Eastern Standard (Boston)

Last Tuesday night after a long day of meetings and a reception with John Ruggie, UN Special Representative for Business and Human Rights (yes sometimes my job is pretty cool), I was ready for a relaxed dinner. I grabbed Nadira and Kate (are you sick of those girls because I know I am… JK!) and a couple of other colleagues headed out to dinner.
There were 6 of us total and we decided to head to Eastern Standard, a restaurant that I believe opened just as I was moving back from Boston nearly 7 years ago and had always wanted to try.

We were having an unseasonably cold day in the northeast so we were all excited when we arrived at the restaurant to find that they had a heated outdoor patio. Score! I love eating outside and being under the heat lamps kept us warm and toasty.

Before we ordered I handed our waitress my allergy card as, as I’ve come to expect in Massachusetts, the waitress assured me she’d let the kitchen know and they’d take care of me and they did!

Saison Du Buff

After such a long day and in anticipation of another one to follow, we all needed a drink. Eastern Standard has a fairly impressive craft beer list and, after some consideration, I ordered the Dogfish Head Saison Du Buff. I had never tried that particular beer, but I generally really like Dogfish Head beers and I love saisons. My educated bet paid off and I was rewarded with a crisp refreshing drink. According to beeradvocate.com the Saison Du Buff is brewed with “parsley, sage, estate rosemary & thyme,” which gave it a lovely slightly herby flavor. Yum!

The moules

Since I’d indulged in so much meaty, bbq-ey goodness the night before I was in the mood for some lighter fare. I noticed the Moules Provencal with tomato, fennel and white wine on the appetizer menu. I love mussels,  but you can’t have mussels without fries so I ordered a side and made my own moules frite.

The frites

The dish totally hit the spot. The mussels were fresh and plump and the broth was rich and flavorful filled with bits of perfectly tender fennel. The fries were crispy and lightly salted just the way I like them and complemented the mussels perfectly.

The sweet corn ice cream was definitely the star of the show

When it came time for dessert, we were all intrigued by the selection of ice cream; dulce de leche, basil and sweet corn. We all got some combination of these flavors with me deciding to try one scoop of each. The dulce de leche was yummy as dulce de leche always is. Everyone agreed it was delicious; fresh, bright and clean, just as you’d expect from something basil flavored. Then there was the sweet corn ice cream. Now that was divisive. Four of us went crazy for it, declaring it far and away the best, but Kate and her friend Lisa who had joined us hated it. If Kate reads this she will comment that, “you could just buy a $.59 can of creamed corn, stick it in the freezer and get the same effect.” At that point I’d remind her she was outnumbered 4-2. The  sweet corn ice cream complex, sweet, earthy and I’d love to have it again.

All in all it was a lovely meal with a great group of people.

The verdict:

Food rating: B+

Service/food allergy accommodations: A

Overall rating: Super Yummy

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Sweet Cheeks Q (Boston)

Barrrrbercuuuue!

Last week I had to be in Boston for work all week and conveniently one of my besties wedding showers was on Sunday so I stayed all through the weekend. It was an exhausting trip (though spending the weekend with some of my besties was awesome), but left me with some great food experiences because, as you may remember Massachusetts has awesome food allergy legislation that let’s me eat there with very little worry. Love!

My friend Nadira and I traveled to Boston together arriving around dinnertime on Monday. Having worked in the morning followed by a 4 hour train ride we were tired and hungry. We quickly dropped off our things and headed out to a nearby BBQ joint, Sweet Cheeks Q. The restaurant, which is fairly new, had been recommended by several people before our visit, but it wasn’t until we got there that I found out it was owned by Tiffani Faison, a finalist on Top Chef season one!

Don’t let that little one fool you, she is hot hot hot!

When we arrived all the tables were full, but the hostess informed us that we could sit at any of the counters along the window and would still get waiter service there. How cool! We chose seats, got comfortable and studied the menus as soon as our waiter handed them to us. Our waiter explained to us that Sweet Cheeks is a true Texas style BBQ which means everything is dry rubbed and you put the sauce on yourself. There were 3 sauces in front of us, Sweet Cheeks barbecue sauce, a HOT habenero sauce and a Carolina style vinegar based sauce.

House Bill 819, not your mama’s ice tea

Normally I’m not a big cocktail drinker, preferring beer or wine, but when the waiter recommended the House Bill 819, Nadira and I both decided to order one. The House Bill 819 is made from tea infuse whiskey with mint, lemon and simple syrup and, like all the drinks at Sweet Cheeks, are served in a mason jar. The drink was strong and delicious.

Pretty much a perfect meal

For our dinner Nadira and I both chose pulled pork on bulky rolls. For $6 more you can get one “cold scoop” side dish and one “hot scoop.” I went with the mac and cheese and sour cream potato salad and Nadira went with the potato salad as well and the barbecue baked beans. I had given the waiter my allergy card earlier and he went to check with the kitchen after I’d ordered. Our very sweet waiter returned to our table and told me that the kitchen wanted me to know that the food I ordered was safe, but since they do use a lot of the foods I’m allergic too they might be “in the air.” I politely replied, “But none of the things on my allergy card are in what I ordered and you segregate ingredients in your kitchen right? OK, than I’m good”

Mini-rant time: While I appreciate their vigilance let me clear up two misconceptions. 1. Reactions to airborne food allergies is extremely rare. Most of us with potentially life threatening food allergies can be near those foods with no problem, we just can’t eat them or touch them (and even touching them, if you immediately washed your hands would likely only trigger itching/swelling/hives and not anaphylaxis though I’m not picking up a handful of nuts anytime soon). 2. Again I truly appreciate that the restaurant is trying, but obviously if I’m eating at a restaurant, any restaurant, I already know that there are ingredients I can’t eat “in the air.”

A little while later our trays emerged from the kitchen and did not disappoint. O.M.G. I don’t even think I have the words to describe how good this was! The mac and cheese and potato salad were delish, but the pulled pork was the star of the show. It was everything you want in pulled pork; sloppy, juicy, meaty and slightly smokey. Nadira and I are both big fans of spicy food and the habenero sauce was not for the faint of heart. Neither of us had much interest in the Carolina style sauce instead dousing our sandwiches with the flavorful barbecue sauce which packed a little kick and then carefully adding a few drops of the habenero sauce (even for spicy food junkies this stuff was lethal!).

Heaven, otherwise known as butterscotch pudding

We both finished about half our trays and asked for the other half wrapped since we had a refrigerator where we stayed. We were stuffed yet somehow Nadira, who weighs approximately 15lbs, can somehow always find room for dessert. As you know I’m not a huge dessert person and even though when waiter described the butterscotch pudding with salted caramel top to Nadira it sounded like my perfect dessert I insisted I wasn’t having any. Then the waiter brought out the dessert and informed me that he’d double checked with the kitchen and it was safe for me and after that, and Nadira’s chiding me to split it, how could I resist?

The dessert came in a half sized mason jar which made it the perfect petite dessert to split. The pudding was smooth and creamy and not cloyingly sweet. The caramel on top was gooey, sticky perfection and the flex of sea salt played perfectly with its sweetness. I’d consider selling a kidney for that dessert. We left fat and happy with Nadira vowing she’d return on Thursday night before she left to go back to New York. Nadira does not make idle promises…

I forgot to take a picture before we dove in

On Thursday, after our day of meetings, Nadira headed back to Sweet Cheeks and Kate (yes vegetarians can sit in bbq joints) and I, who both had dinner plans later, joined her for a drink. Nadira ordered another pulled pork sandwich, Kate got the House Bill 819 and I went with a cocktail again, the Dollywood which was a mix of vodka, lemon cordial, lemon juice and sparkling wine. I forgot to take a picture of it, but I loved it even more than the House Bill. A few sips in Kate suggested she and I get a couple of biscuits with honey butter. The biscuits were enormous and neither of us could finish them which was sad because they were crazy amazing. A little crusty on the outside and buttery, soft and fluffy on the inside.

On Friday, after all of my meetings were over, my friend Heather picked me up so that I could stay with her and her husband Justin for the weekend. While we were talking I mentioned Sweet Cheeks which Heather and Justin hadn’t yet tried. We had tickets to a Sox game the next day and, after hearing my description, Heather requested that we go to Sweet Cheeks for lunch beforehand. That’s right people, I was there 3 times in one week! Does that say something about how amazing this place is? I didn’t bother with pictures at lunch, but I once again had the pulled pork with mac and cheese and this time coleslaw, Justin had the brisket on Texas toast with two sides and Heather had the ribs with two sides. Heather and Justin loved the food as much as I did and I made them promise me we could go back every time I’m in Boston.

The verdict:
Food rating: A+
Service/food allergy accommodations: A-
Overall rating: Made me want to lick my plate in public!

Colicchio and Sons Tap Room

I cannot believe how far behind I am on blogging! I ate at one of my favorite restaurants, Colicchio and Sons, two and a half weeks ago and I’ve only now had a chance to sit down and document it.

Colicchio and Sons is owned by one of my favorite celebrity chefs and host of Top Chef, Tom Colicchio. The restaurant itself is divided in to two parts, the formal Dining Room in the back and the less formal and less pricey Tap Room up front. I’ve eaten at the Tap Room 3 or 4 times and it never ever disappoints. Not only is the food amazing, the service is impeccable and it’s one of the restaurants that keeps my food allergies in their computer so I don’t have to go through the list every time I call and the wait staff is already prepped before I get there.

I had made plans with 3 friends who had never been there before and I was excited for them to have their first Tap Room experience. My friend Nadira and I work together so we travelled to the restaurant together to meet Janet and Paul who had arrived just a few minutes before us and were standing at the bar. I checked in with the hostess and headed to the bar to greet the rest of my crew when I did a double take in to the dining room because what to my wondering eyes should appear? My dad was having dinner there with a friend of his! Though my mom knew I’d be eating at the Tap Room that night she hadn’t mentioned it to my dad so it really was pure coincidence. My dad, who works in the city, had apparently called his friend Ed at 3pm and asked if he wanted to grab a bite and they picked the Tap Room.

We had a good laugh and then I went back to the hostess station to be seated and guess where our table was? Yup, you guessed it; right next to my dad and his friend. They were already being served appetizers when we sat down so we didn’t overlap with them for too long, but it was still a crazy funny coincidence.

To start, we shared a plate of raw oysters (yum!), but I forgot to take a picture. Upon my dad and personal wine guru’s suggestion we ordered the Andrew Will Cabernet Sauvignon for the table which did not disappoint.

When I’m on my death bed I’d like Tap Room bone marrow as one of my final meals. Please remember that.

I love bone marrow! It’s one of my absolute favorite foods and Tap Room probably makes the best I’ve ever had so I get it every time I’m there. I know some people think the idea of it is disgusting, but I can’t understand why eating muscle (ya know like what meat is) is any less gross than eating bone marrow. Bone marrow has a buttery texture and an earthy flavor and is heavenly. Tap Room used to make a version with “Drunken Onions,” but are now serving it with anchovies, another of my favorite foods. Nadira and I shared an order and we both went crazy for it in all it’s marrow-y perfection, but I do think I slightly prefer the older preperation. Either way though I was a happy happy girl!

You know you want me, you know I want you.

For my main course I ordered the ricotta cavatelli with short ribs with tons of ooey gooey cheese baked on top. Do I really have to tell you how that was? I mean come on it was like eating pure comfort! The weather that night was miserable and rainy and this dish was like being wrapped in a warm blanket. It was so hearty that I could only finish half and I intended to take the other half home, but I was having fun talking to my friends and I forgot to ask the waiter. I was so upset after we left and I realized I hadn’t asked for my left overs which just means I’ll have to go back soon!

As I’ve said before, I’m not a huge dessert person so I only get dessert when there’s something that I feel like I can’t live without so while the rest of my crew decided to partake in some sweets, which they raved about, I finished off with a cup of tea. Here is my only complaint, which is something I dislike in many restaurants, they bring your tea already steeped. I drink my tea very week so I prefer to make it myself because by the time it comes to me it’s usually already way too strong. Still it’s a minor complaint in an all around great experience.

The verdict:
Food rating: A
Service/food allergy accommodations: A
Overall rating: Made me want to lick my plate in public!

Worst blogger ever?

Oh bloggies, I haven’t forgotten you I promise. I’ve had a crazy hectic couple of weeks and now I’m In Boston for work all week. You have my word that I’ll be back next week and here’s what you can look forward to soon:

• A “review” of my meal a couple of weeks ago at one of my favorite restaurants, The Tap Room at Colicchio and Sons.

• The awesome meal I had my first night in Boston at Sweet Cheeks BBQ.

• My “H” recipe which I think is going to be great.

Until we speak again, enjoy your meals!