Friday, May 28, 2010

Recap: Boston Blogger Wine Tasting

Last night, I was fortunate enough to attend a Boston Blogger Wine Tasting, put on by Michelle and Meghan. The tasting was held at Boston Wine Exchange in the Financial District.

I came a little late to the tasting, thanks to the inevitable Boston traffic, so I missed a few of the featured wines last evening. However, the sommelier shared several white and red wines with us that are great for summer sipping. The sommelier was extremely informative about each wine, and really knew his stuff when it came to vino - each bottle had its own story, which made the tasting that much more interesting and enjoyable.

One of my favorite wines that we tasted was actually the final selection: Trentadue Chocolate Amore. I've had plenty of wine with chocolate notes in the flavor, but this bottle was something else - intensely rich, full bodied, and with just a strong enough flavor of chocolate to make it go down smoothly, without being sickly sweet.

While tasting the wines, a PR Rep for Cabot Cheese was also on hand, and provided us with a spread of delicious cheeses, including horseradish cheese and cheddar with Omega-3 DHA.

After the tasting, we went to the back room of the Wine Exchange and tasted some homemade cupcakes from Mix Bakery. Mix Bakery is currently run out of a Boston-based home, and is pumping out some amazingly unique cupcakes and desserts (as well as savory muffins). The spread at last night's event shows just how innovative Mix Bakery's products are: Rhubarb Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream; Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes; and Mounds Cupcakes, which were chocolate cupcakes with a piece of a Mounds bar baked in the middle.

Oh, and double chocolate brownies.

Mix Bakery focuses on making high quality baked goods from real, simple ingredients - you won't see any shortening in these treats. The owner of the bakery said that she wouldn't put anything in her products that she wouldn't eat straight from a spoon. I tried (or rather, inhaled) a Mounds and rhubarb cupcake, and let me just say, that rhubarb belongs in cupcakes. The tartness from the rhubarb complemented the creamy, vanilla frosting beautifully - and the frosting was more like a cross between whipped cream and buttercream, rather than straight up, sickly sweet frosting. The Mounds cupcake was also delicious, with a sweeter, thicker frosting infused with fresh coconut flavor.

While we snacked on Mix Bakery's cupcakes, us bloggers also made use of this contraption:

This little invention is basically a wine "soda fountain." It lets you taste an assortment of wines by simply pressing a button, and receiving a tasting-size sample in your glass. One day, when I'm rich and famous, 18 of these will be installed throughout my home. I promise you that.

Overall, the Blogger Wine Tasting at Boston Wine Exchange was a fun, intimate gathering of some local food bloggers, and a great opportunity to try some great wines - and cupcakes. The best thing about Boston Wine Exchange is how affordable their wines and beers are (not to mention how unique their selection is). You can easily go there and pick up a nice bottle of wine for $10-20 - that's pretty unheard of in downtown Boston.

Before we all left, we were even given swag bags from Cabot, equipped with some Cabot cheddar cheese, a Cabot cow, a Cabot refrigerator magnet, a magnetic shopping list, a sweet Cabot wine and bottle opener, and a coupon for Cabot products.

Finally, I was very happy to get the chance to meet a lot of different bloggers that I read on a regular basis, including Richard, Elina, and Meghan, as well as some bloggers I've met along the way, including Lara, Michelle and Alicia. Another person I was grateful to meet is a local Twitter pal, @JustinCanCook.

Thanks again Michelle and Meghan for holding such a fun event!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Apologies Go a Long Way at Mumbai Chopstix

Last weekend, Z and I took advantage of the beautiful weather and biked around Boston in search for dinner. We rarely venture into the city for meals, since we have so many good restaurants accessible to us right outside of Beantown, but we wanted to try someplace new. We ended up on Newbury Street, locked up our bikes, and stumbled upon one of the area's newest eateries that I had been eager to try: Mumbai Chopstix.

Mumbai Chopstix serves up cuisine inspired by Chinese and Indian flavors. The restaurant was an obvious choice on this particular night due to the fact that they have outside seating and had no wait for a table on a Saturday. We perused the creative menu (Z's, somehow, was slightly different from mine) while sipping on some of Mumbai Chopstix's creative cocktails. Z got the Mango Sangria ($9), while I opted for the Katchumber Cooler ($9), which is a Chopstix original made with muddled cucumber, green chili pepper and cilantro with a sake base.

This cocktail was intensely refreshing, with a subtle hint of spice from the chili pepper. The beverage was even worth the 15 minute wait for it to arrive at our table (which was followed by an apology from our waitress). 

While we waited for our drinks, the waitress brought over a trio of dipping sauces for us to have with our meals, and explained the levels of heat in each.

For an appetizer, we finally decided on the Lachew Cauliflower ($6.95), which was fried cauliflower dumplings tossed in a spicy chili and garlic Naga-style sauce. 

What you see in this picture is a fried, saucy pile of total awesomeness. The spicy, crispy, artery-clogging exterior complimented the cauliflower beautifully. The cauliflower also remained slightly crunchy, preventing these dumplings from becoming soggy, rubbery messes. We also tried several of our dipping sauces with these, which ended up being a great flavor (and heat) addition to the dish.

Since it was pretty hot out on this particular evening, I wasn't in the mood for a heavy meal, so I opted for a meatless dish: The Crying Buddha ($16.95), made with sauteed tofu, mushrooms, and seasonal greens in a chili soy garlic sauce. (Quick note: You can request any dish at Mumbai Chopstix to be prepared vegetarian).

The Crying Buddha was an extremely vibrant dish, in color and flavor. The description on my menu lacked to mention the addition of cashews, sugar snap peas, and several other vegetables, but thankfully, I have no food allergies. The mushrooms and thick slices of tofu were ginormous, and soaked up the slightly spicy broth like sponges. The combination of the crunch from the cashews and the variety of vegetables was harmonious. The portion itself was also huge, and well worth the price tag of $16.95 - I could have easily gotten three meals out of it. 

Somehow, I failed to document dessert with a photo, but our waitress had brought us a complimentary dish of vanilla ice cream with lychees - mainly because Z was brought the wrong dinner, and had to wait a few minutes longer for his Vegetarian Manchurian ($16.95), or vegetarian meatballs. The lychees reminded me of pears, yet slightly sweeter and softer in texture. 

Overall, we had a great meal that was relaxing with a great atmosphere. Despite a few mix-ups from the waitstaff, every little mistake was followed by an apology (and free ice cream). I was also fortunate enough to have received a $20 gift certificate at the StyleFixx event to Mumbai Chopstix, so it was a great way to try the restaurant while saving a bit of dough. We will definitely make a return visit.

Have you tried Mumbai Chopstix yet? What's your review?

Mumbai Chopstix on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Stay-at-Home Vegetarian Mexican Lasagna

When it nears the end of the month, I have next to $0 in spending money left. Since I have a trip to Connecticut and New York planned this weekend for a friend's bachelorette party, I have to be even more strict on myself than usual when it comes to spending money. So, last week, Z and I opted to stay in for dinner and make a meal with ingredients we already had in our cabinets and refrigerators.The end result was one of Z's culinary masterpieces (with little help from me): Vegetarian Mexican Lasagna.

I can't even list out the ingredients and directions here on the blog, mainly because Z did most of the work (this is his recipe, after all). However, I wanted to share this meal with you all because we were able to make a delicious, satisfying, spicy meal without having to take a trip to the grocery store.

Basically, the "pasta" layers were organic tortillas, and between each layer was vegetarian refried beans from a can (that had been heated), cooked corn, crushed red pepper, and diced jalapenos. We also added some salsa and shredded jalapeno cheese to the top layer.

Just like regular lasagna, all we did was layer all of the ingredients and pop the casserole dish into the oven for 25 minutes or so. The dish came out bubbly, cheesy and ultra spicy - a perfect, comforting meal made without having to leave the house. On the side, we just had a simple salad with leftover arugula.

What meals have you made out of leftovers lately?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Best Deal This Week: Daily Happy Hour at P.F. Chang's

Eat dinner on $3 to $6 from 3 to 6 p.m....every single day. Seriously.

P.F. Chang's, with several locations in the Boston area (as well as globally), has happy hour every day of the week - and each item is priced between $3 and $6 (or, $2 if you decide to slug back a PBR). Wine, beer, and $6 cosmopolitans and green apple martinis are a few of the "Liquids" listed during happy hour, while "Solids" consist of Vegetable Dumplings, Egg Rolls, Crab Wontons, and Chang's Spare Ribs. As a bonus, all entrees are served with your choice of steamed brown or white rice.

In other words, you can throw back a (hopefully) strong Asian Pear Mojito with some Seared Ahi Tuna and spend no more than $12 (well, closer to $20 if you include tax and tip). Not a bad deal, considering mojitos usually cost closer to $9 to $10 at most Boston restaurants.

For P.F. Chang's full happy hour menu, click here.

Does your restaurant have a "best deal" that should be featured here? Or do you have a favorite restaurant that has some great weekly discounts? Let me know by shooting me an email at

Friday, May 21, 2010

Taking Restaurant Critics to Dinner

My parents are the main reasons why I became a restaurant critic and food writer. We rarely ate out at restaurants growing up, mostly for financial reasons, but also because there are only so many restaurants that are suitable for a family with four loud, squirmy kids. So whenever we did go out to eat, my parents were very critical - and rightfully so. On those few occasions where we actually dined out, my parents expected the service, food, and atmosphere to be damn good.

My parents still don't make it out to eat as often as they'd probably like, but although the frequency has increased now that us kids are older and money is less tight, their harsh criticism hasn't changed. So last Sunday, when my parents came down and Z and I took them out to dinner, we wanted to take them to a restaurant that we know is good and that they'd appreciate. Being the beer-loving people we are, we decided to take my parents to Watch City Brewing Co. in Waltham.

Watch City is such a great neighborhood spot on Moody Street, with awesome beer (which you can only get there), delicious pub-style food, and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Definitely one of Z and I's kind of places, and, thankfully, my parents echoed our enthusiasm for it.

Amongst the beer sipping and sampling, we ate dinner - Z opted for the Roasted Beet and Herb Goat Cheese Salad ($10.99); my parents both ordered the Grilled Salmon with Honey Thyme Vinaigrette with asparagus and Basmati rice ($16.99); and I got the Garden Veggie Burger ($8.99), with cheddar cheese and homemade salsa.

Watch City has some customized burgers, but they also have a short list of condiments and toppings where you can basically build your own. The burgers are also served with "brewhouse fries," but you can substitute them for onion rings, sweet potato fries (which I went for), or a salad (who does that?) for just $1 more. Their sweet potato fries are seriously delicious, with a perfectly crispy, salty exterior and a slightly mushy (in a good way), more sweet filling. The veggie burger itself was also very flavorful, with a great balance of spices, and the homemade salsa added a necessary, crunchy texture to the burger. The salsa could have been a little spicier though, for my taste, and I was pretty disappointed that avocado was not on the list of topping options.

My parents, however, loved their salmon, and continuously commented throughout the meal on how flavorful the fish was, and how well cooked the asparagus and rice were. Z also educated my dad on the beer options before and during the meal, so my father was happy to try a few unique brews, which he can't get anywhere else. If my parents were published restaurant critics, Watch City would have received 5 stars.

Which local restaurant do you take your mother and/or father to when they're in town?

Watch City Brewing Co on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Second Helping: Pork 'Shepherd's Pie'

Growing up, our Irish & Scottish family's version of Shepherd's Pie consisted of instant mashed potatoes, cream-style corn from a can, and whatever scrambled hamburger was on sale that week at Market Basket. The meals my mother made for us growing up were convenient, affordable, and ginormous - she made enough of everything to feed an army, so we had leftovers for the week (and for the freezer). However, no matter how inexpensive and simple our dinners were, I have fond memories of sitting around the table with my family almost every night, which, in turn, made the meals comforting and delicious.

From my experience growing up, I learned at an early age not to waste food - and not to appreciate three nights in a row of the same leftovers. So, the other night when I was faced with leftover, un-stuffed pork and spinach, I got a little creative - and also managed to make use of a favorite childhood meal.

Pork "Shepherd's Pie"
Yields: 2 servings

-2 pork chops, cooked and seasoned like this
-2 cups spinach
-2/3 cup instant mashed potatoes, cooked
-1 tbsp. olive oil
-Herbs de Provence
-Salt and pepper to taste
-Shredded cheddar cheese

Directions: Heat up olive oil in saute pan. Add spinach and cook over low to medium heat until slightly wilted. Take off heat. Cut pork into 1-inch cubes, and place each cut pork chop on the bottom of two ramakins. Spoon 1 cup spinach into each ramakin, over pork layer. Scoop equal amounts of mashed potatoes (while still slightly warm) over the spinach and pork layers. Sprinkle some shredded cheddar cheese over the top of each, and place both ramakins on a cookie sheet. Cook in 350* oven until cheese is melted (about 5 minutes).

And ta-da! You have pork "Shepherd's Pie."

The end result was a lighter, healthier version of the comforting Shepherd's Pie we had growing up. Although I ate this meal without my family sitting around me at the table, I was fortunate enough to enjoy it with thoughts of them and fond memories of our meals together - and I look forward to our meals to come.

What was your favorite meal growing up? 

Pssssssst...The Economical Eater is on Facebook! Come join the party!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

This One's for the Ladies

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to win Fun and Fearless’ giveaway for V.I.P. tickets to StyleFixx Girls’ Night Out in Boston. The event took place on May 12 and 13th (I went on the 13th) at Boston Center for the Arts, and featured over 55 designers and brands, as well as massages, facials, makeovers, complimentary wine and beer, and elegant food samples. The center was decked out for the event, creating a funky, eclectic atmosphere for the evening.

Before I go on, I have to admit: I know nothing about fashion. A high end boutique for me is T.J. Maxx, and if an article of clothing doesn’t have a red clearance ticket on it, I probably won’t buy it. So, going into this event I was convinced I’d be in sticker shock – however, after perusing just a few of the tables, I realized my assumptions were way off. Designer scarves, purses, clothing, and jewelry were scattered amongst the tables at the event, and most of the price tags were within $200 (at least, from what I saw). To be honest, the majority of the items were under $100. 

I did not end up buying anything at StyleFixx (except for a ginormous slice of Upper Crust pizza, which was a mere $3 – my guest and I split the slice), but here are some of my highlights:

-Received 12 free classes at Healthworks, along with a 3-day trial

-Luna bars (chocolate peanut butter and cookie dough flavors were on-hand for sampling) – never knew how good these things were! 

-Finale brownies and chocolate cake samples:

-Free Barefoot Pinot Grigio (which the bars ran out of, so I opted for the Barefoot Pinot Noir later in the evening)

Yes, I realize most of my favorites are food-related – but what did you expect? ;)

All in all, it was a fun, relaxing evening and it was great to go to an event that I normally wouldn't buy tickets for - especially because I was pleasantly surprised at the prices and vendors! Plus, being V.I.P. and all, I got a swag bag FULL of goodies - I'm not kidding - StyleFixx did not skimp here. The bag was chocked full of free samples, coupons, snacks (including two Luna bars!), Vitamin Water, and candy. Such a great thing!

Bonus: I got to meet Michelle from Fun and Fearless, who presented me with the opportunity to attend StyleFixx in the first place. Thanks again, Michelle!

Did you attend either night of StyleFixx? What did you think of the event?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Best Deal This Week: Meals for $4 and Up at the 99 Restaurant

When it comes to chains, 99 Restaurant (or "The 9's," as I like to call it) just may be my favorite. Free popcorn, tall beers...what's not to love? I drove two hours both ways to dine at the 99 in Biddeford, Maine on Friday after work - not just to eat at The 9's, but to also see this little guy, my beloved 2-year-old nephew:

Let's just say he, and I, enjoyed our meals (the picture above is documenting his dessert - an ice cream sandwich). For dinner, my nephew had a bun-less hot dog with mandarin orange slices (gourmet, right?), while I opted for the Red Pepper Hummus Platter appetizer ($5.99), which came with red pepper hummus drizzled with balsamic glaze, with toasted pita bread points and fresh broccoli and celery for dipping.

I hadn't eaten a vegetable in days, so this dish really hit the spot (plus, I had eaten about 1.5 bowls of free, salty popcorn at this point). The hummus was insanely creamy and flavorful, and blended surprisingly well with the silky balsamic glaze. 

For dessert, I split a ginormous hot fudge sundae ($4.79) with my older sister, which was nothing special as far as hot fudge sundaes are concerned, but was perfectly traditional - although there could have been a better ratio of ice cream to hot fudge (I was in a hot fudge coma after consuming my half).

Now, for their deals: Thanks to a tip from a reader, I've discovered that The 9's has got quite a bit going on right now. They've got food for under $4 and up. Here's the situation:

The Bar Menu: Plates are $3.99 each in the bar only, and are available after 3 p.m. on weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday. Crab Rangoons, Steakburger Minis, Nachos, and Baked Stuffed Clams are just a few of the items available.

9 Real Size Entrees for $9.99: Seriously. Nine different, generous portions for under $10. Dishes like Panko Crusted Haddock, Grilled Chicken and Stuffed Manicotti Alfredo, and Sirloin Tips & Chicken Tenders all grace the $9.99 menu. 

What's your favorite chain restaurant?

Friday, May 14, 2010

And the Winner Is...

Thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway, despite one or two technical mishaps along the way! Taste of the Nation is expected to be such a wonderful culinary event, supporting some really great charities across the U.S.

I chose the winner for this giveaway by using I simply entered all of the entrants' names, and this lovely little website picked the winner for me, 100 percent randomly.

So, without further ado, here is the winner of the Taste of the Nation giveaway:


Juli said:
You should pick me!
The reasoning here is three-fold.
- Obviously this is a good cause.
- There will be a lot of good food.
- I have a comfortable car and would give you a ride.

Congratulations, Juli! Please email me at with your full name before the end of the day on Sunday, May 16th to claim your ticket.

Thanks again to everyone who entered! 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Farmer's Market Pork Chops

I'm currently reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, so my writing opportunity with Local In Season could not have come at a better time. The folks at LIS approached me after reading this very blog, and I knew it was a position I could not pass up. How could I not be passionate about supporting local farmer's, business owners, and chefs that utilize locally-grown and locally-made food?

With all this being said, last Saturday I had to cover the Waltham's Early Bird Farmer's Market for LIS - you know, the Saturday where it was raining and lightning? My recap of the event will be on LIS soon, but let's just say the sense of community and commitment I felt from each and every vendor that day was outstanding. I wanted to buy something from everybody to help support their hard work and dedication, but, unfortunately, spending that kind of dough isn't my reality.

Instead, I settled on buying just a few items, including some Vegetable Havarti cheese from Smith's Country Cheese in Winchendon. Smith's offers a variety of fresh Gouda, Havarti and Cheddar cheeses, and even had samples of each and every one of them out on Saturday. I settled on the vegetable flavor because it was so unique - the familiar vegetable flavors tickled their way across my tastebuds, while the creamy, slightly tangy flavor of the Havarti lingered beautifully in the background.

Earlier this week, I decided to use just a little bit of the cheese (the rest I saved for another recipe) with some other vegetables I had in my fridge to make some decadent stuffed pork chops.

Vegetable Havarti & Spinach-Stuffed Pork Chops
Yields: 2 servings

-2 pork chops, sliced lengthwise down the middle
-4 slices of Smith's Country Cheese Vegetable Havarti
-1/8 cup chopped onion
-1 cup spinach (I used Olivia's Organic Single Salad to Go, $1.99)
-1 tsp. garlic
-2 tbsp. olive oil
-Salt and pepper
-Herbs de Provence
-White wine

Directions: Sautee onion in pan with 1 tbsp. olive oil, until onions are translucent. Add spinach, and cook until slightly wilted (for about 1 minute). Take off heat, and let cool slightly. While cooling, add two slices of Havarti to inside of sliced pork chops. Spoon equal parts of spinach and onion mixture inside, then close pork chops with a tooth pick to hold them together. Season pork chops with salt, black pepper and herbs de provence. Cook in frying pan with remaining olive oil until brown on each side. Add garlic and a little white wine to pan, and cook off for 30 seconds. Cover pan with tin foil and place in 350 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until cooked through completely.

The olive oil, fat from the pork and white wine made a luxurious sauce, while the creamy cheese melted wonderfully throughout the inside of the meat. The spinach and onions worked really well with the flavor of the cheese, too, although I could have easily added more spinach (mental note for next time).

Reminder: You have until TOMORROW MORNING to enter my giveaway for a chance to attend Taste of the Nation in Portland, Maine for FREE! 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

One Tasty Giveaway

I am so excited to announce the first ever giveaway on The Economical Eater! Now, be warned: You won't see me doing weekly, or even monthly, giveaways here anytime soon - this one just happened to fall in my lap, and it's a very relevant giveaway that supports a very good cause.

I have one ticket available for Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation in Portland, M.E. on June 27th. One lucky winner will join me in sampling cuisine from 25 of Maine's best restaurants, while sipping wine, beer and spirits. The event is from 3 to 8 p.m., and will be held at the Leavitt & Paris Tent Pavillion.

Since 1988, Taste of the Nation has brought together the most creative culinary minds across the nation. Each spring and summer, pioneers of modern American cuisine, national celebrity chefs and mixologists including David Burke, Stephan Pyles, mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim, Bravo’s Top Chef Tom Collichio, Food Network stars Tyler Florence and Emeril Lagasse and thousands more like them donate their time, talent and passion at nearly 40 events across the United States and Canada with one goal in mind: to raise critical funds needed to help end childhood hunger. 100% of supports Share Our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger. (

The beneficiaries for the Share Our Strength 2010 Taste of the Nation in Portland are: Preble Street Teen Center, East End Kids Katering, Good Shepherd Food Bank, and Cultivating Communities. Some of the participating restaurants that evening include Back Bay Grill, The Salt Exchange, and Fore Street.

Along with the eats and booze, live entertainment, dancing, and a silent culinary auction will also take place that evening.

So, what the hell are we waiting for? Here are the "rules": Leave a comment on this blog post about why you would like to attend Taste of the Nation in Portland. I will randomly pick a winner on Friday morning. 

Note: Winners must be able to provide their own transportation to and from the event - this giveaway is for the ticket only. The rest is up to you.

Good luck!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How I Fed My Mother

My mother rocks. I know, especially around Mother's Day, most of us are lucky enough to say this - but seriously - my mother has survived quite a bit in her life, including raising four kids. Thankfully, she's had my wonderful father by her side the entire time - but it's not Father's Day quite yet. ;)

On Friday night, my cousins and I (whose mother is my mom's sister) took our moms to The Common Man in Merrimack, N.H. (where I grew up) for an early surprise Mother's Day dinner. The original plan was to take them to a Chardonnay tasting at Zorvino Vineyards, but, unfortunately, not enough people signed up for them to hold the event.

My mother loves The Common Man, and I must agree with her - the service, at least in Merrimack, is consistently friendly, informative and attentive, while the food is almost always perfect. Plus, the prices are affordable, while the portions are generous. The local chain also serves vodka tonics, which is my mother's drink of choice. After the Zorvino Vineyards letdown, The Common Man was an obvious Plan B.

All of us ordered fish that evening, my mother opting for the Atlantic Salmon ($17.99), which was char-grilled and served with a "Green Goddess" drizzle (basically, pesto). I opted for the Rainbow Trout ($15.99), which was pan-fried and drenched in a panko and potato chip crust, with a generous scoop of pistachio basil butter on top.

My mom had wild rice on the side of her dish, while I went for the cheesy mashed potatoes. The vegetable of the day was maple-glazed carrots.

Let me start off by saying my plate was ginormous. Two generous pieces of fresh, perfectly cooked rainbow trout graced my plate, with a giant dollop of creamy, semi-sweet pistachio butter on top, melting beautifully over the heaping pile of sea life. I managed to eat half my plate (plus all the carrots), and my aunt continually remarked on how fresh the trout tasted, as she ordered the same meal I did. Apparently, when her and my mother were kids, my grandmother would cook trout caught from the brook down the street - and the trout tasted like nothing but the brook. The Common Man has forever changed my aunt's view on rainbow trout. 

By the time we left, my mother's face was one giant smile - she had a full stomach, a full heart, and a sincere appreciation for the surprise meal brought on by her daughter, sister and nieces.  

How did you feed your mother this Mother's Day?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Best Deal This Week: 30 Cent Wings & 1/2 Price Appetizers at Joe Sent Me

I live in Waltham, and am fortunate enough to be within walking distance of the culinary meccas that are Moody Street and Main Street (all right - Moody's got Main Street beat, but it has its gems). Being so close to both, I have the option of pretty much any global cuisine I could want, including Indian, Spanish, Guatemalan, Mexican, Thai, and American, to name only a few.

One restaurant I have yet to try in Waltham, however, is Joe Sent Me, which also has another location in Cambridge. The name alone has quite an interesting history (as described on the restaurant's website):

During Prohibition, bars disguised as florists and funeral parlors were referred to as speakeasies. Since these establishments served alcohol illegally, a special knock, or the right name, was required for admittance. “Joe Sent Me” became one of the passwords used by patrons to get into a speakeasy. Eventually, the speakeasy was simply referred to as a “Joe Sent Me."

The clever title of the eatery has intrigued  me to dine there in the near future, but Joe Sent Me also has some decent deals during the week, at both their Waltham and Cambridge locations. For instance, every Monday from 7 to 10 p.m., and every Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m., Joe Sent Me shells out 30 cent wings to hungry carnivores. Every Tuesday in Waltham and Wednesday in Cambridge, the restaurant serves up 1/2 price appetizers from 5 to 7 p.m. The times alloted for both discounts are realistic for us working folk, too. Oh, and did I mention they have outdoor seating? Win-win in my book.

Have you been to Joe Sent Me? What's your review?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Praising Petsi Pies

A few weeks ago, I complained about the dry scones here. Today, I'm raving about scones in Somerville.

Petsi Pies (with another location in Cambridge) has become my new favorite breakfast-on-the-go spot. I'm not kidding when I say I'm slightly obsessed with this bakery/cafe. I've yet to visit the Cambridge spot, but the Somerville store-front is tiny, quaint, and bustling with the aromas of freshly baked pies and pastries. The atmosphere alone is comforting and inviting, and every item in the place is handmade, homemade. 

Sadly, I don't even have any photos to accompany this blog post, because I am normally savoring every bite in the comfort of my driver's seat, on my drive to work. However, I have been fortunate enough to sample several of Petsi Pie's "famous" homemade scones and baked goods, and every single bite I've taken has been one heck of a treat.

My favorites so far: The gorgonzola and leek scone; triple berry scone; and the banana chocolate chip muffin. The scones are perfectly crisp on the outside, with a moist, airy interior. The flavors are also insanely well balanced - the gorgonzola scone, for instance, had a spattering of freshly ground black pepper on the top, adding a necessary "kick" to the scone, and balanced the creamy gorgonzola flavor perfectly. The triple berry was chocked full of fresh blueberries and raspberries, and the muffin was insanely moist, and - again - chocked full of chocolate chips - without being overwhelmingly sweet for first thing in the morning.

The coffee at Petsi Pies is also delicious, and you can order it iced or hot. I have gone for a large iced regular coffee at each visit so far, and every brewed cup tastes strong and freshly made. However their coffee is almost too strong for my liking - but I'm also a lightweight. 

I like Petsi Pies so much, that I have compiled a "wish list" of items I want to try over the coming weeks/months (don't judge me):

-Whoopie cupcakes
-Banana chocolate cream pie
-Roasted vegetable pie with goat cheese

Prices are also fairly reasonable at Petsi Pies - I pay around $4-5 for a large iced coffee and a baked good, and a 10-inch pie, for instance, that serves 6-8 people is $20 (or around $2.50/person). Not bad for local, handmade food. 

What's your favorite place for coffee and baked goods in the area?

Petsi Pies on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Second Helping: Ricotta Turkey Meatballs with Peppers & Onions

I fell in love with myself after making my "Grown-up" Turkey Sloppy Joes last week. They were so easy to make, but so damn tasty and comforting. However, I only used about half of a green pepper, 1/4 of an onion, a few scoops of tomato sauce, and only half of the ground turkey package in the recipe. To make use of the leftovers, I decided to make turkey meatballs - with a creamy, cheesy addition.

Ricotta Turkey Meatballs with Peppers & Onions
Yields: 4-6 servings

-1/2 package ground turkey 
-1/2 green pepper, diced 
-1/4 cup onion, diced
-1/8 cup Italian bread crumbs
-1 egg
-1 tsp. garlic
-Spoonful of ricotta cheese
-Dried parsley
-Salt and pepper

Directions: Mix egg and ricotta together in a small bowl. Add to larger bowl with turkey, peppers, onions, and garlic. Add bread crumbs, parsley, salt and pepper, and mix well with hands. Rub baking sheet or casserole dish with olive oil (or put down tin foil). Roll turkey mixture into small meatballs, then place on baking sheet. Bake in a 375* oven for 20-25 minutes, or until meatballs are golden brown.

I served my turkey meatballs over whole wheat fettuccine pasta, with leftover Classico's Fire Roasted Tomato & Garlic sauce. Holy deliciousness! The ricotta and egg mixture made the turkey - which can easily dry out - extremely moist and creamy, with a slight hint of the ricotta cheese flavor. Any more ricotta, and the flavor could have easily overpowered the turkey. The frequent chunks of peppers and onions also added a necessary texture to the meat, as well as a wonderful addition of flavor. 

How have you made use of your leftovers in a 'Second Helping' recipe this week?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

April Recap: Italy, Here I Come (with Money in My Pocket)

Well, folks, the time has come - we're on the brink of booking our trip to Italy!

I can't even express in words how freakin' excited I am!! Especially because, over the last few months, I've managed to save some impressive dough. Before I go into detail about April's savings, here is a recap of the last few months' savings:

Here's how I fared in April:

Groceries: Spent $96.83 within $100/month new budget (old budget = $120/month)
Saved $23.17 from old budget (but lost $17.25 over last few months)
Total saved to date: $5.92

Wine/Beer for home: Spent $25.79 within $40/month new budget (old budget=$80/month)
Saved $54.21 from old budget (saved $10.65 over last few months)
Total saved to date: $64.86

Dining out (not for work): Spent $115.08 within new $100/month budget (old budget=$160/month)
Saved $44.92 from old budget (saved $54.65 over last few months)
Total to date saved: $99.57

Grand total: $170.35
Goal: $720

Not too shabby, if I do say so myself! I just need to save about $550 more to meet my goal, and have about four months to do so. I think I can manage to save $137/month from now until September!

When it comes to sticking to my new budgets, here is how I've managed when it comes to grocery shopping. When it comes to saving on wine/beer for home, I've simply just bought less. With dining out, I've been much better about splitting an entree or appetizers with friends (which, on average, saves me a good $5-10 each time), and have cut back on ordering fancy cocktails and sticking with beer or wine that I enjoy, but is more affordable. I've also just been more aware of prices in general on restaurant menus, and have made smarter financial choices, while making sure to still order food I want to eat - saving money doesn't mean having to eat bad food.

I have to say, I am pleasantly surprised with my ability to become accustomed with this new budget I've put myself on. At first, it seemed extremely limiting - and, although it's still not the easiest budget to live on, it hasn't been impossible - and our trip to Italy will be so worth the discipline.

How have you managed to save money/cut costs in April?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Best Deal This Week: 5 Days of Deals at Moonstones

I reviewed the tapas at Moonstones in Chelmsford last week, but I have to admit, most of their menu is rather pricey for my budget. However, I was happy to discover that this upscale eatery has cheap eats every night of the work week. Yes, every single night.

Moonstones does happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m. throughout the week. From $1 oysters to $4 margaritas, anyone with a stomach and a few bucks can find something to suit their fancy. Here's the weekly line-up:

Buck-a-shuck Monday: $1 oysters and $1 shrimp ($12 limit); washed down with $3 nihon marys (whatever those are).

Two-bill-Tuesday: Chicken springrolls, pork tacos, Cajun fries, and "janky" beer are all $2.

Wing-it-Wednesday: Pay $3 for either a 1/2 dozen house-special Cajun or buffalo-style wings and shine shots.

Thermal-Thursday: Beef chicarones, buffalo calamari, Korean wings, and margaritas are $4.

Hi-five-Friday: Truffle fries, pork arancini, fritters, and bucket-o-Coronitas are all $5.

Although the $1-5 price tags make me happy, the 3-5 p.m. time frame is pretty inconvenient for anyone that works 9-5. However, their creatively-named cocktails and "janky" beer have left me intrigued. I'm just not sure my boss will let me leave early to try them.

Side note: Stay tuned for tomorrow, when I'll be posting an update on how I saved for Italy in the month of April. We're planning/booking our trip over the next few weeks!!!