Saturday, August 27, 2016

Dine Out Week Boston Visit #3

 For my third and final Dine Out Week restaurant I went to Commonwealth Restaurant and Market.  And I found out that when you enter the address for the restaurant into Mapquest, Mapquest will tell you it can't find any such place.  And as someone who is terrible with directions and is always getting lost that is a little disturbing.  But I did manage to find the place.  At first glance it seems very long and to have a lot of doors.  So I picked one and walked into what must have been the market part in the name.  I didn't explore but it did seem to have a lot of wine.

There is a lot of wide open space, which I like because I often feel crowded in restaurants and I felt I had a lot of room here.  And there were a lot of windows so there was a lot of light.  The whole place was sort of rustic.  There were pallets on the walls, exposed rafters, wood plank tables.  But I didn't feel like I was in a barn or in a craft project.  Is there such a thing as modern rustic?  That's the feel I got.

 The complimentary bread was more a biscuit than a bread.  (That is not a complaint, just an observation.)  And came in a cute little pot.  For an appetizer I got the grilled octopus with white bean hummus.  It was good.  But it was a little more charred than I prefer.  I know people like it and actually try to achieve it but it is not my favorite flavor.  But the thicker end of the tentacle, where there was more meat, was nice and tender.

For the entree I got the flanken short ribs.  I had never heard of that before so I Googled it.  It has to do with the way they are cut.  I think.  Anyway, it turns out they look more like a chop of some kind than a rib of any sort.  Once again there was a little more char than I would have liked but it still tasted great.  And sometimes you would get that perfect bite with the fat that melts in your mouth and makes everything taste wonderful.

Dessert was salted caramel creme brulee.  Which combines two of my favorite things in the world, caramel and creme brulee.  It came with a dark chocolate ganache that was like having a delicious truffle on top of your creme brulee.  It was simply delightful.

My waiter was friendly (and cute, not that that matters of course.) He explained the menu and made suggestions (subtle ones, not pushy ones) all of which I would have found helpful if I hadn't gone in knowing exactly what I wanted already.  He also made me feel like he found it a pleasure to serve me.  I always like when a restaurant makes me feel like they are glad I came by.  And he did.  He even shook my hand on my way out like I had done him a personal favor by eating there.

The regular menu is a la cart so all the sides are ordered separately.  Which I feels lends itself better to being shared.  And I do think it would be a great place for groups.  I just don't think that on a non dine out week time I would go alone.  I'll have to find someone to drag there with me.  Or several someones.  Because going back is not an unpleasant thought.

Weekend Cooking is sponsored by Beth Fish Reads.  Be sure to visit the other posts.  You can find them on the Linky here.

Dine Out Week Boston Visit #2

So, I added another restaurant to my Dine Out Week plans. I was in the mood for Mexican so I picked Sol Azteca as a mid week Dine Out Week treat. Once again I was hooked by the dessert. Flan was on
the menu and I can't pass up flan. But I tried not to get my hopes too high because my first Dine Out Week restaurant changed the menu on me. But I had no need to worry. When I got there the menu was the same one as I had seen on the website. With one delightful change. A beverage was included in the price. And on the list of beverages to choose from was anything on the house margarita list. Score! So I got the Midori Margarita. It was very green and very sweet. I liked it a lot but it is not what I would order if I was in the mood for a margarita. It was much more a Midori cocktail than anything else. And of course you get complimentary chips and salsa. And I tucked into those right away. They are good and you will be tempted to fill up on chips and salsa. But don't. You will be sorry later. Trust me.

The appetizer I got was the quesadillitas. Which I had never heard of before. But they sounded delicious. And they were. They were little deep fried corn pockets filled with goodness. There were three of them, one filled with cheese, one filled with ground beef and one filled with chicken. I think the chicken was my favorite but it is kind of hard to choose. For my entree I got the combo especial. It came with rice, beans, cabbage, a chile relleno stuffed with ground beef and a chicken tortilla casserole with cilantro sauce. The rice, beans and cabbage were all good. The cabbage came in what I think was a vinegar based dressing. Sort of a coleslaw but not creamy, more sharp with a bit of a bite. The chile relleno was ok. It says you get a choice of beef or cheese for the filling. I forgot to mention and he did not ask and I got beef. I would have chosen beef anyway but if you want cheese make sure you mention it. It was in a tomato based sauce and between the tomatoes and pepper and ground beef it tasted Italian to me. Like it was a pasta sauce without the pasta. It was ok but it was not my favorite. I had never seen anything like the casserole. It was chunks of chicken and pieces of tortilla mixed together in a bright green sauce. Then it was covered in melted cheese and sour cream. Now, you won't hear this from me very often because I love cheese, but I don't even think it needed the cheese. That cilantro sauce was awesome. When it became clear that I wasn't going to be able to finish the food on my plate (because it was a lot of food) I stopped eating everything else so I was sure I had room to finish that. I left some of everything else on my plate to save room for the dessert. I got the vanilla flan. (They also have coffee.) It was a really dense custard sitting in a pool of caramel sauce. It was smooth and creamy and sweet. The caramel sauce had a slight bitter taste like it was just short of burnt but it was nice against the sweetness of the flan.

The restaurant has several rooms and outdoor seating as well. It's bright and has lots of colorful decorations on the walls. The staff was polite and helpful. On the way out I needed to stop in the ladies' room. I was going to ask where it was but then saw a door with a sign on it that said restrooms. So I went through the door and walked into another dining room. I don't think it was open yet since there was no one around. I was able to find the restroom with out any problems but I did feel like I was wandering around someplace I wasn't supposed to be. All in all it was a nice night and I left stuffed and happy.


Friday, August 26, 2016

The Friday 56 (August 26th)

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky here. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.

My book this week is The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin.  I think you can guess what the book is about from the title.  

He took one look at the consomme, then at me, then at the consomme, and his face got redder and redder.  Without a word, he grabbed the nearest weapon to hand, a ladle, and advanced toward me.

Note to self, do not whisk the consomme.  

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Dine Out Week Boston (Summer) Visit #1

I always look forward to Restaurant Week (yes, I know they call it Dine Out Week now but it will always be Restaurant Week to me) and start looking at menus as soon as the list is put online.  I would like to go to 20 restaurants but for both monetary and health (read weight) reasons I try to limit myself to two.  Okay, so maybe I add one and slip in an extra lunch somewhere.  But that's it.  So I read all the menus (if there are no menus posted it is very rare I will go there, I want to know what I'm getting) and start picking favorites.  This time around Ma Maison stuck out for some reason.  Well, let's face it.  It was the creme caramel they had for dessert. The dessert is always very important to my decision.  So I made my reservation and made sure I knew how to get there.  And then I looked forward to it all week.

It was rather unassuming on the outside but I did like the cute little snail logo on the window.  It is warm and inviting inside and I was greeted warmly at the door.  I was seated in the window where I could watch the people walking by in the street.  I was the only one there when I arrived at 6:30 but by seven it started to fill up.  It isn't big, you can see the whole place from the front door, but the seating doesn't feel crowded.

Everything was going great until I was handed the menu.  The Dine Out menu they gave me was not the one that I saw online.  They didn't have the asparagus salad appetizer I had planned on so I got the fried clams.  They did have the entree I planned on so I was able to get the Beef Tenderloin Strogonoff with Beets Pasta.  But the real tragedy was that creme caramel was not on the menu.  The only dessert choice was peach cobbler cake with vanilla ice cream.

I got a cocktail to start.  They have a section on the menu with French
cocktails, all of which have champagne as the first ingredient.  And I figured, when in a French restaurant...  So I got one.  It was delicious.  Then they brought out some bread.  Which was good as well.  But since I really like bread and always enjoy complimentary bread I'm probably not the best judge.

The fried clam appetizer came with a Dijon mustard creme brulee.  Which sounded odd and slightly worrying to me and when it came out it looked like a creme brulee served in a clam shell.  The batter on the clams was nice and light and crisp.  And the Dijon went with them very nicely.  And it was a very big portion for an appetizer.

The strogonoff entree was a beautiful plate of food.  The red beet pasta was very striking.  And it tasted good too.  When it came out the ladies sitting next to me both noticed and asked what I was having.  One of them decided to change her dinner choice after seeing and smelling mine.  I think she made the right choice.

Then it was time for dessert.  It is a very sad thing how disappointed I was not to be eating creme caramel.  But once again the food looked and tasted good but I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more if I was not expecting something else.  Still, half way through the dessert I was wishing I had left a little on my plate the previous two courses because I just couldn't finish the whole thing.

The service was good.  Everyone was friendly and polite.  My water glass was always full.  I didn't feel hushed or forgotten. They made me feel like they were happy I had come in.  It is a place I would go back to.  And maybe someday I'll be brave enough to go there and get the Friday special of frog legs.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Friday 56

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky here. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.

The book this week is The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson.  One day a man comes home from his part time job at the video shop to find an invoice for an absurd amount of money.  He calls customer service and finds out that the bill is for everything he has ever experienced in his entire life.  

With some reluctance, I had to admit that I was actually pretty happy with my life.  I didn't really have anything to complain about.

Which makes him a lucky man.  Of course it also makes his bill that much higher.  So it's kind of a bittersweet thing. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Tide Watchers Review

The Tide Watchers by Lisa Chaplin

(from the back of the book)

Though the daughter of an English baronet, Lisbeth has defied convention by eloping to France with her new husband. But when he breaks her heart by abandoning her, she has nowhere to turn and must work in the local tavern. Her only hope for the future is to be reunited with her young son, who is being raised by her mother-in-law.

A seasoned spy known by his operatives as Tidewatcher, Duncan apprenticed under Lisbeth’s father and pledged to watch over his mentor’s only daughter while he searches the Channel region for evidence that Bonaparte has built a fleet to invade Britain. But unpredictable Lisbeth challenges his lifelong habit of distance.

Eccentric, brilliant American inventor Robert Fulton is working on David Bushnell’s “turtle” – the first fully submersible ship – when he creates brand new torpedo technology, which he plans to sell to the French navy. But when his relationship with Bonaparte sours, he accepts Tidewatcher’s help to relocate to the French side of the Channel but refuses to share his invention. With an entire army encamped in the region, blocking off all access, Tidewatcher must get that submersible, along with someone who knows how to use it, to uncover Bonaparte’s great secret.

When Lisbeth is asked to pose as a housekeeper to charm Fulton so she can learn to use the submersible before the invasion fleet sails, she will be forced to sacrifice herself for her country – but is she willing to sacrifice her heart when she’s already lost it to another?

This one is tough to review. The whole premise of the story is very interesting. I usually like historical fiction. The characters were not one dimensional and you actually had to think about whether they were even good people and doing the right things or not. And I like when everything is not black and white. There is a lot of action and suspense. And a story about the first submarine is just cool. But I didn’t really like the book. I didn’t like the main characters as people and found them uninteresting as characters. I didn’t care what happened to them. And the plot, that should have been extremely compelling, was strangely not. Despite all the good components it was never hard to put down and I was never very eager to pick it back up. And the abrupt ending was less of an ending than a ‘tune in next week’ cliffhanger. To write this review I had to skim through the book again because soon after I finished reading it I had forgotten it completely.