Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sushi and Chinese at Yujo in Dracut

Estogo ditched its location in the former Burger King in DTL last March and found new digs along the Merrimack River at the former Lin Garden in Dracut.  The Mo and I used to go for the dim sum brunch on occasion before China Star put them out of business (my own thought) 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

New Thai and Lao Cuisine at Lanxang Star - Dracut

Taopica Balls Appetizer
Recently celebrating their Grand Opening on December 7th, Lanxang Star has taken the place of Thai Parima on Lakeview Ave in Dracut, MA.  Similar to other Southeast Asian restaurants in the Lowell area, the extensive menu captures the essence of Thai and Laos cuisine.  Although each Southeast Asian country has it's own staple dishes, it's kind of hard to pin point the exact origin. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Business Dinner at Strega Waterfront Boston

I went here for a business dinner with a group of 10.  We started off with drinks at the bar.  All the bartenders and cocktail waitresses are beautiful and friendly.  Their uniform consisted of heels and black mini skirts.  Throughout the bar area, there were complimentary passed Hors d'oeuvres that included shrimp cocktail, scallops and bruschetta.  All were very good.

We were promptly seated for our reservation.  There were a few other parties going on at the restaurant and space is tight.  The coat check was located in an odd area in a makeshift rack by the bathrooms. It was a bit difficult maneuvering through the patrons of the party that spilled out from their private room into the main dining area.

Service was great!  We knew our server from another steakhouse as well as Fiore in the north end.  He was wonderful and eager to please.  The wine kept flowing and he made sure not one wine glass was every empty.  I loved it!

The fried seafood and balsamic appetizer was great.  I didn't see any scallops but the calamari and baby shrimp was plentiful.  The burrata  (fresh buffalo mozzarella) was creamy and delicious.  Everyone was a fan of the Rosetta's famous meatballs.  Each meatball was HUGE and could be cut up into 5-6 pieces to share.  It was tender and moist.  The rollantini di nico was also very good.  I was disappointed that we only got one order for a table of 10 but the morsel I had was great!

Veal "Salmtimbocca" $32.00

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Weekday Dim Sum Brunch at Hei La Moon Boston

We had an early flight back from vacation into Logan airport and wanted to find an affordable place for breakfast on a Tuesday morning.  There was street metered parking in Chinatown and we walked across the street Hei La Moon for dim sum.  

The restaurant was very clean and the servers were not pushy at all (no pun intended).  Food was average.  Since it was still so early (9:30 AM) they didn't have some of my favorite dim sum specialties like calamari, crab claw balls or clams in black bean sauce.  
Steam pork wrapped in bean curd, steamed pork spareribs and chicken feet

Monday, December 1, 2014

Barrachina - the Original Birthplace of the Pina-Colada

"If you like Pina Coladas, getting caught in the rain"

That pretty much sums up our time in Puerto Rico. Drinks and the occasional downpour. Lucky for us, the rain were mere sprinkles and the sun was still shining.

Typically, we like to find places to eat through recommendations by the locals or places we find on our own.  We TRY to stay away from tourist places but I really wanted to check out Barrachina, the self proclaimed "Original Birthplace of the Pina Colada." Who doesn't love Pina colodas? In fact, I think I drank one everyday on the Celebrity Cruise (thank god we had the booze package.)

We were sick of shelling out the $20.00-25.00 cab fare from Isla Verde to Old San Juan so we decided to save money and take public transportation.  We were told the buses were not reliable but we took the risk anyway.  We waited at a bus stop for a good 30 minutes before the right bus came along.  When we got on, I thought, "Finally, AC, this won't be so bad." To my surprise, their was a crazy "possessed" guy on the bus yelling vulgar profanity for the whole 45 minute ride.  It was really awkward and uncomfortable.

The morning was spent souvenir shopping in Old San Juan.  There were lingering "Black Friday" deals going on, even though it was Monday.  Most of the designer stores in the area (Coach, Dooney & Burke, Guess, etc) had 50% off entire store in addition to an extra 15-40% off.  I scored some bags and sunglasses from Coach for less than $30.00.  (On a different note, I parted way with my favorite pair of Coach sunglasses a few days before at the beach at La Concha from being thrown around in the ocean by massive waves)

We arrived to Barrachina a little past noon and seated in the beautiful courtyard.  It was so cool to see poinsettias in a hot climate.  I usually associate the red holiday plants with Christmas in New England.

Barrachina Old San Juan Courtyard

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Tapas & Flamenco Dancing in Old San Juan

After numerous unanswered emails and phone calls, I was finally able to get a hold of someone at Triana Tapas & Flamenco Restaurant.  I made a reservation for 9 for Saturday night and we were confirmed! I was happy and relieved.

The entourage cabbed it into Old San Juan for a dinner filled with tapas and flamenco dancing.

Of course it was too good to be true, once we arrived at the restaurant, they couldn't find our reservation and the restaurant was full to capacity.  The manager assured me that I must have made reservations at a different restaurant but I brought out my smartphone and showed him the phone # and details confirmed, "show starts at 8:30 PM and lasts approximately 1.5 hrs."  He quickly changed his tune and said they would try to get a table for our group.

The restaurant decor is pretty cool.  There were string lights and lanterns hanging in the lobby and a corner with flamenco costumes displayed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Specialty Dinner at Normadie on Celebrity Summit

We bit the bullet and "splurged" the extra $45.00 per person on the Normadie "Exquisite fine dining" experience on the Celebrity summit.  The menu is described as French & Continental.

There was some confusion with the original reservations (on my part) but they were flexible to switch it around a few times for us.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Qsine on Celebrity Summit

Awaken your inner foodie on a culinary journey

Celebrity Cruise Qsine Specialty Dining
I always look forward to specialty restaurants on cruises.  Sure, you can save money and just eat at the buffet or the Main Dining room but I was intrigued by what I've read about Qsine on the Celebrity Cruises.

The prix fixe dinner was set at $45.00 per person.  Since we made reservations for the first night of sailing, we were entitled to a 20% credit.  Sure, I took advantage of that deal.  (Later I found out that they frequently give 20% off throughout the cruise)

Isla Verde and Peruvian Cuisine at Ceviche House

We arrived in Puerto Rico before the break of dawn and checked into our condo to nap for a few hours before exploring Isla Verde.  It is MUCH cheaper to rent a condo in Pueto Rico than it is to get a hotel room.  The local tax is 9-11% for hotel rooms, the later percentage is for hotels with a casino. In addition to taxes, most hotels charges an additional 10-15% for resort fees.  A handful even charge mandatory 10% service fees.  No matter how great the deal was that I found on Hotwire or Travelzoo, the final price was more than what I wanted to pay.

I found our cute Oceanside condo via Airbnb.  The rental accommodated up to 4 people and featured a huge flat screen TV, WIFI, in unit washer/dryer and a patio overlooking the ocean.  I was completely sold when I saw the price was $90.00 a night and that included transfer to and from the airport. (Since we were staying there on both ends of our trip, it included transfers to and from our cruise pier as well.) 

View from our balcony 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Artisan Italian at the brand new Tuscan Kitchen in Burlington

Before Tuscan Kitchen opened, there wasn't much selection for Italian dining for business lunches in the Burlington area. L'Andana was only open for dinner, Macaroni Grill was more on the casual side so we were left with Papa Razzi's.  My office mates and I were stoked to hear about the highly anticipated Tuscan Kitchen opening in New England Executive Park.

We had people visiting from out of town and I picked the new venue to host our business dinner. Wendy, the Private Dining Manager was extremely helpful with helping us coordinate the event.  I liked that there were no room fees or minimum requirements although we did have to select from the pix fixe menu.

Our group started off the evening with the Salumi e Formaggi that stimulated everyone's taste buds. Each wood platter entailed perfectly cured prosciutto, sopresata, parmigiano cheese, creamy burrata and the truffle honey was the icing!  It was wonderful.

Tuscan Kitchen Salumi e Formaggi