Spring has Sprung Restaurant Style

1 04 2010

Photo by Isabelle Klein age 5 1/2 (taken for her blog borrowed by mommy)

Not only are crocuses popping up here and there, but in Boston and environs some fabulous sounding restaurants have popped up here and there.  Flour Bakery (you know the one near the children’s museum) is working hard to open their third location down by Central Bottle Wine and Provisions in Cambridge, Bergamot has opened in Somerville, and Rafiki Bistro is in the works on Mass. Ave between Harvard and Porter Sq.

Another restaurant that I have been anxiously awaiting is AKA Bistro because it is a hop, skip and a jump from our CSA and sometimes I just don’t have the time or desire to pack a picnic for dinner (although we enjoy many of those a growing season) and pizza next to the gas station is okay every once in a while, but now we have an extraordinary option….and check out this fabulous children’s menu!

There are snails (no puppy dogs tails) and instead of chicken wings how about some frog’s legs.  Wait….don’t start  to guffaw or shake your head.  This food is actually more child friendly than you might think. Read on and then I’ll explain.

Kids Menu

9 Frog legs, broccoli purée & garlic sauce

6 Ham & Cheese Sandwich

5 Grated Carrot Salad

8 Black olive tomato confit tart

9 Steak “hache”  (as in hamburger French style no bun) & french fries

8 French Mac & Cheese

7 Mashed potato and ham

9 Cod fillet, lima beans, cherry tomato confit, chorizo oil

9 *Hawaiian Poke (Marinated tuna cubes) with sweet onions, ginger & pickled mung beans

dz 9 Snails with herbs and garlic butter

For the most picky children there is the gratin of noodles and cheese (and I’m sure if necessary you can get them plain jane.) and a simple grated carrot salad is divine. As for the snails, my daughter loves garlic and butter and bread…that’s what snails are essentially with a snail hidden in there somewhere (don’t judge and your kids won’t either).  Marinated tuna cubes are great little bites of pinkiness.  Who wouldn’t want that?  Nothing fishy there and it’s the perfect finger food (even in a fancy resto).  The steak hâché should be a perfectly cooked patty with a side of fries.  Who needs a bun when the meat is good.  Mashed potato is another kid-friendly dish and who knows maybe they’ll like it with ham and then you can add a little protein in with that starch (and maybe even make your own version at home.)

I expect great things from AKA Bistro in Lincoln.  The quality should be top-notch which means the prices are perfectly fair and dare I say even reasonable.

If you get a chance to go…please share your experiences in the comment section below!

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Valentine’s day with the Kids

29 01 2010

I have never been a fan of Valentine’s day…well, I did always look forward to those little red hot Valetine’s heart candies.  The ones that make your tongue tingle and scream “CINAMMON” in your mouth.  Then there was the year abroad in college in the UK when I discovered they had candy hearts with mean sayings on them.  I had fun taping them to my friends’ doors.  All in love and with the true British sarcastic spirit.

So here we are and Valentine’s day is approaching somewhere between shuttling the children to and from classes and school, and working on projects, I guess I should consider what our plan is.  Do I buy/make cards from the children for family members? just my husband? no one?  I think I’ll do whatever I have time to do and whatever we feel like between now and then.  That’s got to be good enough. Then, if it strikes our fancy, everyone is healthy, we have it in our budget (money or time), perhaps we’ll do something around town.

For places to go and eat with the kids in tow at either breakfast, lunch, or dinner here are a few suggestions.  If it is chocolate that you’re after, either for your loved ones or for yourself, then here’s a full but not absolute list of where you can find everything from Cadbury chocolate to some exquisite hand-made chocolates.

Our slightly less local than it was toy store, Henry Bear’s Park, is having a chocolate lollipop workshop at each of their locations.  I am not sure how hands on the workshop will be, but it is free and when you call to reserve your spot you can get all the details.  Arlington’s workshop is on Saturday February 6th from 11:00 -1:00, Brookline’s is on Wednesday February 3rd from 3:30 to 5:30 and Cambridge’s is Friday February 5th from 4:30 to 6:30.  The recommended age from the Candy Factory Kit is ages 10 and up, but for the workshop (or using the kit with help) younger children will be fascinated as well.

You can’t eat it, but you can definitely cook in it and eat from it, if you made it at Made By Me.  Made By Me has some of the nicest options for pottery pieces to paint.   It turns out, on Monday February 1st you can eat it.  Made By Me is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary with cake and goodies.  There will be surprise specials for all painters (make something for the grandparents for Valentine’s day or plan way ahead for Mother’s day.)  If you can’t make it on Monday, then throughout the month of February, Monday through Friday will be Ten Dollar Days when some of the special, more expensive items will be offered for $10 while supplies last for any given item.  Items will vary throughout the month.

On Valentine’s Day proper, Sunday, February 14, paint with someone you love.  You each buy your item but the painting time will be two for the price of one.  Made by Me will provide the music, ambience, flowers, and even chocolates.  You are on your own for the creativity and affection.  We do enjoy eating our cereal or ice cream out of the hand-painted dishes the children have made at Made by Me.  I expect when they’re in college we’ll appreciate them even more.





To Meat or Not To Meat That is the Question

29 12 2008

Peta 2 has their vote going on for the 2008 World’s sexiest vegetarians.  Peta has their list of 2008 top 10vegetarian friendly ball parks.  And examiner.com‘sBoston Vegetarian Examiner has a great list of vegetarian prix fixe menus available to ring in 2009.   I’m sure that in the coming days some people are planning to start a vegetarian diet, be better vegetarians, or just choose to eat better in the coming year.

I have been vegetarian and vegan in my life not for ethical reasons, but because I’ve never been a fan of meat and dairy’s never been a fan of me.  At some point, when I learned that I was allergic to dairy and soy I decided that I don’t eat enough beans and lentils to be healthy and decided to cook meat.  My children eat meat, although not much because they prefer other things.  I love fish and hope one day they will learn to eat seafood other than the perfect  Wellfleet clams that my daughter ate off my appetizer plate at Craigie St. Bistrot (now Craigie on Main).  She then asked, “Can we just ask the waiter for some more?” and I had to explain it wasn’t the kind of restaurant or food that we could just ask for some more.

Recently, the Boston Vegetarian Examiner wrote about Veg-friendly options for New Year’s Eve prix fixe dinners.  I wanted to add a couple more restaurants to this list.  They may not have specific New Year’s Eve menus but they do have fabulous vegetarian tasting menus.

Craigie on Main

This is one of neighbourhood gems that is not quite in our neighbourhood anymore.  We went there recently and really enjoyed our meal (more about the Craigie experience in an upcoming article).  It is not well advertised, but Craigie on Main does have a Vegetarian prix fixe meal that is available for $61.  My children’s grandparents have dined with us there and they are both vegetarian and really enjoyed their meal.  Chef Maw’s kitchen is not the kind of place where they just put together a couple sides and take out the meat from a couple dishes to get Vegetarian food.  It is definitely a special night out with amazing food.  Chef Maws uses the best ingredients available.  I used to live not to far from Lyon and I have to say that the food at Craigie is the best French food I’ve had outside of France.

As stated on their website, “Tony Maws is a non-traditional chef – an “idealist with a kitchen” might be a more appropriate job description. His ideology: that local, seasonal and sustainably sourced ingredients are intrinsically better, and that these ingredients form the most significant part of what makes great food great.”.

The non-vegetarian New Year’s Eve menu can be ogled online, and a vegetarian menu will be available but has not yet been set.

Oleana

Oleana is another wonderful restaurant that has a menu to tantalize the palate.  This summer, we dined there again with grandma and grandpa who happen to be vegetarian.  At the time, they had a special vegetarian tasting menu set up to support Verill Farm after their devastating fire.  On their regular menu, they have a special Vegetarian tasting menu that offers so many different ingredients and flavours without overwhelming the diner.  The tasting menu includes five mezze and a dessert and is available for $42.

Elephant Walk

The Elephant Walk is a French-Cambodian restaurant.  It is not a fusion restaurant, but rather has a wonderful French side of the menu and a tempting Cambodian side of the menu.  Elephant Walk has won citysearch’s best of 2008 for their Vegetarian Food.  You can read about what makes their vegetarian options that much better on their blog.   The quality of the ingredients is fabulous and they have just recently lowered their already reasonable prices for such a dining experience.  They have some special menu items for New Year’s Eve and offer a prix fixe menu year-round that has a vegan or vegetarian option for each part of the prix fixe menu.  They also offer a gluten-free menu at each of their locations.

Now you have a great many fabulous restaurants to choose from.  You’re on your own, however, trying to get a reservation for New Year’s eve let alone a babysitter.  Don’t worry though.  These restaurants have great food year-round and offer their vegetarians fine dining choices year-round as well.

Bon appetit et bon année.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Craigie on Main, Elephant Walk,Oleana





Christmas in Carver: From Carving Turkey To Carving Out Family Time

14 12 2008

What does a family of New York (once or twice removed) Jews do when Chanukah falls right around Christmas?  We carve out some family time.  You can’t have a Chanukah party two weeks before Chanukah starts because waiting for the first night will be an eternity for the kids.  It is bad enough that they couldn’t wait so they filled their Chanukiah‘s with candles already even though the first candle won’t be lit for another week.  So, we were invited to the Cape to check out the John Carver Inn and Edaville, USA. and scheduled a weekend together just the four of us.  Family time is hard to come by these days.  Even though, I am a stay at home mom and my husband works in town, we are usually just ships passing in the day and night. We are lucky if we can break bread together as a family once or twice a week.

As a child growing up, I always knew how important it was to sit together and have a family meal.  My brother and I both had busy schedules, and I know we didn’t have dinner together every night, but we always had meals together on weekends and on as many nights as possible.  As a parent, I feel that what I know to be best for my family has to be attained in a modified way.  So we drove a couple of hours to get away, relax, play, and break bread as a family.

The problem with some vacations is that you spend almost as long planning, and packing and traveling as you do “vacationing”.  The great thing about a mini-vacation on the Cape is that it doesn’t take that long (in the Winter) to get to your destination.  I am not a fan of crowds so the Cape in the winter is idyllic.  The John Carver Inn & Spa had everything we needed.  A great pool for the kids to play in, a spa for me to relax in, and a several nearby activities, and attractions for us to enjoy as a family.

Edaville‘s Christmas Festival of Lights is a sight to see.  I don’t think I could drive there just for Edaville, but it’s definitely an experience to be had in New England at least once.  We got there a bit early so we drove around and were fascinated with the deep red fields that were cranberry bogs.  Edaville USA has that old New England, “back in the day”, kind of feel.  The entry ticket includes a train ride through the night in a heated narrow gauge train.  The landscape has more than seven million holiday lights both still and animated sprinkled over the landscape of the two mile round trip.  The entry fee includes all the classic, “old school”, carnival rides, but the games are three dollars each.  There is the scent of fried dough and popcorn in the air.  Nothing tempted us.  A few people were inside grabbing a bite to eat, but I think they really just wanted to get out of the bitter cold air.  Only in New England with the wind whipping at our faces do you see families out in the freezing night bundled up with pink cheeks nestled on scarves zooming by on the tilt-a-whirl or gliding up and down on the ferris wheel.  This is a night when you appreciate hot chocolate.  The children loved all the lights and the trains.

As a Jew growing up in a mostly Christian environment, I definitely felt like I was back in my home town twenty years ago.  There was one menorah in the lit up landscape.  It was nice, but I really didn’t feel it was necessary.  The children know about Christmas, they celebrate it at Grandma’s but they don’t live the whole Santa and elves fantasy.  It didn’t matter though.  They loved all the lights and decorations.  They’re magical to the children and their reactions bring back the magic to us as adults.  This is a side of Christmas that anyone could enjoy.    Even though we celebrate Chanukah I still remember as a child being certain that I heard Santa and his sleigh fly over our house on Christmas or around Christmas time anyway.

After a couple of hours, it was nice to hop into the wind-free car and head over the to the hotel and the Hearth ‘N Kettle for dinner and a quiet evening by the fire.  And what I mean by quiet evening by the fire is that the gas was light in the fire place and the kids had quieted from jumping on the beds to giggling and making a tent with the sheets by crawling under them and kicking their feet in the air.  Eventually the excitement from the trip to Edaville, having a night in a hotel, and hearing carolers at dinner dissipated and all was quiet until morning where a new adventure awaited.

The morning included a generous breakfast at the Hearth ‘n Kettle, a spa treatment (one of the best massages I have had – Thanks Chandra), playtime in the Mayflower themed pool and water play area for daddy and the children, and a short trip down to Hyannis for our next night of holiday enchantment at the Cape Codder.   As part of our package, we stayed at both the Cape Codder and the John Carver Inn and had our meals at the Hearth ‘n Kettle.

For more on the classic New England Christmas experience, look for upcoming articles on the Hearth ‘n Kettle Restaurant and a night at The Cape Codder.

Bonne vacances. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Edaville Christmas Festival of Lights, Hearth ‘n KettleCranberry BogsJohn Carver Inn & Spa,Festival of Lights PackageFamily Vacation PackageSpa Packages





Sofra: The Details

6 12 2008

My favourite new coffee spot and bakery/cafe is Sofra and I’ve written about it briefly, but now you can get the details.  The bakery is a great place to stop for breakfast as an alternative to a large chain.  The quality of the coffee and food and in particular the flavours are hard to come by even in a foodie cities like Cambridge and Boston.  Corby Kummer of Boston Magazine recently wrote a great article about Sofra with a side of scrumptious pictures.

I invite you to read the article and if that doesn’t tempt you then it just might be hopeless.

We had Sofra’s spreads and dips as peripheral meals for Thanksgiving and everything was tasty, new, and exclamation worthy.  There were many requests for second and questions as to ingredients and flavours.  We had a couple of the meze:  goat cheese spread, a muhammara, a parsnip puree and a cheese Börek.

If you usally have sufganiyot for Chanukah and you want to round out the treats by adding a couple of things…
If it is always Pannetone for Christmas morning…

…then I would highly recommend picking up some morning buns or other treats just to add a little spice and variety to your holiday feast.  I’m all for traditions, but I like a good Smörgåsbord too and can’t turn down trying new things.

Bon appetit.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Soframore from Boston Magazine





Our Rockefeller: Charles Square Tree Lighting

28 11 2008

As a family we are New Yorkers at the core intertwined with our new Bostonian and Cantabrigian roots.  Aside from the fact that, as a family unit, we don’t celebrate Christmas (that’s just at Grandma’s house) there is still something magical about the Rockefeller Center treeand the tree lighting.  We check in with one another about the tree facts:  This year’s tree is from New Jersey (to many a New Yorker’s dismay.) and it is a 72 foot Norway Spruce that weighs 8 tons.  In our neighbourhood we have a large corner tree that the owner lights and often invites area neighbours to a little ceremony.  But our Rockefeller Center experience is usually at the Charles Square tree lighting followed by a nice early dinner at Henrietta’s Table.  There’s the tree albeit a smaller one, the ice rink (that opening ceremony is a week later), a mini crowd and probably much better food.

Henrietta’s Table has a great bright, cheery atmosphere year-round.  I just feel comfortable and happy when I’m there.  The food is as fresh and local as it can be and the menu has a great variety of classics as well as the chef’s special creations.  The have a wonderful assortment of menu items that are child-friendly on the kids’ menu and the regular menu as well.  Our youngest is not the best restaurant guest, so we often take him for walks to see the toys in the restaurant “lobby” and for treks up and down the hotel steps so we can get through a long meal.  Henrietta’s is extremely accommodating for families.

The Charles Square Christmas tree lighting in on Saturday, November 29th from 5:00 to 6:30 in the upper courtyard at the Charles Hotel.  There are people in costume singing carols, there are complimentary warm beverages, and apparently a visit from Santa Claus.  We usually make it through about a half hour outside and then head inside to Henrietta’s Table.  You can see the tree from most of the restaurant and unless you’re chasing a toddler out to the lobby you won’t miss the lighting of the tree.

Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Charles Square Christmas tree lighting





Black Friday: Shop Well, Eat Well

27 11 2008

Truth be told, I would not be caught dead shopping on Black Friday, because I have the luxury of being a stay at home mom so I can shop any other time during the week and I have the flaw of becoming hostile and a tad bit cranky when I shop in a crowd.  When I wasn’t a stay at home parent, I shopped in eccentric places…you can find great gifts at CVS, the cultural survival bazaar has many great finds and isn’t crowded compared to the mall, and this year we’re getting crafty and creative with gifts that we’ll assemble and/or make at home (more on that in a later article).

If you are headed to the mall and let’s face it you’ll have to make a day of it, then here are some great nearby food options for you.

If you are going to the The Mall at Chestnut Hill then you can grab a pre-shopping bite or a mid-day bite at these nearby restaurants and eating spots:  Bakers’ BestLa Rotisserie (If you can handle more roasted poultry.), Rosie’s Bakery (I don’t think they have sandwiches at this one, but may have soup.), Johnny’s Luncheonette (I’m sure there will be a crowd.), and Union Street among others.

If you are going to the Cambridgeside Galleria then you can sit and grab a bite at these eateries: Aceituna Cafe, and Boca Grande and Cambridge Brewing Company.

If you are headed to the Burlington Mall you can stop in Lexington at:  The Upper Crust PizzeriaVia LagoLexx Restaurant (Not sure if the kids will do so well here, but you know your kids best.), The Cheesecake Factory (Some people love if and others hate it.  I think it’s decent.  Call in an order to go while you shop or the kids play and find a  table in the food court or a little seating area and have a picnic.  I love the food at Gourmet India in the food court.  It’s probably some of the best food court food you can buy around here.  If you want to go fast food, Chik-fil-A has a more than decent salad with fresher and tastier than expected vegetables.  I’ve been recently introduced to Chik-fil-A, which always scared me because of the name and the strange cow mascot, but I’ve added their salad to my “go-to” list when I’m at the mall.  The chicken is a bit too salty and “seasoned” for my taste, but the kids don’t seem to mind and I don’t mind feeding it to them every once in a while.  Just remember to refill their Sigg bottles or sippy cups at the water fountain before you leave.  The e-bar at Nordstroms also has some decent sandwiches that you can eat at the tables just outside the store.

Last but not least on the mall front, if you are headed to Wayside Commons in Burlington there is my husband’s go-to fast food place Fresh City.  I have been to The Ginger Pad twice and really enjoyed it both times.  There is also Not Your Average Joe’s which is an easy choice with the kids (although mine are huge Japanese food fans so we prefer Ginger Pad).

If you’re headed to Harvard Square there are so many options:  Darwin’s, Hi Rise Pie Company, L.A. BurdickHenrietta’s Table, and so much more.  Here are two comprehensive lists:  The Appian and theLunch in Harvard Square blog.   If you don’t go to Henrietta’s on Friday, then it’s worth heading over there on Saturday for the tree lighting.  We usually go outside for the singing and then get too cold so we go into Henrietta’s for a great meal and watch them light the tree from the lively, warm interior of the restaurant.

If you’re shopping along Mass. Ave, between Harvard and Porter Square you can try out the new spot in Porter Square:  Zing! PizzaChangsho for Chinese food, WraproStone Hearth Pizza CompanySugar and Spice, and the Porter Exchange is a goldmine for quick yummy eats. Porter exchange eateries include:  Kotobukiya Sushi Bar (My daughter and I go there as often as we can.), Cafe Mami, Tampopo, Japonaise Bakery, Ittyo Restaurant, Sappora Ramen, Chocho’s, and Blue Fin among others.

Bon shopping & bon appetit.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Use your senses.  Smell spices and flavours in the air.  Look for places that aren’t empty and seem populated by people who care about what they’re eating.  Feel it out but don’t be afraid to take a risk.