Thursday, March 31, 2011

True Chocolate Devotion

Ever heard of Max Brenner, aka the Bald Man? Well, don't worry if you have not, because you are about to!
Way back in '91, a young aspiring novelist by the name of Max apprenticed throughout Europe and, carried by a love and interest of all things chocolate, began to develop his very own chocolate philosophy.  In 2011, he is about to celebrate the opening of his 37th chocolate restaurant: Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man, and guess where it is going to be?
That's right, as of today, the 31st of March, 745 Boylston Street is about to become a retail space known for inducing love - or whatever other emotion we may relate to the wonderful world of chocolate!
Max is famous for his fascination with the emotional ties people all around the world create with the smell, taste and sight of chocolate.  He uses this as his basis for inspiration and what an inspiration it is!
All of his locations are characterised by large vats encircling the entire space which actually churned the chocolate you are about to enjoy.  Pralines and other chocolaty sensations make for decadent decor and the smell of chocolate is around every corner. I went in briefly the other day just to take a peak and found it nearly impossible to leave again!
So what more do we have to look forward to? First off, they offer full dinner, lunch (and brunch on weekdays) menus with specialty drinks and cocktails as well as an impressive looking brunch menu.  Their menu ranges from classic American fare to other international items. I already have my eye on their waffle fries dusted with chilli and cocoa powder as well as their beer battered onion rings with dark chocolate ranch dressing. 
But what I am most looking forward to is their dessert section.
Naturally, I had to look into it online in order to prepare myself and subsequently you for what awaits behind those close mysterious doors!
Let's take a quick peak:
Here we have their classic fondue, for two, which comes with toffee sauce, bananas, strawberries, marshmallows, chocolate chunk cookies and sponge cake for dipping into your choice of two purely melted chocolates.

They also offer a 'Fantastic Popsicle Fondue' which prompts you to dunk your ice cream popsicle into a pot of melted pure chocolate, crunchy wafer balls and candied hazelnuts. You are the master of your own dessert in this case!

In the event that you are not up for that much chocolate (in which case you probably should not be eating at this restaurant), they have other sweet endings, for instance, their Banana Split Waffles which is comes with bourbon vanilla ice cream, milk chocolate truffle (the chocolate has to be in their somewhere!) and caramelized rice krispies.

They are most famous for their Chocolate pizza, which is a tantalizing combination of Max's double chocolate melting chunks, and your choice of 'toppings': crunchy hazelnut bits, bananas, peanut butter and roasted marshmallows.

Don't worry: I will stop myself now before I get in too deep.  Suffice it to say that I have been pouring over their menu since I first laid my eyes on it and I can tell you right now that one trip just isn't going to cut it.
This place may not be the most frugal, but if the smell of the restaurant is anything to go by, I may have found my heaven!
Chocolate is, in my eyes at least, one of the elixirs of life, find out what it means to you this opening weekend!
Check it all out for yourself:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Healthy food, fast, and surprisingly delicious!

The non-stop pace of our society is mind boggling.  Who would have thought, a mere two or three years ago that so many people would be walking around texting, tweeting and 'face-timing' without thinking twice.  A friend and fellow food blogger actually told me she is so used to her smartphone that she occasionally gets an anxiety attack when she is not fiddling with it.
It is no surprise that restaurants have had to accomodate such quick paced lifestyles. Lucky for us Bostonians (and some people in Dallas and Cleveland) we have been given the gift of UFood Grill - a Boston based, fresh take on healthy, fast food.

Places like this have been popping up all over, it's like the Pinkberry, tart fro-yo experience. I am always skeptical however, as I have been to some that come out with cardboard food.  UFood Grill was another place I was afraid of entering, words like 'Non-fat' and Gluten-Free tend to scare me off.  My perspective is quite changed however after tonight, when I was lucky enough to attend a sample event at the UFood Grill in Fenway.  I am happy to say that I advocate this restaurant for all its fastness, freshness and well...tastiness!
We had a lot to try,and I will not go through every item, the following however are pieces that I fully endorse for their delicisouness - I suppose the fact that they are more nutritious and about half as caloric than the average fast food restaurant is a huge bonus too!

We started with their Bistro Salad: a bed of organic field greens, ripe cherry tomatoes, cranberries, walnuts and feta cheese with blueberry-pomegranate dressing.  It was as good as any 'fancy' salad you would pay three times the price for at a sit-down restaurant. 

Next came their 'Unfries' which are baked, and honestly, so delicious that when someone tried to take the plate away from our table with a couple of fries left on it, I instictively grabbed it back...

Of all the sandwiches, paninis and pizzas I tried, their better bacon cheeseburger and turkey burger were my favorite.  This is surprsing, seeing as I had just been to 5 Napkin Burger and had a really amazing burger.  At UFood, they use trukey bacon, which I actually really like, they also put the right amount of cheese, pickles and tomatoes for added moisture.  The whole wheat bun was a nice match, not too big but not non-descript either. 
I absolutely loved their baked falafel wrap.  It came with a coleslaw rendition and pickled beets.  I am a huge sucker for wraps and this one is a definite go.
For the vegetarians in the house, they do a good job with their tofu, just a simple, sweet and sour- like sauce with fresh vegetables over rice.  It is called their 'tofusion rice bowl' and even I - a non-vegetarian to the max, really enjoyed it.  Their rice leaves a little to be desired, but I am not much of a rice person.
The only thing I really didn't take to was their Chicken Tinga Bowl - chicken breast marinated with some spicy tomato salsa, over rice.  The only thing you could taste in the sauce was the spice, which overwhelmed any other tastes you might like to notice in such a dish.  The chicken did not have the best texture either.
We finished our sample sensation off with their fro-yo. UFood is a proud maker of 'smuuthies' and shakes on top of everything else they do for the nutritious fast food movement.  I loved their choco-vanilla mix and their strawbanilla smoothie. 
What I was most impressed about however, was the level of dedication the UFood team has to getting the best food out to their customers.  They really seem to understand the needs of their clientele and they work really hard to get them just right. 
UFood is more than your average fast food chain, they are intent on building a place people can depend on in a world where things are changing so quickly.  So long as UFood continues along the honest path of providing nutritious food at affordable prices, I think they will see their project fly far out of Boston.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Despite the frigid temperatures and apparently never-ending winter, I figured it would be appropriate to remind you all that this Monday, the 28th will be the last Monday of March.  This means two things.  First of all, it is almost April and if that doesn't warm things up then this whole Global Warming thing has gone too far. Second of all, and probably more importantly, it will be Happy Hour at Kickass Cucpcakes in Somerville:)

So let's all just take a moment, breathe in the freezing air and be thankful that admist wintery gloom and the teasing sun that makes you think you can survive outside with a light spring coat (ya right!), there are some things you can really count on.
Thank goodness Kickass Cupcakes is one such thing!
Check out this video below in case you need some inspiration to get you over to Somerville this coming Monday:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Finally! A restaurant that lives up to my expectations!

The past couple of weeks have left me in a bit of a rut as far as restaurants go.  I have been feeling plagued by bad choices where I find myself completely disappointed by the food quality/price ratio and bad has been a dark couple of weeks. But behold! 5 Napkin Burger, which as you know, I have been so excited about, opened tonight and I was blown away!
My friend and I tried an array of dishes and were not disappointed in the least.  Not to mention, the service was great, apart from a few slight mix ups, but that is to be expected during a restaurant's first week!
As crazy as this may sound, we started off with two orders of sushi.  Yes, you read right, 5 Napkin Burger is more than just a burger joint, it has its own separate sushi section in the kitchen where they whip up fabulous sushi concoctions. 

We ordered their 'southwestern roll', which is the one on the bottom of the picture.  It is spicy yellowtail, cilantro, chayotte, scallion, enrobed with soy wrapper and topped with jalapeno and tobiko. Not too shabby for a 'burger restaurant'!  The roll on top is their double tuna roll which was a very fresh rendition of your typical spicy tuna roll.  The sushi was as good as any you would find at a sushi restaurant.
Moving on, we ordered two different burgers. I had to order their 'Original 5 Napkin Burger', which is a 10 oz burger topped with gruyère, caramelized onions and rosemary aioli. When it comes to burgers, I am a touch judge.  This guy, made the top three for sure. The meat was so juicy and perfectly cooked, the other condiments, apart from an obvious overload of rosemary aioli, which is easily scrapped off, melded with the entirety like a match made in heaven.  It was divine.
We also got their 'Ahi tuna burger'. I have never tried one of these before, I am always worried I get a bad one. If you find yourself in the same boat as me, you have nothing to worry about here. Their tuna was the tastiest, marinated in ginger. The spice of the ginger was complimented perfectly with scallions, soy and a gentle wasabi aioli.  Tempura fried onions topped it off by adding some crunch and the whole thing was sandwhiched between an egg roll. Need I say more?
At 5 Napkin Burger, the sides are not included with the burger. This can be seen as a good thing, as it really showcases the burger.  However, while perfect for one person, I found they were a bit pricey for the amount you got.  Regardless, the homemade pickles were the best I have tasted and the onion rings disappeared two seconds after they hit the table. I could have done with a couple more!
We could not go without something sweet...I never really can. I ordered the espresso brownie sundae.  It was a nicely sized vanilla ice cream sundae with chunks of rich espresso brownie finished with a generous amount of whipped cream, caramel sauce and roasted peanuts which I thought was a great touch.

I also caved and got their s'mores milkshake which comes with a 'brulé-ed' marshmallow on top. Now, I have quite an extensive experience with milkshakes and I can safely say that this one surpassed all the others, Coldstone included. 5 Napkin Burger somehow manages to make these light enough to drink along with your meal, but rich enough that you feel you are really getting a that is a hard line to hit!
The only thing that disappointed was the '7-layer chocolate fudge cake'.  As a general rule, I never order chocolate cakes at restaurants because it is so difficult to find one that is moist and thick enough for my liking.  My friend took the risk and unfortunately, the result was as I feared.  The sliver was far too small, but perhaps that is just as well because the cake was very dry and the frosting, which can make or break it, did not deliver.
All cakes aside, our experience at 5 Napkin Burger was such that my friend is going back tomorrow, and I am already planning my next visit...perhaps this Sunday after our first week of 'Elo Eperience'? Another fab meal at this restaurant would surely help me get through the weekend!
Check out more of their menu:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The much anticipated opening of Boston's 5 Napkin Burger!

I have been counting down the days to the opening of Boston's first 5 Napkin Burger since...well since I first heared rumors of a Boston location opening way back in 2010.
At long last, I can say with much enthusiasm, that the restaurant will be open to the public and serving its first burgers and sushi rolls (that's right, a combination of both fab foods!) on the 23rd of March. (Applause and cheering)
I did a segment on their promotional burger contest in February and although I was very sorry not to have won, I settled for interviewing the winner, Errick Nunnally, about his winning creation: the Beantown Burger.  I have to hand it to him, his burger sounds like a perfect match for the Boston crowd.  It starts with a maple-infused, beef burger on top of which we have Boston baked beans, smoked gouda, tomato and relish all in between an egg roll....genius!
As for the inspiration behind this beauty, Errick, who has always had a rather profound interest in cooking, particularly when it involves BBQ, said when he thought about the New England palate, these ingredients naturally came to mind.  'Anything but spicy', was his criteria and he certainly managed that with the sweet maple and baked beans, the savory beef and the smoky flavors from the gouda.

I asked Errick if he had tried his burger and his answer was a definitive 'Yes!', saying he had even gone to the extra effort of making his own baked beans...a true Bostonian!

When I asked what the best thing about his burger was, his answer was, 'It's good on its own, you don't need to dress it up'. And I would imagine that is so, ketchup would be the last thing you would want to add to this burger.

As most people know, a good classic burger is hard to find, but a burger that encompasses an area's culinary palate is even harder to find.  Lucky for us, Errick entered this contest 'on a whim' and blessed us with the Beantown Burger.  He is now the proud recipient of 1000 dollars worth of 5 Napkin Burgers and his creation will be featured on the burger menu at the new location.
Check out the menu and all other info at:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Disappointment at Pier 4

So here I was advocating all of these great ideas for getting the most out of restaurant week and the one place I go to ends up being a bust...typico!
My partner in hunger (as he calls himself) and I decided to venture out to Anthony's Pier 4 by the waterfront.  It satisfied all of my criteria: it is an expensive place, a place I had never been and a place I wouldn't consider going any other time. 

We arrived and it was all swanky and promising except for the fact that, being the only customers under the age of 65, I felt we were judged the second we walked in.
My first complaint is regarding the service.  Our waiter seemed to be completely over the place and dead tired. When I asked him a simple question about the salad, he answered in the most simplistic terms that really gave me no more additional information than what was already on the menu. 
Their food was actually pretty good, just not worthy of their regular prices.
For starters, my friend made a wise choice and ordered their lobster bisque, which was creamy and delicious.  They bring you a huge popover at the start of your meal as well, a touch I quite liked.
I ordered their baby Maine shrimp salad which was actually quite good apart from the two pounds of oil I found at the bottom of the plate by the time I had finished.
For our entrées, I ordered (upon the waiter's suggestion) their grilled halibut over couscous and grilled vegetables.  I ended up getting a piece of dry rubber with a tasteless paste over top. (They could have used some of the excess oil from my salad perhaps...)  I actually had to send it back. I am convinced they just gave me a mistake from the kitchen...little did they know who they were dealing with! 
My second attempt at an entrée was infinitely more successful. I ordered their fisherman's stew and it came out piping hot with large succulent shrimp, linguça sausage, scallops, monkfish and mussels.  It was really delicious.
My friend somehow received the memo not to order seafood at this seafood restaurant and was happy with his grilled filet with roasted fingerling potatos. I tried a bite and it was indeed very well done, although I found they went a bit overboard with the sauce.
For dessert, I again received a completely helpless response from the waiter and ended up ordering their tartufo, which was completely ordinary.  My friend ordered their sticky toffee pudding which was clearly the right choice.  Lucky for me, he is not a 'sweet' person so I gallantly agreed to finish off most of his dessert.

In all fairness, I probably just ordered the wrong things...but who would think that ordering halibut at a restaurant supposedly renown for its seafood would be a huge mistake?
I can forgive the shortcomings with the food, but the service was really what got to me. It seemed as though everyone working there was having a miserable time and I got the feeling that from the minute we sat down, our server wanted us gone..which was ironic, because the rest of the restaurant was empty.  This feeling was exacerbated when they brought our entrées out before we had finished our appetizers.
I can say one thing for sure, I will not be going back to this place, nor would I ever recommend it to anyone, even during restaurant week!

Apparently, I am in serious need of having a good food experience, pronto!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Death by Chocolate - A murder mystery

On Saturday night I experienced my first ever dinner theater.  At Elephant and Castle restaurant and Pub, the Mystery Café presents Death by Chocolate, a murder mystery where you, as a guest, are involved in the interactive entertainment of the evening.  
I did a bit of research on their website and it seemed like a great activity for a Saturday evening.  
My friend and I just barely made it in time for the show to begin and were greeted by some very colourfully wigged actors who ushered us to our places at one of many round tables. We were at table number four along with some other guests. 
Unfortunately, I cannot say that the level of the entertainment...or the food, reached my expectations, and certainly not the price ticket of the meal.  At 50 dollars a person (beverages and tip not incl.) I would expect better cosutmes, better food and certainly more chocolate! 
The actors were quite good, but the it was all overly dramatic, and the costumes were reminiscent of my own dress up box as a kid, neon wigs and leggings...
Our participation was limited to a 'sleuth sheet' where you placed your guess as to who murdered who,
and unless you were chosen at the door to recite a character plot, you were pretty much a spectator.  The actors brought out some chocolate covered strawberries I was very excited about only to learn that they were plastic and thus...unedible.  Hot chocolate was also brought out that was...for the actors only. I was also under the impression that perhaps all courses were going to be incorporating chocolate...I was largely disappointed.  The salad was a standard ceasar:
My friend and I chose the roasted chicken which was actually quite good, a nice large portion. The baked potato was completely in need of some cheese and certainly more than sour cream and the green beans were like space food.
The dessert, thankfully, was delicious.  A three layered chocolate mousse tart with an oreo crumb crust.  It was very tasty and definately made me relent in my subsequent disappointement.
I don't want to berate the actors, because they really did do their best and I was entertained througout the meal..which was just as well because there certainly was nothing entertaining about the food.    
However, there really was a huge discrepancy between the way this event is advertised and the way it actually went down. I think a few things need to be improved, at least invest in some better ligthing and costumes and for goodness sake, offer food that is in some way related to the tale of chocolate you so endorse!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spring Awakening

There always seems to be a population explosion on those beautiful weekends, when the temperature goes up and the sun comes out. This Saturday was one such day and although the stores were all thronging with people, you couldn't help but be outside basking in the shared glory.
My friends and I were perusing around Newbury and the thought of frozen yogurt seemed a genius idea.  Judging by the ridiculous line coming from Pinkberry, we were not the only ones with this idea...Luckily however, I remembered Red Mango on Mass Ave and this place was much more manageable.
In we went and our beautiful day became a tasty day.
Red Mango is like any other frozen yogurt place, but that doesn't make it any less appealing.  The tart yogurt is delicious and their array of mix-ins are as well. Unfortunately, they were out of mochi, which is my absolute favorite topping.

Nevertheless, I went a little crazy (as you can see) and got a mix of their dark chocolate and original flavoured yogurt with oreos, bananas, black berries and a few yogurt chips.  It was divine!
They were not skimpy on with my portion either, sometimes you have to keep an eye on them because they tend to leave a crater in the middle of your fro-yo which is like paying for air...very frustrating. 
I still prefer the frozen yogurt places where you can do it all yourself, but this was just the thing we needed after an afternoon of fun in the sun and over crowded shops.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tuesdays at Tremont 647

So I am all about restaurant week, but when my friend and I headed to Tremont 647 this Tuesday, it was impossible for me to resist the frugal temptation of Taco Tuesday.
This tradition has been upheld here for many years and it is a fabulous idea: two dollars a taco on one of the restaurant business' slowest evenings.  It really gets the crowds in too! Granted, it was Restaurant week (and Tremont 647's menu is a strong one!), if I hadn't been lucky enough to secure a table, we would have been tagged onto a two hour wait time! Lucky for us, we managed to get our hands on the best seats, in the house, at the chef's table:)
The taco menu was a bit smaller than usual, but this was again due to restaurant week.  Nevertheless, the selection did not disappoint, all four were delicious and different. The fish tacos were our favorite, they even desreved a second order.

We also ordered their homemade chips and guac which was a tasty treat.  Unfortunately, due to the influx of people, they had just run out of fried plantains before we ordered, so those did not end up at our table...then again, at least this leaves something for next time...which will undoubtebly be sooner rather than later!
Stop by any tuesday for their Two dollar tacos, or try out their restaurant week menu, to view either, follow this link:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

How to get the most out of Restaurant Week

 It's here again, from March 6-11th and from March 13-18th 2011, restaurants all over the Greater Boston area will be offering prix fix menus at discounted prices.
Restaurant Week is a tradition that has been around for quite a while now and is a great way to try out those restaurants you have had your eye on, without having to dig too deep in your pockets.
Participating restaurants offer 2 course lunches at $15.11, 3 course lunches at $20.11 and 3 course dinners at $33.11. 
There is not much to it: pick out your restaurant, make your reservation and eat your heart out, however there are certain things you may want to keep in mind in order to get the most out of your experience.
First of all, I would do a bit of research and go to the most expensive place out there on your list.  Simply put, don't pick a restaurant where you would come out spending less than 35 dollars. I personally would look for a place whose regular Prix Fix price is no less than 40 dollars. That way you already know you are getting a deal.
I would also avoid tapas restaurants. I once went to Toro for restaurant week and although it is the only time you can make a reservation at this place, my friends and I ended up spending about 50 dollars more than we would have with the regular menu...this was simply because of the sneaky way they set their deal. Instead of having a selection of tapas for each individual, they alot a certain number depending on the size of the party.  With each person paying 33.11, you end up paying for more than you ate...I was not a happy camper when I did my calculations.
Another thing I would be wary of is 'aditional charges', some menu offer slightly higher  priced items with an attached '$' amount.  These may seem trivial, but they add up.
Lastly, try to plan ahead, reserve your table as early as possible because this restaurant phenomenon has gained so much momentum that restaurants tend to get full pretty quickly.
For more info and a list of participating restaurants, visit: