Tag Archives: travel

Oak Long Bar and Kitchen, Back Bay

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Where: Oak Long Bar and Kitchen – 138 St James Ave, Boston, MA

One of the many benefits of my day job is that I get to work with the Fairmont Copley Plaza on our annual gala. The gala is a blast to plan and has gone off without a hitch (or at least appeared to have which is the important part) and looked beautiful the past two years. This year my contact at the Fairmont Copley suggested I meet her for lunch at the hotel restaurant, the Oak Long Bar and Kitchen, to discuss set up and the details of the event. I quickly agreed as this is so my kind of working lunch. I hadn’t been to the restaurant since it was the Oak Room and had only been for drinks so it was like trying a completely new restaurant. Well, it basically is.

Lunch was not only very productive but also very delicious. I had the Organic Mushroom Flatbread with roasted garlic, wild arugula and a fried egg. I don’t know why all pizzas / flatbreads aren’t served with a fried egg, such a good addition. It reminds me of being in France, they throw a fried egg on everything- pizzas, burgers, fries… you name it. The mushroom flatbread was an excellent choice – salty, cheesy, light, and the crust gave good bite. I’ve had a soft spot for anything mushroom since I was a little girl and, in fact, refused to eat anything other than toast and mushrooms for a good year which must have driven my parents nuts.

I didn’t think I would be able to finish my flatbread as its generously portioned but it wasn’t as heavy as I had thought it would be (or I am pretending it wasn’t so I don’t feel like such a fattie) so I did. Bravo, me.

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[Btw, no, that’s not a wine glass stem you see in the photo. I would never drink during a working lunch, that would be totally inappropriate and unprofessional. I just like drinking my ice tea in a wine glass….]

My lunch date insisted I try the whoopie pie for dessert so I, reluctantly (ha!), agreed to split it with her. It was an ice cream whoopie pie, chocolate on chocolate. You all know I love my chocolate but I am actually not a fan of chocolate ice cream for whatever reason so had wished it was vanilla (or caramel? or anything but chocolate really) but I can see how anyone else would have been drooling over this. I do love the side of milk- very cute!

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Overall, it was a lovely lunch with great service. The menu is nice and short and everything delivered on its promises of tastiness. Can we host another event at the Fairmont Copley, please?

How did Oak Long Bar and Kitchen measure up? 4 Spoons!

Oak Long Bar + Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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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

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!

Gulu Gulu Cafe, Salem

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Where: The Gulu Gulu Cafe – 247 Essex St, Salem MA, 01970
When: February, 2012

I know what you are all thinking… “Salem?! How did a carless city gal like you make it out to the burbs?”. Our friend Judd (aka Juddly) suggested to Libby and I that we head up to Salem for dinner as him and his lady friend, Jackie, always come to us here in Cambridge / Somerville. We couldn’t say no, especially as we had yet to get together to celebrate their engagement (!!). Getting out there was pretty painless; we jumped on the green line from Lechmere and quickly got on the commuter rail en route to Salem (I won’t get into detail on the communist era themed trains with everything down to the cabbage smell).

Juddly and Jackie were waiting for us at the train station, thank goodness as it was now pouring rain. We quickly found parking and headed to the Gulu Gulu Cafe which is casual, comfortable, and pug themed (which made me think of my friend Kelly – I am sure she already knows of it). We were seated quickly by the stage and put in our drink orders. Wine – yes, please.20120228-175533.jpg

There was some serious decisions going around the table – crepe or panini? I went with the Barcelona Panini which was smoked turkey, machego cheese, arugula, apple butter, and Dijon mustard grilled on fresh Italian Ciabatta bread. It came with a green salad and potato chips. The panini was really good with proportions of each ingredient well balanced. The Dijon mustard left a nice kick at the end (and for some reason always makes me feel like I am eating healthy). I wish the panini had come with fries instead of chips but overall it was great and I would definitely eat there again (the once a decade I am in Salem).

20120228-175539.jpgLibby and I decided to share a dessert as well and settled on the S’mores crepe with was milk chocolate, crushed graham crackers, and marshmallows. We couldn’t find the graham crackers until the last 1/4 of the crepe and then decided it would be better without it. Besides that, it was chocolatey deliciousness.

Service was a little slow but this ain’t no busy South End hot spot so what did we expect? People seemed to come for the music but if you were there for other reasons it wasn’t overbearing or too loud. The atmosphere was laid back and fun, I’d recommend it for a group, for lunch, or a place to grab a casual bite with friends.

The ride back to Boston wasn’t quite as smooth as our outbound trip. We sipped on coffees for about an hour at the cafe as there was just one train back – around 11:30. Side note: I shouldn’t have made it decaf as I was falling asleep the whole way back. Once we got on the train it seemed to put along at a snails pace getting us into North Station well after midnight. We waited about 25 minutes for the green line just to find that the next bus at Lechmere wasn’t for another 53 minutes. Seriously? We chased down cabs until we finally got a couple to stop. Nightmare.

How did the Gulu Gulu Cafe measure up? 3.75 Spoons!

Gulu Gulu Cafe on Urbanspoon

5 Spoons Goes to Portsmouth, NH!

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I was really excited to be able to get out of town last weekend, it was like I was 8 and it was Christmas. We headed up to Portsmouth, NH after work on Friday and checked in to the Sise Inn on Court Street, just a few blocks from the center of town. The Inn was really cute and the staff were very accommodating (when we got into our room we realized there was a party next door so they quickly moved us to a quieter, and nicer, room).

We dropped off our bags, unpacked little, and then headed out to explore the center of town. Portsmouth is really, really quaint and cute. Most of the buildings are old brick and the houses are Victorians. It felt like a mini, quieter, cleaner Boston. We were sold. We went in and out of art galleries and little shops with our coffees warming us against the cold.

Around 7pm we started looking for a place to eat. I had some great recommendations from a friend who grew up a couple towns over and so the first thing we did was stop into the Black Trumpet on Ceres Street to make a reservation for the following night. Then we went next door to the Oar House for dinner. The dining room was all booked up so we sat in the bar area which was cozy and had a piano player who was later accompanied by a young woman who had a beautiful voice. We shared a bottle of wine and started with the Lobster Bisque which was finished with sherry and cream. So many lobster bisques that I am used to are really creamy but this soup was all lobster with just a splash of cream. It was the perfect way to wind down after spending a couple being out in the cold. All around us it seemed as though everyone was ordering the Seafood Portofino for dinner and it looked amazing. Someone had clearly caught on to this as it was every other dish coming out of the kitchen. The portions looked big so we decided to split an order which we did not regret – the photo to the left is about 1/3 of the dish. The Seafood Portofino came with shrimp, lobster (big chunks, as you can see), roasted garlic, wilted spinach, shallots, leeks, all in a brandy sherry cream sauce served in puff pastry. Amazing. It originally comes with scallops but we asked for it without as its the one thing I am allergic to, sadly. I did unfortunately slip going to the ladies room causing an ungraceful split in the middle of the dining room, a large bruise on my left leg and a room full of gasps. As if the food and company wasn’t memorable enough, right?

The next morning we headed to the Friendly Toast on Congress Street. We had both been to the one in Kendall Square, Cambridge, so knew the quality of food as well as the atmosphere. The decor is the same in both locations with the walls covered with random knickknacks, wall art, game boards, ect. Its eclectic and comfortable. He ordered the Eggs Benedict and I, after much back ad forth, settled on the Flying Fish Scramble which is scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, home fries, and a massive slice of toast. The portions are huge and the food was so good that we actually came back the next morning for breakfast again. He got the Eggs Benedict again (a ringing endorsement right there) and I had the French Toast (with their Anadama bread). Everything was delicious and worth the wait, which there inevitably is.

After a big breakfast we opted for sushi for lunch so went to Sake Sushi on Congress Street. We caught them right at the end of their lunch, just before 3pm. We sat at a traditional Japanese style table / booth by the window where we took our shoes off and people watched. We started with miso soup and seaweed salad and then had spicy tuna maki, shrimp tempura maki, and eel and avocado (my favorites). I wasn’t crazy about the eel as it seems a little over cooked or dry (as I mentioned, we were there minutes before they were closing if they don’t cook it to order) but otherwise everything was really good and fresh.

We managed to pry ourselves away from a dining table for a few hours to walk around, get some coffee, and do some more window shopping but then it was time to find a place to get a drink before dinner. We got harangued into 2 Ceres Street (named after its’ address) by a overly friendly guest and saddled up at the bar. We had hoped to get a seat by the fireplace but the place was packed. He got an espresso martini and I had the Jam Jar Shiraz which really tasted like you had spooned a tablespoon of blackberry jam into it. It was sweet and almost sticky; not sure its something I would want with dinner but it was great as an early evening drink. We then headed back to the Inn to change for dinner.

Our reservation at the Black Trumpet was at 9:15 so we were pretty hungry by the time we got there (even though we had been eating every couple of hours since we got to Portsmouth). We shared a bottle of wine and started with the Spicy Octopus and Arugula with fennel, olives and capered tomato. The Octopus was delicious. I hadn’t had it warm before as usually it seems to be served in a cold salad but I am definitely a fan of serving it this way.

For my entree I had really wanted the Paprika Pasta Pillow stuffed with seafood sausage, simmered with finfish and shellfish in a creamy tomato caldo but all hope of that was squashed when the waiter confirmed that there are scallops in both the pasta and the sauce. I was having a hard time deciding what to get so took the waiter’s recommendation and ordered the Pan-fried Whole Acadian Redfish with wild rice and fregola pilaf, served with a citrus-ginger whipped hollandais. He ordered the Duck Breast with johnnycake polenta and fried broccoli in membrillo glace. When our dinners came out my face dropped. I knew my fish was coming out whole but I guess I didn’t understand what that really meant. It was whole with bones and head and all. I opened it up and poked at it and just didn’t know where the hell to start. I must have looked disparaged as he didn’t hesitate asking to switch dinners with me, even though he had been thinking about duck since we sat down. It was very nice of him. I wasn’t sure how I felt about duck but it was actually delicious (look at that layer of fat, can’t go wrong there!) so I was really happy with the swap and hope he was too. Chivalry is not dead. We wrapped up dinner with the Apple Cranberry Kissel with gingersnap crisp and brown sugar sour cream which was good but a little too tart and sugary for us. It may have paired better with a couple of coffees to cut through it the sweetness but we were sticking to wine.

We rolled out of town after breakfast on Sunday and vowed to come back soon, even if just for the day.

I loved Portsmouth. If it were a restaurant I’d give it 5 Spoons.

Laissez le Bon Temps Rouler (Five Spoons goes to Nola)!

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Last week an opportunity popped up for me to represent our organization at the Gleason Gras in New Orleans. I wasn’t the first choice (what!?) but with my colleagues tied up with Thanksgiving festivities, I jumped at the chance to go.

I looked up an old high school buddy my first night there and we headed to Dicky Brennan’s Bourbon House just off of Bourbon Street for dinner. Bourbon Street was hopping with the Bayou Classic taking place so I was happy to duck inside away from the crowds. Brian was disapointed that Dicky’s didn’t have traditional seafood pasta which, trying a bowl of it at the Gleason Gras, I later understood why – yum! He settled on the Paneed Veal and Crab with garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus and lemon butter. I didn’t know what the etiquette was in asking to try someone’s meal when you hadn’t seen them in years but, lucky for me, Brian eagerly offered me a bite after I told him about my food blog (perks already!). If you asked me a week ago if I like veal I would probably give you puppy eyes and snarkily respond that I don’t like baby animals. Apparently if they are deep fried and served with crab I like them just fine. I had the Corn and Crab Soup which was creamy and the crab really stood out, unlike a lot of soups I have had. I then had the trio of 1/2 dozen oysters served Rockefeller, Bienville, and Fonseca. I couldn’t tell you which was which now but can tell you I loved two and hated one. Helpful information, I know.

The next morning I hopped out of bed with one purpose – Cafe du Monde. I got a coffee and an order of beignets, which came in threes. I sad on a bench and opened delicately opened the bag. Yep, three in there. Still warm. Covered in powdered sugar. I should be at the gym. Oh well, I will just eat one and save the rest for later. Next thing I knew I was holding an empty bag and had powdered sugar all over my sweater, down my jeans, and even on my running shoes (hah, running…). I’m not sure what happened but convinced myself that they were really, really small and really meant for one person. The coffee was too strong for me, even with all that sugar, so I dumped it and found a starbucks.

Later in the day I had some great food at the Gleason Gras, mostly to keep warm as it was so cold out. I had some quesedillas and that amazing creamy seafood pasta and two cups of cafe au lait which was sweet and delicious.

For my last meal in town I asked the concierge for a recommendation for a place where I could sit at a bar since I was dining solo. I was happy to hear that the staff member often eats alone herself and loves Oceana Grill on Conti Street off Bourbon about 5 blocks away. I headed over and sat at the bar downstairs and ordered a drink before noticing that they leave their front door open and after being outside all day I was chilled to the bone. I asked the bartender if they had another bar upstairs, which they fortunately did. She led me through the upstairs dining room hollering “Alex, I got a lonely lady for you!”. Oh no, please don’t do that. Alex turned out to be a charming young lady who hollered back “Great, I wanted someone to talk to!”. I ordered the Louisiana Crabmeat Cakes appetizer with crawfish cream sauce and a side of Crawfish Etouffee and chatted with Alex about her life in New Orleans while I waited. She told me about how the hurricane affected her family (her father is a fire fighter), raising her “miracle” baby, Deangelo, sports (Uhh what?), and the precautions her and the other servers take to stay safe in the city. She was lovely and made me feel so comfortable. Dinner was fantastic, especially those crabcakes which had to be deep fried. Can’t go wrong with that combination.

Laissez le Bon Temps Rouler!