Kayaking on the Charles!

I’ve been living in Boston for about a year and a half now and I’ve started assembling a bucket list of all the things I want to do before I eventually move (whenever and if ever that happens). At the top of my list to accomplish before the end of summer was to go kayaking!

The Charles River snakes for miles throughout Boston- from Newton to Cambridge to the city center near the Esplanade, etc. My roommate and I rented a two person kayak and set off on our adventure! There are four rental locations along the Charles River so you can decide where to start and what sights you want to see. Click here to check out the website!

The two person kayak costed $20 an hour and they pro-rate the fee based on how long you are out on the water. You can also rent a dry bag for your stuff so you don’t have to risk water-logging your stuff!

I never kayaked before so naturally I was nervous about how to get in and out of the boat without looking like a dumb dumb. THANK GOD I didn’t end up falling in, and somehow we avoided running into the crew teams that were practicing on the river… or maybe they avoided us? However it went down, I had so much fun! We were out for 1 hour and 1 minute so they only charged us for 1 hour. This is definitely an activity I’d do again!

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On Food For Thought Thursday, I’m posting an awesome, easy to make recipe for caramel corn! It’s the perfect sweet snack for the fall and just in time for Halloween!! Thanks for reading!

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Restaurant Review: Naco Taco!

Naco Taco was a food truck in Boston that recently took their success and transformed their ideas into a restaurant. Located on 297 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Naco Taco is easily accessible by T (short walking distance from Central Square or Kendall Square stops) and buses. They opened their doors while I was working at Flour across the street so I couldn’t wait to finally check them out!

647The restaurant sports a large outdoor patio with the actual food truck parked right on the premise. While there was regular table-side service, the servers grabbed some of the food ordered from the windows of the food truck. Our waiter was super nice and attentive and did a great job at trying to up-sell the menu asking if we would want chips and salsa or second rounds of drinks.

646 648Their drink menu featured numerous Mexican beer, beer cocktails and a few wine/sangria options. What I really like about their food menu was that you can literally order as much or as little as you want. The pricing on the menu is based per taco so you can easily predict what you’ll be getting. I ordered an al pastor taco and a side of street corn to share with my friend.

The al pastor taco was made with spit roasted pork and burnt pineapple. It was the perfect size for a light lunch with my side of street corn. I think the taco could’ve been a little more flavorful or feature a sauce to keep it from being too dry. I would give the taco 3 Abby stars.

644The street corn is what got me. I love corn, especially in the summer. And I love nothing more than corn smothered in cotija cheese. Depending on the week, the street corn is prepared in different ways, but ours came with cotija, pine nuts and thin slices of peppers. I can dig it. 5/5 Abby stars.

645My friend also got their chips and salsa which was pretty good! I would definitely recommend this place as a meet up spot for after work drinks and light apps. The patio is awesome for the summer and the inside of the restaurant is pretty large with a cool, relaxed vibe. Definitely a great addition to Central Square!

As always, does anyone have a Boston restaurant recommendation? I’m always looking for new places to try! If you liked what you read, you can hit the follow button at the top of the page (for my fellow wordpress friends) or you can click follow by email on the right side of the web page to receive my posts weekly via email! Have a great weekend and check back on Tuesday to read about my first kayaking experience along the Charles River!

Restaurant Review: Sofra Bakery!

I have a small history with this bakery! When I was finishing up my internship before graduation, I sent resume after resume to any place in Boston I was vaguely interested in. I had heard from a co-worker about this cool bakery called Sofra that focuses on using a middle eastern influence!

Ultimately, I ended up interviewing there and loving every moment of it but took an offer at Flour when it presented itself. All in all, I still had a great impression of Sofra and eventually wanted to go back as a customer. Maaaaybe it took me a little too long to go back (almost two years… oops), I finally managed to go!

616Sofra Bakery is located at 1 Belmont Street in Cambridge, MA. Right off of Mount Auburn street, it’s definitely accessible off of the 71 bus, and probably numerous others I’m unaware of. The bakery has a teeny tiny shared parking lot with just barely enough space for 8 cars but the surrounding streets are available for 2 hour parking.

Created by Chef Ana Sortun and Pastry Chef Maura Kilpatrick, the bakery is owned by Oleana Restaurant Group and works in conjunction with Oleana (the restaurant) and Siena Farms (where they source local products!). A store front selling Siena Farms products is located in the South End and I’m dying to go try out Oleana at some point! They’re also starting to do cooking classes in the fall!

617The bakery has a cute little porch for outdoor seating and a few tight tables inside accentuated by adorable middle eastern cushions and decorations. On the far wall in the back is an entire selection of retail products for sale as well as a cold case filled with grab and go items.

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My roommate and I wanted to share everything (as usual) so we went for their egg sandwich, semolina pancakes, cheese danish and orange blossom morning bun!

624We started with the semolina pancakes topped with seasonal fruit. To be honest, the fruit was so sweet that I had trouble telling if they were peaches or apricots… (peaches, I think?). The fruit was cooked down into a syrup which replaced the typical maple syrup. The pancakes were the texture of a crepe except thicker. I was hoping that they might be a bit crunchier or offer a change in texture but they were still pretty tasty! A decent deal for $5!

621 619Next. we tackled the egg sandwich made with halumi, feta butter and bacon. Pretty sure it was the feta butter that sold us so easily- YUUUUUM. The bun was toasted and seasoned with black sesame seeds. The halumi and feta butter were SO good and I want them to be on every sandwich I ever eat for the rest of my life.

623The cheese danish was not a normal cheese danish… This one was made with raspberry, figs and sprinkled with pearl sugar. Which cheese danishes aren’t my favorite, my roommate really enjoyed this! And I thought it photographed the best of our spread, so I guess I can’t hate on it too much!

615I saved the best for last- the orange blossom morning bun. If you don’t know what a morning bun is, it’s basically chopped up pieces of brioche mixed together with cinnamon and sugar that, when cooked, becomes caramelized and gooey and delicious. THEN ADD ORANGE BLOSSOM ICING ON TOP!? Boom, delicious. All flavors I love. GET IN MY BELLY.

618625All in all, my roommate and I each only spent under 10 dollars and I left feeling full and satisfied. 10/10 would recommend. I’ll be back Sofra! Thanks for having us! As usual, I’ll be posting again on Tuesday, so be sure to come back! Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Treats and Snoozin’

I really do love brunch. It might be my favorite meal of the day. I think I’m the female version of Ron Swanson when it comes to breakfast. Gimme all the eggs, toast. bacon, sausage, cereal, pastries, grits, biscuits, fruit, etc etc etc you name it. GET. IN. MY. BELLY.

I don’t get to brunch very often, since I typically work on the days where brunch is conventionally served, but that doesn’t really stop me from seeking out some of the best brunch places near me. If you’re on the outskirts of Boston, get ready for my compiled list of best brunch places I’ve found (or am dying to try)!

Newton:

The Village Cafe–  We live fairly close to this cafe and it’s one of our favorite spots to hit up! It’s paaaacked with locals on Sundays but everything is homemade and cheap! You can get the “Village Special” or the “Hungry Man” which gets you a selection of a little of everything- my favorite!

Brighton:

Cafe NationThis place has a really cool and low-key vibe. It’s a great place to just sit and get some work done with a coffee and breakfast sandwich! It’s immediately off of the 57 bus line with plenty of shops around it for people watching!

Dash CafeI’d recommend this place if you wake up late enough to want a sandwich instead of more breakfast-y type foods. They have a killer lox bagel with cream cheese, lox, bean sprouts and more which more than fills you up!

Moogy’sThis was the first place my roommate and I went to when we moved into our apartment. The food is super cheap and the place is pretty informal where you have to sit yourself and order your food at a window. There are plenty of creative brunch options to choose from!

FuelI just discovered this place today! It is right next to Moogy’s very close to Brighton Center. They have tons of tables and different seating arrangements for casual dining, catching up with friends or even tables to get work done! Their wifi is free and easy to connect to so it made a really great place to work and write a blog post! They had some really excellent homemade pastries: muffins, scones, cookies, etc as well as a fun menu for different drinks and sandwiches. I tried the Hazelnut Nutella muffin- yum!

609Allston:

The Breakfast Club: I haven’t been here yet, although I see a long line wrapped around the store every weekend on my drive to/from work! It’s right near the end of Harvard stadium and seems to be a Harvard favorite! Can’t wait to give it a go!

Bruegger’s Bagels: yes yes, I know this is a chain. But I really enjoyed a salt bagel from this location and will definitely be stopping back here to buy half a dozen to freeze for the future!

Fenway:

Eastern Standard: I haven’t technically been here for brunch yet, but I was there for drinks and appetizers. This place is really classy and right next to Fenway so it’s always packed, day or night. This seems like an excellent place for a girls fancy dress-up brunch or a place to bring parents/in-laws!

Coolidge Corner area:

RibelleI wrote a review on brunch at Ribelle that you can check out by clicking here! I can’t wait to go back for brunch another day- SO delicious.

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Cambridge:

The Friendly Toast: Vegan/allergy friendly brunch place that is FULL of character. It has some very interesting menu choices and combinations but the decor almost gives you even more to talk about! In the summer, they also have a small area of outdoor seating!

607Flour Bakery + Cafe: Maybe I’m biased because I worked here for over a year making all of the pastries and bread, but Flour is hands-down one of the best brunch/lunch places I’ve ever been to. Everything is made in-house, fresh daily by people who are passionate and hardworking. Recommendations include: the french toast, an egg bacon sandwich, sticky buns, banana bread, breakfast pizzas, cinnamon creams, blueberry muffins and butter bretons. CALORIES DON’T COUNT IF YOU WISH HARD ENOUGH!

Downtown:

The Taj Hotel: Also perhaps another biased opinion since I work there currently, but Sunday brunch is well thought out and executed. All of the pastries are changed from week to week by the discretion of the pastry team but there’s also a hot line, a raw bar and other little samplings. Brunch is held on top of the 16th floor overlooking some of the most breath-taking views of the city. This is a perfect place to celebrate something: an engagement, graduation, baby announcement, etc. However, it does come at a price ($80 a person, eek)! Reservations need to be made in advance but it’s well worth it for a big life event.

470The Thinking Cup: I haven’t been here yet but I’ve heard nothing but good things! I can’t wait to spend a rainy morning before work here!

Any other suggestions out there?? I’m on a never-ending journey to find the best brunch in the city! Let me know what you think; I want to hear from you! Check back on Tuesday where I show you how I made a DIY succulent wall!! Eeeeeep who doesn’t like little baby succulents!? Thanks for reading and I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Iggys Bread of the World: An Inside Look!

Flour is super cool because every couple of months, a field trip is scheduled for anyone who’s interested. This time around, we were visiting the official site of Iggy’s Bread of the World. Iggy’s Bread is sold ALLLLLLL over New England. I’ve seen their bread at a bunch of liquor stores, Whole Foods, open air markets, and more. Their bread is always fresh and looks soo good, so therefore I was pretty pumped about getting to visit their production site!

410Iggy’s was started 17 years ago in a small bakeshop, only 3,000 square feet where they produced and sold bread at the same location. They really focus on the quality of ingredients and where they’re sourced from, trying to maintain the wholesomeness of the bread baking process. Currently, their production site and storefront is at 130 Fawcett Street, Cambridge MA where they have a 30,000 square foot facility to accommodate their continual rising popularity!

Upon arrival, we got a good glace at the front of house operation- a tiny storefront but still busy with customers coming in and out. Soon after we were shuttled to their back offices to begin our tour. Hair nets donned, we headed to their packaging room.

Every day, that packaging room gets BUSY. Workers are quickly assembling, filling, labeling and organizing the boxes of bread getting them ready to send out for the morning delivery. They start the whole packaging process late at night as the first delivery leaves at 2am. Iggy’s makes a promise to deliver the freshest bread which is why they’re a 24/7 365 bread bakery!

Basically being in disbelief of how large their facility is, we entered their mixing room. As we passed through the doors, we passed their 3 silos full of flour. They then have an automated system where you can punch in how much flour you need which then dispenses the flour into another room. SO COOL! That machine also transports water and can change it’s temperature to accommodate different types of bread. Bread is only made four ingredients for the most part: Water, flour, yeast and salt. These four ingredients are then manipulated in different amounts and times of proofing all to produce different flavors and textures making bread a truly complex process.

402 403The mixing room was temperature controlled so all the bread proofed at the same rate consistently. Alongside the automated dispensing machine were two HUGE mixers that had fork tongs. Usually bread is mixed with a dough hook (the spiral shaped hook) but apparently the fork tongs gently mix the dough to create a more tender crumb.

Next we walked to the largest part of their factory. There were HUNDREDS of rolling racks filled with cooling loaves and rolls and workers shaping and loading loaves ready to be baked. It was so amazing to watch them work and be so in sync! Around the top of the room was a large conveyor belt. So listen up, this part is really cool. When the bread is ready to be taken out of the oven, a machine unloads these HUGE deck ovens and then lifts it up to the conveyor belt which then acts as a cooling system as it travels around the room. Once it makes a full circle, it can be loaded onto other racks for storage until packaging.

404 406 407 408They stick to fairly simple breads and never dabble in gluten free alternatives because it’s “irresponsible business practice” as our guide explained. It seems to me that they’re turning a huge profit so they’re able to really make their business focused on whatever they want!

It was a really cool experience and I’m so lucky to have been able to have had the opportunity. While making bread isn’t really my passion in baking, I’m always looking for the next opportunity to learn and grow within my profession! I hope you enjoyed this post and a special glance into the food service world! Until next time!

Boston Bar Scene

Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this post right now given that I’m extraordinarily hungover. Yep, I threw up twice last night. UuuUuUUuUuuuUUuugggggghHHHhhh. I’m surviving though; champing my way through this hangover! It’s not even my fault; I met this group of people at the bar and they just kept buying shots of all these different types of things and who am I to say no? Right? *Crying deep inside for all the bad decisions I made last night*

But I’ve lived in Boston for almost a year now and I’ve frequented a myriad of bars that are definitely cool places to check out. And of course, my list of places I want to try is always growing but I figured I’d share what I know based on area!

Brighton/Allston:

Lulu’s– awesome place for apps and a drink! Get the pretzel bites with cheese cause DAYUUM. They have a pretty decent selection of craft beers too if you’re into that!

Sunset Cantina– Biggest beer selection I’ve ever seen. I was so overwhelmed by the menu and the options but it’s got a pretty cool vibe! You can grab a table or sit at the bar to drink in a pretty casual atmosphere.

White Horse– This is the place that made me a complete wasteoid. They have some billards and pinball games and then a section of the bar turns dance-y later in the night!

Common Ground– I haven’t been here yet, but my roommates always talk about how fun it is! They host Millenial nights and 90’s throwback nights so the music selection is pretty clutch! I need to go sometime soon!

Tavern in the Square (TITS)– TITS is a chain bar in Boston and can be found in a couple different areas. This one in Allston is pretty huge but you get a cool mix of college kids and young post-grads who wish they were still in college (ME) who just wanna drink and dance. It’s pretty casual living in Boston now to hear someone say, “Hey, lets go to TITS. I really can’t wait to dance at TITS”. Maybe it’s just an excuse to say TITS. Heyoooo.

Deep Ellum– Are you a hipster? Do you like craft cocktails and beers? Are you a huge fan of cheese and charcuterie plates? This place is for you. When it’s nice, there a TEENY TINY area in the back to sit on their porch. Also, get the truffle fries. You won’t regret it.

Lonestar Taco Bar– The people who own Deep Ellum (right next door) also own the taco bar. You can get tacos for 3 bucks a pop and try a whole bunch of different funky tacos. You gotta get the charred corn on the cob here too! The bar is mostly focused on tequila based drinks but if you want anything else, they can grab it from the bar next door!

Devlins– This is one of my favorite casual patio bars for the summer time. They have a huge back patio for outside drinking/nomming including a portable bar in the back. It’s a great place to go on a date! (True life, my roommate and I went on a double date there with these guys we met in the park once!)

Cityside– Second favorite patio bar! Apparently this place gets pretty crazy at night as it’s not too far from Boston College, but the roof deck is pretty sweet!

Green Briar– Classic Irish pub. Pretty good clam chowder and onion rings! But cheap drinks and sometimes they host trivia nights or have a DJ play some music at night! Overall, pretty laid back!

Cambridge (Central Square):

People’s Republik– Very communist Russia feel at this bar! They have darts and some pretty cool memorabilia to look at but overall it’s a pretty laid-back, hipster bar.

Other places I want to go are: Miracle of Science, Middle East and MiddleSex.

Rosebud Cafe-This is actually in Davis Square right near Posto! Their service is pretty great; everyone is super friendly! In the mid-price range for drinks although they’re quality cocktails but the menu is pretty good too! The brussel sprouts were amazing! Their dessert menu is all pies too so go in with an appetite! I’d recommend the turtle pie a la mode!

**Sidenote: I work in Cambridge and don’t go back there too often to go out at night but I’ve heard that there are also great places in Harvard Square,Porter Square and Davis Square as well!

Fenway:

Cask N Flagon: This is where I had my Quincenera! It’s definitely a bar/nightclub at night so bring your dancing shoes! Drinks can be on the more expensive side too but it was super fun!

Bleacher Bar: This place was awesome. I went here before a Red Sox game once to grab a pre-game drink and they have windows that look right onto the field. If you get there early enough, you might be able to snag a spot to watch the game for free!

Downtown:

Julep: Drinks here were SO expensive. And there was a cover to get in. But it had two floors with a different music selection on each level which was kinda cool. But it’s in the more expensive part of the city so be prepared to shell out. Definitely more of a nightclub than a bar.

Howl at the Moon: Boston’s piano bar! I tried to go here once but the line was WAY too long to wait in. But I eventually do want to get there to check out the live music and sing the crap out of some throwback songs!

Hopefully these suggestions could come in handy to anyone visiting Boston! Maybe I’ll even run into one of you one night! Food for Thought Thursday post coming up in a couple days! I’m going to go crawl back into my bed and nurse on some water now… Until next time!

L8tr sk8trs!

Restaurant Review: Area Four

You guys should know by know just how much I love pizza. Pizza is like my family. Pizza is my one true love. So when a friend of mine was visiting from Providence, what better place to go grab lunch than a cool, kitchsy, wood-fired pizza place?

We ended up going to a place called Area Four over in Kendall Square (500 Technology Square, Cambridge MA 02139) which is within walking distance from my bakery! I had heard so many great things about Area Four so I figured it was the perfect place.

241 242 245All of the pizzas at Area Four are made with a 12 year old dough starter and ferments for 30 hours before being topped with handcrafted cheese and baked in a wood-fire oven. *Insert drooling mouth image here* Being that Area Four is also a cafe, they offer a bunch of morning options like sandwiches, yogurts, oatmeals, soups and salads and a pretty diverse list of coffees, teas, espressos, etc. But of course, the main attraction is their pizza.

Area Four was featured on Food Network’s Best Ever show and has been named one of Boston’s 50 Best Restaurants. They have two locations (one in Kendall Square and another in Union Square) and then even have a roaming food truck.

Okok let’s get down to business and discuss their menu! They have a couple appetizer-y things but they split the menu up into sections: Not Pizza and Pizza. Pretty self-explanatory. You can order any extra toppings on the pizzas at an extra cost which pretty much enables you to customize it to your own taste.

My friend and I first ordered the garlic knots to share. They came out on a small sizzle plate which made the bottom of the knots crusty but they still remained soft in the middle. They were lightly covered in oil with pecorino and gremolata cheeses with marinara sauce on the side. They were the perfect appetizer before the pizza. YAY CARBS!

243The pizza came in two sizes, 10″ or 14″, and being that my friend and I were splitting, we weren’t sure exactly how hungry we were. Cause you know, who can’t eat a whole pizza by themselves anyway? But our waiter said the appetizer was on the heavy side so we got the 10″ pizza to split. It was good advice in the end! We went for the Mushroom and Fontina pizza, no additions and it was SO. GOOD. And I’m not even a big fan of mushrooms! I was also eye-ing up their carnivore pizza which has mozzarella, tomato, sopressata, sausage and bacon OR their caramelized onion and gorgonzola pizza with peppered walnuts and scallions. I guess I’ll just have to go back another time!

244In the end, Frank and I paid about 15 bucks a person including tip for the 6-slice pizza and an appetizer. I left feeling full but not stuffed to the brim which is always how I like to feel after a meal- satisfied. I’m DEFINITELY going to go back here again; what a great place to grab lunch! Staff was friendly and knowledgeable  and the atmosphere was welcoming. They also really seem to care about their purveyors and ingredients and as a food service person, this is something that I take to heart.

I’ll be back, A4! Thanks for lunch! See you next week, friends!