Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Buca di Beppo (2 Dine For Boston)

I’ll admit that I have an anti-chain bias, so when Joel and I found ourselves out with my parents at an Italian(ish) chain restaurant, Buca di Beppo, I was pleasantly surprised to actually enjoy dinner. Buca di Beppo has nearly 100 locations across the United States, plus a few abroad. Sure, I’d rather go to a locally-owned place, but as far as chains go, this one provided a decent night out.

It was the day after Christmas, and we declared it a “grandmother visit” day; Joel’s is in Canton, and mine’s a town over in Sharon. We ended up with my parents for dinner, and Dedham was a logical dining destination so that no one was too far from home. Not in the mood to do much research, we settled on Buca di Beppo; my parents had been there before and enjoyed it. It took over the former space of a giant Vinny Testa’s location; both restaurants are known for their gigantic family portions of American-Italian classics.

Read my full "she said" review, along with Joel's "he said" review, at 2 Dine For Boston.

More photos:

Buca di Beppo on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review: Cuchi Cuchi (CBS Boston)

“Please don’t call them tapas,” requests the menu at Cuchi Cuchi in Central Square, Cambridge. “We globe trot!” Globe trot, time trot… Cuchi Cuchi is all over the place cuisine-wise and era-wise, but somehow they pull it off spectacularly. We arrived to an hour-long wait and managed to grab a tiny table at the edge of the crowded bar to try some cocktails and soak up the ambiance while we waited to dine. From authentic 1890s stained glass to a mannequin in sequins to a staff bedecked in cocktail dresses and wide-brimmed hats, Cuchi Cuchi gives off an air somewhere between Moulin Rouge boudoir and 20s speakeasy; Cuchi Cuchi’s website pins the inspiration as a mix of la belle époque (late 19th to early 20th century Europe) and the golden age of Hollywood (late 1920s to 1960s). Fun, crowded, and lively, it’s a great spot for a night out with friends if you don’t mind waiting for a table.

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

More photos:

Cuchi Cuchi on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 25, 2012

ArtBar (2 Dine For Boston)

I’m often hesitant to dine at hotel restaurants, both in my own city and when traveling. More often than not, they aren’t a good representation of what the city has to offer…or they’re just not good. On a recent night, though, I had a coupon for a free reservation through, which basically amounts to a free 40% off coupon for the food portion of the bill at participating restaurants, so Joel and I scanned the options and settled on ArtBar at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge, a fairly easy drive from our part of Somerville. The menu looked enticing as well. I’m always a fan of trying restaurants with seasonal menus that showcase locally sourced ingredients.

I should disclose up front that we received free food at this meal–an appetizer and two ridiculously large desserts. We haven’t experienced this too often, but bringing a camera to a meal can apparently be a magnet for special treatment, even though dining rooms must be overrun by bloggers and Yelpers and other assorted hobbyist photographers at this point. While on one hand, it’s nice to receive freebies now and then, it can easily be overbearing and awkward. Our server was uncomfortably enthusiastic, checking in much too often, and we definitely didn’t have room for two giant desserts. I appreciate the gesture, but what was supposed to be a quiet date night turned into somewhat of a gluttonous farce. I did, however, enjoy most of the food, and ArtBar exceeded my expectations of hotel restaurants.

Read my full "she said" review, along with Joel's "he said" review, at 2 Dine For Boston.

More photos:

Artbar at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 24, 2012

Armando's Pizza (2 Dine For Boston)

Joel is a pizza snob through and through, as I’m sure he’ll tell you in his own review. This can be frustrating at times, like when I brought him to my childhood favorite pizza spot, Town Spa in Stoughton (Bacon. Extra crispy). Admittedly, it seems to have gone downhill slightly over the years, but he was not at all impressed. You see, Joel refuses to give equal consideration to types of pizza outside of the New York/Connecticut style he grew up eating; I, on the other hand, might be equally satisfied by Italian, Greek, pub, or deep dish pizza, depending on my mood.

As you might imagine, finding a Boston pizza that Joel actually enjoys is an exciting challenge. For a while, the reigning champion was Newtowne Grill, a Porter Square (Cambridge) dive with ridiculously cheap pitcher-and-pizza deals for all of your sports game needs. Now, we’ve found another contender.

Read my full "she said" review, along with Joel's "he said" review, at 2 Dine For Boston.

More photos:

Armando's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chinese New Year Party at Dumpling Cafe (2 Dine For Boston)

For the past two years, I've attended a Chinese New Year party at Dumpling Cafe in Chinatown; this year, Joel got to come along. There were dumplings galore, other tasty treats, and a dancing dragon. The Dumpling Cafe soup dumplings are downright addictive. Check out Joel's recap and my photos of this year's party on 2 Dine For Boston.

More photos:

Dumpling Cafe on Urbanspoon

Introducing 2 Dine For Boston

For the last two and a half years, Joel has been a good sport, not only tolerating but really embracing my food blogging. (Perhaps it has something to do with the free food perks that he often enjoys without having to worry about actually writing anything?) Not only does he wait patiently while our food gets cold as I photograph it, but he helps with lighting and styling. And tasting the things that I don't want to eat. And providing feedback ranging from vulgar to sarcastic to legitimately helpful. And doing most of the cooking. He's even written a few guest posts here on Fork it over, Boston!

Back in August, we met a new member of the Boston Food Bloggers community, Kevin (The Mighty Rib), a recent transplant from Houston. We got to know him through a variety of blogger events and get-togethers, and after a few months, he told us about a Houston-based food website called 2 Dine For, where he is the Director of Communication. They were looking for duos in other cities to expand the "he said, she said" restaurant review concept, and Boston was on the short list. We loved the idea and the design of the site, and we jumped onboard.

Fast forward to today, the launch of 2 Dine For Boston. Now Joel gets to join in the fun more than ever as we both get equal say about our favorite (and not-so-favorite) restaurants in and around Boston. We'll be posting new reviews weekly as well as participating in some other features on the site, such as product reviews (fEATures) and event recaps (Around Town). As I do for my other external writing gigs, I'll publish excerpts of new posts here with a link to the full post on 2 Dine For Boston. You can also keep track of us in the following ways:

Have a recommendation for a place we should check out? Comments, criticism, etc.? Send an email to our official 2 Dine For email addresses: Rachel and Joel.

(I'll still be blogging over here as well.)

Thanks for following us, and we look forward to sharing our food adventures with you!

Photos by David W. Aquilina.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Restaurant Review: Zoe's Gourmet Chinese Cuisine (CBS Boston)

I should already be a regular here. Zoe’s is a mere thirteen-minute walk from my door – less if I take the sketchy Fraggle Rock-painted tunnel from Somerville Avenue – and it is fantastic. I can’t believe it took me so long to try it out. I’d heard that Zoe’s serves fairly authentic Sichuan and Hunan cuisine, two types of Chinese food that tend towards the hot and spicy side, my favorite. Due to its proximity and promise of spiciness, I had a good feeling about it.

When my boyfriend and I walked in late on a Monday night, it was completely empty, which made us a bit uneasy, but it was an odd time for dinner, after all. The location is fairly hidden as well; Zoe’s takes up residence on the stretch of Beacon St. where you can find Petsi Pies, Pho ‘n Rice, and R.F. O’Sullivan’s, probably the busiest part of the neighborhood but still relatively unknown to outsiders.

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

More photos:

Zoe's Gourmet Chinese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

30 Hours in New York City

I try to visit New York City at least a couple times a year. It's a city I love to visit for a few days at a time, although I suspect it'd tire me out if I stayed for much longer. Fortunately, Joel and I have plenty of friends and family in the city, so it's not so hard to make these trips happen.

At the end of December, I unexpectedly found myself with a little bit of free time between the end of one job and the beginning of another, so I ditched Joel and booked a quick trip into the city to spend some girl time with my friend Kim, who lives right in the middle of plenty of fun and delicious things in the East Village. Thanks to the magically cheap and not-too-sketchy BoltBus, I was in and out for a whirlwind 30 hours of...mostly eating.

First, we failed epically at lunching at Eataly, a mega mart of Italian food with several sit-down restaurants in the middle of all the action. It was beyond crowded, and we were very confused as to how to get a table at one of the packed restaurants. When we finally found a hostess stand and put our names down, it turned out we were in line for the vegetarian restaurant. We were seated after a wait and realized that there was absolutely no pasta on that menu, just salads. Sure, salad is great, but we went to Eataly for the pasta. We realized, however, that we were starving and it'd be a very long wait to go through the whole process again for one of the other restaurants, so we resigned ourselves to the greens and planned to get pasta for dinner. (The salads were delicious, by the way.) I'm fairly certain that Eataly resides in a special circle of tourist-filled hell, but it's still worth a trip. Despite the crowds and frustration, it's a pretty neat idea and reminded me of a bigger, fancier version of Bon Marche, a cafeteria-style restaurant that used to exist at the Prudential Center in Boston.

To sate our pasta craving, we chose Porsena for dinner, a spot that several people recommended to me when I put out a Twitter call for not-too-expensive hidden gems around the East Village. We were extremely satisfied; I particularly enjoyed my anneloni con salsiccia e rape, and the wine was fantastic as well.

...and we somehow saved room for dessert at the legendary Momofuku Milk Bar. The red velvet soft serve ice cream was rich and wonderful. I brought home a couple cookies to share with Joel as well.

We ended the night at The Immigrant, a cozy wine bar in Kim's neighborhood, where we enjoyed a number of wines. I don't recall the number...

Kim was occupied the next morning, so I headed over to Brooklyn to have brunch at Egg with Clara, Joel's brother's girlfriend. (She and Joel's brother, Dan, have a fantastic food blog!) Broiled grapefruit? My new favorite thing ever. Candied bacon? Obviously amazing. We walked off the gluttony by browsing around an amazing cheese shop (can't remember the name), a shop full of kitchen goodies (can't remember that name either), and a few other places.

Back in Manhattan, Kim and I did some shopping and then had an early dinner before I headed back to the bus. This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef is adorable, although I do think Boston wins out on the roast beef war. I'd definitely prefer a sandwich from Roast Beast or Jimbo's over this one, which was on the soggy side, but it had potential. And the fries were amazing. Interesting phenomenon, though: I ordered a can of regular Coke, and I reminded the guy that I wanted regular when he asked "Diet?" a few minutes later, and I still ended up with Diet Coke. Yuck. (I didn't realize until we were back at Kim's, unwrapping our sandwiches.) Kim said that places around there aren't used to girls not ordering diet soda. I rarely drink soda, but when I do, it's the real stuff. I'm strongly anti diet soda because (a) it tastes gross, (b) artificial sweeteners are sketchy for a variety of reasons, and (c) there's substantial research that suggests it contributes to worse health in a number of ways. And anecdotally, at least, it seems that many people who drink diet soda drink a lot of it because hey, it's diet. Doesn't mean it's good for you. On the other hand, because I only drink regular soda, I only treat myself to it once in awhile.

Totally stuffed, I headed back to the bus and back to Boston. We squeezed a lot of delicious things into 30 hours! I'm looking forward to my next trip to NYC, which will be in April. My band is playing at The Rock Shop in Brooklyn on April 14th, part of our (second annual!) tour with Neutral Uke Hotel and Golden Bloom. (Wanna come to the show? Tickets are now available!)

Here are some of my other New York favorites that I didn't get to visit this time around:

Amazing BBQ at Fette Sau. (Earlier blog post.)

Gut-busting brunch at Pies 'n' Thighs. (Earlier blog post.)

Late night pierogi at Veselka.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Haggis at The Haven (and Other Scottish Treats)

Last night, we had Kathy and Jon over for our third and final sponsored lamb feast. (I posted a video about the first one here. The second video is still in the works.) In between devouring large amounts of lamb and facing Kathy's enormous dessert, an insane six-layer cake, we played a food trivia game that my parents had given me for Chanukah. A question came up about haggis, which reminded me that I haven't yet posted about the fantastic dinner I had at The Haven back in December.

Joel and I had been eyeing The Haven since it opened, but getting up the motivation to get out to Jamaica Plain is fairly rare. We did try brunch back in August and loved it, but we still hadn't made it over there for dinner when I received a blogger dinner invitation for early December. Sorry Joel. You'll have to try it some other time. (As noted in my August brunch post, Joel is still mourning the loss of the live music at Matt Murphy's, a program that flourished under bartender and music booker Jason, now the owner of The Haven.)

With Cristy and Kevin, I sampled a wide array of The Haven's Scottish menu, including haggis, a dish we were all hesitant to taste...but we knew we had to give it a shot. For the uninitiated, head over to Wikipedia's page on haggis to learn all about it. The general consensus at the table was that none of us are haggis fans, but The Haven's preparation of it appears to be one that would certainly please those who do like haggis. I don't know how to describe it other than "earthy." Very earthy.

I enjoyed nearly everything else immensely, especially my entree, a fantastic rendition of fish and chips. Bonus: it was served in a fish-shaped plate. Adorable. I wasn't a huge fan of the mushy peas due to the, well, mushy texture, but the flavor was great. (I'm also not into hummus and other similarly textured items, so if you are, you'll probably love the peas!)

Other notes: the ambiance at The Haven is extremely inviting, both during the day and at night. The beer list is fantastic (and features lots of Scottish selections). I haven't experienced any of these yet, but there are weekly trivia, music, and movie nights which are probably worth checking out. If I lived in JP, I'd be here all the time.

Special thanks to Jason for hosting us!

More photos (brunch, then dinner):

Disclosure: While this meal was offered free of charge as part of a blogger dinner, all opinions in this post are my own.

The Haven on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Two Desserts for the Price of One: Shareable Treats Around Boston (Tasted Menu)

I'm not really into making a huge deal out of Valentine's Day; Joel and I will be making a nice home-cooked meal in our makeshift sous vide, and I'll probably send a couple delightfully obscene e-cards via, so I haven't bothered to post any Valentine's Day restaurant recommendations here.

I did, however, just put up a post on the Tasted Menu blog about some tasty shareable desserts around town, so if you're looking for a romantic dessert-based date...or if you want to eat a huge amount of dessert by yourself (hey, I'm definitely not judging...I had a double dessert day multiple times this week!)...check out:

Two Desserts for the Price of One: Shareable Treats Around Boston

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Restaurant Review: Catalyst (CBS Boston)

As someone who spends more than forty hours a week in Kendall Square, I’m always on the lookout for new places to eat in the area. I’ve got my lunches covered by the food trucks, but for the occasional night out after work, the list is growing longer. Shiny new Catalyst has been on my mind since construction began, so it was the perfect choice for a friends’ night out on a recent weekday evening.

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

More photos:

Catalyst on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Top Eats in the North End and Faneuil Hall (Tasted Menu)

Unseasonably warm winter days in Boston are perhaps the best times to check out notoriously tourist-heavy areas like Faneuil Hall and the North End. The crowds are much diminished in the winter, so we can enjoy some rare peace and quiet while exploring our own city. Food, of course, is a highlight of this exploration. Let’s look at some of the top dishes to be found in this area.

Read the rest of my article over on the Tasted Menu blog.

The Ultimate Craigie Experience at Craigie on Main (CBS Boston)

In 2008, the six-year-old nationally renowned Craigie Street Bistrot relocated from a cozy basement near Harvard Square to a larger space – with a much larger kitchen – on Main St. in Central Square. The restaurant’s name changed accordingly to Craigie on Main. Over the past three years, chef/proprietor Tony Maws has continued to please diners, particularly carnivores, with his intense focus on local, seasonal, and organic ingredients and French-influenced dishes. Offerings change daily to reflect the best that can be found at the market, and Maws is a firm believer in the ‘nose-to-tail’ philosophy of using every part of an animal whenever possible. Indeed, Food & Wine even named Craigie to its list of the 10 best restaurants for carnivores in the world, and Craigie is the sole representative of the United States on the list.

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

More photos:

Craigie On Main on Urbanspoon

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