Sunday, September 3, 2017

Tuscan Kitchen with Dining Playbook, Billy Costa & Jenny Johnson

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Let's face it, passion is contagious. I recently had the pleasure of attending a dinner at the amazing Tuscan Kitchen in Burlington, MA with Dining Playbook, Billy Costa, Jenny Johnson, and Tuscan Kitchen founder Joe Faro, and it was so inspiring to hear Joe's story and passion behind his restaurants. 

Joe visits Italy at least 2-3 times per year, and brings back authentic Italian dishes for us to enjoy in New England! We had an epic meal with great company and conversation, what's better than that? They're even opening a Boston location in Seaport this fall, can't wait to visit! Read on to see what we dined on.

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Tuna crudo is one of my favorite dishes!

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So honored to be in such great company - listening to the wisdom of Billy Costa, Jenny Johnson, and Joe Faro!

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This steak was so flavorful and delicious, and the potatoes were seasoned perfectly. My favorite dish of the night!

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This plate had such an epic preparation. They torched the inside of the parmigiano cheese wheel, then put the pasta inside of it to absorb the cheese, and finally topped it with grated truffle. In the end it was a perfectly light and subtle dish.

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Dinner was topped off with a dessert platter just as impressive as the rest of the meal. This was a feast to remember, and I absolutely recommend Tuscan Kitchen for upscale Italian in New England! Don't forget to check out their new Seaport location opening soon!

Comment Challenge: What's your favorite Italian dish?
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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Spectacle Island with Boston Harbor Cruises

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

Spectacle-Island-Boston-Harbor-Cruises

From its comforting warmth to leisurely adventures, summer is my favorite season. One of the best ways to soak up the last rays of summer are with the striking views from Boston Harbor Cruises and Spectacle Island. They offer a fun Sunday outing 6 more times this year, so definitely take advantage before the season is over! Take a look at our fun in the sun below!

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The cruise itself is about 30 minutes long, with a two-story boat which includes a bar and snacks. The views of Boston Harbor are pretty amazing, from the skyline to the boats and islands. It's a great way to step outside your usual routine and gain a little perspective.

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Spectacle-Island-Boston-Harbor-Cruises

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Spectacle-Island-Boston-Harbor-Cruises

Once on Spectacle Island, we were greeted with delicious food from Chef Barbara Lynch, as well as drinks from Harpoon Brewery. So perfect!

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Spectacle-Island-Boston-Harbor-Cruises

We strayed a little farther from the rest of the group to explore the island, and discovered this yurt. Apparently there's an artist rotational program that takes place here in the summer. We met the current artist, who was recording sounds from the island and turning it into music. So interesting to see such a different way of living!

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Not too shabby! Walking back to the boat, we got to see the sun setting behind the Boston skyline. Be sure to check out the Boston Harbor Cruise and Spectacle Island soon!

Comment Challenge: How are you soaking up the last rays of summer?

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Importance of Friends with Itz Spritz

*This is a sponsored post, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting those who support Chow Down USA! Photography by Brad Bahner.

itz-spritz-why-friends-are-important

With its warm weather and endless fun activities, summer is the perfect time to get together with friends. Sometimes it's easy to take them for granted, but friends are honestly invaluable. Even the most independent people can benefit from the community of your closest pals, and studies have shown that friends can literally extend your lifespan and make you healthier (more on that below)! 

We got together with Itz Spritz for a summer hangout on the Charles river docks to celebrate the importance of good friends. If you haven't tried Itz Spritz, I cannot recommend it enough! It's a fun and bubbly alcohol spritzer with delicious and unique flavors like Elderflower Citrus, Cucumber Lime Twist, and Golden Pear! The Elderflower was our favorite, but they're all phenomenal! 

Read on to see why friends are so important, including scientific studies to back up the importance of your pals!

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Dress: Madewell


1. They Make You Laugh & Live Longer

Friends are great for comedic relief and to put things in perspective. Whether you're feeling upbeat or blue, your pals are there to put you in the right mindset and laugh for hours on end. I really believe that laughter is the best medicine, so this is a priceless gift. It's no wonder that a 2010 study showed that the effect of social ties on lifespan is twice as important as how much you exercise.

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2. They Listen & Problem-Solve


Nothing is better than a group of friends when you have a story to tell. Whether it's an adventure story or something small, your friends are there to experience life with you and share each other's hopes and dreams. Sometimes it's nice to bounce ideas off of others, and your friends are always there to help you problem solve everything from careers to relationship advice. 


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Dress: Madewell

3. They Keep You Healthy


You know how when you're with friends you feel a general sense of happiness and safety? Studies have shown that those with strong social ties are actually physically healthier than those without. This seems intuitive but there's actual science to back it up! 


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4. They Support You and Keep Your Mind Sharp


When you need a leg up, your friends are there to lift you up and support you. Apart from keeping your body healthy, interacting with friends and combating loneliness actually reduces the risk of dementia - so stay social to keep sharp! 


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5. They Challenge You

Another important form of support is to have friends who challenge you. From trying new things, to being true to yourself, you can count on your pals to push you to be the best version of yourself.

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6. They Bring New Experiences

Friends bring new experience to the table, from travel to activities to foods. Growing up in the super diverse San Francisco, I'm grateful to have friends from many different backgrounds who showed me so many different foods and cultures, all of which shaped the person I am today.


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7. They're Fun

Friends are the best form of stress-relief because they always bring the fun! Whether we're traveling the globe or just chilling on the docks of the Charles Esplanade, you can count on your pals to bring laughter, great conversation, and fun antics.


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Itz Spritz was the perfect way to elevate our hangout on the Charles. They're made with just 5 all-natural ingredients, all of which are gluten-free. There is zero malt, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, or coloring in these drinks, just simple ingredients. Plus, I love supporting a female-founded business! The founder Kate comes from a family-run beer business, and set out to make her very own sparkling adult beverage that caters to modern tastes without compromising on calories. Basically, Itz Spritz is everything you want, and nothing you don't!


Comment Challenge: What Makes Your Friends Important To You?


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Monday, July 31, 2017

DAVIDsTEA at the Pru: So Matcha to Love

*Note: This is a sponsored post, thanks for supporting those who support Chow Down USA! All opinions are my own. Photography by @NishatNguyen

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Fun fact: I'm more of a tea drinker than coffee - anyone else?? Coffee often makes me feel like I need to go run in circles, while tea offers a more subtle energy and focus boost that works better for me personally. 

Enter DAVIDsTEA: a brightly-colored, loose-leaf dreamboat of a tea brand, which is based in Montreal and just opened a brand new store at the Prudential Store in the heart of Boston! I got to take a peak inside for a quick tour with the wonderful Jim Burnett, NE District manager / tea expert / all-around super friendly guy. Read on to see why there's so *matcha* to love about DAVIDsTEA and their newest store at the Pru!

DAVIDsTEA at the Pru: So Matcha to Love


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1. Friendly Staff

Good service is more important to me than anything, so this is at the top of my list. The staff at DAVIDsTEA is always grinning ear-to-ear, and are as friendly as they are knowledgeable - which is saying a lot! Some tea stores can feel pretentious, but DAVIDsTEA is the exact opposite - they're super fun and approachable. You can walk in and just browse around with your earphones in if you want, or you can chat with the staff if you have any questions.

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2. Open, Bright, & Colorful Branding 

DAVIDsTEA stores, like their products, are filled with bright, pastel colors, crisp white walls and an open, airy feel. As someone who is energized by bright colors, I absolutely love their branding!

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3. Self-Serve Tea Wall

Rather than being behind the counter, the Pru location actually has all of their teas out for your perusal. They practically have more varieties than you can count, so it's fun to browse around, smell all of the various teas, and find new flavors that you didn't even know existed (I'm looking at you, caramel corn)!

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4. Innovation

I mentioned the incredible selection of flavors available at DAVIDsTEA, and the background behind their innovation team is just as exciting. There's an entire team dedicated to selecting and scheduling new tea flavors 2 years ahead of time. Yes, two whole years! Another example is how their iced tea tumbler took 1.5 years to design to perfection - including a graphic which changes colors when exposed to cold water. They really go above and beyond, creating innovative tastes and teaware that border on works of art. 

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The lilac iced tea tumbler above has an elegant lace design that transforms to purple when filled with ice water!  

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Left: Cotton Candy Iced Latte | Right: Blueberry Green Iced Tea

5. Great Deals


DAVIDsTEA is affordable and has good deals on top of their usual prices. They currently have a 50% off semi-annual sale, and if you get the below tumbler, you can order iced teas off of their in-store menu for $1, as many times as you want, through September!

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6. Summer & Cocktail Collection

The Summer & Cocktail collection is as fun as it sounds, including flavors like cotton candy, sparkling sangria, rose all day, strawberry lemonade, and raspberry mojito. The cocktail varieties mix well in adult beverage recipes, how fun is that for summer!

I've tried a myriad of flavors, and my faves so far include the Berries n Cream Matcha, Rose All Day, and Passion Punch!

The Passion Punch is a crowd favorite. With a subtle sweet / tangy flavor and tropical aroma, it's perfect to have at a summer soiree!


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The Rose All Day is part of the cocktail collection and is best as an iced tea. it has a pretty pink hue and the tea leaves smell amazing before you even make the tea. It can be mixed with adult beverages and would be perfect for a summer sangria, with subtle floral and sweet notes.


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The Berries and Cream Matcha is a wonderful combination or fruity berries and natural vanilla. It's super smooth, light and refreshing, with a great consistent energy boost!


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7. Mucho Matcha 


On a previous trip to DAVIDsTEA in Lynnfield, they gave us a great matcha tea demonstration, and taught us about how you get great sustained energy from matcha (as opposed to a sudden boost as with coffee and other teas). There are tons of health benefits to matcha, reflected in it's natural green hue. DAVIDsTEA has multiple varieties which you can prepare hot or iced, including honeydew, berries & cream, and Hawaiian punch! They also offer a tumbler that can be used for tea or matcha (on the left below), how cool is that?

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Left: Matcha-Friendly Tumbler | Right: Iced Tea Tumbler

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8. Accessories

From brithday cake tea-infused lip butter to tea-infused chocolate, DAVIDsTEA branches out from the beverage world into other creative accessories to enjoy!

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From iced teas, to matcha and summer & cocktail blends, DAVIDsTEA has every tea tool and flavor you could hope for. Their modern, colorful packaging, accessible tea wall and friendly staff will make you the hostess with the mostest, and are all waiting for you to visit at Boston's Prudential Center!


Comment Challenge: Have you tried DAVIDsTEA and visited their store? What's your favorite tea flavor?


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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Bookmarks Rooftop Bar: Library Hotel NYC

*Note: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

Bookmarks-Rooftop-Bar-Library-Hotel-NYC

What's better than hanging out on pretty rooftops on warm summer days? Bookmarks Bar is in the middle of Manhattan in NYC, situated within the Library Hotel (which is the same hotel group as the Hotel Elysee, where I stayed during this trip)! This rooftop lounge is the epitome of rustic-chic, with wooden benches, exposed brick, greenery and flowers, and a killer view of Manhattan.

Bookmarks Rooftop Bar Library Hotel NYC




Left: Lychee Rose | Right: Bookmarks' Hemmingway



My favorite part about The Library Hotel Collection is how they cater to the creative - writers, artists, actors. Bookmarks Bar is a fun embodiment of this. The menu is mostly based on artistic and literary terms, like The Pulitzer and Tequila Mockingbird (think about that last one - too good)! 


Above is the Lychee Rose, with lychee-rose puree, Combier liqueur de rose, and sparkling wine. On the right is Bookmarks' Hemmingway, with  Barbancourt Five Star rum, lime juice, muddled mint, and champagne. 



I just love the creativity that goes into the menu and the theme here. Bookmark's Bar and the Library Hotel Collection as a whole really caters to artists and offers an inspiring respite and oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city!


Comment Challenge: Have you had a chance to visit Bookmarks Bar? Which literary drink would you order here?


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