Monday, August 30, 2010

Best Deal This Week: Burgers for a Buck at The Met

Photo courtesy of
If you're a long time reader of The Econ Eater, I've probably made it clear how much I love a good burger. Beef, turkey, veggie, lamb - it doesn't matter. To me, there's nothing like a flavorful, juicy, well-made burger.

The Met Bar and Grill in Natick and Dedham (with a sister restaurant, The Metropolitan Club, in Chestnut Hill) knows their burgers - and has become rather famous for them in the area. Their "Burger Bar" includes continental creations such as Boston - The Fenway, made with bacon, cheddar cheese and a fried egg on a sesame bun, along with the Manhattan - The Works, made with Swiss cheese, bacon, sauteed onions and mushrooms on a sesame seed bun. The Met's international creations include the Paris Burger, made with Brie, fried egg, caramelized onions and truffle mayo on a sesame seed bun - plus a slew of others, like the Tokyo and Mexico City burgers. Even if none of the Met's specialty burgers tickle your fancy, they also have a Make Your Own option.

Now, on to the best part: Every Monday night in Chestnut Hill, The Met Club holds Burger Night from 6 to 10 p.m., where burgers are $4.99 in the Bar & Lounge. Also, the Natick and Dedham locations hold happy hour, where burgers are $1 from 4 to 6 p.m., as well as $2 daily featured burgers. Gourmet, innovative burgers for a buck. Who said you need fast food to eat affordably?

Random note: I know I don't usually blog about music, but I wanted to recommend this album to anyone looking for some new music to listen to. Sal Nastasi, one of the founding members of the band Ready in 10 (out of Long Island), played at one of my best friend's weddings in June. He sent me his CD to listen to, and it really was a great listen. Mainly slow rock, and perfect relaxing, rainy day music. Definitely worth a listen!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Financial Friday: Skip the Meat

As many of you know, my "other half" is a vegetarian, although I'm an omnivore. Z is a lacto-ovo, meaning he doesn't eat meat or fish, but still consumes dairy products and eggs. I've never been a huge meat eater, so I've allowed Z to introduce me to many tasty, meat-free products over time - and I've saved some money doing it.

Before I dive into this post, however, let's get one thing straight: Not all vegetarian-friendly products are cheaper. Not by a long shot. And not all of us want to cut a lot of meat out of our diets. But by going meatless even a small amount of the time, you can end up with more dough in your pocket. Here's how I've done it.

First off: Tofu is cheap. I bought a package of firm tofu at Trader Joe's last week for $1.79, and I got about 6 servings out of it. Most packages of chicken are $3-4+ for four breasts, and ground turkey can be anywhere from $4-5. Tofu was $1.79. I ended up making tofu and black bean quesadillas with it. I just drained the tofu, cut it into chunks, sauteed it in a pan with some olive oil, and Z seasoned the tofu with salt, black pepper, curry, garlic powder, chili powder, and cilantro. I threw in some canned black beans, gave it a stir, and scooped the tofu and black bean mixture into whole wheat tortillas with melted cheese.

I love how tofu also retains the flavors that you add to it - it's like a flavor sponge

In addition to tofu, vegetarian lunch "meat" is also a few dollars cheaper than regular pre-packaged cold cuts, or even meat from the deli. I usually go for the Tofurky brand since it's available at just about any grocery store, and the flavors normally range from "bologna" to hickory smoked "turkey" to "ham." To be honest, these deli slices aren't incredible by themselves, but I normally add Dijon and avocado to my sandwiches, or hummus and pickles, and the outcome is delicious. I forget I'm not eating meat! And, the best part: The ingredient lists for these deli slices are short and legible. 

There are so many other ways you can save money by not purchasing meat every once and a while, and it's also a lot healthier for you. Many vegetarian-friendly options on restaurant menus end up being cheaper, too - like portobello or veggie burgers, or some meat-free pasta dishes. If the restaurant doesn't have to pay a few extra bucks to put meat in the dish, neither do you.

Are you a vegetarian? If not, would you consider consuming less meat to save money (or for other reasons)?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Disappointing Fare at Joe Sent Me

A few months ago, I featured Joe Sent Me as the Best Deal for the week, and was really intrigued by how the restaurant got its name - not to mention the eatery's delicious-looking menu. Ever since I wrote that post, I've been wanting to visit Joe Sent Me, and finally got the opportunity to do so last week.

Before my roommate and I moved out of Waltham for good, we had a light dinner and drinks at Joe Sent Me's Waltham location (they have another spot in Cambridge). It was a gorgeous day outside, so we opted to sit on the outside patio which was packed with a young, after work crowd.

We started our meals by perusing the short beer list, and we both decided on Samuel Adams Summer Ale.

For dinner, I ordered two appetizers: Josefina's Vegetarian Black Bean Soup ($4.95) and Jose's Grande Quesadillas with "spicy" chicken, instead of the roasted veggies option ($8.95).

Since the quesadilla was the most impressive of the two dishes, I'll start there. I loved how the dish was served on a plastic plate, playing up the outside patio/summertime atmosphere. The guacamole was fresh and flavorful, too, as was the salsa - although I wish it had been a bit spicier. The quesadilla itself was nothing special (I could make a better one at home), and the "spicy chicken" was bland and under seasoned. 

The soup was no better. Although you get a heaping serving for under $5, the soup itself was lacking flavor of any kind - and the appearance was pretty sad, too. Joe Sent Me serves their black bean soup with sour cream, which had been mixed in and looked like it was curdled throughout the bowl, which made it increasingly hard to eat. Huge disappointment.

The interior and exterior of Joe Sent Me's Waltham location, though, was perfect for getting together with a friend for a few brews and affordable fare, and since this was my first time there, I do plan to give them another shot - just not anytime too soon.

Where do you go in the Boston area for good pub grub?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Not Your Average Joe's Makes a Good First Impression

My parents and little sister came down to help me move last weekend, and, after a day of cleaning and moving boxes, we needed a good meal - and some stiff drinks. Z joined us for dinner, and we all walked over to Not Your Average Joe's.

I had never dined at this local chain before, and was excited to finally check it out. The decor alone was funky and modern, and the atmosphere was definitely family-friendly.

Shortly after being seated, we ordered a round of drinks. I went for the Flowertini ($7.99), made with St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Absolut Vodka, and house-made lemonade.

While we sipped our drinks and looked over our menus, our waitress brought over the complimentary bread and oil - which I am still salivating over as I type this. The bread itself was incredibly moist and spongy, while the dipping oil was chocked full of Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper. It was insanely addicting - I could have easily eaten the bread and oil as a meal.

Upon realizing I should nix the bread as a meal and at least try an entree, I decided to order the Baja Burger ($10.99), made with ground Angus sirloin, guacamole, pepper jack cheese, pickled red onions, lettuce and crispy, blue tortilla chip strips on a seeded brioche roll. My side choices were French fries or mixed greens, so I went for the greens (I promise there's a burger under there somewhere).

This was also no ordinary burger - the subtle, unique touches added to it made it extra special, and extra delicious. Pickling the onions and adding crispy tortilla chips added textures and flavors that were unexpected, yet warmly welcomed.

I was stuffed to no end by this point, but Z asked if I'd be willing to split some dessert with him - and I eventually obliged. We ordered the Hot Apple Cinnamon Sticks ($6.50), which are made with spiced apples in a fried pastry shell, dipped in cinnamon and sugar, and served with vanilla ice cream and hot caramel sauce. 

These were tasty, but nothing special - although my full stomach might have had something to do with my opinion of them. 

Our party included a very picky eater (my little sister), a vegetarian (Z), and many who expect good food and great service when we go out to eat. At Not Your Average Joe's, everybody left pleased - and full. As a bonus, the prices were really reasonable, too. 

Side note: Since I left you all without a Best Deal this week, check out the weekly happy hour deals at Not Your Average Joe's here.

What's your favorite local chain restaurant and why?

Not Your Average Joe's on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 23, 2010

Recap: Ice Cream (and Spoon) Showdown

On Saturday, I attended the first session of @eatBoston's second annual Ice Cream Showdown in Somerville's Union Square (the second session took place yesterday in SoWa Market). The event was small, yet crowded, and featured some wonderful local ice cream shops and restaurants that make homemade ice cream with innovative flavors. Stonyfield also sponsored the event, and ticket sales were donated to some very worthy local organizations, such as Lovin' Spoonful, Share our Strength, Somerville Local First, Arts Union, and Community Servings.

While the ice cream offerings were good, I do have one weighted complaint about the event - but I'll save that for the end of this post. Until then, here are the flavors I tried and my thoughts on them.

Stonyfield Organic - Gotta Have Java:

Stonyfield's java ice cream was incredibly thick and creamy, with a strong, smooth coffee flavor infused throughout. Warning: This batch isn't for the weak coffee drinkers.

PICCO - Coconut Chip:

Like many of the vendors on Saturday, Picco didn't skimp when it came to the serving sizes - thankfully. This tropical twist on traditional chocolate chip ice cream was perfectly packed with shavings of fresh, chewy coconut.

Toscanini's - B3 (brown sugar, brown butter, and brownie):

I loved the decadent addition of brown butter and brown sugar to this bowl. The end result was incredibly rich and delicious - I just wouldn't be able to eat a cup of it any larger than this without entering a sugar coma.

Christina's - Chai Tea:
Somehow, I failed to take a picture of this one - but if you're a chai tea fan, you will love Christina's ice cream version. Cinnamon and cloves were strong flavors in this batch, and the ice cream itself was addictively smooth.

J.P. Licks - Mint Lace:

J.P. Lick's Mint Lace ice cream was obviously homemade and held more real mint flavor than any mint chocolate chip ice cream I've had before. However, this dish didn't blow me away like many of the other vendors' concoctions did that day.

Chilly Cow Custard - Purple Haze:

Chilly Cow's black raspberry frozen custard mixed with Oreos was nothing short of incredible - definitely my favorite offering of the day. The custard was wonderfully sweet and tart from the fresh black raspberry flavor, and their was just the right amount of crushed Oreos added for some crunch and rich, chocolate flavor. Thankfully, I live right down the street from Chilly Cow now - which could become very dangerous.

The geniuses at Bull McCabe's were also giving away free hamburgers (and cheeseburgers) along with $3 PBR drafts to all Ice Cream Showdown goers. Although the last thing I needed after inhaling several heaping cups of ice cream was a burger and a beer, I managed to throw both down my gullet anyway. My cousin and I, for our own health, did split the burger, though - and I did also manage to get a bite in before photographing it.

Although the day was filled with great eats (and ice cold beer), there is one negative aspect of the day that I must report. There was a point during the Ice Cream Showdown that I had dropped my spoon on the ground, and asked the folks running the show for a new one (no one mentioned to me at the front of the event that we had to save our spoons). However, when I went up to the staff and asked for a new spoon, I was immediately told they could "rinse it off for me," but they couldn't give me a new spoon. Since I had already thrown the spoon in the trash (this is after only two samples of ice cream, mind you) I was immediately told, with attitude, that there was nothing they could do for me because they were trying to "save the environment" one spoon at a time. Meanwhile, not a single paper or plastic cup was being reused or recycled. After being scolded for another solid minute in front of a crowd of people, I finally got a new, plastic spoon shoved in my face. 

At events with hundreds of people, some clumsy person like me is going to drop their spoon once and a while, or throw it away by accident - it's inevitable, and these are things you should plan for. And I am all for not being wasteful and reusing and recycling whenever and wherever possible - the situation was just handled very poorly. 

I totally respect @eatBoston, the partnerships they have, the events they run, and the money they raise for some incredibly great causes. But, if you're going to be green at events, make it consistent, clear and professional. I don't see the need to make someone who purchased a ticket feel like they're trying to kill the environment one piece of plasticware at a time just because they asked for a new spoon.

Did you attend either day of the Ice Cream Showdown? What was your experience?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Financial Friday: Five Tips for a Better Move

Courtesy of
Moving is one of the least fun things on earth - and can be one of the most expensive. However, from having to move several times during and after college, I have found several simple ways to make moving less hectic and even more affordable. I made sure to apply all of them during my move last weekend, and I wanted to share my top five moving tips with you.

1.) Use trash bags. It may not be the classiest way to transfer your stuff, but instead of using the time to scour for boxes, just use trash bags. Especially for clothes, pillows, blankets, and other belongings that won't get ruined if they aren't packed "perfectly," trash bags are a great go-to for easy packing.

2.) Recruit friends/family. Why hire movers when you can recruit your friends and/or family? Movers are uber expensive, and, sometimes, don't take much care of your belongings. I was fortunate enough to have Z, my parents, three of our friends, and several big cars to help me move, and we all worked together to get everything packed and moved into my new place. To compensate, I bought them all pizza and beer, and we were able to eat our hard-earned meals together in my new place.

3.) Throw it away. I spent a good three days before the move organizing everything I own, and ended up throwing three trash bags full of stuff away. Anything I hadn't touched, looked at or worn in over six months went in the trash. This not only made my load lighter on moving day, but also provided me with more space for the smaller apartment I was moving into.

4.) Break it up. Moving, well, sucks. But it doesn't have to be extremely overwhelming. This last move, I devoted one day to moving all of the "little" stuff; one day to the large furniture, like my couch and mattress; and one day to (begin) unpacking, setting up, etc. It prolonged the process, but it broke the move up into smaller chunks, and made it seem a lot less stressful.

5.) Stock up. The day before moving my big furniture, I made sure to put some essentials in my new apartment, such as toilet paper, paper towels, and hand soap. I also made sure to put water bottles in my fridge, along with milk, butter and beer. Having these essential items already in my new place helped to accommodate everyone on the day of the big move.

What are some of your tips to making moving less hectic/more affordable?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Relishing in Restaurant Week at Tryst

I am writing this after just having completed a three course meal at Tryst, and I’m not the least bit ashamed to admit that I don’t know how I am sitting up in a chair right now. My stomach is that full.

My friend Juli and I were long overdue for a get together, so we decided to try one of my new neighborhood’s eateries that just so happened to also be participating in Restaurant Week. $33.10 for three courses isn’t bad at all when a typical Tryst entrée is $20-25, on average. In fact, it’s quite a steal – especially when the portions are ginormous.

Before I get to the food however, let’s talk about the booze. Juli and I were in the mood for fancy, expensive cocktails, so we decided to splurge, because splurging is necessary every once and a while (for my sanity). So, for my drink, I ordered the Peach Ginger Cosmopolitan ($12).

This was no wussy cocktail. The slap-in-your-face vodka lingered in the background while smooth, yet strong, hints of the ginger were potent enough to make my eyes bulge. The tiny hint of peach flavor was also necessary to mellow all of the strong vodka and ginger flavors out, providing a dangerously drinkable beverage.

While we waited for our food, we were also brought a basket of crusty bread with what tasted like a red pepper and olive hummus. It was delicious, but came only seconds before our first course did.

The three course menu included an appetizer, entrée and dessert – all of which were also available a la carte, if desired. For my appetizer, I opted for the Ward’s Farm Tomatoes ($9 a la carte), which was served with local burrata cheese, olive oil and vincotto

This dish was a vibrant, delightful plate of various juicy tomatoes, thick, creamy cheese, and peppery arugula. It was perfectly light and fresh that I almost thought the burrata was unnecessary – and, if you know me, calling cheese “unnecessary” is something that never happens. The taste of the farm fresh tomatoes with the spicy arugula was just so perfect all on their own.

For an entrée, I ordered the du Breton All Natural Pork Chop ($23 a la carte), which was served with polenta fries, pickled nectarines and a peach barbeque sauce.

See what I mean about ginormous portions? The combination of the perfectly cooked pork with the tangy, pickled nectarines and spicy arugula was insanely beautiful, while the crispy exterior and fluffy interior of the polenta fries added a nice, additional texture to the dish. The peach barbeque sauce, however, was kind out of place, flavor-wise. My only other gripe: When the server asked how I wanted my pork cooked, I asked him to just have the chef prepare it the way he believes it should be prepared. Suddenly, I had three heads – and it took some teeth pulling to get the waiter to understand my request.

Finally, to round out an already terrific meal, I ordered the Cherry Turnover with Pistachio Ice Cream ($8 a la carte) for dessert. 

As most of you already know, I’m not a huge dessert person (and, being the grammar activist that I am, let it be known that Tryst had dessert spelt “desert” on their menu), but I managed to eat every last bite of this dish. The cherry turnover was flaky, warm and buttery, and the creamy, ice cold ice cream was the perfect companion for it. The dollop of tangy berry sauce also added a nice, tart flavor to the sweet dish, and although the ice cream itself tasted more like vanilla, the candied pistachios were a fantastic touch to the plate.

In the end, Juli and I thoroughly enjoyed our meals at Tryst, and the $33.10 price tag for three courses was a great way to sample several dishes on the menu at a much lower price overall. 

What Restaurant Week deals have you taken advantage of so far?

Tryst on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Second Helping Eggplant Chips with Spicy Aioli

Last week, Z and I made an easy dinner of roasted vegetables with toasted naan. I had a ginormous zucchini from a friend's farm that I needed to use up, so we chopped and roasted that along with half of a large eggplant and some green pepper. We added some curry, cayenne, parsley, salt and pepper to the vegetables, slathered them with olive oil, and let them roast away. Simple, delicious, and extra spicy.

The only issue was that I was left with half of an eggplant - that was rapidly going bad. The next evening, I vowed to use up the remaining eggplant, and made a variation of several eggplant fries recipes I came across. In the end, I came out with eggplant chips - with some very untraditional aioli for dipping.

Eggplant Chips with Spicy Aioli 
Serves: 4 (about 5 chips each)

Eggplant Chips:
-1/2 of a large eggplant (or 1 small eggplant)
-1 cup milk
-3/4 cup whole wheat flour
-Chili powder
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-Olive oil

Directions: Cut eggplant into 1/2-inch thick, "half moon" slices (if using a whole, small eggplant, cut eggplant lengthwise, then slice into "half moons"). Pour milk into a shallow dish; mix whole wheat flour, chili powder, salt and pepper in a separate shallow dish. Dip each slice of eggplant into the milk, and then coat each side of eggplant in flour mixture. In a saucepan, pour 1-inch thick layer of olive oil; heat to medium/high temperature. Once hot, add eggplant slices (be sure not to overcrowd the pan). Let eggplant slices brown on each side (about 2 to 3 minutes on each side), and then drain on paper towel-covered plate. Sprinkle with some additional salt as soon as the eggplant slice comes off the pan.

Spicy Aioli:
-2 tbsp. mayonnaise
-Squirt of lime juice (use lemon if you have it)
-1-2 generous shakes of Tabasco sauce
-Salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions: Mix above ingredients together in a small bowl, and let sit, covered, in refrigerator until serving time.

These eggplant chips were seriously addicting. Perfectly crunchy on the outside, and the intense seasonings on the chips worked beautifully with the cool, creamy aioli sauce. Next time, though, I will be sure to use less salt on the chips (I went a little crazy), and I will definitely use lemon juice in the aioli - all I had was lime juice at the time.

How have you made use of leftover produce lately?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Best Deals This Week: Restaurant Week Boston

So, the move went smoothly. I am so grateful to have had so much help from so many wonderful people. I'd still be moving right now if it wasn't for all the friends and family I had by my side this weekend!

Now that the move is over, let's get to the important stuff: It's Restaurant Week in Boston. For us frugal foodies, this week and next week encompass one of the best times of the year. Some of Boston's best restaurants are adjusting their menus to accommodate every wallet size, and feeding us nothing but quality, scrumptious dishes. I'm ecstatic.

Because there are so many wonderful restaurants participating in this summer's festivities, and because there is such a necessary focus on locally-sourced food, the Best Deal for this week includes every single participating restaurant. Personally, I am excited to sample the cuisine at EVOO, Rialto, and The Fireplace, and I'd love to make a return visit to Ten Tables.

Here's a complete list of participating restaurants. Which ones are you excited to try?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Moving, Not Writing

Happy Friday the 13th! As most of you know, I am in the midst of packing up my life and preparing to move this weekend. With that being said, I have had next to zero time to write up a Financial Friday post for you all. Please forgive my lack of writing.

There are, however, several exciting posts coming up next week, including a recipe for Eggplant Chips with Spicy Aioli, plus my tips to having an organized and inexpensive move.

Also, if you have any money-saving tips you'd like to share on an upcoming Financial Friday, please let me know! Just shoot me an email at

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Taste Test of Kellogg's New FiberPlus Cereals

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received two boxes of Kellogg's FiberPlus Antioxidants Cereal to review. The flavors are Berry Yogurt Crunch and Cinnamon Oat Crunch.

I love cereal. I love cereal so much, I have it in some capacity at least once almost every day. So, when Foodbuzz reached out looking for people to taste test Kellogg's new creations, I quickly raised my hand. Kellogg's created their FiberPlus Cereals after conducting an independent study and finding out that consumers preferred the taste of Kellogg's FiberPlus Antioxidant Bars over Fiber One Bars.

I tend to be leery of food products that include extra vitamins and minerals, or are packed with antioxidants, but I was willing to give Kellogg's new products a try. I started with the Berry Yogurt Crunch, which provides 40 percent of our daily fiber.

The Berry Yogurt Crunch is made up of whole grain wheat and rice flakes with berry and yogurt flavored clusters. The aroma alone resembled an intense artificial mix of berries, and, unfortunately, so did the taste. The flakes themselves tasted much sweeter than expected, and sugar was the second ingredient amongst a long list of illegible items. Even the Lactaid milk in my cereal bowl became sickly sweet by the time I finished the recommended 1 cup serving.

My expectations low, I then poured myself a bowl of the Cinnamon Oat Crunch, which includes 35 percent of our daily fiber. On the nose, the smell was delightful, and immediately reminded me of Cinnamon Toast Crunch - one of my favorite childhood cereals. 

The taste was also not as artificially sweet as its berry yogurt counterpart, but it was still a little too sweet for my liking first thing in the morning. The Cinnamon Oat Crunch also got soggy surprisingly quickly in in my milk. However, the ingredient list was much shorter and slightly more legible than the Berry Yogurt Crunch's; and the Cinnamon Oat Crunch only had 8 grams of sugar in its 3/4 cup recommended serving, vs. Berry Yogurt's 12 grams in its 1 cup serving. 

Overall, I will be finishing both boxes of these new Kellogg's cereals, but I probably would never buy these at the grocery store. My favorite of the two was the Cinnamon Oat Crunch, but both varieties were just too sweet for me - and I'm still slightly skeptical of the long, scary-looking ingredient lists. 

Have you tried Kellogg's new FiberPlus cereals? What's your review?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Orange Pineapple Cupcakes

Happy Hump Day! I'm in the midst of moving and packing, so I apologize for the short blog post today. However, I didn't want to leave you guys without anything, so I figured this was a good time for me to share the recipe for Orange Pineapple Cupcakes that my mother made for my 26th birthday (recipe adapted from The Nashua Telegraph).

Orange Pineapple Cupcakes
Yields: About 20-24 cupcakes

-1 box yellow-cake mix
-3/4 cup vegetable oil
-3 eggs
-1 can (11 oz) mandarin orange segments (add juice first, then orange segments)
-Cupcake liners

Directions: Mix all ingredients. Pour batter into cupcake pans, lined with cupcake liners. Bake 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees. When completely cool, store in refrigerator.

-1 small package instant vanilla pudding
-1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple with juice
-8-oz carton Cool Whip

Directions: Spoon vanilla pudding over pineapple with juice. Fold in Cool Whip. Frost cupcakes and refrigerate. The longer it sets, the better it is.

These cupcakes were incredibly refreshing, and were perfectly light for a summer dessert. Since I'm a big fan of varying textures, I also really enjoyed the small, yet noticeable, chunks of pineapple throughout the frosting. 

What's your favorite summertime dessert?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Heavenly Hummus and Soggy Bread at Beantown Pub

A few weeks ago, Z and I went out for dinner the night before I was leaving for a business trip. Z had just purchased a bunch of deals through Living Social for Beantown Pub, so we hopped on our bicycles and rode into the city for some beer and pub grub.

Beantown Pub's atmosphere is nothing fancy, but rightfully so - the restaurant is dimly lit, perfectly casual, and scattered with bar stools, pool tables, and diners who just want to eat good, affordable food in a laid back environment. We picked a table right next to a large window that overlooked the street outside for optimal people watching and necessary additional lighting.

Although Beantown Pub's beer list is limited, I started with a delicious, delightfully chilled Sam Adams Brick Red.

For an appetizer, Z and I split the My Mom's Homemade Hummus ($6.95), which was served with fresh pita bread.

Mom's Homemade Hummus was probably the best hummus I've had at a restaurant to date. The hummus itself was wonderfully smooth and well seasoned, while the garnish of olive oil, herbs and spices added an unexpected (albeit highly welcomed) flavor. 

Since I put away a good amount of hummus, I decided to get something small for my entree. I opted on the Beantown Bruschetta appetizer ($6.95), which is a more recent addition to the Pub's menu. The menu describes the bruschetta as "Toasted Garlic Bread Topped with Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, Diced Tomatoes, Basil, Red Onions, with Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinaigrette." What I got was unfortunately a soggy, unimpressive mess of bread, tomatoes and oversalted Parmesan cheese.

I was extremely disappointed, because I was really in the mood for some thin-sliced crusty bread with fresh tomatoes, fragrant basil, and creamy mozzarella, but instead I received four oversized hunks of bread that became increasingly soggy thanks to the mountain of tomatoes carelessly thrown on top of them. The Parmesan cheese was also unexpected and uninvited to the dish. 

Overall, Beantown Pub is a relaxed, no frills bar that has a fairly diverse menu and very affordable prices. Although my bruschetta was a disappointment, the hummus tells me their food has to be, for the most part, well-made and enjoyable - so I plan to give them another chance in the near future.

Have you ever eaten at Beantown Pub? What was your experience?

Beantown Pub on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 9, 2010

Best Deal This Week: Free Drinks & Half Price Happy Hour at Not Your Average Joe's

I'm moving this weekend, and haven't started packing. I am the walking definition of procrastination. I am, however, fortunate enough to have plenty of help this weekend with the moving process, including some help from my parents, who are making the trip to Boston on Saturday. My little sister is coming with them, and we are all heading to dinner with Z at some point to relax, catch up and gorge. My dear sister, however, is very picky when it comes to eating. Despite undergoing open heart surgery as a newborn, her favorite foods are limited to macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers, French fries, and cheeseburgers. Knowing all of this, Z suggested taking the family to Not Your Average Joe's. The menu at Not Your Average Joe's is diverse, and it will be easy for the picky eaters, vegetarians and omnivores alike to find something to eat and enjoy.

While I was perusing the restaurant's website to check out the menu, I also came across some pretty great deals that happen throughout the week that I thought was worthy of being this week's Best Deals.

Wine and Beer Tastings: Not Your Average Joe's holds complimentary tastings at their Norwell and Medford locations, featuring Cisco Grey Lady beer and two Nantucket Vineyard wines. The upcoming tastings are August 18 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at both locations.

Half-Price Happy Hour: All of the appetizers and cocktail-sized pizzas are half price from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. every weekday, in the bar area at all of their Massachusetts locations. I'd kill to try their Bacon Blue pizza, made with blue cheese, bacon, caramelized onions, arugula and a balsamic reduction (normally $6.99).

Besides the discounts, Joe's offers another bonus: Summer's Best Fest. Summer's Best Fest includes monthly specials during the summer where Joe's uses locally-grown products and ingredients. For instance, August's local ingredients include watermelon from Harvest Farm, tomatoes from Ward's Farm, fresh mozzarella from Narragansett Creamery, goat cheese from Westfield Farm, plus basil and arugula from numerous local growers. A list of August's specials can be found here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

July Recap: Saving for Italy

Your Financial Friday post today is being replaced with a Save for Italy update! We have booked our trip for the first two weeks in October, so time is running out to save. Let's see how close I am to my goal!

In July, I saved a total of $69.67 by sticking to my new budgets for dining out and buying wine/beer for home. I went over, as always, in my grocery budget, but - sometimes, a girl's got to eat.

My original goal was to save $720, based on the new budgets I placed on myself.

So far, I've saved $483.58, which means I still have $236.42 left to save.

I'm moving next weekend, and we all know what that means: The emptying of the bank account. However, I am determined to reach my goal, and plan to cut costs elsewhere for the remaining weeks I have left. For instance, I can live without cable for a few weeks, and take less weekend road trips by staying closer to home, and saving some gas money. Little sacrifices like that over the next few weeks won't kill me, and the supplemental savings will get me closer to my goal.

Where do you cut costs when you're trying to save for something? Cable bills, gas, clothes, dining out, etc.?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Like a Kid in a Cupcake Bar

Last week, I was invited to check out a new, innovative cupcake bar in Needham called Treat Cupcake Bar. Treat being an understatement.

Treat Cupcake Bar's decor is what first caught my eye when I paid the eatery a visit (the eye-catching appearance came at the same time my nose was being teased with the calming aromas of freshly baked cupcakes). The space, which just opened in June, is like a vibrant, very pink, trendy boutique that's eye catching yet inviting. 

Every detail seemed to be thought out, so all you have to do is think about what you're going eat - or make (i.e. wet naps for your sticky, frosting-covered hands).

The open kitchen also allowed the shop to fill with the enveloping smells of the baking cupcakes. I always love to see a restaurant or bakery with an open kitchen - it shows they've got nothing to hide.

Treat Cupcake Bar is set up to let children and adults alike act like kids in a cupcake store. Treat leaves it up to you to build the cupcake you desire, and they make it easier than basic algebra. All you have to do is select a cupcake, choose a frosting, and add three toppings - which is the hardest part, as Treat offers a slew of hard-to-resist sweets.

From Oreos to chocolate covered pretzels to Pop Rocks, there is an endless variety of toppings to cure anyone's cupcake cravings. Cake flavors to choose from include marble, chocolate and gold, as well as vegan and gluten-free options. There always also a seasonal flavor, which was red velvet when I was there. Frosting flavors are basic, with classic buttercream, chocolate buttercream and vanilla buttercream (which is dairy and gluten-free), as well as cream cheese and a seasonal flavor. In addition to the "make a treat" option - which costs $4.25 per cupcake - you can also buy one of the specialty cupcakes in Treat's case, which cost $3.25 a piece.

"Pick a treat" flavors are innovative and carefully crafted, including "everyday treats" like Triple Chocolate and Half Moon, which is marble cake with cream cheese frosting and ganache. "Rotating treats" like S'mores and Chunky Monkey - banana cake with chocolate chips and chocolate frosting - come and go as they please. Not a fan of the big cupcakes? Mini Treats are available, for $15 a sampler. 

So, with all of these options and my indecisive nature, what cupcake concoction did I decide on? Let's just say my final "make a treat" decision was a smart one, with some help from the young guy behind the counter, who suggested several toppings for my original cupcake recipe. 

I went for the marble cupcake with classic buttercream, mixed with Reese's Pieces and chocolate covered pretzels. Treat mixes the frosting with your choice of toppings right in front of your eyes - Cold Stone Creamery-style.

The cupcake was incredibly moist and firm, which is a notable trait as the frosting was anything but weightless. The classic buttercream was enticingly creamy and sweet, without causing sugar shock to my system. I love how Treat serves the frosting on the side of the cupcake, too, so you can add your desired amount to the cupcake. For $4.25 a pop, I got two desserts out of this - the cupcake was ginormous. For not having a huge sweet tooth, however, I inhaled both halves of this thing like it was my last snack. Treat was generous enough to treat me to this cupcake, but I will be back again to try another combination - and to share this experience with friends, who also like to get their hands dirty/covered in frosting.

Have you checked out Treat Cupcake Bar yet? If so, what cake combination did you try?

Treat Cupcake Bar on Urbanspoon