Cha Yen Thai Cookery – Watertown, MA

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We went out to dinner with our friends, Todd and Ashley, at Cha Yen Thai Cookery – just outside the city in Watertown center. Cha Yen Thai Cookery is not what you’d call “fine dining”, but it is what you would call “delicious fooding”. There are also great vegetarian and gluten-free options here.

It’s a small space that was quiet that night – although to be fair, it was also raining, and nobody likes to go out when it rains – that and we also went later in the night around 8 pm.

To start it off, we ordered and split appetizers enough to taste test, ordering curry puffs and shrimp donuts ( Donut mind if I do)! The curry puffs had spices and the shrimp donut, which was not a dessert by any means, was nothing I had ever eaten, but in the best way possible.

The Seafood pad thai that we ordered was also nothing short of tasty. The dish had every type of seafood you could think of outside of lobster – calamari, shrimp, and squid. Samantha and I ended up splitting the dish, which worked out nicely because there was enough to split into two good-sized portions. In my humble opinion, it’s not Thai food if there’s no kick, so to give it some spice, I asked the waitress for some sriracha sauce for the portion.

After dinner, we debated off-and-on about whether or not we wanted ice cream for about half an hour, basically until they closed (worth noting that they close early on weekdays). The flavors sounded intriguing, and included flavors like green tea, ginger, and Thai iced tea (yes, Thai iced tea coffee, sounds amazing, right?!). The ice cream is also homemade, so it must be good! Next time we go, we’ll try it and report back.

TL;DR: The high ratings online hold up in my book – Cha Yen Thai Cookery is completely worth a trip out to Watertown if you’re in the market for Thai food.

Blue Ribbon BBQ – West Newton, MA

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Nate and I have been getting very into House of Cards lately, and real talk: those scenes where Frank Underwood goes to Freddy’s BBQ Joint to get ribs and unwind after a day of political deception and double-crossing have been getting to us. In other words, two seasons and twenty episodes in, we’ve been finding ourselves thinking more and more about finding a place in the city to eat good barbecue than about Frank and Claire’s depraved quest for political power.

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So, we hopped in the car and headed to West Newton, home of Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q, for some down-home Southern-style comfort food. And let me tell you, if Frank Underwood was eating here instead of at Freddy’s, he’d be too full and satisfied to be so angry and devious all the time.

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The storefront itself is very small — there is only counter seating available (other than a few tables and chairs located on the sidewalk outside) — but the atmosphere is fun, homey, and exactly what you’d expect from a Southern BBQ joint.With a full wall of pickled veggies surrounded by a bevy of out-of-state license plates, kitschy neon signs, a menu full of classic Southern sandwiches and platters, and a barbecue sauce station with a myriad of flavor combos, Blue Ribbon is a casual and fun slice of the South located in the heart of Newton.Nate got the North Carolina Pulled Pork sandwich — made from pork shoulder smoked for 14 hours and mixed with a vinegar-based barbecue sauce traditional to North Carolina. The pork was tender and juicy and the sauce was tasty but there needed to be more of it (the BBQ sauce station came in handy since the sandwich needed extra sauce for dipping in order to bring out the full flavor of the pork). Each sandwich comes with two sides and Nate chose the mashed potatoes (garlicky, creamy, and flavorful) and the baked beans (which came smothered in a sweet, tangy, and thick molasses-based sauce that made the beans irresistibly delicious).I decided to go a little off the beaten path and get a dish I had never heard of before — the Kansas City Burnt Ends, beef brisket smoked for 14 hours with oak and hickory and then chopped and cooked in sweet BBQ sauce until the meat is caramelized. I’m not usually a huge fan of Southern BBQ brisket, but the Burnt Ends were otherworldly. Each piece was unbelievably tender (to the point where there weren’t even whole pieces of brisket on the plate — it was just a pile of sweet, juicy, stringy, fatty goodness) and the portion was so big that I hardly made a dent in it.  I chose to get a platter instead of a sandwich, which meant I got to choose three sides.  I went with the mashed potatoes, baked beans (which I devoured), and the cornbread, which had a dense, almost cakey consistency.Blue Ribbon has a location in Arlington as well as Newton, but despite the fact that the restaurant has been in business for over 20 years and is such a household name that they even sell their sauces online, the restaurant has the feel and technique of a roadside barbecue joint (the meats are all slow-cooked at low temperatures over oak and hickory hardwoods to ensure that every piece of meat comes out tender, juicy, and flavorful).  Along with Tennessee’s Real BBQ in Braintree, Blue Ribbon BBQ is one of Massachusetts’ best pieces of proof that good barbecue isn’t just a Southern tradition.

Tl;DR: If you want delicious barbecue and don’t have the time to take a trip down South, Blue Ribbon BBQ is the next best thing to being there.

Bottega Fiorentina — Coolidge Corner, Brookline

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When it comes to Italian food, Boston has no shortage of delicious options — from casual slices of pizza to fine dining to cannoli, the North End alone offers a taste of nearly every region of Italy. But, you don’t always have to make the trip to the North End to get authentic, delicious, and homemade Italian food.

Nate and I recently made our way to Coolidge Corner to try Bottega Fiorentina, an intimate and cozy Tuscan restaurant with a small but diverse menu full of antipasto plates, salads, sandwiches, and handmade pasta in a myriad of sauces both traditional (i.e. Alfredo, pomodoro, bolognese, etc.) and unconventional (i.e. the Boscaiola, a tomato sauce with prosciutto, mushrooms, pine nuts, and red pepper; or the Paradiso, a cream sauce with zucchini, mozzarella, and garlic).  The menu is perhaps best distinguished by its extensive list of daily specials, all of which are made to order, are offered only once per week, and sound so good that I seriously would consider eating at Bottega Fiorentina every day for a week just so I could try them all.

After perusing the menu and trying to decide what we wanted to order, Nate settled on the Prosciutto di Parma sandwich — a generous amount of paper-thin prosciutto topped with fresh mozzarella rounds, tomatoes, basil, and olive oil.The sandwich came on an Italian sub roll that was the perfect ratio of crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside.  And, the saltiness of the prosciutto combined with the smoothness of the mozzarella made for an excellent meat lovers’ take on the traditional caprese sandwich.

I went with a pasta special — we went on a Friday, which meant that they were serving their homemade pesto sauce. So, I got an order of spinach gnocchi topped with the pesto (that’s what people mean when they say they want to go green, right?). The order was small, but each individual dumpling was packed to the brim with a deliciously creamy spinach filling. The pesto — made with basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and cheese — was creamy and thick, coating each gnocchi and adding a tangy punch to every bite. The whole dish was topped with freshly shaved parmesan cheese and served with a side of crusty Italian bread. It was a small portion, but the heartiness of the spinach gnocchi combined with the cheesy, creamy texture of the pesto left me full and satisfied (if not wishing I had a little more left on my plate).

In addition to the dine-in and take-out options, Bottega Fiorentina also sells imported Italian grocery specialties, including pasta, cookies, chocolate, and different varieties of coffee and espresso. Combine that with the unpretentiously casual dining area (complete with a communal wooden picnic table, tricked out with a large umbrella and white string lights) and you’ll feel more like you’re dining al fresco in a cafe in Florence than inside a storefront in Brookline.

TL;DR: One of Coolidge Corner’s culinary gems, Bottega Fiorentina offers delicious, homestyle Italian food without the hassle of North End traffic and crowds.

Boston Superstar Athletes’ Favorite Restaurants

We all know Boston is one of the most storied sports towns of all-time. But what keeps these athletes going? Food, of course! We’ve detailed current and recently retired Boston athletes to tell you their go-to restaurants for fine dining in Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline. Read below to see where Celtics, Bruins, Patriots, and Red Sox players go to dine out in greater Boston! See what keeps them coming back for seconds.

Abe & Louie’s – Back Bay

Patriots’ Wide Receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman

Both wide receivers have visited this steakhouse, located on Boylston Street in the heart of Back Bay.

 

Craigie on Main – Cambridge

Patriots’ Wide Reciever Julian Edelman

Another Julian Edelman favorite, he covets the Craigie is one of his few favorite places to get a burger in Boston (even though it’s located in Cambridge near Central Square).

Strega Waterfront – Waterfront

Patriots’ Tight End Rob Gronkowski

The Patriots’ Tight End has hosted events here in the past, where he has bartended before. Beyond that, he frequents Strega Waterfront for fine dining in Boston.

Strip by Strega – Downtown Boston

Celtics’ Point Guard Isaiah Thomas

Strip by Strega is considered Isaiah’s “go-to”, and is often seen eating here with his wife. He’s apparently tight with Strega restaurant owner Nick Varano.

Merengue – Roxbury

Celtics’ Center Al Horford, Former Red Sox Designated Hitter David Ortiz

Both from the Dominican Republic, Al Horford and Big Papi love dining at Merengue, in South Boston, which is said to have authentic and delicious Dominican food.

Grill 23 – Back Bay

Red Sox Rightfielder Mookie Betts

An avid steak-eater, Mookie Betts mentioned his go-to dining spot in Boston to get a steak is Grill 23 right in the heart of Back Bay. Who doesn’t love Grill 23?

Vejigantes – South End

Former Red Sox Designated Hitter David Ortiz

A big fan of Dominican cuisines, another Dominican favorite of Big Papi’s is Vejigantes in Boston’s South End.

Union Oyster House – North End

Former Celtics Small Forward Paul Pierce

Pierce would frequently stop by the historic Union Oyster House for seafood after home games, often with two or three of his teammates.

La Morra, Brookline

Patriots’ Quarterback Tom Brady

The G.O.A.T. has been known to carbo-load at this hometown spot of his in Brookline. Brady’s favorite dish at La Morra is the tagliatelle al ragù.

El Oriental De Cuba – Jamaica Plain

Red Sox Shortstop Xander Bogaerts

Although he doesn’t go much, Bogaerts has long coveted El Oriental De Cuba in Jamaica Plain, serving authentic Cuban dishes.

Del Friscos – Seaport 

Bruins’ Goaltender Tuukka Rask, Patriots’ Safety Devin McCourty 

Both the Bruin’s goaltender and the Patriot’s Safety frequent Del Friscos Steakhouse in Boston’s Seaport district.

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Stephanie’s on Newbury – Back Bay

Patriots’ Tight End Rob Gronkowski,  Patriots’ Wide Reciever Julian Edelman

Patriots’ players Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman have both been to this beloved Back Bay restaurant on Newbury Street.

Doretta Tavern & Raw Bar — Back Bay

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Samantha and I wanted to change things up this time and go to a Greek restaurant. There aren’t too many Greek restaurants in Boston, but we settled on Doretta Taverna & Raw Bar in the Back Bay.

The atmosphere is a reason in itself to visit Doretta Taverna & Raw Bar. The restaurant is filled with contemporary art and colorful decor. It’s certainly stylish, but not in a flashy way, but in a more simplistic way. The space inside is big – there are tables and booths that surround a big bar located in the center of the restaurant.

Doretta is like many restaurants around the back bay or downtown area – it doesn’t pretend to be this lesser, more casual restaurant. That means you’ll get smaller portions that cost more, but the quality of dishes are top notch.

The dinner menu is split into raw, mezze (smaller plates), and larger plates. I had never had grilled octopus, so we started with an order of that. Again, a small portion (and even smaller since Samantha split it), but so. Damn. good. The order came in a bowl and in that bowl, along with grilled octopus, came with capers, onions, and parsley.Doretta TavernAfter splitting a mezze, we also ordered a larger plate to split. While the branzino and lamb shoulder both sounded great, we ultimately went with something a little more affordable, that sounded just as great – the lamb burger. We were not disappointed. The lamb burger was topped with whipped feta, spicy cucumber, and tzatziki sauce. The burger came with a side of awesome homemade potato chips which we also thoroughly enjoyed. We also found a foodie hack and dipped chips in the tzatziki sauce that fell out of the burger and onto our plate, and that was a truly delightful experience for my taste buds.Doretta TavernIf you’re looking to change it up from the typical bar and grille, Doretta fits the bill as an elegant restaurant downtown with fresh, authentic Greek food – a very solid place for a date night!

The Do’s and Don’ts of Eating in an Upscale Restaurant

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By this point, it should be pretty clear that we’re fans of eating at restaurants. After all, what’s not to like? Food that tastes better than anything you could ever cook in your kitchen, someone pouring water into your glass the minute you take a sip, a basket of fresh bread that they’ll literally refill as many times as you ask…it’s a delight. But there’s a difference between going out to eat at a regular neighborhood hangout and dining out at a high-end restaurant.

We’re not particularly fancy people, but in an attempt to celebrate special occasions and/or go all out for a nice date night, we’ve been to fancy restaurants a time or two (including one recent experience at Craigie On Main in Cambridge that was utterly delectable, not to mention our total Treat Yo Self day at the Top of the Hub). Still, while going to a nice restaurant is always a satisfying experience (the food! the cloth napkins! the dim lighting!), it can also be an intimidating one (too many forks! menus full of words you’ve never heard of! the prices!).

So, pinkies up ladies and gents, because the Boston Eat Party proudly presents the ultimate list of Do’s and Don’t Of Being Fancy…

DON’T try to pronounce the French and/or unfamiliar words on the menu

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DO pronounce only what you know, and then mumble the rest while pointing to the item on the menu. Your waiter will fill in the blanks and that way you won’t have to ask what conchiglie or foie gras is.

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DON’T attempt to “understand” wine

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DO ask the waiter for his suggestion, pretend to mull it over for a second, and then just go with what he says as if it’s exactly what you would have picked if he hadn’t been there. And don’t forget to swirl it around and sniff it when it comes (you’re welcome).

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DON’T make fun of the jazz and/or classical music that they’re playing in the background. It’s boring, but necessary to the Ambiance™

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DO comment on the Ambiance™ and try to steer the conversation to that time you went abroad in college. People who travel are ~cultured~

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DON’T gasp at the prices on the menu.

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DO go online and study the prices on the menu before you get there. Only order what you know you can afford, but do it in a blasé, Gatsby-esque way that suggests you order Coq au Vin without thinking all the time.

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DON’T look visibly disappointed at how ridiculously small the portions are

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DO eat a snack before you get to the restaurant, and then maybe one after you leave too. That way you won’t be hungry enough to care that your “deconstructed burger and burrata with tomato-basil reduction” is actually just a half meatball and a shred of mozzarella cheese sitting on top of a thin layer of ketchup.

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DON’T be yourself.

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DO be a fancier, better version of yourself. Adopt the Kennedy accent, talk about yachts and summer homes, and remember that the less you know about something, the more you should talk about it as if you know everything there is to know about it. They can’t tell you you’re wrong if you don’t let them talk.

Follow these guidelines and you’re sure to be a success. Now go forth and be fancy!

Craigie On Main – Central Square, Cambridge, MA

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Just a five-minute walk from Central Square T-stop, Craigie on Main is an upscale, French-inspired restaurant that features innovative dishes that push the limits in terms of bold ingredients that somehow seem to compliment perfectly together.

One thing that was evident right away was the outstanding service from the entire staff. From the moment we walked in, the staff was nothing but friendly and accommodating. Throughout the night, we literally never lifted a finger to pour water out of the carafe on our table.

As mentioned, Craigie on Main is an upscale French-inspired restaurant, and the decor certainly reflects that. Where we were seated, there had to have been 8 different types of mirrors with antique-style frames. This, in addition to the dimmed lighting, created an intimate aura, making Craigie on Main a prime date spot. The spot even featured an open kitchen!

The dinner menu offers plenty of new dishes that you’ll have to go out on a limb to try. I admit, we didn’t know some of the ingredients listed on the menu, but in asking our waiter, he was able to explain the ingredients and what we could expect in terms of taste for each dish we quizzed him on. Our appetizer, for instance, was squid ink chitarra pasta, topped with manilla clams, roasted tomatoes, pork belly, uni butter. While the squid ink gives off a strong aroma, it worked in harmony with all the other ingredients, particularly the clams. It had a garlic-lemon undertone.Next was the main course. We decided on the Pennsylvania Dutch country chicken. Let me tell you about this entree. The chicken was fall-off-the-bone tender. It’s unclear what it was braised with, but it was delicious. Along with the chicken, were green beans, fennel, and raisins, with a very tasty mole verde sauce that had a mild kick to it.

To cap off our order, we ordered the milk chocolate cremeux. The only way to describe this was that taste was the only sense that existed in that moment, and all other senses ceased to exist – at least until we finished eating. The combo of milk chocolate, feuilletine, and walnut ice cream was just unbelievable and left me drooling for more.

We were very pleased with our experience at Craigie on Main, and would highly recommend going for a date or special occasion.

TL DR: With outstanding service, Craigie on Main in Central Square is a top notch upscale gourmet restaurant – but it’s about quality, not quantity here.