Archive for the ‘Drinks’ category

“I’m ba-ack!”

August 20, 2011

Wow, I’ve been MIA the last few weeks. Not that many people noticed, but I feel weird not having blogged for so long. So here I am, bright and early on a Saturday, ready to share my experiences from the last few weeks.

A few weekends ago I met up with some college roommates in Ocean City, Maryland, and we had a blast relaxing at the beach, going out for dinner and drinks and catching up. Here’s a picture of us at Liquid Assets, a bistro and package store with an awesome menu.

We started off the evening with martinis, shared a decadent cheese plate and enjoyed our delicious main courses. I got garlic chicken with roasted tomatoes, onions, fingerling potatoes, Benton’s bacon, spinach and herbs. One of my friends ordered the open faced slow braised Carolina pork BBQ with chipotle coleslaw and thick cut fries, and the other two got seared scallops risotto with roasted garlic and shallots, peas, mushrooms, fresh herbs and grana padano.

My garlic roasted chicken

The pork BBQ

The seared scallops risotto

The weekend following our Ocean City Extravaganza was a busy one as well. Jim and I hosted some friends, went to a Red Sox game and attended a two-day marriage prep class. The Red Sox game was a blast — thanks to our friend, Candace, we managed to get second-row seats!

Our view of the park

Unfortunately, the Red Sox did not win this game (and what’s worse is they lost to the Yankees), but we still had a great time. We enjoyed watching Dustin Pedroia do his little hop move before fielding the ball, making fun of Candace for her “crush” on Josh Reddick (I put crush in quotes because the rest of us sort of invented it) and going out after the game.

The marriage prep class was quite an experience. Due to a friend’s recommendation, we attended the one at the Espousal Retreat House in Waltham (completing a “Pre-Cana” marriage course is a requirement for a Catholic wedding, which we’re having). We showed up on Saturday to discover that 75 other couples in the greater Boston area were doing the same thing. Apparently, this was a record number. We spent the next couple of days together, listening to married couples share their marriage experiences and insights, receiving advice from a priest who’s worked with hundreds of married couples and discussing different aspects of marriage with out significant other.

The Espousal Retreat House in Waltham

In fact, they had each us one us complete forms devoted to specific topics, and then discuss our answers privately with our fiance (or fiancee). Topics ranged from finances to goals to religion. It was helpful to discuss those taboo topics you always try to avoid but really should confront. My fiance and I learned a few things about one another, but were pretty happy must of the subjects we’d already addressed (and were familiar with the other person’s perspective on).

The big theme of the weekend was: COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR SPOUSE. Even if you have an issue with another person (say, a friend of the family), you should always be willing to discuss your concerns with your husband or wife. Because you are a team and that person is there to help you out. They will feel validated knowing you trust them with your thoughts, and you’ll end up with a constant source of support and encouragement.

Last weekend my fiance and I headed to Syracuse, NY to take care of more wedding planning. We met with our priest for the first time, picked out the church readings and decided on the layout of the reception space. Also, my fiance designed wedding programs using his fine-tuned Excel skills. I was so proud of him. I had spent hours trying to figure out how to format Microsoft Word properly for a program. And then he goes ahead and whips up an awesome, perfectly formatted program on Excel in no time! I really think he should market his wedding program making skills!

Not only have I been so busy the last few weekends, but it seems like nearly every weeknight I’ve had some event to celebrate. For example, it was my sister’s 29th birthday on Wednesday (we had an awesome tapas meal at Solea in Waltham), my friend Bridget’s going away dinner on Tuesday, and my 3-year anniversary on August 10.

I love this card my fiance gave me for our anniversary

Finally, I feel like I can relax. I was so tired from all the recent happenings last night, that I went to bed at 8:30 (yup, on a Friday night). But now it’s 7 a.m. on a Saturday, I’ve already had my coffee and Stella D’oro almond toasts, and I’m feeling good! I’m really looking forward to this weekend — my only plan is to attend the Futures at Fenway doubleheader. Actually, I have one other plan as well: to celebrate my fiance’s acceptance into his graduate school program of choice! He’ll be attending Northeastern for political science starting in three weeks– yeah!!!

Eat at Casa Romero in the Back Bay…

July 27, 2011

…or else! It’s so freakin’ amazing. My fiance and I had dinner there the other night, and let me tell you I couldn’t get enough of my entree. But let me back up a bit. We started off with drinks and some complimentary salsa and chips.

My sangria

Chips and salsa

Those were good, though nothing particularly amazing. The guacamole was also fine.

But let me tell you, my entree really knocked my socks off. I had sauteed pork tenderloin tips with tomatillos, cilantro, potatoes and roasted poblana peppers. The pork was so tender and flavorful, the potatoes were so cute all chopped up into tiny pieces (and delicious), and the tartness of the tomatillos really complemented the savory pork.

I was so thankful to have leftovers today for lunch!

My fiance ordered enchiladas with pulled chicken, mole poblano sauce, cheese and Mexican creme fraiche. He said they were some of the best enchiladas he’s ever had. My initial thought upon trying a bite was “Wow, this is nice and chocolate-y!”

Both dishes were served with delicious rice and beans.

Appetizers range from $6.50 to $11.50, and entrees range from $16 to $28.25. If this in in your price range, and you’re craving Mexican, make sure you stop here. The waitstaff was so friendly (they even gave me extra rice and beans for my to-go container without me asking), and the decor is beautiful/colorful. Enjoy!

Scholars Bistro in Boston has good food and service

May 2, 2011

At least that was my experience on Saturday evening with a bunch of friends. Scholars American Bistro and Cocktail Lounge just recently opened at 25 School St. in Boston near the Park Street T stop. Their wine is a little pricey (you can’t get a glass for less than $7), but I suppose that’s often the case in downtown Boston.

They have some unusual items on their menu, which I appreciated. Those dishes include rabbit fritters, braised beef tongue sliders, lasagna cupcakes, apple cider pork belly, and prosciutto pizza. I didn’t have the biggest appetite, so I just went with the mussels appetizer.

My mussels

From my experience, it’s kinda hard to screw mussels up. But the smoked salt, tarragon, and roasted tomato sauce made the meal tastier than your average mussels plate. Plus, they provide plenty of bread to dip in the sauce. My fiance had Tuscan flatbread pizza, which included sun-dried tomato, pesto, goat cheese, and red sauce.

My fiance's Tuscan flatbread pizza

He was quite a fan. Another friend of ours, who adores hummus, ordered the Za’atar flatbread pizza. That one’s made up of pine nuts, goats cheese, hummus, and labneh (Middle Eastern yogurt cheese). For an appetizer, another friend ordered some raw oysters. She let me have one, which is always a ton of fun.

Me slurping down the oyster

While staff didn’t seem 100 percent sure of the menu (that’s understandable as the restaurant just opened), they were nonetheless attentive. At one point, there were three waitresses serving us drinks and asking how things were going. When we first arrived (around 6 p.m.), we were practically the only diners in the whole place. But around 8 p.m. or so, things started picking up.

I think this would be a neat place to go for an after-dinner drink or two. Upstairs there’s a billiards room, comfy chairs, and dim lighting. It’s the perfect environment for enjoying one of their many creative cocktails. Beer fans will be glad to know they have 15-plus brews on tap. I will surely return to this awesome restaurant/bistro/lounge!

Peach Riesling sangria

April 17, 2011

Me drinking peach Riesling sangria

A few weeks ago I made sangria for the first time. I hadn’t heard back from a sangria-making friend of mine about how she makes it, so I researched recipes online. I wanted to find one that didn’t involve adding sugar, fancy alcohols, or carbonated beverages. I came across a recipe that fit all of these requirements; it also included Dole peach/mango/orange juice, one of my favorite 100-percent juices. An added benefit was it called for Riesling, a wine type I highly enjoy.

The recipe is from an Illinois wine and cheese shop’s website (it’s the third recipe on the page). The first ingredient is two bottles of Riesling (it calls for a specific Riesling, but I just picked one that was very affordable). I actually bought two 1.5-liter bottles of Riesling, as I was making the recipe for a fair amount of people. You mix the wine with frozen raspberries, orange pieces, peach pieces, lemon pieces, and some of the juice (check the recipe for quantities). You cover the drink, refrigerate it, and serve it cold.

My grocery store didn’t have peaches, so I replaced them with mangoes (but I can still call my concoction “peach Riesling sangria” because it contained peach juice). I was very happy with the outcome and would highly recommend the recipe to anyone.

Going to Charleston, South Carolina? Then stay at The Anchorage Inn

March 25, 2011

I already mentioned that my fiance surprised me by booking a room at The Anchorage Inn in Charleston, South Carolina instead of the Days Inn. Well, I find it necessary to expand upon the awesomeness that is The Anchorage Inn. Until last week I’d never stayed at quite a place. Let me list some of the bed and breakfast’s notable characteristics.

  • The inn is on Vendue Range in the heart of Charleston’s historic district. Not to mention it’s just steps from a fountain, park, pier, and Charleston Bay.
  • The Anchorage Inn is affordable. According to my fiance, it’s just $20 per night more expensive than the Days Inn. It’s funny because the other hotels on Vendue Range are much pricier. Sure, they might have doorkeepers and valets, but if you can do without those frills The Anchorage Inn will save you major moolah.
  • The inn takes you back in time. Originally built as a cotton warehouse around 1840, the building is furnished with handcrafted reproductions of seventeenth century English decor (the area was settled by the English in 1670).

This picture shows some of the sitting room's decor.

A lamp in our room

  • Staff are friendly. There’s always someone sitting at the front desk, ready to answer any questions you may have. Our first day in Charleston a young man helped us figure out which beach to visit. In fact, he firmly suggested we check out Folly Beach and the nearby Morris Island Lighthouse. We appreciated his assurance, especially because the outing proved wonderful.
  • Daily breakfasts are included in the price. Breakfast is served between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.; meal items include orange juice, grapefruit juice, coffee, cereal, fruit, yogurt, bagels, biscuits and gravy, danishes, and muffins.

Biscuit with gravy

  • Daily wine and cheeses are included in the price. This was one of my favorite parts of the vacation. Each day, starting at 4 p.m., the inn served complimentary wine (red and white), cheese (including cheddar, jalapeno cheddar, and Swiss cheese), and crackers. As we enjoyed our food and drink in the sitting room, we conversed with Anchorage Inn guests from all over the country and even world (e.g. we met a couple from England and a woman from Malaysia). We made so many new friends.

Wine and cheese table

  • Nightly sherries are included in the price. Every evening, from 8 to 11 p.m., the hotel provides sherry for its guests. Either before or after dinner you can stop by the sitting room, enjoy a glass (or two) of the cordial, and chat with anyone else who happens to stop by. Although these weren’t as popular as the wine and cheeses, we highly enjoyed them.

Enjoying my sherry

In short, be sure to stay at The Anchorage Inn if you’re ever traveling to Charleston!!!

I’m in Charleston, South Carolina!

March 14, 2011

My fiance and I arrived in Charleston, South Carolina yesterday evening! We are spending five or so days here for vacation. It’s so sunny and warm (high of 75). We left Boston on Saturday morning, and headed toward Connecticut. Connecticut traffic really slowed us down (as a result of this horrific accident), but we eventually made it over the border to Westchester County, New York.

We had lunch in charming Tarrytown, which sits right beside the Hudson River. We chose the Tarry Tavern, a Main Street locale prioritizing locally grown ingredients. I wasn’t that hungry, as I had enjoyed a calzone and yogurt in the car. So I just got some acorn squash soup, which was amazing.

My fiance had a “TT Wagyu” burger that he called “one of the best burgers” he’s ever had (the meal included bacon onion jam, white cheddar, and hand-cut fries).

Before out meals arrived, they served us rolls with butter.

Here are a few photos from Tarrytown:

This phone booth was in someone's front lawn.

The Hudson River is in the distance.

From Tarrytown we headed over the Tappan Zee Bridge.

We drove through some more of New York and New Jersey; then we crossed the Delaware Memorial Bridge to Delaware.

We went through Delaware, Maryland and part of Virginia, before stopping in Ashland, VA. After getting prices from several hotels off the rest stop (including a somewhat sketchy hotel with a glass barrier protecting the concierge), we settled on a Quality Inn. Ruby Tuesday was right across the street, so we went there for dinner.

My fiance had lobster macaroni; he said it was rich and very good.

I had one of their tilapia specials. It included a bruschetta sauce, grilled green beans, and white cheddar mashed potatoes. I must say, Ruby Tuesday has really improved their offerings since I was in high school.

The next morning we stepped outside and it was gorgeous out (about 60 degrees and sunny). We decided to take a picture so we’d remember this moment.

We got back on I-95 and drove until Wilson, North Carolina. There, we stopped at a Cracker Barrel for lunch. We had yet another fabulous meal! My fiance had meatloaf with mashed potatoes, green beans and macaroni and cheese.

I had grilled chicken pieces with green beans and steak fries.

Our meal came with corn muffins and biscuits.

While we were in the car, we played the state license plate game (where you write down the names of all the different state license plates you see).

I fell asleep somewhere in North Carolina. Before I knew it, we were in South Carolina. My fiance and I loved the lush greenery on the side of the road.

We stopped at a McDonald’s for coffee (by the way they reacted to our request you’d think no one drinks coffee in South Carolina), and then got back on the road. Around 7 p.m. we arrived in Charleston. We drove by an industrial part of the city that wasn’t so nice. However, things improved as we got closer to downtown.

I thought we were staying at the Days Inn but my fiance completely surprised me. He had booked a room at The Anchorage Inn, an adorable bed and breakfast on Vendue Range right by the Waterfront Park.

Just so you have an idea of how cool this place is, each day they have a continental breakfast, a 4 p.m. wine and cheese, and an 8 to 11 p.m. sherry. Not bad, huh?

Looking to save some money? One solution is making your own iced coffee.

January 31, 2011

My fiance drinks iced coffee pretty much every day, and he used to only buy it from Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, or another coffee shop. But now he’s primarily making his own. It’s easy to make, it tastes comparably good, and it’s clearly saving us money.

We put hot coffee in this thermos (after making the coffee in our trusty Mr. Coffee machine), place the thermos in the fridge, and after an hour and a half the coffee is ready. Just add ice and voila, you're set.

Let’s see about how much we’re saving. I would say that an iced coffee, on average, costs $1.80 at a coffee shop. Let’s hold that thought for a minute. Now, yesterday I bought a 33.9-ounce container of Chock full o’ Nuts coffee for $7. According to Kmart’s website, 33.9 ounces of coffee can make up to 270 cups of coffee. Well, since we like our coffee fairly strong, we’ll say the canister makes 200 cups of coffee.

Seven dollars divided by 200 is 3.5 cents. So making our own iced coffee costs us 3.5 cents per cup, compared with $1.80 at a coffee shop. That’s a savings of about $1.76 per cup, and a savings of about $642 over the course of a whole year (provided you drink one iced coffee a day). That’s fairly significant, I’d say. While making your own iced coffee requires you to think ahead, you also save gas money (by not having to drive to a coffee shop), and help out the environment (by not using and throwing away a plastic coffee container).

If you don’t mind feeling like a hippy, check out the delicious Life Alive cafe in Cambridge

January 14, 2011

It’s a new restaurant based off the one in Lowell. The menu calls the joint an “urban oasis and organic cafe.” You walk inside and one of the first things you notice is stacks of fresh produce (e.g. ginger, celery, carrots) behind the counter. You see this and know you’ll be eating healthy. Then you notice the list of smoothies. They are pretty expensive ($5.99 apiece), so I was a little hesitant to get one. I ended up caving and getting the “Love Alive” smoothie (blueberry, strawberry, banana, date, and almond milk). It was quite good, though I’m not so sure it’s worth the price.

Half of my smoothie (my friend had the other half)

I arrived there around 1 p.m. yesterday, and the line to order was very long. Basically you order at the counter, take a number, and are brought your food (just like the delicious Cafe Mangal in Wellesley!). As I waited, I scanned the decor and trinkets around me. A string of white lights framed a large and inviting window in the middle of the room. I also observed lots of green plants, a row of books you can read as you dine (if you get into a book you can put down a $5 deposit and borrow it), and an arrangement of teas. The teas are in little containers; you’re free to open the containers and smell the tea before ordering.

I ordered “The Seeker,” a salad with lemon garlic hummus, chopped cashews, granny applies, cucumbers, shredded carrots, spring greens, and ginger nama shoyu sauce. The dish comes in three forms: a bowl for $7.97, a wrap for $8.50, and a demi for $5.75). I got the bowl.

My friend Katie got “The Sufi Poet,” which is a salad with red-lentil hummus, cranberries, cashews, cucumber, granny apples, shredded carrots, spring greens, and balsamic vinaigrette. She just got the demi because her appetite was smaller. I must confess I initially thought the idea of hummus in salad is strange, but it went so well with the more subtle-tasting ingredients (e.g. the spring greens and cucumber). The lemon garlic hummus added just the right amount of “ooomph.” I also loved the texture of the chopped cashews.

Everything was fresh and oh-so-healthy-tasting, and it was the perfect amount of food. I will surely go back. We sat on the bottom level of the two-floor restaurant. It really doesn’t feel like a restaurant, but rather a cozy and colorful family room belonging to young artists. There are lots of nooks and crannies for sitting with your friends, as well as a play area for the youngins. Check out this little cove we snagged:

I look forward to trying some of their other menu items. They sell grilled tortilla wraps (like “The Seductress,” which boasts hard-boiled egg, broccoli, dark greens, shredded carrots and beets, garlic, yeast, and a whole wheat tortilla); “simple snacks” (like “The Crunchy Hippy,” which contains maple almond granola, dried fruit, almond milk, and maple syrup); and rice-based dishes (like “The Goddess,” which features ginger nama shoyu sauce, carrots, beets, broccoli, dark greens, tofu, and short-grain brown rice). You can also get sides for 50 cents to $3 apiece, like sesame stix, sun-dried tomato, and quinoa, as well as “jubilant juices,” like “Hive Alive” (a mixture of lemon, apple, honey, and pure water).

Another neat touch I must mention is they have a water dispenser with glasses both upstairs and downstairs (this is important to me because I normally drink tap water). Though they serve tea, I don’t think they serve coffee.

Sound Bites Restaurant: Good food, cozy ambiance, great service

December 19, 2010

My boyfriend and I stopped by Sound Bites Restaurant (in Somerville’s Ball Square area) yesterday for dinner. He started off with a draft beer, and I ordered sangria.

My sangria

The restaurant, which is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, and noon to 11 p.m. on Sunday, has a full bar. It’s thoroughly decorated for Christmas, making you feel right at home. We were the only customers at one point, but that may have been because we ate so early (around 5 p.m.).

I ordered the Mid-East Combo Plate #1. For this dish you choose three of the following: falafel, hoummous (commonly spelled hummus), mujadra (includes lentils, caramelized onions, rice and yogurt sauce), baba ghanough (mashed eggplant with various seasonings), grape leaves, sauteed cauliflower, and tabbouli. I ordered mujadra, grape leaves, and baba ghanough. It came with a salad and yummy olives (and was just $9.99!).

They accompany the meal with warm pita bread.

It was quite good. My boyfriend had shrimp scampi. While my meal was good, his was fantastic. I don’t know what they put in that sauce, but it really made the meal.

The kind waiter gave us a free plate of fruit afterward. What a nice touch! All the fruit was fresh and tasty.

I will definitely be going back there!

The Foundry in Somerville (Davis Square): Good food, packed-together customers

October 26, 2010

My leftover half chicken, fingerling potatoes and kale from the Foundry

My boyfriend and I checked out this new joint on Sunday evening. He was happy because they have about 25 beers on tap. I was happy because Sunday’s special is a “$5 glass of wine.” I ordered the roasted half chicken with local fingerlings (potatoes) and kale, and he asked for the steak frites (French fries) with shallots and garlic herb butter.

As we waited for our meals to arrive, we took in the jovial environment around us. The large restaurant was packed with people smiling, enjoying their drinks and dinner, and engaged in spirited conversation. This was nice. We especially liked observing a horseshoe-shaped table in the middle of the restaurant. The large family was clearly relishing their meals and awesome location.

Unfortunately, we were crammed in between two other tables of two. I normally wouldn’t mind this, but the guys right next to us were pretty loud. As they dramatically gushed about the girls they thought were attractive, their simple-minded families back home, and the politics associated with their Tufts PhD program, I wished we had been placed elsewhere. But we had to deal with the cards we were dealt (I guess I shouldn’t complain too much– in the end we got to eat like a king and queen).

We sympathized with our waitress, who said she was on the last leg of her double shift. But we were impressed with her enthusiasm and dedication to serving us well. She brought me a steak knife for my chicken in case I needed it. That was a thoughtful touch (maybe she accidentally brought out two steak knives for our table, but I’ll interpret her gesture as a kind action on her behalf).

Our meals, if you could not already surmise, were fantastic. I actually slightly preferred my boyfriend’s steak to my chicken. The menu said it was a “flatiron” steak, which my Internet research indicates has a rich chuck flavor. Apparently it’s also second only to filet mignon in tenderness. I definitely found that the steak was both richly flavored and tender. It went quite well with the shallots and garlic herb butter. My chicken was good (not amazing), but the potatoes and kale were extremely tasty. Luckily, there was so much food I got to take leftovers home. I enjoyed them for lunch the next day.

I would definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for a good meal. The food is a little pricey (my meal was $18 and my boyfriend’s meal was $19), but if you don’t get appetizers, desserts, or alcohol, you can certainly limit the cost somewhat. Oh yeah, I forgot to add that country-style French bread with butter was given to us while we waited for our meals. And at the end of our dinner we had Lavazza coffee, which never disappoint.


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