Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sweat Now…Sweet Later with Boston Brunchers

Every morning when I wake up, I ask myself one question – “am I going to work hard or hardly work”? I like to think that the majority of my answers are ‘work hard’ but once in a while, ‘hardly work’ isn’t so bad, as long as you work hard the next day.

I mention this as I recap about my recent Boston Bloggers event, which totally got my attention when I saw the word “sweet” in the description. Of course, being me, I didn’t read the rest of the event description and signed right up. The rest of the event included a 3-mile hike (which I love as long as it doesn’t involve running), lunch at Sweetgreen and THEN the sweet treats at Sweet Bakery.

The entire Boston Brunchers event was held at Chestnut Hill Square, an outdoor type mall filled with high-end boutiques including the much-anticipated Wegman’s. Doing some research, I’m still not sure the best way to get to Chestnut Hill Square via T, so a Zipcar may be needed if you ever wanted to travel here.

We met at True Runner (one of only 3 locations in the nation) which was full of colorful New Balance sneakers and just about everything you would need from a run around the block to running a marathon. We were given the opportunity to try out New Balance’s new sneakers the 880’s and Tom Tom let us give their new cardio watch a try.

Once we were laced up and ready to go, we headed off for our 3-mile hike around the Newton/Brookline area. We saw some amazing house, the architecture was exquisite, included two very familiar looking gated houses (word was they belonged to a Mr. Bob Kraft and a Mr. & Mrs. Tom (and Gisele) Brady)!

Once we got back from our hike it was time for some lunch at Sweetgreen. We were given a many different salad options to choose from- I went with the kale Caesar salad with a side of gazpacho and their flavorful blueberry basil lemonade (they gave us the recipe for this amazing drink which I’ll need to try before the season ends).

After a much enjoyable lunch, it was time for the grand finally- a sampling at Sweet Cupcake! Here we feasted on different flavors of cupcakes, from Red Velvet to chocolate on chocolate to my favorite, vanilla.

We even got to sample their frosting shots- wait what?!

We defiantly worked hard for our treats today. Now tell me, do work hard or hardly work for your sweet treats?

Note: This event was provided free of charge because I dined as a part of the Boston Brunchers. All opinions, whether you like them or not, are all my own.

Friday, August 22, 2014

North End Food Tour- Secrets of Where the Locals Shop!

When you think of the North End, what comes to your mind? For me, it’s much overpriced Italian food, streets so narrow you couldn’t get a bike through and the lines and lines of tourists waiting to get day old cannoli’s at Mike’s Pastry. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to the North End, the authentic Italian food, the people the history, it’s quite the special gem in Boston. But with so many tourists and so many restaurants on Hanover Street that bring in the crowds, I have to ask myself, where to the locals go?

My answer came in the form of (ironically), North End Walking Tour by Free Tours of Boston, a 2 ½ hour tour of some of the best local eateries in the North End.

We began our tour at J. Pace located on Cross Street, a place known for their authentic Italian food and spices and delicious sandwiches (Park Lane is the best!). Mike was our host who explained more about Pace’s, who also gave us a few samples of the food they sell.
Mike, our host from J. Pace

Sample of the goodies he treated to us

Rows of pasta...

...and rows of olive oil!

Next stop (my personal favorite), Maria’s Pastry Shop, right next door to J. Pace. Mike’s Pastry might be popular with the tourists, but Maria’s is a favorite among locals. Unlike being in a display case all day, Maria’s cannoli’s’ are made to order and taste is so much more fresh and flavorful. I ordered one for myself complete with chocolate chips, and devoured it in about 5 minutes.

Our next stop was one of the probably hundreds of pizza places in the North End- Ernesto’s located on Salem Street. What makes Ernesto’s stand out from the other pizza joints is not only the variety of flavors, but the sheer size of one slice of pizza is equivalent to about 2 ½ slices of “normal” sized pizza.

Already feeling stuffed; we were only ¼ of the way done so I had to make room for more delightful food at our next stop- Polcari’s  Coffee. This shop has been around for generations, and it’s a landmark in the North End. Anyone who lives in the North End comes in for authentic coffee and goods and for their Lemon Italian Ice, (the machine used to be outside on the sidewalk that you could do yourself, now it’s inside behind the counter). I snagged myself an Italian Ice to wash down the cannoli and pizza, being only $1 how could I resist?

Lemon Italian Ice in hand, we ventured off to our next stop – Monica’s Mercato & Salumeria. I’ve never actually been here before, so it was a pleasure to discover a local store that sells freshly prepared pasta and ravioli including ‘squid ink’ pasta- actual ink from the squid. Guess you can’t knock it til you try it!

Can you guess which one is the 'Squid Ink' pasta? 

Just around the corner on Richmond Street is another, well known to the locals, groceria, Salumeria Italiana. Here you’ll find lots of homemade bread, pasta, olive oils and sauces, perfect for a great Italian dinner.

Our second to last stop was at Cirace’s Wines on North Street right around the corner from Hanover Street. If you like wine (and who doesn’t?!) then Cirace’s is defiantly place you need to stop by. Not only do they sell wine from all around the world but they also offer beautiful gift baskets at different prices, from a small house-warming gift to a beautiful one of a kind wedding gift, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for here. Be warned, there is a LOT of glass and glass bottles inside, be were of any bags you might have with you- I, myself was so nervous walking around the store!

Love the selection gift baskets!

Our last stop was a good one, Café Paradiso, located right in the heart of Hanover Street. What I loved about this restaurant was not only the view for people watching is great, but it was an all in one shop for what exactly what you might be craving- gelato, coffee or a cocktail, they have it all!

So there you have it, next time your in the North End, you can beat the lines at Mike’s, get an amazingly large slice of pizza for lunch, pick out the perfect wine for your housewarming gift and sit out with a cup of iced cappuccino while dreaming of the squid inked pasta you’ll have for dinner tonight.

What’s your favorite place to visit in the North End?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Picture Recap- Afternoon at Scituate Harbor

On a picture perfect afternoon day, I saw myself at Scituate Harbor, located south of Boston off Route 3A. I’ve never been to the area before, so it was a delight to see such picturesque scenes of the water and the beautiful lighthouse.  I had to take a few pictures to show off this unbelievable view.

Hope you enjoy the view as much as I did. 
(Just think, when it’s freezing cold in the middle of December, you can come back and still enjoy the view!)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sunday Brunchin' at Boston Chops

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and while I fully agree with that statement, especially since coffee is involved, I think there is also another important meal that shouldn’t be neglected, the most important meal of the week: Sunday Brunch.

 I recently had the opportunity to try a new place out for Sunday brunch thanks to Boston Brunchers at Boston Chops located in the South End. Known as one of the finer steakhouses in the area, I was rather surprised that they also had a brunch menu, but as expected, they didn’t disappoint when it came to the food.

Starting off with drink choices they were a plenty, but I decided on the 14oz mimosa, really couldn’t resist especially when the tag line said, “Go Big or Go Home”.  Some of the other brunchers chose one of the many varieties of Bloody Mary’s, which included an actual oyster, a smoked beef tongue or frog balls…yes “frog balls”- spicy dill pickled Brussels sprouts.

In typical brunch fashion, we couldn’t decide on what to order for a first course, so an assortment of goodies featuring Island Creek Oysters, sticky buns and Boston Chops’ version of doughnuts were ordered to begin our brunch quest.

Next up, our individual orders. I went with the ‘can never go wrong’ French Toast, a delectable array of two extra large French Toast slices and an assortment of drizzles-  Seasonal Marmalade, Rhum Anglaise and of course, maple syrup.

Other brunchers were kind enough to let everyone have a taste of what they ordered, from Fried Chicken, to Huevos Ranchos and even surf n’ turf, which included lobster grits, 4oz beef topped with hollandaise sauce.

I thoroughly enjoyed brunching at Boston Chops, the restaurant was immaculate, our server Lindsay was fantastic and the food was simply delectable. I will definitely be back to try out the dinner menu, but until then, I’ll be on a quest to find a brunch place as extraordinary as Boston Chops!

Note: Brunch was provided free of charge because you dined as a part of the Boston Brunchers. All opinions, whether you like them or not, are all my own.