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A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

A lifestyle blog with a focus on my food adventures

IMG_5438In lieu of holiday gifts for one another, a group of us got together and went out for dinner at Alden and Harlow. We sat all the way in the back of the restaurant on the far side of the bar – which on a weekend night was a tough spot – it was right next to the door so we felt a cold draft every time someone left and the door didn’t close all the way so we would have to pull it tight each time. In addition, the bar was packed, so we were constantly getting our chairs bumped and people were hovering over our table. That being said, I love the food at Alden and Harlow. We started with the chips and dip ($8) that satisfied our salty snack craving!

IMG_5440I had the burrata that was so creamy and delicious, a really nice texture when paired with the crispy toast.

IMG_5443The Verrill Farm corn pancakes never disappoint – they come whimsically topped with popcorn and shishito peppers ($13).

IMG_5444The charred broccoli with butternut squash, hummus, bianco sardo and cashew was delicious ($13).

IMG_5445Even though it was a weekend night, the service was excellent, our dishes came out promptly and our waiter was on top of the ball.

IMG_5446Trust me when I say “oh my gravy”…it was really delicious!

IMG_5447As a side note, who can’t wait for Scelfo’s Naco Taco to open in Central Square?

IMG_5448I loved the cauliflower dish – maybe even more than the broccoli…

IMG_5449The great thing about Alden and Harlow is that they have tapas style plates – you can order a bunch of things for the table and share – allowing you to try a little bit of everything.

IMG_5450They were out of the secret burger that night, so we went with the steak instead, which came beautifully plated and the flavor did not disappoint.

IMG_5451For dessert we had the smoked chocolate bread pudding with Jacobsen Salt ice cream ($9). The smokey flavor definitely pulled through and the salt just elevated the dish to another level.

IMG_5452My favorite dessert of the night was the buttermilk and lemon pound cake with torched blackberry compote and almond whip ($9). The flavors were simple and clean and yet after licking the plate clean I found myself craving more!

Alden and Harlow

40 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA

http://aldenharlow.com/

Alden & Harlow on Urbanspoon

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Good Ones Limelight 1

Meet #Goodone Martina Blazeska, a 20 year old student attending Berklee College of Music. Originally from Ohrid, Macedonia she is an up and coming musician who came to perform at a recent Good Ones event held at Limelight Stage and Studios. While everyone else was singing karaoke, Martina played two cover songs and an original. To hear her sound, check her out on YouTube.

I had a chance to interview Martina after the event:

D: You’re originally from Macedonia, what made you decide to come to Boston?

M: I really like the United States in general. I chose Boston because I was accepted at Berklee College of Music. The city turned out to be great, even though I’m more of a West Coast fan.

D: How long have you been singing?

M: I started playing guitar and have been at it for only 5 years! Two years after I started playing guitar, I started to sing and it developed naturally from there paired with the guitar.

D: Is your family musically inclined as well?

M: No one in my family does music professionally, but they are true music lovers. In fact, my mother used to play accordion when she was a little. I think I have her genes.

D: Who are your biggest musical influences?

M: From contemporary to jazz, blues, funk, disco and pop, I have a lot of influences. When it comes to guitar I’m a fingerstyle player, but I compose music in mixed styles.

D: If you could meet any musician, alive or deceased, who would it be and why?

M: If I could meet one person, that would definitely be John Mayer. I am fully inspired and affected by his music. His music, personality and style plays a huge role in my career in general.

D: Where do you get your inspiration for your original pieces?

M: The inspiration for my original music comes from the actions and daily events around me. I get inspired by people, nature and the music I listen to. If something touches my emotions strong enough, my reaction easily becomes music.

D: Do you play other instruments besides the guitar?

M: I have trained in classical music on the piano for years.

D: What are you studying at Berklee?

M: I’m a guitar performance major at Berklee, which means the main focus is on my guitar playing. Other than Guitar and Ensembles, I take Harmony and Arranging and Ear Training classes which help me improve my music understanding and knowledge.

D: What are some of your other passions besides music?

M: I love traveling and exploring. I usually do it with my family and closest friends.

D: Do you have any shows coming up where people can see you play?

There are no shows scheduled at the moment but I encourage people to follow my YouTube and Facebook page to keep up with the news.

Good Ones Limelight 2The rest of the evening was a blast as well! Good Ones Eric Kramer and Heloisa Fitzgerald gave George Michael a run for his money with their rendition of “Faith”.

Good Ones Limelight 3Co-founders of the Good Ones Jennifer Brook (left) and Carolyn Kim (right) also gave stellar performances that evening.

If you are interested in a Good Ones membership, check out their website here. Memberships include 3 party invitations per month with a complimentary guest at each event.

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underFiRE 1For me, when I think of FiRE + iCE, I think tourists. Restauranteur Jim Miller and Rafael Barbosa opened a new restaurant located under FiRE + iCE called underFiRE. Miller and Barbosa were looking to fill a niche – a casual neighborhood space where people could come and relax after work. Even though they are hoping for a casual vibe, the attention to detail that Barbosa put into the space is impressive – everything from the lights to the tabletops.

underFiRE 2The drinks are handcrafted, check out the strawberry basil margarita made with Don Julio Blanco Tequila, house-made sour mix, simple syrup, and muddled strawberries, and garnished with fresh basil leaves.

underFiRE 3The specialty of underFiRE are the tacos: The Club (Peruvian style grilled chicken, braised pork belly and cheddar), Spicy Idaho (chorizo and diced potato) and Chimi-Rib (braised beef short rib and chimichurri). Other menu items will include chips and guacamole, a build-a-burger selection featuring beef, turkey and veggie burgers, buffalo calamari (where the buffalo sauce has been dehydrated and added to the batter), and quesadillas.

underFiRE

205 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA

Check out their Facebook page here.

Under Fire on Urbanspoon

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Honeybaked Ham 2We tried to get a ham around Easter time (big mistake, after all, it is the unofficial ham holiday!), but couldn’t get in the parking lot at the HoneyBaked Ham store. Plan B – wait until Mother’s Day. HoneyBaked ham has a sweet, crunchy glaze and a smokey flavor. We picked up a 3 pound bone in ham for $32.90. This is the perfect size for 3 people.

Honeybaked Ham 1They also had a deal on sides, 3 for $25 – so we picked up the cornbread dressing (right), the sweet potato souffle (left) and the broccoli rice casserole. What is great about the sides is that you heat them all up at the same temperature! One oven, one temperature, one cook time – so easy! The sweet potato souffle was great, it tasted almost like a dessert. The cornbread dressing was great, a little crunch on top just the way I like it. The broccoli casserole was a bit of a mess for us, it didn’t come out the way it looked on the box – it was super watery. But by the time the second day rolled around, the sauce had thickened up and when we reheated, it was perfect.

Honeybaked Ham 3While you can get HoneyBaked hams for special occasions, you can also stop by their stores and pick up a ham for a weeknight dinner, they have bone in and boneless hams that you can order and reserve in store (or just drop in). They have other options I didn’t know about like thick cut bacon, beef pot roast, pork roast, and bbq baby back ribs. Did you also know the store in Framingham offers lunch (pick up in store) and catering – sandwiches (not just ham, they have turkey too), soups and salads. So stop in and take another look at HoneyBaked Ham…you will be pleasantly surprised.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. HoneyBaked Ham provided me with gift cards to sample their products. All opinions are my own.

HoneyBaked Ham

240 Worcester Street, Framingham, MA

https://myhoneybakedstore.com

Honeybaked Ham on Urbanspoon

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Vine Brook Tavern 1I was invited to have lunch the other day at Vine Brook Tavern, located in historic Lexington. Vine Brook Tavern is owned and run by Marcus Palmer, who has worked with an amazing array of talented chefs, most notably, Jean Georges Vongerichten. Palmer has worked in some of the top restaurants in Boston, including: Market in the W Hotel in Boston, Smith and Wollensky, Morton’s, Olive’s and Legal Sea Foods. The kitchen is run by Executive Chef Chris Frothingham, who has worked at places like Sel de la Terre, Bonfire and Kingfish Hall.

Vine Brook Tavern has two floors and offers a number of different dining options: shown above are two of the upstairs dining rooms, perfect for a private party.

Vine Brook Tavern 2Top left, one of the upstairs semi private dining rooms; top right, the large bar located downstairs (they have several tvs so you can come in and catch the game while grabbing a bite); pictured on the bottom are the upstairs windows that face the street.

Vine Brook Tavern 4Vine Brook Tavern will serve lunch 7 days a week, with an express lunch Monday – Friday, a menu focused on those that only have an hour for lunch, with a spotlight on salads, panini press sandwiches and burgers. Pictured on the right is the “secret” pizza menu, offered at dinner time only, and only available for pickup – you can choose from 4 options or choose to create your own.

Vine Brook Tavern 3Pictured on the top left: the cast iron eggs ($12), loaded breakfast potatoes, caramelized onions, bacon, two eggs over easy, topped with sausage gravy. The gravy is what did it for me, really flavorful – it made this dish special. Pictured top right: the crispy challah French toast ($11)  served with maple pecan butter, blueberries and maple syrup. Here is what makes this dish so delicious, the custard cream center of the toast and the “crispy” is frosted flakes cereal…just to add a little extra sweetness. Pictured on the bottom is a flat bread with proscuitto, fried eggs and pea tendrils. The dough is delicious, stop in and pick up a pizza today, you don’t want to miss it!

Other great things about Vine Brook Tavern: they have a chef’s table, once a month, on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, you and 8 of your friends can come in for a 6 course meal, complete with pairings, for $99 per person. Vine Brook Tavern also offers a wine class once a month, each one focusing on a different varietal. The classes are $30 per person. They have previously had beer and tequila classes too – stop in and check out a class, they last about 2 hours.

Disclaimer: Vine Brook Tavern invited me to be their guest and provided me with a complimentary lunch. All opinions are my own.

Vine Brook Tavern

20 Waltham Street, Lexington, MA

http://vinebrooktavern.com/

Vine Brook Tavern on Urbanspoon

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Au Bon Pain 4A few weeks ago I was invited to check out the new look (and tastes) at Au Bon Pain. I was pleasantly surprised with the updates that had been made. First the space – open, with traditional seating (with outlets!) and some high top tables. Come in and pick up something on the go, or sit for an hour with your computer, it’s your choice.

The new executive chef, Katherine See, was challenged to redesign the menu for spring and summer. They are rolling out a bunch of new salads, with the intent on making the portion sizes larger and adding more protein to their offerings. The chicken and turkey found on all the salads are all antibiotic free. Pictured above is the Asian chicken salad with udon noodles and a whole chicken breast, with edamame as an added protein!

Au Bon Pain 1Top left, the steak salad, 4 ounces of sirloin, sliced to order – cooked a perfect medium rare. Top and bottom right, the harvest turkey salad with red grapes, walnuts, turkey breast and goat cheese. Bottom left, the lobster salad with bacon and avocado over a bed of romaine. With this new line of salads also comes a new line of dressings – I loved the sesame ginger dressing on the asian chicken salad.

Au Bon Pain 3Moving on to sandwiches, the same steak that you saw in the salad above is also available in a sandwich. Now I’m not usually a steak sandwich kind of gal, but this was delicious – the meat was tender, add on some melted asiago cheese and serve on fresh bread – yum! It felt like a fresher, healthier version of a steak and cheese sandwich. Pictured on the right is the lobster salad, served on a croissant – perfect for summer time!

Au Bon Pain 2

Au Bon Pain listens to their customers – people really loved their croissants, but wanted a healthier version – so they introduced the multigrain croissant. And gone are the days where multigrain tastes like cardboard, these won’t make you feel guilty if you have one every day. Moving on to the sweets, pictured  on the top right is their monkey bread: sticky (but not too) sweet, light dough, meant to be broken apart with your fingers. Chef See was also challenged to add more fresh seasonal fruit to the menu, bring in the Croisbun: croissant dough filled with sweet cream and topped with a light spread of jelly and fresh strawberries. Not pictured, but quickly devoured, was the peanut butter cookie: this is not just a peanut butter cookie, it has whole roasted chopped peanuts and peanut butter – you’ll just have to stop in and try one for yourself!

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post.

Au Bon Pain

431 Boylston Street, Boston, MA

http://aubonpain.com/

Au Bon Pain on Urbanspoon

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This post is one of those that slipped through the cracks – now I’m trying to play catch up! While we were in Aruba over the winter, my sister in law and I decided to treat ourselves to a day at the spa at the newly opened Ritz Carlton.

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We booked appointments over the website, which proved to be difficult. They took a few days to get back to us and there was issue with holding the appointments with a credit card among other things. Not the level of service if you called let’s say the New York location or the Boston location.

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Everything was still very new and the locker room was very clean. Just a note for the modest – people in the locker room can see through the doors into the shower even though they appear to be frosted.

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There is a lovely selection of sugar scrubs for the shower, each with a distinctive smell.

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There weren’t many other guests in the common space at the spa, so we had the place to ourselves.

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There was a great hot tub and steam room area that we didn’t get to enjoy – but it looked super relaxing!

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The spa is 15,000 square feet and has 13 treatment rooms. A 22% gratuity is added on to all services and guest must be 18 or older to enjoy spa services and ammenities.

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I opted for a prenatal massage and my sister in law for the hot stone. The treatment rooms had a relaxing vibe – and the massage was decent, but I had a hard time relaxing. I spent most of the time on my side and while I am trying to relax I hear the therapist whisper in my ear, “do I have permission to touch the belly?” which threw me for a little bit of a loop.

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In addition to the massage I had a pedicure. They have a great salon area – hair and makeup stations as well as manicure tables and pedicure chairs.

IMG_5322Even after getting a massage, I still took advantage of the massaging pedicure chair. Overall a decent experience, although not sure that it lived up to it’s price tag.

Been to Aruba? Where do you like to spa?

Ritz Carlton

L.G Smith Boulevard # 107, Palm Beach, Aruba Dutch Caribbean

View the spa website here.

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EG40 (3)Beauty icon Elizabeth Grady turned 40 this year! To celebrate, the brand got an updated logo and a big birthday bash!  Delicious bites included cupcakes made by Whisk in flavors like chocolate blackberry and basil (above), caramelized white chocolate and strawberry, and walnut and raisin.

EG40 (4)You may know Whisk from it’s time at Wink and Nod in the South End. Chef/Owner Jeremy Kean honed his skills at some of Boston’s finest restaurants (Rialto, Garden in the Cellar, Aquitaine) before starting Whisk with partner Philip Kruta.

EG40(L-R: Sam Wolf, former manager at Bistro du Midi who will be the general manager at Jospehine; Sam Gosselin, restaurant owner; Nick Oldham, former sous chef at Eastern Standard, who will be chef de cuisine) Light bites were provided by the highly anticipated Josephine, opening this spring (May) in the old Petite Robert location in Kenmore Square. Stefano Quaresima, former executive chef at the South End location of Petite Robert, will head up the kitchen as executive chef. A sampling of what you can expect to see at the new restaurant include: chicken liver mousse with port wine gelee; smoked crab, eggplant croquette and tomato coulis; gruyere cake, goat cheese creme with black olive tapenade; cauliflower panna cotta with smoked duck carpaccio and truffle oil; chocolate mousse, langue de chat; and a lemon creme cerrine with fresh raspberry.

EG40 (2)Jugos was on site with a sampling of their cold press juices. Shown above are the Montauk: kale, pear, pineapple, cucumber and mint; the Chia Fresca: alkaline h20, chia seeds, lime and honey; and the Jugos: orange, grapefruit, pear, lemon and mint.

IMG_0320Deep Eddy vodka was mixing up some delicious cocktails:

Lemon Splash: Deep Eddy lemon vodka, soda and lemon garnish

The Ruby: Deep Eddy Ruby Red vodka, soda and lime garnish

EG40 (1)Guests mingled while listening to beats by DJ Dre, of Elements Events, and every 15 minutes there was a drawing for great prizes like spray tans and facials.

Visit Elizabeth Grady at their Downtown Crossing location at 1 Winthrop Square.

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IMG_0256Select Good Ones met up at Liquid Art House for an interactive interpretation on a traditional fashion show. Guests nibbled on light bites and sipped bubbly cocktails while mingling with designers and the models showcasing their designs.

Good Ones LAH 1Matteo Gemignani was born and raised in Tuscany, Italy. He co-founded Adora Bags with the intention of bringing the beauty and charm of Italian craftsmanship to the US, at a price point that is fair for all.

Good Ones LAH 2Liquid Art House provided gourmet popcorn – in both sweet and spicy varieties.

Good Ones LAH 5(Left: (L-R) Dominique Quinque, designer; Candice Wu, designer, Chelsea Angers, model; Milena Ilieva, model. Top Right: Candice Wu, designer. Bottom Right: Monica Singh, Carolyn Kim, Jennifer Brooke, Matthew Tambiah, Oksana Barchuk, Iva Nikolau)

Dominique Quinque comes from the former East Germany where she grew up in Dessau, home of the famous Bauhaus style of design and architecture. Here Dominique developed a passion for art and design. Although she chose a career in science, a big part of her life remained dedicated to painting, carpentry and crafts. Dominique worked until 2012 as a researcher in a lab at Harvard Medical School but after 10 years in science she decided to go back to her artistic roots and enrolled as a student at the School of Fashion Design in Newbury Street. Here she learned a varied skill set that allows her to design, create patterns and construct garments she envisions. She likes to combine her artistic and scientific views to explore the essence of fabrics and the human form. By using unexpected techniques she aims to create garments that are subtle with moments of surprise. Dominique displayed her work as a chosen LAUNCH designer of Boston Fashion Week 2014.

Good Ones LAH 4(Left: Jennifer Brooke, modeling one of Dominique’s designs. Top Right: Monica Singh and Iva Nikolau. Bottom Right: Candice Wu, designer) Candice looked stunning this evening modeling Dominique’s designs. Fun tidbit: Dominique was one of Candice’s first models when she started out!

Good Ones LAH 3(Left: Carolyn Kim, Co-founder of the Good Ones; Matthew Tambiah. Top Right: Candice Wu, designer; Milena Ilieva, model; Dominique Quinque, designer; Chelsea Angers, model; Jennifer Brooke, Co-founder of the Good Ones. Bottom Right: (L-R) Carolyn Kim, Inga Puzikov, jewelry designer)

Like what you see? Interested in attending a Good Ones event? Fill out a personality snapshot here: http://thegoodones.co/membership/

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Smokey Bones 7A few weeks ago I was invited to the soft opening for Smokey Bones in the North Shore Mall.

Smokey Bones 1A great place if you want to go out and grab some beers with friends and catch the game or bring the whole family in for an affordable dinner.

Smokey Bones 2The service was good, everyone was friendly and the timing was seamless.

Smokey Bones 8The menu is extensive – something for everyone.

Smokey Bones 3We started off with the smoked wings – they have a dry rub and then are slow smoked to keep in the flavor. They’re finished off with a drizzle of sauce – we had the sweet brown sugar. Other sauces include: KC BBQ, Chipotle BBQ, Mustard BBQ, Carolina Mopping sauce, garlic parmesan, buffalo, and spicy garlic buffalo among others. I’m not generally a wing gal, but these were pretty darn delicious. On Monday nights they have an all you can eat wingfest, $10.99 for all you can eat wings, starting at 9pm (see website for details and restrictions).

Smokey Bones 4I went with the create your own combo plate: the Texas style brisket with a side of tater tots and a side of mac and cheese. I wasn’t as impressed with the brisket as I was with the wings, but the portions were generous and the sides were delicious.

Smokey Bones 5We also had the smokehouse burger, 1/2lb patty with BBQ sauce, cheddar, bbq’d onions, peppered bacon, onion tanglers and a toasted bun. Add on a side of onion rings and this is a great choice.

Smokey Bones 6For dessert we had the hot bag of donuts. How can you go wrong with that? They came warm, rolled in cinnamon and sugar, with a side of chocolate sauce and raspberry jam. Who needs dinner, I could have eaten just these!!

GIVEAWAY: I am giving away a $25 gift card to Smokey Bones. Leave a comment below letting me know what style BBQ is your favorite: Memphis, Carolina, Texas or Kansas City. Winner will be chosen Friday, 4/3.

Disclaimer: Smokey Bones invited me to be their guest for the evening and provided me with dinner. All opinions are my own.

Smokey Bones
210 Andover Street, Peabody, MA
smokeybones.com

Smokey Bones on Urbanspoon

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