Strega Waterfront, Seaport

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Where: Strega – One Marina Park Drive (56 Northern Ave), Boston MA
When: July 2012

I rarely head to the Seaport district so jumped at the chance to check out Strega Waterfront (not to be confused with Strega in the North End) on a gorgeous Boston summer night. We headed down there with a group after work and were promptly, thanks to a reservation, seated outside. So nice to be able to sit outside with a view of the water while eating.

We started with a bottle of wine (which led to a few more) and one of the specials which was like the Fritto di Calamari, lightly deep-fried fresh calamari served with marinara sauce, but with a variety of seafood. This dish was good but could have been a little crisper, they were a little on the soft side for me. It was also a bit messy looking. We also, unfortunately found a hair in the dish, so pointed it out to our waiter who quickly replaced it. I’d like to think it belonged to someone at the table but that’s unlikely.

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I then split a salad and main dish. For the salad we got the La Strega Salad which is baby arugula, grapefruit, walnuts and shaved parmigiano cheese in a citrus vinaigrette. The salad was light but bursting with citrus flavor, the perfect dish for sitting outside on a warm summer night.

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Now, for the pièce de résistance, the Ravioli Aragosta – Lobster filled ravioli finished in a crabmeat cream sauce. OH MY. I could have eaten the entire plate and then some but was grateful to be sharing as these little pillows are decadent. The sauce, which was delicate but rich, was probably my favorite part. I’d put that sauce on anything. Pass the bread please.

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Overall, Strega is a great spot for sitting on the water as well as people watching. The service was good and ravioli blew my socks off. I wasn’t impressed with our starter, especially with that rogue hair which really brought my review down. Good spot for families or groups of friends.

How did Strega Waterfront measure up? 3 Spoons!

Strega Waterfront on Urbanspoon

Doris Greenspan’s French Pear Tart, Recipe Link

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There really is something about the French and their pastries. The professionally done ones in shops are always so delicate and like little works of art and you can barely stand to eat (I said barely). Then you have the home bakers who seems to just throw something together effortlessly, pop it in the oven, and pull something gorgeous and inspired out. I’m certainly no pastry expert but I like to think that with Famille Jolivet blood running through my veins I can claim a smidge of that talent but I have a long way to go.

When I bought my first tart pan a few years ago I experimented with numerous different kinds of crusts and fillers before finding Dorie Greenspan’s French Pear Tart recipe. The recipe looked complicated, long, and intimidating but the results looked well worth it. I’ve since made it a few times and each time time its been absolutely fantastic. There is a lot of effort that goes into into this tart but it will show in the final product, I promise you. I don’t have any changes or edits to Dorie’s recipe, she has far perfected it.

French Pear Tart after cooling but pre-powdered sugar.

Olivia’s by the Sea, Gloucester

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Where: Olivia’s by the Sea– 78 Thatcher Road, Gloucester, MA 01930
When: July, 2012

Summer in New England, at least for me,  is all about spending time near, on, or in the water. Whether that be on a boat, island, dock or beach there’s just something about breathing in that salty air and having the sun beating down on me that puts me in the best of moods. I wasn’t going to let my broken foot keep me from the beach. I was that girl hobbling along the beach in my bikini and air cast. Keeping it classy.

That being said, whats the best way to wrap up a day at the beach? Seafood, and lots of it.

This particular beach trip to Crane’s Beach landed us at Olivia’s by the Sea afterwards for a late lunch. Olivia’s is casual (you can comfortably go in your beach cover up) but still clean and nice. No frills. The menu, which is extensive, has almost anything you can think of from pasta to sandwiches to fried seafood plates. We opted for the Fisherman’s Platter  which came with fish, shrimp, calamari, and scallops (which we substituted more fish for as I’m allergic) , topped with some onion rings. First of all, this platter should be shared between three people, not two. Its huge. Everything was delicious, as fried food tends to be, and not too greasy or heavy. It was a good end to a beach day.

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Overall, Olivia’s by the Sea has decent service, is clean, and good standard beach fare. There wasn’t anything about Olivia’s that struck me as special or makes me want to rush back though, it lacks  certain charm. I wouldn’t not go back, I just wouldn’t seek it out.

How did Olivia’s by the Seat measure up? 2.75 Spoons!

Area Four, Kendall Sq – Revisited

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Where: Area Four – 500 Technology Square Cambridge, MA 02139
When: July, 2012

Its really not easy working right across the street from Area Four. Its constantly calling my name tempting me to come over for lunch and, more often then not, cocktails. Like I need that extra temptation…

I’ve been to Area Four many times but this particular trip was worthy of another post. This is the first time I had been this summer so we were able to snag a table outside on the patio. I tried the Sparkling Malbec which was really lovely, especially on a warm summer day. It was much like a Rose – light, refreshing and not too sweet. After cocktails we started with their famous Garlic Knots which are smothered in garlic, pecorino and gremolata. These are amazing and worth all the calories – I promise.

For pizzas I decided to split one of the specials, on the bottom, with a friend but as soon as I saw the Mushroom and Fontina pizza come out for our other friend I knew I had to get in on that.  I ended up abandoning my pizza and eating half of hers as it was just that good. Thank goodness for generous friends. Typically I am not a huge fan on fontina but it just went so well with the mushrooms. The saltiness of the pecorino on top was perfectly balanced with the gremolata, which I am turning into a huge fan of. I think I have been back to Area Four for the Mushroom Fontina pizza twice since this trip. Do it.

20120707-151238.jpgGarlic Knots

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The Mushroom Fontina pizza is on the top and one of the specials is on the bottom (sorry, what is is has escaped me as my mind went blank after trying the Mushroom Fontina one!)

If you are in the area, try to make it to Area our for some of their homemade ice cream that they pop up on the sidewalk. I recently had the Peanut Butter and it was pure heaven. Oh, and don’t even get me started on their croissants! My heart and brain are grateful to Area Four but my waistline… not so much.

How did Area Four measure up? 4.5 Spoons!

Area Four on Urbanspoon

India Castle, Central Sq

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Where: India Castle – 928 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
When: June 2012

With the foot still broken (seriously?) its time to try Indian food delivery. There is a place near me that I had ordered from before, pre-Five Spoons, that I did not like at all so made sure to avoid it. I was thrilled to find that India Castle, which I used to go to all the time when I lived on Harvard Street in Central Sq, delivers to my neighborhood. Let the ordering begin!

We got an order of Meat Samosas (homemade turnovers stuffed with lightly tempered and fresh minced lamb with peas) to share and then I got the Malai Kofta, my favorite Indian dish ever, which is balls of minced vegetables cooked with mild Indian spices in a tomato cream sauce. Doesn’t that sound delicious? Well, it was.

The Samosas were good but I didn’t find them to be above and beyond Samosas from a lot of other places – pretty standard but you can’t go wrong with them. The Malai Kofta, on the other hand, was amazing. The sauce was rich, with a touch of spice and cream. The vegetable balls were soft but firm bursting with Indian spices and flavors. Nice and saucy to slather on naan or polish off with rice. My only complaint would be that I want double the amount of vegetable balls but no one ever seems to give you more than two per order anyways.

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Overall, India Castle delivered hot, flavorful dinner pretty quickly considering they are a little ways away from me. The Samosas were good but the Malai Kofta was delicious, definitely better than any other place I have discovered near me. I haven’t been into the restaurant in years but I remember it being nice, service good and everything all around authentic. I’ll definitely be ordering from here again, broken foot or not.

How did India Castle measure up? 4 Spoons!

India Castle on Urbanspoon

Olecito, Inman Sq

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Where: Olecito – 12 Springfield Street, Cambridge MA
When: June, 2012

I’m a big fan of Ole in Inman Square and, before I started this blog as an excuse to eat out as much as possible, I would come up with excuses to get people to go there with me. “I’m celebrating growing my hair out!”, “I found the perfect nail polish color!”, “I perfected my cursive Gs!”… You get the point. I love Ole.

Because of my immobility (are you sick of hearing about my broken foot yet?) a good friend offered to come over with dinner from Olecito, Ole’s little brother who only does take-away, across the street. I clearly win the competition for world’s greatest friends.

I had picked up dinner from Olecito once before and had gotten the Arrachera Tacos which come with marinated steak, pinto bean spread, jack cheese, lettuce, and avocado sauce per a friend’s recommendation. Although very, very good (its still my friend’s go-to dish from there) it was a little heavy for me so this time I went for the Baja Tacos which come with battered fish (or shrimp), pickled cabbage, chipotle mayo, and cilantro pesto. Oh My My! Now this is what I am talking about.

The Baja Tacos were light, zesty, creamy, crisp, and just exploded in your mouth with flavor. I got two of them but likely could have eaten another two if they had been put in front of me. We also got some chips and guacamole which were delicious, as you can see by the empty guacamole container in front of me in the photo.

Overall, Olecito has a small menu and no seating but if you are looking for a quick, delicious dinner to go – this place is for you.  I’ve never tried anything but the tacos and likely never will as these own my heart.

Ole and Olecito are up there with The Painted Burro and East Coast Grill for my favorite shrimp / fish taco places in the greater Boston area. Olé!

How did Olecito measure up? 4.5 Spoons!

Olecito on Urbanspoon

Yoshi’s, Powderhouse Sq

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Where: Yoshi’s – 132 College Avenue Somerville, MA 02144
When: June, 2012

A few days after I broke my foot a dear friend invited me over to her house (with a pick up and drop off service!) for a movie and sushi. Full of Vicodin and exhausted from carrying my weight around for the last few days I was stoked to get out of the house and have a real evening with little effort.

We ordered from Yoshi’s in Powderhouse Sq, which I hadn’t ordered from since I moved out of Somerville a few years ago. We shared an order of Gyoza and then I got the Seaweed Salad, Spicy Tuna Maki and Sweet Potato Maki. For starters, this was too much food so ended up taking the Seaweed Salad home for another time.

The Gyoza, with “meat” (what kind, I couldn’t tell you) and vegetables, were lightly pan fried and flavorful. The sauce it came with wasn’t particularily good, it tasted very watered down which made me wish I had brought my own bottle from home (from Whole Foods – its the best I’ve found). The sushi was fine, your standard fare, although definitely not our favorite. We both talked about how we prefer Blue Fin and , for me, Super Fusion – both in Porter Sq. The Sweet Potato Maki was a little dry and didn’t have that crunch from the tempura that I hoped for. The Spicy Tuna was a little on the mild side.

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Overall, I wouldn’t actively seek out or suggest Yoshi’s but for delivery its quick and adequate. I wouldn’t order from here again unless knocked out on Vicodin with a broken foot without many other sushi options around. Glowing review, eh?

How did Yoshi’s measure up? 2 Spoons!

Yoshi's on Urbanspoon

City Slicker Cafe, Somerville

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Where: City Slicker Cafe, 588 Somerville Ave, Somerville, MA 02143
When: June, 2012

Something very special happened to me on Memorial Day. Something very memorable. I went to the park near my house, Danehy Park, with a blanket and a book to read in the sunshine. I was walking around looking for a spot to lay my blanket, daydreaming apparently, when next thing I know I hear a unpleasant snap and am on the ground. Foot broken. Just like that. Yikes.

For the first three weeks I was restricted to crutches and told that I absolutely cannot put any weight on my right foot, even when it was all wrapped up and protected in the gorgeous walking boot they gave me. With such limited mobility I relied on dinner delivery from restaurants and my very generous friends. Here is the first of a slew of Cambridge area restaurants that deliver!

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I had a friend over dinner the day after I broke my foot and we decided to order from City Slicker Cafe as they have a good variety of sandwiches, among other things, to choose from. The delivery was quick and fries still warm by the time they arrived at my place. I was actually surprised that they were still pretty good as everyone knows that fries don’t travel. I got the California BLT which came with hickory smoked thick cut bacon topped with avocado, lettuce, tomato and chipotle mayo. You have a choice of a couple of types of breads but I got the Soft French bread. The bread wasn’t good, too soft and chewy and in need of toasting. But… the inside of the sandwich was very good. The creamy avocado with salty bacon and spicy mayo all went really well together. I’d order from here again (hopefully by choice and not because I can’t leave the house on my own), but would shy away from the soft french bread.

How did City Slicker Cafe measure up? 2.75 Spoons!

City Slicker Cafe on Urbanspoon

Casa B, Union Sq

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Where: Casa B – 253 Washington Street, Somerville MA 02143
When: June, 2012

After my failed attempt to go to Casa B a few weeks ago I jumped at the chance to to go again, this time with a reservation. We got there for 7pm and were taken downstairs, which seemed to have a pretty different feel to it (cozier and more intimate than upstairs), to be seated. Originally we were taken to the bar to sit in this double bar stool thing which was a bit awkward so we requested, and were granted, a table. Thank god.

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We started with the Tabla de Ceviches which is an assortment of three ceviches, marinated in citrus, root vegetable chips. The three ceviches were langosta (lobster), merluza (hake) y salmón (salmon, obviously). They were all really good, fresh, light and zesty but the hake was probably my favorite. The trio of ceviches was served with plantain chips which were crunchy and earthy, a nice compliment to the lightness of the seafood.

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Next we got the Bacalaitos Fritos con Brandada y Alioli de Cilantro (salted cod fritters, brandade, with cilantro aioli). I expected these little deep fried fritters it to be really incredible but it fell a little flat for me. It was crispy and had the potential to be amazing but it was a little heavy and flavors a little muddled. The aioli was really good.

This was my favorite dish of the night. Camarones Rellenos de Yuca Envueltos en Tocineta con Salsa de Cilantro y Jengibre (Yucca Stuffed Shrimp wrapped in Bacon, Cilantro Ginger Dipping Sauce). The shrimp were succulent; yucca, earthy and bacon, salty. The sauce mellowed the flavors out and gave it a burst of freshness. I could have eaten a couple dozen of these.

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Next, we got the Albóndigas en Salsa de Guayaba (Meatballs in Guava Sauce). The meatballs were tender and juicy with the sauce adding a sweetness to balance them out. I thought that this was an unusual menu item for a tapas place, but what do I know? It totally fit and worked.

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For dessert, we got the Tres Leches – Leche Condensada, Evaporada,  Clásica Decorado con Merengue (Three Milk Cake: Condensed, Evaporated, Cream, topped with Meringue) which had come highly recommended from a friend. This little cake was really good – moist, soft, light, and fluffy. It satisfied my need for something sweet at the end of ever meal.

Overall, the service was great, atmosphere vibrant yet intimate, and food above average. Great for groups, a date, or just out with a friend. I’d definitely go again.

How did Casa B measure up? 4 Spoons!

Casa B on Urbanspoon

Spicy Shrimp Sandwich with Chipotle Avocado Mayo, Recipe

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Do you remember when you were really little your teachers showed you that flashcard with the witch made out of sand and convinced you that you sandwich was spelled “sandwitch”? You obviously didn’t believe that for long, right? I mean, it certainly wouldn’t have stuck with you until your late 20s, right? Yes, of course, me neither.

Its summertime here in Boston and sandwiches just belong. I stumbled across this recipe last summer and its been a favorite since. The shrimp are spicy, the mayo creamy and zesty, bread crunchy, and lettuce fresh. I think I ate these for two weeks straight. Hope you like them as much as I do!

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Spicy Shrimp Sandwich with Chipotle Avocado Mayo
From Life Ambrosia

Serves 2

1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 pound medium shrimp (about 20 shrimp) peeled and deveined
1 avocado, pitted and diced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 chipotle pepper
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 french rolls
4 romaine lettuce leaves

Combine cumin, garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, chili powder and olive oil together in a bowl. Place shrimp in the bowl and toss to coat.

Combine avocado, mayonnaise, chipotle pepper, lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a food processor. Pulse until smooth.

Place shrimp in a skillet over medium heat. Cook until pink and cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Toast rolls, if desired. Spread chipotle avocado mayonnaise on the roll. Place lettuce leaves on the bottom half of the roll and place 10 shrimp on each sandwich.

EAT.