Tag Archives: Boston

Surviving in Hoth: Part 2

Mandy and Joe's - photo credit: Boston.com

Mandy and Joe’s – photo credit: Boston.com

I just got back from a long weekend in Jamaica to celebrate a friend’s wedding. The weather, while rainy at times, was in the 70s and 80s so you can imagine that coming back to the aftermath of a snowfall and an impending snowstorm was a bit of a shock.  Thankfully, there’s a lot of great local restaurants nearby that are helping to ease the cooped up feeling that comes as a result of these winter storms. With that in mind, this is the second part of my Surviving in Hoth series and today, I want to spotlight a local diner: Mandy and Joe’s Delicatessen.

Only a few doors down from Porter Belly’s (see my previous post), in Brighton Center, Mandy and Joe’s is one of my favorite breakfast spots. It consistently offers great home cooking with staples like hash and eggs, omelets, pancakes and french toast. It still looks like a 50s-style diner on the inside, giving you the instant impression that the staff knows what they are doing. The diner also serves sandwiches at lunch but I’ve never actually tried them. I prefer to stick with my favorite: breakfast.

While I’ve tried most of the breakfast menu, I usually end up deciding between two eggs with bacon, toast and homefries or hash and eggs. Keep in mind: this breakfast is not for anyone on a diet. You’re always going to get a good portion and plenty of butter.

It’s hard to describe the greatness of Mandy and Joe’s but here’s a quick story of a personal experience I’ve had at the restaurant. Around Mother’s Day last year, Mandy and Joe’s introduced a special item: stuffed french toast with strawberries. Of course, I order this to give it a try and while chatting with the chef (and I believe, owner) Ingrid, she was curious how I liked the special. After telling her how great it was, she proceeded to give me the recipe. I mean, how many places will just tell you how they make their food? Not many.

Just a few things to remember if you’re going to give Mandy and Joe’s a try: it’s cash only. If you’re in a hurry, Mandy and Joe’s does do pick up orders (even for full breakfast plates, not just breakfast sandwiches). If you go on the weekend, keep in mind that Mandy and Joe’s is in an area full of college kids, so anywhere between 10:00 am and 12:00 pm could be busy.


2013 in a Nutshell

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Credit: Google Images

Wow — it’s been a while since I’ve posted to the blog. Let’s just say that 2013 has been a whirlwind of a year. Not only have I continued to explore Boston, in all it’s glory, but on a personal note, I got engaged, started a new job and adopted a dog. It’s been an incredible year but 2014 is going to blow it out of the water…I can already tell. I was thinking about how to best kick start my postings again and remembered that over the past few years I’ve been writing on this blog, I’ve started the year with resolutions. Well, let’s say goals (I personally think resolutions are made to be broken so why not make changes more achievable?). Before I create a list of places to visit and things to eat, I wanted to take a quick look back at what I was able to accomplish in 2013. 

*Note: anything crossed out was done in 2013. 

Food:

  1. Blue Ribbon
  2. Erbaluce
  3. Regal Begal
  4. Giacomo’s
  5. South End Buttery
  6. Bee Hive
  7. Silvertone

Places/Activities:

  1. Harpoon or Sam Adams Brewery Tour
  2. Bunker Hill
  3. Boston Public Library
  4. Marathon Monday
  5. Fall Foliage/Leaf Peeping
  6. Corn Maze
  7. Haunted Boston Bus Tour
  8. Celtics or Bruins Game
  9. Institute of Contemporary Art

Based on the above, it doesn’t seem like I did much in 2013 but I think one of my downfalls was that I haven’t updated this list since the beginning of the year. Thinking about everything I did last year, there’s definitely much more here than meets the eye. For 2014, I’m going to leave my “places” list the same but I’d like to revise my food list, since it’s gotten quite small since I created it in 2012. More to come on my eating goals for the year. Of course, if you have recommendations, please leave them in the comments section. 

Happy New Year! Stay warm, Boston!


HIMYS Looks Back to Look Forward

Last year, I made a few resolutions for myself … well, not exactly resolutions, more like goals (if you don’t already know, I hate resolutions – I prefer to think about a to do list or goals). These related to places I wanted to visit or try within the New England area. The list below is from my post last January, and I’ve crossed off those activities, venues or restaurants I was able to get to in 2012:

Food:

  1. Blue Ribbon
  2. Firefly
  3. Erbaluce
  4. Orinoco
  5. Regal Begal
  6. Giacomo’s
  7. South End Buttery
  8. Bee Hive
  9. Silvertone
  10. The Capital Grille

 Places/Activities:

  1. Harpoon or Sam Adams Brewery Tour
  2. Bunker Hill
  3. Visit Maine or Rhode Island
  4. Boston Public Library
  5. Marathon Monday
  6. Fall Foliage/Leaf Peeping
  7. Corn Maze
  8. Haunted Boston Bus Tour
  9. Celtics or Bruins Game
  10. Institute of Contemporary Art

When I look back at the places I wanted to visit or cross off my list, it doesn’t seem that impressive. However, I do feel like I got to experience quite a bit in 2012 that wasn’t on my list – likely because I hadn’t even thought about it. For example, rather than the Harpoon brewery, I visited Red Hook up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and got to try a delicious lobster roll from the Beach Plum. I also went camping up in Maine and tried a ridiculous amount of local eateries around the Boston area, that weren’t necessarily even on my radar. I also got to be a part of two weddings for some of my closest friends, visit places I haven’t been to (and ended up getting stuck in) *cough* San Francisco, and return to places I love like Minnesota, Texas and Disney! It was a full and fulfilling year, for sure. 

While 2012 was amazing, I’m looking forward to checking off a few more of the items above in 2013 (and going beyond this). If I learned anything last year, it’s that you have to be open to the unexpected and ready to embrace it. So, here I am, ready, willing and hungry! 


A September 1st Tale

Moving

Moving Day!

As I reflect back on the day that was September 1st, I’m filled with much less anxiety and frustration. In fact, now I just laugh. Moving at the beginning of September may not seem like much in other areas of the country, but here in Boston, it’s absolute madness. I’ve talked about the day before – the traffic jams, the trash and the general insanity of it all. However, observing the day and moving on the day are two very different things. I was fortunate enough to have moved on this particular day this year – and it was a doozy. 

Let me set up the situation because truly, the odds were staked against me and the other fortunate souls forced to move on this day.

First, this September 1st fell on a Saturday, which meant that the probability of it being more ridiculous than normal was at an all time high. Knowing the chaotic nature of the day, it’s important to make logistical plans well in advance, which is why I along with my new roommates reserved a truck several months ahead of the day. However, a few days prior, the truck company called and was unable to provide any standard moving truck. As you might expect, it’s not easy to move three people’s stuff without a truck. Instead, a caravan of cars (accompanied by a group of amazing friends) and a rented pickup truck served as a backup, meaning that it took the entire day to move rather than a few hours.

That was just the tip of the iceberg as there was a mound of trash on the side of the apartment, some of the previous tenants goods in the apartment, five new upstairs neighbors moving at the same time, the opening day of a college football game, insane traffic, etc etc.

I’ve heard other stories about September 1st moves and I’m sure there are plenty more unpleasant tales that make my experience look more like a fairy tale. The upside to all of this is that I absolutely love my new apartment – and I’m so glad I made the move.

I also feel like moving on September 1st is the City of Boston’s way of hazing new residents. So, now that I’ve survived my first Moving Day, I think I’ll stay a while. Just try to get rid of me now Boston!


HIMYS Shucks On: Oysters at Summer Shack

Oysters at Summer Shack

The great thing about summer in Boston, besides the glorious weather (note: compared to Texas, this is amazing!), is all the delicious seafood. Lobster rolls are absolutely one of my new favorite foods – and something I didn’t experience until I moved.

Despite my love of seafood, there is one item that I don’t take advantage of very often: oysters. In my experience, many of my friends who are New England natives don’t like seafood quite like outsiders do. There are plenty of people in New England that love the seafood, don’t get me wrong, but for the people I usually go to restaurants with, seafood is a no no.

So, when my out-of-town friends visit, the first item on the agenda is visiting a seafood establishment. Recently, I had the opportunity to eat at Summer Shack, a restaurant from Chef Jasper White. It’s a frequent mention on the local restaurant review show Phantom Gourmet, which is one of my favorites for discovering new restaurants (both in events and on the show).

Classic Clam Chowder

I definitely need to go back to Summer Shack to try the lobster/clam bake, what I like to call the more traditional route when testing out seafood establishments. However, a night full of oysters is a good jumping off point.

I had an opportunity to try each of the Oysters offered from the raw bar – which change based on the season. My absolute favorite was the Cotuit oyster – a very smooth with a lot of flavor but not a fishy aftertaste. Honestly, like wine, I’m not good at describing the “flavor profiles” you experience with Oysters. Though, I will say, over the course of the night, my table split around 40 oysters and a majority of them were Cotuit. I also really enjoyed the ceviche (also a part of the raw bar) and the spicy bermuda fish & crab chowder.

After spending a night feasting on oysters, it reminded me that the summer is winding down – and I need to spend the next month or so getting my fill of seafood while it’s still in season. Excuse me while I enjoy this lobster roll…


Two Years!

I meant to bust out this post in June – but as usual, time got away with me. And look! It’s almost August.  

Time does certainly fly and it’s hard to believe it’s been two years since I moved to Boston from Texas. I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t miss Texas. In fact, as many of my friends know, I actually have a hard time leaving Austin whenever I visit. However, I really feel at home in Boston and don’t feel like I’ve managed to explore or experience as much as I can yet.

Until I’ve run my course on adventures, or I absolutely cannot stand winter anymore, Boston has my heart. I can’t wait to see what year three brings! Fingers crossed that it’s not a blizzard.


The Boston Summer is Wet on Arrival

Summer is alive and well in Boston, and it’s one of my favorite times of the year. It’s so amazing to be in the City during the summer, when there are so many things to do and Bostonians are dead-set on enjoying as much of the nice weather as possible! No one wants to think about how the cold and gloomy winter will be back soon.

However, this summer has been incredibly wet and rainy. It’s a little discouraging, to wait for this time of year and then not get to actually spend much time enjoying it! However, as someone that’s from drought ridden areas of Texas (which is pretty much the whole state), I appreciate that the rain is keeping everything in bloom and keeping the sweltering heat to a minimum.

This got me thinking. What are some of fun activities around the City during mucky, rainy weather?

  1. New England Aquarium – during the summer months (because school is out and tourists flock to the area), the Aquarium can be incredibly packed! It’s a very cool facility and there are four or so floors of aquatic life that will keep the entire family (or animal lover) engaged. Of course, don’t miss the scheduled animal chats, where the keepers provide you with a look at the life of the animals at the facility and there is a fantastic sting ray touch tank, among other activities. I would definitely recommend putting on those rain boots and hiking it out to the Aquarium, which is located by the waterfront and the Faneuil area. Check out the schedule for the IMAX Theater, while you’re out there also.
  2. Museum of Fine Arts – another destination in Boston that gets incredibly crowded on the weekends, the MFA is a great place to hit up during those wet weather days. The museum is large, and you can easily spend a whole day there. Plus, the MFA has food inside the building but you’re not far from anything in the Fenway area, if you want to eat somewhere more unique. In the summer, the MFA holds Summer Friday events, where they host live music (and have a cash bar). The best part? They keep these scheduled even during rainy days – you just report to the Upper Rotunda in the museum.
  3. Let’s Bowl! – one of my personal favorite activities is bowling (big ball, for those of you New Englanders). A great place in the City to bowl is Jillians/Lucky Strike. It’s in the Fenway area, and has three floors of bowling, pool, etc. If you’re in the Boylston area, try Kings instead. While it doesn’t have three floors, it does have a considerable amount of space for its bowling alley, a large arcade and a restaurant/bar. Plus, the Summer Shack (a Phantom Gourmet recommended seafood locale) is right next door. If you would rather get in touch with your “New England” roots, and try candlepin bowling instead, I would recommend Boston Bowl (Dorchester) or Lanes and Games (Cambridge).
  4. Roller Derby – a favorite summer activity for me is attending Roller Derby matches hosted by the Boston Derby Dames. Rain or shine, these local events are held in Wilmington, MA at the Shriner Auditorium and are less than $20.00 for tickets. Beer, derby and “sick” player names like the Secretary of Hate Killery Clinton? Yes, please!
  5. Eat! – of course, no rainy day would be complete without a day spent snacking or eating. As you’ve seen on this blog, there are always plenty of restaurants to grab delicious grub from, so I’m not going to necessarily make any recommendations for food places but you can always check out the Boston Globe’s Chow Down Beantown blog, for reviews of the newest restaurants. I like to watch the Phantom Gourmet on Saturday’s, and pick out new or yummy looking places to try. Or you can mix it up, and try to attend a cooking class at the Boston Center for Adult Education.

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Hopefully, the rainy season will end soon but until then, I’m going to try to enjoy the Boston summer as much as I can…even if it’s indoors.


HIMYS Travels: NYC

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Being an East Coaster now, I find it easy to travel to so many places in such a short amount of time. It can probably be easily explained by the fact that every state is significantly smaller than Texas. It feels a bit like there are these wonderful places outside of my door – New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine…the list could go on and on. So it’s only natural that I explore these options.

One of my most recent stops was New York City. Of course, I know many tried-and-true Bostonians who boo and hiss at the mention of New York (at least, that’s the stereotype). However, I find Manhattan to be fascinating. It seems like a place where anything could happen, at any time. Now, it’s important to note that New York City was not a place I had traveled to prior to moving to Boston. I never had an occasion to come out to NYC, though the desire was always there.

Since moving, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to the Big Apple a few times. And something I recently realized was that I don’t take advantage of the opportunity to head out to NYC enough.

On my last trip, I visited a few places that were especially cool. First off, a bar call Society. It seemed to have an intimate feel to it, but not overwhelmingly dark, small or loud. The bar also had an alley of pool tables, which is a fun activity when hanging out with friends or looking to make new ones. Similarly, on a separate visit, I went to a bar called Spin. The bar is full of ping pong tables – in fact, I saw a small group of kids training for an upcoming tournament while I was there for happy hour with some coworkers. (Like I said, you never know what you’ll see.)

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Of course, for a relatively new visitor to the City, doing the touristy items is a must. On my first official visit, I faced a long-time fear of heights to travel to the top of the Empire State building. It was beautiful to see all of the area. However, the day I went to the observation deck, it was overcast and a bit windy. But it was a great experience! I also went on the NBC Studios tour where I saw a Saturday Night Live rehearsal in progress.

Another location I was able to visit was the USTA Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows. This is where the US Open is played – and honestly, the grounds are really cool. It was, obviously, deserted since the US Open is in September but was still a cool sight to see. Equally interesting, the Flushing Meadows Park is where the World’s Fair was held. Personally, it’s interesting to see the area where buildings are, and imagine what it must have been like to be there at the peak of its existence.

I’ve also gotten a chance to eat some incredible food in NYC. Again, on this last trip, I ate at Eatly, an Italian Marketplace around the Flatiron building. The panini I had was delightful – and even better, was eating outside on a 70 degree day. My first visit, I was able to eat myself silly at Max Brenners, which they now have in Boston. While this trip, I had an intimate brunch with friends at a small place in Hell’s Kitchen called Nook. Let’s just say: the name suits the restaurant.

The few times I’ve been able to visit New York, I’ve had a great time. For me, I have a wonderful group of friends and family who live in and around the City, so it is such a joy to see the sights and eat with people who have the inside scoop. Despite the enjoyment that comes with traveling to New York, I’m positive that I would not want to live in NYC. I have incredible respect for those who love it. This girl, however, likes coming home to Beantown.


Compare Contrast

It’s around this time of year when I fondly remember all the reasons that I came to fall in love with Boston. The beautiful weather accompanied by the colors of Spring when all the flowers are blooming, the trees are finally green with new leaves and the City is full of people who want to spend every second outdoors. Of course, let’s not forget one of Boston’s favorite things about this time of year, baseball season.

This year is very special for the Red Sox, as Fenway Park celebrates its 100 year. The Boston Globe compiled a wonderful slide show of pictures that showcase the celebration itself (which was on Friday, April 20).

Contrast that with a fantastic time to be in Texas – bluebonnet season. Sure, baseball is also underway in Texas, but it’s the bluebonnets that seem to have me missing home more and more these days. If you haven’t gotten a chance to see the bluebonnets, I would absolutely recommend it. The great part about seeing bluebonnets is that they are everywhere. Just drive around the Hill Country and you’ll see them off the highway.

CNN actually put photos of the bluebonnets on their website (which was surprising to me) but a great look at these wonderful flowers. If you want a really fantastic photo essay on the flower, check out the April edition of Texas Monthly.

While Spring is winding down in Texas, it’s only just begun here in Boston. Despite the differences of Spring in each place, it certainly is a season to get people out and about again. Maybe that’s why it’s my favorite…but you never know. It could be all about baseball.


HIMYS Breaks into Spring!

Once again, I was scooped up into a crazy whirlwind of traveling and mayhem (well, maybe the mayhem part isn’t quite accurate). In any event, the blog has been seriously lacking in content. I am back to report on many fun items from my travels. The first of which was Restaurant Week!

Technically, I’m not a food blog, but writing about new restaurants is so easy to do in Boston. They are everywhere! So forgive me now if you’re not looking for another food post…cause that’s what this is!

Boston holds Restaurant Week twice a year – and so the great experiment begins! This season, I was able to try three different places, and have given a summary of each below. I really love Restaurant Week for the opportunity it brings. If you don’t already know, area restaurants serve a fixed price menu for around $33 (which doesn’t include drinks). Some restaurants are always going to be pricier by nature. Which is fine. However, I have a hard time justifying the money on one meal if I don’t already know it’s good. Therefore, the fixed price makes it a perfect chance to try these places without feeling guilty or eating ramen for weeks.

With that in mind, I selected these restaurants based on recommendations but it’s important to note that these places tend to be in the mid-to-upper price range. I don’t actually know the names of all of these dishes, so forgive me for some of my crude descriptions.

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City Table 

Inside the Lenox Hotel, this restaurant claims to be a local neighborhood spot but in the higher end sense, of course. It’s a cute space, with a very modern feel – it juxtaposes nice with the classic vibe of the hotel. To me, the space felt a bit divided though and sometimes cramped.

For restaurant week, I started with an artichoke and leek arancini which was lightly battered and fried. It was a good idea but it seem to be a little dry and the artichoke was not distributed equally among the filling, so it just tasted like rice and batter at points. As my main dish, I tried the salmon with brussel sprouts in a cream and sliced potatoes. It wasn’t bad but it just seemed to lack seasoning and the fish was a little overdone. Dessert was a cheesecake with blackberry sauce, which was again, was just ok. It tasted like cheesecake you could buy at the grocery story.

Overall, my experience was not wonderful – and the food was just ok overall. For the price, I’ll skip this restaurant unless a friend selects it for a special occasion. I’ve been told it’s pretty good from a few friends, so maybe it was a Restaurant Week thing.

Blue, Inc.

In the aquarium area, I’m told Blue’s head chef is a former FOX Hell Kitchen contestant. I don’t think Gordon Ramsay would be upset by this place! The restaurant is very small but quaint. Lots of fun décor, and obviously a lot of blue, even the tables and chairs were different than the standard restaurant. It was refreshing to walk into.

For dinner, I started with a Tuna tartare. Let me tell you – I could have licked the plate when I was done. It was incredible. It was marinated in soy sauce, so I was told it’s not a technical tartare but, wow. It definitely got me excited about the rest of my food. For my main course, I went with a mussels fritte. Unfortunately, I wasn’t wowed. The sauce and fries were good, and there was a chipotle aioli dip that was incredible. I was, however, disappointed with the mussels. It tasted like they could have used another few minutes in the pot. They were just a bit too fishy for me – which is tough, because I love fish. Moving to dessert, I went with the carrot cake. It was just a little on the dry side.

Overall, I would absolutely visit again and give the main dish another shot. The mussels were not one of the dishes that the waiter recommended, so part of that is my fault. I was told the duck confit or the swordfish were the top choices.

Market by Jean-Georges

While I had never heard of Market before my Restaurant Week experience, I knew it was an incredibly nice place when I heard that it was 1) in the W Hotel and 2) there was a business casual dress code. If you don’t like either of those things, don’t go to Market. However, I was ready to give it a shot, so I put on my Sunday’s best and hit the town.

To start, I tried the split pea soup. Pea soup generally has a automatic “yuck” reaction for a lot of people I know. However, it was delightful. The flavors were amazing, it’s hard to describe unless you try it for yourself. I just know that from now on, I want my soup poured in my bowl table side. Yum! For my main course, I had a Sriracha cod with bok choy. Delicious!! I love Sriracha anyways – but throw in some perfectly cooked fish with some wonderfully steamed bok choy, and you’ve made a fan out of me. For dessert, I had a salted caramel ice cream with caramel popcorn on top and chocolate sauce (peanuts were an option but I don’t eat those). It was delightful.

Overall, as you can probably already tell, I loved Market. The service was fantastic, the food was outstanding and the atmosphere was great. You might not be allowed to wear jeans but personally, I never felt like people are condescending or snooty.

Visiting three places for Restaurant Week definitely made me feel like a little kid on Christmas. I really enjoy trying new things, and I don’t regret going to any of these places. I do, however, get a little annoyed when restaurants don’t give you the real experience during Restaurant Week that you would get on an everyday visit. It seems like Restaurant Week is an affordable way to become a regular. Why not take advantage of that?

There are definitely a bunch of other restaurants that I have on my list for the summer edition but I won’t spoil anything too soon! Hello Spring!


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