Monday, 19 March 2018

Mercado Taco Bar to Open in Bertucci's Space at Faneuil Hall in Boston

by Marc Hurwitz

A couple of months ago, we reported that a local chain of Italian dining spots was closing its location in downtown Boston. Now we have learned that a Mexican restaurant appears to be taking over the space.

According to a poster within the Friends of Boston's Hidden Restaurants Facebook group page, Mercado Taco Bar is planning to open in Faneuil Hall, moving into the space wher Bertucci's had been. A Facebook page seems to confirm this, while a photo from the poster in the Facebook group indicates that it could be opening this summer. No other information appears to be available for Mercado at this point in time, so keep checking back for updates.

The Faneuil Hall location of Bertucci's shut down in mid-January after nearly 30 years in business, and with the subsequent closing of its Kenmore Square location earlier this month, there are now only two outlets left within the Boston city limits--in the Longwood medical area and in West Roxbury.

The address for the upcoming Mercado Taco Bar is 22 Merchants Row, Boston, MA, 02109.

[Earlier Article]
Bertucci's at Faneuil Hall in Boston Is Closing

Follow us on Twitter at @hiddenboston

[A related post from our sister site (Boston's Hidden Restaurants): List of Restaurant Closings and Openings in the Boston Area]

River Rock Grill in Maynard Is Closing

A casual upscale suburban restaurant that has featured New American and Mediterranean fare since opening nearly 10 years ago is closing down.

According to a Twitter post from @maynardbrewer, the River Rock Grill in Maynard is shutting its doors on March 24, with a Wicked Local article confirming this, saying that owner Pablo Carbonell has decided to "get back to my core businesses, and to have more time for my family" (the post says that Carbonell is a licensed contractor). The tweet mentions that the Main Street storefront has been sold and that it will be used for office space, those no specifics on this have been given as of yet.

The River Rock Grill first opened in 2009, taking over the space where the Sit n'Bull (a restaurant and music club) had been.

The address for this soon-to-close restaurant is: River Rock Grill, 163 Main Street, Maynard, MA, 01754.

Great Chow in Abington Has Closed

by Marc Hurwitz

It looks like a popular South Shore restaurant has shut down.

According to a source, Great Chow in Abington is no longer in business, apparently closing its doors over the past weekend, while a Facebook post from the place seems to confirm this. It is not known if they might look to reopen in a new location (our source says that this may be the case), though it does appears that the original Great Chow in Quincy's Wollaston neighborhood remains in operation.

The Abington location of Great Chow (which is also known as Great Chow 18) first opened approximately 10 years ago, offering mostly Chinese and Japanese fare, including sushi and teppenyaki items; the Quincy location has been in business for more than 20 years.

The address for this now-closed Asian restaurant in Abington is: Great Chow, 497 Bedford Street (Route 18), Abington, MA, 02351. The website for the remaining location in Quincy can be found at

Follow us on Twitter at @hiddenboston

[Related article from our sister site (Boston's Hidden Restaurants): Slideshow--Twelve Food Items from Asian Restaurants in the Boston Area]

Sausage Scrapple

When I lived in Pennsylvania for a year, I fell in love with scrapple. I sometimes wonder why it has not spread beyond Pennsylvania, but really, I know. Traditionally it's made by boiling a pig's head, picking off the meat and reboiling it with cornmeal and other cereal grains to form a loaf which then gets sliced and fried. In the first place that makes a lot of scrapple so most people buy it ready made. No; scratch that. Even there most people don't eat it at all, because in the second place they know it's made with the scraps from a pig's head.  But c'mon people, that's just sausage. Let's not even talk about what goes into hot dogs for instance.

I came across this much more domesticated and accessible version in an old cook book. It's not as gelatinous as the original but I suspect most people won't find that a fault. Mr. Ferdzy had no problem chowing down on this along with some poached eggs and a little Beet & Red Cabbage Relish. If you eat pork, you will like it too.

4 to 6 servings
20 minutes prep time; overnight set time; 20 minutes fry time

Sausage Scrapple

1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 or 2 shallots
250 grams (1/2 pound) pork breakfast sausage
1 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon powdered gelatine
2 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock
bacon fat or other oil to fry

Mix the salt, pepper, coriander, and sage and set aside. Peel and finely chop the shallots. Peel the casings off the sausages, and discard it; crumble the meat.

Heat a medium-large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage meat and the shallots, and cook until no pink remains and the meat is lightly browned in spots. Break up any large lumps.

If there is a lot of fat, drain some off. Season with the mixed spices. Add the cornmeal and mix it in well. Pour in about a cup of the chicken stock and mix well. Reduce the heat to medium, so that it is simmering but not too hard. Stir frequently.

Pour about half a cup of the chicken stock into a small bowl and sprinkle it with the gelatine. Add the remaining stock to the pan of sausage and cornmeal, and mix it in well. Simmer for about 12 to 14 minutes (total) until the cornmeal is cooked and the mixture is quite thick. Stir in the last of the chicken stock with the gelatine and mix well. Let it simmer for another minute or two, then scrape it all out into a loaf pan. Press the surface level and let it cool.

Cover the scrapple and chill until completely set; at least several hours, and the best and easiest is overnight. Turn it out onto a cutting board (you will need to run a knife around the edge) and cut it into 12 even slices.

Heat a tablespoon of bacon fat or oil over medium heat in a large skillet and fry the slices of scrapple until nicely browned on each side; about 3 minutes per side. Add a little more fat if needed when yo turn them.You will need to do them in 2 batches, but it will keep in the fridge if well wrapped for several days so no need to fry it all up at once if you don't want to. 

Last year at this time I made Duck & Wild Rice Salad.

Cobblestone Grill -- Revisit (Lunch)

The other day I met a friend for a quick lunch at Cobblestone.  I haven’t been there in ages—and they have remodeled the inside since then. It’s much darker and feels more modern than the last time I was there.

We ordered two things and shared. The first thing was the Southwestern chicken sandwich ($12) and the southern BLT ($11). Both were very good and had some nice touches. The chicken sandwich was a grilled chicken breast topped with avocado slaw, Gruyere cheese and Sriracha aioli. It was all on a brioche bun. The first thing you notice when you bit into this sandwich is the acidity of the slaw. And mixed with some hunks of creamy avocado? It was so good. The cheese and aioli rounded out the flavors nicely too, giving it some heat and some rich saltiness. It was a touch on the messy side, but tasted very good. I upgraded to fries for my side. They were good fries—maybe could have stood just another minute in the fryer though, some were kind of soft. And they served them with ketchup, which is kind of boring. I should have gotten some extra Sriracha aioli on the side.

The southern BLT was also very good—they use fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese, bacon, and bib lettuce. I always worry that the tomatoes will be too thick, but these were nice and thin. The pimento cheese added nice flavor and a little bit of spice. The bacon was very crisp, so depending on how you like yours; you may or may not like this as much. I like my bacon super crisp, so I was good. My friend wished it was softer.

Both of these sandwiches were very good. They have the sandwich thing down. I like a mix of flavors and you gotta have some kind of sauce to keep it from being dry and to keep it interesting. Both of these had all of those things, and to be honest, I’d be hard pressed to say which one I liked better. 

The service was friendly and prompt, although the place wasn’t very busy. So, who else has been there lately?

Cobblestone Grill
160 South Main Street
Zionsville, IN 46077

Sunday, 18 March 2018

First Bite: Va Bene's Business Lunch Menu

We all have love-hate relationship with lunch break. We look forward to that one hour where we could get our fill and be energized to last us the day but at the same time, we never feel that an hour is enough for us to enjoy our meal. Thankfully, several restaurants saw it as a challenge and opportunity to develop menus that are filling, quick and more importantly, delicious, to help us get the most of our limited lunch hour. And a few Saturdays ago, I got to try out some of Va Bene's Business Lunch Menu dishes.

Hello, Va Bene Pasta Deli
Va Bene is consistently named as one of the best Italian restaurants in town. Known for its delectable pastas, it has been patronized by foodies all over.
Its interiors and furniture are not the usual you'd expect when thinking of Italian establishments, but its simple, no frills look made it warm and inviting. 
R and I started with some refreshing shakes. I had Lemon (PHP230) while R went with Orange (PHP250). Its muted colors would tell you that Va Bene veers away from using artificial powder for its shakes. And they don't go overboard with sweeteners as my lemon shake still had that delightful tangy taste. 
Before sampling its Business Lunch Menu, we were given some thin crostini paired with this light yet delectable tomato, cheese and oil dip to whet our appetite. 
First served from the Business Menu was Gorgonzola Polenta with sautéed mixed mushrooms and parmesan cheese
Its grainy texture would remind you of hummus. Though already good as is, it would also go great with some bread. 
Next up were greens. We tried two kinds of salads, one with slow cooked salmon and another with parma hamIt was hard for me to choose which one I liked better as I'm a big fan of salmon and parma ham. The former is tossed with mixed lettuce, arugula, oranges, semi-dried tomatoes and drizzled with lemon dressing and topped with parmesan cheese. The latter comes with Tomato Milanese, mixed lettuce, blue cheese and balsamic vinegar. 
If I really have to pick one, I'd go with the salad with salmon for it was more refreshing and felt lighter on the taste buds.

We also tried all three mains part of the Business Menu. 
If you want something bold in terms of flavor yet looking for a healthier option, I'd recommend getting Spinach Ricotta Raviolini Bolognese ragout and parmesan fondue. This plate of spinach ravioli covered in rich chunky tomato sauce and topped with parmesan is definitely filling. 
The lovely contrast between the sharp tomato flavor and earthy tones of spinach was great. And the best part is that I didn't feel so guilty munching on this dish thinking that I was still enjoying greens too. 
Another rich flavored dish I've had was Involtini braised pork roll in tomato sauce with creamy polenta and sautéed vegetables. I'd go with this one over the spinach raviolli because of the heavenly creamy polenta base. 
Want something light on the palate? Go for Three Eggs Fritata with Gorgonzola Dolce, Salami Milano and Roasted Potatoes. This was the lightest flavored dish I've had in Va Bene during this visit. However, if you have a big appetite, I don't think this will make you full. 
We also indulged in some other dishes not part of the Business Menu such as Spinach Raviolo (PHP380). This fragrant dish was love at first sniff! 
Yes, not even bite! One bite of this heaven made me smile from ear to ear with its creaminess. But what made me love this even more is that it was not cloying at all despite its rich taste.
For desserts, we had Sweet Mia (PHP240), Traditional Italian Tiramisu (PHP290) and some mini cream puffs with vanilla ice cream (which I couldn't find in the menu). 
I found Sweet Mia to be too sweet for my liking. But sugar loving R enjoyed it a lot. 
The cream puffs were good though there was nothing special about it for me to grab more. 
As expected, Va Bene's tiramisu was awesome. It was moist and had a lovely balance of espresso for contrast. And I think I got a hint of Kahlua too. I'd definitely get this again on my next visit.

Overall, it was a great meal. I'll surely swing by to grab its Business Menu one of these days. After all, for just PHP299 (one appetizer/main course), PHP499 (one appetizer and main course) or PHP499 (one appetizer/main course with a glass of wine), how can one resist? 

If you plan to grab this awesome deal as well, make sure to drop by from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m..

Va Bene is located at 3rd Floor, Central Square, Bonifacio High Street Central, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. It also has branches in Dasmariñas Village and Circuit Makati. 

Va Bene Pasta Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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