Monday, May 31, 2010

A kickass adventure

My fellow frugal foodies, I come to you today with news of a very worthy adventure. I think you will be pleased to hear that I took my own advice, and trecked it out to Davis Square (which is really not that far...).

As I had predicted, When Pigs Fly was waiting with samples, sweet and savoury, and they managed to stave off our hunger until 5 oclock when the Kickass Cupcake happy hour began. As it turns out, the neighbourhood is aware of this little gem and its once-a-month deal. We were not the only ones milling around...but it's nothing to get in a panic about, the staff are quite well prepared and are armed with many a mini cupcakes.

This month's flavours were the chocol-itini, the peach belini and the pineapple daiquiri. They were all great. My favorite was the pineapple daiquiri, which is surprising because I usually prefer anything with chocolate. The daiquiri cupcake was soaked in rum and pineapple juice and topped with zesty lime creamy and delicious! The whole number was garnished with some crystalised sugar and a piece of dried pineapple. Amazing! I could easily take one too many of these shots!

I also ended up purchasing one of their lucky cupcakes, which actually combines the fruity trend with my chocolate addiction. It is a lemon cupcake with white chocolate frosting. On the way home I tried just a taste of the frosting while exercising otherwise great self-restraint and it is really something to experience.

Davis Square was really cute, just a cluster of odd ball restaurants and boutiques amongst a few little streets all meeting around a square. It's perfect for a few hours, especially when a bit of that time is spent in When Pigs Fly and Kickass cupcakes. Unfortunately I will be missing the next Happy Hour, but you should put it down in your phone asap! It will be on the 28th of June. I will of course do my best to remind you, it is something I would hate for you to miss out on again!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Buttery Breakfast

The South End Buttery is the epitomy of a classic weekend walk by on a Saturday or Sunday and the place is full of south enders with their cute dogs and their usual order: a cup of strong coffee, a latté, a donut muffin or for those with an early sweet tooth, one of their famous cupcakes.

This is how it has been for years and you can tell the regulars are very comfortable with it continuing likewise. About a year ago, something happened that rocked the bakery. The South End Buttery got into the hands of Joe Brenner, the famed culinary director of Todd English's numberous properties. A project was envisioned to add a restaurant facette to the Buttery's menu.

When the restaurant section first opened, there was considerable upset because the café seating was reserved for the in-restaurant brunchers. This did not sit well at all with the regulars. Luckily however, since the opening, much has been fine tuned and revamped and the café remains a separate part from the restaurant, all south enders who want to enjoy their newspaper with their cup of coffee and butterscoth scone may now return to their settled comfort zone. The space has been refurbished with a beautiful wooden bar to the bar with a couple of booths and there is an entire downstairs section with a fireplace to add to the coziness.

As for the restaurant section of the Buttery, I have only experienced their brunch, but it was so good that I am very much inclined to try out its dinner. Served on Saturdays and Sundays from 10-3, the buttery has a great menu with some old school favorites like fried chicken and waffles and eggs in the hole as well as more individual specialties, like their buttery breakfast which comes with two eggs, your choice of sausage or bacon and a choice of pancakes or mini waffles. I got the latter and thoroughly enjoyed it, however my favorite part of the whole meal was the butterscotch scone we started off with. This delicious baked good comes accompagnied with homemade strawberry jam and clotted cream and is priced at five dollars. It brings me back to my childhood in england where they really do things right. By the time I was finished this treat, I wanted to order about five more.

I was very reassured by this brunch at the Buttery, I had indeed tried it out when it first opened and was not impressed. Now that the usual starting kinks have been ironed out the place holds true to its South End comfort and standard.

I am now looking to find a time to try out its dinner menu which sounds equally as appealing...any takers??

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fro-yo hands up in the air!

In the past decade or so, frozen yogurt has made a turn around and become one of society's most fashionable desserts. More particularly, frozen yogurt shops that sell the tart fro-yo with fresh fruit toppings are of increasing popularity. Although this treat is indeed delicious, refreshing and perfect for a hot summer day, all of these places are exactly the same. They all take a fruit and a colour and voilà! They have their name. They are all very simple and modern looking on the inside and offer a limited number of flavours and mostly the same toppings. When you think about it, Pinkberry, Red Cherry and Red Mango are really not that different one from the other...

That is what was so exciting about this fab place we came upon in Coolidge Corner. The name, 'Berry Freeze' maybe leaves something to be desired in terms or originality, but the concept it leads is really top notch and way ahead of the other chains.

The way most of these places work, is you pick your flavor and size, the staff fills up your cup (but almost always leaves a huge gapping whole in the middle of your!) and then put your choice of toppings on at $.50 a tiny spoonful. This techique fails to get your dessert just the way you like it...too much chocolate sauce and not enough mochi! (delicious cubes of gummy goodness).

At Berry Freeze, they have the custom made dessert route mastered. You walk in, head to the back where you have three different sizes and a frange of flavours. You put as much fro-yo into your cup as you desire, then you proceed to the topping station where you can amuse yourself by putting a little dollop of peanut butter, two pieces of Milky Way, a sprinkle of granola, a random and colourful mixture of fruit and top it off with the entire container of mochi.

When you reach the check out you pay exactly for what you get, no more, no less. The unit price is about $.35 an oz, or 5. 60/lb. It's works out to being cheaper than the other places and this time you are paying for your very own fro-yo master piece.

The place is ingenius, there really is no other word for it. Luckily for me, I don't live right next door, the temptation would be too strong and I would end up spending way too much creativity and money in this place.

But for the odd trip out to Coolidge Corner, this place is an aboslute fact, it would pair really well with some chocolate bread from When Pigs Fly...oo-er.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mass Markets

A fantastic foodie sent me a tip about all the incredible Farmers Markets that set up shop around Boston this time of year.

It is true that it is a very exciting time, farmers truck in their freshest produce and set up their stalls in whichever market location they are participating in. There is no better way to stock up your fridge or pantry with fresh ingredients, interesting produce and tasty treats...there is also no better way to enjoy a beautiful afternoon in the sun than to stroll around a good farmers market with a fresh baked good.

The most popular ones that I know of are the ones within the Boston area, for example, the Prudential market which runs on Thursdays from May 20th through Oct 28th, this one has great variety and is located by the Pru on Boylston. Copley Square also has a market that goes from now until the end of Oct. This one runs on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11- 6. On Fridays and saturdays there is no place that offers cheaper produce than the farmers market by Haymarket. Sowa Sundays has started up again and you can go here for the full effect of the South End: delicious bakeries, fresh produce and quaint little boutiques all in one parking lot.

You could practically go to a different farmers market every day of the week, and enjoy your treasures on those days where there isn't one to be had. It's a beautifully managed system and when you buy things from these markets, you are paying the farmers directly, that's an added bonus.

Not many places are so richly endowed with farmers markets, you should therefore make the most of the great opportunities practically on your doorstep. Like I said before, if you don't live especially close to any of these, they make for really great escapes even if they are right in the city!

Please enjoy!

Oh and it is not uncommon to stumble upon a sample or two as you stroll...

O joy unbounded!

This 22nd day of May of the year 2010 was one of sun, joy and samples. For those of you who managed to make it out to the Earthfest, you know to what I am referring.

I would like to thank Whole Foods and the other sponsors for outdoing themselves with this year's crop and variety. I ventured into the event by the Hatch Shell with an empty stomach and left fully satisfied from a well balanced meal. There was Sabras hummus, with mixing stations galore, a Digiorno pizza van, some coconut water to revitalize and electrolize, guacamole and chips from Chipotle, cookies and coconut milk ice cream for dessert. Of course there were also plenty of cereals to try and granola bars to snag. Of all the amuse-bouches, the Whole Foods tent held the most delectable of treats...homemade lobster dip. It was the freshest tasting lobster dip, not too rich, with large pieces of succulent lobster. It was delicious and warranted the long line that stretched outside the tent.

There is nothing I like more than a sample fest...of course, the music was good too, I even caught a few tid bites of song here and there, and that is saying a lot, because in events such as these, I am on a mission and not many things can distract me from my next sample target.

The only thing that touches a nerve, is the garbage I see strewn about the ground. Although there was a bit of a shortage of garbages, the whole point of the event is to create awareness for the earth and to generate a bit of the respect it deserves. When I see people greedily devouring sample after sample and carelessly tossing their waste on the ground, I get slightly miffed...I undestand the panic some people may experience when they see all the people and the slowly diminishing sample stock, but there is no excuse for littering!

Other than that, I believe the event was a success and as always, I await next year's Earthfest with ample fervor!

If you didn't make it...well you missed out on some great samples, but there is always next year!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Johnny's luncheonette - another step outside the box

With great risk can come great reward...that is one of my favorite proverbs.

I have mentioned in previous posts the value which can be achieved by merely stepping outside the comfort zone and experiencing new things. This of course can apply to food in many ways, you can try out new types of food, different food from different cultures, different combinations or concoctions, and you can also try out different locations.

I really like doing the latter because not only do you get to try out a new restaurant, but you get a bit of an experience as well; seeing as you will likely be spending some time in the area.

Just yesterday, I decided to meet up with a friend of mine whom I had not been in touch with for a while. We ended up meeting in Newton Center. This city, located on the green line, is a really nice place to go to, especially on a bright, sunny and warm mid-spring day.

There are many different restaurants to try out in Newton Center and most of them I would wager are a pretty safe bet. We happened to want a good diner...for some old fashioned, greasy food.

We definately hit gold with Johnny's Luncheonette, an all-day breakfast diner with an old fashioned and authentic feel. It has the usual outside decor typically seen with old time diners; nothing fancy, just the light-up signs and dated ads, you walk in and it is bustling with early lunch activity but the staff somehow manage to see you right away and get you some menus and a place to sit.

Johnny's menu has perfect diner appeal with its typical array of breakfast items, ranging from the classic choice of meat and eggs, served with toast and homefries to the sweet items like their pumpkin flapjacks and then moving to the more inspired combination platters and breakfast specialty items like their huevos ranchero and breakfast burrito. They also have a lunch menu offering delicious sounding sandwiches and other entrées.

Despite the many options, my friend and I decided pretty quickly, she got the Stefanie omelette, with canadian bacon (which is really just idea why they call it this...'regular bacon' is also found in Canada and it is not called 'american bacon'...) red peppers and spinach. I got turkey bacon and eggs and substituted the homefries for their sweet potato counterpart which was a fab choice seeing as theirs are the best I have had in quite some time.

We also split an order of pumpkin flapjacks which, let me tell you, are worth a trip out to Newton all by themselves. They were so moist and delicious, the perfect airiness...just thinking about them makes my mouth water...

The prices were logical, you could get a lot of food for about 5.50, but once you get into their specialty platters, the prices went slyly upwards.

We were fortunate enough to sit outside and enjoy the day as we enjoyed our lovely and daring meal in an area I seldom ever get to enjoy. I would highly recommend this spot for a great meal and a subsequent stroll around the neighborhood. Newton Center is famous for its beautiful homes and greenery.

I am hoping to get back out there sometime soon to try out their lunch sandwiches or some of their malted milk shakes...if you get the chance, it's really not that scary and once you get out there, you will feel like you can do anything in the world. It's amazing what a bit of exploration can do for your sense of adventure!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sweet Tooth!

Ah, my favorite kind of segment! There is nothing I like more, than a good dessert. A couple of nights ago, I found just what I was looking for with my father at Finale Deserterie and Bakery. Finale is a Boston based restaurant reknown for its artful desserts that are both deliciously tasting and aesthetically pleasing. As you probably know, I am not a fan of the pretty artsy, pretty small concoctions some restaurants present you with and you find yourself confused as to how to go about eating the piece of work on your plate. I especially don't appreciate this when you have to pay a huge price as well, I would rather to go a Ben and Jerry's scoop shop. When I want a dessert, I want something that will satisfy my sweet tooth!

So how does Finale pass my highly critical dessert-o-meter? Well, first of all, they have recently modified their menu within the past year and they now offer some more modest desserts that are slightly bigger in portion and cheaper in price, but still just as pretty. For example, they now have their own chocolate brownie sundae, a delectable dark chocolate layered pudding, a butterscoth pudding and a marvy strawberry shortcake. The latter are all sizeable, under 8 dollars and come with a generous amount of whipped cream. This is a big improvement, because the first few times I went to Finale, not only did these desserts not exist on the menu, they didn't even have whipped cream!

For those of you you were avid fans of Finale from the begining, don't worry, the classics are still very much alive and you can still endulge in their Magnanomous Molten Chocolate dessert. All of their famous sharable desserts, which, apart from the slight panic you might feel when the word 'sharing' enters your dessert experience, are really quite unbelievably delicious and there to stay.

Finale has an intriguing savory menu that I would like to try out at some point, this only served from 4 pm until 10pm, seeing as desserts are their main attraction. (oo-er) They also have a moderate wine list with some sinfully tempting sounding, dessert inspired cocktails.

So, if you are near any of Finale's locations in Boston, Brookline or Harvard Square, you should definately stop by and honor your sweet tooth. Finale only uses the highest quality ingredients, so even if you end up getting one of their more quaint desserts, your mouth is still in for a delicious adventure!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The smartest place to eat in Boston!

I don't know about you, but I love a good hideaway cafe, they make you feel like you are in on a secret, or that once you step inside, you are sheltered from the rest of the bustling activity that bombards you on a daily basis.
There is one such cafe hidden within the vast murals and bookshelves of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square. It is always so surprising to me when I find out how many people, who live so close, have never even set foot within the parameters of this beautiful building. Sure it may seem a bit daunting from the outside and you may get lost the first couple of times, but once you begin to be familiar with this place, you are guaranteed to begin a great comraderie that will keep you coming back. It is truly one of the city's best resources and it is free!

Going back to the secret cafe, the BPL houses a little room where you can go to pick up salads, sandwiches, baked goods, soups, coffee-all the items you would expect of a local cafe. They are all reasonably priced but the best part is of course the seating area, which is littered with comfy chairs, tables to set up your work or reading and best of all, a beautiful Grecian courtyard with greenery and chairs surrounding a flourishing fountain. On a beautiful sunny day, this is probably the best place you can go in Boston.

I have set up shop in this courtyard a few times just to be calm and tranquil alongside whatever work I had on my person. Yesterday, I went with my dad and just had a light snack and a chat. My dad got their lentil soup and I go some fruit with a fabulous latte. The staff were very accommodating and when they didn't have what I asked for (they were out of stock by that time of day, but because of all their other positive attributes, I forgive them twice over), they provided me with a satisfying alternative.

It was a great little break to my day, one I feel that many people would benefit from.

Next time you feel like stepping outside your world of mayhem, stop by the BPL and just relax with your cup of coffee and muffin. Enjoy the soothing trickle of the fountain and the delicate chirping of's seriously therapeutic...and you really do come out feeling quite intellectual!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Paradise Project

If you have never tried a cookie from Paradise Bakery Cafe, you are missing out. You may think you have been surviving fine without them, but really, you have merely been on cruise control, and it is high time you get yourself down to one of their bakeries to get your hands on one or two...or a dozen.

Luckily, for us Bostonians, there is a Paradise Bakery Cafe in the Prudential center food court, easily accessible to all.
I myself cannot resist passing by Paradise whenever I am in the Pru, especially seeing as they have a lovely dome of samples out almost all the time.
Paradise makes cookies day in and day out and each one is as good as the next, every time you bite into one, you are litterally biting into paradise.
They are famous for their chocolate chip recipe, which funnily enough, is the most commonly botched cookie recipe I have yet come by. Most places make theirs too hard, or without enough chocolate chips, it is a rare art form that Paradise has mastered. Theirs are gooey on the inside, slightly crispy around the edges and their chocolate chip ratio is perfect. Paradise also makes about ten other flavors, with unique ones such as their lemon zest, or their paradise surprise (regular cookie with bits of oreo inside).
Luckily for members of the Boston Ballet, I happened to be in contact with the manager at the prudential center Bakery Cafe and I arranged for me to pick up the cookies that are left over at the end of the day.
I thus brought in an ample amount of Paradise cookies to keep the dancers going through their second run of Ultimate Balanchine.
If you are still on the fence, consider the affordability of Paradise bakery. Their cookies and baked goods are all very cheap and you can even buy mini chippers, if you would rather have a few little bites, instead of a whole cookie.

With that in mind, I think I will have to drop by again sometime soon...maybe in say five minutes...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Pish Posh

Last night I ventured out to a restaurant that has been intriguing to me for a while. I had heard good things about it, but had also seen the menu and worried about how it might reaction with my frugal side.

Union Bar and Grille is your typical South End restaurant, with a posh leather interior and young professional crowd. It's menu is set up traditionally; appetizers, pastas, entrées and sides, nothing really special or out of the ordinary. This can be good when what you just want a nice meal, straight forward and reassuring. Of course, they have a few items on the rare side, such as their spicy tuna tartare appetizer, which I wouldn't usually get, but the waiter recommended. It was very fresh tasting...but very small and I don't appreciate big plates with a speck of pretty food in the middle.

The great thing about Union's pasta selection, is that they still honor half-size portions and prices. My friend and I took advantage of this and selected their sweet corn risotto and bucatini carbonara. They were both delicious, and decently sized.

Funnily enough, I wasn't inclined towards any of their entrées, they were all the basic meat and starch dish, and whilst I am sure the quality of the food would have been delicious, the prices were definately not to my taste. (most entrées were at the 25 dollar mark)

My favorite part of the meal surprisingly enough, was the corn bread we ordered as a side dish. It comes in a cast iron pan and was just crispy enough on the outside, warm and crumbly on the inside. It paired with all of our dishes well and I made sure to soak up all excess sauce from my plate! Too bad the chorizo stuffing that supposedly went with it did not show up...

The dessert menu was also typical, nothing special, we opted for their dark chocolate bread pudding, which was mediocre. It was a bit drab, with not many hints at the dark chocolate and the bread part was a bit too congealed for my liking. It was accompanied by the world's most modest scoop of almond ice cream (which they forgot...maybe they misplaced it in the kitchen because it was so small...). It was very strange, some would like it, but it had the texture and taste of crushed cold almonds...I like my ice cream to be...well creamy.

All in all, it was a good meal. Now that I know how to maneuvre around the menu, I would go back and have another go at their half portion pastas, because they indeed were delicous, and paired with the cornbread you manage a satisfying meal in itself!

I would also like to try their flatbreads and their burger, which I didn't know existed until the very end of the meal when they brought the dessert menu with the bar menu attached...I was a bit miffed at the missed opportunity.

I deem it a place I would grant a second try, a place with good intentions, but a few thorns in need of being avoided.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Smashing Sangria

It's a Thursday night...not quite Friday but almost as good as. You know the feeling...and you know that sometimes all it takes to make your Thursday night feel a little better is a good drink at one of your favorite spots.

In the South End, one of those spots can be the Beehive on Tremont street. It is renown for its live music and funky interior, not to mention the refreshing individuality of all who work there.

It's just what you need to transition into the last day of your week. Well, you of course need a drink in hand, but once you are in the Beehive, that doesn't take long. Walk over to one of their two bars and their excellent baristas will mix you up something real quick. I didn't need anything crazy and opted for a glass of their sangria. It wasn't the first time I had their recipe so I wasn't going out on too much of a limb, but like I said, each worker has their own unique style and the sangria I had last night happened to be different from the one I had a couple of weeks ago.

This bar tender smashed all the fruits in the bottom on the glass before pourring the other ingredients and shaking it up in the mixer. I really liked the approach. It's often done with drinks that have fresh ingredients in them such as mojitos (with the mint leaves). Crushing them allows the flavors to infuse at a much greater (and tastier) degree!

My sangria was just what I needed; something refrehsing and comfortable, but different and surprising at the same time. That combination is somewhat hard to come by...but buzz on over to the Beehive and your evening will definately be filled with something different one way or the other!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Journey to Bombay

Washington street's Bombay Club recently openened a few months ago in the place of Pho Republic. The latter used to be a great spot, different from the typical South End restaurants with its ethnic vibe. It was sad when we saw it preparing for its dissapearing act. However, this sadness was lifted when the Bombay Club came into view and opened not too long afterwards.

My friend and I tentatively went in for the first time and were really quite impressed. The Bombay Club for one, is run by Shikha and Vinod Kapoor, two of the most genuine and generous people. They embody the very essence of making you feel like family when you go to their restaurant.

They have a great menu, with a fabulous bar and they have managed to maintain the special and slightly quirky vibe we liked so much about Pho. Their drink menu is inspired with many Indian and bohemian type beverages and I can safely say that it is difficult to go wrong when ordering. Just last night, a few friends and I went to this spot for a bit of a celebration. We tried many different drinks and I loved them all. My favorite was the Kama Sutra, an exotic blend of hypnotiq, Cruzan pineapple rum, triple sec and freshly squeezed lime juice. Another favorite was the Milagro Sunset, a combination of Milagro tequila, lime juice, organge juice and grenadine. Bombay's bar tenders are all right on the mark with the alcohol/juice ratio, managing to remain very tasty while not being for the faint of heart.

Bombay's service is exceptional and with such a large party, they catered magnificently to our every need, even surpassing them by bringing out complementary indian sweets and clearing a space for us to use as a dance floor.

Bombay Club is a must go for a social drink, a larger party or a quiet dinner. It offers everything you would want in a restaurant and is an integral part of the neighborhood.

Bombay Club, 1415 Washington Street, Boston, MA