shout-out to Alex's ol' hood!).

The shop is pretty much just like the one in D.C. Small space, not very much seating, but full of personality.

You order a small or regular falafel sandwich or bowl. The small has four falafel balls, and trust me, that's enough. You're going to want to load up on toppings.

At the front of the toppings bar, there's garlic cream and tahini sauce. Alex understands that both are a must.

The toppings bar is glorious and colorful.

There's baba ganoush, hummus, purple cabbage, onions, pickles, and a whole host of other amazing things.

And please, do not forget to order fries. They are fried to perfection, and there are a ton of delicious dipping sauces.

My favorite dipping sauce is the garlic cream (reason = self-explanatory), but a close runner-up would be the curry ketchup. Talk about spicing up your ketchup! And I don't know if you can tell in the first picture, but the fries are placed in a hole in the table. Every table top has a hole cut in it so that you can put your cone of fries in an easy-to-reach, stable place. I am seriously in love with these people.

Okay, back to falafel. The falafel itself is wonderfully crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside, providing just enough crumble. Here are some of our falafel sandwich creations:

They look happy, don't they? We were this happy the whole meal. Oh, and and don't forget to take a moment and appreciate the wheat pita bread (white is also an option, but I think wheat is tastier). The pita is lovingly toasted, supremely tasty, and it's the only thing standing between you and a mess of fallen toppings. 

Make a trip to Amsterdam Falafelshop. It's light on your wallet and OHSOGOOD on your taste buds.

248 Elm Street
Somerville, MA 02144

Amsterdam Falafelshop on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ice Cream Day at New Amsterdam Market !

The end of the summer is quickly drawing near, and I have been trying to savor every last moment !

Last Sunday, New Amsterdam Market hosted the third annual ice cream festival, bringing together a mix of Northeastern ice cream makers from both restaurants and local artisans.

I love the New Amsterdam Market - it's an absolute gem located by the South Seaport under the FDR with fresh produce, cheese, fish and meat alongside prepared food vendors like Pie Corps and Luke's Lobster.  I love the market even more when there is ice cream to be had !

The ice cream festival benefits the New Amsterdam Market, helping to keep it alive, and this year, it cost $25 for a tasting of 8 mini-scoops from any ice cream vendor of your choice.  What you will find in the following photographs is that each mini-scoop is served on a mini-cone, and it is all ridiculously cute.

Here is all of what Mr. FoodandPants, his lady friend, and myself tackled !

I particularly like how this cone has taken the Asian girl in the background's breath away.

From Luca & Bosco, Mr. FaP and his ladyfriend ate the sweet corn flavor while I noshed on fresh mint and Madecasse chocolate freckles.  Can I just say chocolate chip should always be called chocolate freckles?

While the ladyfriend was most impressed with the strong notes of sweet corn, the fresh mint was lacking any mint flavor, but the freckles were most delightful.

Rouge Tomate's coconut-lemongrass - tart and tangy.  Puts the lemon in lemongrass, but little to the coconut.

Mr. FaP and his serious dulce de leche-marzipan

The bitter almonds and roasted apricot from Il Buco Alimentari.  Completely studded with roasted apricots - it was creamy, chewy, delicious !

The sassafrass sorbetto from Esca.  A complete joy for root beer lovers - smooth and delightful.

The fowl triple from The Bent Spoon featuring sweet cream ice cream made from different types of eggs.  Starting from the bottom: ostrich, duck and quail.  Though I couldn't discern the differences in egg (perhaps because I've already had four shares of ice cream at this point), the ice cream was quite good, creamy and satisfying.

Mole and vanilla cream with donut peach apricot jam from La Newyorkina

I generally don't like Van Leeuwen, but the caramelized honey flavor was on point !  Tasted like honeycombs, and the walnuts were big, chunky and awesome.

The tri-star strawberry from Dreamscoops.  Simple and summery.

The salted cantaloupe and wild ginger from Steve's Ice Cream.  The salt flavor was strong, the wild ginger was not.

And finally, the basil ice cream from Marlow & Sons.  Refreshing and light.  Would go perfect with my future dinner at Diner, chowing down on fat burgers !

After 8 scoops of ice cream (okay, I had nine if you're really counting), my belly was bursting with calcium-fueled joy ! It's a truly lovely event, a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and benefits a neat little market in the city.  Hopefully you can catch the next one, if you haven't attended before already !

New Amsterdam Market
South St, between Beekman and Peck Slip
New York, NY

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Look at Ken & Cook

This past week, Diana and I received an invitation from Ken & Cook to review their restaurant. 

This new restaurant from two Jean-Georges alum is tucked away on the obscure little corner of Kenmare & Bowery, and on this Sunday night, the restaurant was nearly empty aside from a handful of tables that would eventually be seated during our three-hour stay there - orders were slow to take.  And even slower to arrive. 

First the bread, a single cold baguette, accompanied by fruity olive oil, that was too hard and chewy to be enjoyed.

Second, the $15 plate of squid salad featuring a bed of yogurt, cooked potato rounds, curls of grilled squid, and red chili slivers.

The dish was light and satisfying with the fun combination of spicy chili, cool yogurt and chewy squid.  A strong first course.

Third, the oysters rockefeller ($18).  Four oyster shells perched on a plate of rock salt.  Each oyster was smothered in fluffy spinach puree and a thick layer of buttery breadcrumbs.  While the topping was good - balancing crunch and creaminess, the oysters were lost under the heaviness of it all.  And the breadcrumbs, oh the breadcrumbs.  It would soon become apparent that this was the restaurant's favorite ingredient.

Case in point, our second course, the veal pappardelle ($23), topped with...breadcrumbs.  The tomato sauce was quite thin (reminiscent of Chef Boyardee), and while the meaty veal was tasty and flavorful, and the shreds of radicchio a welcome crunch, the dish was altogether salty and unsatisfying.

We've had versions of pappardelle where the pasta was smooth, flat and thin.  The pasta at Ken & Cook is thick, jaggedly cut like the handpulled noodles from Xian Famous Foods, which I adore, but not for a dish like this.  And I'm still not sure why there were breadcrumbs !

You can see here a clear lighting change in the pictures.  That's because it took about 45 minutes for our next course to come, which was mind-boggling, since the restaurant had only five tables to serve.

But the next course finally did come.
Fried chicken.  The restaurant's signature dish, per the waitress.

Three pieces of golden chicken, topped with fried lemon slices, alongside honey butter biscuits. 

While not flaky, these biscuits were light and soaked in the generous pats of honey butter like sponges.

The fried chicken was also lovely - with satisfying crunch and moist, tender meat.  It's a solid, crisp fried chicken, not completely inedible as this Village Voice article will state, but nothing that extraordinary that would make us specifically seek out this $19 dish.

The kitchen sent out a side of their macaroni and cheese, because per their words, "If you are going to go Southern, you might as well go Southern," and because they were quite proud of their mac 'n cheese.  But man, I was not excited to see more breadcrumbs (#firstworldproblems), I could still feel the grit in my teeth from the earlier dishes.

We plunged through the crumbly uppercrust to find small tender noodles and delightful creaminess.  What we did not find was salt, which was what this dish definitely needed. A bit of tang or zip would've really pushed this exceedingly mild dish up a notch.

The wagyu beef flank ($26), with almond slivers, asparagus and yellow tomatoes was probably the most disappointing dish of the night.  The beef was chewy and tough, despite a medium rare cook temp, and had zero flavor.  I can understand lack of seasoning to draw out appreciation for the quality of meat, but there was no quality here to admire.

And finally their signature dessert - beignets.  A fairly generous order of a half-dozen golf-ball sized gems served in a parchment paper pouch.

The beignet dipping sauce resembled the powdered sugar / milk / water icing concoction I would make as icing for cookies, but did not complement the beignets well.

While the interior of the beignets were airy and light, the overfried shell and the slightly salty interior, coupled with the lackluster dip, just made this dessert dish fall flat.

By the time the long, drawn-out dinner was over, Diana and I were a bit exhausted from the night - yes, it's so hard to eat a lot food (ha! I kid!), but moreso than that, the combination of disappointing flavors, the plague of breadcrumbs, the exceptionally leisurely / non-existent service, all at a high price point was a bit wearing, all in all.  

I think one of the best things of the night was actually outside the restaurant a block up.  One glance at Selleck made me feel at peace with the world once again.

Thanks for the invite, Ken & Cook, I wish we could've liked it.

Han's Nonsensical Rating: If you have a lot of money burning in your pocket, a lot of time on your hands, and love breadcrumbs more than life, by all means, dine here.

Ken & Cook
19 Kenmare
New York, NY
Ken & Cook on Urbanspoon