Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Tapas At Matadora

The building mural one sees upon arrival, or even before, at Matadora in Woburn.  You just don't see this anywhere in Boston.

The Sparkling Valencia at Matadora:  Orange Vodka, Liqueur 43, Lemon and Cava

It used to be that when you really wanted to head out to a special place for dining on a Friday night everyone would dress up and go to Boston.  Today people weigh that decision much more carefully.  Why fight the traffic, spend forty bucks to park and then eighteen for a cocktail?  You're in almost sixty dollars before you've even had a morsel of food. 

Cheese Board:  Cana de Cabra, Aged Manchego and Chef Stephen Coe's Choices along with Seasonal Accompaniments.
Yes, dining in the suburbs now offers the ambiance, design and service once reserved almost exclusively for downtown spots.  The fare is just as good, a free parking spot is waiting just a few feet from the door and the price in most cases is far more reasonable.  Sad, really, given the outrageous costs of rent and a liquor license. 
Matadora, at the newly-refurbished Hilton in Woburn, is a great example of this.  As a young man I took my first apartment in Woburn and, believe me, this level of dining was simply just not even a thought in the blue collar community.

Pineapple Sangria:  Albarino, Brandy, Pineapple Juice and Pineapple
The design is a stunner upon entrance.  Lots of small tables and banquettes on a two-tiered, open floor plan and kitchen and a large bar area with additional banquettes on the higher level.  Soaring ceilings and soft lighting makes everything (and everyone) shimmer.  It's almost old school Hollywood.  From your seat you can see every other seat in the house no matter where you are.

And it's not just the cougar and softball team crowd out for their version of an upscale night on the town.  There are young (quite fashionable) couples sipping red wines as they taste their way through small plates.  There are party groups marking an occasion, a pack of friends obviously club bound at some point and established older couples and friends enjoying animated conversation and laughs.

Shrimp Toast:  Wild Shrimp, Spicy Saffron Butter and Garlic Toast.
The Shrimp Toast was a top taste, a delicious tidbit to pair with a drink and tease the tastebuds before the main course.

The glorious Paella at Matadora in Woburn.
The highlight of our dinner was the Paella.  Everything in it from the mussels to the chorizo was perfect.  Stop in for this alone.

Left to Right:  Michelle Jacobson, Lee Jacobson, Henry Risman and Amy Risman, all of Andover.
It's always nice meeting new friends.  This table snagged us as we were walking by to get some detail photos.. It was their second visit to Matadora and, like us, they plan to come back.

Hilton Boston/Woburn
2 Forbes Road
Woburn, MA  01801
Telephone:  781.904.0658


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Brunch At Cliff House

We enjoyed a recent Saturday brunch at Cliff House in Cape Neddick, Maine and it was hard to fathom why after a lifetime of every summer spent along the southern Maine coast we had never been here before.

A recent refurbishment and countless redesigns and new additions over the years has resulted in a stunning destination well worth the trip up and everything looks brand spanking new.

With soaring ceilings and full wall windows the view is breathtaking and the place is airy and filled with natural light even in the winter yet the design certainly has it's cozy, comfortable inviting spots like this one near the always roaring fireplace.


It's also plush, elegant and luxurious with a real sense of inviting relaxation.

The Brunch menu is a la carte.  We were told that it was a buffet once in years gone by.  You can get the full breakfast with fresh Blueberry Coffee Cake and all of the traditional morning fare.

You can also get lobster rolls which was what most in our dining party opted for.  With light mayo or butter and served on a toasty grilled roll there was nothing better.

The only one, small disappointment was that although the bar seemed quite well-stocked and two bartenders were on hand to serve we couldn't get a Bellini.  We settled, of course, for Mimosas.  This was no big deal considering the plush setting and the stunning view but, as we have always held, the highest levels of service are found in the smallest details.

Cliff House
591 Shore Road
Cape Neddick, ME 03902
Telephone:  207.361.1000


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Dining Around In Union Square

We were recently invited on a food tour in Somerville.  Unfortunately, because we offered some feedback we thought might improve the experience, we were asked not to mention the tour company on the blog.  Our motto here is:  "We call 'em as we see 'em."  Whether we show up unannounced or as an invited guest, we write about the experience honestly as we feel we owe that to consumers and the many readers we have a personal connection with.  While we are happy to comply with the request we really enjoyed some of the food we had and wanted to feature it.  Like the Enchiladas from El Potro pictured above.

Then there were the donuts at Union Square Donuts.  The flavors are so unusual and look so tempting it is no wonder there is usually a line out the door.  This Golden Milk features ginger and turmeric, an exotic combination.  Having worked as a baker for years and admittedly being an old-school donut snob I have always found the donuts here, however, to be slightly dry.

The Spinach And Feta pierogi at Jaju Pierogi is without question the best damn pierogi we have ever had.  At a hefty six bucks each they are pillowy soft and filled with fresh ingredients turned out perfectly. And, yes, they are available in specialty food stores and local markets.  Pricey?  Worth the splurge?  Yes to both.

Remnant Brewery is close by.  It's a cool spot, pretty hipsterish but the brews are great so it's always worth a stop.

This Black Raspberry ice cream cone at Gracie's was definitely a star of the day.  Delicious and the torched Marshmallow Fluff just elevated the experience.  If I lived closer I'd likely be there a few times a week!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

TV Cooking Legend Mary Ann Esposito Event

One of the big questions I always have for people is:  how did you learn to cook?  The answer is often my mother or grandmother but in my case the answer is with Mary Ann Esposito and many of the other TV Chefs I would watch on weekends when I got my first apartment. 

So, I was thrilled when the Boston Center for Adult Education recently asked me to host an evening with Mary Ann to introduce everyone to her new book:  MY LIFELONG FOOD ADVENTURES IN ITALY.  Not only that but audience members will have the opportunity to ask questions, sample a few dishes from the book and get their copy autographed.

The event will take place on Wednesday April 17th at the BCAE building on Arlington Street.  Tickets are limited and Mary Ann always draws a large crowd so get your tickets early and I will see you there.

Thursday, February 7, 2019


Since our winter holiday break we have been inundated with new products to try.  The sample vault is full and we've been working our way through the tastes and tests at every chance we get.  As you know, most of the food products get tossed after, literally, one bite or spoonful.  This Kumana Avocado Sauce was different.

They have several different flavors and we tried it many different ways.  It was great on eggs and even grilled hot dogs one recent warm night when it felt like Spring in Boston.  It was great on a Turkey Panini sandwich and, yes, even French Fries.

The hot flavor may be a bit much on the heat index for some as the original is spicy enough.  For more information you can check the product out and find order information here.

We received this product as a sample to taste without promise of any editorial consideration.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

West Cork

February is a short month.  Next is March and here in Boston we all know what that means:  St. Patrick's Day.  And this year we will be able to have a special Irish Whiskey not available anywhere else.  What I really love about this is that my family is actually from Cork!
This Export Stout Cask Finish Irish Whiskey is the result of a true collaboration between two craft producers. West Cork Distillers initially shipped empty barrels that aged their Bourbon Cask Irish Whiskey to Castle Island Brewing Co. The brewer then aged its Imperial Stout in the barrels, imparting flavors of charred oak, rich vanilla, and hints of dark fruit into their smooth base beer. They released this limited-edition “Greetings from Skibb” Imperial Stout about 6 months back and sold out rapidly. The barrels were then shipped back to West Cork, where the team finished this blended Irish Whiskey to bring the collaboration full-circle.

As St. Patrick’s rapidly approaches, this Irish Whiskey is going to be in very short supply throughout Greater Boston (there is nowhere else in the country to get it, making it quite exclusive).  You still have time to stock up on this local-centric, limited release Irish Whiskey that was born of a true collaboration with one of the area’s most popular craft breweries.
Enjoy and Happy (early) Saint Patrick's Day!
This sample was provided to us with no promise of any editorial consideration.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Durgin Park Cornbread Recipe 2019

We first ran it years and years ago when we were handed it by a friend, tried it and loved it.  Now that the legendary spot is closed it has become a big request so here it is ...

Durgin Park's Corn Bread

3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal (regular, not coarse grind)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375.
Mix the sugar with the eggs. Shift the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt together. Stir in the egg mixture. Beat quickly by hand (do not use an electric mixer unless you want an even more cake like texture).

Bake in a 11x13 inch buttered pan for 35-40 minutes. Makes 21 squares.

For blueberry cake, add one cup of blueberries before turning the batter out into the pan.

For tea bread, substitute one cup of flour for the cornmeal.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Au Revoir L'Espalier ... And Others

A luncheon cheese plate at the now-closed L'Espalier.
L'Espalier.  The Tam.  Durgin Park.  Three very different types of restaurants that have all recently closed, or are about to.  75 On Courthouse in the Seaport closed after just seven months.  Rumor has it that others are on the way.  Have people had it with the frustrating drive into the city?  Then, the parking.  The cost?  The restaurants say that business was dwindling.  No one wants that kind of dining any more.  The rents are outrageous.  The rising minimum wage was also a factor, driving a new model for front and back of house parity that doesn't always work for everyone.  Others say that it is the bubble finally bursting as many have predicted.
 A source for 75 On Courthouse told us that the Seaport just did not deliver the traffic that they had hoped for.  Maybe it's because of that one road in and out from the often backed-up Greenway.  And although all of those luxury condos may be selling well and at unprecedented prices we rarely see lots of people walking in and about the area.
Graeham Henderson, Executive Chef at Le Méridien Cambridge, told us:  "We have hit the saturation point."  Indeed, even his own restaurant has eliminated dinner service and many hotel restaurants are having trouble attracting a steady dinner crowd year round.  "Boston is about to see restaurant closings in unprecedented numbers.  "The real reason is, he says, is:  "Quick serve casual is a huge reason why.  Millenials love that concept and is has greatly improved with a new, wider appeal."  Take it from one who IS a millennial.

That is a new insight and may explain why some with that concept do seem to be thriving.  Committee in the Seaport District seems to always be mobbed with groups of friends all enjoying apps and a craft cocktail.  So does Earls At The Prudential.  Such restaurants are the new clubs. 

Rents and the cost of an alcohol license seem to be the biggest culprit in Boston according to many chefs and owners we talked with.  None of them wanted to speak on the record, notoriously famous for being close-lipped about closings, any closings.  Clearly, many restaurants are fleeing to the suburbs like Burlington and Lynn, with lower rents and plenty of curbside, free parking, where the dining scene is thriving.

Only time will tell and, of course, we'll be carefully watching and documenting on how things roll out in 2019.  Meanwhile, if you have any thoughts to share please do so here or on our other social media @TheBostonFoodie.

Monday, December 31, 2018

2019 Plans

One of the resolutions you should have every year is to take time and enjoy life.  I try to do something fun, something that I truly enjoy, every day.  You don't have to spend hours and it's really true that "life's little pleasures" are often the best. 

And then sometimes you just want to get out of town for the weekend.  For years now our first getaway of the New Year has been a drive down to Mohegan Sun for the weekend to attend the Food And Wine Fest.  It's always been fun but this year we won't be attending.  There are many reasons and we will go into those in detail in our next post.

In a nutshell, 2019 is going to be a year of great change and the food landscape will not be immune.  So, we'll have to adapt and some of the events and, yes, even traditions that have marked our annual calendar are going to have to be redirected in a positive way to keep our focus on the joy of food and drink.

Stay tuned.  We are with you all on the ride into the future and look forward to sharing it together.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Friendly Toast Brunch

Pumpkin Pancakes at The Friendly Toast.
Part of the holiday season for us always includes at least one brunch out with friends or maybe as a stop between shopping excursions and/or city walks.  When in Cambridge we'd suggest The Friendly Toast, although they do have multiple locations now.

A Flight Of Mimosas.  Cute, clever and delicious.
The menu at The Friendly may seem overwhelming at first.  Everything is tempting.  After deliberating over which Mimosa to try (there are several options from Apricot Brandy to Elderflower) our server suggested we just try the flight and sample them all.  We'd suggest you do the same.

Breakfast Eggrolls.
A newer menu item, as are the Pumpkin Pancakes, we just knew we HAD to try these.  It's just such a great idea to put some typical breakfast foods in or on a roll and then make it not typical.  These egg rolls are stuffed with, well, eggs, scrambled, of course, corned beef hash, Swiss cheese and then the unusual kimchi slaw.  And it all works beautifully.

Salmon Ramen
Ramen for breakfast is not a bad thing.  Neither is salmon.  Ever.  So we went with that.  A steamy bowl of fresh ramen noodles in red curry broth, with Gochujang glazed Coho salmon, an over easy egg, kimchi slaw, scallions & mango-habanero sauce.  Not your Grandma's breakfast food but a luxurious one.

Avos To Apples at The Friendly Toast
Another unusual mix the Avos To Apples:  A slice of Anadama toast (an old New England bread recipe made with corn and molasses and totally satisfying) loaded with avocado, roasted caramelized apples, blue cheese crumbles, spicy pecans & a hint of cinnamon. Served with root vegetable hash & a sunny egg. And, again, satisfying, terrific breakfast fare or hangover cure, take your pick.

Of course you'll most likely be spending more than one day out shopping and strolling in  and around the city this holiday season and The Friendly offers so much on the menu you could visit every weekend without coming anywhere near exhausting the menu possibilities.  It's just the perfect way to brunch at any time of year.

The Friendly Toast
1 Kendall Square B3101
Cambridge, MA 02139
Telephone:  617.621.1200

@_TheFriendlyToast (ig)

We were invited to this brunch as members of the media with no promise of any editorial consideration.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Wine Lunch At Moon Bar

Smoked Bluefish Pate at Moon Bar
We recently enjoyed an intimate group of food writers at a great wine lunch at Moon Bar in Park Square, on the first floor of Mooncusser Fish House.  What a gem! 

Lobster Bisque at Moon Bar.
Of course, it was seafood all throughout and all of it was excellent.  I was joking with dinner companions how after each dish was served we would then exclaim that that was actually our favorite.


The wines were also very well paired.  I particularly liked the Riesling, St. Urbans-Hof 'Nik Weis', Mosel 2015.  Delightful wine, well-balanced, not too sweet as some Rieslings can be.  Then there was the Cabernet-Franc, Couly-Dutheil, Chinon 2017.

Fish Tacos With Cabbage Slaw, Cilantro, Pickled Red Onion And Thoreau Sauce.
To reiterate, this was our favorite.  Really, though, the tempura has never been done better, light but crisp.

Smoked Mussel Toast With Pumpkin, Sage, Roasted Garlic Aioli On Sourdough Toast.
No, THIS was our favorite.  It may have not been the prettiest girl, or boy, at the prom but if one loves the taste of smoked foods then this is a standout winner.  Beautifully rich flavors layered on top of one another, the texture of that toast and all infused with that smoky essence. 


Swordfish Souvlaki With Garlic, Oregano, Lemon, Cucumber, Cauliflower, Chickpeas, Yogurt And Pita.
This was our favorite.  Seriously, it's too easy to dry out swordfish.  Yet, the morsels on the kebab stick were moist, tender, succulent and packed with flavor. 

Although we dined downstairs at the bar we did head upstairs for the view of Mooncusser Fish House imagining how beautiful it must be with that view of Park Square all glistening in the holiday lights, a hidden gem.  Then we were reminded that the space was once that infamous after hours private club that we flocked to when the bars closed at 2AM and we were just getting started.  remember the name?

Moon Bar and Mooncusser Fish House.  A great find where you will not be disappointed.

Mooncusser Fish House
304 Stuart Street
Boston, MA  02116
Telephone:  617.917.5193


We were invited to this event as members of the media and professional press with no promise of any editorial coverage.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Saloniki Greek Harvard Square

We'll all be out doing our holiday shopping and socializing this season and at some point, well, we all have to eat.  So, we're kicking off a short series on places where you can stop and refuel before you hit the shops again.

Our first feature is Saloniki, the new, Greek-inspired casual spot from Jody Adams.  We visited the Harvard Square location in the newly renovated Smith Center formerly known as the Holyoke Center.  And what a stunning redo it is!

The spot features comfy seats and booths and Greek foods for a quick nosh with a view of the lively Dunster Street in Harvard Square. 

We went with the smallish Spinach Pie, or Spanakopita, not a bad version for light lunch or snack to hold one over until the purchases are made.

In addition to the menu and bar there are foods to go and an assortment of traditional food products imported from Greece.  Nice little spot to stop in and refresh and maybe even pick up a few gifts for that foodie friend.

Saloniki Greek
24 Dunster Street
Cambridge, MA  02138
Telephone:  617.945.5877


Sunday, December 2, 2018

Favorite Things 2018 III

We know.  It looks like something you'd give to your toddler.  Easy to digest.  100% pure fruit.  No added sugars.  And portable.  Sounds like something perfect for the multi-tasking, short on time adult, too.  The Ceres Smoothie To Go series of flavorful snacks is an easy, portable snack between meals and a healthy one, too.  We really like it post-workout when we won't be eating for a while.

Samples were provided by Ceres for our tasting with no promise of any editorial consideration.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Favorite Things 2018 II

We recently discovered Lindemans Framboise at a tasting while shopping at Wegmans in Medford.  The color will catch your eye.  Some people really love it, some not and there seems to be no in-between.  Of course it has a wonderfully fruity taste and I really felt the tartness on the sides of my tongue.  Oftentimes people will recommend pairing a sweeter beer with a sweet pastry or dessert or even ice cream.  I find them to go best with a more salty, savory snack or dish.  In any case, if you have not tried a Lambic recently, or at all, we suggest that you try this flavorful, lower alcohol content sip.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Favorite Things 2018

French Toast flavored Bantam Bagels make for an easy breakfast.

As many readers know we receive many food and food-related products to test, taste and share throughout the year.  For some reason this gets amped up during the holiday season to the point where we are often getting packages delivered daily for weeks on end.  Most of the stuff is rejected after the first look and taste sample.  You can't believe some of the absolutely horrible stuff we have seen.

This year we thought we feature some of the stuff we actually liked in a series of our "Favorite Things".  Yes, we know it sounds like Oprah (who actually stole it from "The Sound Of Music") and we won't be giving away thousands of products but, hey, we liked them.

First up are the Bantam Bagels.  You may have seen this product on Shark Tank and, due to their success, in Starbucks stores nationwide.  Not bad.  They are basically bagel bites that are filled with cheese and come in a variety of flavors.  Some are spicy, some savory and some sweet like our favorite French Toast.  They are purchased frozen but we've thrown a few in the gym bag early in the morning and when we arrive at work they are all set to be heated up for breakfast.

And that is the appeal of this product:  easy.  The taste is not bad, though.

This product was provided to us by the manufacturer for sampling without promise for any editorial consideration.