Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Reflection On My Blog

Alas, the semester is nearly at a close, and it is now time to wrap up my blog. Looking back I am glad that I chose to switch the subject of my blog from blood diamonds to cooking and eating out in Boston. The change was pretty extreme but I feel that it would have been difficult as well as depressing to try and find enough information to talk about blood diamonds and their impact on African nations four or five times a week. The Boston restaurant scene was a decidedly lighter topic. I also think that this topic was appropriate for a college student living in Boston, because going out to eat with my friends is a major part of my social life as probably anyone could tell if they have read my blog.

The proximity to the subject of my blog also enhanced its quality. For example, I think one of the most successful parts of my blog were the photographs of food and restaurants. It is one thing to describe a dinning experience or explain how to cook a meal, but it is another to see photographs of Ethiopian food or step by step directions on how to make guacamole using pictures. As the old expression goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and I think this is true of the photographs on my blog as well.

Furthermore, I think the YouTube videos and my podcast interview with Libby Sharfstein made my blog more interactive. Written posts obviously made up the bulk of my blog, but these features added a bit more variety. My favorite YouTube video was the “10 Minute Cooking School: Puerco Pibil” because I thought he gave some great tips about cooking and was also an amusing host. I often did not have the time or money to go out to restaurants several times a week so these videos, links to online articles, and home cooking experiments supplemented my commentaries on restaurants around Boston. In the end I think this worked out quite well.

However, if I were to redo this blog I would do things a little bit differently. For one, I wish I had remembered to bring my video camera from home, because I would have liked to have someone videotape me cooking a meal or videotape a night out at a restaurant with my friends (assuming the restaurant would let me do this.) I think home videos are cute and this would have been a great addition to my blog. But oh well, I did my best with what I had.

And secondly, I would have sent the link of my website to my family and friends to let them give me feedback on my blog. I did tell a lot of people I was doing the blog, but then I would stupidly forget to send them the link. I think feedback is essential in the writing process because writing is exactly that— a process. More feedback would have been helpful for me because this blog was actually difficult for me to write. For my international affairs major I am used to writing a lot of formal analytical and research papers, so it was hard to write in the cute and snappy manner that is typical of blogs. Though, I think my writing did improve over the course of the blog.

I guess I will cap off my reflection process with what I have learned from doing this blog. First, I have to admit that up until about two or three years ago I didn’t even know what a blog was, so I have come a long way since then. This is the first time that I have ever written my own blog. This assignment introduced me to the world of blogging, since I read many other people’s blogs while I was trying to create my own. It also introduced me to the idea of citizen journalism as a new and potentially relevant form of journalism. Although many journalists are nervous about the emerging power of blogs, I think it is a wonderful thing and will only add to the discussion of current events. I learned a lot while doing this blog and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience!

Island Hopper

Once again, one of my friends introduced me to this excellent restaurant on Massachusetts Avenue that serves Southeast Asian cuisine. The food consists of a mixture of Burmese, Chinese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese, and other Asian foods. Last night was the first time I had ever been to this restaurant and I tried the Pad Ped Chicken which was very tasty. It consisted of white chicken meat stir-fried with red and green peppers, onions and green beans in a Thai Basil coconut sauce. It came with a side of rice (you can choose from brown rice, white rice, or coconut rice) and a small salad garnish. I couldn't help but indulge myself after a stressful day so I also ordered the Kookie Monster, which is an Oreo smoothie. The food was absolutely fantastic and my friend was also pleased with her meal.

Besides the food, the service was excellent, as our waiter catered to our every need and was friendly and patient while we asked questions about the menu. As far as prices go, I would say they were fairly reasonable for a Boston restaurant, but when adding fruit drinks and other sides it can get quite pricey. And finally, the decor was a mix of colorful modern art with splashes of Asian art scattered around the restaurant. Overall, it was a great dinning experience!

Island Hopper

Assignment #5

On November 28th I was lucky enough to get the chance to speak with Carlos “Junior” Portal, the chef and general manager of Betty’s Wok and Noodle on 250 Huntington Avenue in Boston. I love this restaurant and have always wanted to know how they came up with the idea to have a fusion of Asian and Latino food. Read on and learn the answer to this question any many others.

Q: What is it like to be a chef in a Boston restaurant?
A: It is exciting and it is stressful. Bostonians are demanding, they know what they want and they obviously want quality, so it’s exciting but it’s very stressful, but it’s fun.

Q: Do you find you constantly have to compete to keep up with other restaurants?
A: Well I don’t feel like we do that because, you know, we’re not Chinese, or we’re not Japanese, or we’re not Latino. We are very unique and we do our own thing. So we compete obviously in service and we hope the quality of service is good. But not in food per say, because you know what you get when you come to Betty’s.

Q: Who came up with the idea to have a restaurant that serves a fusion of Asian and Latino food?
A: My partner, Karen Albrektsen. She was in sales and then she always had the idea that she wanted to go into the service industry. She lived in Chicago and there was a restaurant in Chicago that inspired her.

Q: Why Asian and Latino food in particular?
A: Well they actually mix very well. There are a lot of similar flavors; there are a lot of similar spices. They are both very interesting, they are both very colorful, but very flavorful and they are trendy. There is a big boom in Asian and Latino food now.

Q: Is there any special meaning behind the name of the restaurant?
A: There was. We wanted to call it “Betty Crocker,” but it couldn’t be done because of Betty Crocker and then it just ended up being Betty’s. Betty is the mother of the 50’s she is looking beautiful, she’s cooking good food, she is having a good time.

Q: Basically you could not name the restaurant Betty Crocker because of copyright issues?
A: Yes ma’am.

Q: Who are your clientele and how do you adjust your cooking styles to fit them?
A: Well we target all groups, all demographics, from children to adults to the symphony crowd which is usually 48 and up. The variety on the menu, we do have everything. For example if you want to be healthy we will steam your vegetables. Whatever you want. I think our menu pleases all types of customers. There is a lot of variety and flavors.

Do you find you get a lot of college students?
A: Yes we do, and we appreciate them a lot. They are the one’s that come after 8 o’clock. We do our first part of the day for the symphony crowd. Our music is different, our lighting is different, the whole mood is different for that type of crowd. And then after 8 o’clock is when we get the younger crowd. We dim the lights; we play all retro music, more kind of lounge like, more fun, louder. At 8’oclock we just go crazy and that’s when the college students like to come in.

Q: What type of music do you play?
A: We are all retro. Everything that I play is retro: 50s, 60s, and 70s from funk to disco to rock and roll. It’s a lot of fun, a lot of good music. And for everyone’s taste.

Q: Do you find with individualizing meals and having such a wide clientele base it is hard to please everyone?
A: It’s easier to please everyone. The hardest part is that some people might be overwhelmed and then we have to guide them through the process, it makes it easier. What’s great is that any kind of diet you have, you could eat at Betty’s and I don’t think all the restaurants could say that.

Q: Have you created a system to be able to individualize meals?
A: We had to create a whole system in order to do this, absolutely. Here one dish is completely different from the next so that’s part of the challenge and we had to find a system that would work for us. I have to say we do it very well. In other restaurants they screw up your pizza and your stake. We try to not make mistakes. Food should come out really really fast. In two and a half minutes we cook your meal.

Q: Do you have any last commentary on being a chef in Boston or Betty’s Wok and Noodle in general?
A: Well like I said before, it’s challenging, it’s a lot of fun. There are a lot of people with great ideas. It’s a labor of love. And you have to love what you do and you have to love to work with people and you have to love to listen to people.
We do our own thing here. We have been on Rachel Ray we have been on T.V. Diner we have been on everywhere. We just try to do our thing, we are not really worried about other people and we try to be always on the creative side. And we understand what going out is, you go out with friends you want it to be fun and you want it to be cool so we want to meet everybody’s expectations. It is a restaurant for everybody.
Betty's Wok and Noodle

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Peanut Butter Delights

Thanksgiving has passed and Christmas is just around the corner. I wanted to post a recipe up on my blog about how to make Christmas cookies, and as usual I turned to my source of inspiration— my grandmother. She was nice enough to share her Peanut Butter Delights Christmas cookie recipe with me and you. My grandmother makes all sorts of cookies for Christmas but of all of her creations these are by far my favorite cookies. I must admit that I have a sweet tooth so for those who do not like sugary, rich concoctions I would not suggest this recipe for you, but if you love chocolate and peanut butter as much as I do, you will surely love these Peanut Butter Delights.

Peanut Butter Delights


1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
4 ounces cream cheese softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips

1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
6 tablespoons baking cocoa
3 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Dough Directions:
In a large bowl, beat the shortening, butter, peanut butter, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup brown sugar together until you have a creamy consistency. Add the two eggs to the mixture, one at a time. Beat the ingredients together. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt together. Then gradually add this to the creamed mixture. Using your hands roll the soft dough into 1 1/2 inch balls. Then place the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar on a plate and roll the balls in the sugar, evenly coating them with sugar. Place the sugar-coated dough balls two inches apart on un-greased baking sheets. Using the end of the wooden spoon handle, make an indentation in the center of each ball of dough.

Filling Directions:
In a small mixing bowl beat the peanut butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Next, beat in the sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla. Spoon about 3/4 of a teaspoon of filling into each indentation in the dough balls. Bake them at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until firm to the touch. Remove them from the oven and then place them on wire racks to cool. Next, melt the chocolate chips, stirring them until they are smooth. Dip the bottoms of the cookies in the melted chocolate. Shake off the excess chocolate. Place the cookies chocolate side up on waxed paper. Refrigerate until set.

Topping Directions:
For topping, melt butter in a saucepan. Whisk in confectioners sugar and baking cocoa. Gradually add the water, whisking until smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Then drizzle this mixture over the tops of the cookies. This recipe will make five dozen cookies.

Gram’s Secret Deviled Egg Recipe

The day before Thanksgiving I was sitting at my Gram’s kitchen table and she was preparing the deviled eggs that she makes for holiday occasions. I have been eating her deviled eggs for as long as I can remember, but I never learned how to make them myself. So finally, after all these years I paid close attention to what she was doing and asked her how she made her deviled eggs. And this is what she told me.

A dozen eggs
Dried Mustard
Worcestershire Sauce

First hard boil a dozen eggs in a large pot. Wait for the eggs to cool and then take the shells off the eggs without actually breaking the eggs. Next cut each egg in half length wise. Place the egg yolks into a separate bowl and put the white egg halves on an egg plate. Then chop the egg yolks into a fine powdery substance. Add a teaspoon and a half of dried mustard, ½ to ¾ of a cup of mayonnaise, 5 drops of Worcestershire Sauce, and a dash of salt and pepper to the cooked egg yolks. Mix the ingredients together well until they become a pasty consistency. Once the filling is ready, take a spoon and fill each of the white egg halves with the newly mixed yokes. Mound the filling in the egg whites. After all the egg halves are filled, sprinkle a little bit of Paprika over the egg yolks. And you’re done!!! This is a delicious recipe that is great to bring to parties or holiday gatherings.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Punjab Palace

I was trying to remember the name of a fantastic Indian restaurant that my friend and I used to go to and sure enough after a couple of minutes of searching and reading reviews online I was able to find it.
Punjab Palace
is an elegant but reasonably priced Indian restaurant located at 109 Brighton Avenue in Allston, Massachusetts. The food is wonderful, the service is friendly, and I especially love the Indian music videos that they play on a wide flat screen television on the wall inside of the restaurant. For first-timers at Punjab Palace I recommend trying their nan, vegetable samosa, and Chicken Tikka Masala or Chicken Madras. According to the descriptions on their website, nan is an "unleavened white flour bread freshly baked in a clay oven," vegetable samosa is "a pastry filled with potatoes and peas," Chicken Tikka Masala is an, "all white tandoori boneless chicken cooked in tomatoes and creamy sauce," and finally Chicken Madras is, "boneless chunks of chicken breast cooked in special tamarind sauce with a touch of ginger, cashews and garlic." All their meals are delicious so whether or not you choose to follow my recommendations I'm sure you will be pleased with your choice!


A week or two ago I was lucky enough to have the experience to try Asian hot-pot for the very first time. My friend is from Japan and she told me about a restaurant in Chinatown called, Shabu-Zen, that serves Asian hot-pot. Up until that point in my life I had never heard of hot-pot, so I thought it would be adventurous to expand my knowledge of Asian foods and try it out.

When we arrived at the restaurant it was packed with people. Shabu-Zen consisted of one large room with separate tables for groups to eat at as well as a long table that wrapped around the center of the room where people were squished in together much like the setup at a bar.

We waited only a few minutes and were seated at one of the private tables toward the back of the room. Our waitress brought us our menus and one of my friends and I decided to order the chicken meal, while my other friend opted for a vegetarian dish. I wish I had remembered to bring my camera with me that night so I could display pictures of the unique style of eating associated with Asian hot-pot, but I will simply have to do my best with a written description.

Asian hot-pot works something like this. Built into the center of the table there is a heater that the waitress places a bowl of flavored water on top of so the water will heat up and boil. There are many flavors to choose from to add to the water, but my friends and I eventually decided to have a beef flavoring on one side of the pot and an Asian spice with Chile peppers on the other side of the pot (the pot is split into two sections.)

Then the waitress brings out your individualized meal. The chicken dish came with a plate of thinly sliced raw chicken and a plate of raw vegetables, while my friend's vegetarian dish came with a larger plate of vegetables. The vegetables consisted of slices of raw tomatoes, corn, carrots, Asian cabbage, lettuce, and mushrooms as well as other vegetables that I did not even recognize. Each person also has the choice to pick either noodles or rice to come with their meal. And finally, the table also came complete with several toppings for general use such as soy sauce, garlic bits, sliced up Chile pepper, and dry beef flavoring. You then use chopsticks to place the raw ingredients into the boiling water to cook and absorb the water's flavor.

Asian hot-pot requires a little bit of creativity on the part of the individual because you have to determine for yourself which ingredients taste the best together. I tried to make lots of soups by scooping up the water from the pot and placing it in my bowl. I then cooked the noodles, vegetables, and chicken in the pot and added them to my bowl. I used the garlic and soy sauce for extra flavoring. However, the simplicity or complexity of the meal is really up to the person. For example, sometimes I just cooked the vegetables in the Chile flavored water and then ate the vegetables plain and other times I tried to invent a new soup. By the end of the night we were all stuffed and content with our meals.

In the end, the thing that stood out to me most about my first Asian hot-pot experience was its communal nature. Everyone at the same table shares the same pot so you work together to try to remember whose food is whose. The unique style of eating also brought up some interesting cross-cultural conversations between me and my friends. One of my friends is from Japan and has also lived in many other parts of the world, the other is originally from Argentina, and I am from the United States, so we were really able to bond over our eating experience.

If anyone wants to break the ice with some new friends or just enjoy a night out with some old pals, I strongly urge him or her to give Asian hot-pot at Shabu-Zen in Chinatown a try.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Making Blueberry Pie

This video on making blueberry pie is from the Boston Globe's food section on Wednesday November 14, 2007. I know blueberries are out of season but you can still buy them in your local grocery store to make this pie. I suggest going to Whole Foods which has a very good produce section. Having a blueberry pie for your Thanksgiving dessert is an excellent edition to the feast that everyone will enjoy!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pasta with Meat Sauce

I decided I wanted to make a pasta dish so I looked around my refrigerator to see what I had and this is the meal that I came up with. It was actually really good! Here are the directions for the recipe.
2 Boneless Chicken Breasts
One Box of Barilla Whole Grain Penne Pasta
One Jar of Classico Spicy Tomato& Pesto Sauce
One Onion
Cracked Green Olives

First cut the excess fat off the chicken breasts and then lightly coat them with salt and pepper to add flavor. Next cut the chicken into small bite-size pieces.

Place a tiny amount of olive oil into a frying pan. Add just enough so the chicken will not stick to the pan. Place the chicken pieces into the frying pan and cook until they are tender.

Follow the directions on the back of the Barilla package to cook the pasta. Boil water in a pot and then add the contents of the package to the boiling water and cook uncovered for approximately ten minutes. When done drain the water from the pot.

Next chop up a large slice of onion (about a quarter of the onion)into tiny pieces. Put the pasta sauce in a frying pan to heat and add in the sliced onions and stir slowly until the pasta sauce begins to boil. Remove from the heat.

Finally, place the penne pasta on a plate. Add the sauce and chicken over top and put two or three green olives on top for extra taste. Bon appetit!

Phantom Gourmet- Great 8- Boston Restaurant Legends

Here is a YouTube video clip about Boston's eight greatest restaurants according to the television show Phantom. Learn about Galleria Umberto, Locke-Ober, Kelly's Roast Beef, Union Oyster House, Modern Pastry, Christo's, Durgin-Park, and Legal Sea Foods.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Cheesecake Factory

The Cheesecake Factory is a chain restaurant and has locations all over the country, but that does not diminish the quality of their food. The amazing thing about this restaurant is that the main meals are as good as their desserts. The first time I went to one of their restaurants I was in Washington, D.C. and I fell in love with the food immediately, so when I arrived in Boston for college I was pleased to find out they had a location in the Prudential Center as well. Here are some dishes that I have tried and I think everyone will like: Pasta Da Vinci-"Sauteed Chicken, Mushrooms, Onions and Garlic in a Delicious Madeira Wine Sauce Tossed with Penne Pasta and Parmesan," Cajun Jambalaya Pasta-"Shrimp and Chicken Sauteed with Onions, Tomato and Peppers in a Very Spicy Cajun Sauce. All on top of Fresh Linguini," and finally Shepard'S Pie- "Ground Beef, Mushrooms, Carrots, Peas, Zucchini and Onions in a Delicious Sauce Covered with Mashed Potatoes and Parmesan Cheese."

However, the Cheesecake Factory, as the name implies, is the most famous for their desserts and of course their cheesecake. When I was a little girl I once had a piece of cheesecake, and it must have been pretty horrible because I decided from that moment on that I hated all cheesecake and refused to touch the stuff for years. I credit this restaurant for helping me to overcome this experience and revealing my new love for this dessert. They have some of the best cheesecake around. Here are some examples of a few flavors I have tried: White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle- "Creamy Cheesecake Swirled with White Chocolate and Raspberry," Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake- "Layers of Flourless Godiva Chocolate Cake, Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake and Chocolate Mousse," Adam's Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple- "Creamy Cheesecake Swirled with Caramel, Peanut Butter, Butterfingers and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups," Chocolate Oreo Mudslide Cheesecake- "Chocolate Oreos Baked in our Creamy Chocolate Cheesecake with a Chocolate-Almond Brownie Crust," Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie-Dough- "Chocolate Cheesecake Loaded with Peanut Butter Cookie Dough and Topped with Chocolate." Okay, so that is a little more than a few flavors, that is about half the menu. Clearly, I love their cheesecake and you will too! Here is their website to check if they have a location near you (the descriptions above were taken from the restaurant's menu). The Cheesecake Factory

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

10 Minute Cooking School: Puerco Pibil

I found this video on YouTube that I thought was a really good and entertaining cooking video made by filmaker Robert Rodriguez. In the clip Rodriguez teaches you how to make the Mexican dish, Puerco Pibil, and also provides some useful tips about learning to cook in general. On the plus side, girls will especially enjoy this video because he mixes it with images of Johnny Depp from the movie "Once Upon a Time in Mexico." That note aside, Puerco Pibil sounds delicious!

Somerville's High School Restaurant

My friend recently sent me this article and I thought I would share it with you, because I think it is really cool that high school students are running a restaurant. Looking back, I wish my high school had the vision to do something like this. Who knows I might have been a chief! Here is a clip from the article in Boston Now...

"Call it an exceptional vocational program and call it Somerville High School's best kept secret. Both can be used to describe the student-run Ray Izzo Highland Restaurant (81 Highland Ave.), which was started 24 years ago as part of the culinary arts division for the Center for Career and Technical Education at SHS.
In the classroom, students are taught various cooking methods and baking. Then, they apply their skills to the restaurant under teacher supervision.
"People have no idea how wonderful these kids cook," culinary arts teacher Sandy Zenga says."

For the rest of the article check out this link...

Gramma's Fried Chicken

I used my Gramma's recipe to make this fried chicken, but added a little twist of my own to the recipe. There are probably a million ways to make fried chicken (especially in the South) so experiment with it and make some variations of your own.


2 Boneless Chicken Breasts
3 Eggs
Olive Oil
Spices (Whatever you like on your chicken)

First prepare your dipping plates for the fried chicken. Put flour on one plate.

Scramble three eggs in a bowl until they are evenly blended.

Place the breadcrumbs on a plate and add spices to the breadcrumbs. Mix the two together. I did not have any spices of my own in my apartment, so I used my roommate's Indian spices. This is pretty unusual for fried chicken and I suggest you use garlic powder or other more traditional mixed spices to add to the breadcrumbs. My Gramma actually does not add any spices at all and just relies on the breadcrumbs, but I think the extra flavor gives the dish a bit more of a kick. The choice is up to you.

Next lightly coat the chicken in salt and pepper and then slice up the chicken into small chunks. I prefer to slice it up because it is easier to cook the chicken evenly this way but, if you want one big piece of fried chicken then use a meat tenderizer to even out the thickness of the chicken. If you do not have a meat tenderizer then the back of a frying pan will work just as well. It's a little bit crude but it gets the job done as my Gramma once told me.

Then follow these three steps for each piece of chicken.

1. Dip each chicken piece in flour, evenly coating the chicken on all sides.

2. Then place the chicken in the egg dish, covering the entire piece.

3. Finally, roll the chicken in the breadcrumbs, evenly coating it.

In a frying pan add olive oil until it is a little less than once centimeter deep in the pan. Turn the stove on at low heat. Wait until the olive oil begins to boil slightly and then add the prepared chicken pieces. One way to test if the olive oil is ready, is to dip a piece of bread into the oil and see if little bubbles appear around the edges of the bread.

Cook the chicken thoroughly by continually flipping over the pieces so they do not burn. The breadcrumbs should be a rich brown color when the chicken is ready to be removed from the pan. To double check that the chicken has cooked through completely poke a few pieces with a fork or cut a piece or two in half in the frying pan to check for pink spots. If the fork goes through the chicken smoothly it is cooked, if it does not give it another few minutes to cook.

Lay the cooked pieces on a plate with paper towels on top of the plate to sap off the extra olive oil from the chicken. Wait a few minutes for the chicken to cool.

Put the fried chicken on a plate and add ketchup and you're done! Enjoy!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Upper Crust

I'm not a big fan of pizza, but I love this place. They serve Neapolitan-style pizza, which is thin pizza with chunky tomato sauce, and you can order just about anything you want for toppings. I usually order one of their specialty pizzas and my personal favorite is "The State House" for meat lovers which comes topped with hamburger, pepperoni, and Italian sausage. I have visited their locations on Newbury Street and on Charles Street in Beacon Hill, but I know they have five other locations in Brookline, Salem, Lexington, Hingham, and Waltham. Try out The Upper Crust for some tasty pizza!

I know this is not in Boston but...

So, I know this chocolate place is not in Boston but I absolutely had to tell everyone about it. I wish to god it was in Boston, I would visit it every week!!!!! Yesterday I took a trip to NYC with NUCALLS and the International Affairs Society to visit the United Nations and I was lucky enough to come across "Chocolate By the Bald Man Max Brenner" in Union Square. This is a famous chocolate place my sister told me about a few months ago but I never had the chance to visit it until yesterday. Customers can buy chocolate gifts and goodies or they can sit down in the cafe and order off of an all chocolate menu. I ordered Swiss Milk Chocolate Hot Chocolate (literally made out of chocolate) and a Chocolate pastry complete with a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream, blueberries and strawberries, and a vase of melted chocolate to pour over the pastry. I do believe that is the best dinner I have ever had!

Our Addis Red Sea Adventure

I like all the restaurants I have posted on my blog thus far but I think some of them are more mainstream, so I decided it was time to travel off the beaten path. I have never eaten Ethiopian food before and as I have mentioned in a previous post, I have always wanted to try out Addis Red Sea. So, one Saturday evening I got a few friends together and took the green line to the Arlington stop and then walked several blocks to Tremont Street where the restaurant was located.

My first impression was that the outside of the restaurant was really cute with its glowing yellow sign, small gated rose garden, and downward steps leading to the entrance of the restaurant. Unfortunately, Saturday is one of their busier nights and we waited outside for half an hour until we were called inside by one of the waiters. This was all good and fine by us, because it was an unusually warm fall evening and none of us had ever really spent much time on that part of Tremont Street before.

Finally we were ushered into the restaurant where we sat down on carved wooden chairs around a brightly colored round weaved basket table. Addis Red Sea had a beautiful interior, so I began taking a few pictures of the paintings on leather skins hanging on the walls near our table, while we waited for our waitress. The prices seemed reasonable so my friend and I decided to order two appetizers and split them. After much consideration we finally decided on Sambusa and Ye-Awaze Dabo.

According to the menu, the particular type of Sambusa we ordered was a "pastry filled with spiced ground beef flavored with cumin, garlic, onions, with a touch of nutmeg." And Ye-Awaze Dabo is a "thick Ethiopian bread with a dip of red pepper sauce, spiced with Ginger root and berbere (hot pepper sauce)." For our main meals my friend choose a lamb dish and I ordered Doro Wot, a "tender chicken marinated in lemon sautéed in seasoned butter and stewed in a red pepper sauce, flavored with onions, garlic and ginger root with a pinch of cardamoms and nutmeg."

We assumed we would receive our appetizers shortly, and relaxed into our chairs as we waited. Forty-five minutes later, after we had exhausted several conversation topics, we began to get very impatient for our food. An hour had passed, and we still did not even have our appetizers and our waitress was nowhere to be seen. Finally, we began to ask other waiters and the bus boys where our food and waitress had gone. It was not until an hour and a half after we had ordered our food that we finally got our appetizers. But still, our main course was MIA.

It became almost comical as we were forced to ask different attendants for water refills, napkins, and our main meal. Eventually our waitress came out with our meals. She laid out three pieces of bread on the round table and then placed the contents of the bowls on top of the bread. My friends and I had never eaten Ethiopian food before, so we did not realize that there are no plates or silverware involved, and when we asked the waitress about the eating customs of Ethiopians, she just smiled at us blankly. I am sympathetic to people that do not understand English, but I thought it was a little bit ridiculous that she was a waiter in a Boston restaurant and did not speak a word of English, especially considering that Ethiopian food is not traditional fare for the average American and people are bound to have questions about the food and the restaurant.
Then we played a game of musical chairs as we switched places once we realized that she had not given us the correct meals. By the time we were finished with our food the restaurant was empty and they were closing the place down. When our waitress returned with dessert menus we promptly turned them down.

Apparently other people have had a good experiences with this restaurant, but after waiting for our food for two hours I don't think I will ever go back. The cuisine had an interesting flavor, but in my opinion was not as good as food I have eaten from other cultures. Still, I am glad that I have at least had the opportunity to try Ethiopian food.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Thanksgiving Is Just Around the Corner

With Thanksgiving coming up in a few weeks I wanted to find a good website with recipes for Thanksgiving dinner. Then I found the site "Holidays on the Net" which gives a complete list of recipes for every holiday occasion including Thanksgiving. Their Thanksgiving menu includes the usual turkey dinner and pumpkin pie but I thought the Pueblo Pie and the Green Onion and Cornbread Stuffing were more creative. They also provide recipes for what to do with the leftovers, which are useful recipes because I know that three days after Thanksgiving I am sick to death of the same old food. Check the site out and use it for all your holiday plans.
Here's a link to the site:

A Different Side of Roxbury

I found this second article in the Boston Globe while I was looking over yesterdays paper and I found it interesting because I typically don't think of Roxbury as being an agricultural center. However Nadine Nelson proves me wrong. Take a tour of the culinary richness of Roxbury with Nelson, the owner and chief of Discerning Taste.

The Boston Globe
October 31, 2007
Eating Locally
The Street Where You Live

By Genevieve Rajewski, Globe Correspondent

"A short walk from Nadine Nelson's home is a small farm where tuft-headed hens cluck contentedly and grape vines twine the latticework in the late autumn sun. "Look as these! They're just perfect," says Nelson, stooping to pluck a handful of ripe red, yellow, and orange heirloom tomatoes.
Most Bostonians don't think of Roxbury as a center of agricultural bounty, but crops and cuisines flourish there - so much so that Nelson, a chef, now offers a culinary tour and cooking class in partnership with the nonprofit group Discover Roxbury.
Nelson loves exploring the neighborhood. "Roxbury is like Harlem in that it's the black mecca of Boston," she says. "It's the convocation of cuisines of African descent. And there are more food gardens than there are in Jamaica Plain and the South End."
Next month, Nelson's tour starts not far from her home in Fort Hill, with a discussion of the neighborhood's current cultural influences. "The population here is primarily African, Caribbean, Latin American, and African-American," she says. Those cuisines all make use of stewing and hot flavors as well as okra and other greens, she says."

Continue reading at the Boston Globe's website:

Pumpkin Gingerbread Recipe

I know today is technically November 1st but I still think Pumpkin Gingerbread applies in November, after all there is Thanksgiving to celebrate. I found this recipe off of The Boston Globe's food section on October 31st and I wanted to share it with all of you in case you didn't happen to get the Globe yesterday. It sounds yummy! I'm going to try it out for myself soon.

October 31, 2007
The Boston Globe
Pumpkin Gingerbread
Makes on 10 inch cake

Butter (for the pan)
Flour (for the pan)
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped pecans, lightly toasted and cooled
3/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tablespoons unsulphured molasses
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 can (15 ounces) plain, solid-pack 100 percent pumpkin

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Have on hand a 10-inch tube pan. Brush it with butter. Line the bottom with a circle of waxed paper cut to fit it and butter the paper. Dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess. Set aside.
2. In a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
3. In a small bowl, toss the pecans and ginger with 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture.
4. In an electric mixer, cream the unsalted butter on medium-high speed for 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and beat in the granulated sugar in 2 additions, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Add the light brown sugar and beat for 1 minute more. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Blend in the molasses and vanilla.
5. With the mixer set on low speed, blend in the pumpkin until combined. The mixture will look slightly curdled at this point. That's OK.
6. On low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions. Scrape down the bowl often with a rubber spatula. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand. With a large spoon, stir in the pecan mixture. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
7. Bake the cake for 1 hour, or until set and a toothpick inserted into the center is clean or has a few moist crumbs attached when withdrawn. The cake will pull away slightly from the sides of the pan.
8. Set the cake on a rack to cool for 15 minutes. Place a cooling rack on top, carefully invert the cake, lift away the pan, discard the waxed paper, then invert the cake to sit right side up on the rack. Leave to cool completely. The cake may be made a day in advance up to this point. Store in an airtight keeper.

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1. In a small bowl, whisk the confectioners' sugar and ginger.
2. Sift the sugar mixture through a small strainer onto the cake. Use a serrated knife to cut the cake into slices. - Lisa Yockelson

Vinny T's of Boston

Although most college students in the Boston area have probably already discovered the wonders of Vinny T's on Boylston Street, I thought I would put up this post for all the freshmen out there that are new to the city. Vinny T's is known for its heaping portions of tasty Italian food sold at cheap prices. You can order the standard Italian fare such as chicken parmigiana and chicken Marsala or be more adventurous and try their Cavatapi Con Pollo or Salmone alla Griglia. Vinny T's is a chain restaurant and has locations in the Back Bay area, in Brookline, as well as numerous other towns surrounding the Boston metropolis. The service is fast and the staff is friendly as they are used to serving college students. It is a big restaurant with an upstairs and downstairs level so there is no need to make a reservation if you are only going with a few people. However, as with most restaurants if you are coming with a large group during busy hours make sure to make a reservation ahead of time. More importantly, call them again to confirm the reservation. I tried to reserve a table for me and fourteen of my friends for my twenty first birthday and then discovered another restaurant I wanted to go to. However, when I call Vinny T's to cancel my "reservation" they had no reservations booked in their system. I don't know if they typically make these kind of mistakes, but it is always good to double check on reservations with any restaurant. I guess I'm just lucky I decided to go to another place!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


This is an authentic Japanese restaurant with a location in both Boston and Brookline. The inside of the restaurant has a traditional Japanese decor with simple wood beam structures arched over many of the tables. When you step inside Ginza you feel as if you have traveled to the eastern edges of the world and entered the fascinating country of Japan. All the waiters serve you wearing brightly colored kimonos which adds to the cultural atmosphere.

They also have a wide range of meals to choose from. If you dare to be adventurous I would recommend trying their sushi or makimono. The Crazy Maki is especially good. Otherwise there are many meals with cooked meat and fish to pick from. My friend first introduced me to the restaurant in Brookline last fall and I fell in love with it immediately. I lived in NYC this summer and went to several Japanese restaurants, but was unable to find one that I liked as much as Ginza. I found that many of the Japanese restaurants in NYC tried to be trendy and hip by playing American music and using flashy modern decorations thus losing the Japanese cultural experience that is so essential to enjoying authentic Japanese food.

I have only been to Ginza for lunch so if you choose to go for lunch as well, I would recommend going much earlier than their closing time of 2:30 p.m. One time my friends and I went there after class for lunch and the waiters were rushing us to eat our food and get out of the restaurant. However, far more traumatic was the many excruciating hours of stomach pain that I endured due to eating bad sushi. The first time I went to Ginza I did not have this problem, so it may be that the fish was sitting out on the counter too long because it was near their afternoon closing time and they probably could not keep the sushi until the evening hours. So the moral to this story is to get to the restaurant in Brookline at 11:30 a.m. when they open, for fresh sushi. Since sushi is raw fish there is always the chance that this could happen at any restaurant. And after getting sick I still think the benefits far outweigh the risks and dangers. Another little interesting fact that I just learned about Ginza is that on Friday and Saturdays the restaurants in both Boston and Brookline stay open into the early morning hours. This is pretty unusual in a city that completely shuts down by 2 a.m. But then again considering the information I just gave you, it might be advisable to refrain from eating at least the uncooked foods during those late or should I say early hours.

If you want to visit this restaurant I would suggest checking out their website which is amazing in itself, because it offers a 360 degree view of both restaurants in Boston and Brookline. The website is extremely interactive, colorful, and easy to use

All in all Ginza is a great restaurant and I encourage everyone to check it out for themselves.

Brown Sugar Cafe

This is a cute little Thai food place that has two locations, with one restaurant in the Fenway area and the other on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. After checking out their website I just learned that there is a third restaurant owned by the same people in Cambridge except it is called The Similans. I personally have only been to the Brown Sugar Cafe in the Fenway but I am sure they are all equally good. The restaurant is a small freestanding brown building that for some reason reminds me of a beach side shack. Inside the environment is warm and inviting with decorations covering the walls and flowers on each table. I typically stick to the curry dishes which are delicious but there are a plenty of appetizing meals on their menu to choose from. This is also a good place for vegetarians to visit to get a curry dish because you can choose not to add meat. My health conscious roommate is a vegetarian and ordered a curry dish there with eggplant and she loved it. The price range for dinner runs anywhere from $12 to $18 or $19 for seafood dishes.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bangkok City Restaurant

Yet again, here is another gem located near Northeastern University and The Berkley School of Music at 167 Massachusetts Avenue. This is a rather large restaurant for Boston's standards and sports a nice spacious selection of seating inside. Customers can choose to sit at a table like in a typical restaurant or they can sit on cushions on the floor in a more traditional Thai style. As the name of the restaurant reveals, the food is based around a wide variety of Thai food. There are two sections of the menu- one that caters more to American tastes and the second section of the menu offers traditional Thai dishes. I have brought my friends here multiple times and I have yet to have a bad experience. For first timers, I would recommend trying the Green Curry dish with chicken and brown rice if you are health conscious or white rice if just don't care.

Betty's Wok and Noodle Diner

Don't let the exterior of this diner fool you into thinking it is a grease joint. In fact I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a nice restaurant with amazing food when I first visited it last January. The restaurant serves a unique fusion of Asian and Latino food that I have never seen anywhere else in Boston. And the music is always hopping with a blend of Latino, Asian, and American classics. The atmosphere is fun and cheerful and in the evenings you can expect to eat at a candle lit table. The extra icing on the cake however, is the staff. Often in Boston restaurants I find that you have to sacrifice good service for excellent food or vice versa, but this place has it all. The waiters are extremely nice and attentive. All the waiters make sure to greet you and say goodbye to you at the end of your meal even if they were not personally serving your table. There's something about this added effort that makes for a pleasant night or lunch out. Although the prearranged meals on the menu are tasty, I find that if you are going to Betty's you should mix it up a little and design your own dish which Betty's is known for. As their website explains,

Choose a noodle or rice dish and then add either beef, shrimp, chicken, or vegetables--or some combination of those. Then one of the Lucky 7 sauces--like Cuban Chipotle-Citrus or Fiery Kung Pao--will take your selection wherever you want it to go.

This is a great place for Northeastern students to go to because it is conveniently located at 250 Huntington Avenue near the corner of Huntington Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue across from Symphony Hall. The prices are fairly reasonable with most meals averaging around $15 or $16. Get your friends together for a night out and enjoy this unique Asian-Latino food experience.

Friday, October 26, 2007

An Interview With Libby About Eating Out In Boston

Ever wondered what it is like to be a real restaurant critic?

As usual I found this quirky article while surfing the Internet. Although it is a bit old since it was written in 2005, I still believe the content is relevant. In "The Secret Life of a Restaurant Critic" Alison Arnett of the Boston Globe answers such perplexing questions as: "How do you stay thin while being a restaurant critic? and Who pays for the food that you eat in the restaurant?" I have always pondered these questions myself. It seems to me that if you went out to restaurants several times a week you would be as big as a house. But, no Arnett clarifies this for us by explaining that restaurant critics only take one or two spoonfuls of the meals they are so often served. This is a great article to read to learn about the inside track of the restaurant critic world.
And of course the link....

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Caffe Vittoria

Step into this quaint cafe in Boston's historic North End and feel yourself transported back in time. This was the first Italian cafe in Boston when it was established in 1929. Today it has four levels of seating and three liquor bars where clientele can relax for the night over a cup cappuccino or cafe mocha. It is a great place to go with friends after dinner for dessert and a hot drink on a cold winter night in Boston. The cannolis, eclairs, and gelati are delicious. I recommend trying the peppermint chip and cotton candy gelati. And above all do not forget to ask for a cup of hot chocolate since Caffe Vittoria has the best hot chocolate in town complete with a thick layer of rich foamy white whip cream. Bring cash to pay for these treats because they do not accept credit cards as is the trend in the North End. Bon appetite!

The cafe's website:


I feel a little ashamed to admit it, but I had never tried real guacamole until my sister made it for me this past summer. Since then I fell in love with the dip because it goes well with tacos or salsa and chips. I also just discovered these new whole wheat crackers at Whole Foods that are delicious with Guacamole. They are called Carr's Whole Wheat Crackers. Here is how I make guacamole, but you are more than welcome to experiment with different ingredients yourself.

Ingredient List:

3 avocados (for the purpose of this demonstration I only used one avocado but to make enough for guests use three avocados)
A tomato
An onion
A garlic clove
Cayenne Pepper
A lime

Note: Using avocados that are perfectly rip will result in the best guacamole dip. Avocados are ripe when they are dark green and the insides feel soft when you squeeze the avocado.

Finely dice up the onion, tomato, and garlic clove into the smallest pieces possible. Then carefully cut the avocados in half and remove the seed. Cut horizontally and vertically across both halves of the avocado to make it easier to remove the insides.

Then scope the contents of the avocado out into a dish and mash it up with a fork or spoon. It is okay to have a few chunks in the dip, but I like a smoother texture for my guacamole so I try to get the chunks out as much as possible.

Next slowly add the chopped up bits of onion, tomato and garlic clove to the avocado. Mix the ingredients in thoroughly to get an even consistency and flavor. The way I judge how much tomato, onion, and garlic I should add is by tasting the mixture as I am making it. If you think it needs a bit more garlic then add more garlic if you think it needs more onion then add more onion etc. etc. This technique allows the cook to individualize the recipe. Then squeeze in a few slices of lime if you are using three avocados and one slice of lime if you are only using one avocado. Add salt, pepper, and Cayenne pepper for flavoring. Once again taste the mixture as you are making it to judge the amount of seasoning you want to add. Enjoy the guacamole!!!!

Here are some links to websites for other guacamole recipes:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Although I'm sure everyone has made tacos at least once in their life, I still find that it's a fun experience to share with others which is why I am including a segment about it on my blog. The ingredients are cheap and easy to find and it's a meal that takes little preparation and tastes great. There is really no right or wrong way to make tacos but here is how I do it:
Here is a list of the ingredients you will need:

Taco Shells
A tomato
An onion
A green pepper
A half pound of hamburger
Shredded Cheese (preferably a three cheese packet)

First dice up the green pepper, onion, tomato, and a few pieces of lettuce on a cutting board. Break up the hamburger in the frying pan and cook over medium heat until slightly brown. Add onions and peppers to the hamburger and then fry the contents up together until the hamburger is well cooked and the onions are caramelized.

Lay out three taco shells on a plate. Add the hamburger first then shredded cheese over the top of the hamburger. Put in the microwave for twenty seconds to melt the cheese. Then add the lettuce, tomato, and salsa over the top of the taco. You may also want to substitute the salsa with guacamole sauce which I will explain how to make in my next post. Enjoy your tacos!!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Everyone Should Visit Mike's Pastry At Least Once in Their Life

Mike's Pastry is Boston's favorite place to get Italian pastries and desserts. This cute shop, located in the North End at 300 Hanover Street, is always packed with customers buying tasty treats. They are especially famous for their many varieties of cannolis. Although you may have to wait in long lines (especially on the weekends) to get your dessert, the reasonably priced pastries are worth it. However, if you are not lucky enough to visit the actual location you can always order your own pastries online at their website, One facet of their website that I found interesting, was that people can order a "Mike's Pastry Ten-Count Fresh Cannoli Kit" right to their door.

But rather than talk on and on about how great Mike's is, I will just let some of the pictures I was able to take last weekend speak for themselves!