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Boston Restaurant Blog -- March, 2012

Below are blog entries from March, 2012. Use the links in the left column to do a quick search of blog entries, or to see blog entries from other months. And feel free to use the "Comments" links under each blog entry to reply to us; your comments just might end up in our Boston restaurant blog! (Note: This page is part of our restaurant features section.)

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March, 2012

Friday, March 30, 2012
An Impressive Meal at Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro in Foxboro

When I hear the word "football," I tend to conjure up thoughts of rabid fans, raucous tailgating parties, and endless amounts of burgers, hot dogs, ribs, junk food, and beer. And perhaps this is why the idea of opening an upscale farm-to-table bistro and wine bar such as Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro literally next to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro seemed like a bit of a head-scratcher to me. But indeed, the demographics of fans going to Patriots games has changed greatly since the new stadium was built, with more and more businesspeople and wealthy folks heading to games, so the thought of having this kind of spot here might not be so odd after all. Either way, it would be all for naught, of course, if the food were just average at such a place, but based on a recent meal that a group of us had at Tastings a few days ago, this doesn't seem to be much of an issue at all.

photo of Tastings, Foxboro, MA Even though it is located in an open-air shopping center next to a football stadium, the interior of Tastings feels a bit like a rustic eatery located within a winery in the middle of the country. The relatively small space makes use of lots of dark woods, with a shiny wooden floor, a beamed ceiling, some exposed brick, and attractive hanging lights all adding to the cozy and romantic atmosphere. A small bar sits off to the left while the main dining area includes a handful of tables, with some bench seating available along the back wall.

Our first glance at the Tastings menu was a bit of an eye-opener, as the prices were relatively high, especially considering that, again, we were right next to a football stadium. The prix fixe five-course dinner with wine pairings, for instance, was a whopping $79 per person, while the dinner without wine still came to $59. None of us chose the five-course dinner, instead going with a variety of small plates and main courses. And for the most part, the food was exceptional at Tastings, with the sublime sunchoke soup being perhaps the highlight of the entire meal, being served with a drizzle of pistachio oil on top, carmelized shallots mixed in, and some bits of brussels sprouts that added just a hint of bitterness to it all. Nearly as good was the macaroni and cheese (which comes as a small plate, though they allowed us to order it as a main course); the mix of cheeses was delicious, but what put this dish over the top was the fact that shaved truffles were actually part of the dish, adding an extraordinary dimension to the plate that really can't be overstated. A few other dishes that stood out included the thick and meaty burger (with handcut fries) that came with a thick slab of pork belly that almost had the texture of brisket but definitely tasted like bacon; the tagliatelle, which had an egg on top that added a rich dimension to the dish; pork chops that were cooked perfectly and were almost all meat; and a marvelous free-range chicken that was skillet-roasted. The calamari was less impressive, as some of the pieces were rubbery (though the tarragon pesto added some nice flavor), and a vodka and soda drink that was served just didn't taste "right" and had to be returned for a new drink. Speaking of drinks, we had some good ones at Tastings, though none of us really delved too deeply into their extensive wine list (that will have to be for the next time). We ended with a dessert plate that included random treats, including ice cream, a few chocolate-based items, creme brulee, and pieces of blood orange. Service was nearly flawless, as our waiter was friendly and helpful from start to finish.

While Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro isn't the type of place I would go to every week (it is much too expensive for that), it is a spot that I wish I could go to often, as everything about it impresses, from the food to the atmosphere to the service. Indeed, it seems like a bit of an oasis from the sometimes-hectic pace of the immediate area (especially when the Pats are in town), and while it may seem a bit strange to enjoy a beautifully-presented farm-to-table meal at a classy spot while 400-pound athletes are smashing into each other a few hundred feet away, it all somehow works. A big thumbs-up definitely has to be given for this place.

If you want the address for Tastings, here it is: Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro, 201 Patriot Place, Foxboro, MA, 02035.

Thursday, March 22, 2012
Ten Outdoor Dining Areas In or Near the Boston Area

photo of the Harborside Grill in East Boston, MASo it's sunny and in the 80s today, which wouldn't be all that noteworthy if it were July, but today is March 22(!), making this one of the warmest days ever in the month of March. This time of year, very few restaurants in the Boston area have their outdoor dining areas set up, as few people would want to dine al fresco in 45-degree weather, but because of the abnormally warm temperatures right now, many if not most eateries with outdoor patios and decks are indeed ready for folks who wish to dine outside.

Since so many people seem to be interested in dining under the stars (or the sun) right now, we have put together a little slideshow sampling of the kinds of places in or near the Boston area that have outdoor dining. Included here you will find photos of completely under-the-radar spots (like Leggos in Holbrook), upscale eateries (Allora Ristorante in Marlborough), places with good people-watching (Picco in the South End), restaurants with jaw-dropping scenery (Harborside Grill in East Boston), and more. The link to the slideshow is below; enjoy, and have fun if you dine in the great outdoors over the next day or two!

Slideshow of Ten Outdoor Dining Areas

Related Blog Entries: slideshows

Wednesday, March 21, 2012
First Time at Cafe de Paris in Quincy

The city of Quincy seems to have dining and drinking spots in every nook and cranny of its city, including several within a complex called The Common Market Restaurants, which is just a bit off the beaten path in Quincy, yet within shouting distance of the Southeast Expressway. The place includes a number of eateries that run the gamut from a frozen yogurt spot to a European-style bistro, and it is this latter spot--Cafe de Paris--that a number of us went to recently, and the experience was mostly a good one, though with a few minor bumps along the way.

photo of Cafe de Paris, Quincy, MA Cafe de Paris is a slightly upscale and somewhat elegant restaurant whose atmosphere is quite attractive; the hardwood floors, white tablecloths, and use of brick and dark woods throughout help make the place look a little like a classic French bistro, though the harsh spotlights can be a bit much for those who are sensitive to light. A very attractive bar can be found adjacent to the main dining area, with more seating surrounding the bar. A function room is available upstairs, and a private section called the "Paris Room" is also on the premises.

We tried a number of food and drink items at Cafe de Paris, with starters including a baked spinach artichoke dip that was so delicious that it was gone in a flash, causing us to have to order a second plate. The chicken tenders were basic (there isn't much you can do with chicken tenders), while the Caesar salads were tasty, with a decent dressing included and long strips of anchovies added. Our meals were mostly satisfying, with both the juicy and tender prime rib and the flaky haddock Parisienne (haddock broiled with white wine, lemon and seasoned with herbed breadcrumbs) being very nicely presented. The chicken marsala was also a winner, with the mixture of sweet wine sauce and mushrooms, garlic, and shallots making for a complex-tasting dish, while the steak au poivre included a rich gorgonzola cheese glaze. The pizza, however, was a disappointment, with a mushy crust and almost no sauce, while the croque monsieur was greasy with the bread overwhelming the sandwich, which didn't include much ham inside. Beverages included beer and mixed drinks, with the scotch and soda being downright cheap (about $6.00) for its size, though the negroni was a disappointment, having a very harsh taste to it. Service was friendly and professional from start to finish, and prices were mostly reasonable.

I have been to a few of the places at The Common Markets now (including Darcy's Pub and the Chowder House), with each experience being mainly a positive one. And that pretty much goes for Cafe de Paris as well (blips aside), with the atmosphere and service being standouts along with some of the dishes served. If you're looking for an upscale spot south of Boston that won't break the bank, this attractive bistro isn't a bad option at all.

If you want the address for Cafe de Paris, here it is: Cafe de Paris, 97 Willard Street, Quincy, MA, 02169.

Related Blog Entries: French restaurants, Quincy restaurants

Friday, March 9, 2012
A Sampling of Outdoor Dining Options in the Boston Area

photo of Allora Ristorante, Marlborough, MAThe past two days have been very springlike (with yesterday feeling almost like summer), which certainly got people thinking of outdoor dining. While not too many restaurants were able to set up their outdoor decks and patios yesterday and the day before, a few spots were serving outdoors, with more surely to come over the next several weeks. So where can folks go for dining al fresco? A number of restaurants that we have featured on this site have options for outdoor dining, with some having particularly nice views (most, though not all, of which are on the ocean). Links to these dining spots can be found below, with the ones with views marked as shown.

BOSTON:
Equator
Picco
Seiyo

CAMBRIDGE:
Gran Gusto
SingaBella Cafe

GLOUCESTER:
The Studio [views]

HOLBROOK:
Leggos

HULL:
Barefoot Bob's
Jake's Seafood [views]
Red Parrot [views]

JAMAICA PLAIN:
Bella Luna

LAWRENCE:
Salvatore's [views]

MARLBOROUGH:
Allora Ristorante [views]

MELROSE:
Mexico Lindo

MILTON:
88 Wharf [views]

QUINCY:
Inn at Bay Pointe [views]
Tony's Clam Shop

ROCKPORT:
Lobster Pool [views]

ROSLINDALE:
Sophia's Grotto
Village Sushi

SWAMPSCOTT:
Paradiso Ristorante

WAKEFIELD:
Zaleks

WALTHAM:
Taqueria Mexico

WATERTOWN:
Grappa Restaurant

Do you have any favorite places for outdoor dining in the Boston area? If so, post your comments here, thanks!

Related Blog Entries: outdoor dining