Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Tour of Island Creek Oyster Farm in Duxbury, MA

Because it's National Oyster Day, I wanted to share with you my recent visit to Island Creek Oyster farm in Duxbury, MA. Island Creek has some of the best oysters in the North American east coast!

Island Creek Oyster Farm
One thing I did not know is that the waters in this area (Duxbury, Cape Cod, etc) is actually too cold for oysters to spawn. They can grow and live here, but not spawn because the water never gets warm enough. Still, there are 3 acres with 24 osyter farmers out in Duxbury bay now.
Island Creek Oyster Farm
Island Creek used to buy seeds when the owner, Skip, started growing oysters in 1994. But recently, they've started their own hatchery. These colorful tubes contain various types of algae that they use to feed the spawning and growing oysters in the hatchery.
Island Creek Oyster Farm

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Viento Pop-Up at Hyatt Regency Century Plaza

by guest blogger @btsunoda

With the exception of Las Vegas, hotels usually don’t make an effort to attract diners that aren’t already guests of the hotel. There are only a handful of hotel restaurants that I can think of that I dined at without being a guest. The Breeze Restaurant in the Hyatt Regency Century City Plaza Hotel is attempting to change that perception. The Breeze kitchen has experimented with a few different themes and I had a chance to sample their new pop-up restaurant located just off the lobby.

I learned that the Hyatt Regency team will rotate the kitchen in six month pop-up efforts, each one operating under a different name. I had the opportunity to attend the initial pop-up named “Viento”, a Latin small plates concept.
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During the dinner hours, Viento serves tapas such as pork belly sliders and mini duck sopes, alongside larger dishes like mole platters and Achiote Salmon. They also change the restaurant’s interior design by swapping out tables, chairs, and decor elements as needed. DSCF7723

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Drinks and Beyond at Drink (Boston, MA)

Drink Drink in Fort Point is arguably Boston's most famous cocktail establishment. There's no cocktail menu at Drink, just a crew of highly talented and highly trained bartenders under the direction of Ezra Star. They're ready to make you any drink you want, or suggest a cocktail based on your taste preferences. Everyone seems to always be working on something new and interesting.

The line and wait at this place can get pretty crazy, but if you come early (they open at 4pm), there's no line and you can get the full attention of the bartenders.

Because of the status that Drink has in the city, they also can get their hands on some exclusive you can hardly find elsewhere. We tried some special Del Maguey mezcal, a San Pedro Taviche, a blend of Espadin, Tobala, and Tepextate.

We also had a daiquiri made with pineapple infused Plantation rum. Don't let your mind go to Malibu or something like that, Plantation is levels above that. This was a really lovely rum with nice tropical aromas, and it was not yet available in stores.

Drink

Friday, July 31, 2015

New Cocktails and Old Favorites at The Factory Kitchen (Downtown Los Angeles)

I recently returned to one of my favorite Italian restaurants in LA, The Factory Kitchen in downtown, to try out the new cocktail menu from bartender Andrew Gustafson (you can read me gushing upon my first visit to the restaurant here).

The Factory Kitchen tries to change their cocktail menu seasonally. I was running late so my friend was already having this season's best seller, the Mezcali with Xicaru mezcal, lemon, serrano, muddled tomatoes, and strawberry. It's easy to see why this drink sells so well, since not only has LA been a big spicy cocktail kick lately, this was a well balanced drink that's also not too sweet, with a more complex aspect thanks to the tomatoes.

I started my tasting with a DT-LAst Word (chamomile infused Slow Hand white whisky, Galliano, Maraschino, lemon, $12)

The Factory Kitchen

As the name hints, this drink is their version of the Last Word. Slow Hand white whiskey is an unaged whiskey from Greenbar Distillery in downtown LA. Andrew infuses it with chamomile tea; as you can see below, the bottle on the left with the yellow-ish liquor is the one infused with chamomile. I tried it by itself also and it had a really nice aroma - I'm partial to tea cocktails so I really liked this one.
The Factory Kitchen

Vinny's Backside (Amaro Meletti, lime juice, ginger beer, rosemary, $12)
The Factory Kitchen
A riff on a mule, but this drink has everything I love: amaro, ginger beer, and rosemary. I can drink this all day.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tinga (Mid-City, Los Angeles, CA)

With so many authentic, hole-in-the-wall taco spots in Los Angeles, it may be easy to dismiss a "hipster" taco place like Tinga, but this spot on La Brea is popular for a reason.

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Even though the price is higher, Tinga provides a great option for tacos that Mid-City lacked before. The taco fillings may not always be "authentic" but owner Jerry Baker stays true to tradition where it matters, which you can see in the freshly made tortillas and great salsas.

Appetizer options include shareable plates like Chorizo Fundido (oaxaca cheese, chorizo, roasted corn, pico de gallo, hand pressed tortillas, $12.50)
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The listed price on the menu is for two tacos, although you can order single tacos for $5.25 each. It's a bit pricey compared to taco trucks, for sure, but they're pretty generous with the meat and you are in Mid-City after all. I was quite surprised by how much I actually liked the tacos here!

The one you definitely need to try: The Genesis (grilled cumin and garlic rubbed pork loin, roasted and grilled with poblanos, pepper jack cheese, ahogado salsa)
Tinga
Jerry Baker has been perfecting the recipe for The Genesis since high school, back when he used to make it for his friends. It's easy to see as it was definitely my favorite taco there. Even though it looks the simplest, it had the best flavors from the pork rub, which complemented but not overwhelmed by the simple additions of cheese and salsa.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Tasting Room at 51 Lincoln Opens with 5-Course Menu (Newton, MA)

51 Lincoln in Newton will be opening their Tasting Room on July 29, where they will offer a 5-course prix fixe menu on Tuesdays-Saturdays. The Tasting Room will be located downstairs of 51 Lincoln.and can seat up to 20 people.

The Tasting Room
Before dinner started, we got some cocktails from 51 Lincoln's bar menu. I had the Barkeep's Julep with bourbon, sarsaparilla reduction, Leopold fernet, and mint ($12). The fernet's bitterness added a nice depth to this classic cocktail. 
The Tasting Room

The first course of our dinner was a light, refreshing scallop crudo with grapefruit segments, evoo, opal basil sauce. As you'll see throughout the dinner and in this course, the chef pays a lot of attention to the dishes and bowls used.
The Tasting Room
This was paired with a glass of Pinon sparkling Vouvray. It's a creamier sparkling and it's a lovely pairing with scallops.
The Tasting Room


Friday, July 24, 2015

Coni'Seafood: Inglewood's Mexican Seafood Gem (Los Angeles, CA)

This post may be a bit late, but for those of you who still don't know ... some may remember Mariscos Chente and their awesome pescado zarandeado and other Sinaloan seafood dishes, and the chef from Chente and his family has now opened Coni'Seafood in Inglewood, serving the same great items.

The thing to absolutely get is of course, the pescado zarandeado. This whole grilled snook is the state dish of Nayarit and Sinaloa, and here is served with caramelized onions and tortillas. Make yourself a great taco with this great fish meat and the onions.

Coni Seafood
It's quite big so bring a few friends so you can try the other dishes, as well.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Brunch at Avec (Chicago, IL)

Chicago has many great restaurants worth revisiting, and since I'm heading back to the Windy City soon, I'm looking back at the meals I had last year. I've been to Avec for a solo dinner before, but since I couldn't try much, I returned for brunch.

Of course, we had to get one of Avec's most famous items, the Chorizo-stuffed medjool dates, bacon, piquillo pepper-tomato sauce ($12)

Avec
There are bacon-wrapped dates and there are Avec's bacon wrapped dates that are on another level. Don't those plump dates, stuffed to the brim with chorizo, look so delicious? The tomato sauce has a nice kick to it also.

Moroccan "berghir" pancake with fried chicken wings, honey butter, red harissa ($12)
Avec
Really crispy chicken wings, this dish was another hit for me.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Fiorella's (Newton, MA)

Fiorella's in Newton has been around for 15 years; the owner was only 23 when they opened. The restaurant used to be half the size and had since expanded to include the bar area. This restaurant has a lot of local following - it's off the beaten path and can be a little hard to find at first, but people keep returning and I went to find out why along with a group of other Boston bloggers.

Fiorella's

Before sitting down for dinner, we mingled over a glass of Blueberry Smash, made with bourbon and blueberry simple syrup.
Fiorella's
Fiorella's
The new bar area
We shared some appetizers to start: Arancini (large crisp risotto ball stuffed with mozzarella cheese, served with their signature marinara sauce, $7)
Fiorella's
A nice dish that also showcases their marinara sauce. It's quite a comforting dish with the melted cheese and the hearty sauce.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Lunch at Husk Restaurant (Charleston, SC)

I visited Charleston for a very short trip last Christmas holiday, and even though the friends we were visiting were vegetarians, I had dining at Husk Restaurant on my must-do list. After all, it was named Bon Appetit's Best New Restaurant in America in 2011. Our friends dropped my cousin and I for lunch one Saturday afternoon while they walk around the city.

Our lunch started with some Rolls with bourbon sea salt, honey pork butter

Husk

Kentuckyaki glazed pig's ear lettuce wraps with sweet marinated cucumbers and red onion, Sea Island benne ($10)
Husk
I understand pig's ears can be an acquired taste, but I personally love the texture and they did a good job with the glaze on this lettuce wrap.

Shrimp and South Carolina grits, smoky tomato broth, roasted peppers and onions, English peas and Surry sausage ($14)
Husk

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Modern Meze at Sarma: Worth the Trek (Somerville, MA)

Boston isn't all about seafood and Italian food, there are a few special places that add a big diversity to the available food in town. Sarma is one of those few special places and I have to say it's only a type of restaurant I won't be able to find in LA, making Sarma one of my favorite spots in Boston so far.

Located in Somerville, Sarma is the sister restaurant of Oleana in Cambridge, both specializing in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food, but Sarma focuses on meze /small plates and is more casual.

Sarma
Go to Sarma with many people, so that you can try a lot of dishes - and trust me, there are a lot you'd want to try. Sarma also changes a big part of their menu regularly, so even if you're a regular, you'd always find something new to try. Here's what I had at Sarma over two different visits:

Lamb kofte sliders, tomato, brown butter, pickles ($10) - one of the must gets!
Sarma
It may look simple in the photo, but these are seriously some of the best sliders ever. The patty - made with lamb kofte - was really good and the buns had the perfect texture.

Corn cakes, goat cheese, salty date butter, cilantro, pecans ($10)
Sarma

Monday, July 13, 2015

GIVEAWAY! Big Bite Bacon Fest on The Queen Mary

A bacon fest on a boat? Yep, Big Bite Bacon Fest is coming to The Queen Mary in Long Beach. Baconvaganza will take over the historic ship on August 1-2.

Among the vendors slated for the event are Bigmista's Barbecue, Slater's 50/50, The Currywurst Truck, Dog Haus, Polka, and Dia de Los Puercos. After all the bacon, get desserts from Lil' Miss Shortcake, Bundts on Melrose, Waffle-Oh Truck, The Cake Mamas and more.
Bacon cheese cupcake
The general admission tickets are $40 and includes all the food, but not the beers. You can buy a GA ticket plus beer sampling ($50 including general admission plus 10 samples) or purchase additional beer sampling tickets there for $15 (10 samples). Breweries pouring will include Ninkasi Brewing, Golden Road Brewing, Pizza Port, Allagash, Einstok and more. Oh, and Bakon Vodka will naturally be there.

Tickets can be purchased here.

They've also offered up a couple of tickets for me to giveaway for FREE! These tickets are for general admission for either day ($80 value).
To enter, follow the instructions below and don't forget to comment with the day you can attend, since you can only choose one of the days.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Tacolandia and Confessions of a Food Festival Masochist

by guest blogger Cue the Critic

My relationship with food festivals is an interesting one; mainly because I hate to love them.  In the moment, the experience is tiring, a bit stressful, and take the deepest toll on your body and stomach, all while offering you a feeling of fulfillment, excitement, and heavenly delight; that is if you do it correctly.  I attend food festivals with one goal in mind: eat as much as humanly possible within the time allotted.  Tacolandia was not exempt from this food festival showdown: Cue v. Food.

I arrive just prior to 3:00p.m., and my date and I breezed through the queue with unprecedented ease for an event with no VIP hour.

Upon entry I immediately started eating. There was a corn-off-the-cob cup with tortilla chips that reminded me of the elote you would get from a street vendor in the neighborhood.
Elote Cup w/ Tortilla Chips
Elote cup with tortilla chips

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Drinking in a Barrel at Idle Hour (North Hollywood, CA)

I love Los Angeles, but mostly they don't keep a lot of their heritage and cool historic buildings around too much. Thanks to 1933 Group, LA will at least keep one of their awesome barrel-shaped bars, as they have renovated Idle Hour in North Hollywood. The building was declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument and 1933 Group purchased it in an auction.

Idle Hour
The old Idle Hour was a taproom built in 1941, and 1933 Group has kept that concept, with plenty of beers on tap inside the barrel-shaped main building.
Idle Hour
They also have a great outdoor dining area in the back that's perfect for day drinking in the summer.
Idle Hour
Behind that area is a replica of the Bulldog Cafe. The original Bulldog Cafe was built in 1925, selling tamales and ice cream (I wish we have something like that now), and they built a replica for the Petersen Automotive Museum in 1991. The adorable Bulldog Cafe is also open for private events, and it's also open to the public when there's no event going on.
Idle Hour

Monday, July 6, 2015

Lobster at Belle Isle Seafood (Winthrop, MA)

Belle Isle Seafood in Winthrop has been featured on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, and it's not that far from the Boston Logan Airport. I decided to check it out after picking up my cousin from the airport. The restaurant was bigger than I expected, with a view of the boats and water. We placed our order and waited for the food. That lobster buzzer they gave us is so cuute!

Belle Isle
Of course, we ordered the lobster roll. They serve it Maine style with mayo and lettuce here.
Belle Isle Seafood

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Bite-Sized Frozen Yogurt with Stonyfield's Wiki Pearls

It's pretty cool when the worlds of science and food collide. At least one Harvard professor is doing so with WikiPearl. The idea comes from natural fruit skin, where the flesh is protected from the environment by an edible skin. They've partnered with Stonyfield for this edible packaging idea in their frozen yogurt pearls, creating frozen yogurt you can eat with your hands.

WikiPearl

For me, the idea has not completely replaced regular retail packaging, since you still have to package the wiki pearls, but one day we can hopefully minimize it since you don't have to package each pearls separately. The WikiPearl skin doesn't melt so putting two together won't make them stick to each other or cross contaminate the others. You can see below the frozen yogurt inside a pearl. With Stonyfield's products, the skin is also flavored, creating different combinations between the yogurt and the skin.
WikiPearl
Plus, ice cream or froyo as finger food is fun! I think they'll be great at parties. Or even when I'm craving ice cream at home, since these pearls as bite-sized. Portion control. Works way better than plopping down with a pint of ice cream and a spoon.

Right now, Stonyfield's WikiPearls can be found at Whole Foods Markets across New England. You can give them a try for your next house party. No need to wash ice cream cups and spoons!

Monday, June 29, 2015

July 14: Taste of Cambridge Returns

Taste of Cambridge returns on July 14, bringing the best restaurants in Cambridge for a great evening at University Park. There will be plenty of restaurants and bars serving up bites and drinks, and lucky for us, Cambridge has some of the best restaurants in Boston. There will be over 100 booths there! Among the restaurants coming are Summer Shack, Russell House Tavern, Flour Bakery and Cafe, Art Bar, and Puritan & Co.

Taste of Cambridge
They've also brought in some new restaurants for an even bigger event. This year's new participants include some big names like Alden and Harlow, West Bridge, and Bondir Restaurant.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West (Scottsdale, AZ)

If you love architecture and find yourself in the Phoenix area in the future, you need to take a tour of Taliesin West. Even for myself, who is not that knowledgeable in architecture, I found the tour extremely fun! Taliesin West in Scottsdale was the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright, but the property also doubles as his architecture school. You can't explore the property on your own, as Taliesin West is still functioning as an architecture school, but the $32 tour ticket is well worth it to not only see Taliesin West but also hear the stories behind the building and the various aspects of it.

Taliesin West

During the 90-minute tour, you'll hear about this petroglyph and how the carvings inspired Wright's iconic Whirling Arrow, which actually symbolizes "fellowship".
Taliesin West
Or how he came to use these Chinese ceramic sculpture and how each one signifies that you are entering a different area of Taliesin West.
Taliesin West

Friday, June 26, 2015

Providence's Anniversary $80 Menu Extended to July

Chef Michael Cimarusti's Providence Restaurant celebrated its 10th anniversary with a four-course menu for $80 in June, but don't be mad that I didn't tell you because they've extended it to the month of July!

Providence is one of the top fine dining destinations in LA, as evidenced by it having survived 10 years! It's one of my favorites, and though it would usually cost quite a pretty penny to dine there, every June they celebrate their anniversary with a cheaper 4-course menu (it has gone up from the $65 from a few years ago, but hey, inflation). And lucky you, they usually also extend it to July.

Oh, and your $80 gets you more than just four courses. When I went there were amuse bouche upon amuse bouche and great bread service before the real dinner even started. The amuse bouche included salmon skin chips with creme fraiche.

Providence

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Craft Cocktail Meets Chinese Food at Sichuan Garden II and The Baldwin Bar

I drove out in the snow to Woburn to check out Sichuan Garden II. And it was worth it.

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Sichuan Garden II is no normal Sichuan restaurant, located inside a 17th century mansion. There's a wonderful little cocktail bar in the restaurant. The Baldwin Bar is headed by Ran Duan, whose family owns the Sichuan Garden restaurants. He went all out with The Baldwin Bar, not minding that it was out in Woburn, with top notch cocktails and gorgeous pre-prohibition style interior. Where else can you get Sichuan food along with impeccable craft cocktails? I can't think of another place.

To convince you that the cocktails here are worth a drive, know that Ran Duan has won the title of Most Imaginative Bartender at the 2014 USBG competition sponsored by Bombay Sapphire.
The cocktail menu at Baldwin changes all the time, but I've always found great drinks like I Put a Spell on You (Bombay Sapphire, Earl Grey, yogurt, lemon, orange blossom water, $10)
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That night also happened to be Fire Puncher Day, so there were special drinks made with GrandTen Distilling's Fire Puncher Vodka.

What about the food? You can either dine in one of the mansion's rooms, now outfitted as dining rooms for Sichuan Garden II, or dine at The Baldwin Bar part of the restaurant. Either way, you can get the full menu. The most popular item is probably the Chengdu Dry Hot Chicken Wings ($11.50)
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These chicken wings are really crispy and have a nice kick to it. I must've gotten better at my spicy tolerance because I kept eating these. The double battered, extra crispy wings were covered in a spicy dry rub of garlic, ginger, and chilis but there's also a small amount of glaze (maple sriracha sauce)

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