Alibi & Bin26, Beacon Hill

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Where: Alibi - 215 Charles Street, Boston MA 02114
When: November, 2011

Built in 1851 as a prison for some of Boston’s most notorious inmates, what was the Charles Street Jail shut down in 1990 after the prisoners revolted against the poor living conditions. It then reopened, after a $150 million acquisition, renovation and construction project, in 2007 as the Liberty Hotel. The hotel, along with its 5 restaurants and bars, have been buzzing since and I finally found out why last night – it was so cool! I regret not having wandered through the hotel and other bars while I was there but now have reason to go back.

After work I met up with Libby and Mr. S at Alibi on the entry level of the hotel. The bar consists of two long brick walled rooms, like wide hallways, divided down the middle with a large brick wall with a few openings and “windows” with prison bars. On one side of the room there are low tables and couches and on the other (the bar side, where we were) there are high tops and stools. We could see the diners on the other side of the wall through the prison bars which I thought was pretty neat. They stuck with the prison “theme” with the decor with wanted posters of well known people on the walls.

Their cocktail menu looked really good with some fun names like “Jailbait” and “The Scurvy Elixer” but knowing I was having wine at dinner I started off with the same – a glass of the Pinot Noir Balleto, Russian River Valley – which didn’t disappoint.

How did Alibi measure up? 4 Spoons!

Where: Bin2626 Charles Street Boston, MA 02114
When: November 18, 2011

After drinks at Alibi we said goodbye to Mr. S, who was probably happy to not have to hear us talking about the RHOBH any more, and headed to Bin26. We were surprised by how large the restaurant actually is when you get inside as it looks quite small from the street. We got a great seat right by the window, a tip of the hat to making reservations.

The wine menu here is impressive; the hostess explains how to look through the 20+ page book of wines when you sit down. They have over 60 wines by the glass and over 200 wines by the bottle. I have to say I got a little nervous when the first few I saw were over $120 a bottle (I’d love to roll that way but not quite there yet with my career in the non-profit world) but we found a nice bottle of Sangiovese that was a little closer to our budget. I don’t think I had had Sangiovese before so that was exciting. I was declared “the mouth” and tasted the wine for the table. Yep, tastes good to me! It was around this time we declared that we should go to more wine tastings to know how to actually do it right.

Ok, time to look over the menu. Everything looked really good but we had been warned to stay away from the Risotto by Mr. S who found it too salty. We still had plenty to choose from. We had narrowed down a few options when our waiter, who seemed to find us amusing for some reason, let us know they were out of the Caprese salad. That was one of the items we were going to get so when he saw we were disappointed he told us there was one more and he could run to the kitchen and get them to hold it for us if we wanted. Yes please – run!

The service was great, another one of those places where you have 4 people coming and going from your table but you barely notice them, very seamless.

We ordered four items , creating a bit of a tapas theme, which came out in intervals which was perfect for our small table. We started with the Caprese Heirloom Tomato Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella and Basil. (pictured). Simple enough but, wow, was the mozzarella fresh. It was almost the consistency of a poached egg, firm on the outside but soft inside. The salad was lightly dressed and the perfect amount of basil to tomato to mozzarella.

Side note: I need the new iPhone that has the camera with flash, the photos I took all look terrible.

We then got the Grilled Octopus with Fava Beans, Olive Oil Poached Potatoes & a Limoncello Vinaigrette. I’ve been obsessed with octopus since Libby introduced it to me this summer so get pretty excited anytime I see it on a menu. We both thought the salad was a little too lemony which I now understand why, its not just lemon vinaigrette but lemoncello which is sweeter. The potatoes were really good as were the fava beans (something I don’t eat enough of) but we both wished there had been more octopus. There were maybe 4 small bite sized pieces which left us wanting more.

The next thing we got was the Mussels with White Wine and Spicy Tomato. I loved this which is funny as later in the night I couldn’t remember what the 3rd dish we had was. I don’t think that’s indicative that its a forgettable dish though, I blame the Sangiovese. The mussels were fresh and the sauce was just the right amount of spicy. We had to ask for more bread around this point so I could mop up the sauce at the end.

We then (does it ever end?) shared the Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi with Cherry Tomato, Basil and Baby Calamari. We both agreed that this was our favorite item of the night. Not that the others were delicious but this one went the extra mile. The gnocchi were big soft pillows of cheese perfectly complimented by the calamari and tomato. More bread please as I have to eat as much of this sauce as possible.

We weren’t planning on getting dessert but the waiter twisted our arms by exclaiming “You two are too skinny, of course you are getting dessert”. Okay, fine. As if we hadn’t had enough cheese we got the Manchego cheese plate. It was served with a small side of honey and some walnuts which was the perfect combination with the saltiness of the cheese.

Bravo, Bin26!

How did Bin 26 measure up? 5 Spoons!

Where: Trina’s Starlite Lounge- 3 Beacon Street, Somerville MA 02143
When: November 18, 2011

After dinner we payed an unexpected visit to Trina’s in Inman Square. Its always a fun place to go late night (10pm is considered “late night”, right?) as we tend to run people we know. I’ve had dinner here before, which was excellent, but just stuck to the champagne of beers, High Life, this time. Go for their fried chicken though, it was rated one of the top 10 places for fried chicken in the country by Bon Appetit.

After my 1.8 mile walk home I had to top off the night with a cupcake. Not just any cupcake but a yellow box birthday cupcake.

How did Trina’s measure up? 3.75 Spoons!

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