Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Charley's - Boston's Best Burger?

On a recent Saturday, Nick and I went out to brunch with his siblings and a friend and wanted to go to a fun place with good food that did not break the bank.  Not having been to Charley's in a while, and remembering that they had plenty of room and a good burger, I thought it would be perfect.

We arrived around 1:00pm and were seated straight away.  For those who have not been to Charley's, it has a bit of a saloon atmosphere.  Our server was very nice and took some time to explain the menu, pointing out that everything was cooked from scratch in the kitchen and that they are known for their burgers. Wanting a burger to refresh my memory so that I could properly compare it to other places, I did not even have to open the menu.  Turns out the burger fever spread to the rest of the table - we all ordered one!

While some in our group went for the Au Poivre burger or a blue cheese burger...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Beef Bourginon and No Knead Bread

Full disclosure: I made this way too long ago, but never got around to fully blogging it.  On what was supposed to be a semi-cold and rainy day but actually turned out to be an unseasonably warm one, I decided to make one of the dishes everyone says you need to try with a dutch oven - Beef Bourginon.

For Valentine's Day this year, Nick gave me "Williams Sonoma Cooking at Home" by Chuck Williams, which is supposed to be our generation's "Joy of Cooking."  Unlike most Williams Sonoma cookbooks this one does not have any photos.  Instead, it's just packed full of good stuff, including all sorts of helpful tips for every type of chef. 

The Necessities...

1/2 lb. of salt pork (diced)
Olive oil as needed
8 Shallots (minced)
2 yellow onions (finely diced)
2 carrots peeled  (finely diced)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
about 2 cups all-purpose flour
salt, ground pepper and nutmeg
3 lbs well-marbled beef chuck (2" cubed)
1/4 cup cognac
2 cups beef broth
2 fresh thyme sprigs
3 cups dry red wine
1 bay leaf
5 tbls. unsalted butter
18-24 pearl onions (peeled)
2 tbls. sugar
1 lb white or cremini mushrooms (I used a mixture)
Chopped flat-leaf parsley

As always, to start I took the initial ingredients...

Friday, March 25, 2011


So, I cannot hold it in any longer. We tried to tell as many people as possible before they would find out through social media channels, but honestly, we've waited long enough!!

On Saturday night last weekend, Nick and I got engaged!!!!  It was a total surprise for me, and I loved every moment of it.  We were hanging out at home for the night and I was trying to finish up some cupcakes for a St. Patrick's Day party the next day. 

I am completely obsessed with my ring so I must share it with everyone!

The Ring!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cheddar-Topped Shepherd's Pie - Perfect for St. Patrick's Day

This St. Patrick's Day I wanted to make something honoring the Irish, but I did not want to do corned beef and cabbage (I just didn't have that sort of time!)  So I turned to the trusted Martha Stewart for some inspiration and found this cheddar-topped shepherd's pie.  The recipe did not seem too difficult for an after work meal.

The Necessities..

  • 2 pounds baking potatoes (about 4), peeled and thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, such as safflower
  • 6 medium carrots, halved lengthwise, quartered if large, and thinly sliced
  • 6 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 pounds ground beef chuck
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar (6 ounces)
Within the first step I almost screwed this up!  The recipe calls for you to put the potatoes in a large saucepan with some salted water, but I neglected to read the words "thinly sliced" in the ingredients list.  Luckily Nick came in the kitchen and saw the four whole potatoes in the water, so we pulled them out and sliced them up so that we were able to eat dinner sometime during St. Patrick's Day 2011!

Sliced Potatoes

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Butcher Shop - Another great Barbara Lynch experiance

Last summer a friend gave us a gift card to The Butcher Shop, but hadn't had a chance to use it - the restaurant doesn't normally take reservations and we couldn't get ourselves to head down there randomly if there was a chance we'd have to stand around and wait.  Lucky for us they DO take reservations during Restaurant Week, so we went for it.  We could order off the regular menu, but if the special menu looked good, even better.

Walking in, I was surprised at how small the actual interior is.  There is a small bar with its own seating as well as higher tables along the perimeter.  In the back, however, is a large butcher block table where a big group or a bunch of different parties (about 10 people) can gather and have some wine and appetizers.  In the back of the restaurant in a large refrigerator where they store all of the antipasti meats and cheeses among other things.

They started us off with some good bread that came with a honey to spread on it that was AMAZING, to the point where I almost bought some when I found out it was for sale!  They also sprinkled sea salt on the butter, which I thought was a nice touch.

Bread and Butter

Friday, March 18, 2011

Whoopie Pie Class at the BCAE

A couple of weeks ago a friend emailed me about getting together for drinks as it had been way too long since we had last seen each other.  However, after a couple of emails she suggested going to a Whoopie Pie making class at the BCAE.  Having never been there, I was not really sure what to expect, but for whoopie pies I probably would do most anything!  Plus, the promise of having whoopie pies to take home made this prospect sound even better!

My to-go pastry box!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Southern BBQ at Mac's Speed Shop

On our last day in Charlotte, in order to help us recover from the previous day's festivities as well as indulge in some southern fare (its only right, after all) my brother took us to Mac's Speed Shop.  While completely different from our great Friday night dinner at Cowfish, it was really fitting considering we were south of the Mason-Dixon line, and Nick's only request for our brief vacation.

When we pulled into the parking lot of Mac's I really wondered if were in the right place because it basically looked like a pretty nice garage.  Seriously - there was a carport 30 yards long with motorcycles under the entire thing.  Also, there were loads of picnic benches in the front with people eating away and a fence that hid the table tops, but I trusted my brother.  We walked in and were greeted with a what you always thought a Southern BBQ place should look like: plenty of beers and BBQ.  Add bikes to that and you have Mac's motto. 

Quote reads, "where bikers stare at cowboys, who are laughing at the hippies who are praying that they'll get out of here alive..."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar - totally crazy but amazing!

This past weekend Nick and I headed to North Carolina to visit my younger brother - it had been way too long since I had been down there! Charlotte is a nice city, and with the addition of the EpiCentre there is a ton to do right downtown, which, in my opinion, was lacking a bit previously.

For a nice intro to the weekend my brother took us down to the South Park area of Charlotte.  Because my brother knows me well - I love burgers and I love sushi - when it came time to decide what to do for dinner on Friday night, The Cowfish seemed like the most natural choice.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


After a previous failed attempt of going to Market by Jean-Georges (thanks, Christmas Blizzard!),  Restaurant Week seemed like a great opportunity to give it a go.  Knowing the menu on a normal night was relatively pricey, I thought this could be a nice way to see what Market is all about without having to pay an arm and a leg - basically, the whole idea behind restaurant week, right?

On this evening I walked over to the restaurant with Nick and his sister AL on what turned out to be a very cold night.  We were a bit early for our reservation but the host sat us straight away.  I was first struck by how much smaller the restaurant was then I imagined.  I thought it would be bigger given this size of the new W Hotel, but it ultimately made for a much more intimate experience.  The decor is very modern contemporary with clean lines, however, there is some warmth to the atmosphere, which I liked.

We were greeted by our server who also brought a tin of multi-grain and white bread for a little pre-meal snack.

The bread

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pinkberry in Boston!

Nick and I have had a couple of dinners in the Back Bay area, and on a few occasions have skipped dessert in favor of Pinkberry frozen yogurt.  Yes, you read that right: a few months ago, Pinkberry finally opened on the streets of Boston.

What I am about to say may be considered sacrilegious to some, but I do not love Pinkberry - I find it to be too tart tasting, and they don't seem to try and make it taste like ice cream.  However this is probably the reason it is considerably healthier for you than ice cream - a small bowl has less than 200 calories!  I will have to remember this when getting some sort of craving this summer because the Pinkberry is located right below Emack and Bolios, which is definitely not that low in calories.

On a less than warm evening, I ventured on into Pinkberry to give it a second try (literally).  When you walk in, the shop is really bright with white walls that are heavily accented with a bright green color.  While it may be freezing outside, it seems like summer inside.  The staff are warm and welcoming (almost to a fault) and for those who have never been to Pinkberry they will offer tastes of the various flavors, as well as a big explanation of what their product is all about. 

Being a fan of all things coconut, I ordered a small coconut bowl.  The coconut flavor is a lot less tart than the original flavor (read: a tiny bit more like ice cream).  There are no heavy handed bowls here as each portion is determined by weight.  So no matter who is serving you, the size is the same.

Healthy Yum

Friday, March 11, 2011

Charlotte Bound To Cause A Ruckus!

I am very excited to be headed to Charlotte this weekend to visit my little brother.  It has been way too long since I have been down there.

While we may have started off like seemingly sweet children...


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Kings - Bowling and Food

Last week after going more than a bit too long without seeing some good friends, KT and RT, we made plans to get our bowl on at King's.

At King's

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dinner at Towne, and an Evening with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert

A few weeks ago I saw a post on Grub Street Boston that Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert were coming to Boston and would be speaking at Symphony Hall.  That was really all I knew, but I was completely sold on the idea.  A few days later I bought tickets and didn't give it another thought, other than making dinner reservations that would be worthy of such a foodie evening.  Having only had brunch at Towne, Nick and I decided to go there.

As the event drew closer, we were talking about what we were going to see and realized we really had NO idea what this show was going to be about!  Were they going to cook, speak - what, exactly?  Talking about the night with Nick's dad, we found out that he and his wife were actually going to the same show with some friends - and they, too, had no idea what the show was about.  Nick went ahead and got a much larger reservation at Towne - we definitely wanted to share the wealth!

Towne was pretty accommodating and took our reservation for 2 and upped it to 7 after Nick's sister decided to join us as well.  While most of us stuck to the basics (beer and wine) Nick went with an Apple Press.

Apple Press

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Action Kitchen - Fun Cooking School Event Space

When Nick was invited to a work event that merely mentioned Throwdown with Bobby Flay, I was there immediately, but really had NO idea was to expect.  While we did not go to the actual filming, we got to do almost the next best thing: go to where they filmed it, have a cooking class, and then watch the most recent episode where Flay takes on the sisters from nebo in a vegetable lasagna battle.

Until that night, I never knew that the Seaport Hotel had a fun space called Action Kitchen.  The place is set up for anything from filming shows to hosting cooking classes for companies to participate in team building activities.  In fact, Pre-Game Meal with Shannon Allen is also filmed in the Action Kitchen!

Walking in, the space was really warm and welcoming and had a great set up.  Plenty of space to mingle and to cook with top-of-the-line products. 

Goodie Bags

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bin 26 Enoteca - Second time is a charm

I live fairly close to Bin 26 Enoteca but never really took advantage of it.  To be honest, the first time I went there I had less then stellar service that really put a damper on the whole meal (even though it was good), so the only return trips were to the bar for some wine.  However, my mom came into town for dinner and since we generally stick to the restaurants closest to me, I wanted to take her someplace different and randomly decided upon Bin 26.  Thank goodness I gave it another shot!

Inside, the restaurant offers a nice size bar and quite a few tables for two as well as a large community table for people who may not have made reservations on a busy night.  The wine bottles are uniquely stacked in the back, forming partitions to create a nice atmosphere for parties of four.  More impressive is the cork lined walls and the wall covered in wine labels. 

Proving their decor is not all for show, Bin 26 maintains a great wine list that has topped a number big lists, including the Boston A List.  Having to choose among their list of over 200 wines can be daunting, so this is where a knowledgeable server is extremely helpful.  They had run out of the wine we initially selected but our server readily recommended another bottle of wine that was comparable in taste and price.

Lovely Pinot

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Union Bar and Grille + Harpoon = Great Beer Dinner

I follow Union Bar and Grille on Twitter and randomly noticed that they had the best deal going for a beer dinner!  The deal was a four-course meal paired with different Harpoon Beers, all for $55 ($45 if you are a friend of Harpoon.)  Having had a great experience at Union before, I jumped at this opportunity. 

Upon arrival, we were seated at a large table with other couples in order to make sure they could maximize the space.  Sometimes these set-ups can be a bit awkward, but we lucked out by having nice people at our table.  To start off the evening there were a variety of passed appetizers, which included a salt cured ham biscuit with orange marmalade.  Normally I am not a jam or jelly person but this added some nice flavor, and the jelly texture (thankfully) did not really come across.  The biscuit was well cooked and did not overwhelm the ham.  Hush puppies with cheddar and scallions were also passed around.  I liked these, but Nick loved them.  The dipping sauce had a good "zip" to it.  Finally, there was smoked salmon on brioche with citrus creme fraiche, but unfortunately it never made its way to our table, which was fine with Nick since he doesn't care for salmon.  To accompany these great appetizers, we were given pints of Harpoon's UFO White.  It was fun to see the difference in tastes of the beer when it is properly matched with food - much like wine.  Nick doesn't always care for white beers, but he really did like this one when it was served with the food.

For our official first course we were poured some Harpoon Belgian Style Pale Ale.

Belgian Beer

Friday, March 4, 2011

Lemon Pasta

Another Meatless Monday means another Monday spent trying to find a somewhat creative recipe.  Just when I thought I was going to have to dig around a bit, I remembered my neighbor had passed along a nice recipe a while back for Lemon Angel Hair Pasta, so I went for it.

Another Successful Meatless Monday

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Harvard Gardens - Always a go-to brunch spot

After a fun-filled weekend with a bridal shower and a great dinner at Tico, we definitely needed a great Sunday brunch.  Still having a relatively big group made the choices a bit more difficult, but we ended up going to one of my favorite bunch spots: Harvard Gardens.  The food is always tasty and satisfies everyone I have every brought there.

Before we even discuss the rest of the food and the orders, I must say Harvard Gardens' home fries are out of this world.  There is a bit of the Parmesan truffle flavoring that makes this side a must.  My order is completely chosen around making sure I get these potatoes on my plate!

A couple of people in our group went with the breakfast burger, which is a burger with an egg cooked in the hollowed out center and topped with Canadian bacon and fontina cheese, all on an English muffin.

Breakfast Burger

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tico - A welcome addition to Boston

Finding a restaurant that 12 girls can all agree on can be tough enough, but then having to hope the venue will actually accept a reservation for 12 girls is even harder!  This was the daunting task that Tico helped my friend AM solve when trying to organize an evening out for a group who had been to a Bridal shower during the afternoon.

Tico is a brand new restaurant from Michael Schlow, who is also the chef and owner of other great Boston establishments like Radius, Via Matta, and Alta Strada.  Tico is located in the old Cottonwood Cafe space in the Back Bay.

Our reservations were not until later on Saturday night (9:15) and the place was packed when we arrived.  Being a big group, we actually did not have to wait too long for a table, but it gave me enough time to have a good look around.  The space has been completely transformed: there are some cool light fixtures that create a great atmosphere while maintaining the Spanish/Latin flair, and in the middle of the restaurant is what appears to be a false wall that is decorated with a blown up photo where the shutter speed is set to nothing so that you can almost  feel the movement and color without it being overwhelming.  Elsewhere there is an assortment of glass tiles covering the walls and richly designed ceilings.  The overall effect is welcoming and fun.

Unfortunately, they did not have their drink menu ready, but I had heard about a number of great margarita options, so after having the server list a bunch off for me, I settled on the blood orange margarita.

Blood Orange Margarita

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies Stuffed With Oreos Exist!

A week ago I got an email from an old friend who is currently living in San Fransisco with a recipe she suggested I blog about.  I clicked into the link and could not believe what I was seeing - an actual chocolate chip cookie that was stuffed with an Oreo!  Who thinks of that type of amazing craziness?  I will tell you: the lovely Jenny from Picky Palate.  Being relatively new to the food blogger world, I only recently stumbled upon this site, but I have been hooked since.  She has so many great ideas, from the simple to more the difficult, that will work for any and all occasions.

Knowing this past weekend was going to be a bit busy, I was totally looking forward to a relaxing Friday night watching TV and making the most ridiculous cookies to date!

Chocolate Chip Cookies Stuffed with Oreos and Heath Bars adapted from Picky Palate:


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