Monday, June 29, 2015

July 14: Taste of Cambridge Returns

Taste of Cambridge returns on July 14, bringing the best restaurants in Cambridge for a great evening at University Park. There will be plenty of restaurants and bars serving up bites and drinks, and lucky for us, Cambridge has some of the best restaurants in Boston. There will be over 100 booths there! Among the restaurants coming are Summer Shack, Russell House Tavern, Flour Bakery and Cafe, Art Bar, and Puritan & Co.

Taste of Cambridge
They've also brought in some new restaurants for an even bigger event. This year's new participants include some big names like Alden and Harlow, West Bridge, and Bondir Restaurant.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West (Scottsdale, AZ)

If you love architecture and find yourself in the Phoenix area in the future, you need to take a tour of Taliesin West. Even for myself, who is not that knowledgeable in architecture, I found the tour extremely fun! Taliesin West in Scottsdale was the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright, but the property also doubles as his architecture school. You can't explore the property on your own, as Taliesin West is still functioning as an architecture school, but the $32 tour ticket is well worth it to not only see Taliesin West but also hear the stories behind the building and the various aspects of it.

Taliesin West

During the 90-minute tour, you'll hear about this petroglyph and how the carvings inspired Wright's iconic Whirling Arrow, which actually symbolizes "fellowship".
Taliesin West
Or how he came to use these Chinese ceramic sculpture and how each one signifies that you are entering a different area of Taliesin West.
Taliesin West

Friday, June 26, 2015

Providence's Anniversary $80 Menu Extended to July

Chef Michael Cimarusti's Providence Restaurant celebrated its 10th anniversary with a four-course menu for $80 in June, but don't be mad that I didn't tell you because they've extended it to the month of July!

Providence is one of the top fine dining destinations in LA, as evidenced by it having survived 10 years! It's one of my favorites, and though it would usually cost quite a pretty penny to dine there, every June they celebrate their anniversary with a cheaper 4-course menu (it has gone up from the $65 from a few years ago, but hey, inflation). And lucky you, they usually also extend it to July.

Oh, and your $80 gets you more than just four courses. When I went there were amuse bouche upon amuse bouche and great bread service before the real dinner even started. The amuse bouche included salmon skin chips with creme fraiche.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Craft Cocktail Meets Chinese Food at Sichuan Garden II and The Baldwin Bar

I drove out in the snow to Woburn to check out Sichuan Garden II. And it was worth it.

Sichuan Garden II is no normal Sichuan restaurant, located inside a 17th century mansion. There's a wonderful little cocktail bar in the restaurant. The Baldwin Bar is headed by Ran Duan, whose family owns the Sichuan Garden restaurants. He went all out with The Baldwin Bar, not minding that it was out in Woburn, with top notch cocktails and gorgeous pre-prohibition style interior. Where else can you get Sichuan food along with impeccable craft cocktails? I can't think of another place.

To convince you that the cocktails here are worth a drive, know that Ran Duan has won the title of Most Imaginative Bartender at the 2014 USBG competition sponsored by Bombay Sapphire.
The cocktail menu at Baldwin changes all the time, but I've always found great drinks like I Put a Spell on You (Bombay Sapphire, Earl Grey, yogurt, lemon, orange blossom water, $10)
That night also happened to be Fire Puncher Day, so there were special drinks made with GrandTen Distilling's Fire Puncher Vodka.

What about the food? You can either dine in one of the mansion's rooms, now outfitted as dining rooms for Sichuan Garden II, or dine at The Baldwin Bar part of the restaurant. Either way, you can get the full menu. The most popular item is probably the Chengdu Dry Hot Chicken Wings ($11.50)
These chicken wings are really crispy and have a nice kick to it. I must've gotten better at my spicy tolerance because I kept eating these. The double battered, extra crispy wings were covered in a spicy dry rub of garlic, ginger, and chilis but there's also a small amount of glaze (maple sriracha sauce)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Atticus Creamery & Pies (West LA)

by guest blogger @btsunoda

If you haven’t noticed, pies have made a comeback. Doing a simple search on pies in the LA area yields a lot more than simple coffee shops. Many bakeries are featuring pies in a big way and I found that many pie shops now exist. Atticus Creamery & Pies is a new dessert shop in West LA. What is unique about their operation is that they are first and foremost a pie shop.
IMG_0999 (1)
Each day, they painstakingly hand roll their crust and slowly assemble their pies by hand using natural ingredients. Unlike traditional pies that only have a crust and a filling, Atticus makes unique four-layered pies. They begin with their hand rolled crust, then add a filling such as fresh fruit jam, then layer another filling such as mousse or custard. It is then topped with light cream with additions such as caramelized popcorn or toasted pieces of coconut. IMG_1024

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Akinto Pop Up at Wink and Nod (Boston, MA)

The food program at Wink and Nod is a series of longer-term pop-ups that rotate every six months. The current pop up is Akinto by Chef Patrick Enage, offering modern South East Asian inspired cuisine to diners in Boston. I was quite excited since it offers a big diversity in the food scene in Boston, which typically doesn't have much Indonesian, Filipino, or other South East Asian food.

I finally got to go try it with Urban Foodie Finds, and we started with some Pork Hash Sisig, quail egg yolk, calamansi, soy ($6.50)

This was good but it felt a little dry, although I enjoyed the flavors. However, I really loved our next dish:
Prawns with squid ink lo mein, Khmer red curry broth, mango ($15)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Spread PB Reinvents an American Staple

by guest blogger @iam_robot

If you’re like me, I think Peanut Butter Jelly Sandwich is the most perfect sandwich. It’s simple, convenient, and it pleases all the taste palate. Now comes the good news. What if I tell you there’s a place who’s willing to listen & personally make your fantasy-fueled bigger-than-life ambition PB sandwich? Yup, it’s time to put on the big boy pants! We’re moving on from your Mom’s stingy swipe of Skippy and Smuckers on white. Instead, we’re going to pile the condiments high enough that you’ll be eating a sloppy (ridiculously good) mess & smiling ear to ear (or seeing double rainbows) by the end of the meal…A little nutty?
While I serenely believe two pieces of bread topped with peanut butter and jelly is always good enough, I think some moderate tweaks could elevate its status to Super PB. Think of honey, banana, bacon, curry or chocolate sauce to complement the perfect duo, and I think I just had my “Whiplash” moment – yes, my mind is all over the f-king Happy Meal and not on pitch. Anyways, Spread PB, the humble concept by Katie Kerr & Dustin Alpert, is not some swanky PB Jelly place. There’s no artisan bread or jelly made up from seaweed, instead, you get all the flavors you’re accustomed to. Anyone from a 3 year old to a 93 year old would really appreciate this!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Brunch at Terrine (Los Angeles, CA)

When one thinks of brunch in Los Angeles, al fresco or patio dining comes to a lot of minds, especially during the summer months. The fairly new Terrine has a beautiful back patio shaded by a tree canopy.

Terrine's kitchen is headed by Chef Kris Morningstar (formerly at Ray's and Stark Bar) and he's doing some great things. This was one of the restaurants I had to try on my recent trips back home to LA.

I ordered the Eggs in Purgatory (spicy tomato sauce, fennel pollen, basil, pecorino, crostini, $14)
Yes, I have a soft spot for eggs in tomato sauce, but Terrine's version of shakshouka is one of my favorite brunch dishes we tried. The sauce isn't too spicy but rich in flavors. Their bread was also especially good which made the dish even better.

We had to order this: Terrine de foie gras with prunes and fleur de sel - and baguette, of course.
The foie gras accompaniments are different between their lunch and dinner service, but both are worth ordering. This terrine was a wonderful version of a classic, smooth and rich. Welcome back to California, foie gras.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Ben & Jerry's Factory Tour (Waterbury, Vermont)

On my road trip from Boston to Montreal, we passed by the Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory in Waterbury, Vermont (close to Burlington) so we made a quick pit stop for a factory tour!

Ben and Jerry's

The factory is a fun place with colorful and playful decorations and touches all over the place.
Ben and Jerry's

The tour typically costs $4 but here's a tip: if you check in on Foursquare, you'll get a free tour! The factories aren't always in production, however, but you can still see where the ice cream is made. We caught them during the cleaning period so we didn't see the machines in action. Oh, well. They do a deep cleaning every time they change the flavor they're making.
Ben and Jerry's
First part of the tour was a video of the history of the company, which they've made to be quite entertaining.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Eating in Fiji: Blue Lagoon Resort

At most of the island resorts in Fiji, you won't be able to purchase food outside of the resorts, because there won't be much else on those small islands! This was also the case at Blue Lagoon Resort, which is located on Nacula Island, part of the Yasawa Islands. Instead, you have to pay for a meal plan, which was about $35 per person per day, on top of the room rates. Still, not too bad for 3 meals a day.


The first meal you'll have at Blue Lagoon Resort most likely will be lunch. For lunch, you can choose one dish from their menu, and because it's my first Fijian meal, I had to try the fish in lolo, which is perhaps the most typical Fijian meal. I had talked about this dish in my 5 Things to Eat in Fiji post. It's a dish of fish in coconut milk broth, typically served with taro leaves and root vegetables. The version here ended up being my favorite of the whole trip.


The next day we went diving, so I was in need of a hearty lunch afterwards and went with the curry. The meat was slightly tough, but it still made for a flavorful and hearty meal.
Blue Lagoon curry

Monday, June 8, 2015

Gloucester-based Matlaw's Stuffed Clams for Grilling Season

In New England, summer and grilling season shouldn't just mean burgers and hot dogs ... but New England seafood! I recently got sent some stuffed clams from Matlaw's, a seafood company based in Gloucester, MA that was started in 1950s and got popular because of their stuffed clams (they call them "stuffies").
The stuffies are pre-packed and sold at grocery stores in the area. There are multiple flavors available including chorizo stuffed clams, bacon and cheese stuffed clams, chili lime and more. I tried the classic New England style which was a blend of golden breadcrumbs, chopped clams, minced celery, red and green peppers, and sprinkled with paprika and parsley.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Go Uncommon for Father's Day (and Beyond) Gifts

If you're having trouble finding unique, fun gifts for the upcoming Father's Day, or even any other occasions such as birthdays, you may want to look at UncommonGoods. As a disclosure, they offered me to choose one product to review, but they had so many cool things that I had a hard time choosing. Do I want a Chipotle Amber ale brewing kit? Or maybe a gin making kit with a set of botanicals? A personalized whiskey barrel would be quite the gift, as well, or do I want the Molecular Gastronomy Kit? So many to choose from! OK, the products are not all food/beer related, but I was obviously drawn to those ...

They've categorized the products for you so that it'll be easier to browse. For example, you can look for here to find gifts for men. Uncommon Goods was started in Brooklyn and they wish to provide a platform for artists and designers. Most of their products are made in the USA and a good portion of them are also made using recycled materials. The company will also donate $1 to their selected non-profit organizations for every purchase. 

Anyway, as for my dilemma in choosing, I decided to not go too ambitious this time. Since summer is arriving, I opted for the Coffee Cold Brew gift set. It's going to be too hot for hot coffee soon, since my new place has no air conditioning. Instead of paying a lot of money for a cold brew at a coffee shop, why not make your own? It turns out it's super easy!
Photo from UncommonGoods
The cold brew kit comes with a starter pack of ground coffee, a blend of Brazilian and Guatemalan coffee which I quite enjoyed as a cold brew. The kit looked pretty simple, but there are some neat touches. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Union Square Donuts (Somerville, MA)

Happy National Donut Day! On this day, I thought I'd share with you my favorite donut shop in Boston ... Union Square Donuts! Now at their new storefront in Somerville, you can find these wonderful fluffy donuts along with Counter Culture coffee every day until 1 pm (later on the weekends).

Union Square Donuts

The flavor that made me fall in love with Union Square the first time is the Sea Salted Bourbon Caramel.

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