Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Celebration Feast : Townsman Boston Review

townsman boston review

Happy Summer all! As you've probably surmised by now, Nick and I are both pretty big foodies. We love exploring new restaurants, and have somewhat of a tradition of seeking out fun, unique restaurants for each other's birthdays. Not too long ago it was Nick's birthday, so I surprised him with dinner at Townsman! Since Townsman was recently named one of ten restaurants of the year by Food and Wine Magazine, we were excited to see what all the hype was all about! 

Matt Jennings' Townsman is situated in Downtown Boston near Chinatown and the Greenway. It has outdoor patio seating (yes! mental note made to come back when it's more warm out), red accent seating, fun planetary light fixtures, and a drool-worthy menu which focuses on sustainability and local sourcing. 

townsman boston review

Loved the trendy ambiance! This is definitely a local spot, with a mix of suits from nearby offices grabbing a good meal after work, along with casual diners like us.

townsman boston review

Digging the back of the menu design. 

townsman boston review

Townsman's trendy, modern take on complimentary bread and butter. I was obsessed with this - how cute is that tin can? 

townsman boston review

I mentioned that I was gluten free and they actually managed to bring out delicious, life-giving cornbread to accommodate! 

Most waiters and restaurants start sputtering when I bring this up, and I don't blame them - it's tough to work around no gluten, which means no wheat or flour! So I get it. But at the same time, if anyone should be prepared for this, it should be modern restaurants, right? I was super impressed by their service and dedication to taking care of the customer's needs before we even asked.
townsman boston review

We started with the lightest and brightest deviled eggs ever! These were different than any deviled eggs than we've tried before - usually it's just the hard boiled egg white cut in half and filled with the yolk/mayo/mustard/etc. At Townsman, the eggs were coated in the mixture, in addition to fried capers, clay pepper and crispy hen skin. The plate proved to be very refreshing and comforting, and at the end of the meal we were still raving about it!

townsman boston review

Next we noshed on the Octopus a la Plancha, with plantains, mole, and citrus. I'd only ever enjoyed octopus with sushi in the past, and having a huge tentacle was an entirely new experience! It was rubbery and dense but not too tough, and the light citrus flavor offered a great contrast to the smokey octopus and it's texture.

townsman boston review

We were honored to try a dish not even on the menu! This arctic char skin and smoked cream cheese was another plate that was so different than anything I've tried before. The char skin was salty and crispy, and reminded me of a fun seaweed snack. We broke it up like chips to scoop the sour cream. This is the perfect example of why dining at Townsman is so fun - you never know what new textures or flavors you'll be trying next!

townsman boston review

As someone who loves oysters and seafood, these were an amazing stray from the traditional raw variety. These chicharron oysters were a heaven-sent melding of ocean and earthy flavors, adding a crunch and almost BBQ flavor to the oysters. Even if you're not an oyster fan you can appreciate these!

townsman boston review

townsman boston review


If you can believe it, we actually still had room for entrees after all that (but not much)! Also, how cool are these plates?

townsman boston review

I am a duck fiend, so naturally I ordered the Hudson Valley Duck Breast, with giblet jus, apricots, snow peas and chickpeas. The waiter told me the usual duck order is medium-rare, but I chickened out and ordered it medium. It was still very juicy and flavorful, but a little on the tough side, which is totally my fault for not ordering it the correct way! This is a lesson to listen to your waiter people!

In all seriousness, this plate was really delicious. The bright, citrus-y apricots were a great contrast to the duck, and who doesn't love a good snow pea? The dish normally comes with a cornmeal pancake in place of the chickpeas, but they again were super accommodating to make the plate gluten-free without us even asking.

townsman boston review

Nick ordered the Grilled Whole Fish of the day (trout in our case), with sea lettuce relish, chickpeas, and swiss chard. He fully enjoyed his plate as well, obviously!

townsman boston review

We topped off this glorious feast with yet another inventive item - this Candy Cap Ice Cream! This dish had multiple levels of flavors, including sweet, tart, earthy and maple. I'm currently obsessed with it and need to go back asap for more!

townsman boston review

I can honestly say that since going gluten free, this is the most I've felt taken care of by a restaurant! Complimentary cornbread to start off a meal is the best a gal could ever hope for, and to constantly alter the menu and tell me ahead of time which items to order without gluten is going above and beyond. 

Also, do I even need to say more on the innovative menu options? It's not your traditional dining spot - come here with an adventurous spirit and an empty belly, and you won't regret it.

From our friendly hostess and waiter, to the exciting menu, it will be truly hard to top Townsman's level of service and innovative, super unique menu!

Be sure to check out more Boston restaurant reviews, including my recent review of Gaslight in the South End, and my Boston ABC Dining project!

Comment Challenge: What's the most interesting menu item you've ever tried?

Get more fashion inspiration! Follow along on: Twitter || Instagram || Pinterest || Facebook || Bloglovin

Townsman Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Monday, June 20, 2016

Blogging Behind the Scenes: How to Fake a Marble Flatlay

How to Fake a Marble Flatlay Blog
Marble Adhesive from Amazon 

Long, long ago I was a Blue Bottle barista. One day on the job, I got out a roll of quarters and bopped it on the edge of the counter to get it open. The manager came over in a frenzy and said "Stop, stop! Do you know how much this marble countertop cost?" I said nope, and he told me they shelled out $10,000 for it. 

These days, the flatlay is a crucial part of blogging and curating a flawless Instagram feed. From makeup, to clothes, recipes, and jewelry, this type of post is meant to showcase your products in a spectacular birds-eye view. Some choose to stage their flatlays on a white shaggy rug (see below), but many opt for the modern and sleek look of a marble backdrop.

A photo posted by Food & Fashion Blogger 👠🍰 (@chowdownusa) on


I don't know about you, but I'm not shelling out 10 big ones for a flatlay background. My blog sponsorships are just not quite there yet! Our apartment actually has marble but it's the wrong kind - a dark gray. Everyone knows that social media favors light, bright backgrounds! Luckily, I recently found an affordable and easy way around this, and I figure some of you may be interested in the process!

How to Fake a Marble Flatlay Blog
Kate Spade impulse buy (no regrets)

Marble Flatlay Materials Needed

  • Marble Adhesive - I bought this one on Amazon Prime for $16.99 and I'm way beyond satisfied with how the photos turned out (see finished product below). It is also very easy to work with, as it can be unpeeled from the board if stuck to the wrong place, but still sticky enough to get the job done. There was a ton of adhesive left over to add to a side table or desk too! I'm still deciding where to put it. 
  • Foam Board - Pretty much any decently-sized board will do, but I went with a 16 x 20 inch board similar to this one from Blick's.
  • Scissors
  • Any type of credit card (see my Lindt rewards card above, definitely my most-used card, don't judge)


Steps to Creating Marble Flatlay (Total time = 5 - 10 minutes)

1. Place foam board on flat surface.
2. Peel off a small section (1-2 inches) of the marble adhesive and carefully stick to the foam board.
3. Gently run a credit card over the marble adhesive to smooth out any bubbles or wrinkles.
4. Continue unrolling the marble, stopping every few inches to smooth out with the card.
5. Once the board is fully covered in marble adhesive, cut it like wrapping paper, fold and stick over the edges of the board.

My first shot with my newfound marble countertop is below. Think anyone will ever know the difference? You be the judge!

How to Fake a Marble Flatlay Blog

For the record, totally using these hair products from OGX on repeat. They smell like summer and happiness!

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out my blogger tips page, which includes Easy SEO for Bloggers, How to Take Amazing iPhone Pictures, Growing Your Blog on Twitter, and other helpful topics that I wish I knew earlier! 

Comment Challenge: What are your favorite flatlay backgrounds?

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Summer Wishlist: For Beach or Travel!


Summer is finally in the air, and I don't know about you, but I've got dresses, hats, bags and shoes on the mind! These are at the tippy top of my summer must-have list, for obvious reasons. Take a browse and see what catches your eye - plus, the price is right with these pieces!




I'm in swoon city over this striped bow back dress! It's a steal at $17, since you can easily wear it to the beach or dress it up for a night out! I can't wait until this one's at my doorstep!



There was never a cuter summer bag than this $13 watermelon dream


This fun dress is not only neon pink, but it has ruffles AND it's off-the-shoulder? So on trend, count me in!




Straw hats are trending, not to mention they protect the top of your head from getting burnt at the beach! This one is less than $8 and has a bow on it so it's automatically ten times cuter than other hats out there!

Hope you liked these pieces and that they inspire you to treat yourself this summer!

Comment Challenge: Which of these pieces would you love to add to your summer wardrobe?

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Friday, June 17, 2016

That Time I Moved Across the Country

*Note: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting those who support Chow Down USA! 

What does it mean to be a grownup? Are you automatically a part of the adult club once you turn a certain age, or maybe once you graduate college? I think it's different for everyone. One of my most substantial "grown-up" experiences was moving across the country via an epic roadtrip! 

Stepping into the Mississippi River
Many of you know that I was born and raised in San Francisco, and three years ago we drove cross-country to move to Boston! Along the way, we saw gorgeous lands, waters, and skies, and came across some delicious and unique meals. I thought driving 3,000+ miles with a car full of luggage would be the longest week of my life, but it turned out to be the shortest week of my life. Each day we drove through new terrain, filled with new experiences. One day we were hiking in Utah's serene Zion National Park, and a couple days later we were in bustling downtown Chicago. It was such an adventure! 

Visting the Bean in Chicago
But perhaps the real experience began after that legendary roadtrip. Once the dust settled and we started our jobs in Boston, I started to really feel like an adult. I was independent, my friends and family were thousands of miles away, and I was taking care of myself. I found an apartment, got a job, and continued working on my blog. Even little things like getting groceries, cooking, and cleaning the house hit home - if I didn't do these things, no one else was doing them; they just wouldn't get done! 

Steering the duck boat of adult life in Boston
It felt great to be able to support myself and navigate the waters that are adult responsibility: arguing with Comcast, chipping away at student loans, paying rent, while still finding time and a budget to take fun trips to the Cape and get some retail therapy in. 

I was thriving in my new city, but I had plenty of questions. I wanted to know about budgeting my money long-term, saving for retirement, choosing the right credit cards, and other crucial aspects of being an adult that they don't teach you in school. I've often discussed with friends that these things should really be on the curriculum, at least as an elective (why can I choose to take ceramics, but finance and budgeting are off the table)? 


Enter Society of Grownups, a company that seamlessly melds financial education with laid-back, local classes and events. They somehow manage to unpretentiously teach everything from student debt, to investing, to the role of money in relationships. 


I was lucky enough to attend a few classes at a nearby Society of Grownups branch. My recent class with Certified Financial Planner Tyler was so casual yet informative - and isn't that really the best combination? The theme of the class was "You're A Grownup, Don't Panic," and offered a high-level overview of financial planning, including tips to getting a good credit score, how to strategize the best retirement plan, and general best practices for budgeting. 


The main takeaway I had from the class was that everyone has different goals in life, and thus you have to find the best financial plan for what your goals are. Someone who wants to travel the world will have a different plan from someone who wants to buy a house soon, for example. It's important to sit down and really think about your goals and financial values before setting up a financial plan, so that's what I intend to do in the coming weeks. I'll keep you all posted on that!

I'm truly excited about Society of Grownups. They made my transition to adulthood and moving across the country so much easier by giving me financial education and confidence in my future! I believe we need more classes and events like this across the country, from San Francisco to Boston. Plus, any company whose motto is "You're a grownup - don't panic," is fine by me!

Comment Challenge: What was the first time you really felt like an official grownup?

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Pink Bridesmaid Dress by Azazie

pink bridesmaid dress review azazie

*Note: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting those who support Chow Down USA!

Wedding season is in full swing - in fact, one of my best friends back home in SF just got engaged! It feels so surreal, since we've been friends since middle school! 

Putting on a wedding takes so much work, including picking out classic, tasteful bridesmaid dresses for the wedding party!

Enter Azazie. This brand honestly has the most incredible, intricate and high quality dresses. You send them your measurements and they literally tailor the dress to you, and it doesn't cost an arm and a leg! I've seen pom pom sandals that go for more than these dresses. You couldn't ask for better pieces for your special day! Plus, the brand name is just really fun to say!

pink bridesmaid dress review azazie
Wristlet: Fossil
I ordered the Azazie Rochelle in coral, and I couldn't be more obsessed! I ordered it in coral, but there are 45 other colors it comes in as well. That wasn't a typo - they have every color imaginable! It's a floor-length A-line/princess bridesmaid dress made with glamorous chiffon and lace. I adore the one shoulder neckline, and the intricate detail on the top half of the dress which wraps around to the back.   

pink bridesmaid dress review azazie

pink bridesmaid dress review azazie

pink bridesmaid dress review azazie

The bottom half is whole other dreamy story. With multiple layers to swish and swirl around, there's no way around it - you'll feel like a princess for sure. Its flawless and subtle pleats add to the ethereal look. I accessorized with a gold wristlet and jewelry, but the dress certainly steals the show! 

pink bridesmaid dress review azazie
Earrings: Shop Jami

pink bridesmaid dress review azazie

pink bridesmaid dress review azazie

 pink bridesmaid dress review azazie

pink bridesmaid dress review azazie

Needless to say, I'm blown away by Azazie and could not recommend them enough. One thing to know is that since the dresses are each custom made, production time averages about 5-6 weeks. If you can wait that long, I think it's a small price to pay for such high quality pieces! 

I also just noticed on their website that they're having a flash sale for anyone interested! These sample dresses are just $35 (!!), so if they have your size I would jump on it! I'm not getting commission from these sales, I just honestly love their dresses and think this is an amazing deal!

P.S. Wondering why my images are suddenly so professional? For this post I collaborated with Nick Cosky, a local photographer in the Boston area. He's amazing to work with and has so many incredible images of Boston, definitely check out his work! Use code chowdownusa for 10% off all purchases! 

Comment Challenge: What's your ideal bridesmaid dress design?

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Boston ABC Dining: Gaslight Brasserie du Coin

gaslight boston review

Some of you may remember the ABC Dining in San Francisco which kicked off this whole blog 3 years ago! I completed all 26 letters and restaurants back in SF, and I'm determined to do the same in Boston! I was stuck on the letter G for the longest time, but we finally went to Gaslight Brasserie du Coin for brunch this weekend so I'm back on track!

Aside from continuing my Boston ABC Dining, we were both so glad we finally dined at Gaslight in the South End! First of all, we need to talk about how cute the ambiance and interior is at this French Brasserie! There's a classic, vintage feel that's very comfortable to dine in, from the wood seats to the tiled walls, ceilings, and floors. Maybe I've been watching too much Boardwalk Empire lately, but it reminded me of a place gangsters would eat, in the coolest way possible. 

gaslight boston review

gaslight boston review

gaslight boston review

The food itself at Gaslight is crazytown. It was one of those meals where we both just kept talking about how blown away we were! The prices were shockingly reasonable too - less than $20 each for fab food, great atmosphere and great service. Our waiter chatted with us when he found out we were also from California, gave us an update on our order and it's queue in the kitchen, and was knowledgeable about gluten free options when I inquired about them. Plus, our waters were always filled to the brim no matter how hard we tried to drink it all!

gaslight boston review

I ordered the Berkshire Pork Hache - best decision ever made. It came with confit pork, crispy potatoes, chili sauce verte, and two fried eggs, AKA protein central! The ingredients came out in patty form, cooked to perfection and filled with flavor. I scarfed it down in about 10 seconds.

gaslight boston review

This may not be a Pinterest or Instagram worthy shot, but I wanted to show the consistency and patty-like texture of the meal! It was soft enough that no knife was necessary. 

gaslight boston review

For even more flavor, the Poached Eggs a la Bearnaise is an excellent choice. With sauteed kale, caramelized onions, and plenty of garlic, this egg dish is one to savor and enjoy!

gaslight boston review

gaslight boston review

 gaslight boston review

In case it wasn't clear enough, I can't recommend Gaslight enough! Amazing food, great service, and fun atmosphere. What more could a diner want in a meal? There's also outdoor seating which looked inviting for the hotter summer months.

Be sure to check out my other ABC Dining venues, like Bostonia Public House and Coppa!

Comment Challenge: What's your favorite French dish?

Gaslight Brasserie du Coin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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