Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Life During Wartime

That's what it's like, really.  Fighting an invisible enemy.  For one who writes about food and food events in New England it's also like a disaster hit right before the war began.  We sometimes visit two new restaurants in a week and often attend two or three more food events.

It was just a few weeks ago that we had a full agenda and were looking forward to Spring, April kicking off the social season that will last right into July Fourth and beyond.  Then, in the blink of an eye it's all gone.  

I walked the streets in my neighborhood last weekend just for something to do and photographed all the signs as pretty much everything has been closed except for the drug store and a few small restaurants willing to live on takeout only.  A ghost town.  So quiet.  Everything cancelled.  

Since then things have been changing daily, sometimes hourly.  I'm still at work although I am now wearing a mask and gloves and my hands have been washed and sanitized so much that they are like sandpaper.  And all I want to do at home is eat.

They say that the worst is yet to come.  Stay safe, stay healthy, eat well and be grateful for each day we have when we are not sick.  Hopefully I will see you all once all this subsides.

The saddest part of all is that some restaurants just will not survive this.  Higher end doesn't lend itself to a carryout bag.  People want the lighting, the atmosphere, a full dining room, a well-crafted cocktail.  Others can do it but for how long?  That cocktail is often the only surefire money-maker on the menu.  Other restaurants have already announced they they are closing their doors for good.  

Whether it's weeks or months I like to think we will all survive and be back.  Things will certainly change and those who were barely making it month to month will be gone or find a way to reinvent.  In the meantime, I'll be here helping to support in any way I can.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Dine Out Boston: Henrietta's Table

We are in the throes of Dine Out Boston.  You know the drill.  Some of the best restaurants in Greater Boston feature three course prix fixe dinners in order to sway the locals to try out the cuisine and hopefully return again or many times more.

Smoked Pastrami Salmon.

For years our go-to during the two week event has been Henrietta's Table at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square.  This spot was a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement using fresh, local ingredients in an inventive and delicious way.  The plates are all full portions that one would normally get, not the pared down version offered at other places.

Braised Brussells Sprouts.

If that's not enough the menu here for the special rate of $33.00 for dinner is extensive.  Lots of places have two options only.  And they even include a side order with your entree.  Needless to say, we highly recommend it.  You will not be disappointed.

Warm Beet Salad.

Blueberry/Blackberry Pie.

Warm Oatmeal Cake.

Not pictured (it never photographs well) is the absolutely mouth-watering Yankee Pot Roast With Mashed Potatoes.  Total comfort food deliciously made and served with a rich brown gravy.  The Three Mushroom vegetarian entree was also spot-on.

Don't wait too long.  Offers end this week.

One Bennett Street
Harvard Square
Cambridge, MA  02138
Telephone:  617.661.5005


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Breakfast At The Groton Inn

Breakfast is included when you stay at The Groton Inn and it's a full country breakfast including a made-to-order omelette station.  There is plenty to eat and the coffee is great.  A great way to end our stay.

Now all that is left is to write about it!

The Groton Inn
128 Main Street
Groton, MA  01450
Telephone:  978.448.6600

Friday, February 21, 2020

Forge And Vine

A High School couple on a date sits at the table beside us.  The young man wears a shirt and tie and looks like Baron Trump.  There are no smart phones in use, typical of a true preppy.  Groton School and Lawrence Academy are only a stone's throw away.  A gaggle of college students stumble in sporting appropriate champion sweatshirts emblazoned with school names.  Singles, older couples and families fill out the rest of the crowd and the place is really hopping.  Even on a Sunday night.  

We're at Forge And Vine in Groton which sits just behind The Groton Inn, a quiet country inn with understated New England elegance.  Once you take the one minute walk and venture beyond the foyer at the restaurant, however, it's like stepping into Oz.  From the outside we wondered if it was even open.  Inside, the place is crowded and hip, the drinks are flowing and the food is plentiful.

We are seated beside the open kitchen, the flames warming us up on a chilly night.  It seems that every other dish being served up is a thick, juicy burger.  We each order a smashing German Riesling.  

We began with the Roasted Squash With Wild Rice.  A great cold night treat it also featured black beans, maitake mushrooms, toasted walnuts, grapes and baby kale.  This comes as a vegetarian entree but the chef accomodated our interest.  Very nice flavors.

Carmelized Onion Gratin:  smoked bacon, Great Hill blue cheese and sourdough crisps.  An easy fave of the night, we could have eeaten this alone and left happy.  Rich in flavor and creamy in texture it was very satisfying with that sip of wine.

Grilled Berkshire Pork:  herb potatoes, glazed carrots, braised red cabbage and mustard jus.  Tender and well-balanced.

Filet Mignon:  wilted greens, potato rosti, beet root and horseradish demi.  Tender and, again, wonderful flavors.

Dessert was gelato made on-site.

All in all, a fun vibe at this casual, popular eatery that features what I would describe as classic tavern food, heavy on the beef and it's locally sourced.  Well worth the visit.  Next time, burgers.

Forge And Vine
126 Main Street
Groton, MA  01450
Telephone:  978.448.9200

We were invited to dinner here as members of the press/media with no promise of any editorial consideration.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Groton Inn

There's nothing like a weekend away at a comfy New England Inn during the winter months.  And we found The Groton Inn to to be the luxuriously cozy antidote for our "Palentines" weekend of relaxation.

Spacious, warm and inviting and only about a forty minute ride out it's a great way to get out of town and just relax for a few days.

The historic Inn (the oldest in the country) unfortunately burned down awhile back but was painstakingly rebuilt to exacting specs and the exterior looks virtually the same as it once did.  Inside, however, luxury awaits with heated bathroom floors, spacious rooms and meticulously clean throughout.

The halls are also filled with gorgeous antiques and original works of art all, by the way, available for purchase should the art collector in you take over between eating and naps.

Think of it as your country house you retreat to on weekends.  That's what most of the people we met staying there seem to do.  A wonderful getaway you don't have to spend hours to get to with an old New England, charming countryside feel.

The Groton Inn
128 Main Street
Groton, MA  01450
Telephone:  978.448.6600

We were invited to stay here as members of the press/media with no promise of any editorial consideration.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Long Cross Bar And Kitchen Brunch

It's not all glittering social and food events in opulent settings for food writers.  We like to check out the local spots, too, to see where people are going and, more importantly, why they are going there.  So, off we went to Long Cross Bar And Kitchen at Station Landing in Medford which was once a local outlet of Not Your Average Joe's, a chain that seems to have closed all of it's locations in Massachusetts and for good reason:  poor service and poor management.  

Bar area at Longcross Bar & Kitchen at Station Landing.

We went for brunch on Sunday and ordered the classic diner breakfast.  It was fairly full with locals who also seemed to be trying out the place.  They've been open about a month.  The guy in the booth next door whined, incessantly and loudly, about everything in his personal life.  It was, without doubt, the finest example of a reason to dump someone on the spot.  And leave him with the check.  It was comical.  So, they get an A+ for entertainment value at least.

The coffee did not rate as well.  It's a real challenge to serve coffee that is both weak AND very bitter but here that was executed perfectly.  The eggs were almost okay, overcooked with slight burn spots.  The sausage and potatoes, meh.  The bacon and toast both excellent.  I love it when toast is crisped on the griddle.

The parking is free and easy.  The service was excellent.  The bar, which dominates the entire space, seems to be exactly what the place was built for.  Maybe we should stop in after work on a Friday night for another visit.  We can't help, however, but predict it will be pretty much the softball league and cougar crowd. C'est la vie.

Station Landing
501 Fellsway
Medford, MA  02155
Telephone:   781.874.1033

Socials:  @thebostonfoodie

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Pretzel Time With Eastern Standard Provisions Co.

We made them first for the Super Bowl and then again for the Oscars so I guess it's already become a tradition for big TV events.  We are talking about home-baked pretzels made easy by Eastern Standard Provisions Co. right here in Boston.  

All you have to do is go online and order them up.  They arrive frozen.  You can bake them off right away or keep frozen for the future.  They also send various toppings.  All one needs to do is brush the pretzels with water or oil then sprinkle them on.  We have to say that we definitely preferred the oil brushed on.  They are also available at Market Basket.

As always, it's rare that we get a product that we truly enjoy here at TBF Headquarters.  Most we never even mention.  These we rather liked.

We were provided these product samples as a press/media courtesy without remuneration or any editorial promise.  We call 'em as we see 'em.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Sam Adams Tap Room

We have to admit it was pretty much a media frenzy when Jim Koch cut the ribbon, glass in hand, to officially open the Sam Adams Tap Room in Boston this week.  It IS the kind of fresh and glossy shot in the arm that, well, the dated Faneuil Hall needs.  And with the millions of tourists who pass through the space every year it is bound to be a success.

There is a bit of something for everyone here.  The home-grown brand within sight of the iconic Sam Adams statue notwithstanding, there is a live, intimate music space, a brew tour and three floors to discover.

The upper floor opens onto a nice deck overlooking the crowds and statue begging us on a cold night to imagine sipping a fresh, cold one on a warm summer's day.

It's shiny and bright and new and the spot, notoriously famous for fun drinks and a great crowd, we predict will be a famous mix of locals and visitors.

But what it all comes down to is the beer.  Our fave was the American Kriek with just a hint of cherry and a nice foam.  


Tuesday, January 28, 2020

It's Back!!!

Most will recall the demise of New England staple candy-maker Necco a few years back.  It was just one of those things.  A solid tradition in this area, we had to kiss them a sentimental goodbye after they racked up about 17M in debt with no way out.  The world is changing no matter how many romantic memories of the candy factory that began in Cambridge we had.

Yet, there is a silver lining.  The Sky Bar, perhaps their most popular item in their inventory was kept on life support and is now back and better than ever.  It's like returning from a vacation all tanned, rested and relaxed.  

Apparently this was the ardent favorite so an enterprising foodie approached Necco to buy the rights for this sole candy.  Why they passed on the Necco Wafers I don't know but it makes me love them even more.  The result: Sky Bar is back and, like I said, never tasted so good.  Made right here in Massachusetts.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Boston Dining: State Of Flux

It's a new year and that time when food writers and foodies in general think about what may be coming in 2020.  With the recent bombshell that Top Of The Hub will be closing all sorts of other things were called into question.  The moment after the press release arrived in our email the story was already going viral and was actually the top story on all of the local newscasts.  We have many happy memories of Top Of The Hub and it was always THE snag of the year to dine there late enough on July 4th to basically see the fireworks explode at eye level.  However, like most who are lamenting the loss, we haven't eaten there in years.  A venerable spot without doubt and for many a tradition or rite of passage.

Each year food writers predict that the bubble will burst, there are too many restaurants chasing too few diners, more people are eating delivery service at home from a favorite restaurant and with the worsening traffic and exorbitant parking prices who wants to drive into the city?  Can you blame them?  Yet each year seems to bring more new restaurants that overshadow the few that close.

Just in our own neighborhood we see Modern Pastry closed for renovations.  That's a good thing, right?  Business must be great.  Yet literally across the street is a sign for a new tequila bar that will be opening soon - in 2018!  It's owned by the same people who operate the very successful Tenoch Mexican eateries.

Modern is one of those places that has gone cash only in this increasingly digital world while other restaurants are going in the opposite direction and accepting no cash.

Then there are the food halls.  Faneuil Hall still gets a lot of foot traffic albeit tourists.  Then there is the much newer Boston Market just around the corner that seems to get a lot emptier every time we visit.  Add to that Eataly, Smith Center in Harvard Square and the new Time Out Market.  Also on the horizon are High Street in Downtown Crossing and yet another slated for The Hub On Causeway.  How many food halls can one city take?

There has been a plethora of West End restaurants opened in the past year or so and many more on the way.  If there is no event or game at TD Garden will people still flock there just to dine?  Yes, there is a lot of foot traffic through North Station but it's mostly running to get to the Commuter Rail from what we can see.  

Fine dining has also taken flight to the suburbs - Burlington and Lynn are just two of the areas where the rents are much cheaper (as are the liquor licenses) and the plentiful parking is free.  FREE.  Add in the minimum wage laws changing and the growing FOH/BOH dichotomy as some places sneak in service charges (yes, some are very upfront about it, too) and the uphill battle of converting the populace to accept no tip dining at all.  It seems to work in some places and fails miserably in others.

The Greater Boston food and restaurant world is notoriously tight-lipped and gossipy at the same time.  The national chains with deep pockets dot far more of the landscape than do independents.  And some of them are really cleaning up in Boston.  Then there is the Encore Casino, which is not.  Honestly, we don't know of a single person who has gone there solely to dine at all except for the buffet.  And what about that brilliant Cat Cafe idea?

The only thing that seems certain for 2020 is that there will be a lot of uncertainty.  So, we're not making any predictions at all.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Wine Of The Month And Yes Reservations

Crémant De Bourgogne from Henri De Villamont.

Pale pink and with a refreshing burst of fruit aroma and flavor this sip is made with a variety of Burgundy grapes,  Perfect for any occasion, dessert or just alone.  It's also quite affordable for any budget at approximately $14.00 per bottle.

We also want to start off 2020 by reminding all of our loyal readers and followers that, yes, we can make reservations for all your dining needs.  Please call or email us and we will be happy to confirm a table whether it's a special occasion or a casual meetup with friends.  There are all kinds of extras and benefits when making reservations with a personal touch and we have an extensive network of relationships with both restaurants and chefs.  So, please, always think of us if you are heading out to a restaurant any time soon.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

The 12th Day Of Christmas

Today is the 12th Day Of Christmas, the last day of celebration in the European tradition.  In years gone by this was the day when, in Britain, gifts would be exchanged.  We decided to make it a new tradition here as well, saving that last bit of decor, maybe a candle or two and the enjoyment of sweet treats.  What new traditions have you begun this year?

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Christmas 2019 - Hi Tech, Hi Touch

God knows, Christmas is a lot different today than it was when I was a kid but it's always fun and a great time to spend with family, especially the kids.  We always try to add a new tradition and this year it was a nice, warm mug of hot cocoa before heading off to bed for Santa to arrive.  

Some of the newer angles were more hi tech in nature, like one of the younger boys asking Alexa to set a timer for four minutes as he was on his way to the naughty spot for acting up.  There were also Christmas morning face time discussions about what Santa brought.  No matter what the future brings, however, I'm sure there will always be laughter, new clothes, a few toys and lots and lots of good food.  Merry Christmas, everyone!