on the menu: Alden & Harlow

Alden & Harlow is one of my sister’s favorite restaurants in Harvard Square, and it’s easy to see and taste why. She took me out recently and it was just as good as promised.

I started with a lovely rosé cava from Catalunya, and here is the order of operations from there:


A starter of pickled green beans (this is what they put on the table in lieu of complimentary rolls or some such)

I’ve always loved pickled green beans (pickled anything, really), my mom makes them and I think I prefer her dill version to this sweet one. Still very good, though.


Pickled Verrill Farm Corn Pancakes with Buttermilk, Maple, Shishito

Corn cakes topped with popcorn! So crunchy and delicious! A balanced blend of savory and sweet. The takeaway lesson here is, instead of just putting maple syrup on your pancakes, make a semi-spreadable emulsion of maple syrup, cream, and butter. An all-in-one you can really pack on to each bite. I just love pancakes. I just love breakfast. 


Crisp Potatoes, White Miso, Sour Orange, Toasted Benne Seeds

PAPAS! So basic, so good. A lesson in the power of aioli and condiments in general.

Then there was this really good grilled avocado and chickpea special I failed to capture, we ate it so fast. 

So ugly, too.

House Made Squid Ink Bigoli with Snails, Pork Belly, Breadcrumbs, Green Garlic Pesto 

The only dud of the lot, with the squid ink pasta kind of chewy and hard, and the snails kind of chewy and hard…good flavor but unpleasant texture. We gave ourselves points for adventurousness.


Butternut Squash Salad with Raisins, Pecorino, Hazelnuts, Brown Butter

My favorite dish we tried, and the one I am going to try to approximate later. The squash is raw (maybe macerated a bit), and the key to the dish is the delicate strands that make the rawness approachable, and allow the softening agent (vinegar, lemon) to act quickly and effectively. Sweet with the raisins, hazelnuts, and brown butter, savory with the pecorino and frizzled sage…Must get a julienne peeler.


Mesquite Tortellini with Grilled Broccoli, Bianco Sardo & Colatura

This was fantastic, and my second favorite? I think so. So many excellent cheeses out there to try. Really though, they had me at tortellini.


Olive Oil Cake Panzanella with Rhubarb, Harry’s Strawberries, Fennel & Frozen Creme Fraiche

This was an excellent end to the meal. I think I would have liked just the olive oil cake and the creme fraiche ice cream alone but the rhubarb and fennel had been sliced incredibly thin,  macerating with the strawberries and certainly some other delicious things (lemon, mint) for so long that they had only the slightest hint of crunch and tang (raw rhubarb being basically inedible without considerable alterations, it draws all the moisture right out of your mouth and is super sour). Beautifully done, and ideal for the warmer weather.

weekend distraction: tastespotting

I’ve been browsing tastespotting a lot recently, looking for presentation ideas and just any ideas. It usually ends badly, with me wanting to make eight different meals simultaneously, not quite having the ingredients for any of them, feeling very hungry and cheap (because I won’t just go out and buy them, if that is even a possibility, as I am always saving my money for something or other (which thing is invariably of either limited or outright dubious utility, but that is beside the point) and food is most often cheaper (and simply better) to make yourself, especially in the long run). I compromise by making a list of what I want to make ‘sometime soon’.

Here are some of the dishes currently on the list.

[When I ultimately get around to making the dish I usually look up several recipes and cobble the most appealing elements together. These links, then, are just starting points. Images link to source blogs/recipes.]

1. Pho!

I love pho. I have really only had it a few times but it is for me so comforting and warming and delicious. There is also an undeniable pattern involving me liking dishes that feature some complex system of garnishes.

I was craving this so decidedly that I went out and bought a Thai basil plant. Beef, chicken, vegetable…any which way. This is going to happen soon.


2. Coconut cardamom rice pudding with blueberries

There is something hearty and rustic about rice pudding that always appeals. Not exactly the first thing you think when the weather warms, I suppose, but it’s what I want lately. [Keeping the arsenic issue in mind when sourcing the rice.] I love both blueberries and cardamom. And coconut.


3. Burger with bourbon caramelized onions

More cooking with alcohol. This is maybe what started the burger cravings? Though I also like the idea of putting these onions on a pizza. With…artichokes, maybe. And sardines? I’m pretty into sardines at the moment. No! Sausage.


4. Gingerbread caramel corn

This needs no explanation.