Saturday, March 20, 2010

EventBite: Upcoming Charitable Happenings

A couple food-related charity events are coming up soon.  Enjoy a nice night out at the symphony or a night of food provided by some of Boston's best restaurants, all while helping provide food to others.  Here are the details:

Food Drive at the Boston Symphony Orchestra
On April 1-3, the BSO is holding a food drive in conjunction with its performances of Mendelssohn's Elijah.  Concert-goers can donate food items at the Mass Ave entrance and the Cohen wing entrance of Symphony Hall before show and during intermission.  And even if you don't like classical musical, you can still donate - just drop by between 7 and 8pm on the nights of the show.

Only canned items can be accepted.  Baby formula, baby food, and glass containers cannot be accepted due to safety reasons.  The food drive is part of the League of American Orchestras' nationwide "Orchestras Feeding America" project.  Food donated at Symphony Hall will go to the Greater Boston Food Bank.  You can also give a monetary donation online at the BSO website.

Taste of the Nation Boston
Share Our Strength's 22nd annual Taste of the Nation event benefits the fight against childhood hunger.  It takes place at Hynes Convention Center on April 8th and features over 65 local restaurants, wineries, bars, and breweries.  Through March 31st, you can save 15% on tickets by entering tweettaste15 at checkout.  Follow ShareStrengthMA on Twitter for more information.  On the night of the event, Citysearch Boston is running a Twitter competition: tweet about the event while you're there to be entered to win a $200 restaurant gift certificate.

One of the great things about this event is that 100% of ticket sales go directly to the cause.

I'll be attending, so stay tuned for a recap and slideshow! 


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Restaurant Week: Papa Razzi

Note: This post is about the Back Bay location of Papa Razzi.

I've never had a bad meal at Papa Razzi.  Although part of a 12-location chain within the larger Back Bay Restaurant Group, Papa Razzi doesn't have a cheesy chain feel.  The decor is nice (and a little bit different at each location), the food is consistently high quality, and the service feels genuinely friendly (as opposed to the over-the-top but phony smiles you get at other places.)  And the bread is always delicious!

During previous visits, I've enjoyed the blackberry mojito (which is always beautifully presented with a huge sprig of fresh mint), gnocchi di sorrento, and penne all' arrabbiata.  Today, I arrived for lunch and was pleasantly surprised to find that Papa Razzi was participating in Restaurant Week.  After a late night out at the Dropkick Murphys show at House of Blues and the resulting painful morning at work, I decided to go all out and treat myself to the three-course lunch.

I started out with the beef carpaccio: thinly sliced raw beef with capers, shaved parmigiano, capers, lemon, and arugula.  Only...the arugula seemed to be missing.  I was expecting a small salad topped with some beef, but as it turned out, it was a full-sized plate completely covered with raw beef, which was in turn covered with shaved cheese and a sprinkling of capers.  It all tasted great, but I've had a bit of a stomachache since eating it.  Raw beef is probably better eaten in smaller portions.

Next up, I got penne gamberi alla vodka: penne with shrimp and spinach in a pink vodka sauce.  I enjoyed it, but I prefer the fiery penne all' arrabbiata that I usually order.

Dessert was fragoline balsamico - strawberries and vanilla gelato topped with sweet balsamic - a great combination!  Overall, my dining companions and I really enjoyed our meal, but my non-Restaurant Week meals at Papa Razzi have been even better.  That seems to be a fairly common Restaurant Week issue, which is unfortunate for both the consumers and the restaurants.  Today's lunch, though, was definitely good, so don't be discouraged from visiting Papa Razzi.  I'm consistently impressed by their above-average service and tasty Italian dishes.

Papa Razzi on Urbanspoon

A note on a few previous posts with dead links...

I'll be updating those to include the full text and photos soon.  I had a wonderful but very brief job as the A&E editor/writer/photographer for the now-defunct, which sadly shut down very soon after I started working there.  I have a few recent posts (Clementines from Spain and Hell Night, for example) that linked to those stories, but since the site has been taken down, those links are now dead.  I am rather attached to a few of those stories and slideshows, so I'll migrate them here as soon as I get some free time.  Stay tuned!

I also have a bunch of posts about recent dining adventures on the verge of being written.  I've been busy with a new job, but check back soon for a whole bunch of new stuff :)

In the meantime, feel free to follow me on Twitter!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

EventBite: Steak and Martini Night at Daily Grill

...and an evening saved by The Cheesecake Factory.  Yes, really.
I was invited to attend Steak and Martini Night at Daily Grill (mainly a California chain with a few other locations across the country) and not one to pass up free steak and martinis, I accepted, figuring it'd probably be like other PR-organized food blogger gatherings that I've attended.  Although I always feel a bit uneasy accepting these invitations to be wined and dined, knowing that they expect us all to go home and blog nice things about them, I do enjoy the opportunity to try out new foods and restaurants at no cost.  Then, I do sometimes write about the events, but only if they were particularly good or bad.  (Although I think I never got around to writing about an event I attended at Fleming's a year or so ago, which was absolutely spectacular.  It's a pretty large chain, but the Boston location is a locally owned franchise.  I'd definitely recommend trying a steak there if you're in the neighborhood.)  Anyway, back to Daily Grill...

I'd never been there before, and since I usually prefer smaller local restaurants to national chains, I'd never really thought to go.  Due to the seemingly poor planning of this event, I don't really feel like I can give a fair evaluation of the food - all I had was a small slice of steak (I wasn't even told what cut it was) with some steak sauce.  The sauce was pretty good - kind of a sweeter, milder A1.  I also had some sort of girly martini, which was a glass of pink grapefruity deliciousness.

But there were way too many guests for the space.  The martinis and steak were served buffet-style, and there were not nearly enough tables for even half of the attendees.  It's hard to eat steak and drink a martini while standing up.  My guest and I (almost literally) battled a not-so-friendly couple for a table and ended up with a pretty bad feeling about the whole evening.

We left fairly soon after arriving and decided to get some actual dinner.  Many not-so-exciting ideas later, we finally settled on The Cheesecake Factory right next door.  Despite my small bias against big chains, it actually ended up being a really enjoyable meal, starting with great bread and really friendly service.  A pomegranate mojito quickly improved my mood.  I got potstickers and edamame, which were both satisfying, and Joel got a shrimp gumbo.  Bonus points for Cheesecake Factory for the gumbo - they actually listened when Joel requested it to be extra spicy.  We've been putting ghost chili sea salt on everything in preparation for the next Hell Night at East Coast Grill, so it didn't measure up to that, but for a chain serving the typical American taste buds, not bad at all.

Sadly, we did not have room for cheesecake.
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