A dinner worthy of waxing poetry, an Urban Hearth review

Well, no.  I’m not actually going to write poetry about dinner.  But I am happy to report that I finally got to eat dinner at Urban Hearth, a cute little restaurant found in North Cambridge, Massachusetts.  *does a happy dance*

I was there back in the winter for the first time to try out their breakfast/lunch menu, and really enjoyed it.  I meant to attend dinner there for my birthday some time ago, but I had trouble planning it when one of my friends headed off to Europe for vacation.  Instead of another food-truck-adventure-staycation this summer, my sister suggested that we meet up and have dinner at Urban Hearth.

While Urban Hearth is a cafe with an a la carte menu during the day, it is a fixed price multi-course restaurant when the evening rolls around.  You have your choice between 3 course and 5 courses, and you can add a wine option as well.  We just did the 3 courses without wine.

Supper club dinner at #urbanhearth

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Our meal started with an aperol spritz aperitif.  Their version of aperol spritz had cava instead of prosecco.  I don’t drink much at all, but I did like this cocktail.

Then, the starters came out.  Technically, the starters are complimentary bites not listed on the menu.  Both my sister and I should have gotten the same starter, but my sister has trouble digesting corn products, so she got an heirloom tomato and mozzarella plate.  My plate was a tostada, it was really good and sign of the food to come:  elegant and seasonal, but familiar.  It had sweet corn kernels, avocado cream, zucchini, tomatoes, cheese, bell peppers, a natursium leaf, and probably cilantro too but very little.  (For which I am grateful for as I am anti-cilantro.  Sorry, cilantro fans.)

Aperol and cava aperitif #aperitif #aperolspritz

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Tostada for a starter #urbanhearth #tostada

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My sister's starter #urbanhearth #heirloomtomatoes

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For our official first course, I went with the peach panzanella with seared halloumi, fresh greens, and olive emulsion.  It wasn’t what I was expecting at all.  It was well styled, and the halloumi was easily my favorite part of the plate, but the peaches weren’t as sweet as I had hoped, and the olive emulsion tasted like a puckerish vinaigrette.  The bread part of the panzanella was really torn pieces from a nice loaf of bread that still tasted fresh.  I guess I’m more accustomed to toasting cubes of old bread when I make panzanella.

My sister had the seared pork belly with English peas, kimchi, and radish.  It was really gorgeous, and the pork had an amazingly dark sear that was probably just seconds away from being burnt.  If I hadn’t chosen a meat heavy dish for my main course, I would have picked the pork belly for myself too.  I will say that I don’t know where the kimchi was.  Looking at the photo now, it looks like the plate had fresh and pickled radish.  I guess the pickled radish was the kimchi.

Peach panzanella with halloumi #peaches #halloumi

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Roasted pork belly with pea puree #porkbelly

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When the first course was done, my sister and I were just chatting and sipping on our aperol spritz (we’re very slow drinkers when it comes to booze as our entire family just really isn’t inclined to any variety of alcohol in general).  And then, the kitchen whipped out some steaming shishito peppers that had been seared in generous amounts of oil and topped with salt.  Normally, I’m not wowed by shishito peppers (meanwhile my friends love them lots) but these were pretty good.

By the time the entree dish came to the table, I was already nearly full of good food, but I was determined to see the evening to the end.  My second course was the beef tenderloin with chanterelles, kohlrabi dumplings, creme fraiche, greens, and blueberry sauce.  I wouldn’t have thought to pair beef with creme fraiche and blueberries, but it doesn’t seem strange to me at all.  I just never thought to do it.  It was fabulous.  And the kohrabi dumplings?  I loved that too.  The dumplings were basically like a potato gnudi except made from kohlrabi.  I’m very tempted to try making it at home.

Meanwhile, my sister had the pan seared striped bass with grilled shrimp.  She was also supposed to get spoonbread, but since that had cornmeal in it, the kitchen replaced it with kohlrabi dumplings (she also loved them).  Not a bad word was had about the dish.

Pan seared striped bass and grilled shrimp. @hongkongeatz all your favorites! #fish #shrimp

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After the entree, we got our last palate cleanser:  a little digestive/sugar cookie with elderberry jam fruit.  This delicious.  The cookie portion was a little sweeter than I personally like but not disgustingly so.  I guess the only bad thing about this palate cleanser was that I couldn’t really savor it.  It was the size of a two bite cookie, but you really had to one-shot it because the cookie crumbled the minute you bit into it.  (Not that I speaking from experience or anything…)

But the dessert plate?  That was something I got to savor as slowly as I wanted to.

Starting with my sister’s dessert, she got the chocolate bark.  Visually, it was beautiful.  I didn’t get to taste the chocolate, but I’m sure that it was good.  I did get to taste the olive oil sorbetto, on the other hand.  It was a little jarring at how savory it was, especially after the digestive cookie.  It was made with a good quality oil, but extra virgin olive oil is a very distinctive flavor.  My sister was confused when she first ate it because she forgot that it was listed as olive oil on the menu.

Chocolate bark and olive oil sorbetto #chocolate #oliveoil

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My sister may have picked the better first course, but we agreed that my dessert was the better of the two, which was the huckleberry pie with ginger whipped cream and basil oil garnish.

Huckleberry pie with ginger cream and basil oil garnish #awesomedesserts

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It was less elegant looking dessert, but the huckleberry mini pie tasted amazing with the ginger hints in the cream.  I didn’t know how I was going to feel about the basil oil but I eventually found myself wanting a bit more of it on my plate.  Right now, I want to try infusing some ginger into some heavy cream (oooh, and I can too, I have some heavy cream in the fridge this very moment), just so that I can whip it up and served it on a pie.  Or a galette.  Whatever you want to call it, I don’t care.  (puts ginger whipped cream on the to-do-list)

If you are in the area, or ever find yourself in the area, I highly recommend stopping by Urban Hearth.  Whether you just want to stop for coffee and breakfast, or whether you’ve got plans to spoil yourself for dinner.  My sister and I are already planning our next visit.

https://www.urbanhearth.net/

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Alden and Harlow, in pictures

Last week was the first time I dined at Alden and Harlow in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA.  In sum, it was amazing.  The only thing not pictured that we ate was a plate of root beer glazed ribs (it was a special).  And it was the only plate that we felt did not live up to the deliciousness of all the other plates.  I’m not saying it was bad.  It just wasn’t stellar.  Everything in the following pictures though?  I WANT TO EAT IT ALL AGAIN AND AGAIN.

Alden & Harlow sign

Alden & Harlow sign

waiting for friends

waiting for friends

The turncoat cocktail and pickled green beans to nosh on

The turncoat cocktail and pickled green beans to nosh on

Continue reading

New Year’s Eve edition: at The Red House

The last few years have been a repeat of going to our favorite bar for dinner, and then getting kicked out at 8pm so that the bar could set up for their NYE festivities. And we’d never bother buying a table for their NYE event, so we’d always wander our separate ways home. Don’t get me wrong – seeing my friends is the *best* was to pass New Year’s Eve. It’s just lame that we could never remember to do something a little out of the ordinary.

But NOT this year. I remembered to make plans ahead of time for us, and after a few days of indecision, we made reservations for The Red House in Cambridge.

We had never been there before, but the NYE special menu totally interested us. Four courses for $50. There was even a vegetarian option for each course which one of our members benefited from. Continue reading

restaurant week, Harvest review

Restaurant Week, week no. 2, location – Harvest, Cambridge.

Menu for Week 2** March 21st to March 27th available every evening, including Saturdays Tasting Menu $33.09 / Half Glass Wine Pairing $48.09, Full Glass Pairing $58.09 (No Substitutions)

Appetizers

  • Spring Vidalia Onion Soup Gruyere Croutons & Fines Herbs Angelini, Pinot Grigio, Veneto, Italy 2008 Market Green
  • Panzannella Bufala Mozzarella, Crispy Artichokes & Parsley Crostini Burgáns, Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain 2007

Entrées

  • Seared Atlantic Salmon Pearl Pasta, Cucumber, Lemon Confit, Ginger & Dill Yogurt Whitehaven, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand 2008
  • Roasted Loin of Pork Braised Chard, Smoked Bacon, Anson Mills Polenta & a Vanilla Gastrique First Drop Wines, The Red One, Shiraz Blend, South Australia 2008
  • Forbidden Black Rice Tart Baby Carrots, Baby Turnips, Bok Choy & Hen of The Woods Mushrooms Hogue Cellars, Genesis, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington 2005

Dessert

  • Chocolate Peanut Crunch Bourbon Cream, Sea salt, Cocoa Nibs Banfi, Rosa Regale, Brachetto d’Acqui, Piedmont, Italy 2007
  • Roasted Apple Pain De Gênes Vanilla Cream, Apple Conserve Markus Molitor, Riesling, Spätlese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany 2006
  • Raspberry Sorbet Sesame Almond Crisp Michele Chiarlo, Nivole, Moscato d’Asti, Piedmont, Italy 2007

Me? The spring onion soup, the black rice tart, and the roasted apple.

Miss L*? The spring onion soup, the pork, the roasted apple, and the half-glass pairing.

Miss K*? The panzannella, the pork, the chocolate peanut crunch, and the half-glass pairing.

The spring onion soup was nothing like I was expecting. I was still expecting something like onion soup. Instead, I was served a smooth, green soup with a drizzle of oil and a small piece of toasted bread with cheese sitting in the center of my bowl. But wow! It really made you think of spring. It was a delicate flavor, but still really flavorful. I don’t even know what herbs were used (I am a terrible taster, and am terrible at describing tastes). It was a perfect soup for a day like today, which was still quite windy and a bit cold even though we have officially moved out of winter.

[haha! I’ve been watching a Japanese drama recently called “Kami No Shizuku” which revolves around wine tasting, using really superfluous descriptions to describe the taste of a wine… I am so tempted to say something like “this soup transported me to a field of snowdrops on an early spring morning, all covered with dew, but then! the sun bursts through the fog to warm the air and the ground around me. The beautiful fragrance of spring feels my lungs, and a desire to move forward ambitiously surges through me.” *grin*  It’s so silly, and yet I’m still watching this drama.]

I think the theme for our evening out was “surprises.” My black rice tart? Again, it was nothing I was expecting. When I think of rice, I tend to think of Asian starchy and sticky dishes. But my tart wasn’t sticky at all, nor was it much of a tart. The rice had been molded probably with something like a biscuit cutter, and the veggies and mushrooms were mounded on top. The rice was infused with a sort of herb flavor that, again, I couldn’t identify. It was a stronger flavor than the onion soup, but nothing overwhelming.  The minute I put my fork in it, individual pieces of rice began to fall apart easily.  Miss K and Miss L took a bite of my rice tart, and both were also pleasantly surprised.

I did steal a bit of the pork. Wow, the pork tasted like it had been covered in smoky bacon except there were only a few bits of bacon on the plate. Miss K and Miss L raved over the pork plate. They were impressed with the wine pairing too. None of us are wine experts, but the ladies at my table know the good from the bad. And then Miss L admitted that it was the first time that she had ever eaten spinach that still looked like spinach (I hear that she only eats it in Indian cuisine, so probably as saag paneer aka palak paneer, which is also quite yummy).  She liked her spinach for once. Apparently, the highlight of the plate was the vanilla gastrique. I don’t know what gastrique means, but it was apparently the shiny sauce that was drizzled under their food and over their plates. Many “oohs” and “aahs” were had.

Miss K got the better dessert. Miss L and I were imagining something like an apple pie on our plates, but the reality was we got what was essentially an apple muffin served with roasted diced apples and ice cream. Oh, and a very, very thinly sliced piece of dried apple. The dried apple was really good. The rest? Good but nothing to wax frilly descriptions over. Miss K’s dessert looked like a tiramisu, but it was more like a chocolate cookie(?) layer with a chocolate peanut butter mousse layered on top. The peanut flavor was quite subtle and nothing like a Reese’s peanut butter cup. Miss K was happy with her dessert selection.

Honestly though, I think Miss K was more enthralled by her dessert wine, the Rosa Regale. It was fizzy and fruity and sweet like a cocktail, but without being a cocktail. She currently plans to hunt down this wine and buy it for her house.

I’m more than tempted to go back to Harvest. Maybe during the summer restaurant week. We were all really full at the end of the night. Luckily, I was not as gut-bustingly full as I had been after eating at Grotto (I did not have to stay up late in hopes of digesting my meal more). Don’t get me wrong though, portions at Harvest will still feed you well enough, even though it might look smaller than what you were expecting. On the other hand, the presentation was very nice – prettier than Grotto easily.  The service at Harvest was good, still not as good as my experience at Sel de la Terre, but still good. The only complaint we had was that the wines were not served when the food came out. They were always a few minutes late. I think we had to wait at least a good five minutes before the dessert wines were dropped off at our table. We tried our best not to dig through our desserts before Miss K and Miss L could have some of it with their wines.

I think Harvest is perfect for special occasions. And it’s a good place to check out if you want to impress your company. I’m very happy that Miss K and Miss L enjoyed it as much as I did. I’m sure we’ll go back in the near future.

~Mikan

** = Yes, Harvest had a different menu for Week 1.