Restaurant


Last weekend, my friend Megan and I ventured North to Burlington, VT for the weekend. It was a bit of a random trip and just happened to fall on the coldest weekend of the winter so far. The cold didn’t bother us too much since we were to busy eating, drinking, shopping and visiting a spa. Oh yeah, and meeting firefighters too. Not a bad weekend. 😉

Burlington is known for a few famous things: Ben and Jerry’s, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, Magic Hat beer and the University of Vermont. It’s a laid back, clean, fun college town right on Lake Champlain.

The foodie in me was sure to take as many photos of my meals as possible – and I only got a few funny looks!

When we arriving late Friday night, we checked into our hotel (which happened to have a view of the lake!) before leaving again to get a bite to eat. Right up the street was the Vermont Pub & Brewery. I’d read some good reviews online so I was excited to check it out. The place was less exciting than I pictured but you can’t judge a book by its cover, right? Well maybe you can.

The food was just average but the beer was decent. I had read that the sweet potato fries were amazing but they just didn’t do it for me – especially since they were served only lukewarm (ick!). Unfortunately, my sandwich wasn’t anything to write home about either. Being the oldest craft brewery in Vermont, I expected the beer to be good and it was, albeit unique. I tend to like fruity beers so I ordered the Forbidden Fruit. It was pretty tasty but not very beer-like. While I liked the flavor, it reminded me more of raspberry iced tea than beer.

The service was just average as well. Our waitress was not very friendly and made us feel rushed. We were hungry and tired so I guess being rushed wasn’t completely a bad thing. Overall, the Vermont Pub & Brewery was just an okay experience for us. Luckily, that was our last average meal of the weekend.  

On Saturday, it was 8 degrees (gasp!) when we stepped outside. While I was born and raised in New England, I’m not really a fan of winter or cold weather (what the heck was I doing in Vermont in January?). My parents warned me but Megan and I made the best of it. Surprisingly, the cold really didn’t bother us much.

After a light breakfast and a little shopping, we headed to the Magic Hat Brewery (more beer!) in South Burlington. I love love love Magic Hat #9 but hadn’t liked the other Magic Hat beers I’d tried in the past. My time at the brewery changed that. We met up with my friend Amanda and her boyfriend who live in the area to go on the brewery tour. It wasn’t much of a tour but our tour guide was energetic and we learned a little about the history of the brewery and craft beer in general. Magic Hat is currently available in 36 states and its #9 beer results in 50-60% of its revenue. See, I was listening. I knew I liked #9 for a reason!

During the tour, we were given one beer sample and after the tour, we visited the bar on site where visitors can have as many (2 ounce) samples as they want. For free! The tour was completely free too. We tasted a few beers over the next hour and chatted about Burlington and where we should eat that night. I’m always thinking about my next meal!

Magic Hat’s bar is in their company store, which was fittingly dark and designed with funky dĂ©cor and florescent lights. I kind of felt like I was hanging out in Spencer Gifts for a minute! In addition to #9, I tasted (and liked!) Magic Hat’s Vinyl, Spring Odd Notion, and Single Chair brews. Magic Hat also offers these cool half gallon growlers of freshly brewed beer so I was sure to bring one home with me!

After leaving Magic Hat, we said goodbye to Amanda and Andrew and  went back to Burlington. We decided to grab an afternoon snack at Luenig’s Bistro. It’s a French restaurant is located on the corner of College and Church Street in downtown Burlington. We hadn’t had lunch so we shared a cheese and fruit plate to hold us over until dinner. We enjoyed aged cheddar cheese from Grafton Village, a local cheese company and it was delicious! One of the best cheeses I’ve ever had.

After a little more shopping and a trip to a spa, we went to dinner at the American Flatbread Company. The restaurant was packed with people but we were lucky to get a seat at the bar where we were able to enjoy artisan flatbread and hand-crafted beer. The menu is simple, offering one salad and a variety of flatbread pizzas. I was lacking veggies for the day so I had a salad first then Meg and I split a pizza. We ordered one flatbread – half cheese and herb, half new Vermont sausage (nitrate-free maple and fennel sausage with sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions, mushrooms, cheeses and herbs). The pizza was fresh and full of flavor!

During dinner, I enjoyed one of their specialty beers, Farmhouse Ale – which was Belgian style and organic. Sitting at the bar was highly entertaining. The bartender was friendly and the people around us were fun as well. We talked to a couple who lived in the area, a girl from Boston who just graduated college and was looking to move out West and some local firefighters, too. They all had suggestions of where we should eat and what we should do while in town. With all the attention, I started to wonder if we looked out of place!?

Our day of food and beer didn’t stop us from enjoying a big breakfast before our departure on Sunday. I’d read about Magnolia Bistro online and our new friends mentioned it too. It was right up the street from our hotel so we stopped on our way out of town. Luckily, we were seated right away – that never happens on a Sunday morning in Boston!

Magnolia Bistro is a unique eatery that fits well into the Burlington culture. While it offers fairly traditional breakfast items, each offering has a little twist. Magnolia uses local and organic ingredients whenever possible and is a certified green restaurant. Very Burlington.

Meg and I were eyeing the fresh banana bread on the menu (I love when restaurants list appetizers for breakfast!) so we ordered that to start. The banana bread was warm and moist, served with cranberry cream cheese. Delish! For my meal, I ordered oatmeal pancakes with apples and bananas which were full of texture and also very tasty (somewhat healthy too!). Other unique offerings include lemon ricotta pancakes, banana bread French toast, and a North Carolina omelet (with bbq pulled pork and Vermont cheddar).

With our bellies full, we left Burlington on our three hour drive back home. I’m looking forward to going back in the summer time when we’re able to spend more time outside and explore a bit more. Burlington is definitely a great getaway for foodies!

As much as I have my favorite restaurants, I am always up for trying somewhere new. Last Friday night, my friend Holly and I went out to dinner at Garden at the Cellar in Cambridge. 

Garden at the Cellar is located on Mass Ave in Cambridge, between Central and Harvard Square. The restaurant’s vision is to provide “local, sustainable, fresh and seasonal food, cuisine and ingredients.” Definitely my kind of place !

Upon arriving, the restaurant looked busy but not packed. Little did we know, the bar was downstairs and that’s where parties waiting for a table were hiding. After giving the hostess my name, we headed downstairs to get drink. The bar was very basic with just one (very friendly!) bartender. Within a few minutes we had a seat at the bar and about an hour later our table was ready. The hour actually flew by even though we were hungry! Even though Holly and I have known each other since 7th grade, we can always find something to talk about!

The restaurant is small but adorable, with about 10-12 tables in total. There is also a small bar upstairs that allowed for some people watching during our meal. Garden at the Cellar’s dinner menu is  divided into small plates, charcuterie, appetizers, soups, salads, grilled flatbreads and entrees. While the offerings are somewhat unique, there is something for everyone’s appetite.

Holly and I decided to order Bacon Wrapped Dates ($6) off the small plates list to start. The dates were served on a bed of curried apple hash and the bacon/date combination of salty and sweet was apparent. I love bacon so I knew this dish would be tasty.  

Because I’d read so much about the rosemary-truffle fries, I decided to order the Hanger Steak ($25) for dinner which came with the infamous fries. The steak was served over spinach and parsnip puree which may not sound too appetizing but it was delicious. The beef was cooked perfectly and the fries were pretty awesome. I wouldn’t say they are the best fries I’ve ever had but they were thin and full of flavor, just the way I like them. My only complaint is that I couldn’t finish my meal. See, I’m learning portion control. 🙂

Holly decided on the Hand Rolled Potato Gnocchi ($17) for her meal. The gnocchi was mixed with squash, sage, tomato-lemon confit and Parmesan cheese and the portion size was perfect. She was happy with her meal.

I noticed on the menu that Garden at the Cellar offers a dish which includes four sides for $17. I really enjoyed the sides that complemented my meal so I may consider ordering that plate next time.

Garden at the Cellar doesn’t offer dessert (as a way to turn tables quicker, I believe) but we were pretty stuffed anyway, so that wasn’t a problem. Check out Garden at the Cellar if you’re in the area. We were satisfied with our delicious meals and attentive service and I’m sure you will be too.

I haven’t done a lot of cooking this week but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating well (and by well, I mean great tasting food, through not completely healthy). Tuesday was my birthday so dinners out and birthday cake was on the agenda for earlier this week.  

On Sunday night, I had dinner with my family at a small Italian restaurant in Shrewsbury, MA called Amici’s. I hadn’t been there in years but remember the food being great. We started with a family-sized antipasto (delicious!) and after some indecision, I ordered the Risotto Pignoli. It was a tasty combination of toasted pine nuts, garlic, sundried tomato & spinach mixed with melted boursin cheese. It was enough for three meals, literally.

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For dessert, birthday cake! My family brought a chocolate and vanilla layer cake with peanut butter filling and vanilla frosting. It was moist, sweet and the perfect birthday treat. Check out the photo below…it’s even decorated with the November flower, chrysanthemums.

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On my actual birthday, one of my friends stopped by my office with cupcakes. The perfect afternoon birthday snack! Then, some of my college friends treated me to dinner at Lil Vinny’s in Somerville. Yes, more Italian food! I discovered this restaurant when I first moved to the Boston area and while it’s a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, the interior is very cute and the food is consistently delicious. I ordered what I always do, Stuffed Eggplant with homemade fusilli. It’s a large portion of breaded eggplant, stuffed with red peppers, spinach and cheese and then topped with marinara and more cheese. It’s like a superior eggplant parm!

Let’s just say I returned to my normal eating habits on Wednesday and I actually cooked dinner last night. I’ll be posting that tomorrow!

What’s your favorite birthday restaurant or meal?

If you’re familiar with Glamour Magazine, you know they are famous for their Dos and Don’ts section which normally features fashion faux pas (and pretty outrageous ones at that!). Well, I like fashion but this isn’t that kind of blog. Instead, I bring you the Dos and Don’ts of Mexican Food. You’re on the edge of your seat, right?

Sometimes I struggle with choosing a meal when I’m eating out. I normally browse the menu and multiple items look appetizing to me. I have the angel on my shoulder telling me to order the healthy option and the devil on my other shoulder pushing me to splurge. Well, last night the devil won when I went out for Mexican food. I have read so much on healthy eating that I know what a should order but I usually order what I want instead. I’m working on that balance. 😉

But, I’m giving myself a break because last night was my roommate’s birthday celebration and we were in a bit of party mode for a Wednesday. A group of us met at the Border Cafe in Harvard Square for dinner and drinks. The Border Cafe is a Mexican restaurant with Cajun flare. It’s unique, always packed and the food is awesome. Plus, the decor is rustic with Christmas lights added for charm(?).

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Anyway, I ordered Frozen Sangria for a drink (as did five other people). It was huge (for under $5) and a great drink for a hot Boston night. For dinner, the Shrimp and Crawfish Quesadilla just jumped out at me. I wish it had more vegetables and less cheese but it was amazing. I mean, can there ever be too much cheese? The cheese had a great flavor to it and it was gooey and just perfect in the quesadillas. Oh, and let’s not forget that Border Cafe gave us an abundant supply of warm, homemade tortilla chips with salsa to start. Mmm.

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While I greatly enjoyed my meal and last night as a whole, I am going to make myself feel better (and maybe offer some education) on what smart choices are all about when ordering Mexican. If you’d rather not know, look away now.

 

DO indulge on salsa but limit your intake of tortilla chips

DON’T order margaritas or other fruity drinks if you’re watching your calories

DO order a light beer or a glass of wine if water isn’t doing the trick

DON’T forget your veggies; find something on the menu where vegetables are a central ingredient

DO order fajitas – veggie, shrimp and chicken are your best bet

DON’T eat the flour tortillas that come with the fajitas – if you can help it

DO limit your intake of sour cream and cheese

DON’T forget that guacamole is a relatively healthy alternative to sour cream (yay for avocados!)

DO order corn tortillas if you can skip the flour ones – you’ll save some calories and add grains

DON’T feel the need to finish everything on your plate

DO enjoy your meal and time with friends

DON’T stress about meal choice, just eat something healthier for your next meal

DO splurge every so often – we only live once!

While in Maine over the weekend, my family and I went to have breakfast at a place we’ve been going for years, Merriland Farm in Wells, Maine. It’s off the beaten path so it’s not quite as touristy as the other breakfast spots in the area but the food is always delicious. The breakfast menu is focused on berry dishes (from berries grown on-site) but also has quite a few other options as well. My family has always been a fan of Merriland Farm’s tea breads and crepes – and they seem to grow bigger every time we visit.

Merriland Farm is a family-owned business which includes a cafe and par-3 golf course. The golf course is unique because it was designed among the family’s berry fields. We also made time for golf last week and as we were making our way around the course we passed multiple patches of blueberry bushes. The family grows and picks the berries for the cafe and even make their own jams and pies.

Growing up, I remember Merriland Farm as a small cafe for breakfast but over the years they have grown and done renovations and now serve lunch (as well as dinner on the weekend). Check out more about the cafe here.

Over the weekend my mom and I shared a Mixed Berry Tea Bread, as a little appetizer of course. 🙂 The bread was extremely moist and full of berries!

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My mom chose the Crepes for breakfast, which was actually one big crepe stuffed with berries and topped with whipped cream. Check out the berry goodness!

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I chose the  Baked Blueberry French Toast which was described on the menu as “baked bread in a maple custard stuffed with cream cheese and blueberries then topped with a warm blueberry compote & whip cream.” I was actually a little skeptical because I’m not normally a fan of custard-type fillings but mixed the the cream cheese and berries, it was great combination of flavors and I really enjoyed it.

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My dad chose to go the egg route and had the Sausage Confetti Omelet which was described as “sweet Italian sausage sautĂ©ed with sweet bell peppers, onions and filled with mozzarella cheese.” It was deliciously huge and overstuffed with fillings! His omelet came with a side of Russett Potato Gaufrettes, which are unique but fantastic. Think of a thin (almost chip-like), mostly crunchy waffle fry and you get gaufrettes! They are a nice alternative to homefries.  

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 I would have included photos from our golf adventure but I didn’t want to horrify you with my terrible golfing skills! Maybe next year 😉

Last night, I met my friends for dinner at a sushi restaurant called Taipei Tokyo in Somerville (Davis Square). I’ve been to this restaurant many times before and I really enjoy it. They offer a variety of Asian dishes from sushi to Chinese to Thai. There’s really something for everyone! Plus the menu is HUGE. Looking at it last night I think it actually expanded since the last time I visited. They have so many inventive sushi rolls – pages and pages!

The restaurant is small but cozy and the decor is nice and simple. My friends and I got a table in the back to seat all six of us.

We ordered soups, salads and sushi for dinner and I can proudly say we nearly cleared all of our plates. Sushi is one of those foods that can be really good for you if you make smart decisions. Plus, most restaurants offer sushi rolls made with brown rice but we forgot about that until after we had ordered. Oh well, there’s always next time.

I started out with miso soup which was good but nothing too special. Two of my friends ordered seaweed salad and it looked delicious. Check out the presentation!

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Moving on to the main course, I’m not a huge fan of raw fish so I stuck to cooked and vegetable rolls. I love love love the shrimp tempura roll but I am trying to watch my waistline so I chose a healthier option. I went with a mango shrimp roll and a cucumber avocado roll.

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I wasn’t crazy about the mango shrimp roll (though it wasn’t bad) but the cucumber avocado roll was excellent! I think I was expecting the mango shrimp roll to take the place of my normal shrimp tempura and it just didn’t happen. Oh well, at least I tried something new. And, I can’t say I didn’t leave full! 🙂

HAPPY FRIDAY!! 🙂 🙂

Hope everyone had a good 4th! I am happy to report that the consistent rain has finally left New England. Yes! I’m hoping for a more summer-like July. I spent the weekend in Maine and, overall, the weather was great
blue skies and sun. We had the occasional shower but I’m okay with that as long as it’s mostly sunny. 🙂

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I always tend to fall off the healthy eating wagon when I’m away and this weekend wasn’t too different. My meals were a tad larger than normal and I probably had a treat or two every day. However, we did do quite a bit of walking and I ran a 4 mile race on Saturday in York, Maine. My unofficial time was about 42 minutes and I ran the entire race. Woohoo! I have to say the sun is great until it’s beating down on me when running – it was HOT. I was happy to have a little ocean breeze, that’s for sure!

Starting Line:

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Me, steps from the Finish Line:

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During our weekend getaway, my family and I walked to Perkins & Perkins Wine CafĂ© in Ogunquit for a drink and a little appetizer before dinner on Saturday. We have driven by this place for years but have never stopped in. I’m glad we did this past weekend because it was a lot of fun and the food/drinks were awesome.

Perkins & Perkins is a wine bar/cafĂ© plus a wine shop. The casual wine cafĂ© has outdoor seating for about 20 people and the wine shop carries over 300 wines. In addition to a large wine list, the cafĂ© offers a good selection of appetizers as well as a few entrees and specials. Here’s the menu.

My dad and I tried local red wines, my mom had the special (two white wines on ice with a lime) and my brother chose pinot grigio. Our wines were about $8 each. All were very tasty but my mom’s drink was especially refreshing for a summer afternoon.

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For apps, we decided on the Mini One Cheese Plate – a cheese selection of our choice (we chose Provolone) served with bread, apple slices and grapes. We also ordered the Red Pepper Hummus Plate which was served with tortilla chips, pita bread and carrots. They knew my dad had celiac so the waitress brought out a side dish of gluten-free rice crackers for him – a nice touch. The hummus was homemade and very flavorful. Both appetizers were $7 each.

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While we were enjoying our wine and appetizers, we witnessed several other menu items being served including Lobster Bruschetta, Coconut Shrimp and Homemade Blueberry Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream. Perkins and Perkins had several specials the night we were there as well as about five desserts on the menu. If you’re in the Ogunquit, Maine area this summer, check it out!

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