Tag Archives: Harvard Square

Dumpling House in Cambridge

21 May

Whenever I have an opportunity to visit a Chinatown, I’m completely drawn to wandering down its streets. It awakens my senses in a way that I can only compare to walking through a mercado, like the ones I visited in Oaxaca. There are so many countries in Asia on my dream list of places to visit. Until I visit those places, though, I love trying as many new flavors and dishes as I can closer to home. Boston’s Chinatown is a great place to start, and Gourmet Dumpling House is no doubt one of the more popular restaurants for xiaolongbao, or soup dumplings. However, the place is always packed and there are only about 20 seats, so trying to grab a quick lunch or dinner without a 30+ minute wait is a challenge.

Then about a month ago I saw the ‘Dumpling House’ sign along Mass Ave between Harvard and Central Square in the former Buddhist Cultural Center tea room space. Rumor says it’s a sister restaurant to Gourmet Dumpling House. I’ve enjoyed two great meals there so far- they’re still working out some of the service kinks, but the food was great and it’s hard to find a sit-down restaurant with these prices in Cambridge. While I miss the experience of going into Chinatown for Gourmet Dumpling House, Dumpling House is a good alternative.

Dumpling House mini soup dumplings

Delicious soup-filled steamed dumplings, xiaolongbao

The first time I ventured over with Renee from Eat.Live.Blog and a co-worker for lunch. We ordered the beef with long horn peppers – a dish we love ordering from Gourmet Dumpling House – and it tasted exactly the same: super spicy, tender beef, fresh green peppers. We also shared the mini soup dumplings with pork and the Sandong style pan fried dumplings (both orders are $7.25 for 7). The soup dumplings were the same as GDH, too. The interesting thing about these soup dumplings is that, while the filling is extremely moist and has a great rich flavor, the dumpling wrapper is always a little thick and slightly dry/sticky. I really love the contrast of textures while eating these, but I’ve had dumplings elsewhere that have a thinner and more delicate wrapper. I guess it comes down to individual preference; I like both.

Dumpling House has a fantastic lunch deal of an entree, soup, and white rice for $8.50 that we didn’t order, but I look forward to returning soon, because that is an amazing deal.

dumpling house pan fried udon noodles and beef

sauteed udon Shanghai style

Then about a week later I returned with my boyfriend for dinner. We ordered the soup dumplings again, plus the sauteed udon Shanghai style (above) and the sauteed flat noodles with beef (below). Both were solid choices – the udon noodles were slightly salty, but the texture of the noodles was right on and I enjoyed the mushrooms and pieces of beef throughout.

Dumpling House sauteed flat noodles with beef

sauteed flat noodles with beef

Of the two dishes, I prefer the sauteed flat noodles with beef  – I’m just obsessed with those flat rice noodles (the same kind used in drunken noodles) and the beef was perfectly tender. While I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to spicy dishes (i.e. when I ate the beef with long horn peppers I also consumed multiple glasses of water and an entire bowl of rice…), I realized halfway through the meal that I should have ordered something with a bit more of a kick. But there will be a next time!

With two overall positive experiences, I can’t wait to go back. The only warning I should include is that it’s a new place, and there is a certain amount of confusion that sometimes comes with recently opening: when we went for lunch, we asked for the dinner-size portion of the beef and peppers so we could share. They brought us the lunch-size, but charged us for the dinner portion. We asked if this was the correct size for what we ordered and they assured us it was. I didn’t believe them, but what did I know, maybe that’s the standard size? Then, when we went for dinner, the portions were huge, confirming that they over-charged us and gave the wrong portion during my first visit. It’s a small detail that I’m sure will be worked out in the coming weeks.

In summary, check out Dumpling House, and feel free to invite me.

Dumpling House, 950 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA

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I Met Ruth Reichl at the Brattle Theatre

12 May

Barbara Lynch & Ruth Reichl

On Friday, May 9 I sat three rows away from the Brattle Theatre stage in Cambridge where Barbara Lynch and Ruth Reichl talked about food, cooking, the restaurant industry, and Ruth’s newest book, Delicious! I adore Ruth – she was The New York Times restaurant critic, editor-in-chief of Gourmet, and continues to be an amazing food writer. Since reading Garlic and Sapphires, I became fascinated with her life, understanding of food, and descriptive writing style that lingers on the details for just the right amount of time. Delicious! is her first fictional book, so it was interesting to hear that she finds fiction much easier than memoir writing because there’s no right or wrong; there’s no checking in with people from your past to be sure they’re comfortable with what you wrote about them. Makes sense!

Barbara Lynch had just won a James Beard Award four days earlier, so it was great to see her still reveling in the happiness and surprise of her win. It had been ten years since an independent woman won the Outstanding Restaurateur award – this award is a huge deal for anyone, but, as Ruth commented on Friday night, for a woman who is a chef AND a business woman to win, it’s a big victory and very well-deserved.

Ever since I was editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper, I had this idea what I would become an editor of a food/travel/lifestyle magazine. Meeting someone who has been there and still has such a down-to-earth approach to life was such an inspiration.

DeliciousCover

The Q&A/conversation between Barbara and Ruth seemed very honest and intimate. They discussed Delicious! – Barbara mentioned a number of sections in detail that demonstrated how much she loved the book and how enthusiastic she was to share it. In the book, Billie Breslin travels from her home in California to New York City for a job at a food magazine. Then, the publication suddenly shuts down (not too different from the real-life Gourmet closing that Ruth experienced). In the library of the magazine, Billie finds a collection of letters written during World War II to James Beard. The story is about her adventure of learning through the letters about food, love, and life.

Both Barbara and Ruth spoke at length about inspiration. Ruth said that she wrote the letters in Delicious! at the time the idea came to her, all in one sitting. That was a powerful example for me of being inspired and immediately acting on the idea. The ability to plan (Barbara spoke about constantly having one-, three-, and five-year goals), be action-oriented, and trust that results will come were all themes in the conversation. At one point Ruth said “I kind of hate writing, but I love having written.”

Delicious Signed

They discussed how food media is shifting, mentioning Lucky Peach and Cherry Bombe as publications that are changing the way we think about food magazines. Responding to a great question from the audience, they also talked about fears and phobias, sharing what they have overcome and are continuing to work on today. Ruth summed it up well: “It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can change yourself.”

Next project for Ruth? She’s writing a cookbook based on her tweets from the year after Gourmet closed (you may already be a fan of Ruth’s poetic Twitter style). And for Barbara? She is also writing a book – her first one, a memoir.

Toward the end of the night, when answering a question about inspiration, Ruth said “there’s so much pleasure in the everyday.” These words rang particularly true for me. It was a treat to listen to such accomplished women in the food industry talk about what they love.

Delicious! was just released on May 6 – a copy was included with my ticket to the event through the Harvard Book Store. I look forward to reading it soon.

The Sinclair with the Boston Brunchers

19 May

The Sinclair Interior in Harvard Square

On Sunday May 5 I was invited by the Boston Brunchers for a tasting menu brunch at The Sinclair. I had followed the opening of this new Harvard Square eatery and music venue for a few months and I was eager to try out their brunch menu.

Our group of nine arrived and chatted in the first floor just inside the entrance where there is a bar along with seating. We were led up to the second floor which, to my surprise, is a second large dining room, and onto the deck. Nestled between buildings on three sides, the wooden deck feels like a private backyard area – even with the commotion of May Day going on below, I could only hear faint music. The deck seats about twenty and I can’t wait to return with friends for after-work drinks and snacks…but I’ll order a whole meal. And this is why-

MimosaFlight
From left to right, Orchard Pear (Australian Liqueur, Nectar, Cava), Novara (Mango, Campari, Cava), and Traditional (Orange Juice, Cava)

We started with the mimosa flight. It was a fun beginning to the meal and the bright summery colors paired with the beautiful weather that day transported me to a relaxing mid-summer morning.

After the mimosa trio we began the tasting menu. The flavors flowed from one to another beautifully, peppered with drinks between. There was sincere thought and consistency through the whole meal, which makes me even more excited to return. The only drawback to this type of meal is that I can’t tell you what any one dish on the brunch menu tasted like – each tasting was a variation of the menu offerings. I guess that’s the concept, though, that we try a bunch of samplings and then want to go back for more. It worked!

Oyster
Our first tasting was a Misty Point Virginia oyster with a subtle vinaigrette and pink peppercorns. Between my plate arriving and taking a few photos, the strong sun had slightly warmed up the sweet oyster. It was such a treat.

BloodyMary
Our second drink was the Smoked Pork Belly Bloody Mary – Wodka Vodka and the bloody mary mix, pork belly, Grillo’s pickle, and pickled garlic on top. Horseradish undertones and accents of smokiness and pickle from the garish were a great combination. I’ll order this again.

Gravlax
The Cured Gravlax was next, and probably my favorite dish of the meal – a generously thick piece of salmon topped with pickled onions, capers, chillies, and dill. This was slightly different from the brunch menu offering, which also features a poached egg and arugula.

AsparagusSoup
The White Asparagus Velouté was so pleasant – the cold creamy soup served as a nice palate cleanser and would also be great as an appetizer.

Calamari
Fried Calamari with Tom Yum Gain Sauce featured tender calamari and the subtle sauce was a nice addition. I sat across from Jess of Gluten Free Girl Boston and enjoyed chatting throughout our meal. I also learned, because she’s gluten free, that the calamari are gluten free! Always good to ask, you never know.

TigerLily

At this point I thought we were done with drinks, but then this lovely Tiger Lily cocktail arrived for dessert – Corralejo Tequila Blanco, Aperol, grapefruit, and soda. This fresh and sweet drink was nice to end with.

DuckConfitHash

We really thought we were finished. But then…the Duck Confit Hash emerged! This was another version of a brunch item – on the menu it’s served with a poached egg. I was craving the egg, but the dish was delicious. And I felt like I had eaten three meals at this point. It was indulgent, rich, and was like dessert, duck-style.

The whole meal was relaxing, fun, creative, and delicious. I was also fortunate that a fantastic group of brunchers attended this event. It was great to meet a bunch of new food bloggers, catch up with some people I hadn’t seen in probably a year, and leave wanting to go back with the same group at the same time the next weekend.

The Sinclair’s image – interior, menu, flavor combinations, etc – reminded me of a combination between Island Creek Oyster Bar and Deep Ellum, with a little neighborhood friendliness and familiarity thrown in. Our server was seamlessly engaged in our experience and conversation without feeling like it was forced, and staff visited us throughout to introduce dishes and check in.

I look forward to frequenting The Sinclair this summer!

My meal and drinks at The Sinclair were complimentary through the Boston Brunchers,and I provided a tip. As with all EatingPlaces posts, opinions are my own.

A Series of Misses: John Harvard’s Brewery and Ale House Brunch

2 Apr

I was invited to try John Harvard’s Brewery and Ale House brunch in Harvard Square in February through the Boston Brunchers. With six locations between Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, I was looking forward to a more mainstream brunch than what I typically go for. They added a brunch menu in November, so I was curious to see what they had to offer.

Some background: I’m the first to admit that I’m completely spoiled by attending events through the Boston Brunchers. It’s free food, the opportunity to meet other bloggers, and try new restaurants. As you might assume, the restaurants know we’re coming – these events (and I do consider them to be events rather than regular meals) are set up in advance – they know we’re providing blog posts about our experiences. So, because I’m dining as a disclosed reviewer, I expect the best food possible to come out of the kitchen (i.e. the same or better than what I would receive dining anonymously). During this visit to John Harvard’s I dined with my boyfriend. They had our reservation, knew we were coming from the brunchers group, and our server knew I was reviewing and that this was a complimentary meal.

We sat down to a variety of menus – a huge lunch/dinner menu with everything from salads, sandwiches, pizza, and entrees; a brunch menu; and a drink menu.

Our waiter was kind, but inexperienced. I think he had two tables during our hour and a half meal – it was very quiet for lunch on a Saturday in Harvard Square.

John Harvard bread basket

At the start of the meal we were served a the bread basket. The pieces of bread were hit or miss – I had one soft and fresh piece, and then the other two I tried were hard and dried out.

John Harvard Hot Chocolate

I ordered a hot chocolate. The presentation was good – a cute mug with some foam on top – and our server proudly explained that he made it himself and hoped I would like it. When I took a sip, I realized it was warm milk and sugar. Not a hint of chocolate. After his introduction, though, I just couldn’t bring myself to say anything.

My boyfriend ordered a decaf coffee, which was mediocre and not quite hot enough. I was optimistic that the drink difficulties would be overshadowed by the food, though.

John Harvard Clams

We started with the Harvard Ale Steamed Clams. The tomatoes and smoked bacon were a nice addition, although the bacon was all very soft (a slight crispiness would have been a nice contrast to the soft clams). The bowl had plenty of broth and the subtle flavors were a good way to start the meal. One of the clams hadn’t opened, which was strange to see plated.

John Harvard Eggs Benedict

For my meal I had the Eggs Benedict that was served with a side of homefries. The homefries were fine and the onions were a nice touch. The star of the show, however, had major difficulties: there was something off about the hollandaise – the consistency was far too thick and it had an overpowering tangy flavor, the poached egg was completely hard inside, and the english muffin under the lackluster ham wasn’t toasted and added a soggy component that didn’t help any other element of the dish.

John Harvard Overcooked Eggs

All I could bring myself to eat were the homefries and a few bites of salty ham. I haven’t experienced a dish with so many inedible elements in a very long time.

John Harvard Steak and Eggs

My boyfriend ordered the Steak and Eggs. The steak, which he ordered medium, was severely undercooked in some areas and overcooked to a crisp in others. The white of the eggs was also undercooked – I love a drippy yoke, but the whites shouldn’t be clear on a sunny-side up egg.

There were few diners at 12:30pm on Saturday and, after my brunch experience, I understand why. None of the details the kitchen should be looking for were considered. I can’t help but wonder: who was back there Saturday morning and were they tasting or testing anything?

Sure, I’ve had my share of difficult meals and I sometimes blame it on a bad day, but John Harvard’s knew we were coming – my name and ‘Boston Brunchers’ were listed on the host’s reservation sheet. I’m curious what quality of food I might have received if they didn’t know who I was.

Furthermore, Boston Brunchers and I reached out multiple times to the restaurant for a comment on this meal and my experience. We received no response.

Maybe for a beer and some fries John Harvard’s is an acceptable option, but not for brunch.

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My visit to John Harvard’s Brewery and Ale House was set up through the Boston Brunchers. Our meal and two non-alcoholic drinks were complimentary. We provided a tip. As with all EatingPlaces posts, opinions are my own.

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