Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Panza - More North End Goodness!

When friends of ours from New York City were travelling through Boston on their way back from a wedding in Maine, we were more than willing to meet up on a Sunday night for dinner.  When asked if they had any particular requests, S mentioned that it had been ages since she visited the North End, so Nick took that as a mission to find a place that took reservations on a Sunday night.  While we love Mamma Maria, we wanted something a bit more low key.  After comparing some Yelp reviews to what was available on Open Table, he stumbled upon Panza, and we decided to give it a go.

Panza is located in the North End on Hanover Street across from the crazy lines of Giacomo's.  The restaurant is classic North End with its tiny space, two rows of tables and a nice open window at the front.  After arriving I was surprised they actually took reservations since similar restaurants typically don't want or need them!  Nick and I arrived, luckily just before it began to rain, and were seated straight away.

View from the table
While looking over the menu, we munched on some hearty Italian bread.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Locke-Ober - A Boston Tradition

Every time Restaurant Week rolls around I always debate whether I am going to take advantage because, like a lot of people, I have had some good and some bad Restaurant Week experiences.  Recently, though, restaurants who cannot do the limited menu well have stopped participating.  Others, like the Butcher Shop,  I have done because you can actually make reservations when traditionally they don't take them.  The other strategy is to go for a more expensive place that we would not otherwise plan on going to, which was how this year we decided on on Locke-Ober.  While I had been there a number of years ago (back when Lydia Shire was involved), Nick hadn't, so it seemed like a good option.

Locke-Ober is tucked away off Winter Street in Downtown Crossing, a bit of a dodgy area but definitely getting cleaner.  Once you walk through the front doors, however, you feel like you have not only stepped into a different world but a different time.  While the jackets are not required for men anymore, the guests seem to respect the restaurant's history and dress accordingly.  With the amazing wood carvings and details that date back to the mid 1800's, he interior is really quite striking.

Inside Locke Ober
After taking the space all in, we looked over the cocktail and wine list.  Since the Ward 8 was just featured in Eater Boston's 15 Most Iconic Drinks, I knew I would be ordering it - it's a mixture of rye whiskey, lemon juice, lime juice and some grenadine all topped off with a maraschino cherry.  The drink was sweeter than I expected but still good and made me feel like I was enjoying a bit of history.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sam Adams Brewery and Grass Fed - a Day in JP

For Nick's birthday this year we decided to do a bunch of random Boston activities, including a trip to the Sam Adams Brewery!  While Nick had already been there, I never had, and with the weather being a bit iffy we thought this would be a good rain-or-shine activity.  The brewery is just a quick walk from the Stony Brook stop on the Orange Line.  Luckily, we happened to beat the rush and only had to wait a half hour for our tour to start.

Awarding Beers!
When the Irish Red group was called (each tour time is assigned a beer type!) we gathered in front of an old-school barrel and readied ourselves to learn about making some beer!  Sam Adams doesn't charge you to tour and taste, but do suggest you make a donation to one of three different charities they support.  These charities include one that helps start-up companies, while another provides money for the preservation of the Granary Burying Ground (resting place of Sam Adams - yay, Boston local!).

Friday, August 24, 2012

West Bridge

Who knew that Kendall Square in Cambridge would fast become one of the go-to neighborhoods for "it" dining destinations?  Since West Bridge opened only a few months ago, it has only added to Kendall's prestige.  The restaurant is the brain child of chef Matthew Gaudet (of Aquitaine fame) and Alexis Gelburd-Kimler, who wanted to connect sophisticated French and classic comfort foods.  When our friends Gillian and Jonah asked about West Bridge, I was overly enthusiastic about setting up a dinner because of all the amazing reviews I had read.  

Upon entering you are welcomed by a light and open space, made warmed by the bleached wood floors and other accents.  While chatting and catching up, our server brought over a little amuse bouche drink: a combination of melon and cucumber.  A fanciful addition to this drink was that the little balls in the drink were actually cucumber, making for a surprise bite in your mouth.  

Amuse Bouche!
The group chose a wide variety of of dishes off the menu.  For appetizers, I went with the mussels and Gillian and Jonah got the Calamari "Tonerelli"whelks, cockles and sweet 100's.  Both of these shellfish dishes were amazing.  The broths with each of these were crazy delicious - so tasty and different than anything I had had recently.  I was sure to save some of the bread brought to the table because I wanted to make sure I did not leave any of the broth behind!  These mussels were some of the best I have had.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Whim Dinner at Smolak Farm

After last year's amazing experience at Smolak Farms' Whim Dinner, Nick and I could not wait to go again this summer.  With a setting next to a pond, an apple orchard and farm animals, it's hard not to be sucked into the picturesque location.

Whim Dinner
This year, we were originally set to go at the beginning of August, but then the rain came and our diner was cancelled.  Luckily, we were able to reschedule for last week's dinner with Mary Dumont of Harvest.  With someone whose restaurant was at the beginning of the farm to table movement (years ago) we knew we would be in good hands.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

City Landing - New Waterfront Dining

We were a bit sad to hear that Sel de la Terre on the waterfront was closing.  However, when a team from the Cape, including chef Bill Brodsky, explained their concept of bringing delicious Cape food and a sophisticated/casual dining atmosphere to the space, I think people were intrigued.  I recently had the opportunity to pick a location for a Junior League prep meeting and thought it was the perfect opportunity to check out City Landing, especially since it had opened just a few days prior.  I was excited to give the new space a go.

The interior has been constructed with a lighter, easy feel.  The dominating green color reflected the feeling the the architects were trying to convey.  We were seated by the window (for a lovely view of the rainy evening!) and while we got caught up, we looked over the menu and tried to make some decisions.

After debating a few items, I decided to go with the Hoisin Barbecue Rare Tuna with baby bok choy, sticky rice cake and a dashy soy broth.  When the plate arrived at the table I knew I had made a good decision - the presentation alone was beautiful!  The tuna was seared perfectly and the hoisin sauce was flavorful without being overwhelming.  The bok choy and sticky rice were a nice contrast in texture and taste to the fish.  Overall the plate was balanced and something I would not hesitate to order again.  

Hoisin Barbecue Rare Tuna
The others at my table went with a good variety of other items on the menu, including a combination of the Long Wharf Chopped Salad, which had an amazing combination of grilled chicken, shrimp, cranberries, Great Hill blue cheese, pear, tomato, bacon and almonds in an red wine vinaigrette.  This loaded salad had a different flavor profile in each bite that offered loads of goodness. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ommegang Brewery

Back in July Nick and I had a wedding to attend in upstate New York.  Since it was going to be a long weekend of driving, we decided to take an extra couple of days and visit Cooperstown, New York, famously know as the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  I had only been once before and Nick had never been, and since it was only an hour from the wedding venue we figured a little Americana was good for the soul and went for a visit!  

After spending the day walking through the Hall of Fame (post to come!), we had some time to kill before heading down for the rehearsal dinner.  While Cooperstown is also home to James Fenimore Cooper and a number of museums to prove it, we had also heard rumblings of a local brewery, Ommegang, that was worth visiting (although neither of us had heard of it before this trip).  Given the option between the Farmers Museum and a Brewery, we made the obvious choice and went with the brewery (though, to be honest, I was tempted by the petting zoo!).  After about 20 minutes of meandering through the narrow upstate roads (luckily having some GPS signal for guidance) we arrived at Ommegang and were completely taken aback by the brewery complex!

Ommegang Entrance
This was an official brewery that had more than just tours to lure guests for a visit.  Between the indoor and outdoor cafe areas, gift shop and tastings, I was a happy camper!  Turns out the brewery also holds a number of concerts throughout the summer in their back field, which is naturally shaped like an amphitheater.  With names this year like Darius Rucker, Wilco and Bon Iver, the location draws a big crowd.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Massimino's and Caffe Vittoria - an evening in the North End

Nick recently celebrated a big birthday, and since we go out to some pretty nice meals on a regular basis, I decided to indulge in a little nostalgia for this one.  Growing up, Nick's family would drive into the city to go to Massimino's Cucina Italiana in Boston's North End, right before the bridge over into Charlestown.  It had been at least 15 years since he had been there, but we figured better late then never for a return trip (or in my case, a first visit!).  We had reservations for 7:00 on a Thursday evening and were seated straight away in the upstairs area (I guess there is a bar and more dining downstairs).  I was surprised how quite it was when we got there, but shortly after we sat the restaurant filled up.

The servers were more than friendly and I think this restaurant attracts tourists because there is definitely a bit of "Boston showmanship" involved when going over the menu and specials.  After ordering a bottle of Chianti (to complete the Italian feel) we settled in for an evening of Italian-American goodness!  First to arrive was the fried calamari, a MASSIVE portion that was a special for the evening.  The calamari had a nice golden crispy outside and was cooked well.  I don't like peppers, but Nick thought the vinegar bite they provided went well with the seafood.  A rich and satisfying start to a meal.

Fried Calamari
Nick went with another special for his main course, which was a homemade pappardelle with a limoncello sauce topped off with mounds of seafood and a few mushrooms for good measure.  The sauce was rich and the pasta was amazingly fresh!  The seafood was just a great cap to the dish.

Monday, August 13, 2012

jm Curley - Fun in the Ladder District

jm Curley is one of those restaurants Nick and I had been hearing more and more about.  Turns out, however, it has been open for about 7 months!  Located on Temple Street in the Ladder District (between the Common and Washington St.) it is convient to our house and the movie theatre we frequent.  On one of our summer trips to the movies we decided to do a full date night and sample what jm Curley had to offer (hint: tons of creative food!)

We arrived earlier in the evening, grabbed two seats and settled in. The walls are exposed brick that have plenty of details, which provide a nice backdrop to the eatery and work perfectly with the atmosphere.  Our bartender for the evening actually used to work at Bobby Flay's place in Mohegan Sun prior to coming to Boston and was more than willing to take the time to walk us through the menu.  With a large cocktail and beer list and lots of inventive food options, his input was more than useful!

While we were looking over the menu, we were given a great cone of popcorn with a little sweet and spicy going on that totally set the mood and conveyed the fun feeling of the rest of the menu.

Starting with cocktails, Nick went with a Dark & Stormy, made with dark rum, lime and ginger beer, served on the rocks with a sugar rim.  This go-to for Nick always sets the tone for a great evening.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Chez Henri - French with a Cuban twist

Ages ago, Nick bought a Groupon for Chez Henri, but for some reason it took us a while to make a reservation.  With our dating anniversary occurring in June, we decided it was time to take a short walk to just outside of Porter Square to enjoy what we thought would be a classic French bistro, but turned out to be an inspired French-Cuban menu.  Walking in, the restaurant has a warm bar area and a dining room that, even with dark walls, is nice and light thanks to the sky lights.

Upon seating we went straight to the drink menu - we were celebrating, after all!  Nick chose the sangria, which was delicious and definitely not too sweet.  I had the Rhum Cocktail Marilene with an 8 year old Haitian rum, muddled lime and Angostura Bitters shaken on the rocks.  This was totally delicious and had a lovely flavor that made you feel a bit vacation-like with the sweetness of the rum.

While looking over the menu we enjoyed some hearty bread full of those lovely air pockets - at least I always think bread tastes better with those!

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Painted Burro - Mexican in Davis Square

Davis Square was buzzing as the owners of the beloved Pizzeria Posto were opening a new Mexican place, The Painted Burro, in the former Gargoyles on the Square location.  With the cult-like following that Posto has (I still need to go there!), the Painted Burro would have an immediate clientele, but there were suspicions about whether it would live up to Posto's standard.

The Painted Burro!
Nick and I joined Gillian over in Davis Square one evening after work to give this new Mexican place a go.  It's hard to believe that two years ago I said that the Boston area was lacking good options for Mexican cuisine because there have been 5 or 6 places that have opened since then!  With all of these new locations sprouting up, it takes more than average food now to stand out.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Nix's Mate - Not Just an Island in Boston Harbor!

Nix's Mate recently opened in the Financial District's Hilton Hotel.  Named for a small island in Boston Harbor, which also offer's the inspiration for the restaurant itself, the space is light and airy with its high ceilings and bleached walls accented and grounded by light beams and floors.

Inside Nix's Mate
This visit to Nix's Mate was arranged by Lin so that a group of bloggers, DaisyMeghanLisaMeganJacki and Meesh and I, could get together and catch up over something we all love - eating!  The menu is rather large with lots of different styles of food.  We decided to order a bunch of appetizers to share and enjoy.

First to arrive was the Fried Crab Cake Nuggets with a shaved beet salad, mustardy aioli, arugula, watermelon, roasted corn and walnuts.  This was a refreshing, summery salad with great texture added by the crab cake.  I loved the mustard dressing as it added nice tang and spice to the dish.

Fried Crab Cake Nuggets

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