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Boston Restaurant Blog -- May, 2012

Below are blog entries from May, 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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May, 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012
More Information on Our Food Blogger Network

A few weeks ago, we added a food blogger network to the Boston's Hidden Restaurants site, with links to a number of bloggers in the Boston area and beyond. The network continues to grow, with nearly 75 bloggers included, and while it started out mainly with bloggers who are based in or near Boston, some bloggers in other parts of New England are starting to be added as well. (A link to the network can be found at http://www.hiddenboston.com/blogger-network.html)

So what types of bloggers can be part of the network? Well, if you regularly write reviews of restaurants in the Boston area or elsewhere in New England, you can definitely be added to the network. And if you focus on recipes, cooking, etc., and are based in the New England region, you can also be a part of it as well. Boston and New England folks who write about bars, lounges, and alcoholic beverages are invited to the network, too, as are local food photographers. In other words, if you are involved with nearly any aspect of food, drinks, and/or restaurants and have a blog that gets updated frequently, your blog can certainly be considered for the network. And eventually, as the blogger network grows, we may expand a bit outside of New England, adding bloggers in New York City, New York State, and perhaps Montreal at some point in the future.

If you would like your food blog to be considered for the network, please contact us via the site or send us a note on Twitter or Facebook. And if you know of any food bloggers in the Boston area or elsewhere in New England, please let us know about them as well, thanks!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
How to Share Your Food Photos with Us on Pinterest

The Boston's Hidden Restaurants Pinterest pages are now almost fully set up (for now, anyway), and there is now a way for you to share your food photos with us on Pinterest. A group board has just been created, allowing you to post some of your favorite pictures onto the photo-sharing social media site via our account. So how can you post your pix? It's very easy, actually.

Pinterest allows its users to set up both individual boards (where you are the only one who can post pictures) and group boards (where any number of folks can post pictures). In the case of the group boards, invites are sent out to people, and they can either accept or reject the invite, and in the case of our group board, basically all you have to do is to start following us on the Boston's Hidden Restaurants Pinterest page, then let us know your user name (by either contacting us via the site or sending us a note on Twitter or Facebook). We'll add you to the board, and then you can start posting your food photos! As of now we have more than 80 people who are either currently posting pictures or soon may be, and that number should continue to increase, so expect to see a number of interesting pictures up on that board.

I'm looking forward to seeing some of your food pix on the board over the coming days and weeks. Please note that they can be pictures from restaurants as well as photos of food items that you have created at home, or even interesting pictures that you have found elsewhere on the Pinterest site or anywhere else on the web, for that matter. Thanks for sharing!

Thursday, May 17, 2012
Some Info on Instagram (Including How to Access Our Instagram Page)

Earlier this year, I wrote a couple of blog entries on our joining Pinterest, a social media site that focuses on photography. Well, now Boston's Hidden Restaurants has started an Instagram account, posting a number of pictures onto our page already. So what is the difference between Pinterest and Instagram? There are definitely several, with one of the biggest being that Instagram doesn't really have a website per se, at least not one that can be used all that much to view photos. Instagram is basically a photo sharing site that is restricted to smartphones, and for now, anyway, almost exclusively to iPhones, though an app was recently introduced to some Android users.

The beauty of Instagram is in its simplicity of both use and design; it is extremely easy to post pictures to your page, so much so that you can take a photo of, say, a pizza, do a quick maneuver through Instagram on your phone, and have the picture posted (with a caption/comment) within a minute or two (or within seconds if you're really good). When posting a photo, you can crop it and use any number of filters to fix it up, and by using hashtags (adding a "#" before a word), you can have others find the photo with relative ease. Scrolling through pictures is a breeze because of the simple design which is basically a grid of thumbnails, and your "feed," which shows photos from both you and the people you are following in chronological order, is a very simple top-to-bottom scroll.

So how do we use Instagram? Well, for the most part we use it to post photos of food and restaurants, but because it is a very informal site that isn't directly connected via links to Boston's Hidden Restaurants like Pinterest is, there are also photos of day-to-day things, including everything from sunsets to travel-related pictures to human interest items. Links to a couple of pictures are shown below--you will probably notice that even though these can be seen on your computer, the site is not computer-friendly (there are no links leading out and no real way to GET to these links except via your phone).

Instagram photo of brownie sundae from Emma's in Bridgewater, MA

Instagram photo of the Eagle Brook Saloon in Norfolk, MA

As you can see, you can't really do much with these pictures because Instagram is not really a usable website. The only real way to easily see these and other photos is by using your iPhone (or Droid). To see our photos, our username is "hiddenboston," which can be entered via a search within Instagram on your phone. This will take you to our page where you can see all of the photos that we have posted (as of now, approximately 125).

Hopefully the above information helps decipher Instagram, which can seem really confusing if you are used to social media sites that are, well, websites. If you're on Instagram (or hope to be soon), hopefully we'll see you over there! By the way, the FAQ section of Instagram may help clarify things further; it can be found at http://instagr.am/about/faq/

Thursday, May 10, 2012
A Return Visit to La Scala in Randolph

Several years ago, I made a couple of trips over to La Scala, an Italian restaurant on Route 28 in Randolph. The food I had there was generally decent Italian-American fare, though it wasn't outstanding by any means, and over the past few years I had been hearing of some "downhill alerts" from people I know. Recently, however, the downhill alerts have mostly gone away and I've heard of some very good experiences at the place once again (including a big thumbs-up from a friend who grew up in the North End and knows his Italian food). So we went to La Scala a few days ago to check it out and my return trip there was definitely more impressive than my earlier times at this popular local spot.

photo of La Scala, Randolph, Massachusetts La Scala is your classic sprawling old-school Italian restaurant that attracts a diverse crowd ranging from retirees to businesspeople to young couples to large families. The main room is huge, with tables of all sizes set up, while the bar area is inviting and comfortable. A more private-feeling room can be found toward the back in the left section of the building, and it looks like more of a function room than a dining room, with the capability of having long tables set up for at least 20 to 30 people. Even though the restaurant is carpeted, it can get rather loud and there is a lot of hustle and bustle going on, especially in the main room and the bar.

Our recent trip to La Scala took place fairly late on a weekend night, and the place was absolutely packed. We had to wait approximately 30-40 minutes, which allowed us to kick back at the bar with some mint juleps (it was Kentucky Derby weekend, after all). The drinks were quite good--though perhaps just a tad stronger than I'm used to--and the bartender was friendly and pleasant, chatting with us on and off during the time we were there. We eventually were called for our table which was in the aforementioned back room, and while there were two very large parties of people on opposite ends of the room, it was generally quiet enough for us to hear ourselves talk. While we were being served some bread, we asked them for something that is not on their menu (it's a secret that the locals know)--a thick, pungent garlic dipping sauce that makes their otherwise basic bread absolutely delicious. We also ordered a Caesar salad and a tomato, mozzarella, and basil salad, both of which were satisfying (the former had a particularly nutty sauce from the amount of anchovies used, while the latter had a bright, minty taste from the basil leaves). Our main dishes included a wonderful plate of house-made gnocchi in a decent tomato sauce and a rich-tasting "chicken exquisito," which featured thin strips of chicken breast dipped in egg and cheese, and sauteed in butter, brandy, and marsala. Our server was every bit as affable as our bartender had been, and she never forgot about us, even though the place was buzzing with people.

So does La Scala match up with some of the best Italian restaurants in Boston? Probably not, but based on our visit there a few days ago, it seems to be one of the best choices in the suburbs for those who like old-fashioned red-sauce places (and the atmosphere is nicer than many in this category as well). It's probably too popular to be considered a hidden gem, but if you are looking for casual place to go to south of the city, I would certainly recommend this restaurant.

If you are looking for the address and phone number to La Scala, here it is: La Scala, 1070 North Main Street (Route 28), Randolph, MA 02368; the phone number is (781) 963-1700.

Related Blog Entries: Italian restaurants, Randolph restaurants

Friday, May 4, 2012
Lunch at The Tavern at Wrentham

It seems that whenever a restaurant has a preposition in its name, there is a good chance that the place is an upscale eatery or trendy cocktail lounge. Such is not the case with The Tavern at Wrentham, however; this is an actual tavern, not a fern bar, and one that caters mainly to locals in the area who are looking for inexpensive food and drinks in an atmosphere that seems to be one part dive bar and one part diner. So how is the place? Well, based on a recent visit that several of us made there, it seems to be a decent spot to get a bite to eat, though there was a blip or two along the way.

photo of The Tavern at Wrentham, Wrentham, Massachusetts The Tavern at Wrentham feels like it is in the middle of nowhere, wedged between Routes 1A, 140, and 115 in a scenic area of fields, woodlands, and lakes. The structure is pure roadhouse, with tiny windows, a nondescript entrance framed by a couple of beer signs, and a dusty parking lot with more than a few cracks in it. The interior of the place, as mentioned earlier, has the feel of both a townie bar and a diner, with a low ceiling, exposed pipes, a long, narrow dining area with counter seating along with high-top and regular tables, and antique-style lights. A small bar area can be found by the entrance, complete with Keno and TVs. By the way, some folks may know this spot from its days as Tom's Tavern, a dining and drinking establishment that was known in part as being a place to spot members of the New England Patriots (Gillette Stadium is only about five miles away).

We arrived at The Tavern at Wrentham during the peak of the lunch hour, and the place was maybe 1/4 full, with most folks being at the bar. Our group grabbed a couple of tables in the middle of the dining area and were greeted by a server who could only be described as "sassy," but in a good way, as she was full of personality and very funny. We ordered some appetizers, including a meaty and rich-tasting chili that ranks among the best I've had in quite some time, and some briny "stuffies," or stuffed quahogs, that had a nice mix of clams and stuffing. Our meals were mostly decent, with the burger (which was stuffed with onion rings) and fried haddock sandwich being particularly well-received. The lobster macaroni and cheese impressed as well, though it was just a bit on the thin and runny side, while the bacon pizza was a disappointment, with an odd sourdough taste to the crust and a sauce that was rather bland. Prices were mostly reasonable (though the burger was over $10) and portions were large.

Pizza aside, I generally liked The Tavern at Wrentham; it is a classic roadside joint in an out-of-the-way location that feels like it is many, many miles from the Boston area. The name may fool some people (I would have called it the Wrentham Tavern myself), but it is a neat little spot that lovers of dive bars, townie joints, and diners may want to check out.

For those who want the address for The Tavern at Wrentham, here it is: The Tavern at Wrentham, 263 Shears Street, Wrentham, MA, 02093. The phone number is (508) 384-0010.

Related Blog Entries: Wrentham restaurants