Saturday, April 22, 2017

Cooking For A Cause 2017


It's the Spring season, although one may not recognize it from the cold, rainy weather, and with it comes new changes across the landscape and that includes the food landscape.  Doors will be thrown open, patio furniture set out and menus changed.  Within just a few weeks thousands of tourists and travelers will flock to Greater Boston for vacation and holidays. And we'll all see many white tents set up on those rolling green lawns for all those warmer weather events and parties.  Yes, the social season has begun and our calendar is filling up quickly, almost all the way out until July.

So we kicked off the Spring social agenda with one of our favorite events and organizations: Cooking For A Cause to benefit East End House in Cambridge.  We started with a generous pour of Working Class Hero from Cambridge Brewing Company.  Spring and Summer are no better time to enjoy a good craft brew and we really enjoyed their Working Class Hero, an American Saison in the farmhouse ale style.  With hints of lemon and orange it's a refreshing sip and would be great on a hot day.  Nice find!


I had along as my guest a new friend visiting from Portugal, Joao Santos, fashion blogger at The Glam Life Diary and a fellow craft beer aficionado.  


We loved the sushi from Fuji At Kendall.  Several varieties were provided for tasting.  Other favorite tastes included the Green Garbanzo Hummus from Tony Maws at Craigie On Main, delicious sips from Roxy's A4cade, a stellar Short Rib And Cornbread from Andy Husbands at The Smoke Shop and a perfect pasta dish (with an incredible sauce) from Dante DeMagistris of Dante.


The Royal Sonesta in Cambridge provided the stunning backdrop of the Boston skyline, albeit damp, as hundreds of guests enjoyed the many plates of food, drinks and dessert before an auction and dancing to live music rounded out the night.


The evening raised $400,000 for East End House which does so much great work for children, teens and families in Cambridge. Plaudits to them and their team for their ongoing success.  We were glad to be a small part of it.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

B3: Back Bay Beats Opens


The Ham Biscuits at B3:  Benton's Ham, Buttermilk Biscuits, Pimento Cheese and Tobasco Honey.
 

Is location everything?  For years many have said it is but I disagree.  If a talented Chef is putting out great fare with a refreshing concept in a comfortable space people will find their way.  Even in spots where multiple other ventures have failed some Chefs and their teams have totally turned it around into a resounding success.  Think Pizzeria Posto in Davis Square or Boston Chops in the South End.

So, when we recently visited Back Bay Beats on Mass Avenue near the Symphony we wondered.  It is traditionally a restaurant dead zone and has been since it was my old stomping grounds with Northeastern University friends many years ago.  Yet I don't think that location is going to hold this one back.
 

 
Pork Belly Rillette:  Cognac Marinated Pork Belly, Orange Zest and Fruit Mostarda.
 
 
Chef Nicolas Swogger (formerly of Hungry Mother) brings a Southern influence to the menu.  It shows in the pimento cheese and collard greens and, yes, the food is excellent.  Everything we were served that night was right on the money.  Start off with the Ham Biscuits pictured above.
 



Fried Oysters:  Buttermilk and Cornmeal Battered Oysters with Comeback Sauce.  What is Comeback Sauce?  A New Orleans staple it is a mix of ketchup, mayo and chili sauce.  I am not a raw oyster eater.  I loved this.


Red Snapper Crudo:  Raw Sliced Red Snapper, Beet Chips, Sriracha, Baby Arugala, Clementine Segments, Olive Oil and Maldon Salt.  Very nice and beautiful on the plate.


Pork Loin:  Pork Loin with Bacon and Collard Green Stuffing, Cornmeal Spaetzle, Pecans and Pot Licker Gastrique.  This was our favorite taste of the night.  I just loved the idea of spaetzle, typically a German dish made with a dough ball grated into boiling water for a noodle type starch, gone Southern.  Here the dough is made of corn meal and grated right into a vat of oil for a golden fry.  I could go back just to eat a plate of these.

We also sampled an Apple and White Chocolate Bread Pudding (not pictured) that was every bit deserving of a fine, home style Southern dessert.


The space is simple and modern, without pretension and part of the Berklee College Of Music campus.  It follows that students and music will be part of the mix with a state-of-the-art performance area and lots of musical talent waiting in the wings to perform. 

Live music sessions will happen Monday - Saturday at 7:00 and 9:00 PM, for Sunday Brunch at 11:30AM and 1:00 PM and then again for Sunday Supper at 5:30 and 7:00 PM.  As much as I am not a Southern boy the Sunday Supper event is a nostalgic touch for me and, I think, a great idea.  Instead of the typical Friday dinner out spend the weekend relaxing and end it with a great meal, a cocktail and live music.  The juxtaposition of all the elements seems to be a feature we think will result in a hit.

B3:  Back Bay Beats
160 Massachusetts Avenue
Boston, MA  02115
Telephone:  617.997.0211

Socials:
@B3restaurant
@TheBostonFoodie

This dinner was part of a media night event with no promise for any editorial consideration.



Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Comfort Of Joe's On Newbury


We joined a gaggle of media mavens on Newbury Street recently for a private party to check out some new menu items at Joe's American Bar And Grill. In between copious sips of Champy wine we tasted a comforting Mac And Cheese made with five different cheeses and generous Maine Lobster Rolls.



Then there was the Chicken Piccata, just how we like it - with loads of lemon and capers.



The steaks at Joe's are never disappointing whether it's the Center Cut Fillet or the New York Strip.  Also sampled were the Cast Iron Skillet Roasted Mussels (P.E.I) and that signature Spinach And Artichoke Dip.  Oh, and needless to say we began the meal with a fresh Peasant Loaf, torn apart by hand, a Joe's tradition.



Then there was dessert.  We tried them all including the Seven Layer Chocolate Cake, one of our fave desserts anywhere in Boston, and the Butterscotch Bread Pudding.  



Food bloggers doing what food bloggers do.


And, of course it is always great to catch up with Jenny Johnson of Dining Playbook on NESN, here showing off our new specs.

Joe's is always the place to go when in the Back Bay with friends for a relaxing, unpretentious atmosphere and a great menu filled with comfort dishes for everyone.  

Joe's
181 Newbury Street
Boston, MA  02116
Telephone:  617.536.4200

Socials:
@Joesamerican
@drinkchampy
@TheBostonFoodie




Monday, March 20, 2017

Date Night Deal At Coda Bar And Kitchen


We were recently invited to Coda Bar And Kitchen in the South End to experience their Monday evening Date Night special.


This is a special dining offer for two and, yes, we know that Monday may not be your typical date night but if you can make it then you'll be able to enjoy this really great value.

The deal is that you get two appetizers, very generous portions I must say, then split a main course and dessert all for forty dollars total.  Not bad!

 

I opted for this Endive Salad which was quite good and the runny egg you see there was every bit as perfect as it looks.  Of course both of us shared the appetizers and there was plenty enough to go around.

 

The Crispy Polenta was our favorite taste, however.  Perfectly done with a chicken confit inside and floating in a puddle of creamy tomato soup.  Really good.


Our main was this Half Chicken which, again, was perfectly turned out.  Somebody here really knows how to roast a chicken and the brussels sprouts were also excellent. 


For dessert we opted for these Ice Cream Sandwiches made with chocolate chip cookies and vanilla gelato.

All in all a great value and we did not leave feeling hungry.  The appetizer portions, as mentioned, were quite substantial.  In fact, this was more satisfying than the sea of "small plates" restaurants where one can spend a lot more and depart feeling like you now need to go somewhere else for dinner after dropping a hundred dollars on a few drinks and tastes.

Of course, there are other menu options to choose from as listed in the photo above.  A glass of wine will add about an additional ten to eleven bucks per person.  We went with a dry Finger Lakes region Riesling that was perfect.  So, Monday nights are it if your looking for a quality night out in Boston at a very reasonable price.

Coda Bar And Kitchen
329 Columbus Avenue
Boston, MA  02116
Telephone:  617.536.CODA

@CodaBarBoston
@TheBostonFoodie

We were invited to dinner as guests with no promise of any editorial coverage or consideration.
 


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Making Pasta At Eataly


We were recently invited to spend a frigid afternoon at Eataly in Boston for what turned out to be a fabulous experience called Cook Better, Eat Better:  Fresh Northern Italian Pasta. Yes, we were off to cooking class at this massive Italian food emporium!  



I was greeted at the entrance to the cooking school with a glass of prosecco (Flor Prosecco NV to be precise, from the Veneto) and met my table mates Susan and Karen.  Together we'd be learning about the northern Italian region, it's cooking style and wines and enjoying an afternoon of deliciousness and fun.



Along with the prosecco we were served this Crostini con Salsa Verde to whet our appetites and get us in the mood for food.



Our class was taught by Chefs Sam De Los Santos and Donna MacDonald-Rizzo, both very experienced.  This would be an immersive hands-on class, beginning with each of us having our own bowl to mix and make our own pasta.  I had never done this, believe it or not, and the kneading was quite the workout but also a great thing to learn in the hands of experts.



Things were kept moving right along.  Next we had to fill and cut our own pasta.  We made Ravioletto and Agnolotti.





Chefs provided all of the tips and tricks we needed and assisted us with careful eyes with suggestions.



Once complete, our Ravioletto were packaged up so that we could bring them home to share and the Agnolotti were cooked up. Then, we washed up and sat down to enjoy freshly-prepared plates.



The pasta was delicious, helped along with a heavy dusting of shaved truffles.  Additional wines were served from the Piedmont (Oddero Collaretto 2013 and Borgogno Barbera 2014) and Lombardy (Rosso di Valtellina 2013) regions.  It was great to learn about the wines and traditions from people who had actually lived and worked in the area.



A Chef-prepared version of the Ravioletta was then served in an incredibly flavorful, rich stock that had been cooking for over six hours.



And there was not an empty bowl or plate in sight!

We were also provided with a full packet of information on the wines and sheets with the ingredients and recipes to make everything at home.  Every student also receives a 10% discount on any shopping at Eataly that day, which came in very handy.

At about $100 per person the value of the class was well worth it considering all that you get and especially the expert techniques one will use in the home kitchen forever and the discount on all the exclusive, high-quality ingredients they carry.  The cost of the truffles and wine alone made it worth it!  First class all the way.

One word of advice would be plan ahead.  I had been looking for a class since November and this was the first one that had an opening.  They fill up very quickly, especially on the weekend dates.  If this one seems a bit pricey there are many others to choose from in lower price ranges but I'd recommend this as a splurge.  Many of the students received the class as a gift from a partner or family member.  If you have any interest in quality Italian cooking it is a delicious, informative and very fun way to spend the day.

Eataly
Prudential Center
800 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02199

Telephone: 617.807.7300

Media
@EatalyBoston
@TheBostonFoodie



This class was provided as a sample by Eataly with no promise of editorial coverage positive or otherwise.  All views expressed are our own.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Thai Cuisine At Thames Street, Newport


It's a small, family run hole-in-the-wall type place that one could easily walk past with scant notice.  Yet, after our visit on a whim two years ago for lunch it has become a must-dine-at mission every time we visit Newport.  It's Thai Cuisine At Thames Street.


Just a casual spot but always a favorite with all of the locals we meet and chat with, we've never had to wait for a table at this go-to spot.  And we've never heard anyone say that they were disappointed. 

We began with soups, a bargain at $4.25 each.  The Chicken Coconut Soup is creamy yet not heavy and laced with a hint of ginger and lime.


My Won Ton Soup was exactly what one would expect from a classic rendition:  good, clear broth, chewy shrimp and chicken won tons and fresh scallion.  Simple but satisfying.


We both ordered the Chicken Pad Thai.  It is not just one of the best I have enjoyed but THE best.  A hot, heaping platter arrives of noodles, sprouts, chopped egg, ground peanuts, spices and loaded with chicken.  No panning for chicken gold here, as one does in some joints.  Every, single bite had a piece of chicken. 

The Pad Thai is a fave dish (with locals, as well) but we will be back to explore the rest of the menu, too, when we return for a week in June.  And if you just hate to leave the confines of your gilded age mansion and ocean view they do offer take-out.

Thai Cuisine At Thames Street
517 Thames Street
Newport, RI 02840
Telephone:  401.841.8822

Looking for social media handles?  Apparently, Thai Cuisine is so refreshingly old-school that they can't be bothered.  It adds an air of mystery.  We say congratulations to that!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Newport Off Season


The annual week in Newport, Rhode Island just before the official summer season commences when all the stores and restaurants are open, the weather is spectacular and the tourist crowds are thin is something we look forward to each year.  Yet, the off-season, with cooler weather and even less throngs on the sidewalks makes for a quite comfy weekend escape.

 
A stop at Fort Adams to see whatever is going on is always worth it.  This day we found the new replica of the Oliver Hazard Perry at dock in the icy winds.  She is a beauty and must really fly across the water at full sail on a windy day.  I am sure this will be worth a revisit on our return in June.
 

 
It was totally by coincidence that we made our arrangements during school vacation week.  It was Winter Festival in Newport with all kinds of extra-added things to do and see.  Colony House on Washington Square was holding a great event for foodies called Colonial Food For Thought.  It was our very first stop upon arrival.  We learned all about the tea trade and types of tea sipped by colonials.  It was interesting to discover that the fine people of Newport often enjoyed tax-free tea which made it's way here via the black market.  It paid to be a smaller port while Boston was heavily watched and regulated by the tax collectors. 
 
We also learned a lot about the origins of chocolate which began as a quite spicy, dark, bitter drink, Aztec in origin and brought to the world by Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes.  It would be decades before milk and sugar were added to resemble anything near what we have as a hot cocoa now.  



We wandered, along Thames Street and in the smaller shops off the beaten path.  Like the colonists we sought spices and other new ingredients, food and drink, the scent of the sea in the air.

 
As it also turned out, nature smiled upon us with unseasonably warm weather for February.  As the mercury soared to near seventy degrees we saw a full parking lot at the beach and decided to pull in.  Hundreds were strolling along the long shoreline.
 


And, yes, even the guys at Surfer's End at Second Beach, technically in Middletown took to the water.  The waves were great this day!


It was a spectacular weekend all around and a great break from the hectic city pace that we can highly recommend.  All just a short ninety minute ride from Boston.

If you choose to go here are some sites to check out:

Discover Newport
@dscvrNewport on Twitter and Instagram
Newport Buzz (Great for what's happening now, especially nightlife events)  @NewportBuzz on Twitter and Instagram
Hotel Viking for central, elegant accomodations
@hotelviking on twitter and instagram
@TheBostonFoodie For fun, food, travel and new ideas in and around Boston and New England

Our trip was sponsored in part by Hotel Viking without any editorial consideration provided.  All opinions expressed are our own and not that of any sponsor.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Staying At Hotel Viking


We had stopped in at Hotel Viking in Newport, Rhode Island, in the Autumn of last year to attend a special mixologist event hosted by Hennessy Cognac and were smitten by the old-world elegance of the place.  It really is a throwback to the Gilded Age, Newport's oldest luxury hotel AND situated right on iconic Bellevue Avenue.


So, when the opportunity came along to return for their 2017 Wine Festival, a series of more intimate dinners with the wineries who have paired the four course meal with wines we just knew we'd have to go back for at least one.  We chose the Hedges Family Estate wine dinner and were not disappointed.


The quality is always in the details.  We define a luxury experience as one where some of the niceties are provided even before one has to ask.  Fresh fruit and ice cold water upon arrival is always a great way to start when arriving in town.


The other thing we really love when traveling are the unique, even retro, features that make the experience special, like your not just in any cookie cutter designed hotel that looks the same no matter where in the world it is.

 
 
The design elements here were clearly Gilded Age, ornate but comfy, classic without being over-the-top or gaudy.
 


The common areas, including the indoor pool, were always impeccably clean, yet another extremely important factor when weighing the overall quality.



Overall, it's hard to beat Hotel Viking if you are staying in Newport.  The location makes just about everything within walking distance, the rooms are comfy, it's a great design, clean and the service is terrific.  We can't wait to go back for rooftop drinks when we return in June.

Hotel Viking
One Bellevue Avenue
Newport, RI  02840
Telephone:  401.847.3300

Twitter and Instagram
@HotelViking
@TheBostonFoodie

Our stay was provided by Hotel Viking without remuneration or any promise of editorial consideration.