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A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

A lifestyle blog with a focus on my food adventures

While shopping back in my old neighborhood, Coolidge Corner, we stopped into The Upper Crust Pizzeria for a quick and easy lunch with the kids. We had the place to ourselves! Panera would have been my go to place for lunch, but they have since closed. The chain is one of three pizza places in Coolidge Corner, and I think that they have some tough competition with Oath Craft Pizza and Otto. These two new spots make The Upper Crust seem a little outdated. The Upper Crust, that first opened in 2001 in Beacon Hill, has had some negative press, but regardless, their pizza is still pretty good.

The pizza is Neopolitan style, with a super thin rolled crust. You can watch them make it in their open kitchen. They have a large selection of pizzas, but we opt for quick slices of cheese. They even cut the kid’s slices into smaller pieces (thanks!!). The pizza was good, certainly fresh, and didn’t taste like it had been sitting under a heat lamp for hours on end. There was nice ratio of cheese and sauce and the crust was just enough chew and had just the right amount of crisp bite to it. Cheese slices are large, a 1/4 of a pizza, and are $3.49. Eat in or take out, they have free delivery and offer catering at all locations.

Parking is at meters out on Harvard Street or two nearby pay lots.

The Upper Crust

286 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA

www.theuppercrustpizzeria.com

Upper Crust Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Blackbird Doughnuts, the popular South End spot for artisan doughnuts has come to the Fenway. We stopped there on the way out of town on Labor Day Weekend to pick up a half dozen for the ride since we were able to get an earlier jump on the road (when does that ever happen?). Anything for research right? So we picked up a variety of doughnuts, cake and raised. The flavors we picked were: chocolate old fashioned, peach jam bismarck, cookies and cream, vanilla glazed, cinnamon roll and strawberry honey (not pictured). I’m a team cake doughnut myself, so the cinnamon roll doughnut was one of my favorites. It’s a vanilla bean cake doughnut, frosted with velvety cream cheese buttercream and dusted with cinnamon sugar. That cream cheese buttercream was TO.DIE.FOR. The cookies and cream, a vanilla cake filled with crushed cookies and topped with cream glaze and chocolate cookie crumbles, was tasty too, but I wish the cookie crumbles had been a bit chunkier (sounds silly, I know. The vanilla glaze and the chocolate cake doughnuts are just classics, and my mom secretly snacked on the strawberry honey one for ‘dinner’.

Too bad that we were there first thing in the morning (and getting on the road), because they have made to order ice cream sandwiches available. Pick your doughnut from the menu and add vanilla, chocolate or swirl soft serve. AHHHH! One of these days I’ll get one! They also offer doughnut cakes – vanilla or chocolate (with 2 days notice). The chocolate cake is layers of rice chocolate cake, homemade seasonal jam in the center, frosted with velvety vanilla, cream cheese or strawberry buttercream. It says that it serves 4 people, but I’m guessing I could make it happen in one sitting. Cakes are $26.

Blackbird Doughnuts

20 Kilmarnock Street, Boston, MA

www.blackbirddoughnuts.com

blackbird doughnuts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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My parents just celebrated their 50th anniversary. My family was in town and we ended up throwing my parents a surprise party. The surprise was almost blown a few times, but my mom was surprised all the way up to the point where she opened my front door! Prep work for this party was a beast as I was doing most of it on my own. I wasn’t going to cook, with little kids, I knew my limits. I had my good friend Kim make the cake, I ordered most of the food from Brother’s Marketplace in Weston, picked up beer and prosecco at Trader Joe’s, and got the charcuterie from Moody’s in Waltham. We had the party in the later afternoon, so were weren’t planning on serving a meal, but we had so much food that people ate, and ate, and ate. No real theme for the party, my mom loves Liberty prints, so I made it a point to get paper goods with all different Liberty patterns. I bought them off of Amazon, and they are Meri Meri.

Brother’s Marketplace was amazing. Basically one stop shopping. Everything was super easy. I got steak tips for 20, picked them up cold and warmed them up in the over before the party. Served them in a warming tray and kept them heated with a Sterno. Sides were a corn and bean salad (for 10), a fruit salad (for 10), Caesar salad (for 10) and an amazing crudité platter (for 10). They were very conscious of someone who had a nut/sesame allergy, double checking that the marinade for the steak tips didn’t have sesame in it. Let me just tell you how many people RAVED about the steak tips. They are our favorite, and people just couldn’t believe that a market made them!

The cake was my first stop at 9am. I picked it up in Weymouth and dropped it off at home (this summer was not ideal cake weather). I didn’t want it to start to sweat or melt. Second stop was Moody’s in Waltham. I picked up the charcuterie platter for 20. They put out an awesome product. Again, great with the nut/sesame allergy here, they gave us poppyseed crackers instead of sesame. I was able to choose what I wanted on the plate, I had taken my brother to Moody’s a while back and he LOVED the Parmesan salami (although he doesn’t remember that he did) so that was a MUST on the plate. I also picked hard cow cheeses because if there was going to be left overs, I wanted it to be something I would want to eat. The honey, mustard and picked veggies were a really nice compliment on the plate. Moody’s charges per person for the charcuterie platters.,

I did make a few things for the party. A pasta salad with a recipe I stole from my sister in law. Peach and burrata salads are SO in this summer. I decided to make a simple peach, mozzarella, prosciutto salad and topped it with a drizzle of balsamic. Another option (if we didn’t have a nut allergy) would have been pesto over top. This salad went in the blink of an eye, and people were raving about it. I made a shrimp dish that also flew off the plate – super simple to make ahead of time and people just think it’s fancy. I doubled the recipe and used 2 1/2 pounds of shrimp for the 45 people that were at the party.

How AMAZING are these flowers?!? Again, people couldn’t believe that these came from a market. I picked these up at Brother’s, the talented Ali Papa put these together. I told her that I wanted all white and ‘elegant’ and she whipped this up. My mother loved them! We ordered two arrangements to balance out the long dining room table, allowing the cake to sit at the center.

The cake turned out AMAZING! I was originally going to do a flat cake of the record. My dad proposed to my mom on a record cover, that used to be hanging up at their house. But when I went looking for it, my mom had replaced it with another picture, so on to plan b. We used to have this old olive green, wood panel station wagon that we would go on road trips in. I was looking through my friend Kim’s instagram and she had just done this amazing VW Beetle cake. So thus the decision for a station wagon cake! The top brown and yellow things are suitcases, and on the other side they have all our names on them – like a family tree.

All in all, quite the afternoon. My parents were excited to see all of their friends, and my dad didn’t run away once he realized what was going on, so I would call that a success.

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Lulu’s Sweet Shoppe used to be located on Salem Street in the North End and recently (well, not so recently) moved into the former Cocoanuts space on Parmenter Street. Sandy Russo opened the shop in 2004, after spending time working in a number of restaurants and hotels.

I went in for the cupcakes. Pictured above is the red velvet cheesecake (!!) cupcake. Not a flavor you see very often, but super tasty.

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We also tried the Oreo cupcake. Over the top decadent! Other cupcake flavors include: chocolate turtle cheesecake, chocolate peanut butter, chocolate cherry bomb, blueberry cheesecake, whoopie pie, pistachio and port wine, lemon curd and brownie sundae to name a few. The store also carries a variety of home made ice creams in flavors like salted caramel, strawberries and cream, cookies an cream, chocolate chip cookie dough, s’mores, Thai tea coconut, and green tea with ginger. There are an assortment of delicious looking candies for sale at the shop as well.

Nice change of pace from the traditional Italian desserts in the North End. Parking is a bear, so try taking public transportation to get here.

Lulu’s Sweet Shoppe

28 Parmenter Street, Boston, MA

http://lulussweetshoppeboston.com

Lulu's Sweet Shoppe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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I first fell in love with Jamba Juice years ago in New York. Since then, Jamba has come a little closer to me – first on the ground floor of Boston University, and my newest find, in Bedford. Still not super close, but it will do.

I generally make smoothies at home – with yogurt and frozen berries. Mix up a huge batch and freeze them, and then defrost them as we need them. Such a great idea for the kids too, I freeze their smoothies in smaller sized containers – so it’s grab and go in the morning – so easy. But when I am out and about in the area, I always stop into Jamba Juice.

The Bedford location is a shared space with Bruegger’s. They they have high and low top tables, perfect for hanging out and doing some work.

What’s on the menu at Jamba? Smoothies, energy bowls, shots, and fresh squeezed juices. Grab a classic smoothie, a super blend smoothie, a ‘whole food nutrition’ smoothie or a fruit and veggie smoothie. What’s my go to? I love the Razzmatazz, with strawberries, bananas and mixed berries. Make sure to join their Jamba Insider rewards program to get credits for all of those smoothies you will now be drinking!

Jamba Juice

158 – K Great Road, Bedford, MA

http://www.jambajuice.com

Jamba Juice Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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I used to go to the Lotus Blossom all the time when I was growing up. Hadn’t been there in ages, and one day decided to mix it up and try someplace new. And by new, I mean not Panera or the pizza place they know us at because I am there three times a week. The Lotus Blossom serves Chinese and Japanese cuisine. They’ve been around for 25 years, opening their first restaurant in Framingham (Lotus Flower), then this location in Sudbury, and moving on to open Chang Sho (Cambridge) and Water Lily (Wayland) as their third and fourth restaurants.

Lotus Blossom offers a great lunch buffet from 11:30am – 2:00pm Monday – Friday. They offer many different items, including sushi! They have a Sunday brunch buffet with over 35 items (also including sushi) and Chef Wesley’s updated versions of classic Asian dishes. Not into buffets? They have a great lunch special for $8.95-$10.50 that includes your choice of a vegetable spring roll or a fried chicken wing and your choice of vegetable fried or steamed rice. Main dishes for the lunch special include things like sweet and sour chicken, chicken and cashew nuts, beef and broccoli, shrimp in lobster or garlic sauce or General Gau’s chicken.

For dinner, we ordered a bunch of appetizers and soups to keep it light. The kids loved the steak teriyaki and edamame. The wonton soup was a good choice, a classic, and one of my favorites. I tried the ramen here, which was very tasty. Flavorful and full of noodles.

Our server was attentive and we were able to sit in a quiet table in the back where the kids weren’t going to bother the other diners. The restaurant has a large footprint, so it is perfect if you had a large group with you. The bar area was lively and the takeout business was booming.

Lotus Blossom

394 Boston Post Road, Sudbury, MA 01776

http://www.lotuscuisine.com/

Lotus Blossom Chinese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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I know a lot of families that don’t take weekend vacations because it’s just too much of a headache. You pack up your kids and your 85 suitcases with diapers, bottles and 8 changes of clothes per day (because you know food is going to get all over them at SOME point in the day) and you’re only out of your house for TWO DAYS. Well, yes, that is true. But you know what, someone is doing all the cooking and someone else is doing the cleaning. Sure, I’ll have my mountain of laundry waiting when I get home, but not having to clean my own bathroom for two days, worth it! So we pack up our bags an head over to Burlington, MA to the Boston Marriott Burlington hotel. A short drive from where we live, but it feels like a big new adventure. (I love to pack my kids up in Sea Bags. I just throw things in and zip them up, no muss no fuss. I have about 10 of them.) It’s an easy drive and unlike the city, parking is free.

I pulled up to the front and left my car while we checked in. The bellman helped us to our room with our 85 bags. The lobby is sleek – a water feature when you walk in the front door, a huge glass fireplace and comfy chairs welcome you to put your feet up. I loved the mood board in the lobby that shows you all of their design concepts. They offer complimentary cookies and lemonade in the afternoon/evenings which our family was a big fan of. Forget something at home? It’s inevitable. Don’t worry, the Boston Marriott Burlington has you covered. They have a great little store off the lobby where you can pick up toiletries, snacks, ice cream, or even a Red Sox shirt. They have a business area in the lobby where you can print out your boarding pass and they have these great maps that will get you to popular places nearby.

We stayed on the concierge level, in a corner room, which was a little more spacious than the regular rooms. Each room features a single serve coffee maker and a mini fridge (totally key if you have kids with you). I love the barn door inspired showers! The beds were super, super comfortable. Made waking up with the kids feel not as horrible :).

We had time to kill before my husband met us for dinner. So we headed to the Burlington Mall, just a short drive away. They have a complimentary shuttle that can take you there or to the movie theater as well. So what’s that great about the mall? It has your stores that you have in most places: Pottery Barn, GAP, J.Crew, Nordstrom etc. What are some things that you might not have where you live? Well, Primark to start. Head over for some affordable, trendy clothing and home goods. I love woops! macarons. You wouldn’t think much of mall macarons, but they are fresh and super yummy. The Keurig store is always fun to go into and browse. There are plenty of places to pick up your Boston themed goods to take home to friends, or head over to New Balance and pick up some super cool sneakers with “Boston” on the soles. (I picked up three pairs for all the guys in our family). I love Kneipp – a natural brand of bath and body care products. My kids love the pink sea princess bubble bath – it smells like raspberries! If it’s raining outside, this is a perfect place to let kids run around and tire themselves out. They have an indoor play space in the food court on the upper level of the mall as well. Mall not your thing? Make sure to check out HMart, an Asian grocery store that has a killer food court, just down the street from the mall. And pop into the Nordstrom Rack next door, they have a ton of great home decor items!

We headed back to the hotel for dinner at their signature restaurant, Chopps American Bar and Grill. The restaurant is cozy and dim in the front area by the bar and bright and spacious in the back dining rooms. We had the early, early, early dinner since we had the kids with us, which worked out really well. They are totally family friendly, and had a fun coloring sheet and stickers for the kids.

I was starving at this point, and ready to eat! Our waiter was personable, really great with the kids. First, let’s talk about those rolls. AMAZING. Warm, soft, so delicious I didn’t want to eat anything else. But I did. We shared the short rib mac and cheese ($15) which was so rich! Really nice flavors and I loved that it had toasted cornbread crumbs on it, just a little something different to make it stand out from all the other short rib mac and cheeses out there. So we were off to a great start. All the steaks here are served with whipped potatoes and Chopps sauce. I had the bone in ribeye ($54). The 20oz steak was 30 day dry aged and perfectly seasoned. The meat was tender, with just enough fat and cooked with a perfect cool pink center. The steak came from a local farmer in Brimfield, MA. I chose to swap my whipped potatoes for the loaded tots (for an upcharge). These enormous tots (top right) were stuffed with pancetta and cheese and just melted in my mouth. Literally swatted my husband’s hand when he went in to try one. Trust me on the not sharing. You’ll thank me later. They have a great menu of the kids too. We had the mac and cheese and the petit filet, which might just be the best deal in town. For $12, it came with fries and a side of fruit – just check out those grill marks!!

While I was completely full, I always have room for that something sweet at the end of any meal. I went with the hazelnut crusted ice cream sandwiches ($9). The vanilla gelato is from a local maker (Ice Haus Patissier from Natick, MA) and the dessert is topped off with a blood orange coulis. The ‘sandwich’ part of the cookies were dense, so the gelato was a nice way to cut through that. We all slept well, tired from our day and our bellies filled with delicious food.

Chopps American Bar and Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The next morning we headed down to Chopps again for breakfast. They have a take out area where you can grab a muffin and a coffee if you’re in a rush, right at the entrance of the restaurant.

They offer a la carte and buffet style breakfast. We opted for the buffet, which was loaded with fresh fruit, cereal, yogurt, eggs, bacon, potatoes, oatmeal, breads, muffins, and so much more. I made my own omelet and the kids ate their body weight in bacon and fresh fruit. (It’s all about balance right?)

We headed out from the Boston Marriott Burlington to the CambridgeSide Galleria mall. A short drive away, parking here is one of the least expensive in the area (as compared to Boston proper).The mall is undergoing massive renovations, looking forward to when it is completed. They had this super cool touch screen computer (pictured above right) where you could find local attractions, see photos and get directions to a number of tourist friendly places.

We were there to take a ride on the Charles Riverboat Company‘s sightseeing boat. We hopped on the first tour of the day at 10am, and it wasn’t that crowded, which was nice. You can stand outside on the front of the boat or grab a seat next to the window. You don’t have to stay seated throughout the whole tour. It was a 70 minute ride down the Charles River and you were entertained by the first mate – you may have even learned a little something too. For instance, did you know that you can only paint your state house roof gold if a president was born in your state? How about that the BU bridge (Go Terriers!) is the only place where you can sail a boat under a train driving under a car driving under an airplane. Tickets can be bought on line or at the boat (docked just outside the food court at the mall), and are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and military and $10 for children under 12.

We have lunch at the mall, because of convenience and timing after the ride. The Cheesecake Factory is great for kids and we were in and out pretty quickly.

After naps we headed over to the indoor pool. They do have an outdoor pool but it was being landscaped while we were there was thus, was closed. The pool is clean and warm and we practically had it to ourselves. They have locker rooms for changing and a water cooler on the deck. They have a great looking gym, split up into a cardio area and a weight room.

After a great swim and shower, we headed over to Chopps for dinner. This time, the weather was nice enough that we ate outside on their terrace. Such a great space – and the kids were able to walk around without bothering anyone else.

We had the same server as the night before, and had another good meal. I started with the clam chowder – served with an adorable mini corn muffin. It was thicker than soup but not cream based. Perfect for a fall-ish kind of night. Of course we had to try the crab cakes, my husband practically has Old Bay running through his veins. These were tasty – not a lot of binding, so it was jam packed with crab meat. I love the grapefruit slice on top, such a nice flavor pairing. I had the bolognese ($27), house made tagliatelle with pancetta, veal and beef ragu. The bolognese *felt* like it was healthy, it wasn’t a heavy cream based sauce. The swordfish ($32) was decadent, served with chorizo whipped potatoes, spinach and lobster nage. The kids had a grilled cheese sandwich served with fruit and the chicken fingers served with French fries. All items on the kids menu are $7-$12.

For dessert, we shared the house made cheesecake with blueberry topping and fruit coulis.

For breakfast on our final morning, we went with the pancakes off the a la carte menu (make sure you ask for a menu if you don’t feel like the buffet). I had sunny side up eggs made at the omelet bar with the buffet. Buffet breakfast is $19.95, while a la carte items range from about $10.75 – $14.95.

Thank you to the Boston Marriott Burlington for the great weekend staycation! It was just what we needed to finish out the summer!

Disclaimer: I was invited as a guest to stay at the Boston Marriott Burlington with my family. My room and meals were provided complimentary. All opinions are my own.

Boston Marriott Burlington

1 Burlington Mall Road, Burlington, MA

http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/bosbu-boston-marriott-burlington/

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I had family in town this weekend so we tried to pick out some touristy type things to do in the Back Bay. No trip to Boston should be without a stop at the Boston Public Garden. The flowers are a sight to see (I especially love to see the allium) and bring some bread for feeding the ducks. I’ve been reading my kids Robert McCloskey’s “Make Way for Ducklings” and wanted to show them the swan boats. This season they are open April 15 – September 17. They are open 10am – 5pm daily. Tickets are $3.50 for adults, $2 for kids age 2-15 and free for children under 2. The ride lasts about 10-15 minutes and is a nice way spend some time. For more information head over to their website.

What else is there to do in the Back Bay? How about a Duck Tour? A visit to Mario Batali’s Eataly. Take in some different views of the city from the Top of the Hub or the Skywalk.

Where are my favorite places to eat? Try:

Freshii for something light and healthy

VERTS for a fast casual, filling meal

Red Lantern for some upscale asian cuisine

Deuxave make sure to save room for dessert, Shaun Velez has some amazing creations

Porto for some seafood on the patio

The Courtyard in the Boston Public Library for some afternoon tea

Liquid Art House take in some art with your dinner

Shop on Newbury Street, in the Prudential or Copley Place, or roam the boutiques of the South End.

The Prudential offers events like FIT on the Garden and Family Film nights. Make sure to stop at the concierge desk to pick up a FREE PRUferred card that gets you access to discounts at many of the shops in the mall.

Newbury Street will close one more time before the summer is over, on September 10th. No cars will be allowed to drive from Arlington Street all the way up to Massachusetts Avenue. Restaurants have patio tables on the street and there are live performances scattered throughout the closed off area. Click here for an interactive map of Newbury Street.

What do you love about the Back Bay?

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When we are at the Cape, we rarely go out to eat, but when we do, I always like to try new places. We decided to take the family to Falmouth Raw Bar, located right by the Island Queen. The deck looks out over the harbor and they have a DJ or live music playing most nights. When we went for dinner, there was a live duo playing music from the 90’s – the music was a bit loud, so we opted to sit outside on the deck. It’s a great place for a casual bite or to hang out at the bar and watch “the game” on one of 5 large screen televisions.

I’m all about seafood in the summer, and everything fried, so I had the shrimp plate with fries. Prefer raw bars? They have littlenecks, oysters, peel and eat shrimp, poke ahi tuna, and ceviche. Just looking for some apps while watching the game or waiting for your ferry? They’ve got you covered with mussels, steamers, crab cakes, fried pickles, stuffed quahogs and chicken wings. What can you expect for entrees? Grilled chicken sandwiches , lobster rolls, clam bakes, fried clam rolls and more. We ordered the slider trio, a lobster salad, a chicken salad and a tuna salad sandwich. It was just ok, I think I would stick to the fried food or the raw bar.

Service was on par with summers on the Cape. Don’t feel like dining in? They do take out. Parking is right out front, but during peak times, you will have to park in the nearby lot.

Where’s your favorite place on the Cape to get fried seafood?

Falmouth Raw Bar

56 Scranton Ave., Falmouth, MA

www.falmouthrawbar.com

Falmouth Raw Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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I’m always looking for fun places to take my family. Last week we went back to Kimball Farm (the first time we just had ice cream). They have four locations, Jaffrey, NH, Carlisle, Lancaster and Westford. The Westford location of Kimball Farm is the only location that has activities like mini golf, a soaring eagle zip line, batting cages, bumper boats and a driving range.

They have two different mini golf courses – there were a lot of people playing but it went fairly quickly. Of course I chose the hottest day last week to stand outside in the hot sun – needless to say we were sweating by the end! Good thing that we were able to cool off with some ice cream!

The kids had fun, we played one round of mini golf, spent some time on the bumper boats and walked around the grounds. They had pony rides, an arcade, spin zone bumper cars and an 86 station driving range. There were a lot of companies at Kimball Farm, hanging out for their summer outings. They have the space to accommodate 4,00 guests. Kimball Farm has a great little seafood and grill shack with popular items like clam plates, shrimp plates, grilled cheese sandwiches, pulled pork sandwiches, veggie burgers and chicken fingers.

Kimball Farm has over 40 flavors of ice cream, sherbet, sorbet and yogurt. They even have sugar free ice cream. With so many flavors it was hard to choose, I went with the M&M this time, but I do love caramel cashew chip, coffee heath bar crunch, peanut butter butterfinger and peppermint stick. I got the small and instantly regretted it. The small is ENORMOUS. I should have ordered the kiddie size, which is more like a true small ice cream!

Where’s your favorite place to take the family?

Kimball Farm

400 Littleton Road, Westford, MA

www.kimballfarm.com

kimball farm Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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