Posted tagged ‘wine’

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!

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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!!!

Some random gastronomical musings

March 6, 2011
  • The Flour Bakery + Cafe’s cookbook rocks. I’ve never actually made anything from the book (nor do I own it), but I’ve sampled two desserts from it. One was a chocolate cupcake with white butter frosting, and the other was a lemon square. A friend of ours brought over some of the lemon squares the other night, and I can’t stop thinking about how good they are.

The remaining lemon squares

  • Wegmans rocks. You’ve all heard of this amazing grocery store right? Each year, the Rochester, NY-based supermarket makes Fortune magazine’s list of best places to work. Not to mention the store has an excellent selection of produce, baked goods, meat, and much more. Well this past week, when I was in Syracuse for some wedding planning, my mom made veal and spaghetti with Wegmans’ vodka sauce.

The sauce is unbelievably tasty. Its ingredients include diced tomatoes, tomato puree, diced onions, cream, olive oil, vodka, Romano cheese, roasted garlic, and basil. She mixed the sauce with cooked mushrooms, put the mixture atop spaghetti, and served it with Wegmans-brand veal.

My mom bought some of the Wegmans-brand veal for me to bring back to Boston.

I love how the veal is nice and skinny. My mom basically dipped the veal pieces into an egg and flour mixture; then covered them with breadcrumbs. She cooked the veal in some olive oil for a couple of minutes, put mozzarella on top of the veal pieces, and microwaved them for a minute. So the cheese was nice and melted atop the crispy veal. Oh my gosh I was in heaven eating this meal. It was of restaurant quality (a good restaurant, that is)!

I stopped by the local wine store, looking for a decent boxed wine. As I was reading the back of this one, a lady giving out samples of another wine told me a couple of customers had just recommended this one. So I went with it. It was pretty reasonably priced ($15 for 1.5 liters, which is two bottles-worth), and it is organic/contains no sulfites. I’m no oenophile; I just like a smooth, decent-tasting wine. Well, this one fits the bill. I mean, it’s a little spicier than the wines I’m used to, but by no means is that a negative thing. I would surely purchase this brand of wine again.

My fiance knows me well

February 15, 2011

This is what he got me for Valentine’s Day:

Peanut M&Ms

Russell Stover chocolates

A 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon made by Midnight Cellars in Paso Robles, California (We've already finished it off!)

I got him “Atlantic” by Simon Winchester, which I’ve already blogged about.

Pretty good experience at Met Back Bay

November 16, 2010

Met Back Bay is located on Newbury Street in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood

Last week my boyfriend and I dined at Met Back Bay for our two-and-a-quarter-year anniversary. We didn’t realize the restaurant had only been open for a couple of weeks. Our waiter was EXTREMELY knowledgeable about the wine list and food options.

We didn’t want to spend a ton on wine so we settled for a 2008 Napa Valley Chappellet red (specifically the Mountain Cuvee). It was a mixture of several grapes, and oh so smooth. Our waiter was a sommelier, and very apt at helping us choose the appropriate bottle. Within a minute of sitting down at the table we were served complimentary bread sticks with cheese. The cheese, which sort of tasted like a fancy version of cheese whiz, was served in a cute see-through jar. This was a nice touch.

The waiter also helped us decide on our main courses. I ordered the Long Island brick duck with foie gras and spiced crusted sugar pumpkin, and my boyfriend ordered the Lobster Fra Diavolo (lobster with hollow spaghetti). Our food was very good, especially my duck and his lobster. The duck was moist but not greasy (I find that duck meat is often greasy). I think the waiter said the duck was cooked with some sort of citrus juice.

I was surprised to discover that the foie gras was actually very sweet. It tasted like it had been mixed with maple syrup or something similar. This actually worked out really well, however, as it effectively complemented the savory duck and neutral-tasting pumpkin. All in all I was pleased! And so was my boyfriend. He asked the table next to us how their lobster New England pot pie was. They gave us the thumbs up, though they said it was too much to finish in one sitting. We certainly didn’t have that problem!

One negative thing was our cheesy flaky crescent rolls didn’t arrive until we were done with dinner. They were supposed to be the appetizer! The manager came out to apologize, and our waiter apologized numerous times. He clearly felt bad about the situation. They said there had been some sort of miscommunication and they are still working out the restaurant’s kinks. The rolls were really tasty, albeit a tad greasy.

For dessert we had coffee and apple cider donuts with vanilla ice cream. Once again, I wasn’t doing my body any favors, but the dessert was certainly yummy!

Overall we liked the restaurant’s decor, which included cushy red chairs, red padded walls, and a lovely bay window overlooking Newbury Street. We were lucky to score a booth right up against the bay window. We also liked the dark wood beams above us. According to my boyfriend, they “sort of gives it (the room) a traditional New England appeal.”

Being my journalistic self, I asked him to give another quote about the decor. He said: “They sure could use some art on these walls.” I personally liked the art-free walls, thinking they contributed to the room’s modern and clean-cut feel. But he thought a couple of small works of art would have done some good.

Here’s the dinner menu in case you’re interested in checking out this restaurant. I didn’t take any photos because my camera is broken:-(.

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.

This wine was really good

September 13, 2010

Swedish Hill Winery's 2008 Cayuga White

I got it during a wine tour of the Finger Lakes (in upstate New York) earlier this summer. It was perfectly crispy, semi-dry, and citrusy. The wine was actually developed by Cornell University at the the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y.  No wonder it’s so good– smart people made it!

The Finger Lakes are mostly known for their white wines, though I also really liked Swedish Hill’s red Marechal Foch (shoot, I forget what year). It was sooo smooth. Winery staff told me one reason was because it had aged in stainless steel tanks. I then started noticing that all my favorite reds had aged in stainless steel tanks. This doesn’t sound as impressive as oak barrels but oh well!

I look forward to soon trying a muscat I also picked up at the Swedish Hill Winery (I guess this was my favorite winery!). I’ll let you know how that goes!