Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bestaurants: Top 5 Brunch Spots Across the U.S. in 2013!

As a foodie, my favorite meal is brunch, hands down! Check out my Top 5 Brunch Spots across America as we round out 2013.


5. Masa | Boston, MA



Masa is an underrated brunch spot in the heart of Boston's South End. It offers an unique menu, starting with the scrumptious plantain empanada you see above!


Complimentary cornbread and blue cornbread, with a side of delish spreads. The bottom yellow one is apricot jalapeno! Perfect subtle kick.




I ordered the chocolate chip pancakes, which were sweet and filling. Other entrees included Huevos Rancheros and Eggs Benedict, which were all to die for! I cannot recommend Masa enough.

4. Eagles | Boston, MA




Between their glorious french toast and ginormous omelettes, it's no wonder Eagle's Deli was featured on Man Vs. Food. This Brookline local spot takes the cake for brunch in Boston. Stay tuned for the full story in the upcoming blog post for Boston's ABC Dining, Letter E!

3. Kitchen Story | San Francisco, CA




The Castro's Kitchen Story is known for it's out-of-the-box menu. This includes the newsworthy Millionaire's Bacon - 2 thick-cut slabs of hearty bacon, encrusted with not only brown sugar but also cayenne pepper. The extreme sweet comfort mixes with the spicy cayenne kick to force a sound of amazement from the diner with every bite. If you live in SF, or are just passing through, I actually recommend coming to KS if not for their Millionaire's Bacon alone. The idea is that their bacon is SO good, it makes you feel like a millionaire. This is up for debate, but its taste truly is unique and delicious.



As a certified french toast fiend, I felt compelled to order the Mascarpone-Filled, Deep-Fried French Toast. Topped with fresh fruits and angel hair pasta, I scarfed this down to the amazement of my dining companion. It was just that good. 


My friend Alex ordered the Franciscan Omelette, filled with chicken mango, avocado, pimento, mushroom, celery, and jack cheese, and completed with butter croissant and rainbow potatoes. The croissant was noteworthy, extremely soft and buttery. I enjoyed the presentation of the rainbow potatoes - a fun take on the ordinary, which seems to be a recurring theme of KS. Read the rest of our Kitchen Story here.

2. Wildberry | Chicago, IL


 
While visiting Chi Town, we stopped into Wildberry across the street from Millennium Park. There was a pack of diners waiting outside, which is always a good sign. Sure enough, the menu inside was absolutely breathtaking, from Red Velvet French Toast to Oreo S'mores Pancakes. 

I ordered the Caramel Apple Pecan French Toast, which came complete with thick-cut brioche dipped in their "Special Batter" and topped with sautéed cinnamon glazed Granny Smith Apples, smooth caramel and glazed pecans.

To put it simply, it was as good as it sounds- better, even. The crunchy pecans were a perfect juxtaposition to the soft french toast, and the apples were a texture all their own. I dare say it was the best french toast I've had to date. It was VERY sweet, which my sweet tooth enjoyed and was great fuel to adventure around the city! Read more on our Coast-to-Coast Adventures here.



Refreshing fruit bowl to offset the hearty carbs.

1. Lucky Cafe | Cleveland, OH





During our coast-to-coast roadtrip, we stopped in Cleveland, Ohio for some brunch at Lucky's Cafe. I ordered the Canoewreck, which consisted of curried tofu, hash browns, seasonal veggies and brewer's yeast, served with como toast and fresh fruit. I was impressed with the innovation in the menu. Not many places do you see curried tofu and brewer's yeast for brunch. Every ingredient was also incredibly fresh. I was thrilled with the interesting flavors of the curry, vegetables, potatoes and brewer's yeast. 

All in all, the plate was savory and unique. The house-baked como toast and the house jam was unbelievable. I would pay for the recipe of either!


...And then there was bacon! Not just any bacon - Lucky's award-winning Pecan Bacon, topped with brown sugar and surely a deal made for someone's soul at some point. This bacon was truly AMAZING. The Millionaire's Bacon I enjoyed at Kitchen Story back in SF was tasty, but too sweet, drenched in sugars and syrups. I had a huge sugar rush and crash following my Millionaire's Bacon. The Pecan Bacon at Lucky's was different. It was more focused on the nutty and healthy pecan flavor, with just enough brown sugar to bring out a subtly sweet taste (sans the sugar rush & eventual crash). Best bacon I've ever had, hands down.

Hope you enjoyed this installment of 2013's Bestaurants! Do you have a favorite brunch spot not listed here? Let me know in the comments! I always love trying new places :)

Check out Bestauarants: Salad Edition here!
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Bestaurants: Top 8 San Francisco Salads of 2013

As we near the close of 2013 and the beginning of a new year, brimming with endless potential (and hopefully amazing nomz!), I'd like to share with you my BESTAURANTS - the best restaurants and eateries I've encountered this past year. 

Most of the Bestaurant contenders will be located in San Francisco. A few may be scattered across the U.S.; discoveries I made during my cross-country road trip! Don't be confused if you see a number from Boston in particular, since I recently made the move out to the East Coast :)

We start with my picks for the 8 Best Salads of 2013. From octopus to persimmons, these salads really cannot be beat!

8. A Wedding Salad | Carmel Valley





In August we were guests at a ridiculously adorable wedding in Carmel Valley. The food was almost as gorgeous as the scenery and the darling bride & groom. I said "I do" to the beautiful and delicious salad you see above, which consisted of a foundation of various tomatoes, sprinkled with mozzarella cubes and encircled with a great balsamic. Read more about this California Fairy Tale here.

7. Buckhorn Grill | Westfield Shopping Center





Buckhorn Grill incorporates the best ingredients for the modern omnivore- Certified Angus Beef Tri Tip, fresh fruits and leafy greens.


Maybe I was a little biased due to my shopping hunger, but my order from Buckhorn was something to write home about. My dish of choice was the Spring Mix Fruit and Nut Salad, which consisted of spring mix greens, locally-grown fruit and sweet walnuts, tossed with honey-lime dressing. Naturally, I opted to add the tri tip on top. It was the perfect blend of healthy, light greens, fruit and nuts, with a hearty and substantial tri tip steak. SO fresh and rejuvenating! If you are visiting SF's downtown area or just out for some shopping, I would highly recommend Buckhorn Grill to refuel after your cardio. Read more about why shopping is my cardio.

6. Ricky Bobby | New American | Lower Haight



I love when restaurants give you unexpected combinations of ingredients! Ricky Bobby in the Lower Haight offers an off-the-charts Duck Salad, complete with delicious fresh strawberries and crunchy crumbled pistachios. The dish healthy, yet hearty. The strawberries gave it an added sweet kick, and somehow the duck and lettuce complemented each other nicely. So good. Read more about our Ricky Bobby bonanza here.

5. Kokkari Estatorio | Greek | FiDi



Did you know that traditionally, Greek salads do not have any leafy greens? Instead, they are filled with a healthy combination of tomato, bell peppers, cucumber, onion, oregano, olives, and blocks of feta. Kokkari Esatorio's Horiatiki, or Classic Greek Salad, was crisp, fresh, and colorful! Discover more Greek cuisine at Kokkari.

4. Zero Zero | Italian | Soma



I loved the presentation of this salad from Zero Zero; A mountain of arugula, topped with a snow powdering of fennel, Asian pears, DuChilly Hazelnuts, goat cheese vinaigrette, and a light dusting of Korean Chili. I know what you're thinking, and no it was not spicy. The salad was very refreshing, from the green arugula to the sweet Asian pears. The hazelnuts were a great addition, as was the shaved fennel. Want more scoop on Zero Zero? Get it here.

3. The Vestry | New American | The Mission



The Vestry knows their salads. Case in point: their Chicory Salad, which comes complete with persimmon, pomegranate, and candied walnuts. I absolutely love when salads come with walnuts. They add a great crunch and earthy quality, not to mention their health value - they are packed with omega-3s! The pomegranates were fresh and delicious, which is tricky to do, so it was a special treat.


These Marinated Olives, which came in a darling white china set, were perfect for a warm SF afternoon. They offered olives of all shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. My favorite were the larger light green variety, although the dark green olives were a new interesting flavor - sharper, perhaps? Read more on the Vestry at the Chapel here.

2. Plaj | Scandinavian Cuisine | Hayes Valley 



Who would think to put Rye Crumbs on a salad? Apparently Scandinavian-Californians would. And they would be right about it, because Nick and I agreed this was one of the best salads we've ever had. It wasn't just the Rye either, which was diced so finely we don't really understand how they even did it. The Aquavit Vinaigrette on the Organic Frilly Red Mustard Greens was perfection - just enough vinegar to offset the mustard greens, but not enough to make you pucker. Neither Nick nor myself are big on cheese, but let me tell you we were enjoying the Gioia Burrata by the forkful. It had a soft consistency and incredibly mellow taste. The Heirloom Tomatoes were big, chunky and sweet to offset the vinegar and add some texture to the burrata. 
    From the pillowy Gioia, to the leafy greens, topped with minutely-diced rye, to the soft crunch of the Heirlooms, the texture in this salad was almost distracting to the conversation. That's how unique and interesting it was. Follow our Scandinavian adventures at Plaj here!

1. Frances | New American | Castro




With its innovative menu, it's no wonder Frances earned itself a Michelin Star and the #1 spot on my top salads list! This Octopus Salad was entirely unique from anything I've had before: with octopus, grilled potatoes and celery. I've had octopus before, and I've had salads and (believe it or not) potatoes before, but never have I had them in combination. The juxtaposition of flavors, textures, and even colors was delightfully interesting. 


I ordered the Salad of Spring Greens as my appetizer, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Another first for me, I adored the combination of soft greens with the crispy, fried shallots! The English Peas themselves were fresh and full of flavor (almost sweet), and the farm egg was perfect - nice and runny as soon as you cut into it. Read more on the unique menu at Frances.

Hope you enjoyed these salads - I know I did. Can't wait to see what amazing salads 2014 has in store. Stay tuned!


Check out Bestauarants: Brunch Edition here!
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Saturday, December 21, 2013

5 Amazing Boston Restaurants Open on Christmas 2013

Wondering where to eat out in Boston for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day 2013? Home cooking is always amazing, especially around the holidays. But sometimes going out for a meal on Christmas is nice for a change - no stress, no slaving away in the kitchen, just great food served how you like it. 

I asked 5 amazing Boston restaurants what their Christmas plans are. If you can't make it home this season, or just want to relax locally, check out one of the great venues below!

Boston Restaurants Open for 

Christmas in 2013



1. Gari Japanese Fusion Bistro & Restaurant             


     Gari Bistro is making it a party! Open to the public on Christmas Day, they're offering Sushi Party Boats so big they have to call them Yachts, Premium Sake Flights & more. Click here for more info

2. Top of the Hub

     For a fancy evening out, head over to Top of the Hub and get a view of Boston's winter wonderland skyline. They're offering a prix-fixe dinner menu from 4-10pm on Christmas Eve. Courses will include Lobster Crepes and New Zealand Rack of Venison. More info

 

3. Legal Sea Foods & Legal Harborside      


     All Legal Sea Food locations will have regular menus available for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. For a real treat, they recommend venturing over to Legal Harborside, their special test kitchen on the 2nd floor. Here you'll find an 8 course feast of 7 fishes on Christmas Eve and a prix fixe menu for Christmas Day. More info

4. Cafe Fleuri      


     Located within Lagham Boston Hotel, Cafe Fleuri is offering a relaxing Christmas Day brunch, complete with a glass of sparkling wine or mimosa. Just what you need to forget all the money you just spent on presents! More info

5. ArtBar

     With it's outdoor heated patio along the Charles River and quaint Cambridge location, ArtBar is an awesome option for Christmas. It offers a world-class art collection, American cuisine, and seasonal specialty cocktails. Open on Christmas Day, ArtBar will be running delicious specials for both brunch and dinner!  More info

While this list is by no means exhaustive of every restaurant open in Boston on Christmas this year, it's a great jumping off point and shows you the wide variety of options out there. Hope you find it helpful! 


Happy Eating & Happy Holidays :)
Chelsea M.
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Sweetgreens are Made of These

Sweetgreen Boston

You gotta love a healthy restaurant with inspirational quotes adorning the walls. It just feels like you're being strengthened from the inside out, both body and mind. SweetGreen in Boston's Back Bay is a great example of foodie inspiration.

SweetGreen has a huge assortment of every veggie, fruit, nut, meat, and dressings you could imagine in a salad. They offer a new salad every month in addition to their local, seasonal menus.

To give you an idea of their tasty concoctions, December 2013's salad consists of warm grains and organic arugula with roasted curry cauliflower, roasted chicken, dried cranberries and organic cilantro; topped with cucumber basil yogurt dressing and spicy Sriracha sauce. YUM! There are enough ingredients available that there is a salad for everyone here.

Sweetgreens Boston


Sweetgreen Boston

I opted for their custom salad option, choosing my personal favorites: kale, warm quinoa, sliced almonds, cucumber, corn, red grapes, roasted tofu, balsamic vinegar. The result was absolutely devine. The sweet red grapes and corn brought great flavor to the healthy warm quinoa and kale. I would have preferred more balsamic, but it was great as-is. 

After filling up on the impossibly fresh ingredients, I couldn't help but feel rejuvenated and inspired, both by the vitamins in my tummy and the quotes on the wall. Soon after, I finally nailed the French Braid I've been working on mastering! I can't say for sure it was the SweetGreen, but who knows?

Sweetgreen Boston

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Tots in a Blanket: Delish Bacon Wrapped Potatoes Recipe


"The only thing better than bacon is bacon wrapped in bacon."

Many of you have seen my recent Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallows recipe post, which were a huge hit when served at our holiday party last weekend. I wanted to have an equally adorable and delicious savory appetizer at the party as well. "What does everyone love?" I thought. The obvious answer was bacon. While I didn't serve bacon wrapped in bacon, I found the next best thing: Bacon Wrapped Potatoes. I've nicknamed them Tots in a Blanket for obvious reasons. Hope you like em!

Bacon Wrapped Potatoes Recipe 




I found the best bacon recipe from none other than Martha Stewart herself. It's quick, budget-friendly, and easy enough to get the kids involved (just watch out for those toothpicks)! 

All you need is:

  • 1 bag small potatoes 
  • 1 package bacon
  • 1 container of toothpicks 

Depending on the number of people you're planning on feeding, you may want to get more potatoes and more bacon. I got a couple packages of both. 


Simple Recipe Instructions


Pre-Baked Bacon Bites

Step-By-Step:

  1. Preheat Oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Cut bacon slices in half crosswise
  3. Cut potatoes into halves or quarters, as needed
  4. Wrap each bacon piece around a potato piece
  5. Secure with a toothpick
  6. Place on baking sheet and bake until bacon is crisp and potatoes are tender against a knife (40-50 minutes)
  7. Enjoy!


 Finished Product

I placed these on a napkin atop a serving dish, since bacon can get a bit greasy. Just before the guests arrived, I switched out the napkin for a new one to keep them looking fresh and appetizing.

Tots in a Blanket

These Tots in a Blanket were so fun to prepare and a huge hit at the party, not to mention they made the whole house smell absolutely delicious. They're the perfect savory appetizer for a hearty crowd, and go great with holiday sweets as well. Hope you enjoy them & Happy Holidays!

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Darling Holiday Recipe: Dark Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows


"As we gather together this holiday season, may our hearts be grateful, our mugs be full, and our pants be stretchy!"

Who doesn't love the holidays? The parties, the decorations, the holiday recipes! It's a whirlwind of fun festivities. For our holiday party I was in charge of the tasty bites, a responsibility I take very seriously. 


Chocolate Covered Marshmallows Recipe



I came across an easy and delish holiday recipe for Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows (c/o Budget Savvy Diva), and I knew it was meant to be. I'm absolutely OBSESSED with this quick dessert recipe now!


All you need for this sweet dessert recipe is a bag of jumbo sized marshmallows, chocolate chips, and sprinkles.

Ingredient Details:

  • 1 bag Jumbo Marshmallows
  • 3/4 cup Chocolate Chips (I used Hershey's Dark Chocolate for the flavor and healthy antioxidants)
  • Sprinkles (another option is broken peppermint sticks)
  • Parchment paper

Easy Recipe Instructions


This really is a great recipe for a seasoned chef or a newbie foodie like myself - it's easy to make but the outcome is impressive and scrumptious! Just follow the simple steps below:

Step-by-Step
  1. Heat the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe container. Heat in intervals of 30 seconds, stirring each time until smooth
  2. Cover a plate with parchment paper
  3. One-by-one, place a marshmallow into the chocolate, cover fully, then place onto a plate covered with a sheet of parchment paper
  4. Decorate with sprinkles/peppermint - get creative!
  5. Repeat steps 3-4 with each marshmallow
  6. Place plate in refrigerator for 30 minutes to let the chocolate set
  7. Enjoy!



Pre-refrigerator desserts!


Finished product - you can see after cooling in the fridge, the chocolate has hardened a bit. Now, you dont get chocolate sauce all over your hands/clothes/house! It magically retains the great dark chocolate taste, as well as the chewy marshmallow consistency we all know and love.


The Obligatory Insta #onthetable :)

These were a big hit at our party - definitely a crowd pleaser! You really can't go wrong with a dish that's both delicious and adorable like these are. Happy Holidays!  


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Monday, December 16, 2013

Bubor Cha Cha


A few weekends back, I had a couple friends come to visit Boston. The first thing they wanted was pho, so we ventured to Chinatown. Yes, I know pho is a Vietnamese dish, but Yelp sent us to the Malaysian Bubor Cha Cha in Chinatown, and we dared not argue!

Restaurant Decor



Walking into Bubor is a treat. Every inch is decorated, including a blue, clouded sky on the ceiling and a bamboo hut roof. I always enjoy good presentation and decor, so this is an added bonus in my book. It really whisks you away to another place, which is what good cuisine should do, especially on a rainy night in the city (which it was).


I loved the white tablecloth and folded cloth napkins. These little touches really add up in the end. I also appreciated the detail in the dishes themselves. It was carved and painted to look almost like a leaf of some kind - giving a healthy, natural feel which is always appreciated during a meal.


Entrees


Wonton Soup

Though they didn't have pho, Bubor had the next best thing: Wonton Soup, complete with healthy green bok choy. This dish was pretty good, with generous wonton portions and a warm salty broth.

Wonton Soup with Beef

For the carnivore, the Wonton Soup with Beef was decent as well, and also came with a healthy serving of bok choy.

Fried Crispy Tofu

Though I ordered what I thought was just plain Fried Crispy Tofu, I was brought shrimp-stuffed fried tofu. I'm still not sure if it was a miscommunication with the waiter, but the menu item definitely had no mention of shrimp in my order. Nevertheless, the dish was tasty.

Overall Experience

Between the fun decor and okay food, I would say Bubor is a decent dinner venue. If I'm being honest, I probably wouldn't go back, because it didn't wow me. Another noteworthy point was that the communication between us and the waitstaff was extremely difficult. I think if you're paying to dine out everything should be made smooth and simple. That being said, it wasn't a bad experience. If you're in the area and craving Chinese, I wouldn't avoid Bubor. I just wouldn't go out of my way to dine there either.  

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