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Archive for the ‘Nights Out’ Category

Not literally.  But that would be awesome!

Bri-guy & I have been doing our little tour of South End eateries and I was shocked to hear that he had not been (hadn’t even heard of!) Flour.  Oh Flour.  Such a fantastic bakery.  Thank you to Joanne Chang for following her heart (and gut) and switching careers. She runs a mean bakery! Great spot for a breakfast treat (sticky bun for a real indulgence) and a coffee or cocoa.  It’s also a great spot for lunch- a nice break during a stroll around the South End.

I have thing for the sticky bun.  I never thought I was into that kind of thing until I tried one- I forget when/where, but it was the best thing I had ever tasted.  They are notoriously popular as well, routinely selling out, so it always seems like a stroke of luck when there is a plateful in the case, and that of course you MUST order one because you don’t know when you’ll have another chance! I  had to show Bri-guy the light and introduce him to Flour. We got a sticky bun (duh) and a lemon-ginger scone.

The scone was amazing- light, and just the right crumb to it- scones can often be dry & dull.  The lemon was bright & vibrant and so refreshing.  The sticky bun was my personal heaven.  It really shouldn’t count as breakfast, it makes for a lazy morning/afternoon.

When the sugar high subsided and real hunger crept in later in the day, we were contemplating a late lunch somewhere…Picco- of course is an awesome choice, but I wasn’t quite in the pizza mood.  Since trying to lighten-up on the gluten & processed foods, I figured baked breakfast goods was enough for one day. I also know that Bri-guy had been wanting to try this Chinese place in the South End, and though it’s not normally my fave cuisine I was trying to be a good sport and suggested dim sum at Myers & Chang. (And yes, that is the same Chang- hence the title of the post-Joanne and her husband opened the restaurant together.) Bri-guy has been itching to go and I figured why not?  Especially when I saw they had specifically designated gluten-free dishes.  This was also my first shot at dim sum.  And gosh darnit, I loved it! We tried all sorts and there wasn’t a thing on the table I didn’t like! Who knew.

Starting late lunch off right with scorpion bowl for 2

Spicy papaya slaw

Pork dumplings

Sweet potato fritter

Rice noodles & chicken

Hot chicken wings

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Fancy Dinner Fail

Epic Fail.

This is a sad story.  It’s like I’ve just learned that Santa isn’t real.  I wish I was exagerrating, but I’m not.  I nearly cried at the restaurant out of disappointment and shear embarrassment.

I happened to have a gift certificate for a restaurant group in Boston and Bri-guy had an Open Table check, so we had $100 to fancy ourselves up.  Where to?  Mistral!  I’d been once or twice with my Dad ages ago and had great meals. I was so excited to go again and was tempted by the Dover Sole on the menu.

I’ve been curious about Dover Sole Meuniere for ages.  Its one of those classic french dishes that is the epitomy of good eating and luxury.  Ever since I read My Life in France by Julia Child I’ve been even more curious and excited to try it.  She shares a story in the book about her first meal (sole meuniere) in France as she  & Paul first arrive, and it is the best meal she has ever had.  I wanted that.  I wanted to be wowed.  For the first time I had the opportunity to try it.

The caveat- the “market” price.  And the grand total for this evening’s sole?  $60.  I kid you not.  Flown in daily from England. So I’m thinking, “We have $100, when am I ever going to have this chance, I’m going for it.”  I asked the waiter, is this really the best thing on the menu, I explained I’ve never tried it so I don’t know what to expect etc etc.  He said yes, it’s the most popular and he’s only had it sent back once or twice, and if I don’t like it, he’ll take it right back.

It looks pretty...

Well dear waiter,  I just made your story three times.  Ugh.  I never, EVER, send anything back.  I felt like such a brat, it was terribly embarrassing, but, though lovely, (I died over the copper roasting pan it was served in), I just didn’t like it. And for that much money it needed to be the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my 28 years on the face of this planet.  It just wasn’t.  So, back it went.  It was just off, maybe my piece had a bad case of jet-lag or something.

I didn’t want to have to wait for another entree so I just ordered a caesar salad.  And of course ate off of Bri-guy’s plate too.  His duck was delicious, not amazing, but it was good.  Luckily, I still had a good experience.  We had a fun night, the appetizers were great- tuna tartare (I tried my “no thank you” bite) and crab ravioli (so good!) and honestly, that caesar salad was the best I’ve ever had.  Ha.

What have we learned?  There are some things in life I just don’t like.  I don’t care how pricey it is or “how good!” everyone says it is, I just don’t like it.  I’ve been a picky eater most of my life, but have expanded my palate by leaps and bounds by cooking for myself and trying to new things with friends in the past few years.  Yet there are still things I can’t seem to ease into- most of it has to do with texture (sushi, tuna tartare, most anything that is squishy or odd & chewy).

And there are flavors, even in the best preparation I don’t like- olives, capers- you get the point.  Bri-guy & I had a conversation on the walk home after dinner about what makes a fancy restaurant- you know, what’s in a name, reputation, food quality.  It’s clear that people go to Mistral to be seen.  It is a scene- the people watching was amazing.  But they’re not necessarily a discerning clientele, they go to spend money because they can and they aren’t really concerned with how good the food actually is.  Don’t get me wrong, Mistral has an amazing product, but for the price, to me it should be better.  This is where the Boston restaurant scene fails.  Some of the best food is in lesser known spots, and not even in Boston- but across the river in Cambridge.  I suggested to Bri-guy that we expand our horizon and hop across the river for some amazing food, so hopefully more of that to come!  For now, I’ll be happy that I got to try something I had been wanting for a long time, and I got it for free. (Yes, that lovely waiter left it off the check, we left him a nice tip.)

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What’s better on a Friday after a long week than dinner in with some wine and someone to snuggle with?  Not much I tell ya.  Last week at the cube was epically exhausting.  I was beyond stressed to the point of not even being angry or annoyed with work, just absolutely numb.  So when Friday came around and Bri-guy and I were thinking of what to do, he knew just what I needed- nothing fancy, just some quality down time.

I decided the least I could contribute was the meal- since food and what I’m going to cook takes up about 80% of my daily thinking.  Bri-guy wanted to grill of course, and it has been unseasonably warm lately.  I decided to combine two of my favorite things then, grilled steak, and tacos.  This baby marinated all day in the fridge:

Flank steak, with garlic, onion, cumin, salt & chili powder & oil

 

Then it was time to get the shells and the fixin’s ready.  (Side note: crunchy tacos probably aren’t the best for steak, but, they are my fave, so I went with it.)

Corn tortillas, fried up until crispy

Now, I was also trying to be resourceful and use up a few things, so instead of crunchy lettuce, we had brussel sprouts slaw,  But instead of the apple, I went with a carrot this time.  And you know what, it was pretty good.

Cilantro, salsa, homemade guac, and brussel sprouts slaw

 

The taco all ready to be topped (though the guac is underneath

The meal & the company were just what I needed.  Even got my first seasonal viewing of Love Actually!  The only thing there was too much of was wine.  Whew.

Saturday was an epically bad hangover.  I mean, brutal…  not even this thing could help:

TBS Burger from The Butcher Shop

 

I could only manage about half, and it was dang delicious.  Perfectly cooked, topped with a bit of cheese and caramelized onions, I will definitely be going back for another one of those, though hopefully not hungover next time.  Ugh.

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Next Stop…Toro

Next up in the tour of South End eateries…drumroll please….Toro!  Yay!  If you live in Boston you’ve heard of it.  You’ve either waited for hours for a table or put off going because of the wait.  See, Toro is delicious, helmed by none other than celebrity Chef Ken Oringer, it is also tiny.  And doesn’t take reservations.

Well folks. There’s a trick to it.  The restaurant opens nice & early on Saturday, 4:30, to be exact, you go, give your name to the hostess, sit at the bar for a drink, and when they begin dinner service (5pm) you will be promptly seated.  Much later than 5 and you’re waiting for upwards of 1-2 hours.  No joke.

Luckily, Bri-guy and I were aware of this scenario and also has 8pm Symphony tickets (I know, we’re such adults) so the 5pm dinner was perfect.  We had plenty of time to savor each course, enjoy our wine leisurely, and make it in time for the show.

Toro has been on my “list” now for ages, and I perused the menu before going, but wasn’t sure where to start.  Through the magic of the interwebs, (thank you Twitter) I connected with fellow HWS alum and Boston blogger, Anna, from dear friend.  I’ve seen her write about Toro before and knew she was a big fan so I wanted to see what she recommended for food.  And boy, she did not steer us wrong!  She suggested the corn  (it’s a KO specialty), and the Patatas Bravas- such delicious potatoes! As well as a couple other courses. Thank you Anna!!

Trust me, order the Maiz (grilled corn on the cob, rolled in butter, spices, & cheese. HELLO).  It’s the best thing ever.  And the Medjool dates. And the duck drumettes.  If only to say “drumette.”  And the churros.  Oh I was so happy.

I apologize for the lack of pictures, but it was awfully dark in there and the photos I did take just don’t do the food justice.  All I can say is go. Saturday, 4:30 go to Toro.

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Yes. More soup.  It’s cheap, easy & healthy.  A veritable trifecta in the kitchen.  I have been seeing squash and squash recipes everywhere lately so I wanted to tuck into a nice warm bowl of squash soup.  It’s funny, because a dear friend of mine, Ms. Kate, (please please please read her blog here, it’s phenomenal) made squash soup the same day.  We hadn’t spoken in awhile (she now lives in Vermont) but she called with some good news and we chatted and laughed about how we both are making the same things lately.  I was planning to make chili this weekend, but it didn’t happen and when I checked out Kate’s latest entries, well whadya know, chili!!  One of the many reasons we are friends.

 

Anyway, back the soup going on here in Boston.  I discovered a great squash soup recipe last year, made it for a dinner party with friends, and for my family’s Thanksgiving, but I wanted to try something different.  And, I again didn’t want a big bowl of cream.  I discovered this recipe, and tweaked it just a bit.  I used dried ground ginger, and only used a teaspoon, I added a touch of nutmeg and ground cloves for some extra oomph.  It made plenty for dinner, lunch the next day, and a couple of guys ready for the freezer.

Next up, I’ve been meaning to share with you some culinary adventures… Since Bri-guy’s new place is oh-so convenient to some of Boston’s best restaurants, we’ve made an effort to start crossing off some of them on our list.  You know, the mental list you keep of everything you want to try?  Now that most of them are a stone’s throw from his condo we’ve been  trying to go to a new place every other week or so.  This past weekend we tried Addis Red Sea.

I’ve heard about it for years, and we kept walking past.  I reintroduced him to Indian recently down the block at Mela, so we thought, ok, let’s go Ethiopian next.  Sure, why not.  Let’s just say, at least we tried it.  It wasn’t bad, but it won’t be a the top of our favorites list.  Some people really love new flavors & textures, but,  I have such a boring American palate.

The next day after a long trip to the ‘burbs for skis and more furniture, we had a very late lunch/early dinner down at Picco.  Now this is what I’m talking about…

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Lovely flowers

And yes I’m totally stealing Andy Cohen’s line.  So thanks AC!

This weekend was the end of wedding bonanza 2010-2011.  From mid-September last year to this past weekend I’ve had a flurry of weddings, wedding related events and many celebrations to attend.  It’s been a blast and I’ve never seen my friends happier or more lovely!

The final installment took place in Saratoga Springs NY at the Saratoga Polo Club.  It was an amazing venue and my friends, Ben & Liz (or as I’m sure I’ve referred to them before, Bliz) were blessed with a phenomenally warm October day.  We began with a wonderful ceremony outdoors, officiated by Ben’s sister, she was funny and kind, telling great stories of Liz & Ben and highlighting their strengths as a couple and asking the friends & family gathered for continued love & support throughout their marriage.

Ben is also Jewish, or as he likes to say, “Jew-ish.” (Hence the Mazel title) So there were elements of a traditional Jewish ceremony- the chuppah (a quilt made by our friend Susan), the breaking of the glass, and whatever you call the chair-dance thing.  Clearly, I’m not one of the chosen people.  Anyway, after that it was time for the party!

There was a cocktail hour with champagne and lots of goodies… I loved the crudite presentation…

And this lil’ delight changed my life.  Parmesan cheese toast- thing- I think I had 5.

Then it was onto dinner in the tent.

Dinner was lovely- I didn’t take more photos because I was too busy eating and talking!  But I did snap a pic of the soup…

Then there was of course dancing, and fireworks! (A surprise to the bride & groom) And then dessert… there was red velvet cake, apple crisp, and a candy bar.

And to accompany the candy bar, complimentary floss & toothbrushes.  Yes, the bride’s father is a dentist.


The piece de resistance to me was the favors:

Yeah kettle corn!!

This came in very handy for my drive back to Boston Sunday.

All in all it was a fantastic weekend- and I know Liz & Ben had a great time.  I’m so happy I could be there with them to celebrate this next step in their lives.  And I also hope to be invited over for dinner soon to their new home- Ben is an amazing cook!!

Mazel you two… xo, AT

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Best birthday present. Ever. Cast iron skillet :)!!

 (thank you Nate & Kate!!!)

I love a birthday. My birthday, a friend’s birthday, my parents, my cat (who even knows when that is??), co-workers, half-birthdays, love ’em all.

This year was a little tough to get on the “yay it’s my birthday bandwagon.” Summer birthdays are tough, even more so when it lands on a weekend, and even more so when this is the summer that everyone you know is getting married. This does not leave much room for extra time & money and I felt silly throwing myself a silly birthday party. It’s not a life milestone, 28 isn’t exactly a banner year, unlike 21 or 30, so I felt awkward making a big deal out of my birthday, which I never usually have a problem doing. Ha.  (Only child, yes,)

Maybe I was still burned from last year, all of my friends had prior commitments/were out of town. My ex-boyfriend took me dinner and I cried.  It’s not a birthday until someone cries.  Thank you Ms. Val for that quote.

This year I was hesitant to have the same thing happen especially since this summer is stocked full of bachelorette parties, showers, and actual weddings; throw a couple baby showers in just for fun too. These are real life celebrations, not a lil’ silly birthday.   I know, I know, get to the point AT.  I decided this year to treat it like I would any weekend, brunch with my girlfriends and an afternoon poolside would be just perfect.  Of course, there were other things over the weekend :

A picnic dinner on the esplanade Friday night and the Free Friday Flick at the Hatch Shell- so fun & so free =WIN.

I make a killer picnic.

Steak dinner on the patio at Del Frisco’s on the waterfront- (I’ve had better steak, but the whole package- sitting outside, made it a new fave fancy stop in Boston)

All crab baked crab cake. YUM!

 

Le filet.

 

Chateau Potatoes (fancy mashed potatoes according to our waiter)

 

Spinach supreme

 

The best lemon cake I've ever had.

And yes, that is a candle, I got a candle (but no singing, whew!) since it was my birthday.  We also were served complimentary glasses of Prosecco when we sat down, it being a birthday celebration and all.  It was a truly wonderful meal, great night.  We could hear the concert from the Bank of America Pavilion next door, and it was none other than Huey Lewis and the News.  A staple of my childhood Saturday afternoons.  LOVED. There were also fireworks in a neighboring town beyond Logan airport that though small, we could still see from our table, it was a nice touch at the end of the meal.

Festivities continued into the next day, I had some cake for breakfast.  What? You think I ate that whole thing in one sitting. Heck no. Took me 4 days to take that thing down.  It was good, but, that’s a lotta cake.  Anyway, I met some of my favorite ladies for brunch at Cafeteria on Newbury St. and girls- I’m so sorry!  The service was horrible. The absolute worst.  Food was good enough, but not for the price and especially not the experience.

We forged ahead though determined to turn the day around and we went and lounged at the Longfellow Place pool over near MGH.  I am house-sitting for a friend that lives in the building and that included keeping a close eye on his pool pass.  It was amazing. We lounged around, cooled off in the pool, enjoyed the scenery- wink wink, nudge nudge. It’s hard to find such serenity &  a way to cool off in the middle of the city so this was a real treat!

I ended the day with dinner with my Mom & Auntie Debbie, nothing fancy, we went to Paparazzi, but honestly, it was a great meal and all I wanted after a big weekend and long afternoon in the sun.  Et fini.  Another birthday come & gone, another year of the AT begins.  I had high hopes for 2011, and so far it hasn’t completely disappointed me, but I’m hoping 28 too will bring many good things!!

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