Top 5 Tastes: Comfort in Many Forms

Nov 26, 2013 | Updated Jan 26, 2014

The last two weeks have seen me working tirelessly on a project, thus replacing home cooked meals and cold-weather cocktails with café sandwiches, coffee and ungodly amounts of Seamless Web delivery. During crunch time, I worked from my parents' house in Cambridge, MA and enjoyed some very tasty meals there. Since the big deadline, I've been making up for lost time. Read on for tastes both from the lockdown period (when I managed to escape my laptop, that is) and my weeklong culinary bacchanal.

1. Chilled Octopus & Hummus -- Kirkland Tap & Trotter (Cambridge, MA)

In between never ending Micro Word sessions (have I made my point yet?), I found time to go out to dinner en famille and try a new Cambridge restaurant. While the vibe is loud and casual -- befitting of an alehouse, the food is thoughtful and nuanced. Octopus and hummus are two food items I simply adore, and a dish combining the two seemed very enticing, albeit esoteric. I had initial reservations about the textural combination of octopus and hummus, but accompanying slices of grilled bread made for many a composed bite, slicked with the earthy spread and the toothsome charred fish. The Mediterranean flavors permeated through the entire dish, from the briny black olives to the piquant Urfa pepper. Each nibble seemed to be better than the last, especially as we began to sop up the additional acidic dressing on the plate.

2. Rotisserie Chicken with Two Sides -- Peters Since 1969 (Brooklyn, NY)
After a few evenings of soggy salads (attempting to right the deadline-induced sedentary wrongs of my days), I caved and went for comfort food. Known in the 'hood for their unapologetically back-to-basics approach, Peters was a delivery option I knew I had to try. Half a rotisserie chicken, macaroni & cheese and sautéed spinach re-invigorated this deflated writer, as did a few episodes of the Sopranos during feeding time. The chicken was juicier than delivery usually allows, and the Mac n cheese was just the departure from gourmet that is required in a comfort-eating situation. I awoke the next morning soul-fed and ready for another long day.

3. Caesar Salad (and an egg) -- Diner (Brooklyn, NY)
When a large project is over, the celebration period requires at least 4 splendid meals, or so it is believed in Leahland. A much-needed catch-up with foodie friends took us to Diner for brunch and a feast was had. As a perennial luncher instead of bruncher, I ordered their Caesar salad, with a side of eggs. As the yolk melded with the luscious dressing and still-crunchy romaine, it was hybrid heaven -- funky anchovies, garlicky croutons and thin panels of shaved Parmesan -- all enhanced by the addition of a warm fried egg.

4. Pork Tonkatsu -- Kuma Inn (New York, NY)

This is not the first time I've extolled the cuisine of Kuma Inn, which seamlessly combines a multitude of Asian and Filipino dishes in an accessible tapas format ( did I mention you can BYO booze?) Although I can never stray from multiple orders of the stir-fried Chinese sausage, this time I was particularly taken with their Tonkatsu. The preparation was fairly standard, but in the best of ways -- perfectly crisp panko, unctuous creamy sauce and a light and refreshing mound of watercress on the side.

5. Toro Sashimi --Izakaya Seki (Washington, DC)

In case you haven't noticed, I've been using my frequent trips to Washington, DC to delve into the city's culinary scene. After much Googling and debate, we settled on Seki, located in a quiet enclave near the bustling U Street area. The room was delightfully hipster chic (think pseudo-industrial accents and lots of light wood) and we immediately began ordering up a storm. While the various small plates -- especially a unique sea urchin-egg yolk dish--were very inventive and tasty across the board, , our out and out preference was for the expertly cut sashimi. The luscious, glistening Toro (fatty tuna) exemplified the best of sushi preparation in every way. With minimal accoutrements the fish sang to the palate, leaving us remorseful that we had chosen the smallest omakase selection. I'll be back to Seki soon, for delights cooked and raw, and another dip into their extensive sake selection.