Sunday, November 22, 2015

Cheese Guild At Henrietta's

Seared Fluke with Robinson's Farm Swiss Au Gratins and Fisherman's Sunrise Saison.

We were recently invited to the Massachusetts Cheese Guild Dinner at Henrietta's Table In Cambridge, sponsored by Robinson's Farm Cheese and Cape Ann Brewing Company.  The spot was a favorite haunt of Julia Child who lived just down the street and could often be seen brunching here. Under the watchful eye and hands of Chef Peter Davis the restaurant has been doing farm to table dinners for many years before it became trendy, then expected.  It was also great to finally meet and enjoy dinner with Tiffany from the highly popular @BostonFoodies on Instagram.  Of course, I had to mention that I was THE Boston Foodie.

In addition to the fluke pictured above we dined on Roasted Beet Carpaccio with Prescott Cheese and Fisherman's Brew.  Then there was an excellent Grilled Balsamic Portobello with Barndance Cheese and a Fisherman's Pils.  It was also a long overdue opportunity to learn about all of the wonderful artisinal cheeses being produced right here in Massachusetts.  The Cheese Guild was recently formed to get the word out that one doesn't have to go to Vermont to find a plethora of great cheeses, many award-winning.

We're predicting that there is going to be a lot of locally-produced cheese featured on menus throughout Boston in the coming year and with this level of quality we heartily approve.

Henrietta's Table
The Charles Hotel
1 Bennett Street
Cambridge, MA  02138
Telephone:  617.661.5005
Twitter:  @HenriettasTable

Friday, November 13, 2015

Fall Cocktails At Committee

 Photo:  Dean Igoe

What better way is there to begin your weekend sipping cocktails on a Friday night?  So, that's what we did at the invite of Beverage Director Peter Szigeti at Committee who has whipped up some new concoctions to embrace the Fall.  I began with the Nice Plum Where Ya' From?  Dos Madera rum, fresh lime juice, maple syrup, dark red plum.  I've never had a drink with such a prominent plum flavor.  Light on the rum, smooth, refreshing and unique without being forced, I loved it.  My long week was already becoming a faded memory.

 Photo: Dean Igoe

Next up was the very creative Burnt Forest:  bourbon, dark chocolate, sour cherry, lime, cinnamon, and ginger. Sounds complicated but it worked.  The tongue searched for the slight hint of chocolate, the bourbon released and the cinnamon stick swirled into the tall glass added yet another depth to the taste.  This is a sipper worthy of tasting all of the levels.

Photo:  Dean Igoe

And, of course, there were also those snacks, the Mediterranean meze that the place is famous for. The North African style Hummus with mashed chickpea and baharat, The colorful Beet Tzatziki (new on the menu) and the excellent Yogurt Marinated Chicken Skewers, tender and moist.  The Spanakopita was good, too, crispy little triangles of spinach and feta in phyllo dough done well and Lamahjun with a copious amount of ground lamb although we prefer a crispier crust, a smear of lamb pressed in.

Scene:  Lots of thirty-something sippers eager to start the weekend, older Seaport curiosity-seekers, single ladies, work-friend groups, double-date couples lounging on the comfy leather waiting to dine on shared plates.

Perfect for:  The full range, cowboy boots to designer dresses, more fun, less romantically intimate, nice first date spot.

Favorite things:  Really interesting drinks, lively crowd, just steps away from the ICA.

What we'd tell a friend:  Go for an interesting drink and two shared plates.  Buzz out to the mellow 80's soundtrack and just relax.  It's a nice spot to visit before or after the main event.

50 Northern Avenue
Boston, MA  02210
Telephone:  617.737.5051
Twitter:  @CommitteeBoston
Instagram:  @committeeboston

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Del Frisco's Grille

We recently enjoyed quite the lunch at Del Frisco's Grille in Chestnut Hill on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon.  If you haven't been it is the more casual dining experience of the steakhouses that are so popular.  And the food was great.  We began with this Chopped Chicken and Farm Greens Salad: Chicken, Tomato, Carrot, Roasted Pine Nuts and Blue Cheese With Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette.  The Guacamole was just as good.

As we've written before, there is so much great dining moving to the suburbs now and Del Frisco's Grille is, indeed, part of that migration.  We loved the fact that the parking was so easy we practically grabbed a spot at the front door.

The Cheesesteak Eggrolls were excellent and served with a Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce.  Meaty, savory with that hint of sweetness and heat in the sauce, one of our favorite bites.

The Lollipop Chicken Wings were a new take on the typically messy buffalo style wings and we liked the idea. Served with an Avocado Ranch Dressing, this was our favorite taste.

As guests of the Manager, the plates just kept coming out of the kitchen.  The flatbread menu features this Spicy Pork Meatball:  Roasted Tomato Sauce, Banana Pepper, Fresh Mozzarella and House-Made Ricotta.  This was as good as any flatbread you would get in the city.

Fish Tacos were yet another offering.  Again, as good as any and part of their new Grab A Pair menu featuring these tacos, a flatbread or a wrap sandwich paired with a salad or soup for a quick lunch. We tried them all and are pretty sure that you would be happy with any choice.

The Roasted Corn Bisque with Tortilla Strips and Crema would definitely be the choice we recommend if you go with the Grab A pair.  Buttery, sweet, savory flavors are layered in a hearty bisque that is not overly filling.

All in all, we loved it.

The scene:  Everyone from well-heeled suburbanites to the collegiate, families, singles and groups of friends.

Perfect for:  Pre or post Eagles games (hopefully victories), a change of scenery (did we mention the view is nice?) and those post shopping hunger pangs.

Favorite things:  Those Lollipop Wings, that Bisque, a roomy, casual spot for solid food and drink with great service and plenty of free parking.

What we'd tell a friend:  If you haven't been to this area in a while you should go back.  There's lots of great shopping, scenery and this is a great place to relax for an hour or two and enjoy good food.

Del Frisco's Grille
33 Boylston Street
Chestnut Hill, MA
Telephone:  617.608.3682
Twitter:  @DFGrille

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


We were recently invited to the latest addition to the upscale fast food landscape: WuBurger.  This one is in the suburbs and  Co-Owner Kal Gullapalli explained to us that the name comes from their location in Woburn, known to locals as "The Wu".  The retro diner look is cool but not overly Disneyesque and after a quick walk-through we settled into a comfy red leather corner booth.

I opted for the standard WuBurger and added Applewood Smoked Bacon and Crispy Onions.  My dining companion added the Fried Egg.  Milky Way Frappes were the drinks.

The result:  a really great burger.  Without picking apart the details too much, why don't more burger places use a plum tomato?  We liked it more than the growing chains of more urban, upscale burger joints we've tried and, yeah, we've pretty much tried them all.

WuBurger plans to open up a new location in Inman Square by the end of the year in the old East By Northeast space, giving a whole new clientele of hipsters, bohemians and Cantabrigians a taste.  

Our only advice is that if they plan to expand into places more populated by the culturally diverse they may want to rethink that name.  WuWu.  Just saying.

880 Main Street
Woburn, MA  01801
Telephone:  781.281.0277
Twitter: @WuBurger
Instagram:  @WuBurgerMain

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Mohegan Sun Brewfest 2015

Some people call it "BroFest" and with good reason but it's one of our favorite events.  Admittedly, it can, at moments, seem like a huge frat party but it's a classy frat party where no one gets out of hand and everyone seems to have fun.

Yes, we were invited as guests of Mohegan Sun and, yes, it's one of the perks of being a food writer (just to settle that pesky disclosure issue that only bloggers seems to face) but nobody cannot call it a cool event and extremely popular.  It was Mohegan Sun Brewfest 2015. What's not to like? Hundreds of beers to sample, a fun crowd and a safe place where everyone is encouraged to drink up.

Lots of the bigger, more established brands were there but, as always, we found some stuff we liked. Duvel (yeah, yeah it's not local) was there with a Triple Hop, Shebeen Brewing with an Irish Pale Ale and Outer Light Brewing with a Libation Propaganda Coffee Stout.  Ever hear of those?  Can you say that last one three times fast?  Didn't think so.   All good.

There was also Jenga because, you know, guys are competitive and we all like to think that our strategy is better than yours.  This guy's was actually not bad.  Why is it always that the construction workers and engineering majors seem to win at this?

The DC Project Band provided the live music.  We're not music critics (or restaurant critics for that matter) but we liked it and so did the crowd.  Some well-lubricated guys even danced.

They even had candles from Crafty Drinker and, yes, we really liked that Not Your Father's Root Beer scented candle because it would be a perfect gift to bring to a frat house party.  You should give gifts, right?

The best sign award went to Newcastle not only because we stole their standee last year (okay they gave it to us) but also because it was neon.  Real neon.

The bottom line:  all blog posts do not need to be serious.  You should go next year.  Because it's fun. And there are already enough people out there taking things too seriously.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Fresh And Honest Dinner

We've been a fan of Chef Peter Davis and Henrietta's Table for years now.  The restaurant was a favorite of Julia Child, who lived just down the street, and Chef Davis has long been a pioneer of local sourcing and farm-to-table dining, many years before it became the thing to do.

One of our first and most popular recipes is for the Melon Gazpacho that Chef Davis personally provided to our readers years back.  So, when we heard that he will be putting together two of our favorite things - cheese and craft beer - how could we resist?  This is sure to be a great night of great food.

Join us at Henrietta's Table on Tuesday, October 20th at 6:30 PM for a celebration of local cheeses, beer, and cuisine at their MA Cheese Guild Dinner. Chef Peter Davis’ four-course menu will feature Robinson Farm‘s award-winning organic raw cow’s milk cheeses paired with and brews from Gloucester’s Cape Ann Brewing Company, plus a meet and greet with cheesemakers Ray and Pamela Robinson.

Tickets are sure to sell out and there's not much time left to get in.  Purchase your tickets here.  Hope to see you there!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Newport Mansions Wine And Food Festival 2015

All photos by Dean Igoe.

It was a spectacular weekend.  We were back at the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival 2015, this year invited for two days of sumptuous living, dining and sipping.  It is our most trés elegant event of the year and one we always look forward to as an official end to our Newport season.  

Absolute fun, great people and conversation and some unexpected finds filled the weekend.  Like, who would expect to fall in love with a fine pilsner beer made in Barcelona with ties to none other than the world's most famous chef Ferran Adria and the legendary el bulli at a wine festival?  Yet, there it was and we did.  We could explain more but here's a video we are sure you will love that kind of does that for us:  Estrella Damm.

Really, though, we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves.  We began on Friday night at the Wine At Rosecliff event, the very spot where The Great Gatsby was filmed.  We were greeted with flutes of Champagne Taittinger and joined the guests strolling down the rolling lawn overlooking Cliff Walk and the Bay and enjoying a nearly full moon rising over the shimmering water.

We strolled from room to elegant room meeting and chatting with the wineries and tasting incredible bites from restaurants nationwide.  More on the wines later.  The Maple Leaf Farms Duck by Chef Bruce Moffett was incredible.  Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Cream was followed by Jacques Pepin's Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce.  Need we say more?

We had our run of the entire first floor and lawn, including the ornate, art-filled, formal dining room and reception rooms, the portico and it's famous fountain with lawn that leads down to the ocean and even photographed a wedding proposal.  Congratulations to DJ and Stephanie!

And what's better after filling up on rich foods and fine wines than to dance the night away to the sounds of Big Band music?

The next morning brought us to Marble House for the Grand Tasting.  The experience is incomparable, especially when the weather cooperates as it did this year:  sunshine and warm temperatures with a perfect ocean breeze. This photogenic jewel is the Salmon Mousse Cake provided by Blackstone Caterers who took over the Chinese Tea House Pagoda for tastings.  Did people really live like this all the time?

There were dozens and dozens of wines we tried and loved.  Again, more on that in a separate post. Then there were the restaurants, many from Boston, serving up delectable finds savory and sweet.

The view from the Tea House overlooks, again, the Cliff Walk and water.  People gathered for impromptu mini-picnics on the lawn.

The event seemed less-crowded this year and more intimate with lots of new vendors and restaurants and wineries eager to talk details rather than just pour.  All in all, a wonderful indulgence and a rare treat.  we met people from all over the country who make the annual Autumnal trek to New England just for this event.  And a worthy trip it is.

All photos by Dean Igoe.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Taste Of Perkins 2015

It was such an honor to be invited to the annual Taste Of Perkins as part of the Taste Challenge celebrity panel. "The Taste" is a big fundraising event for the school where donors are invited to sip a few wines and sample a few plates while blindfolded.  And it is quite the revelation to discover just how closely one's sight is integral to food. In fact, most people (including chefs) are unable to discern the flavors and ingredients. The wines, actually, are much easier.  I think that is because we really can't identify a wine varietal by sight anyway.  The food, however, is surprisingly difficult. You try deciphering blackberry and ginger!

I got a few of the flavors, as did the other participants, but no one has ever achieved a perfect score. More importantly, it's a very fun night with very fun people and a chance to meet a few of the talented students who provided some music and displayed their artwork for the crowd.  Just beautiful! The best part is that we sold out the event and exceeded all expectations for fundraising goals.

Thank you, Perkins, for the honor, the opportunity and the wonderful lesson in all of the things we take for granted but should be more grateful for every day.  I may have arrived as a celebrity but I left humble, realizing the great challenges that some people face every day and witnessing how they do so with such joy.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Vine Brook Tavern

It has a real, authentic tavern feel.  And why wouldn't it?  If one is dining here one would literally be in the shadow of Lexington Green, the very place where the battle that gives you all the freedoms you now enjoy (well, mostly) began.  We'd never been, so when owner Marcus Palmer invited us for dinner to sample the cuisine of Chef Chris Frotheringham, we were intrigued and then delighted. This is Vine Brook Tavern in Lexington.

After a brief tour of the two level space we started right in on cocktails and appetizers.  This Hummus And Spicy Shrimp is served with a warm Za'atar Flat Bread and Olive Oil.  The pillowy soft bread has a great chew, the shrimp fresh and the hummus of good consistency.  Not a bad start.

The Shaved Cauliflower Salad With Kale, Quinoa, Carrots, Beets, Brussels Sprouts And Ginger Sesame Vinaigrette was a mini boatload (maybe more canoe-shaped) of healthy eating.  A nice, different twist on a serving of a nutrient-packed salad.  It doesn't get more cruciferous than this.

A must-try on the creative cocktail menu is the Ginger Margarita, the house specialty and the drink ordered most.

Steak Tacos On Grilled Corn Tortilla, Salsa Ranchero, Cotija, Black Bean Crema And Lazy Street Corn.  The tacos are also a favorite on the menu and we could have eaten bowls of that corn.    

Dayboat Halibut, Porcini Bacon Risotto with Crab Butter Sauce.  Fresh and substantial with a very nice risotto, this special of the night was a hit.

The New York Sirloin was exactly what one would expect of sturdy, classic tavern fare.  Cooked perfectly and served with a choice of sides.

Sticky Toffee Pudding was reminiscent of colonial times, a square of bread pudding smothered in caramel and plated with a dollop of fresh ice cream.

The scene?  Maybe one level up from the typical eclectic mix one would expect in an affluent locale serving gastropub plates of great quality:  seniors springing for dinner with bright, preppy grandchildren, families with young children dashing in and out for a quick (thankfully) supper, well-dressed couples of all ages and thirty-something singles ensconced at the large, central, first floor bar for the evening. Although we dined early, the cougar and softball team set one sometimes encounters in the suburbs was nowhere to be found.

Perfect for?  Date night.  A nice cocktail and dinner with hassle-free, ample parking.  A special dinner out with the kids while Mom, or Dad, is away on business.  Grandpa and grandson bonding, with adult beverages. Exploring just how good suburban dining can be and showing friends the hidden gems one can find.

Favorite things?  The unique, refined tavern feel with solid food that's inventive yet beyond trendy. The shrimp and hummus and bread.  The no-rush, relaxed yet professional service.  The catch of the day.  Sirloin.

What we'd tell a friend?  Starters about $12, mains about $25,  Absolutely worth checking it out and the chances are quite good you may become a regular.  If so, see you there.

Vine Brook Tavern
20 Waltham Street
Lexington, MA  02421
Telephone:  781.863.2012
Twitter:  @VineBrookTavern

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Off The Common, Park Plaza

We were invited to dine at Off The Common at the Park Plaza recently and experience the stunning renovation of the lobby restaurant just recently completed.  The cocktail program is excellent with drinks to honor Boston landmarks and traditions.  We started with this, the Romeo And Juliet (named after the famed swans of the Public Garden):  Grey Goose Noir, St. Germaine, Pure Cane, Fresh Lemon, Agave and Luxardo Cherry.  Light, smooth and refreshing.

The architectural details are beautiful and the bar is a popular gathering spot.

The Lobster Mac And Cheese arrived in a tiny red Le Creuset crock and was heavy on the lobster meat.  The cheese did not overpower the delicate lobster flavor, the hallmark of this dish when done well.

Prime Sirloin Steak, House Cut Fries And Roasted Garlic And Herb Compound Butter.  Very Good, perfectly done.

Baked Local Cod Loin, Salt Cured Olives, Blistered Tomatoes, Smoked Marcona Almonds And Romesco Sauce. The cod was a bit dry but good.  Perhaps a hefty drizzle of a fine Spanish olive oil over the dish would make it perfect.

The Beignet And Chocolate Sauce was delicious.  The crispy fried dough was rich and the chocolate sauce not too sweet.  A hit.

The Limoncello Flute, Lemon Gelato And Limoncello Drizzle was the tart alternative, also good.

The Scene:  Well-heeled guests and twenty-something friends gathering for drinks at a dazzling, long bar to map out plans for the evening.  On the night we visited the bar patrons were overwhelmingly male, the diners more fifty-fifty, a typical yet polished upscale hotel lobby crowd of  visitors and new faces, although we spotted a few well-known Boston faces.

Perfect for:  A delicious drink and appetizer before the theater in a comfy yet refined setting.  An initial business cocktail in a tasteful, off-the-beaten-track atmosphere.

Favorite things:  Drinks.  Lobster Mac.  Beignet.  Trace and Trust locality dining.

Off The Common
Boston Park Plaza
50 Park Plaza at Arlington Street
Boston, MA  02116
Telephone:  617.426.2000
Twitter:  @OffTheCommonBOS

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Davio's Lynnfield

Fine dining is moving to the suburbs and people are supporting the move.  Maybe it's the hassle of driving and parking in the city or the higher prices due to higher rents.  So, when we were invited to dine at Davio's in Lynnfield we thought we should check it out.  The Market Street development represents a newer trend in open air retail shopping where plenty of parking and room for outdoor events seems to be a welcome alternative.  And it's beautiful.

We began with a signature drink, the Blueberry Cooler, which not only was refreshing but also looked elegant on the table.

Next up was the Fusilli Shrimp With Hot Cherry Peppers, White Wine, Lemon And Olive Oil.  The shrimp was very fresh, the pasta house made, just a classic dish well-made.

The Antipasti course:  Parma Prosciutto, Burrata, Truffle Honey, Fresh Fruit and Chopped Pistachios. Again, a classic.  All of the ingredients were top notch.

Of course, Davio's is famous for their Spring Rolls.  We went with the sampler for a taste of each of the five featured on the menu.  Our favorite, believe it or not, was the Reuben Spring Roll.

To cleanse the palate between courses we were served this, with fresh strawberries to wash away the salty, savory flavors lingering on the tongue.  We liked this alternative to the more typical lemon version.

The Prime Natural Aged Ribeye was about as good as it gets, perfectly rich and cooked to order.

Sauteed Veal Tenderloin, Proscciutto, Shallot Polenta, Sauteed Spinach and Marsala came from the Caserecci menu, where the Chef pairs the sides for you.  Great choices and great flavor.

The Smores Cookie dessert was satisfying and not overly sweet and made with a drier cookie.  Some who may like a chewier cookie may not like this one.  We loved it.

And finally was the creme brulee.  We've tasted a lot of these at many different restaurants and can clearly say that this is right up there with the best of them.

This was an outstanding feast with a great cocktail, beer and wine program to accompany the food. The price points ($40 average for mains, $14 average for sides and firsts), the upscale environs and excellent, attentive service may make this a special occasion experience but it was a full house on the early Saturday evening when we dined there.  There is also a lively bar scene and bar menu with plates more in the $11 to $12 range.  With plenty of free parking and outdoor seating available it's great choice.  Sunday brunch is also served and we can't wait to get back to try that.

Davio's is celebrating 30 years of serving the community at a special celebration at the Arlington Street location on Wednesday, September 23rd, with an open bar, food and entertainment.  Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Greater Boston Food Bank.

Davio's Northern Italian Steak House
427 Walnut Street
Lynnfield, MA  01940
Telephone:  781.944.4810
Twitter: @DaviosLynnfield