2016 Season is On!

Spring is stumbling toward us, and the 2016 Boston food truck season has officially opened. We're in the process of visiting some old friends and making new ones, and should have some major content updates in the next week.

Moody's Delicatessen Visit

Saturday I made a morning trip to my old neighborhood in Waltham and spent close to two hours eating, tasting, and soaking up the amazing vibe at one of my absolute favorite food vendors in New England: Moody's Delicatessen and Provisions on Moody Street in Waltham.

Like every good deli in New England, Moody's is jammed every Saturday with hungry people loading up on fresh-made deli sandwiches and sandwich supplies for later in the week. But inside Moody's you won't find the standard New England deli case loaded with plastic-wrapped Boar's Head cold cuts. Instead, you'll find over a dozen different cured meats, from truffle salami to dried Spanish-style chorizo seco to absolutely killer coppa. And at least half a dozen varieties of house made and cured sausage. And so much more. All made and cured on the premises.

It's cured pork heaven in New England.

By noon on Saturday, Moody's was jammed, with a line of people waiting to order nearly out the door. But they open their doors at 7am, so you can stop in early, get a breakfast burrito with spicy sausage, chat with owner Joshua Smith, and beat the lunch rush.

I brought home a half pound of house cured pancetta, and made two giant bowls of panzanella (one with turkey bacon). This great recipe from Food 52 hit my inbox this week, so I've been craving a summer tomato salad with bread and bacon. I've been using Alton Brown's recipe for years—the best solution ever to a BLT craving.

That gorgeous pastrami will make its way into some lunch sandwiches this week, and I also picked up some "Waltham style" pork roll. In the Mid-Atlantic where I grew up, this processed is usually fried up and served with brunch, or on soft white bread with mayo. It's not the fanciest pork product, but Joshua Smith described how he uses Berkshire pork and maple syrup to do his pork roll, and I had to try it. My friend Crash is a native of Kennett Square PA, AKA Mushroom City USA, and always lists pork roll sandwiches as one of his favorite Philly foods. I'm hoping we can fry up some pork roll together this week so he can show me how a Philly boy does it.

I ended up using some of the pork roll to fill some Sunday morning chiles rellenos. Rick Bayless' classic recipe presented nicely here by the Paupered Chef describes an elaborate process stewing a filling with pork, tomato, and spices. But I cheated and crisped up some pork roll and added it to my usual filling: smoked cheddar cheese. The flavor of the pork roll worked great with the roasted peppers and smoked cheese. I'd love to try a more elaborate picadillo with a pork roll base. Maybe next weekend.

Stone & Skillet Breakfast Sandwich Throwdown

What do Boston's up and coming chefs do on a Monday night off? Last night seven chefs competed in a Breakfast Sandwich Throwdown at Daddy Jones Bar in Somerville's Magoun Square, organized by Stone and Skillet, makers of artisanal English muffins. "What the bagel is to New York, the English Muffin will be to New England," said Dan Crothers of Stone and Skillet. Most of these chefs have added dishes with S&S muffins to their menus in recent months, ranging from Eggs Benny brunch to burgers.

Participating chefs:

  • Mark McMann, Ashmont Grill
  • Mark O'Leary, The Future of Junk Food
  • Daren Palacios, Row 34 and K.O. Pies
  • Chef Nookie, Commonwealth
  • Nick Dixon, Lincoln Tavern
  • Josh Lewin, Bread and Salt
  • Thomas Borgia, Russell House Tavern

After a quick vote tally, Mark McMann's Duck on Duck on Duck (first photo) was declared the winner. Duck sausage topped with a seven-minute duck egg which was fried in cornflake panko—a truly stunning example of the craft.

Street Meat v1

Last night Chef Samuel Monsour teamed up with Roxy's Grilled Cheese for the first in a series of Street Meat pop-ups featuring food from Puerto Rico. Sammy explained that he had fallen in love with the casual food in San Juan, P.R. while visiting with his wife Astrid earlier this year, and wanted to bring some of these delicious flavors to Boston.

The menu centered around a generous portion of Lechon: straight-up pork shoulder, roasted with the skin on for 12 hours, and Morcillas: smoked sausage made from fresh pig's blood and rice. We dipped the pork in a sweet and spicy Pique sauce made with chile de arbol and pineapple. These hearty meat dishes were accompanied by breadfruit Tostones, Mampasteo, a mix of crispy rice and pinto beans, and a Mofongo, a fried plantain dish which resembles mashed potatoes. Sammy's Mofongo was spiked with garlic and chicharron (fried pork belly) and topped with a mild, fruity Sofrito sauce.

A tres leches horchata accompanied the giant platter for 2, providing some sweet relief from the spicy pique and the exquisite saltiness of the lechon.

Sammy served heaping platters for 2 out of the Roxy's Grilled Cheese truck on the Rose Kennedy Greenway at Rose Wharf, and diners sat at picnic tables or on fleece blankets provided by the Greenway. The threatening rain held off, but unseasonably cool weather spoiled

James DiSabatino told us that he and Sammy are planning more events in the series, and suggests that you can follow Roxy's and Sammy on Twitter to get word of the next round.

Coming to Central Square: Bao Nation

Yesterday Eater Boston editor Rachel Blumenthal broke the news that Bao Nation will be opening in Central Square, and I stopped by to check it out. The location is right between Dosa Factory and H-Mart on Mass Ave in the heart of Central Square. Dosa Factory has been a favorite of mine for South Indian street food for years, and the H-Mart Korean supermarket opened just last month, 2 doors down, with a mini food court offering ramen and korean style curry. According to Rachel's article, the owners of Dosa Factory will be bringing Taiwanese dumplings and Bun sandwiches to the neighborhood, making creative use of the rear of Libby's liquor store. Dosa Factory is built in the rear of the Shalimar Indian grocery, with a full kitchen and seating for close to 20. Bao Nation follows a similar model, but with a much smaller kitchen area and what appears to be standing area for under 20 or so diners.

Don't be surprised to see Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung proclaim Central Square a Designated Dumpling Destination, as Bao Nation joins both the Dumpling Room (formerly Pu Pu Hot Pot) and the recently opened Dumpling House.

Look for frequent updates from the growing Central Square Street Food Cluster, as I'm in the neighborhood twice a week for a music production class at MMMMaven right across the street!.

Coming Soon: Bao⋆Nation

Stoked Pizza Party!

Each day this week has been more gorgeous than the last, and many people are taking advantage of the weather to visit their favorite food trucks. We hit Dewey early for some Stoked Pizza and just beat the crowds. Arriving at 11:45am, we were able order within a few minutes and had our pies in under 10 minutes cook time. That is quite amazing for a personalized and wood-fired pizza of this quality.

Notice that the most popular pizza in our group is the Buffalo Brussel Sprout Pizza.

By the time we were finished eating, the line stretched across Dewey Square to Mei Mei, and the Mei Mei ran parallel, almost back to Stoked.

Mick Dundee Challenge IV

Photos from the Mick Dundee Challenge IV, held at K.O. at the Shipyard, East Boston.

See more photos at the Dundee Challenge IV Flickr album.

The Mick Dundee Challenge is a meat pie cooking contest in which Boston chefs compete for a much-coveted title belt. The proceeds go to charity, and the the day is a blast, with imaginative and delicious pies offered by typically a dozen local chefs. The events have been hosted at jm Curley, Lincoln Tavern in South Boston, and twice now at K.O. Pies at the Shipyard.

Returning champion Sam Jackson of K.O. entered the arena riding a chariot (a K.O. delivery bike) wearing his title belt and the Australian flag.

The format continues to evolve as Master of Ceremonies Patrick Maguire strives to make it easy for all the guests to sample each of the pies. This fourth event had a simplified Passport model, where each ticketed group of guests could visit each of 13 chef stations to collect a pie, then chow down at the picnic tables and other makeshift seating.

The pies themselves were magnificent as always, ranging from traditional beef, brisket, and pork pies to clam, Arctic char and lamb neck to one bedecked with fried ramps. As I heard one chef joke with another while the votes were being counted: "white people LOVE ramps."

A brief shower cleared and the sun broke through the clouds in time for the announcement of the winners:

  • Third Place: Daren "Loverboy" Palacios of Row 34: some mixed veg thing with mushrooms
  • Second Place: Samuel "Grime Time" Monsour: Jamaican beef with fancy ketchup
  • First Place: Chin "In to Win" Kuo of Saus: braised pork and onion topped with hot sauce and fried ramps

I will follow up with a complete list of all the contestants and photos of their amazing pies.

H-Mart Finally Open in Central Square

After 2 years of waiting, Cambridge residents finally have an Asian grocery complete with a food court serving ramen, sushi, and curries. There's also a coffee and pastry shop and plenty of seating to hang out. I arrived around 6pm—what must have been the absolute peak for opening day, and it was completely packed. A quick pass around the clean, well-lit space showed great promise: a huge section of Kimchi and pickles, aisles and aisles of sauces and ingredients I will go back to check out after the opening day crowds subside a bit.

This is the old location of the Harvest Co-op, which has been around for at least 20 years and relocated to a smaller space across Mass Ave in the summer of 2012. Like the Harvest Co-op's Clear Conscience Cafe before it, H-Mart utilizes the space closest to Mass Ave as a retail food and cafe area, with a large grocery in the rear. There was a long line for sushi and curry just after 6pm, and signs were posted indicating that they had already run out of ramen for the day!

H-Mart is a national chain of Korean grocery stores, many outlets featuring food stalls. The Burlington, MA is well known among my food nerd friends. Judging from the large crowd of young Asians, this new H-Mart has a large market in Cambridge, and is off to a great start.

Stoked Pizza for Patriots Day

The Stoked Pizza truck was out in the sunshine today at High Street on the Greenway, and our friend @ourcookquest was along for the ride. The special offering today was a hearty bacon and butternut squash pizza with a splash of @ourcookquest's balsamic reduction. Deep and tangy–great stuff!

This Week In Big Pictures Of Food

At 2Lunch Crew, we're obsessed with high quality, high resolution photos of great food. And we're looking for new ways to display photos at their best, in context. This week we're experimenting with a zoom interaction on the photos, so when you see a zoom cursor over an image, click for the high resolution version of the image!

A gorgeous Monday turned out to be a cruel tease as cold, wind, and even sleet returned to Boston. The 2Lunch Crew took advantage of the sunshine, rolling deep for a Monday Taco Party. You don't need to be vegetarian to enjoy sunshine and tasty tacos.

Wednesday morning we saw Chef Jamie Bissonnette's Boston Secrets on CN Traveler, in which he praised the [d:tr-street-food/tr-porchetta] at TR Street Food as "the best sandwich in the city". So we stopped by to grab a photo of that beauty—this week topped with crisp green broccoli rabe. And for good measure took a trip out to Boston's Seaport to introduce a friend to the [d:pennypackers/porchetta] at Pennypacker's, another definite contender for Best Sandwich in the City.

Cold weather is perfect weather for Extreme Burgers, and we managed to track down several unique and delicious burger masterpieces. Tuesday we stopped by the Tip Tap Room on Cambridge Street where we enjoyed Chef Poe's Steak Burger w/ Veal Demi, A1 Aioli & Tip Tap dressing. On Thursday renowned burgermeisters Samuel Monsour, Richard Chudy, and Chris Coombs threw a late-night burger pop-up called Super Burger Bros at Coombs' Boston Chops restaurant. Pictured is Richard's Canadian Smokehouse burger, topped with onion ring poutine and a maple-bourbon gravy.

And to round out the week, a visit to Saus to see what Renée had on tap (Oskar Blues Ten Fidy—an absolutely monstrous 10.5% Imperial Stout) and a special edition crispy chicken sandwich with a spicy guacamole sauce called [d:saus/the-gronk].