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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

So, it seems as though we have taken a bit of a hiatus from the restaurant thing due to constant blizzard-like conditions in the Northeast.  And, I'm pretty sure it's about -25 degrees out right now, so we stayed in and made tacos (highly recommended for a cheap, quick, easy, yet delicious meal).  But, this morning, upon waking up, I had my typical Sunday morning craving: a deliciously spicy Bloody Mary.  That got me thinking about posting some of the best places around to partake in a Bloody good experience.  In no particular order, as each dining establishment has something unique to offer, here are my thoughts on where to go to enjoy one of my favorite winter time, liquid lunch treats.  

Eastern Standard, Boston, MA: Brace yourself for this Bloody.  It is SPI-CY.  For us, it is one of the most perfectly concocted drinks, but for some, it may be best accompanied by a vat of water (or for the very weak, milk).  Their trick to achieving such high levels of heat:  Eastern Standard uses its own infused habanero vodka.  Throw in a couple of olives, and Bloodies don't get much better than this...

Dogwood Cafe, Jamaica Plain, MA:  The best Bloody Mary is the unanticipated one.  Tim and I happened to stop in this cute little pub one afternoon for lunch, and I couldn't resist after viewing the menu.  The key ingredients:  Absolut Peppar, a sea-salted/peppered rim, and blue cheese stuffed olives.  Bloody Heaven.

Robert's Maine Grill, Kittery, ME:  Three words - Robert's Bloody Mary.  One more word - Spectacular.  Either before, during, or after - or all three - a day at the outlets, pop across the street and have a drink and some appetizers (or a meal...equally delicious) at Robert's.  We recommend the peel-and-eat cocktail shrimp.  We also recommend the Bloody.  What makes it so special:  Robert's Bloody Mary is a meal in itself.  Again, they use Absolut Peppar and their own mix, but what sets it apart from the average Bloody is the garnishes.  Celery, pepperoncini, and a peel & eat shrimp make it difficult to get back to shopping.

Stephi's on Tremont, Boston, MA:  There's the regular Bloody Mary, then there's the "Badger."  Go Badger at Stephi's.  This is why:  Absolut Peppar and Old Bay Seasoning on the rim give it a special kick.  However, what makes all of your troubles go away is the Miller High Life chaser served by the signature brunch cocktail's side.  

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Weathering" the Winter Blues

In the cold winter months, there's nothing more comforting than enjoying a leisurely lunch at a cozy, consistent little tavern.  Needless to say, we needed a significant amount of comfort on Monday after you-know-what happened (or should I say "didn't" happen???).  Anyway, we needed to move on and get back to normal, so the obvious thing to do was to go to the Weathervane Tavern in South Hamilton, MA.  Of course, we were not disappointed.  Here is what we love the most about this special place in top-ten style:

10.  Busy, but efficient.  Whether you go in at noon or 4p.m. or 7p.m., there is always a full house (and I do mean house...that is the style of the little building) and usually a wait.  However, we rarely have to wait long and nearly always manage to get bar seats - even with a tiny, seven-or-so seat bar!  When we do have to wait, it is well-worth it, so don't get discouraged if you go and it's busier than you anticipated!

9.  The bar.  With only a couple of regular bartenders, the drinks and service are always consistent. Tim recommends a margarita made with the house tequila (and plenty of salt on the rim).  I recommend a Bloody Mary - spicy. 

8.  The daily specials menu.  The first time we went, Tim told me to never, ever order off of the regular menu.  At first, I questioned this statement, but now I understand.  The daily specials are always unique and delicious, so you need to take advantage of the items that are not always available.  Since our first visit, I have ordered off of both menus, though, just to try new things, and I've determined that you can't go wrong no matter what you order!  

7.  French fries.  We TRY not to order them often, but sometimes we just can't resist!  They are crispy, but soft on the inside, golden, and salty.  The perfect French fry as far as we're concerned.  

6.  Zinfandel vinaigrette dressing.  Be sure to at least start with a house salad (simple, yet fresh and delicious lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, shredded carrots, celery and croutons) just so you can try the zesty dressing!  If you want a salad for your meal, our friend, Allan, suggests the Chef's salad.  It's huge, and the presentation makes a lunch that I associate with my elementary school cafeteria into a real, grown-up meal.

5.  Speaking of the size of the salad, the portions at the Weathervane are very share-able.  We love sharing a few appetizers and still always have leftovers to take home for future snacking. 

4.  French onion soup.  The Weathervane actually turned me onto French onion soup.  What is especially incredible about the Weathervane's FoS is that the kitchen will accommodate you however you like it.  For example, Tim likes no cheese and no bread/crouton (I know, what's the point?!), and I like broth with no onions (I know, what's the point?!), and the kitchen somehow gets it right everytime!

3.  The atmosphere.  The bartenders, waitstaff, and visible ownership makes it a friendly, laid back place to be.  You never feel rushed - even at the height of its busiest timesIt is the type of place where you could stop for a quick lunch or spend an afternoon, catching the game (Bruins or Celtics and soon-to-be Red Sox, that is) and hanging out with friends.  

2.  Chicken fingers.  They are an absolute must-try.  I know it sounds silly, but there is something amazing about these tasty fingers.  They are clearly homemade with real chicken and then a light, but crispy coating on the outside. 

1.  Last, but not least, to go with the chicken fingers (and French fries...and pretty much everything else), you must, MUST, MUST get buffalo sauce.  Again, it sounds simple and silly, but we have tried and tried to duplicate it at home and it just doesn't compare.  We always ask for extra just so we can take some home for our dipping pleasure!  

So, hopefully, you will make it to The Weathervane Tavern  sometime very soon.  Our only disappointment about this place is that they are not open on Sundays.  If you can get past that minor setback like we did, we know you'll love it, too!   

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Easy-to-Make, Easy-to-Eat Football Snacks

It's that time of year again:  FOOTBALL PLAY-OFFS!!!  As New England Patriots fans, we must be well-equipped with plenty of pre-made (no cooking necessary!) snacks so we don't have to leave the television for even a second.  Here are our suggestions of how best to prepare for a day of football snacking:

What To EatLobster Tails and/or Cocktail Shrimp.  * Serving suggestion:  Buy traditional cocktail sauce but kick it up a notch by adding extra horseradish

Where to Find It:  Try a local fish market or grocery store.  We recommend:          
Cherry Street Market           

What to Eat:  Regina Pizza                  

Where to Find It

What to Eat:  Mt. Olive Petite Snack Crunchers. Do yourself a favor and order a case of the Texas Pete Hot Sauce flavored from their online store.               

Where to Find It: Try your local grocery store for the Petite Snack Crunchers. If you ever find the Hot Sauce flavored in a store, let us know!  Otherwise, check out:

What to Eat: Chips and guacamole. Try the Concord Foods brand mix.            

Where to Find It:  Most grocery stores carry this mix.  Look in the produce section.

What to Eat: Goin' Nuts Jalapeno Pistachios.             

Where to Find It: When you go to pick up your favorite game day alcoholic beverages scan the snack aisle or check-out at your local
liquor store.


What to Eat: Kettle Brand Baked Sea Salt and Vinegar Chips.

Where to Find It:  We've had luck at Roche Bros. so far.  If anyone finds them anywhere else, please let us know!                     

So, enjoy the game(s)...and snacks...and GO PATS!!!!

Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Since Tim was filling in at Cygnet on Saturday night, I went to the South Shore for a visit...and dinner (shocking, I know!!).  Let me preface my experience with some background about Mom and Dad.  

First of all, they are small business owners, and while it's not a restaurant, they do make food (candy!), so you readers should check out their Hingham-based candy store, Puopolo Candies, next time you are on the South Shore.  Being small business owners, my parents work extremely hard and late at night, so one dining requirement for them is finding a restaurant that serves later.  Then, they have two other requirements: 1) Simple, classic, American is better.  Simple, classic, American with a bar is even better than better.  (They have become BSers (Bar Sitters) throughout the years.)  2) Seafood must be served.  I honestly cannot remember the last time my dad ordered something other than fish at a restaurant.  

So, now that you have a glimpse into the lives of the 'rents, you have much better context for last night's dining experience.  I arrived on the South Shore around 9pm (partly my fault for the lateness, but Mom and Dad did not object).  On the way, Mom and I had the typical, "Where do we eat at this hour?" conversation even though we know where we can eat at that hour.  (We tend to frequent the same places.)  So, I was shocked when my mom responded with a newer choice that I had never heard them mention before: Stockholders on Main Street (Route 18) in South Weymouth.  I jumped at the chance to try something new, so I headed over to meet them.

What I Liked:  Upon walking in, there was a 30 to 40 minute wait at 9pm!!! While this might be a turn-off for some people, I appreciated it.  Business that late - and people who are willing to wait at that hour - means that the dining experience must be worth it.  I immediately noticed the layout of the restaurant.  The openness made it unique to any place that I have experienced in a long a time.  As I mentioned, my parents are BSers (as am I - apple doesn't fall far from the tree), so we like the feel of the bar area.  The cool part about Stockholders is that you can sit in the dining room, but not feel completely secluded.  Separating the main dining room from the bar area are two ginormous (sure, it can be a word on my blog) fish tanks, so you are still involved in the lively atmosphere of the bar, but it is a little quieter.  There is live entertainment in a separate room off of the other side of the bar (away from the dining room), but speakers amplify the music, so the bar was loud and not meant for family conversation with aging parents (kidding, Mom and Dad!).  The dining room worked out perfect for us - we could hear the entertainment, but we could also hear each other.  That being said, my parents have sat at the bar before (of course), and they enjoyed that experience equally.  I think the bottom line is that you can sit anywhere in Stockholders and be happy with your choice.

Recommendations:  Ahhh, the food!  All of it.  And, there's a LOT. My dad ordered the baked scrod (lightly buttered with bread crumbs), which came with a choice of potato and vegetable (baked and squash for Dad).  His review, "The fish was real good."  I think his actions spoke louder than words, though, as he cleared his entire plate of food.  Now, Stockholders prides itself on its steak and seafood (being a steak/chophouse), so, of course, my mom and I both ordered the pasta special - which came with chicken.  The dish was a penne with artichokes, mushrooms, scallions, and sauteed chicken in a red pepper cream sauce.  My mom was sold on the description up to the red pepper cream sauce, and I was interested minus the scallions.  The kitchen was accommodating to our preferences and was willing to go scallion-less for us, and Mom was brave and tried the sauce.  When our meals arrived, my mom and I were absolutely awed.  The portion was massive, and the flavor was amazing.  Mom even raved about the red pepper cream sauce (not too heavy at all).  My favorite part about the dish was the sauteed chicken, which was lightly breaded and cooked to perfection.  My dad even put on his brave face and tried a piece, which he agreed was cooked excellent, but "too garlic-y" for him.  (Dad has an aversion to garlic.)  I enjoyed the food so much, I couldn't wait to have a late night snack when I got home...and then breakfast. (I couldn't write this without diving back in!)  For some final words about the food at Stockholders, I should not end this blog post without mentioning the steak.  While my family did not partake in the steak last night, I did take a glimpse around the bar and dining area to note that several people were enjoying the prime rib and other steaks.  The prime rib was probably one of the largest pieces of meat that I have ever seen at a restaurant, so bring your appetite when you head over to Stockholders!  And make it a point to head over sometime soon...
Leftovers. Mmmmmm...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Big Eating in the Big Apple

While most of our dining experiences occur in the Boston area, this past weekend, we spent a day in New York City.  At the recommendation of Tim's boss (and owner of Cygnet Restaurant in Beverly Farms, MA), our first stop was Raoul's followed by a quick stop at Bubble Lounge (a champagne bar!) in Tribecca.  Finally, we stopped at the W Hotel where we had a midnight snack at Blue Fin.  Here is a run-down of the highlights from each dining experience.

City Club Hotel
Before we even get to the eating part of this blog, mention has to be made of our hotel.  The location was fabulous - about a block from Times Square - but so was most everything about it.  We got a complimentary upgrade to a queen room upon our arrival - quite a deal for a rate of $131 (taxes included) on a Saturday night!  Our room was funky and modern, but comfortable.  We had plenty of space for the two of us.  But...the best part may have been when room service hand delivered us chocolate chip cookies around 6 o'clock that night!  We will be back!

What We Liked:  The atmosphere!  After exploring the website, we thought that Raoul's was going to be your typical French restaurant that took itself too seriously, but it was a recommendation and the menu looked good, so we ventured out.  When we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised that Raoul's was casual-upscale and funky, complete with an aquarium in the center of the restaurant and an iron, spiral staircase leading up to the restrooms (where you can also get a reading from a psychic - only in New York).  Just be careful on the staircase after sampling some of the tasty selections on the vino list!

Recommendations:  The Red Lentil Soup is a must-try! Soup was the perfect thing to eat on this frigid New York City evening.  The lentil flavor was complemented by Laughing Bird Shrimp and Romanesco Cauliflower...and absolutely tasty - not overpowering, but filling (quite a large portion).  We also decided to try the Artichoke Vinaigrette, which was a really unique presentation and simple, but delicious as well.  Finally, we tried the Glazed Beef Short Ribs.  The meat was cooked perfect, but the horseradish sauce was surprisingly sweet and made the meal extremely filling!

Bubble Lounge
What We Liked:  The bar.  Although the champagne bar offers varied funky, lounge-like tables and chairs, the back room, which is cozier and more lively, is often too full to be seated at.  With some luck, after spending some time at a front room (which is more like a hallway) table, we managed to find two bar seats, which provided us with a cozier and more intimate experience - and more attentive service.

Recommendations:  I (René) got a little adventurous and tried a drink from the champagne cocktail list - the Fraise.  It was sweet, but tasty and, of course, bubbly.  It was the perfect amount of both Prosecco and Stoli Strawberry.  One was more than enough, as I don't usually drink hard liquor or sweet drinks, so I opted to switch over to the Taittinger Cuvée Prestige and was not disappointed with this choice, either!  To complement our champagne, Tim and I sampled the Parmesan Popcorn.  You just can't go wrong with popcorn.

Blue Fin 
What We Liked:  The location.  Nestled in the heart of Times Square in the W Hotel, Blue Fin overlooks the bustle and lights of New York City.  On a Saturday night in New York City (it was around 11-ish), it was nice to be able to walk into a place, find two bar seats and a fabulous menu of sushi and appetizers!   

Recommendations:  Tuna Tartare.  (You will see a pattern with this order.)  Combine tuna and avocado any day, and we are happy campers.  

We did have one last stop before leaving New York City the next day.  After a great debate on whether to do brunch or lunch, we decided on lunch - specifically so we would not leave New York without having pizza.  It was another frigid day, and after some wandering around, we decided that it would be wise to jump in a cab and head over to Little Italy.

Cafe Napoli
What We Liked:  Being hungry, windblown, and freezing (did we mention that last part already?), our cab driver dropped us right in front of this little Italian spot (just one of many on a restaurant-lined street).  Immediately, a gentleman greeted us and practically ushered us in to his restaurant.  While not my most favorite means of finding a place to dine, he was nice, knowledgeable, and sold the place to us rather quickly.  Once inside, it was warm and cozy - and quite busy for an early Sunday afternoon.  They were accommodating to large and small parties and children and adults alike.  

Recommendations:  There were lunch specials, but we were determined to have pizza.  We ordered a simple margherita pizza and penne with spicy marinara sauce (you will often see a theme with this order on our blog as well).  Both lived up to and beyond expectations, but our number one recommendation would be to go with an appetite so you can indulge in the warm, toasted Italian bread they give you upon sitting down.  Add a little bit of red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese to the already flavored (rosemary) dipping oil they provide, and you will be perfectly content!

...So, that wraps up our first eating tour of New York.  It was a terrific first sample of some of the tastes the big City has to offer.  Two things we determined after our trip there: 1)  We will return. 2) Boston is our home, and you just can't beat some of our top favorite restaurants in our favorite place to live!