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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Fantastic Food by the (Prairie) Fire

As a former Lineage restaurant regular, I did not think I’d be able to enjoy a meal at 242 Harvard Street again. Its closing left me with a hole in my heart that needed to be filled. That may sound a bit extreme, but I mourned the loss of my favorite restaurant like I did a lost love. I figured the solution was to dislike anything that came into its space. I can confirm now, that was the wrong initial approach. What this really meant was that It took me a while to warm up to the idea (pun intended) of Prairie Fire in 242 Harvard Street. While nothing can fully replace Lineage, I really like and appreciate the warmth, food, atmosphere and people at Prairie Fire and I recommend it highly as a place to try if you’re in Coolidge Corner. Heck, it’s even worth a specific trip to the area especially if you can snag one of the coveted bar seats by the fire.

One of my favorite things about Prairie Fire, as I mentioned, is their bar seats. I love going and connecting with my friends and family and chatting with the chefs Jordy and Brendan or the bartenders. They care so much about creating community and about food bringing people together. I appreciate that they make delicious, local, fresh food that can be enjoyed by anyone, any age. I went with my friend’s 3 year old, and she loved her kids pizza so much she ate the whole thing while doing a happy dance. While I think that their pizza and other tasty dinner items are worth a happy dance, I’m going to focus this post on brunch. There are very few places in Coolidge Corner for a good brunch, and Prairie Fire is a gem in this category as well.

Brunching by the fire

We had just gotten back from Spain and woke up jet lagged and ravenous! We needed a brunch fix quick and close by and had admired the Prairie Fire brunch menu for a while but hadn’t gotten around to trying it despite regularly having dinner, or drinks there.  After my husband and I ordered coffees, full caf for him and decaf for me, we started the great brunch debate-- what to eat. As a New York transplant, I’m a sucker for great pizza and smoked fish. Lucky for me and my fireside and chefside seat, I saw the chef, Jordy, putting together a smoked trout pizza and decided to try it. I am often hesitant to try anything warm that has smoked fish in it because it changes the fish’s consistency. Part of what sold me on trying it over the other tasty dishes was that Jordy managed to mix cold smoked fish with a warm crust.

The pizza had dill creme fresh, capers, greens, and smoked trout atop homemade sourdough crust, and it was an ideal temperature and consistency. In addition to being a huge smoked fish fan, I have been really excited about fried eggs recently over my typical scramble. There is something comforting about a runny yolk in a farm fresh egg with the change of the season, which was the ideal complement to the sourdough pizza crust.

My husband and dining partner ordered the breakfast sandwich and ate it too quick for me to get a picture because he enjoyed it so much. One thing that struck me was that it was vegetarian and that there were carrots on it-- these are two aspects of a meal that don’t usually attract my husband. I tried a bite and I thought it was a great balance of flavor and appreciated that the sandwich was on a homemade English muffin (yum!).

My overall thoughts on brunch at Prairie Fire-- I can’t wait to go back and I think the fire will be a welcome addition to our weekend mornings. I highly recommend that you try it too! 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Birthday Tour de Sewall

I recently had a big birthday that ended in a zero and the three things I wanted were: brunch at Eastern Standard and dinners at Lineage and Row34. I'll admit, this isn't the first time I've done what I like to call "Tour de Sewall." Each restaurant dazzled with excellent food and service. There's an opportunity to go more in depth on each meal, but I'll start with the highlights version.

Eastern Standard has excellent brunch, and few things bring me more joy than people I love with an excuse to eat a large amount of breakfast food. My two favorite things on the ES menu are their chopped salad with pan friend chicken cutlet served in a wooden bowl and the house smoked salmon platter. I rarely order nova outside of New York, but Eastern Standard is the exception to this rule. On my birthday, I was spoiled and had both. I recommend going with another person so you can do the same. The nova is not too salty and pairs nicely with the tomatoes, capers, bagel and cream cheese.

Luckily, I had a break between brunch and dinner. Row34 is hip and happening with great food. You feel cool just walking in, or at least I do! The shrimp cocktail was the highlight of the excellent meal. They were plump and fresh and the cocktail sauce tasted like it had a hint of ginger. The butterscotch pudding was an excellent ending.

As it turns out, this is the last birthday I'll get to spend at Lineage because it's closing this summer. I've been going to Lineage for almost 9 years and love the simplicity and excellence of the menu. My favorite dinner item, which I'm known to eat as often as once a week, is the burger with hand cut fries. They had a hunch that I'd order a birthday burger and surprised me with a candle. Yes, a burger with a candle was the perfect first to go with my last Lineage birthday.

I highly encourage you to stop by any of the three restaurants that I visited on my Tour de Sewall. My birthday was just an excuse, so you can find one too!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Finding the Beach Getaway

Last month, in an effort to escape the winter, my boyfriend and I set out to find the perfect beach getaway. We knew that sandwiched between work travel was the only way to do it. In addition to having an idea of the week we could go, we knew we wanted this to be a relaxing, beach front vacation with nonstop airfare. And, I have champagne taste with slightly more than a beer budget. In this post, I'm going to share some of what I learned while booking our beach getaway and how we saved over $1000. In a follow on post, I'll share some experiences we had on our trip.

For a week, any minute that we weren't working, we were working on planning our trip. We were checking different week period's in March or April in either Mexico or Puerto Rico. We knew we could get non-stop airfare and would get to use some Spanish. If we were going to stay in the Cancun/Playa del Carmen area, we'd need to choose an all inclusive resort, and those were outside of our budget. Puerto Rico only has one all inclusive option, so we opted to look at different hotel and flight configurations versus focusing on booking all in one place. Finally, we decided on Puerto Rico in March.

My route to booking travel is usually to go through a credit card to see what deals are available. At this time of year American Express and other credit cards have great deals to save with nights free and resort credit. I also consulted with a travel agent from Liberty Travel and AAA's booking site. My boyfriend prefers to research it himself on TripAdvisor and find the best deal on a booking site. Needless to say, we had a lot of searches going on.

We had finally narrowed our search to either El Conquistador, about an hour from the airport for 6 nights, or the Condado Marriott for the same amount of time. We loved the idea of being remote at El Conquistador and having a private island, but we were concerned about the drive to and from the airport given that we didn't have a full week to be away. The Marriott seemed fun and came highly recommended and was close to the airport. While we tested different options, advertisements for the "number 1 hotel in Puerto Rico" kept coming up. I had eliminated the Condado Vanderbilt because of cost. It looked nice, luxurious, relaxing, beachfront, central, historic, but it was more expensive than the others. We realized the only airfare we would book from Boston was through JetBlue, so for fun, we searched their getaway deals.

At JetBlue Getaways we played with the flight time, and the dates and which hotel we wanted. As we continued testing different options, we found out that the Condado Vanderbilt for 5 nights, all fees included, was less expensive than a six night stay at the Marriott or El Conquistador, where the fees were variable. I had the same set of hotels open on the Amex site and he had the hotels up on Expedia and we were each toggling back to JetBlue. Condado Vanderbilt became a great option for us. We looked to arrive Sunday evening and leave Friday evening. The JetBlue getaway deal was over $1000 less than if we had booked flight and hotel separately. It seemed too good to be true. We called the hotel and then we called JetBlue. They confirmed that we indeed found the deal of a lifetime.

Finally after a week of hunting, we booked our JetBlue Getaway to San Juan, Puerto Rico for nonstop airfare, 5 nights in a 5 star hotel, taxes and fees, and a checked bag a piece included for under $2,500 total. Once we finally booked it, we felt elated and proud. We had figured out how to create a great vacation, on a budget where we could celebrate warmth, a beach and relaxation. The research was worth it and I would highly recommend doing all of the research and prioritizing needs and booking it. Stay tuned for more about our fun in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Moody's: Much More Than a Delicious Deli

Moody's Delicatessen and Provisions with the Back Room is the best thing to happen to Waltham since I graduated college. Over the summer, I sat in the Back Room and this time, on a Tuesday night in February, the Back Room was so full that we sat in the window of the front of the deli. They must have added these seats because business was so successful.

The front room had deli cases and refrigerators full of house cured charcuterie. Along the walls were some wooden tables and benches. Chef Joshua Smith runs New England Charcuterie and Moody's. All of the charcuterie is made in house-- rumor is there is a downstairs where sausage, salami and other charcuterie is made. The back room has a different, slightly more formal look and feel.

Upon sitting down, I was greeted by a plate of complementary charcuterie. I was so hungry, there's no picture of it. But, it whet my appetite for the carnivorous feast yet to come. The first thing we ordered were the meatballs. There were four perfectly seasoned waygu meatballs perfectly seasoned with pepper, cheese and spices smothered in tomato sauce with ricotta and Parmesan cheese. 

We let the waiter surprise us with a four part cheese/charcuterie plate. The cheese was an aged gouda and the other cheese was soft and creamy. The charcuterie was coppa and salami. The salami was soaked in Bourbon and the coppa was fresh, thinly sliced and perfect with the cornichons, jam, hot peppers and crostini. There was a year where my new years resolution was to eat more charcuterie and so it has a special place in my heart. Everything about the cheese and charcuterie plate was perfect and my only wish was that we'd ordered the plate with six choices instead of four. 

The brussel sprouts, roasted with meat and orange were perfectly cooked and very flavorful. I liked that the citrus was fresh and balanced out the smoky meaty flavor. The brussel sprouts were soft and flavorful.

While everything was fun and tasty, we were still hungry so we splurged for one more dish, the pastrami flat bread. This was essentially an open faced Reuben with homemade sauerkraut and mustard instead of Russian dressing. The pastrami was tasty and while sparse on the pizza, the flavor was that of a large sandwich. 

Usually, I save room for dessert, but at Moody's, I decided on a flat bread instead of dessert and I couldn't have been happier. The flat bread crust was flaky, and tasty. While the dessert menu looked excellent, I will just have to go back for more local salty goodness and maybe, just maybe, I'll save room for a sweet dessert. Though, I wouldn't count on it. That savory food is worth all the hype it gets.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Breakfast and Pastry at Tatte

Ever have a moment where you bite into a dish and you need to close your eyes to have a quiet moment just savoring the beauty and the bite? This happens for me frequently at Tatte. It's the home to the best breakfast, pastry, coffee drinks and warm vibe in the Boston area. I've been going to the Tatte by the St. Mary T stop for a few years now. Recently, I learned that they are doing an 8 week renovation starting January 1, 2016. This means that once we get through winter, we'll be greeted with double sized Tatte!

Once I learned that my favorite local bakery and quick breakfast spot would be closing and renovating, I decided the best thing to do was to eat there as much as humanly possible for its last week. The good news was, I had the week off so it was an achievable goal. 

Avocado Tartine
The first day I stopped by of my Tatte week, I made it up to the counter at 11:27. Thankfully there was still time for me to order breakfast. I was intrigued by the avocado tartine. I learned that this dish is homemade bread with avocado, a fried egg, arugula, dill, tomato and radish. It's a great dish to share with a friend because you get two of these hearty toasts. I think theoretically the open faced sandwich is supposed to be picked up and eaten, but I chose to use a fork and knife and to break the yolk. The combination of the fresh flavors of the veggies, with the avocado, egg and homemade bread made me take a deep breath and smile. 

Pain au Chocolat
I only got through one avocado tartine because it was so filling. I also got a pain au chocolat. These pastries are flaky with semisweet chocolate and they're made with real butter. There is a huge difference to me between a pastry from Tatte that's made fresh daily and a pastry from a grocery store or national chain. I highly recommend any of their homemade pastries! A trick I learned is that they go on sale late in the day, they're less fresh and less money. I think it's worth the whole price to get one early in the day.

The next day after my avocado tartine and pan au chocolat, I went back to Tatte and it was snowy and rainy and crowded, as it does get. I lucked out though, I won the sat battle and got a seat. I ordered shakshuka which is a very tasty, fresh, hearty and warm breakfast. At Tatte they make theirs with tomatoes, peppers, poached eggs and feta. It's served with Challah toast and is again big enough to share. Since I was by myself and I know how much I like it, I opted to order it without the lamb meatball add-ons but next time I go I may try them.

This dish is also excellent and hearty. The homemade bread complementing the skillet of warm food is a perfect way to start a damp day. But let's be honest, it's also a great way to start a sunny day in the summer outside.

Where to go while you wait for the renovation
The good news is that Tatte has a few locations around the Boston area that we can go to while they renovate and expand their Brookline spot. I have visited one in Kendall Square and it's big, bright and airy with even more food than the Brookline spot. Only a few more weeks...

I recommend that if you enjoy good, fresh food, that you make your way to one of the Tatte locations get yourself a dish or pastry and a latte and close your eyes for a few seconds and enjoy the perfection.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

New Year's Resolutions

I am constantly examining how food and technology impact communities. I do aspects of each in my personal and professional life. I think that food brings people together and can create and build community. I initially started this blog to have an outlet to discuss food, friends and fun and I am committed to these discussions happening more frequently in 2016 in a potentially different way.

As we're all talking about resolutions at the beginning of the year, I resolve to write more. Eating and sharing experiences brings me joy as I hope it does for you reading it. This year, I'll be sharing information on restaurants, recipes and great events. I initially started the blog thinking that I'd only write about a restaurant once, but I am going to open myself up to write more if it's a new visit after a while. 

When I initially started this blog, I was in grad school which meant that I had a lot more time. I needed something to divert me from the hundreds of pages of reading a week and as a writing warm up. Now, I'm in a full time demanding job and food is still a huge part of my life as are friends and fun. Again, I need a creative outlet-- a way to share my passion with who wants to read about it. I started this blog completely as a passion project to share my love of food and what I learn about community events with whoever wants to read. I also was curious how different channels brought traffic to the site. Back to technology and its impact on community. Since graduating a lot more of my food life has been happening offline, but not to worry, it's still happening!

Some new year's thoughts
During 2016, I want to think about how to have more fun with the blog and share more. I initially started writing this blog as "Fun Foodie," but I am thinking about sharing more about who I am. Part of why I use the anonymity is for anyone who is reading. I want to share the experience of another diner without any perks that come with being known as a diner to watch who may get different service. However, this means that my personal Instagram posts (which are predominantly food related) are not linked to the blog or when I connect with someone in the food scene, I don't write about it because I'm afraid I'll be identified. This seems counter intuitive as I reflect because there are some great stories about people I've met in the industry who are interesting, kind and who I've built a rapport with. As I continue to evaluate the direction of the blog, please feel free to share what you think. My feeling is it's fun to hear good stories and learn about great places to go and if I can continue to provide that more frequently, that is beneficial to all.

Another reason, I'm thinking about writing more without anonymity is I really love sharing and meeting new people and making recommendations. I often diagnose my friends' and family with the right restaurant for an occasion and price point or organize group dinners. I would love to connect more with people through food and volunteering this year and I think that this can happen more. 

One idea for connection comes from a trip my boyfriend and I took to Canada at the beginning of the summer. We went on two food tours. We had the best time and enjoyed meeting the people. I have been thinking about how these food tours could work in the Boston area.

What about eating in?
Most posts for this blog are focused on food or community events that have food. That is only half of the fun we can have together! I've been cooking and baking a bit and think that some of these recipes and discoveries are worth discussing. Expect more posts about cooking as well as eating out.

And the fun?!
As I discover new opportunities for fun, that will be shared too. This could be a trip to a new market, yoga studio or a vacation.

Expectations for 2016
This year, 2016, is already off to a great start and I think that the new year is a great time to reflect and think about how to be better and how to have more joy and more fun in life! You can expect somewhat of an evolution to FoodFriendsNFun and more-- more posts, more joy, more food and more fun. I want to figure out a way to have more community, so that will happen too. The best way to get up to date information about this evolution is on the blog and on twitter.

Happy New Year to you and I look forward to eating my way through the year with you and having fun while we do!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Why I eat out

Consistency is an interesting word and I used it deliberately. I love going to the places that know me and offer the best homey service accompanying great, creative food. It feels comforting to build relationships with people at restaurants and to be a regular. It adds a level of consistency to a fast paced world and life. Not to worry, I still love trying new places but below is a recap of some of my favorite consistent spots around Boston highlighting some excellent dishes and service. 

During the month of March, once it stopped snowing, I ate at Strip T's at least once a week (maybe more if you ask my boyfriend) and had a bowl of their smoked miso ramen and a small Caesar salad each time. There was something comforting about both of those things and the perfect service. I even have a spot at the bar that I usually sit. They know my voice when I call. That miso ramen is one of the best dishes I have had and coupled with the perfectly cooked noodles it was a nice hearty, flavorful warm dish to get out of the snow zone. The Caesar salad is truly one of a kind. After I eat it, I sweat garlic for 24 hours but it's worth it. Consistently perfection. Also in the month of March and related to Strip T's, I went to the BTG Boston's first series of events where I got to enjoy Tim Maslow's fine Ribelle food paired with some of the best of Boston's sommeliers' wine choices. I loved that it felt like one big giant family style meal-- put together by two of my favorites, Theresa Paopao and Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli.

Smoked Miso Ramen at Strip T's
Over the winter, I went to Lineage for burgers at the bar about once a week. It was nice to go out, get a great glass of wine, a phenomenal burger and speak with Brad, Amy, Matt or even Jeremy, at the bar. Anything Jeremy Sewall does is perfection and I think Lineage is one of his less written about "famous" restaurants, but it is the original and that burger is my "best of Boston." I'm not a big fan of fries generally, so I usually sub out fries for a side salad when I have a burger. When I go to Lineage, I eat the hand cut fries. If I really feel like splurging, I go for dessert with a tea pairing. My favorite of the winter was a brulee'd banana split. What can I say, I'm a sucker for red meat and any dessert that has bananas. I am also a huge fan of Island Creek, Eastern Standard and Row34, but those were a bit more of a trek this winter.

Bruleed Banana Split and Tea at Lineage
Another spot or series of spots I think of when discussing good service is anything Barbara Lynch. I love all of her spots that I've tried. I still have to try B&G, but if I want excellent food with perfect service, I go to any of her spots. My favorite for special occasions is Menton because I feel like I'm at dinner and a show. It's perfect food with the right choreography. I haven't been in a while but after I went to a few Full Plate lunches, I felt that the staff at the whole restaurant group got to know me. As I mentioned in previous posts anything at Drink is a good time-- they take the decision making out of the equation for you and the cocktails are perfect. I feel like my soul is being fed at Sportello-- through tagliatelle and coconut cake and at The Butcher Shop with the charcuterie platter and wine. The service is friendly and consistent at each place. I love the ability to go from formal at Menton to more casual at the other spots in terms of look and feel but to have the same great quality of food and service.

Charcuterie and wine at Butcher Shop
Service and consistency matters as does creativity. Sometimes in a super fast paced world, knowing what you're going to get from a service and food quality is all you need for a slice or a plate of happiness.