Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Side Dish Steals the Show at Fiorella's

The other night I was treated to an intriguing dinner at Fiorella's in Newton, MA (

It's a pretty popular spot.  Despite heading there on a Tuesday night, we still had an hour wait.  They have a somewhat inconveniently located bar, situated in between their two dining areas.  We grabbed a bottle of wine to help pass the time, but hardly found enough of it to get a glass down.  We either were moving out of the way for the wait staff, or getting nudged by other inpatient customers the whole time.

When we finally got to our seats, we were served a basket of their fresh bread: thin pieces spiced with garlic and herbs and served with their bright marinara sauce.

To start out, we split an order of arancini, a fried ball of risotto stuffed with mozzarella cheese and served with marinara.  Risotto and cheese... two of my favorite things combined into one.  Despite my certainty that this could not possibly disappoint, it did.  The fried outside completely overtook the milder flavors contained within.  Even when I got a bite composed entirely of the inside, it didn't taste like anything.  In fact, I felt like I was eating fried white rice.  It had no texture, and very little taste.  

Luckily, the entrees were still to come.  I had ordered one of their specials of the night:  Chicken in a demi-glace accompanied by a stuffed acorn squash.  It is very unfortunate that this is not one of their regular menu items.

The tender chicken was settled in a mushroom demi-glace that was overpowered by the roasted red peppers that also rested in the sauce.  However, the real star was the stuffed squash.

It was cooked similarly to a twice baked potato.  The insides of the acorn squash were scooped out and mixed with ricotta and Parmesan cheese, as well as mushrooms, onions, and dried cranberries.  It was then put back into the shell of the squash, topped with pieces of toast and then baked.

It was a vibrant dish, full of flavor and texture.  The croutons on the the top were crisp from the oven, but had absorbed some of the juice from the mixture, so the bottom side was moist with gooey goodness.  The blended squash and cheese were complimented nicely by the added chew of the vegetables and berries.  Every bite was interesting.  Even when I had had more than my fill, I just kept stuffing my face.

My only complaint is that I did not see the connection between the chicken and the squash.  Although the flavors were great in each, there did not seem to be any reason why they were sharing a plate.  The squash could have been it's own dish, instead of taking second place to the chicken.  All in all though, this dish was a success... a nice recovery from that deceiving arancini.

It is reasonably priced, and overall we had a positive experience.  I'm sure we'll be making our way back at some point.  

And there's good news.  They have an express version of their restaurant in Brighton and Belmont (  Maybe the stuffed acorn squash can make its way there....

Monday, June 27, 2011

Satisfying the Senses at Five

I know it's been a while...  in fact it's been so long that I've been back to St. Louis twice to visit this stunning bistro.

First a little background.  Five Bistro ( is a relatively new restaurant located on The Hill  in St. Louis, MO.  They only have a sample menu online because it changes daily at the restaurant.  Chef Anthony Devoti serves beautifully fresh farm-to-table food.

His goal is to bring in each of the five senses for his diners.

Five is on the slightly rundown, but surprisingly charming Hill.  Inside, it has a smooth, jazzy feel.  Giant canvases painted by Tamara De Lempicka tie in the 1930's feel.

People don't go for the look of the place, though.  I'm sure you can guess what sense they're trying to satisfy.

Our memorable meal began with an amuse bouche of crostini topped with veal, ham, brie, and a white cheddar sauce.  I was extremely disappointed that I only got one bite... I even asked our waiter if I could get it as an appetizer.

We decided to start with a Tagliatelle Bolognese, which was composed of braised pork sausage from a local farm, braised tomato, black pepper, butter, parmigiano-reggiano and Italian parsley.  Immediately I was hit with scent of the strong Italian cheese.  With each bite I first got the flavor of the parsley, which was then followed by taste of the sausage.  My only complaint is that I was sharing it, and the portion was a little too small to split.

For my entree, I went with the Thyme Rubbed Half Chicken (also from a local farm).  It was accompanied by a housemade black pepper potato gnocchi, wild local morel mushroom, caramelized onion, hickory smoked bacon, local arugula and pan jus.

Together, the dish was wonderful.  The bacon gave it an awesome saltiness, which was perfectly balanced by the sweeter gnocchi and onions.  In contrast to the strong flavors present in the dish, the arugula brought a surprising but welcomed softness.

On the downside, the gnocchi could have been a little fluffier.  I was also disappointed in the lack of mushrooms on the plate.  The earthiness of the morels could have tamed the smokiness of the bacon.  I could hardly find any.

Despite being sufficiently stuffed by this point, I decided I had to try one of their desserts to truly finish off the meal. I could choose from a sorbet, pastry, or chocolate tasting.

I went with the pastry, a vanilla goat cheese custard sandwiched between two sugar cookies, drizzled with honey.  It was one of the most interesting desserts I've ever eaten.  I first tasted the honey, followed by the smoothness of the custard, and finally came to the sweetness and soft chew of the cookie.

I was sickeningly full, but happy to be so.

Usually I aim to try new restaurants when I return to a city, but I knew upon leaving Five that I would be back....

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Not Just Burgers at the Boston Burger Company

If you are on a diet or care about your heart in any way, you probably should not eat here... but if you love your burgers it just might be worth it.

The Boston Burger Company ( in Somerville, MA has a crazy array of burgers with pretty much any combination of toppings you can imagine.  They have everything from the Alpine Burger (mushrooms sauteed in a garlic parmesan butter with swiss cheese) to the Artery Clogger (a deep fried, beer battered burger topped with bacon, american cheese, and BBQ sauce).  And just in case you're not the beef type, you can substitute any of their burgers with either a turkey or veggie burger.

They also have some interesting appetizer items (Mac & Cheese Bites anyone?), a collection of eight different sauces to pair with their Boneless Wings, some great chicken sandwich options, and an amazing Fries menu (twelve different kinds).

I went with The Buffalo, a chicken sandwich (you can get it grilled or cutlet style) with lettuce, tomato, crumbled blue cheese and their "special" buffalo sauce.  Just to make sure it was truly unhealthy, I added american cheese and got blue cheese dressing on the side.

I got it cutlet style, so I shouldn't have been surprised that it was dripping in grease.  Once I took a bite though, all my girlish weight worries went out the window.  Their buffalo sauce was creamy, and while there was a good amount poured on my sandwich, it wasn't smothered in the stuff.  Although my extra toppings certainly didn't hurt, there would have been plenty of flavor with just the crumbled blue cheese and buffalo sauce.

I was eating with two burger loving boys, but I gobbled this down before they had made it through their first half.

Luckily we also got their BBC Sweet Potato Fries, which were served with a sugar-cinnamon sauce.  This sauce transformed them into a dessert.  Unfortunately, I was so full at this point I could only indulge in a few.

Next time I will definitely be saving room for either their Pizza Fries or the Buffalo Cheese Fries.

The boys loved their burgers, for which I'm very glad.  Hopefully that means we'll be going back soon.  I will happily clog my arteries a little more to taste their special buffalo sauce again...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Filling up at the Gibbet Hill Grill

The Gibbet Hill Grill ( in Groton, MA is situated next to a beautifully open field, which compliments its country farm feel perfectly.  They grow their own produce on site, and the rest of their ingredients are seasonal and locally grown.   

I've been here several times and have never had a bad experience.  This time was no exception. 

While I usually get the Roasted Free-Range Chicken Breast, I decided to swtich things up and go for their Pan-Roasted Duck Breast.  Although it is usually served with braised endive, white bean puree, and a kumquat chutney, I substituted in sides of Mushrooms and their (awesome) Mac & Cheese. 

The duck was moist and tender.  There was a rather thick layer of fat under the skin.  I tried a bite or two with it, but didn't think it added any real value to the flavor or texture (it was really chewy), so I cut it off.  It was more succulent without it. 

The mushrooms are a mixture of shiitake, portobello, and oyster.  Despite not coming with it, their earthy taste paired perfectly with the duck.

Good news... I found a macaroni and cheese that I enjoyed!  It is baked with cheddar and chives.  Between my duck and mushrooms, I was already plenty full, but I couldn't stop coming back to this wonderfully rich dish. 

My boyfriend, Matt, got the Prime Rib and added on their Blue Cheese Compound Butter.  If you're a steak fan, you have to try this combo.  The blue cheese butter is downright delicious.  You could smother anything in it and it would taste amazing. 

As one of his sides, Matt also got their Onion Rings.  Whether we're ordering take out or dining at a formal restaurant, if they are on the menu, he'll get them.  We both agreed that Gibbet Hill's might be the best we've ever had.  The onion is perfectly balanced with the thickness of the batter, which is crunchy and well seasoned.

Finally, we finished off with my favorite dessert:  Carrot Cake.  Gibbet Hill's moist version sits in a bed of caramel and comes with a pecan cream cheese frosting.  I had absolutely no room in my stomach for dessert, but I ate the whole thing. 

If you're heading north (it's about an hour away from Boston) and you're hungry, stop here.  You will get a beautiful meal.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Back to Boston: Barbecue at Redbones

Sorry for the delay everyone!  I'm back in Boston and I'll be reviewing local restaurants while I'm home.  First up:  Redbones ( in Davis Square.  It's a loud, busy BBQ restaurant in Somerville.

Let me preface this post by saying that this is my boyfriend's favorite restaurant.  Since I've known him, I've heard nothing but praise for this place.

I was not impressed.

We started out with the tasty Corn Fritters.  These treats, served in a saccharine Vermont maple syrup, could have been dessert, despite being listed on their Apps & Sides menu.

I opted for some more sides instead of going for one of their entrĂ©es.  I got their Buffalo Scallops, Catfingers, and Mac'N Cheese.

The buffalo scallops were flavorful.... but how can anything smothered in buffalo sauce and blue cheese not be?  They definitely had a kick, so much so that I really couldn't tell that I was eating scallops.  It could have been chicken.. or pork.. or anything.

The catfingers are strips of fried fish.  They also have a lot of spice to them.  They are served with Redbones' homemade tartar sauce, of which I've had better.

My mouth was burning after these two dishes.  Maybe that's why their mac'n cheese didn't have any flavor.

It was probably the most disappointing point of my meal.  This might have been due to my boyfriend overselling it.  As a true lover of cheese, I was so excited to try "the best macaroni and cheese around."  It was very heavy in a buttery way, but there was no taste of cheese.

Although we waited over an hour to be sat, we hardly had to wait at all for our meals.  While we did, we were appeased with their delicious corn bread and butter.  They also have an extensive beer list and drink menu.

To be fair, Redbones specializes in BBQ, and I sampled some of their alternative dishes.  It's popular for a reason, and I have at least a little faith in my boyfriend's taste.  I'm sure he'll be dragging me back soon, so I'll let you know if I have a better experience my second time around.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Splurging a Little at Serpentine

I finished my San Francisco eating extravaganza at Serpentine ( at 2495 Third Street.  I don't know if I was enamored with the modern decor, my wonderful dinner companions, or if I had one too many glasses of Pinot Noir, but I swear I was served bliss.  

Serpentine is a small restaurant with an almost warehouse like feel.  It has a high cement ceiling, with windows that stretch across the upper half of the brick walls.  Simple stools, lining the black counter of the bar, sit on a casual wooden floor.  Despite the seemingly cold ambiance, the gentle lighting brings a warmth and intimacy to the restaurant.

I asked the bartender to help me decide between two items on their eclectic menu.  He suggested that I get one as an appetizer and one as my entree... And when you're company is picking up the tab, why not?

We started out with their tender House Made Potato Gnocchi.  It was served in a rich cream sauce, with baby fava leaves, hedgehog & black trumpet mushrooms, English peas, green garlic, pecorino piccolo, fresh oregano, and breadcrumbs mixed in.  We were splitting it between four people, and I shamefully admit I took a little more than my fair share.  

For my main dish, I went with the Roasted Mary's Chicken.  Yes, it sounds boring, especially on a menu that also has choices like Strawberry Salad with a ginger champagne vinaigrette and Pan Seared Chicken Livers, but I do not regret my decision.  It was the BEST piece of chicken I've ever eaten (sorry Nana)!

The chicken was cooked perfectly—so moist!  It was served over Bacon Roasted Asparagus (it is as good as it sounds), Beech Mushrooms, and was topped with a Sherry Jus.  I had already eaten bread, a good portion of gnocchi, but I still managed to finish this entire roasted chicken. 

Everything I put into my mouth was happiness.  I did not want this meal to end.  Thanks to our generous dinner company, it didn’t.

We finished off our feast with a dessert made of a delicious banana ice cream sandwiched between two soft peanut butter cookies, which all sat on top of a delectable bed of caramel. 

Please!  If you are in San Francisco, eat here!  It is well worth it, even if you just want a great ice cream sandwich.  

Sunday, April 3, 2011

No Waves at Wipeout

Walking into Wipeout ( on Fisherman's Wharf is like walking onto an amusement park ride.  Gimmicky decorations blanket the walls.  It has all the marks of a theme restaurant, including a giant mural depicting scenes of Pier 39.

Their menu is made up of pretty casual fare:  appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers, pizza, etc.  I went with the Bread Bowl and Salad combo; I got Chili Con Carne with their Caesar Salad.  

The cheese sprinkled chili sits heavily in the sourdough bread bowl.  After a few bites I wished that I had gone with their New England Clam Chowder, but as a lifelong New Englander, I couldn't bring myself to order my hometown dish in a West Coast restaurant.  

When I get a bread bowl, I want the soup to seep into it.  I rip off pieces of the bread as the soup disappears... I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty.  Unfortunately, the hearty chili just sat on top of the bread.  I had a bowl of mediocre chili, and then I had a few bites of mediocre bread.  I could have ordered them separately and it wouldn't have made any difference.

The Caesar Salad was straightforward.  Nothing was wrong with it... but there was nothing special about it either.

Although their chili was lackluster, the waitress recommended a great drink:  their House Margarita.  I splurged and went for the 23 ounce frozen version.  They squeeze real lime juice into every margarita, and I definitely could taste the difference.  I refused to leave until I had sucked down the whole thing.

If you're on Pier 39 and you're hungry, you might want to explore a little more before settling in here. 

If you're here and want a few drinks, especially if you're craving some tequila, this just might be your place.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Overeating in Old Town

Besides a large number of chain and fast food joints, Salinas is lacking in what it offers for eateries.  For dinner, we had a choice between two of the main restaurants in the area:  Monterey Coast Brewing and Salinas Valley Fish House, located right across the street from each other in Old Town.

We opted for casual fare over a second night of seafood.  Booths lined the wooden walls.  The pub atmosphere was expected, as was the pub style food.  I decided to be brave and try out some Salinas-pub-style seafood after all.

Once again we started out with an appetizer of Calamari.  I enjoyed their version much more than that of Neptune's Palace (see my first post).  The batter was crunchy, and the meat inside tender.  It was served with a delicious garlic aioli, which complemented the fried calamari well.

For my entree I chose a Sea Bass served with a Risotto.  I never have had sea bass before but was motivated by the hope that I would finally get the good risotto I had been craving.  The sea bass was tough and there were no redeeming qualities in its flavor.  However, the risotto was great!  It was surprisingly creamy, smooth, and well seasoned.  I ate around the fish, sticking to the rice.

It is a brewery, but I unfortunately am not a big fan of brews.  Brendan told me that he enjoyed them.  They also served local wines in addition to their beers.  I got a nice glass of Pinot Noir from Paraiso Vineyards.

Overall, it was a decent meal.  Don't expect fine dining and you'll find it a pleasant pub experience.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Soup and Sandwich in Salinas

Salinas is about 100 miles south of San Francisco, and was where our customer was located.  We drove down after our dinner at Neptune's Palace (read my previous post!) and checked into our hotel.

The next morning we ate breakfast at the hotel, which isn't worth recounting here.  Brendan was set on eating at an In-N-Out Burger for lunch, but burgers aren't really my favorite so I checked out the area and picked out a diner in the next parking lot.

Margie's Diner ( had that local,small restaurant feel despite the fact that there are four locations in California.  The service was amazingly friendly.  I was getting takeout, but my waitress treated me like a seated customer.  I decided on a Grilled Turkey Sandwich which had jack cheese and green ortega chillies on it, giving it a slight kick, but nothing too intense.  It also came with a side of either French Fries, Onion Rings, a Cup of Soup, or Tossed Salad or Fruit.  I picked a meatball vegetable soup, which ended up being an entire other meal in itself.  It was a great lunch, although my stomach was a little unhappy afterwards.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Seafood and San Fran

My first trip and I lucked out... I was on my way to California.  My coworker, Brendan, and I flew into San Francisco on Tuesday.  Neither one of us had ever been there before, so our first stop was Fisherman's Wharf.  No meals were served on our flights, so despite a quick lunch break during our layover in Chicago, we were starving.  We scouted out a few restaurants on the wharf, and settled on a spot called Neptune's Palace, mainly because of its location right on the water.

We were seated at a table overlooking the bay and enjoyed watching the sea lions and boats on the water.  After getting drinks and having some bread, we ordered a plate of Calamari, which was served with a lemon aioli dip.  Although tasty, the calamari was a little chewy and the dip didn't add much to the dish.

Determined to use the entire food stipend provided by my company, I decided on Fish and Chips, except I swapped out my french fries for a Roasted Veggie Risotto and got a side of Polenta.   Their tartar sauce was delicious, and helped mask the saltiness of the fish, which I didn't notice until my ramekin was empty.  I did not enjoy the risotto.  The lack of creaminess made it taste more like fried rice with some vegetables mixed in instead of a smooth risotto.  The polenta was extremely rich, but being a lover of anything smothered in cheese, I truly enjoyed it.  If you're watching your weight, you probably would want to pass on this one.

The prices were reasonable.  The service was great (although formal).  I enjoyed the view and atmosphere of the restaurant, but was underwhelmed by the food.  You could probably find better fare for a better price right on the wharf, and if you're willing to venture out, you could definitely discover better restaurants in San Francisco.