Saturday, February 28, 2015

Kennedy's On the Square

          Last week I headed out to Harvard Square for a Blog and Tweet Boston event at Kennedy's On The Square, the neighborhood's newest gastro pub.

          The name Kennedy's reflects the look and feel of the restaurant, reminiscent of the Kennedy era with dark wood, red leather booths, and memorabilia throughout. 

          Kennedy's has a great selection of craft cocktails and beers on tap; I started with their version of a Moscow mule which was delicious.


           Like most meals with food bloggers, we ordered a bunch of apps to share including meatballs, wings, and my favorite the Mediterranean Sampler with hummus, baba ganoush, eggplant salad, falafel, house-made pickles, olives, mint and pita chips.

          I ordered the duck panini as my main course, with a side Caesar salad. The duck was delicious, and I would definitely order this dish again. The most popular item at our table seemed to be the fish tacos, and since we somehow ended up with an extra order I was able to try these as well.

          I loved the combination of the blackened haddockwith habanero, pico de gallo and avocado cream. These were light and bursting with fresh flavors.

          We ordered one of every dessert for the table, but I was way too full to eat more than a couple of bites of the bread pudding. I enjoyed this, but was told the nutella creme brulee was even better. I definitely want to come back and check it out!

Kennedy's on the Square on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Caffe Nero

          Caffe Nero is a European Coffee shop that's recently come to the Boston area, and it's unlike any I've ever tried in this city.

          Most of the coffee shops in the area have a more laid back, casual vibe. Not Caffe Nero - this place feels swanky! From the Jazz music playing when you walk in the door to the gorgeous chandeliers and cool antique coffee makers on display this is definitely the most upscale coffee shop I've ever been to. 

          Caffe Nero is known not only for the coffee, but also the delicious pastries. I knew I had to try at least one during my visit, and there were plenty to choose from. I opted for a ham and cheese croissant grilled with the panini press. This was one of the best breakfasts I've had in a long time! I would come back just for this.

          My visit to Caffe Nero was in partnership with this new platform I've been working with called Tastemade. Tastemade is a video network where Tastemakers come together to discover and share their passion for great food and travel. Check out the site and my video on Caffe Nero here.
Caffè Nero on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 23, 2015

True Aussie Lamb and Brunch at Tremont 647

          We've had so many snowstorms in Boston this winter that I've lost track, but one of these snowy weekends I braved the weather to head over to the South End for an event hosted by True Aussie Lamb at Tremont 647.

          True Aussie is an Australian producer of both beef and lamb, and this event was a kickoff to a series of delicious and informative events they'll be hosting in Boston this year. 

          I love lamb, but I didn't know that Australian lamb is pasture-raised, grass fed, and free of artificial additives and hormone growth promotants—a pure product of its pure environment.
          We watched Master Butcher Doug Piper demonstrate how to fully butcher and prepare a side of lamb, and it was especially impressive that it only took him about a half hour.

          While he worked,  we sampled some of these delicious sticky buns and mini muffins from Tremont 647. 

          Next we tried an amuse of lamb pastrami over rye toast with mustard and brussels sprouts krout. It was a delicious and creative take on the classic reuben.

          For our entrée we had a choice of one of these dishes from a special menu. They all sounded amazing, but I went with the huevos rancheros.


          The runny egg was perfect with the braised lamb, and the warm tortillas were a perfect way to eat them. 

          I was glad when Chef / Owner Andy Husbands brought over a few of the sausage patties from the breakfast sandwich, the other dish I was considering. He explained that the breakfast sausage is normally made in house, they just adapted the seasonings a little to make the lamb sausage. I hope they add the lamb sausage to the standard brunch menu, I would come in just for this! I definitely want to come back and try the pork sausage as well as the two dollar taco Tuesday special.

          In addition to brunch, we were all given some lamb to take home. I used mine to make a delicious lamb and red lentil stew. Here's the super easy recipe you can make in the crock pot:

  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1Tbsp coriander
  • 1Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1Tbsp ground turmeric
  • 1Tbsp paprika
  • salt, pepper, and cinnamon to taste
  • 7 cups liquid (vegetable broth, chicken broth, water, or any combination)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups red lentils
  1. Cut the lamb into cubes and sear with the onions, garlic and olive oil over medium high heat for about five minutes until browned. Stir a few times to brown on all sides
  2. Add the lamb along with the rest of the ingredients to a crockpot and simmer on low for 10-12 hours

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Dinner at The Merchant Using Reserve

          I recently tried out Reserve, a new app that allows you to make reserervations and pay for your meal on your phone. The app was very user friendly and easy to use, and it had a couple of cool features I haven't seen with other apps.

          If you check out Reserve's website, one of the first things you'll read is that Reserve is your complete dining concierge. This is a perfect way to describe the experience; the screen shots are sleek and as you scroll through the list of restaurants you'll see they're some of the best and most popular in the city where it can be difficult to get a reservation (think OyaBlue Dragon, L'Espalier, Row 34). You select a restaurant, enter the approximate time you'd like to come in, and within an hour or so you get a text confirming your reservation. There is a $5 fee for this service (I think of it like tipping a hotel concierge) but it's well worth it for those hard to get reservations!

          I used Reserve last Friday night to make a reservation at The Merchant, a new hot spot in the financial district. When we arrived the place was packed, and I was definitely glad I made a reservation!

           The pate was by far my favorite dish of the night. It came wrapped with proscuitto and served with crispy bread, cornichons, and whole grain mustard.

          I also enjoyed the dayboat tuna sashimi with avocado mousse, tempura crumbs, grapefruit and radish.

          The wedge salad was a great twist on a classic, with bibb lettuce, pancetta chips, stilton, and tomato confit.

          I ordered the steak frites for my main course, a marinated flat iron steak with watercress and fries. The steak was cooked perfectly, and there were plenty of crispy fries!

          The fiance also enjoyed his slow roasted chicken breast with mashed potatoes, spinach, and mustard jus.

          If you want to check out The Merchant, or any other hotspot in town I highly recommend making a reservation using Reserve. Use my code picsoffood for a $25 credit!

The Merchant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cafe Sushi

          Cafe Sushi in Cambridge is a place I've walked by many times over the years, but never tried until recently. It's a tiny spot in a strip mall, and not somewhere I'd expect to find some of the most creative sushi in the city at an amazing value. Never judge a book by its cover. I went in the other night after reading some recent reviews, and ordered the Omakase with all sashimi. It was on par with some of the best sushi places in the city, at only a fraction of the price ($95 per person plus around $30 for sake pairings). 

          Here are some of the dishes we enjoyed; all selections from the in season menu with delicious marinades and accompaniments.

          My favorites were definitely the Maine Uni with lemon and seared salmon with avocado, truffle, and scallops. 

          Because this place is so small, I highly suggest making a reservation. I prefer the sushi bar to watch the chefs and all of the dishes come out, but either way you will not be disappointed!

Cafe Sushi on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 14, 2015

How to Get a Reservation at a Michelin Starred Restaurant

          Have you ever wondered how to get into Per Se? How to get a reservation at the French Laundry? How to score a table at the hottest restaurant in town?

          I've debated writing this post for years now, because I don't want to give away my secrets and make it harder when I travel for a Michelin starred restaurant. But this is something I've been asked so often, I just had to share.

Tips for Getting a Reservation at a Michelin Starred Restaurant

1. Plan in advance as much as possible (at least 1-3 months). If you know you want to go to a certain restaurant call or read their reservation policy online. In my experience, most places in New York like Per Se accept reservations one month out to the day but Masa it's three weeks and for Momofuku it's two weeks for lunch and one for dinner. In Vegas it's often three months for places like Picasso, Mix, or Michael Mina. Figure out the first day you can make a reservation, and call as soon as the reservation line opens. It may be busy the first time (or ten or twenty times). Think of it like buying concert tickets, or calling into a radio station. Just keep dialing until you get through.

2. This doesn't always work, but I've found that sometimes a handful of reservations become available on Open Table the midnight before the reservation line opens. If you're awake, give it a try.

3. Be flexible - travel on dates when people usually leave the city. Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Memorial Day are perfect times to score normally hard to get reservations as long as they don't close for the holiday (some restaurants do). I've also found the day after Thanksgiving is an easy day for reservations, because most people aren't even thinking about dining out after all that food. So eat light and save your appetite for the next night... I'd take a tasting menu over turkey any day!

4. The same goes for being flexible about what time you eat. Take the 5 or 10PM reservation, or take them both! You're on vacation, sleep in, brunch at noon, eat lunch at 5PM and dinner at 10. Maybe check out the spa, do some shopping or sight seeing in between... perfect!

5. Go for lunch or brunch. Some places like Momofuku just as good, if not better for lunch.

6. If none of these work, start calling the high end hotels. Most of their concierges have relationships with these restaurants and my theory (though unconfirmed) is they somehow block off a handful of reservations for hotel guests. Tell the hotel you're planning a trip specifically for X restaurant and you'll book right now if they can get you in.

7. Call the day of and check for cancellations.

8. If all else fails, show up when they open and try to walk in or get a seat at the bar (if you do this have a back up plan).

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Look at Some of the Products Available at the 2015 Boston Wine Expo

          The Boston Wine Expo is next weekend, and if you don't have tickets already you can get them here for $10 off! If you've never been before, definitely make sure to check out my tips on getting the most out of the expo.

           I recently had the opportunity to try out a couple of different products that will be featured at this wine expo including some delicious duck from Maple Leaf Farms and some great wines from Hope Family Wines. 

          I tried and enjoyed three reds from Hope Family, but my favorite was by far the Treana.
  • Treana: a blend with notes of ripe dark fruit and spice
  • Liberty School Merlot: flavors of rich dark fruit, perfect with pork or duck
  • Troublemaker: a very interesting take on a classic Rhone Blend
          I also enjoyed sampling a few different duck products from Maple Leaf Farms including duck breast, duck bacon, and roasted half duck with orange sauce. I used the duck breast and bacon in one meal to make a delicious crispy skinned duck with spinach sauteed in bacon fat and served with bits of bacon and garlic.

          To get the duck to that perfect balance of crispy skin and pink juicy center, I seasoned and seared it on the outside for 7 minutes and then finished it in the oven at 375 for about ten minutes.

          The duck with orange sauce came pre-cooked, and was a perfect quick meal on a night when I came home late from work. I'll admit it looks a little boring without any sides, but I honestly didn't need any! I enjoyed this with a nice glass of red wine, and it was delicious!

          Maple Leaf Farms and the Boston Wine Expo are co-hosting a twitter chat tomorrow night at 8PM EST. I'll be participating, so be sure to join in using the hashtag #BWEChat. Participants will have a chance to win great prizes including a pair of tickets to the Wine Expo!

          Also, make sure to check out both Hope Family and Maple Leaf Farms at the expo - you will not be disappointed!

Disclosure: this post was sponsored by the Boston Wine Expo, but the opinions are my own

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Brunch at Beat Brasserie

          This weekend I met up with some Boston Brunchers for brunch at Beat Brasserie. I'd been for dinner when they first opened, and was excited to try the brunch menu.

          One thing I love about eating with other bloggers is that they're always up for sharing! We started with the bohemian platter - a plate full of hummus, homemade pita, fried chickpeas, pickled veggies, and a sundried tomato spread. This was delicious, I especially loved the soft pita and hummus.

          We also tried an order of buffalo cauliflower, which tasted just like buffalo chicken tenders! I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this dish, even the texture was spot on!

          For my main course, I ordered the Shakshuka, a dish with poached eggs and spicy African tomato sauce, served over creamy polenta with pita bread and lamb sausage on the side. This was something I'd always wanted to try, and it was just as good as I'd hoped. The sauce was full of interesting flavors and spicy but not too spicy; I filled up pretty quickly dipping the bread in the egg yolk, polenta, and sauce but enjoyed every bite!

          My fellow brunchers enjoyed their quiche, smoked salmon benedict, and side of bacon.


           Not only was the food at Beat delicious, but the fun atmosphere and live music make it a great spot for a date or get together with friends. Beat Brasserie or the sister restaurant The Beehive definitely make my list of top brunch spots in the city!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Brunch at the Elephant Walk

          The Elephant Walk is a French and Cambodian restaurant with a few locations in and around Boston. They've been on my list to try for a long time now, and this weekend I finally made it in for brunch with some friends at their newest location in the South End.

          The croissants were some of the best I've had, light buttery and flaky. They came served with butter and several types of jam, but I loved them plain!

          The Somlah Machou, a Cambodian sour soup with tiger shrimp, plum tomato, fried garlic and French mint was also delicious. It reminded me of a hot and sour soup, but a little lighter and more interesting with the mint flavor.

          I ordered the Crêpe au Canard for my main course, a French crepe filled with duck braised in soy tamarind juices, portobello mushroom, crème frâiche, and scallion served with a side of dressed baby greens. I added a sunny side up egg, which was perfect mixed in with the duck and soy sauce.

          Three of my friends ordered and enjoyed the Salade Cambodgienne with shredded cabbage, carrot, Bell and Evans chicken breast, red bell pepper, onion, peanut, mint, Asian basil and tuk trey.

          The Elephant Walk was a really fun and different place to go for brunch. I can't wait to come back and check them out for dinner!

Elephant Walk on Urbanspoon