Category Archives: Restaurants

Blaugust 15: How I Ate For Cheap


Today I paid a sad amount of money for a yogurt parfait (possibly the most overpriced prepared item at any store…) and a kind bar for breakfast. I had put off getting groceries so I didn’t really have much around to eat. I wanted something simple, but the best quality egg sandwich around here is also a little bit too expensive for my preferences. It’s a bit of a regret but it tasted fine, and it’s done now.

I made up for it afterward by getting lunch and dinner for free. I had a “buy ten sandwiches get one free” punch card that I’d filled up. Ok, actually I think it’s twelve, and since I kept forgetting to get it punched, I probably bought around twice as many to get the free one. However, it was no money paid today. I left a small tip and that’s it.

For dinner, since there is a Panera near the grocery store, I decided to use some of a gift card I have and I got a salad and, probably negating the health of the salad, a chai latte. At least the crazy air conditioning habits of every single business out there allow me to drink a hot beverage in the summer without dying.

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Both lunch and dinner were good, but not great. I didn’t order my very favorite sandwich because I was in the mood for a different kind today. The sandwich I chose was quite satisfying, but not as delicious as either of the two I tend to buy for myself. As for dinner, I liked the chai more than the salad, and to be honest I wasn’t too hungry so I probably could have just stuck with the chai… trying to get some more nutrients for dinner and all that.

Groceries were a whole different story this week. I am currently dog-sitting (for a very cute beagle with some weird habits, as I am certain all pets have), and the house is in the middle of a huge kitchen renovation. This means that there IS no kitchen. Instead, there are pieces of a kitchen here, there, out on the porch. Literally, the toaster oven is out there. I haven’t used it yet… going outside to cook seems strange to me.

So, my grocery goals today were: cheap, healthy, and no cooking necessary. What does a grocery haul look like when you know you won’t be able to cook? Pretty simple. Prepared chicken (the grilled chicken strips from Trader Joe’s. Probably every grocery store you go to, unless it’s a tiny, specialty store of some kind, will have a variety of prepared chicken), baby spinach, avocado to use with some of the things that are already around for salads and wraps, and a few bananas and greek yogurts for breakfast. I can eat the same few things on repeat for the next several days… but then I’m going to need something different. Still trying to keep it healthy, but my taste buds could use a thrill.

I really need to figure out some healthier foods for that need to treat yo self.

Random Food Craving


Today, I suddenly felt a strong urge for clam fritters from Ronnie’s. This is a seafood place in Auburn, MA where I used to go all the time growing up. I’ve barely gone there at all since starting college. Maybe once a year. They make an amazing lobster roll.

The clam fritters are balls of perfectly fried savory dough dotted with small pieces of clam. I don’t remember them being particularly greasy, which is an impressive feat considering they’re made in the fryer… They’re so delicious, so comforting, so exactly what I want to eat at this moment.

Sadly, I don’t know if the restaurant is still open. It’s a seasonal place, starting some time in April and ending either in September or October. If they are still going for the year, chances are very slim I’ll get a chance to go. So if you’re in central Massachusetts, consider going there and eating some clam fritters for me. If they are still open, there might be a bit of a line. Just stick it out, the food, generally is worth it.

(Just don’t go there and order a burger. GET THE SEAFOOD. That’s the entire reason for going there.)

Lonely Dining: Dinner at Bella Luna


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Just because, for no reason but to have a nice relaxing time, I took myself out to dinner. Not having someone to eat out with is no reason not to treat yourself. I walked over to Bella Luna, one of my favorite local restaurants, and took advantage of their air conditioning.

This restaurant has so many great options that I often find it hard to choose just one thing, but in the end I just had to pick the lobster roll, knowing it was a limited time offer. For a drink I chose the Brazuka signature cocktail.

Now, I hate to say anything negative about this restaurant, because it’s my go-to choice for a nice meal near my house. I have to admit, though, that the lobster roll was just okay. I’ve had better lobster rolls. That’s not to say it was bad, though–not at all! It was just a little disappointing in comparison to my expectations. However, the presentation was fantastic, as you can see above (isn’t their side salad brilliant?), and the meal overall was satisfying. The Brazuka was an interesting fruity drink, a little too sour for me to want it again, but a nice experience. And my server was very friendly and helpful, which is always a plus in my opinion.

Lobster rolls always tend to be pricey, so as you might expect my total bill was more than I had hoped. But sometimes, just for the experience, you really should treat yourself. Lonely Dining is an activity that I started because it is sometimes hard to find people to go for meals with, but the more I do it, the more I enjoy having good food at a nice establishment with myself for company. Eating alone is an experience a lot of people do not appreciate. It can be relaxing, indulgent, calm, and you don’t have to think about socializing. Overall, highly recommended.

Go to Cafenation, Now. I’m Serious.


I can make a pretty good breakfast–that is, good for me. I will not claim to be skilled at any sort of fancy breakfast creations. I can make plenty of things that are tasty, or, at least edible, and at this point I’m very close to completely mastering the egg sandwich (often eaten for lunch or dinner as well, because I CANNOT get enough of them, it seems). I am incapable of making pretty pancakes or omelets. I’m trying to remember a time when I made breakfast for someone else that would be worth mentioning. As far as I can tell, there aren’t any.

This is why many of my best breakfasts happen when I go out. I don’t often go out for breakfast with a buddy. It’s too hard to gather people in the morning, especially a weekday morning, when the only people who could go with me aren’t even awake. (Or are in a different zip code.)

So I go out to breakfast. Or grab something on the way to work.

More often than not, this breakfast comes from Cafenation. They are one of my very favorite independent cafes in Boston (and everywhere else, but I’ll admit there are many I haven’t tried in other cities. In fact, most cafes in other cities I haven’t tried. Totally beside the point), because everything they offer is delicious. Their coffee is really good. Their chai is delicious. All their espresso drinks are amazing (I’m sure there’s the off drink once in a while), generally speaking. They have a pretty wide selection of teas, which I’m sure are also good. I’ve only tried the iced ones.

And the food? Well, duh. Delicious. Always. This morning I had the spiced apple and brie crepes, which were generously stuffed and dusted with powdered sugar. I had them before, probably three years ago, and it seemed about time. They have the standard cafe breakfast fare of bagels with various options for fillings/toppings (depending on if you eat it open-faced or not), tasty muffins and scones, and the full espresso bar you’re most likely hoping for. Then they have their omelets and crepes, good portions, fair price. I’ve tried one of the omelets with salsa and black beans, a bit like huevos rancheros, I guess. They also have a weekly special cream cheese flavor, in addition to the permanent selection, and jalapeno bagels. Who else has jalapeno bagels? Ok, probably a lot of places, but still.

Then there’s the lunch options. They have a small sampling of salads and soup, the latter of which changes by the week or day (I don’t know, I don’t get soup very much), and a nice list of sandwiches on your choice of bread. A few of the sandwiches are vegetarian options. Many of the breakfast items are vegetarian, and you can order them for lunch as well. The sandwiches are served with a good portion of mixed greens–more than just a token side salad, but not so much that it takes your attention from the sandwich. They also give you their housemade balsamic dressing, which is sweet and different and even if you think you don’t like balsamic dressing, I’d recommend you try it.

Bonus: They have one of the best day-old bread selections I’ve ever seen. Very rarely is the stuff more than just a little bit stale, but most likely it will keep for several days. They portion it well, too. I can get a half-dozen bagels, two muffins, and a scone for $3. There are times when I don’t buy bread at the grocery store for two or three weeks because I can get better stuff for less money at Cafenation. However, it’s often gone by midway through the day, so if you really want a good selection, you should go in the morning. It varies from day to day, too, as you might imagine. Sometimes they have a nice big pile, others, just a few bags. It’s a bit of a hit-or-miss sometimes, but definitely worth it.

In addition, the staff are generally very friendly, and if it’s not busy will even have conversations with you about things like tea. Sometimes they even remember my name. I go there a lot.  You should go there, and tell them I sent you. It won’t get you anything special, and most of them probably won’t know what you’re talking about, but tell them anyway.

Cafenation, 380 Washington St., Brighton, MA

Look Around, Try Something New


Ever been to Clover? They’re a vegetarian,  fresh-fast food joint with a few locations and a food truck or two.  I’m not vegetarian myself, but I’ve enjoyed their offerings every time I’ve been there so far.  This morning makes number 3, and it was definitely delicious. [Click the link in this paragraph to go to their website if you’re interested in finding out stuff about the business. You should, they’re cool.]

Circumstances collided this morning to make me desperate to buy a breakfast sandwich. I was on my way to Starbucks and happened to look up as I walked, for once, and notice Clover across the street. As I was thinking to myself, “They’re so good,” I saw their breakfast menu written on the window. For some reason I had been under the impression that they only did lunch, so I was surprised and immediately thought to hell with Starbucks, I’m going to Clover!

I got the breakfast sandwich, which is a freshly cooked egg, tomato, and cheese on pita. It’s not the typical egg sandwich–the bread is unusual and the egg I think was soft-boiled (that’s the only method I’m aware of that would result in the eggy end product on my breakfast…)–and that’s ok. It was delicious. Of course, if you feel like you need bacon on your sandwiches, you’re going to have to go elsewhere,  but you’ll be passing up something great!

I also got a coffee, even though I’d already had coffee that morning, because I have a hard time resisting coffee. They use the pour-over method, which essentially guarantees you a good cup of coffee. I’m not a pour-over snob, I promise. I drink as much regular drip coffee as the next person who likes things that are simple and easy to prepare (but not instant–never instant! yuck!), but I like pour over places because it means that your coffee is freshly brewed, every time. It takes only a few minutes longer than the standard Starbucks coffee.

What it all boils down to is freshness. They use local ingredients, actually fresh ingredients (not frozen), and everything is made to order. I know some people don’t think that really matters, but believe me, you can taste the difference. However, they don’t jack the prices up like some places would–in fact, I find them very affordable. I am sure I’ll be going back there for breakfast in the future.

And they have popovers! I don’t always like popovers, but sometimes I’m in the mood for them. Maybe I’ll try the popover sandwich next time.

Monday Madness: Naked Santas and Overspending


First, I want to say that what happened Saturday night was barely a snowstorm. In Boston, it had completely stopped by Sunday. And yet, this morning there were too many stupidly icy sidewalks (hint: one is too many) and ridiculous traffic because no one can ever remember how to drive once there’s the smallest amount of snow. So I give up. If we have another snowstorm, which seems likely, I’m just not going to leave my house until spring. I’ll do that peapod thing to have my groceries delivered and order lots of pizzas.

Now, a quick thank you to everyone who liked my cupcake post. It’s nice to have that validation, since no one I invited over to have some thought it was worth the trip–either for having the cupcakes or for hanging out with me. I mean, that’s a major fail, right? But I realized I hadn’t done a real food post for a while, so there you go. There are still about four cupcakes left, but by now they’re on the stale side, so probably not worth a trip at this point anyway.

Logically I know people are just busy and sort of far away (unfortunate consequence of living in Boston: only friends who live in your neighborhood are actually easy to get to), but emotionally it just feels like everyone’s rejecting me. I started out December being really excited about Christmas, but now I’m kind of depressed.

I’ve been shopping way too much. And then, you know, the second you say “Ok, that’s it. I’m going to be good and not buy all this stuff I don’t need,” that’s when something comes up and you end up spending anyway. Like Christmas presents (I didn’t spend that much, but combined with everything it adds up), or the $20 off a $50 purchase from Sephora with a time limit (how could I pass that up?), so you can get that $34 container of moisturizer without feeling so bad about it. The good news is, that one container is probably going to last me at least six months. I think it might be time to trade in my coins for Real Money. It won’t be that much. Probably somewhere between $10 and $20. But it’ll do me more good in my pocket than sitting in a jar on a shelf.

Ok, I know I’ve been teasing you. You’re wondering about the naked santas, right? Well… Read the rest of this entry

Monday Madness: The Lamentation of the Blackcurrant Scone


Let’s not think about how much I could have done over the weekend and didn’t. How far behind I am on everything I want to have done already. How much my apartment needs a good cleaning… Let’s talk instead about my favorite independent cafe.

My favorite food to order at Cafenation, for as many years as I’ve known about its existence (about three), has been the blackcurrant scone. Its buttery flavor and dense, rich texture made it,  in my mind, the perfect scone. I would get one sometimes when I wasn’t even hungry, because they were so good and I knew I’d be hungry at some point.

In my memory (which has been wrong at times, but we’ll just go with it), the first time I got it was a morning when I was interviewing someone for a short biographical article. I got up early, walked down to the cafe, ordered a coffee and one of these scones, and brought them back home. I ate it as I set up my things for the phone interview, and it was probably the most satisfying breakfast I’d had for some time. The interview and article writing both went fairly well, but that’s not really relevant to this story.

Over the past three years–or, the parts of those years that have taken me near the cafe–I have bought one of these scones more often than any other food at this cafe. Suddenly, a few weeks ago, I stopped seeing it. Since I had only been a few times, always later in the afternoon, I assumed they had sold out… but then, they usually had a few left at that time. So I asked while I was ordering a coffee, whether they were just out of them momentarily, and I was informed that they had to switch to another bakery.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Ok, that’s out of my system now. I ordered a blueberry scone to try the new ones, and it was good. But not as good as my favorite, my love, the blackcurrant scone. I was disappointed. This is long ago enough now that I have moved on, but there will be times when I think of that one scone that I crave and I will regret that I can’t get it anymore. But hell, it’s just a scone, right? There are other things I would be much more devastated to lose.

Earlier this year, Cafenation had decided to close their kitchen at 3pm every day. I assumed they just weren’t selling enough kitchen-prepared orders in the later hours to keep the kitchen open, and since I rarely ordered from the kitchen anyway, it didn’t actually affect me very much. Still, I like having the option, so it always felt slightly disappointing. Now, they’re keeping the kitchen open later, but the cafe closes at 6 now, instead of 7 or 8, when they used to be open. Once again, this doesn’t really change anything for me, except that I don’t like going to restaurants or cafes in the last half hour before they close, which will have to happen from time to time, as I frequently leave work at 5:30.

I am the very first to admit that these are not real problems. The point is that people do not react well to change. I’m trying to get to a point where I can more quickly shake off that first disorientation of finding something to which I’m accustomed suddenly changing and move more quickly to filing away the new information and adjusting accordingly. Particularly when the change will have very little (if any) impact on my life.

Doesn’t that seem enlightened?

Monday Madness: What even happened this weekend.


Ever have one of those times when you have a four-day weekend and you get so overexcited about not having to do anything that you really just don’t do anything?

That’s pretty much what happened this past weekend.

Then I woke up this morning with a bit of a queasy stomach and still feeling totally exhausted, so I’m working from home.

But I did have some good times last week. I posted on Wednesday or so that I was going to The Fireplace. I did, and I did in fact order the lobster mac and cheese. It was served with spinach and broccoli, and it was made with really decadent, fancy cheese. It was in fact very delicious. I’m hoping to plan another outing there to get the burger, which, as I’ve been mentioning up and down to everyone I talk to, is actually in my real price range (not often, but once, sure).

I ordered dessert as well, the brownie sundae, after filling up pretty thoroughly on my rich dinner and the generous portion of broccoli. It was too much, and I wished afterward that I’d gotten the lemon tart instead, BUT it was very tasty and I’m sure you would enjoy it if you ordered it. Although I wished for more peanut butter sauce.

Saturday I went to Passage to India in Porter Square and there were lots of leftovers for me. I thought their portions were very generous, about what you would hope for for the price, and also very delicious. I got the moongia chicken special, mostly because of the inclusion of cilantro, and I was not disappointed.

Ah, food. I do love it.

Considering that the office is again going to be closed Thursday and Friday, September really is almost over. I’m probably going to have to give my work an extra push on Monday, the last day of the month, but overall I’m not worried about getting all my work finished. The benefit of working like a maniac earlier in the month. I put in lots of extra hours at home the first two weeks, and some the third week, to make sure I would be able to meet deadlines. This is how we do it in the real world. Often, it kind of sucks at the time, but then I feel quite proud of myself for having everything done.

Off to be slightly productive today. I’m not going to push too hard because I don’t feel too great today (as mentioned above), but I have a certain amount of work I want to make sure I get done.

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad Monday.

Restaurant Anxiety


I have plans to go to The Fireplace for dinner on Friday. I’m very excited. But actually, I’m kind of nervous about it as well.

No, I don’t have any worries about which fork to use–even if they are actually that fancy, I don’t really care if I use the wrong utensil. I have better priorities than THAT. And it’s not as if it will be an awkward social occasion either. Just dinner with my best friend, which is not the least bit stressful–in fact it is most exciting.

So, why am I nervous, you’re wondering at this point, I’m sure, since I tend to overexplain things before I’ve even gotten to the point?

I’m feeling a lot of pressure to order the right thing.

Now, if you’re not familiar with this restaurant (I’m not, really), it’s a pretty expensive place. I’ve never been there, but I pass it just about every day, sitting there on the corner with its “Boston’s Best Burger” sign in the window. It’s not the sort of place I can really afford to go to, and in fact the only reason I’m going there at all is because I was lucky enough to snatch up a livingsocial deal, just after I’d been musing that I’d really like to go to The Fireplace…

It stands to reason, therefore, that I probably won’t be going there again for a long time after. So I have to choose carefully, because I want the best possible experience from this place the one time I might ever go there. Having looked over the menu online, I’d like to try many of the dishes I read about, but I only have this one shot. I’d really like to try that “Best” burger, but logic says that it would be the one thing I could afford if I went back there without the coupon, so I should save it for next time. The lobster mac and cheese does sound… mmmm…

Oh, sorry. I got a bit lost in thought there.

Anyway, can you see why I’m suffering so much? Yeah, this is a first world problem for sure, but our “problems” are relative to our lives as a whole. Technically, all my problems are first world problems. Student loan debt is a first world problem. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck.

Not to compare this to my financial issues… this is a problem that’s almost fun to have.

I am extremely susceptible to  the dreaded FOMO–fear of missing out. It’s why I feel kind of sad when I see comments or pictures on Facebook about things my friends did without inviting me. It explains some of my impulse purchases. I’ve been trying not to let it affect me too much. It’s poking around now in this case, telling me that choosing one of those delicious-sounding entrees means giving up all the others.

In the end, I will get over it. I will order whatever I feel like I want most at the time and not overthink it, because I’m getting too old to waste time on stuff like that. Besides, the T stops running at some point.

Monday Madness: A Little Too Latte


There’s something so luxurious and indulgent about getting a pretty for-here latte in an actual mug, the standard leaf pattern on top, sitting in a cafe and sipping it. Knowing you’ve got time to enjoy yourself. This is one thing I think the Italians definitely have right. It’s wonderfully convenient to be able to get coffees, lattes, and anything else you want to go, in paper cups (which you should throw away in a damn trash can, people, because littering is both rude and gross). No one around here has time to sit with a latte on their way to work. Especially not me…

I unfortunately woke up much too late to try to have an enjoyable, leisurely breakfast. I had to grimly accept the fact, because it meant more sleep, and I figured I would just stop quickly at my favorite cafe on the way to work and get a latte (or regular coffee, I hadn’t decided yet). It was, therefore, unbelievably disappointing to find the huge “Cash Only” signs on the door this morning. As usual, I have no cash, and due to an issue with my debit card it’s a pain to get any. It immediately dropped my mood several points. I’m pretty much over it now, but at the time it was very sad. I’m assuming that they’re having a problem with their card scanning equipment and it will be fixed hopefully by tomorrow, because I want stuff from them, dammit.

Yesterday, I caved and ordered pizza for dinner. I have been craving buffalo chicken pizza like a maniac. The default place I order from doesn’t have that option! Can you believe it? I chose another place, and while the pizza is tasty, they really skimped on the chicken. I freaking HATE when pizzerias (or pizzerie, if you want to be technical about it) do that. I mean, I know you want to save money or whatever, but when I order toppings on a pizza, I expect some toppings. You know what I mean?

I’m not saying I won’t order from them again… just that I’ll be kind of annoyed any time I do.

Today definitely feels like fall, and that’s a wonderful thing. It was a perk to the day that I finally got to wear this lovely blue sweater I bought in July. Am I the only one that buys sweaters, boots, and coats in the spring and summer, then having to wait months before I can actually wear them? But it’s ok–just another reason to be excited when fall arrives!

To continue with the Craziest September Ever, it’s another three-day week for me. Since I did a bunch of work yesterday, it’s more like a four-day week. My plan is to work nonstop-ish until Wednesday evening, then take some work home with me to complete, but take advantage of the four-day weekend to get my own stuff done.

“My own stuff” will comprise, probably, a lot of sleeping and lying around. But at least I’ll get to watch So You Think You Can Dance in full on Thursday morning when I wake up (watching it on hulu sucks, but it’s my only option).

With a heavy sigh, I’m going to hunker down and work now, and will not resist my urge to get a Dunkin Donuts pumpkin latte later.

 

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