Bagelsaurus.

After weeks of walking by, creepily trying to get a glimpse of bagel making in action, and waiting for the paper to be taken down from the windows, Bagelsaurus finally opened on a rainy Wednesday in October.  Given that my work hours are the exact hours that Bagelsaurus is open, Saturday of that week was the day that I finally made it.  Anticipating a bit of a wait, 15 minutes or so, I made the commitment to tough out the line despite my grumbling stomach.  However, after 30 minutes and finding myself still outside of the shop, I knew this was not your typical New York-style deli filled with fast-paced men who have been smearing bagels with cream cheese since they could walk and have no patience for indecisive individuals, including myself.  If you do not have your mind up, you will chastised.  However, Bagelsaurus is not a New York deli and that's what makes it special.  Their bagels are delicious and it just happens to be in Cambridge, in a much more laid-back environment.  And that's what makes it awesome.

Despite the number of colleges and Jewish communities in the Boston area, there are very few bagel spots.  And there are even fewer good bagel spots.  So there is definitely a market for bagels.  And until now, that market has remained rather untapped.  Enter: Bagelsaurus.  And as you can see in the above picture, I was not the only one jumping for joy for the opportunity to sink my teeth into a good bagel.

A bit of background: Bagelsaurus started as a mini bakery inside the sandwich shop, Cutty's, in Brookline.  Mary Ting Hyatt, the previous manager of Cutty's, who has also done stints at Hungry Mother and Clear Flour Bakery.  Hyatt is now the owner of the brick-and-mortar, Bagelsaurus.

The bagels are certainly more expensive than your average bagel, but the price is not unreasonable for the quality of product Bagelsaurus puts out.  If you want average, you can pay average prices.  If you want excellent, you can pay above-average prices.  In addition to their bagels, their coffee (La Colombe) and their banana coffee cake are both very good.

In response to the long lines, Bagelsaurus has started to offer grab bags, in which a customer can go to the front of the line and get a bag of assorted bagels to take home and enjoy.  It also comes with two toppings of your choice.  This is a great choice if you are entertaining and/or just want a Bagelsaurus bagel in your mouth ASAP.

Behold: the selection.

In the back row: sesame bagel with plain cream cheese (to properly assess the bagel's quality).  In the front row: hot smoked salmon on plain with cream cheese.  

The Bagelsaurus bagel is airy yet chewy and sure to guarantee that sore jaw effect that any good bagel provides.  It also has a unique hint of sourdough that is often found in artisan breads but not in bagels.  This flavor is a welcome one and pairs well with the bolder flavors of their toppings, especially the mustard butter (which you must try!)

This is the T-Rex.  Almond butter, honey, banana, and bacon on a cinnamon raisin bagel.  I could eat this for breakfast every morning and be happy.  I do love savory bagels and bagel sandwiches but my favorite are the sweet bagels.  So in my humble opinion, this sandwich is the bee's knees.  The addition of bacon provides some saltiness to cut through the sweetness of the banana and honey.

Egg.  This a fried egg, extra sharp cheddar and bacon ($2 extra but definitely a must-have) on a sea salt bagel.  This is the ultimate breakfast sandwich.  Each fried egg is prepared lovingly on a small grill top so while you might have to wait a couple extra minutes for this beauty, it is well worth the wait.

Given the celerity with which the bagels sell out daily (I follow them on Instagram where they typically declare that they have sold out of bagels for the day by noon on a Saturday), the Bagelsaurus secret is out and their bagels are in high demand.  Also, the flow of the operation has become much smoother since its opening so you most likely won't have to wait for an hour like I did on that first day to get your bagel.

Now I am not trying to sell these bagels as the new New York bagel.  Because they are not.  But for us Boston folk who have been to New York, eaten a bagel at Ess-a-bagel or any of its competitors, and forever have high expectations for bagels only to be disappointed when we venture out in Boston, Bagelsaurus is a beacon of hope for bagel-lovers everywhere.  In conclusion, get thee to Bagelsaurus and see what its all about!

-Girl

Giulia.

Anyone that knows me, knows that I'm an Italophile.  I like to think I have a special relationship with Italian cuisine.  I have grown up in an Italian-American family, surrounded by very good Italian food.  Add to that my travels to Italy and an intense passion to find the best Italian food, and I consider myself fairly well-versed in the red, white, and green.  And consequently, I know good Italian food when I taste it.  But the one thing that really gets me going, even makes me giddy, is Italian cuisine.  A good Italian restaurant will make my weak.  Unfortunately, given the fact that I am not the only lover of Italian food (read: most Americans), the irony is that the high demand for pizza, pasta, and EXpresso (*shudder*) has resulted in tons of mediocre or as the Italians would say "cosi cosi" (just okay) restaurants.  

While Boston is very well-known for its plethora of Italian offerings, the opportunity to enjoy such a meal typically warrants a trip to the North End.  However, I am here to tell you that one of the best, if not the best, Italian restaurant resides in Porter Square.  And its name is Giulia.  In an area saturated with ramen, thai, and gastropubs, Giulia defies the odds and brings the good Italian food to Cambridge.

Having had the opportunity to spend a day at Giulia to observe Chef Michael Pagliarini, I have a special connection with Giulia.  Plus name of the restaurant is the Italian version of my name, Julia (there is no "J" in the Italian alphabet).  I think my soul mate is a restaurant.

From the moment you walk in to the door, there is a feeling of classiness.  While I am a fan of the "red sauce" Italian spots that have pictures of the owner shaking hands with a celebrity or political figure, tile walls, and efficient yet brusque service, Giulia is not that kind of place.  It is warm and welcoming yet upscale with an open, yet small kitchen.

The fall and winter usually means the end of all life and exciting bounties.  But for Italians, this time of year brings about one of the most glorious fruits of the colder months: truffles.  As I learned during our meal, people have yet to master the cultivation of truffles.  This is what keeps them so coveted and expensive.  The positive side of this is that when you see truffle on a menu, you know that it will be authentic.  Keen on trying truffles but not wanting to spend a fortune on the night I dined at Giulia, I chose to enjoy truffles with our appetizer, warm cornmeal cakes with fontal, brown butter, and prosciutto di parma.

Next, we tried a special crostini, with mortadella mousse.  Mortadella is an Italian deli meat, indigenous to the Emilia-Romagna region, where pretty much all of the delicious and decadent food in Italy comes from.  It is most notable for containing specks of pistachios.  

Next, we enjoyed the burrata salad.  If you didn't know, burrata is the new mozzarella.  Literally meaning "buttered," burrata looks like a typical ball of mozzarella, but inside is filled with cream.  I get chills just thinking about it.  If you haven't tried burrata, you haven't lived.

Next up, the star of the show.  The pasta.  All of the critic reviews of Giulia mention the long wooden table in the back of the restaurant that is Chef Pagliarini's work space during the day and transformed into the best seats into the restaurant by night.  And having spent a behind-the-scenes day at Giulia, I know that this process is true.  During the day, pounds of pasta are rolled, cut, extruded and divided but come 4:30pm, the flour is wiped away and a tablecloth draped over top.  And the pasta is worth the hype.

Emmer Farro Cassarecce with Braised Duck with Matustake Mushrooms, Heirloom Squash, and Kale.  During my stage at Giulia, I was tasked with making the Cassarecce- so this pasta has a special place in my heart.  It is very hearty on its own.  Add to that the duck, mushrooms, squash, and kale, and you have a mouthful that can be described in no other way but a burst of umami.

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Next, Bucatini all'Amatriciana with House-Smoked Pancetta, Tomato, Onion, and Pecorino.  This dish seems like any typical Italian pasta dish, but it is not.  Bucatini is one of my favorite pasta shapes.  While it may appear as a normal strand of spaghetti, this one has a "buco" or hole inside.  This feature allows with extra sauce to accumulated in the center.  Second, the amatriciana sauce is a classic Roman sauce named after the town in which it was founded, Amatrice, in the Lazio.  It is typically made with guanciale, which is lovely name for cured pork cheek.  The pancetta in this recipe is actually pork belly, which is a variation of the original, but is actually one of the best versions of this dish that I have tried.  You will rarely see this item on many Italian-American menus.  My father, a fan of this particular dish, notoriously order this at many Italia restaurants but is never fully satisfied.  Let's jus stay that this amatriciana would make any Italian man cry.

Both dishes were delicious.  Having been my third visit to Giulia, I have already tried their signature dishes: Pappardelle with Wild Boar and the Roasted Veal Breast and Sweetbread Ravioli.  Which, if this is your first trip there, I highly recommend that you order those.

And like any good Italian, finishing off the meal with un macchiato (which means "stained" since the espresso shot it technically "stained" with a dollop of foam.  Gosh, I just love the Italian language).

In conclusion, Giulia is a gem.  It takes a lot for me to get excited about an Italian restaurant outside of Italy proper.  But Giulia actually gets me as giddy as I am when I'm in Italy.  And lucky for me it is a 4 minute walk from my house rather than a $4,000 trip to Italy.  And while I long to return to Italy, Giulia truly captures the essence of what makes a good Italian restaurant: hand-selected yet simple ingredients, wonderful hospitality, and a team with a passion for the true Italian cuisine.

Buon appetito!

-Girl

Sarma

In an unassuming area of Somerville, Sarma is a breath of fresh air.  Sarma is Boston chef Ana Sortun's latest creation.  As a devout diner at Oleana and Sofra.  This was a good combination of both.

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I was excited to learn that this was the second night of Spring menu.  So exclusive!

The meal started with warm lavash bread with a spicy olive oil.  It was a welcome departure from the dinner roll.

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To drink, I enjoyed an Hermoso Ramo.

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Hot Dates: essentially warm medjool dates stuffed with an herb and goat cheese mixture, on a bed of rhubarb harissa.  Given my affinity for devils on horseback, I had high expectations for this dish.  However, while very tasty, it was not as mind-blowing as I had expected.

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Haloumi Fries.  I would be more inclined to call these Haloumi "sticks" simply because they are much more reminiscent of a mozzarella stick than a fry.  Anywho, these were delicious.  Like grown-up mozzarella stick.

In addition to the food, decor was very notable.

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Some of my favorite desserts in Boston are served at Oleana.  However, Sarma is certainly lacking in the sweets department.  Luckily, my belly was already content.

Caramelized Bacon.

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I'm going to open restaurant that serves only bacon dishes.  I shall be rich.

Until then, I shall gain a following of loyal customer base of bacon lovers single-handedly with this dish:

Caramelized Bacon

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof

1.  Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.  While bacon grease is a wonderful thing, what isn't wonderful is spending  days trying to scrub it off of this pan once it has cooled and hardened.  Aluminum foil= easy clean up.  You can thank me later.

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2.  Place a rack on the lined baking sheet.

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This recipe has grand total of seven ingredients.  In recipes such as this, you want to make each one count.  Treat yo' self and your guests (if you care to share) to a "good" bacon.  This is my current favorite:

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"Good" bacon or bust!

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Thicker-cut is ideal.

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3.  Cut each piece of bacon in half crosswise.

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4.  Depending on the width of your bacon, you can also give it another cut lengthwise.  While the bacon will shrink in the oven while it bakes, you want it to be on the smaller size to make the bacon as poppable as possible.  This is sophisticated finger food, after all.

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5.  Place the bacon strips on the rack, leaving at least 1/2 inch between each one (in order to avoid making one big bacon candy bar…mmmmm…bacon candy bar...)

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The line-up.

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6.  Place 3/4 cup light brown sugar and 3/4 cup on chopped pecans into the bowl of a food processor.

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7.  Process until finely chopped.

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8.  Add 3 teaspoons kosher salt, 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, and a generous 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper.  Process just until combined.

9.  Add 3 tablespoons of maple syrup (preferably Grade B).

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10.  Pulse until the mixture comes together and resembles a moist graham cracker crust pre-bake.

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11.  Sprinkle the bacon slices with the brown sugar mixture, using up the entire mixture.

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12.  Press down slightly on each slice to ensure that the mixture adheres.

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13.  Bake in a preheated 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 25-30 minutes, until the bacon is dark brown (but not burnt).

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14.  Using tongs, transfer the bacon from the rack to a paper towel-lined plate to cool completely (this step is essential to ensuring that the bacon is crispy not soggy.)

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While caramelized is clearly not the most photogenic of foods, it's salty-sweet-spicy-crunchy-chewy personality makes up for what it lacks in looks.

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Bring this to your next dinner party or brunch and be prepared to make at least 4 friends.

-Girl

How to open a young coconut.

Coconut water is all the rage these days.  It is has quickly risen to the top of the nutritional buzzword pyramid, directly below "gluten-free" and right above "kale."  While it is not the magical potion that the food industry claims it to be, I'm a fan of coconut water- it is a healthy alternative to the neon sports drinks that are often touted as as essential to physical activity as socks.  Although plain ol' H2O is the ideal beverage before, during, and after exercise, I like coconut water is an all-natural source of electrolytes.  And now that it's spring and everybody is active and sweaty and thus losing electrolytes, I figured I would spread the food nerdiness with this very necessary tutorial on how to open a young coconut. Behold: the young coconut.

IMG_7576 This fella is different from a normal coconut in that you don't need a power tool to open it (which I learned for myself when I was called to put a mature coconut in my mom's shopping cart, only to discover at home that it would take more than a knife to get it open…).    All you need is a cutting board and your favorite sharp knife.

1.  Unwrap the young coconut and place it on a sturdy cutting board on a non-slip surface.

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Turn the coconut on its side.  You want make the cut about an inch from the tip.  There is a sweet spot that, once you find it, makes opening it easy. IMG_7594

2.  Proceed to hack away at it (with caution of course).

Someone may come into the kitchen and give you a weird look, confused as to what you are doing.  Just smile and get back to work!IMG_7595

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The sweet spot.  Oh yeahhh.

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Once you find the sweet spot, rotate the knife in a circle to remove the tip.

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Although it is easy to find coconut in the beverage section of any local grocery store these days, buying a whole coconut and cracking it open is just downright fun.  Plus you also get to enjoy the "meat" that is left inside of the coconut once you have consumed the water.

The nectar of the gods.  You can use the coconut water any way you would like- in a smoothie, in a cocktail…

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Or my favorite way- with a straw.

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Bottoms up!

-Girl