Monday, July 30, 2012

Brunch at Catalyst

Kendall Square is fast becoming one of hottest dining destinations in the area.  With so many fantastic chefs flocking to new restaurants, it's hard not to want to rush out to Cambridge to experiance the newest places.  This past winter, I met a couple of girlfriends for dinner at Area 4 and a night cap at Catalyst, and from then on I was excited to head back to Catalyst for a full meal.  Nick's mom recently came to town and wanted to have brunch, and with all the great reviews Catalyst has been getting for their brunch menu, a trip to Kendall Square seemed like a great option.

When we arrived, I immediately noticed I was not the only one looking forward to their brunch - the traditionally weekend-empty Kendall Square had a pretty good Sunday rush!  Upon sitting down, our server went over some specials, one of which was a bellini that I naturally had to order.  To me, nothing says brunch like some bubbles!

After looking over the menu a bit more, our group really could not resist the Skillet Cinnamon Coffee Cake with Hazelnut Crumble.  Anything that arrives in a cast iron skillet has promise of being delicious in my book and this did not disappoint.  The crumble on top was rich and buttery and the cake was surprisingly light underneath the dense crumble.  This is a definite must-order from Catalyst.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sam's at Louis Boston

One of my favorite concert venues during a summer in Boston is the Bank of America Pavillion, which will always be Harbor Lights to me!  Recently, Nick and I got tickets to see Passion Pit there and we wanted to grab some food before the show, and assuming it was going to be beautiful we thought Sam's at Louis Boston would be the perfect place to enjoy the fresh air and grab a bite.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature did not cooperate with our plans and it POURED! Though we didn't get to sit outside and take in one the best water views in Boston, we did get to look through the window at the same view!

Views from Sam's
I arrived a few minutes early and grabbed a drink at the bar: a Goji PI's, made with Aquavit and Apricot Liquor, OJ, sparkling wine and a goji liquor drizzle.  I thought this was the perfect way to start a Friday night.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cognac Bistro - French Bistro in Brookline

Working in the Brookline Area allows me to explore some restaurants that I would probably not otherwise visit.  One of these is Cognac Bistro, an inspired French Bistro helmed by Chef Nelson Cognac from Harvest.

The menu offers lots of traditional French fare that has plenty to tempt.  I decided to order an appetizer as my main course: the mussels "escargot" were served with toasted garlic and parsley butter.  Normally "swimming in butter" is a bit too much, but this was exactly how these should be served!  There was so much flavor from the butter and parsley - delicious!

Mussel's "Escargot"
In addition to the mussels, I added a bit of green with the Hericot Verts.  These were a bit too oily for me, but still crisp and bright.  Maybe if I didn't have a buttery dish to go with these french beans, they would not have seemed as greasy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lone Star Taco Bar - Excellent Mexican!

This post is LONG overdue!  Ages ago, my co-workers and I went to Lone Star Taco Bar after hearing amazing things about the food.  Only identified by a "lone star" outside, if you aren't paying attention you could miss it. A group of five of us arrived and were pointed to a large table in the corner to review the menu.  As we sat we noticed the lofty ceiling with exposed rafters and the easy decor that immediately made you feel at ease.

To begin I ordered the Lone Star Margarita, figuring that if they could get the basics straight they are good!  Sure enough, this mixture of blanco tequila, lime, lemon, sugar and orange liquor was delicious.  No standard sour mix was used here.  If I didn't have a whole second half of the day ahead of me I definitely could have had more than one of these!

Lone Star Margarita
Others in our group got the white sangria, which was refreshingly delicious!

White Sangria
When it came to selecting food, our group decided on sharing just about everything on the menu!  It's always fun to go out to eat with a group that wants to sample the menu as much as I always do.  Lucky for me, they let me take pictures of all of our dishes!  First up was the guacamole that was absolutely the best guacamole I have had.  It was unbelievable.  Seriously - this is how everyone should make it, so much flavor and spice!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Del Frisco's Does Lunch!

Over the last two years the Seaport/Fort Point area of Boston has exploded.  Liberty Wharf is responsible for much of the activity, housing at least four restaurants with one more on the way!  With amazing views of the water and within earshot of the Bank of America Pavilion, the area has plenty of a draw on evenings and weekends.  Recently, Del Frisco's has put a major focus on their lunch menu to help attract some of the local office workers.  They have a menu that is a bit lighter (read: no food coma) and can get you in and out the door quickly.  For a place that is known for delicious (and fairly massive) steaks, Del Frisco's has not been known for a quick power lunch - until now!

Views from the back deck
More views

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rosa Mexicano - more Mexican in the Seaport

Nick was super excited when Rosa Mexicano opened in Boston - when he lived in DC it was one of his favorite restaurants.  The Boston outpost opened in the Seaport area recently, and naturally his enthusiasm rubbed off on me, so when a couple of friends suggested grabbing a bite to each there I was totally in.  Turns out, however, that the menu at the Boston location is based on their Miami location, not exactly the restaurant Nick was familiar with.

When I arrived, I noticed the water feature (something common among all locations) with diver statues going down the vivid blue wall.  I was a bit taken aback by the mix of the blue tiles, the shocking pink decor and the dark wood.  Even though the space is very large, there did not seem to be too many tables.  On this evening, we had a reservation and were immediately sat at our table.

I spotted the sangria on the menu and for just under $10, I thought the price was pretty good compared to some of the other drinks on the menu.  When it arrived and I was given a pitcher with approximately two and a half servings, I was even more excited!  The sangria was tasty, a little on the sweet side, but still good.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Toro! Toro! Toro!

When you talk to people about Boston restaurant chefs one the main names that continually pops up is Ken Oringer.  With a variety of restaurants that cover a number of price points, you don't have to spend a fortune to enjoy his food.  The tough past most of the time is actually getting a seat!  For quite some time I have been wanting to go to Toro, but I kept hearing stories about extremely long wait times, so we kept putting it off.  For my birthday this year I decided to bite the bullet and just go and see how the night went!

On a Friday after work I arrived at Toro at 5:10.  Obviously I am a little too Type-A to really gamble with getting a table on a Friday night!  The restaurant doesn't start seating people until 5:30, but they welcomed me in and I grabbed a seat at the bar and started to look over the cocktail list.  There were a couple other crazy people like me, so I felt slightly validated.  After a little deliberation I went with the Mamacita, a mixture of tequila, agave, lime, and tecate served on the rocks in a glass with a salted rim.  This was the perfect mix of refreshment with a bit of a kick to help start the evening off right.


Monday, July 16, 2012

The Boston Burger Company - some CRAZY burgers!

Confession time: I DVR Boston's Chronicle every night (as in it has a season's pass!)  Sometimes I feel like a 90 year old for watching this, and while not EVERY episode appeals to me, so many of them are spot-on to my lifestyle that I can't help myself. Recently, they did a feature of some newer restaurants in Boston (lucky for me, this is a recurring topic on the show).  During some of the quick pictures at the beginning I saw some amazing looking burgers that I had to know more about.  Turns out the burgers were from Boston Burger Company, which has locations in Davis Square and Back Bay.  I couldn't get the images of the delicious-looking burgers out of my head, and knew we'd have to make a trip ASAP.

The Mac Attack!
On one of the recent hot summer Saturday's Nick and I were out wondering the Back Bay and decided it was time for a burger lunch and headed for the Boston Burger Company.  With a nice patio out front covered with some big umbrellas, we opted to brave the heat for some outdoor eating.  Shortly after being sat we had some serious burger decisions to make.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Yakitori Tori Shin - Asian Kebabs!

When you head to New York City, one of the major decisions is always where to eat.  With so many well know restaurants spanning every imaginable cuisine in one area, it can be hard to choose.  Since our friends there have yet to lead us astray we usually look to them for recommendations.  We ultimately decided on Tori Shin, a new Yakitori place in New York that is garnering much buzz.  All that aside, when I saw this, I really had no idea what Yakitori was!  With the help of Google, I found out that Yakitori generally refers to skewered food in Japanese, but more specifically, skewered chicken.  To fall into an even more specific niche, these skewers are cooked over a grill of specialty charcoals.  Not long after we made the reservations, we found out about a new Yakitori restaurant on its way to Boston!  As this is still a relatively new trend in NYC, I was impressed that we were hot on the Yakitori trail.

After a very busy afternoon at in Brooklyn, it was a good thing we had some downtime before our 8PM reservations.  Nestled on 1st Avenue on the Upper East Side, we arrived just in time and were immediately sat at our table.  While there was an extensive (and expensive) sake menu, when we heard the options for pitchers of Sapporo we jumped on it.  With a group of 10 people, this made things a lot easier!

Amuse Bouche
Shortly after placing the drink order we started to look over the menu.  Even after doing some research beforehand, I was not prepared for this extensive menu!  With so many a la carte options it made it difficult to decide.  Luckily there is the Chef's Omakase option, which most (8 of the 10) decided on.  This was basically a chef's tasting menu that provided a nice variety of skewers and other bites such as sides and amuse bouches.  However, there was still some decisions to be made, one of which was the chicken.  Yakitori is know for cooking up almost every part of the chicken.  So there was the "brave" option, which would include the organs, and the "chicken" (pun intended) option that included typical cuts of meat you would traditionally think to order.  Only one member of our group was brave enough to request organs, but he ended up with the "chicken" offerings to keep it simple.  From there we were off!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cranberry and Pistachio Lamb Roulade

Most of my lamb cooking experience comes from the Lean on Lamb and Tri-Lamb Group.  Using their ingredients and recipes gave me a lot of confidence when I was making the dishes.  So, when they contacted me to come up with a recipe (on my own!) with a type of lamb they surprise you with, I was totally ready for the challenge but very nervous.  I don't create a lot of recipes from scratch, so this was new territory for me.

Dinner is served
The guidelines were to take the lamb and showcase its flavors.  I was excited when my massive amount of boneless leg of lamb arrived - there was plenty of meat for the dinner party, plus a little bit to practice with (thank goodness!).  While I am more familiar with recipes involving cuts like lamb chops, I had to think about how I wanted to use the boneless leg.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Smorgasburg in Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Bridge

A couple of weekends ago Nick and I headed down to New York City to visit some friends.  Usually when we go there it is a quick trip - down Friday and back by Sunday evening.  Having not spent much time there, I always like to try to see and do something new and different.  Luckily our friends are great guides and very tolerant of me and my touristy ways :)

On this particular Saturday we decided to take the ferry across the East River and head to Brooklyn for Smorgasburg, an amazing food market with loads of vendors offering plenty to taste and snack on.  Needless to say I was in tourist heaven - great views to photograph on the ferry and my first trip to Brooklyn!

Views from the Ferry

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July everyone!  Here in Boston we are hoping the rain stays away so the Pops can work their magic and the spectacular firework show can go off without a hitch.

Nick and I will be hanging out on our roof deck in hopes of catching a glimpse of the fly-over, enjoying some snacks, and imbibing in cocktails, including the Vodka Fruit Cup.  Nick has been working hard on some homemade shrubs here at the In and Around Town homestead.

Fly Over
We are super lucky and have a great view of the fireworks over the Charles River.  Each year the show gets better so I cannot wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Have a great day!

Are you watching the Boston fireworks today?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Art Bar - Cocktail Class and Dinner

After such a fun time at Vodka Class at ArtBar, we immediately reserved spots in the next class: Syrups, Shrubs and Bitters.  Initially I wondered what they would talk about and do for such a class.  However, after learning a bit more about what the class was all about it sounded outstanding!  All of ArtBar's syrups and shrubs are made in-house, and the bitters ArtBar utilizes are not the easiest to come by.  The instructors referred to these as their "salt and pepper," and the way they make a traditional drink better.

The first drink we made was a Vodka Fruit Cup, which was made with a delicious mixed berry shrub.  This drink was so yummy we actually just finished a batch of our own mixed berry shrub for the 4th of July!  It was THAT good.

Vodka Fruit Cup
The other drink we made (and compared) was the classic Gin Martini, made with and without a few drops of orange bitters.  The difference was astounding!  I am not a gin person (at all), however, with the bitters I actually enjoyed this gin martini!  Who knew that bitters had the ability to alter drinks so drastically?  We actually went home and bought a book to learn a bit more about this drink "seasoning."

Monday, July 2, 2012

Olives' Grand re-Opening Party!

This past week one of the original celebrated Boston chef's, Todd English, marked the Grand re-Opening of his first restaurant, Olives in Charlestown.  Olives has been shuttered for the last 2 years due to a grease fire in the kitchen.  For a while people wondered whether Olives would ever reopen, but it's now making a triumphant return with totally revamped inside to boot!  Having never actually been to Olives pre-fire, I was excited to be able to check out the new and improved locale.

Other bloggers, including DaisyElizabethLinMeghan, Meesh and Jacki, and I were invited to an Olive Oil tasting prior to the opening party.  The olive oil is from Chile and one that Todd English has become involved with more recently.  During the pre-party, we sampled a number of appetizer and drinks, all of which heavily utilized the olive oil.  We first sampled a strong vodka martini with olive oil and muddled oranges.  This was definitely tasty.  I was afraid the olive oil would add an oily consistency, but instead just gave a smoothness to the drink.

Chilean Extra Virgin Olive Oil Martini
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