I immediately ran into Kathy and Renee , snapped a picture of the place and headed inside where the manager greeted us with open arms. The indoor decor was welcoming and fun; even an old school Gulf sign hung on the bar, welcoming each and every patron.
But it wasn’t just the decor that made me excited to be there; it was the promise of multiple courses, each more glamourous than the next. And the company wasn’t half bad either.
The first course was a lovely spread of toasted bread, blue and monchego cheeses, two different types of ham and a type of homemade duck sausage. It was served with bowl of fresh fruit. We cleaned each platter.
Next up, a remade classic that I had for the first time at the Biltmore: Chicken and Waffles. But these were not ordinary chicken and waffles. Blueberry waffles with a blueberry compote and lightly breaded chicken made for a sweet and savory Southern dish that I couldn’t stop eating. If you haven’t tried this combo, you’re missing out.
Next up…breakfast pizza, complete with teenie tiny quail eggs on the top. I have never had a thinner crust in my whole life. I had to refrain from each multiple pieces.
And no brunch would be complete with a version of French Toast. This is, by far, one of the best french toast dishes I have ever had. Brioche bread soaked in an expresso martini, covered in Life cereal, garnished with a chocolate cigarette, Grand Marnier whipped cream, a single M&M and a sliced strawberry. At this point, I was unable to eat more than a few bites but this is what I’m ordering when I go back there.
Thankfully, the next two dishes that came out were served family-style. First, a plate featuring Yorkshire Pudding with 2 perfectly poached eggs, cinnamon-raisin toast, spiced hash and a popover. I don’t particularly love Yorkshire Pudding but the popover was divine.
The other dish held the fanciest Egg McMuffin I’ve ever seen: Lobster in a large, puffed egg cylinder with potatoes on the side. Unreal.
Finally, when it seemed like my stomach could hold no more, dessert arrived. A small glass full of a malted chocolate shake with a garnish of coconut and a chocolate cigarette. I can’t think of anything better to end an incredible meal.
Oh – did I mention they also gave us free drinks? Four of them. FOUR. And not the tiny sample sized ones either. A house bloody mary (which I gave to Katy), a delicious mimosa, a coconut rum concoction served in a fresh coconut and my favorite – peach sangria. I didn’t drive home, no worries.
I would also like a pretty glass, please.
Overall, I had a wonderful experience at Local 149 and would highly recommend it for a brunch. Go for something a little different and definitely order a signature drink with your meal!
NOTE: Brunch was provided to me free of charge by the restaurant but all of these opinions are my own. Neither the restaurant or the Boston Brunchers asked me to write a review. This does not portray a typical dining experience.
So we finally got the pictures from our cruise uploaded into Stephen’s computer and I’ve spent quite a while organizing them. This post will be the first in a 2-part installment of my cruise to Florida/The Bahamas. Today, you get all the pretty pictures and details about what we did. Next post, you get all the food (!!!)
I wanted to give a recap of my trip (with lots of photos) without boring you all to tears so I’ll keep it as brief as I can and let you revel in my photography skills.. or lack there of.
2 Saturdays ago, the 13th, Stephen and I boarded a bus at 7:30 am to make the 4 and 1/2 hour trek to NYC. When we got there, we walked 12 or so blocks to the Norwegian port (stopping to look at the Intrepid military boat per Stephen), dropped our checked bags off and headed to the security line.
Our stateroom, though a bit small, was beautiful with a large window and an obstructed view of the ocean. It was raining in New York that day or else my bathing suit would have been the first thing out of my suitcase Instead, knowing there was a massive crowd still boarding, we relaxed in the room until we heard the cruise director, Dan The Man, announce that we would have a “security drill” and it was mandatory. Fun times, people, fun times.
After the drill, we got strong fruity drinks and watched the boat disembark New York City. We saw the Statue of Liberty too and even though I’ve seen her before, Stephen was pretty excited to witness it for the first time.
After dinner, we went into the Stardust Theater to watch the “Welcome Aboard” show. It gave us a sense of what types of entertainment would be provided during the week and I was more eager than ever to get started. Setting the alarm for an early morning workout, we headed to bed around 11, exhausted from our travel day.
We spent Sunday in the sun, cruising down the coast. After a sweat session in the gym, I was determined to get a tan. The weather was warm and sunny. New bathing suit on, tanning lotion ready and book in hand (Harry Potter 7… had to reread it before the last movie…), I relaxed outside like a cat curled up in the warm sun. Nothing could deter me from a peaceful few hours outside.
Many chapters and a slightly deeper skin tone later, I pulled Stephen from the outside deck to some indoor activities. First, we went to an art auction where we saw original pieces from some of the most famous artists in history. Oh, and there was a Picasso that went for $78,000. NBD. The auctioneer even gave away $99 spa treatments and you knew I would be all over that. I got a hot stone back massage, foot massage and mini facial later on that afternoon and was in spa heaven. It’s nice to be pampered on vacation.
I also dragged Stephen kicking and screaming convinced Stephen to go to the Fyzz Lounge to take a Merengue dance class with me. Yes friends, I got my boyfriend to move his hips and sway to the music. It wasn’t necessarily a performance worthy of Dancing With the Stars but he tried it to make me happy.
Monday morning, we were up early again to hit the gym before the ship docked in Port Canaveral in Orlando, Florida and venturing to Universal Islands of Adventure. I had been to Universal Studios on many occasions in the past but could never convince my parents to take it a step further into the park with the giant rollercoasters (my parents aren’t as fun as me.) I was most excited about one section in particular. Can you guess what?
When we entered the park, I practically ran to the entrance of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and was immediately overwhelmed. Sweating slightly, we went right to the main attraction: Hogwarts Castle for the ride, Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey. Sure, it was approximately 100 degrees out and the line was an hour long but I was determined to do it first. The line wound outside for a while (in the greenhouses) before entering the castle. Inside, you walk down the corridor to Dumbledore’s office where the golden eagle statue waits for the password. Winding still, you enter Dumbledore’s office where the pensieve, destroyed horcruxes and Dumbledore himself can be found speaking with those in line. Further still, Harry, Hermione and Ron talk about the adventure you are about to take before with them. You step onto the ride platform, get strapped into your “broom” and take off for the most exciting 2 minutes I’ve ever had on a ride. I may have screamed when we came face to face with a fire-breathing dragon and we got a little too close for comfort to the spider, Aragog, but I loved the ride and could’ve ridden it again and again all day long.
Following the ride, Stephen and I indulged in a little butterbeer and a little wand buying. Yes, I bought a wand. And yes, butterbeer is frothy, sweet and the “foam” they put on top was the finishing touch. I even got a cute souvenir mug to take home. I don’t hate it.
We continued through the park, getting drenched on the Jurassic Park River Cruise. If you go to this park and they tell you it’s like the Jungle Cruise at Disney World, they are lying. It’s more like Splash Moutain with dinosaurs and more water. Fun stuff. And we only waited 10 minutes in line for the Hulk ride which is practically unheard of in a crazy-busy theme park like Universal. It was awesome.
After about 7 hours of sweaty fun, we headed back to the ship. I was exhausted, hungry and eager to watch Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Bruins and the Canucks. I ran walked briskly to the Fyzz Lounge where the game was being broadcast on a flat screen TV. Lots of Bruins fans and even some Canuck fans took over the lounge. In the end, if you didn’t watch the Stanley Cup Finals, the B’s won game 6 to force the series into game 7. Stephen and I even met a nice couple from Pennsylvania who were Bruins supporters. It’s nice to see temporary converts when their team doesn’t make the finals.
Tuesday and Wednesday were dedicated to the Bahamas themselves. Tuesday, the ship pulled up to a gorgeous island, Great Stirrup Cay, where Stephen and I spent the day snorkeling, enjoying the white sandy beach and crystal clear water. Okay, okay, I snorkeled all of 30 minutes before getting freaked out and opting to stay in the shallow part of the water and getting my tan on most of the day. At least I tried the snorkeling part. There were mere wisps of clouds that day and the sun was beating down hard. Despite my efforts with applying and reapplying sunscreen, I found myself with a terrible burn later on. Fail.
On Wednesday, I was an attractive shade of boiled lobster. Our ship docked in Nassau, Bahamas and in the distance, we could see the Atlantis Resort, one of the most expensive and glamourous resorts in the entire Caribbean. I immediately thought of the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movie “Island in the Sun”. Don’t judge.
It was another hot day, lots of sun and minimal cloud cover. Additional burning may have occurred. We spent lots of time on the river rapids getting tossed around in inflated tubes and I even swam in the large pools. I know, right… me, swimming? I must’ve been wrapped up in the moment or something. Stephen and I also attempted those large water slides the Atlantis water park is so famous for but in the blazing heat and unshaded long lines, we had to abandon our vertical drop adventures for a colder attraction. Plus, I saw how steep and high the “Leap of Faith” slide was and totally chickened out. No faith.
Our passes also allowed us access to the resort’s aquarium, “The Dig.”
I was exhausted by the time we got back on the Jewel but there was no time for sleeping. Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals was on and the Fyzz Lounge was packed.
You know how things end…
On that happy note, I had a glass of red wine and went to bed, excited to sleep in the next morning.
Thursday included such things as: a workout, lots of aloe-vera, reading, minimal sun and maximum entertainment. We saw Duo ArtMotion in the Stardust Theater and were absolutely blown away. A couple from the Ukraine, they perform complicated and dangerous aerial acts including tissue silks, a hollow box and rings. They were both so incredibly flexible, effortless and flawless. I was awestruck by the end.
Other shows we saw on the ship included “Band on the Run” which was a 70’s inspired dance and singing show, a comedy variety show and Le Cirque Bijou, a mixture of dance, gymnastics and aerial acts performed by the Jewel Production Cast and Duo ArtMotion.
When Thursday rolled around, I was still burnt but not yet ready for my vacation to end. A whole day at sea, we again took advantage of lots of down time, some room service, a complimentary cooking class, dinner with the great couple we met while watching the Bruins games and a comedy-magic show of the famous Jean Pierre.
Now, let me tell you… this guy was good. Better than good. At first, he draws you in with silly tricks, messing them up to make you think he doesn’t know what he is doing and then pulls the rug out from under you when he does something incredible. Like making a playing card appear IN an orange that matched the one a kid pulled out the deck earlier in the show. I can’t even explain it. He was hysterical and I loved seeing him, not once, not twice but four times throughout the cruise. And when JP tours in Boston, you know Stephen and I will be there.
Thursday night was dedicated to one thing: ASTI. For those of you who don’t know, Asti Spumonti is an Italian sparkling white wine, very similiar to champagne and Stephen and I LOVE it. We brought a huge bottle on board (yes, it was legal) and planned on drinking it all on Thursday night. Which we did… and promptly fell asleep afterwards.
Our last day at sea, Friday, was cooler as our ship tugged back up the east coast but there was still plenty of fun left. We bought more souvenirs including an 8-year aged bottle of rum that was made in the Bahamas. Stephen and I spent a little more time in the sun, I finished my book and started another and for dinner, we made reservations at one of the specialty restaurants on board: Sushi. It was incredible but more about that in my next post!
To finish the night, the adult lounge on the top deck hosted the game “The Quest: What Happens on the Jewel, Stays on the Jewel.” It was hilarious. They even got a bunch of the men in the audience to strip down to their underwear, put on bras, lipstick and women’s shoes and show off their dance moves. The guys on our team wouldn’t do it but hey, I wouldn’t have done it either!
Saturday morning eventually had to come and by 8am, we were docked NYC and back to reality. Tan (burnt), relaxed and happy, we made the bus trip back to Boston in time to see the end of the Bruins parade trickle out. It was an amazing vacation… we can’t wait to take another!
…and burnt. Very burnt. But I had the most incredible time on my cruise with the boyfriend. So many pictures to come, plus an entire post dedicated to the delicious food I ate. (Which surprisingly was not as much as I thought I would eat!)
For now, here’s some butterbeer to cool down your Monday. (PS – it’s non-alcoholic, sweet and the perfect beverage on a 100 degree day!)
Happy Monday to everyone. Sad to be back to reality but glad to be back to the blog!
The last weekend of April is always a blur. The weather is all over the place (sunshine here, rain there, 40 degrees, 80 degrees), it’s the first in 5 years that I haven’t celebrated Pup Cup (which is a typical “Spring Weekend” at my college, complete with nonstop partying and endless amounts of alcohol) and everyone is looking forward to getting April over with and moving into May.
Normally, I am one of those people but this year, I slowed down the last weekend of April and it was truly something special. This post is dedicated to an amazing Friday night.
After work on Friday, I raced home to get a quick Jillian Michael’s Shred Workout in with anxious anticipation of the night’s events. My Aunt Debbie treated me to a one-of-a-kind experience. She surprised me with tickets to “The Cooking Show” at The Rustic Kitchen in Boston. The Rustic Kitchen is an eclectic restaurant, simple and sophisticated from the outside, warm and inviting on the inside. The wine list was extensive and the food, embedded tradition in newly renovated classics.When we arrived, our party (myself, Aunt Deb, my Uncle Gene and friend Janine) settled ourselves at the bar for pre-dinner drinks and apps. Knowing we would be eating graciously in a short while, we decided on a batch of lightly battered calamari (with a spicy kick) and prosciutto with housemade mozzarella. I had a glass of red wine, of course, but not my usual Cabernet. This was 2006 Malbec from Catena, Argentina. It was deep and bold and I think I might be trying Malbecs more often. Aunt Deb got a delicious white, Caymus Conundrum via California 2008, and it reminded me of a spicy Asti Spumonti. Already slightly buzzed and tummy no longer growling, we moved onto The Cooking Show set.
I found my place setting and bellied up to the table. In between me and Deb sat a multi-topping pizza as a pre-show snack. As you read in my other post, I usually don’t eat pizza but in the moment, I had to try the mushroom. The slices were small but oh so satisfying. Not greasy, just crispy enough with the perfect amount of cheese. A glass of the night’s selected wine, Crabalis Vermentino, begged to be tasted. Despite my general disinterest in white wine, I loved it.
When the taping began, I felt as though I had been transported to an episode of Emeril Live. The lights flashed, music blared and an announcer welcomed our host, Liz Bramwell, a 26-year old Culinary Institute of America graduate. A petite woman, you would more likely mistaken Liz as a college student rather than a successful chef, but she would shock you with an extensive resume including head pastry and chef experiences in famed restaurants on Cape Cod and in Vegas. Liz started the show off by introducing her assistant, Pepe, and offering a toast (I was pleased to see her raise her own wineglass to her intimate audience.)
First, Liz prepared a cold vegetable terrine with roasted vegetables. Eggplant slices, zucchini, summer squash and asparagus drizzled in olive oil, then baked until soft while she blanched Boston bib lettuce and lined a loaf pan with them. She placed the roasted veggies in delicately, including a middle layer of herbed goat cheese. Once assembled, she pressed it down, sealed it with plastic wrap and stuck it in the fridge to set up for “at least 8 hours” but more like 24.
Served with a slice of the loaf was a sundried tomato coulis and a thick balsamic glaze. After chilling for 24 hours, the flavors of the roasted vegetables deeply complimented each other and the goat cheese provided a salty bite to the overall dish. It was simple, but decadent and elegant as well.
Next, after several more questions and toasts (and many wine refills thanks to Pepe), Liz moved on to the main course, Seafood en Parchment. First, she made an herb butter, combining softened unsalted butter with bright basil, thyme, parsley and garlic. She then cut a large piece of parchment paper into a heart shape and brushed it with melted butter. She layered chiffoned zucchini, summer squash, leeks, carrots and red baby potatoes on the bottom before stacking 2 jumbo shrimp, a thick 4-ounce seabass fillet and 2 large scallops on top. 2 thick slices of herb butter followed before Liz folded and secured the parchment and popped it into the oven.
When it arrived in front of me, I cut open the top of the parchment to release the steam and was greeted by the delightful scent of perfectly cooked seafood. The scallops were tender and creamy, the shrimp delicately pink and the sea bass, well, let’s just say I’ll be cooking that more often. The overall dish was light and flavorful.
After a final toast, Liz closed the show, leaving her audience full of wonderful food and maybe a bit buzzed from bottomless wine. We realized before the show started that we had been seated next to Liz’s parents, Paula and Whitey. They were a fun couple, taking the brunt of many jokes when Liz poked fun at them during the show. You could see instantly that they were a close and loving family.
Shortly after the taping ended, we continue to chat with Paula and Whitey. Of course, my blogger cards were out the whole time and after about 10 minutes, Liz came back to the set to chat with her guests. I think I monopolized her a bit. My aunt snapped about a million pictures of me behind the set and if I do say so myself, I look good back there. And the best part of it was that Liz, although incredibly successful for someone so young (she’s even got restaurant openings in the works!), was completely down-to-earth and fun-loving, someone I would hang out with, someone my friends would love.
After thanking her and saying good-bye to her parents, we left Boston around 9:30. Not ready to end the night just yet, Aunt Deb, Uncle Gene and I head to the Red Rock Bistro in Swampscott for an after-dinner drink (more wine, please!) Once home, I fell promptly fell asleep on the couch til about 3AM when Giada diLaurentis’ voice woke me up. I slept like a rock the rest of the night.
I highly recommend The Rustic Kitchen for a special occasion or just to sample their wine list. Or splurge and go see The Cooking Show. Either way, don’t forget to make a reservation before hand. This place is sure to get super popular very fast. Oh and Food Network, give Liz her own show, ya hear?
Last Sunday, after waiting about 3 weeks for the Boston Brunchers’ event, I finally made my way down to Newton to where my friend and fellow blogger, Megan, lives (in an adorable apartment I might add.) Megan and I went to college together and when she found out I too write a food blog, she was more than supportive. I mentioned to her that I wanted to get more involved in the food blogging world and when she won two tickets to this event, she didn’t hesitate to ask me. If that isn’t blogger love, I don’t know what is.
When we arrived at the Biltmore Bar & Grill, the host took us through the front bar to the back part of the restaurant. There were vintage signs and old-fashion art plastered on the walls and our long table was set with flowers and a white tablecloth. I must admit, I was pretty jittery all morning in anticipation of the brunch. Since it was my first time meeting all the other guests (minus Megan), I wasn’t sure how I would fit in with the seasoned bloggers.
My anxiety quickly diminished as I sat down at the table. The others immediately introduced themselves and I recognized a few of them from their blogs. I could feel my face turn a not-so-subtle shade of fuschia as I told them who I was and I what the title of my blog is. They welcomed me with open arms and I knew it was going to be a good morning. My fellow bloggers included Megan, of course, Corey, Krista, Kimmy, Justin, Amanda, Carolyn, Josie, Katy, Michelle, and our wonderful host, Renee.
–Oh! And by the way… since my camera doesn’t want to cooperate and upload my photos into my computer for actual use, all of the photos in this blog post are courtesy of Renee. (Thank you!!)
When the restaurant host came out with paddles of sample cocktails, I was instantly intrigued. The first was a homemade Bloody Mary, the second, a Mimosa, made with the restaurant’s freshly squeezed OJ. I’m not really a huge fan of tomato juice so I only had one small sip of the Bloody Mary but the Mimosa blew me away. I had to restrain myself from draining the glass in one gulp. Someone sign me up to juice oranges in that place if it means I can drink those everyday.
The first course consisted of a lobster frittatta. Now – I rarely eat lobster. I don’t love it when it’s merely dipped in butter but throw it in a soup or on the top of fluffy egg and cheese and call me SOLD. The egg itself was crispy on top and along the edges and creamy (yet light) in the center. I immediately ate the green tendrils off the top. As tempted as I was, I knew I couldn’t eat the full amount of every course so I dug into about half the frittatta, picked off and ate all the lobster, and prepared for the next course.
Before I go any further, I have a confession to make. It’s no surprise now (although it was to my fellow brunchers) that I gave up carbs for Lent. Now, I don’t really believe in the whole “You can have what you gave up for Lent on Sundays” and I haven’t used it as an excuse at all this Lent with the exception of this past Sunday. I could not justify being at this beautiful brunch with complimentary food from an obviously very talented chef and at least not TRY it. I think you’ll forgive me when you see what’s coming up.
When the second course came out, so did my Lenten secret. Nevertheless, my new friends were not judgemental, just awestruck. The plate in front of me held a (very large) chive biscuit topped with a poached egg (perfectly runny, just how I like it) and a jalepeno cheese sauce. I carefully broke the yoke, letting it ooze down the sides of the biscuit. I sloshed the mixture onto a piece of egg white and a bit of chive biscuit and let the whole thing melt into my tastebuds. Now normally, I don’t eat eggs (only egg beaters) or just avoid the yokes, but I couldn’t resist the golden hue of the egg mixed with the cheese sauce. It was all-around heavenly. This time, I ate the whole egg and all of the sauce with a few bites of the biscuit, but sadly had to leave most of it behind.
Course three was a play on a popular dish: Pigs in a Blanket. Instead of the mini hotdogs wrapped in crescent dough we all remember from childhood, this piggy was a maple breakfast sausage wrapped in a warm buttermilk pancake. It was served with apple-maple syrup. Okay, I know this might be a stretch but the syrup just might have been my favorite thing about the ENTIRE brunch; I kid you not. It was thinner than regular maple syrup and infused with an apple-cider taste that was uncomparable to any syrup I have ever had. As I said multiple times during the brunch, I could drink a vat of the stuff. Sure I’d be on a sugar overload after and probably feel sick, but hey, this syrup was WORTH it. The actual pancake/sausage combo was delicious as well. Sweet syrup, savory meat and fluffy pancakes are always a good combo in my book.
Next up: Chicken & Waffles. I won’t lie – I was nervous about this one. I don’t never eat fried chicken or waffles. Although I am aware of the Southern significance of the dish and despite the fact I have been to the South more times than I can remember, I had not yet had it. But when the waitress set the plate down in front of me, I was pleasantly surprised. The fried chicken was crisp not not oily at all. The waffles were sweet and both were accompanied by the same apple-maple syrup I swooned over in the previous course. The host told us that normally, our plate of 1 piece of chicken and 1 waffle was just one-third of the normal sized meal. Granted, I was already filled with 3 courses prior to trying the chicken and waffles but the thought of eating triple the amount dumbfounded me.
Finally, the last course, our “dessert” was served. A simple parfait of homemade granola, fresh berries and a dollop of fresh whipped cream garnished with a strawberry finished the tasting menu. The granola was crunchy and slightly sweet and was the perfect accompaniment to the tart berries and thick whipped cream. It might just have been my favorite course at the brunch. Overall, the Biltmore Bar & Grille provided delicious food, excellent, friendly service, an ecclectic atmosphere and an experience that I will not soon forget. I plan on attending many more Boston Bruncher events in the future and hope to see my new friends there as well!
I know I promised St. Patrick’s Day treats and they are coming, I swear! At the moment, I am experiencing problems with my camera and I want to get the gorgeous photos on with the post.
In the meantime, I have guest posted again! This time, it is for my good friend, Christine. She has a beautiful blog about good style and good living as she chases her dreams in NYC. Her blog, Bun & Borough, covers everything from food to gratitude to running. She is truly an inspiration and as she says in my intro, we’ve been friends for 14 years – back to the days when my mom picked out my clothes and I had a not-so-cool hairstyle. She stuck with me through it all.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! Although I’m not Irish, I usually take part in the traditions anyway. I mean, how can you not get into the spirit when you’re a college student and there’s green beer to be had?
Well, I’m not an undergrad anymore and to be honest, I don’t like green beer at all. But there are things about St. Patrick’s Day that I do love. The color green is one of them, boiled cabbage is another. But it seems that St. Patrick’s Day isn’t just an excuse for a free-for-all drinking binge (which, I will not be taking part in but if you head to South Boston, you definitely won’t be alone) but its the perfect time to try out some great Irish-inspired recipes. I have selected a few of my favorites from some fellow cooking blogs. I hope you enjoy them!
Oh – and yes, I made St. Paddy’s Day treats for my dance rehearsal tonight. Check back for my next post to see how pretty they turned out!