Category Archives: South End

Flour Bakery + Cafe, Central Sq

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Where: Flour Bakery + Cafe – 190 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge MA 02139
When: May, 2012

I didn’t realize how close our new office was to Flour Bakery. I also didn’t realize how hooked I would be on their sandwiches and sweets. Ay Dios Mio.

I’ve been wanting to go to Flour Bakery since seeing Joanne Chang, the owner, compete on Throwdown with Bobby Flay on the Food Network. Not only did she throwdown with her sticky buns but she won. Damn straight. I also ran into Joanne (do you like how I pretend to know her on a first name basis?) at the Tags in Porter Sq when she was doing a book signing. I didn’t know she was slated to be there and almost went into a frenzy when I saw her.

Anyways, back to the present…

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There isn’t much that I like more than a BLT and the BLT at Flour is amazing. I’ve been back several times and have never wavered from the BLT. Its that good. Its made with applewood-smoked bacon, arugula, tomato, and mayo. The bread is lightly toasted, the bacon smokey, crisp and salty, and there’s something about the tomato… Its not just a tomato slapped on the sandwich, its like a sun dried tomato spread or something. Juicy, sweet, and just melts into the bread. Delicious!

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For dessert, this particular trip, I got not one but two cookies. Naturally. The one on the left is a Milk Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookie and the one on the right is a Peanut Butter and Chopped Nuts Cookie. I had the peanut butter one after lunch and saved the milk chocolate and hazelnut one for later in the day. The peanut butter one was very good but after having the milk chocolate and hazelnut one I don’t think there is any going back, it was clearly the better of the two.

Overall, I’ve never been able to get a seat at Flour, its always packed to the walls, so I have only gotten food to go. Despite how busy they are its always fairly quick and really efficient. Everyone is also super nice which isn’t always easy under pressure. The food is consistent and the sandwiches, well the BLT, are crave worthy. I need to go back for those damn sticky buns that everyone is always talking about. I’m just not sure I can handle a BLT and stick bun and how does one choose between the two?

How did Flour Bakery measure up? 4.5 Spoons!

Flour Bakery + Cafe on Urbanspoon

Toro, South End

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Where: Toro - 1704 Washington Street, Boston MA
When: May, 2012

Toro, one of the most talked about Boston restaurants, has been on my “must-go” list since they opened. The need to get to Toro only increased after seeing chef Jamie Bissonnette on the Food Network’s Chopped (he also won Food & Wine’s 2011 People’s Best New Chef award) and after going to Coppa, Jamie’s and Ken Oringer’s other restaurant, which was fantastic.

I got plenty of warnings about the extra long wait times so we made sure to head over right after work on a Tuesday to be safe. We were seated immediately as they had plenty of open tables (which did not last long). We sat at one of the large family style tables in the middle of the room where I strategically placed myself facing the open kitchen. The only complaint we had was that there wasn’t a place to hang our jackets or put our bags so we had to put them on the floor (thank goodness we weren’t in Brazil as that’s a clear “I’m a prostitute and available” signal). We started off with Gypsys all around. Whats a Gypsy, you ask? Its a delicious cocktail of Death’s Door gin, Yellow Chartreuse, and St Germain. Its so good, in fact, that I had another two which made me the friendliest person in the room chatting with our neighbors as well as asking our server to introduce me to Jamie Bissonnette, who I could see was working in the open kitchen. He said I could just go up and say hi myself but, oh no, I needed an introduction. This was a big deal! I got one and Jamie was super nice as I gushed about what a big fan I am. At this time our dinner neighbors leaned over to my friends to announce that Jamie is married so I just want to reassure everyone jumping to any conclusion that even though he seems like a lovely person, its his food skills that I am completely lusting over.

We decided to pick two items off the menu each so we would have a variety of tapas to try. And this is what we got…

Boquerones – White anchovies in vinegar and olive oil. In 2011 I took on two new lovers: anchovies and oysters. I almost don’t remember what I was like before these life changing foods came into my life but I am sure I was not nearly as happy. That being said, I had to get the anchovies and introduce Daniela to them, who I believe may be a new fan. These were great, nice and salty and perfect alone or with some of the bread served with our tapas.

Queso de Cabra – Vermont goat cheese with pistachios and tomato honey. There isn’t much that makes my mouth water more than the combination of cheese and honey so I was really excited about this dish. The cheese was great as were all the components but I found myself wishing out loud for MORE tomato honey and MORE pistachios.

Tortilla Espanola – Egg, potato and onion omelet with aioli. This dish was Daniela’s choosing, saying Tortilla Espanola may be one of her favorite dishes ever. No pressure, Toro. No pressure. I generally like Tortilla Espanolas but its not something really crave worthy for me so I was really surprised by how much I loved this one. The tortilla was really moist and creamy. Just lovely. The aoili, which came on a few of the dishes was a really great compliment for it and just the right amount of garlic. I could eat that shit on everything!

Datiles con Jamon – Medjool dates filled with Marcona almonds and Cabrales blue cheese, wrapped in Jamon Serrano. Holy moley, guys. These dates were phenomenal! Seriously. They were so good that before leaving I insisted that our new dining neighbors get them. Insisted. The saltiness of the ham with the sharpness of the cheese with the sweetness of the dates all came together really well. My only complaint is that there were only two of them; I could have eaten a half dozen easily. I’m a little embarrassed to say that between three college educated, well traveled, career women we couldn’t figure out what dates are. Were they dried plums? No, those are prunes. Dried figs? No… I had to google it to find out that dates are… dates. Waking up and opening my safari browser to find “Whats a date?” made me feel like a genius.

Asado de Huesos – Roasted bone marrow with radish citrus salad and oxtail marmalade. The bone marrow was Olivia’s pick and although none of us really knew what to expect, I was looking forward to trying something new. I had never had bone marrow before and expected it to be somewhat mousse-like for whatever reason. It was not mousse-like at all, it was fat -ike. Very very fat-like. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it after the first bite but after the second I decided bone marrow is not for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love fat but this was just too much for me. The oxtail marmalade on the other hand, I could eat by the bowlful.

Anna’s Empanadas – Chicken and potato empanadas with salsa rojo and aioli. I’m dying to know what sort of pastry these empanadas are made of as it wasn’t at all what I expected. In high school, in Panama, I would take my $1 a day lunch money to buy two empanadas from Oscar’s food cart (and spend the rest of cigarettes – $.10 each) and they were these really flaky buttery pastries. That’s what I always tend to expect when I hear empanadas but this was different – they almost tasted as though the pastry was made with corn or yuca or something. I could be off but either way, they were really good. And, again, they came with that phenomenal aioli.

Maiz Asado con Aioli y Queso Cotija – La Especialidad de la Casa. Grilled corn with aioli, lime, espelette pepper and aged cheese. Amy first introduced me to Elote at Ole in Cambridge and since then I have been hooked. I even have a couple recipes saved but something about smothering corn with cheese and mayo at home just seems a little too indulgent to me. This was super messy but equally delicious so was happy to have aioli across my cheeks for the experience.

Churros with chocolate sauce. Toro has one dessert and that’s all they need. The churros are light and fluffy on the inside and the chocolate sauce rich and velvety. We actually all agreed that although the chocolate sauce was delicious the churros were so good that we preferred them on their own. That’s saying something.

Overall, I thought the service and atmosphere at Toro was great. The drinks were delicious (and helped me meet a famous chef as well as have a heart to heart with a very sweet homeless man, Ritchie, on my way home). The food was all very well prepared and flavorful. I’d recommend it for a group of friends or coworkers or even on a date although be warned that a community table isn’t particularly cozy or romantic. I’d definitely go back but I do not think I would wait hours in their famous lines for a table. Don’t get me wrong, its great food but Boston has enough great restaurants that I am rarely willing to wait more than 20 minutes to be seated.

How did Toro measure up? 4.5 Spoons!

Toro on Urbanspoon

Picco, South End

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Where: Picco - 513 Tremont Street Boston, MA 02116
When: March, 2012

For the lovely Libby’s birthday celebration a group of 9 of us went to Picco in the South End to celebrate. It was a great mix of friends and family, all from different parts of her life. It was nice to put some faces to the names and stories I had heard and what better occasion to break bread together.20120309-093107.jpg

We had to wait a little while to sit as one of our 4 tables wasn’t quite ready when we got there. I can’t complain, I am grateful they just took our reservation as a lot of places in the South End don’t seem to. We quickly were greeted and ordered a few bottles of wine, some salads, and pizzas – one of their two specialties (just wait until you hear about the ice cream). Libby and I shared the Arugula salad which came with Parmigiano Reggiano, lemon juice & olive oil. It was so simple that I wasn’t sure what to expect but it really didn’t need anything else. It was light, fresh, salty, peppery and just right to make the pizza I was about to eat not feel quite so indulgent.

For the pizza, we also split the large Margherita which came with tomato sauce & fresh mozzarella. Libby asked for the pizza lightly done as Picco cooks their pizzas very well. I wouldn’t have known and wouldn’t have thought to ask for it this way but am glad Libby did as the way we received it was just how I like it. The other pizzas were definitely more cooked with some charred bits on the crust and toppings, almost looking burnt. The crust was really nice – it was thin but not hard / super crisp like a lot of thin crust pizzas. It had nice bubbles of spongy soft crust as well. All the pizzas looked really good and I’m already plotting to to get back there to try the Alsatian which comes with sautéed onions, shallots, garlic, crème fraiche, bacon & gruyere.  Yum. Everyone enjoyed their pizzas although I did hear Anne say she wished that she hadn’t substituted the meat on her pizza for chicken (I think it came with pork). She said she couldn’t really complain though as it was her choice to substitute it. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

One of my favorite pizza related anecdotes from the night was that when Libby got home and opened up a gift bag I had given her to find a couple of pizza crusts in there. I wish I could have taken credit for that but we think they must have fallen off the table when we had to move it to let someone out for a bathroom break. What a great late night treat though!

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I had more pizza that I should have, totaling about 4 large slices so I had a serious dilemma when everyone decided to order ice cream, Picco’s other specialty, for dessert. I decided I would get some, then at the last minute decided not to, then got talked back into it. I got a small serving of the Peanut Butter Chip homemade ice cream that was really, really good. I also tried some of Libby’s Cinnamon ice cream which I liked much more than I expected. It was definitely cinnamony but  not overwhelming so. I also had a bite of Mik’s Caramel Swirl which was good but a little too sweet for my taste (I can’t believe I just said that). I have never been a big ice cream person, always choosing the vanilla, but these were all pretty special – I’d definitely get the PB Chip or Cinnamon again. I had to push mine away from me and down the table to stop eating it.

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Overall, I really liked Picco. I thought they had a great atmosphere where it was lively and fun but you weren’t yelling to be heard. The food was great, I loved everything I got. The service was fantastic and very attentive right until the end when we sat, table cleared and glasses empty, waiting for someone to bring us the bill for what seemed like forever, maybe 10 minutes? I’d definitely go back and would recommend it for a group, one on one, a date, pretty much any occasion.

How did Picco measure up? 4.25 Spoons!

Picco on Urbanspoon

Coppa, South End

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Where: Coppa – 253 Shawmut Avenue Boston, MA 02118
When: November, 2011

I was thrilled when Alyssa suggested we try Coppa in the South End for our next outing as I have heard a lot of good things about this place. We set a date weeks in advance due to our (mostly her) crazy schedules. Then I get sent to New Orleans for a last minute work trip and the only direct flight back has me missing dinner so I booked a crappy connecting flight through Cincinatti. I was determined. My flight was about 20 minutes late so I was one of those people tearing through the airport with my scarf and suitcase flying behind me. I got there 10 minutes late and a little frantic but Alyssa seemed less fussed about my tardiness than I was (did I mention she had been there for 40 minutes total as we could only get a 6:30 reservation? She rocks).

All the running was well worth it – the place is charming and cozy! Like any real Italian place they pack a lot of tables into a small space but you don’t feel cramped or crowded. Its just right. The waitstaff are all casually dressed (Brandeis t-shirt on ours) and very friendly.

Alyssa started with the Aperol Spritz (aperol, prosecco and soda) which she confessed was one of the main reasons she wanted to come here. Aperol was her drink of choice while in Italy and not many places in Boston have it. She let me try it and we both looked at each other and exhaled “refreshing” at each other. I had a glass of the Cortese which was crisp and perfect to cool me down after my mad dash.

Now… food. We split a few things to be able to try as many things as we could. We started with the Funghi Marinati which isn’t just fun to say but fun to eat as well (as you try not to let your fork pop them off your plate on to your neighbor). These mushrooms were marinated and served in Eva’s herbs. Bravo, Eva. I have a special place for mushrooms in my heart and belly as from about 12-16 years old that’s the only thing I would agree to eat when dining out. As a family we would go to these wonderful restaurants from Sao Paulo to Vancouver and I would threaten to starve myself unless the chef sauteed mushrooms and plopped them on some toast for me. I was practically made of mushrooms.

We then got the Prosciutto di Parma, a generous plate of salty prosciutto drizzled with just a drop of olive oil. Eat it on bread, eat it with more oil, eat it alone. No matter how you eat it, its salty goodness.

Here comes the Mele e Burrata. Heirloom apples with Maria’s Burrata and charred lemon. I was a little lukewarm about this one. I couldn’t quite pin it down but it was just a little too tart for me and I’m just not crazy about the flavor combination although I love all the components separately.

And now. Get ready. Arancini! Not only fun to say, as anything ending in “cini” is, but terribly delicious. These are traditional fried risotto balls with fontina cheese. Oh my. Yes. Four more orders please. They were deep fried and crisp on the outside but you cracked it open with your fork to reveal the softest creamiest risotto. I don’t know what sauce they served it with but I did find myself stealing the last piece of bread to sop up the remainder of it once I had polished off my arancini. This was the highlight for me, hands down.

Would I go back? I have to, there are so many things I didn’t get to try! Like the Sea urchin and salami panino with mustard seeds, the house-cured white anchovies, and the fluke crudo. Those are just the small plates, just wait until you see the full menu!

How did Coppa measure up? 5 Spoons!

Coppa on Urbanspoon

The Beehive, South End

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Where: The Beehive – 541 Tremont Street Boston, MA 02116
When: October, 2011

I’d been dying to go to the Beehive for years. Why it took a special occasion I don’t know but couldn’t think of a better place to go for my 34th birthday. The Beehive, right on Tremont in the South End, was everything I expected. The decor is bohemian, soft, a little frilly, and very welcoming.Libby and I split a bottle of bubbly rosé, which for the life of me I can’t remember the name of, but I promise you it was good. One can’t really go wrong with bubbly and rosé, if you ask me.To try as many new things as possible Libby generously agreed to split a few items instead of getting our own. We started with one of their specials, the curried pumpkin lobster soup. Nothing against the rest of the meal but the soup was definitely the highlight. It was a little spicy, a little creamy and a lot of delicious. The flavors were perfect together.We then shared the Grilled Octopus Salad with lemon, olive oil and oregano. I’ve been in love with octopus since Libby made an octopus salad at the end of the summer so this hit the spot. The octopus was cooked and seasoned well and salad not overly dressed.

We wrapped things up with the Wild Mushroom, Spinach and Ricotta Salata Flatbread Pizza which was also very good.

In retrospect I should have had the soup last as it was definitely best. Or I should have just gotten 3 bowls of that. Beehive – Add it to your menu permanently!

About halfway into our meal the band came on. I was a little worried, because we were so close to the stage, that the music would make any conversation impossible but the band was wonderful and just the right volume. Bravo.

Amazing food, fantastic service and decor-wise probably one of my favorite places in Boston. Run there!

How did The Beehive measure up? 5 Spoons!

Stephi’s on Tremont, South End

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Where: Stephi’s on Tremont – 571 Tremont Street Boston, MA 02118
When: October, 2011

Columbus Day! A time to celebrate a day off work by dragging a very hungover friend out for mimosas on a blazing hot Fall day!

Dan and I picked Stephi’s on Tremont in the South End as they have a patio and he planned to bring his very little puppy, Teddy, with us. Perfect, although we didn’t consider that we’d have dozens of strangers stopping to pet the puppy every 3 minutes. Including one drugged up guy who told Teddy he was going to “snuggle the fuck out of him” and then walked off and punched a pumpkin. Yikes.

We both ordered mimosas while looking over the menu. Dan decided between the hangover and the heat he wasn’t ready to eat but that didn’t stop me, naturally. I ordered the bagel and lox which was huge! Bigger than my head. The lox was fresh, bagel crunchy and yet chewy on the inside and there was just the right amount of cream cheese and onions. It was so good we had to celebrate with a couple more mimosas.

Simple but spot on.

Sibling Rivalry, South End

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Where: Sibling Rivalry – 525 Tremont Street Boston, MA 02116
When: September, 2011

A restaurant with dueling brothers competing to make the better dish with the same star ingredient?! Very cool! I love the idea and love the way the menu is presented with the ingredient down the middle and the brothers’ dishes on either side. My love for Sibling Rivalry really ends there though, sadly.

I was a bit put off by the atmosphere, it felt like you were in a hotel restaurant. It was big and spacious but seemed to lack any character or charm. I honestly don’t remember what I ate there as it was a couple of weeks ago now and it wasn’t particularly memorable. We did get the Tomato Mozzarella Salad to start which I regretted as that wasn’t really a good dish for someone to showcase their talents with. Overall neither the atmosphere nor the food wowed me. Its the type of place that I think would be great to bring clients or your girlfriend’s parents the first time you meet them but not for a fun night out. Bummer.