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Boston Restaurant Blog -- December, 2007

Below are blog entries from December, 2007. 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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Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Favorite Specific Restaurant Dishes in 2007

As we quickly approach the end of the year, it's time to start thinking about restaurants to try in 2008. But before we do, I'd like to look back at 2007 for a few minutes.

For me, 2007 was a mostly terrific year for finding new restaurants (and returning to some old favorites). And every now and then, a food item that I ordered, whether it was an appetizer, a main entree, or a dessert, simply blew me away. So as we come to the end of the year (and the last blog entry of 2007 on this site), I would like to list some of the favorite specific dishes I had at dining spots over the past 12 months, in no particular order...well, alphabetical order, anyway:

Bagel, Main Street Bagels and Appetizing (Queens, NY)
Black Forest Cake, Austrian Tea Room (Stowe, VT)
Bourbon Pecan Pie, Chef Wayne's Big Mamou (Springfield)
Cheeseburger, Zon's (Jamaica Plain)
Chicken Enchilada Mole, Angela's Cafe (East Boston)
Chili Cheese Fries, Costello's Tavern (Jamaica Plain)
Chili Dogs, George's Coney Island (Worcester)
Churros, Loco Tapas and Wine Bar (South Easton)
Corned Beef Hash, Wheelhouse Diner (Quincy)
Deep-Fried Hot Dogs, Lawton's (Lawrence)
Garlic and Black Truffle Soup, Grotto (Boston)
Greek Salad, Christo's (Brockton)
Grilled Maple Bread, 158 Main (Jeffersonville, VT)
Guacamole, Angela's Cafe (East Boston)
Macaroni and Cheese, Winthrop Arms (Winthrop)
Pepperoni Pizza, Pizza Barn (Center Ossipee, NH)
Pork Chops, Mrs. Jones (Dorchester)
Steak and Cheese Sub, T.C. Lando's (Hudson)
Wild Mushroom Soup, Cafe Polonia (South Boston)

So out of the specific items above, which were my very favorites? Well, it is indeed tough to choose, but the one that seems to stick out in my mind most often is the chicken enchilada mole at Angela's Cafe, mainly because of the extraordinary taste of the mole. But the bourbon pecan pie at Chef Wayne's Big Mamou isn't far behind, nor is the wild mushroom soup at Cafe Polonia. In my opinion, however, you can't really go wrong with any of the dishes listed above, so perhaps choosing the best of the best is an exercise in futility.

Happy New Year to all, and here's hoping that we all find some outstanding new places to eat in 2008!

Friday, December 21, 2007
Seafood and Outdoor Dining at Captain Carlo's, Gloucester

My apologies for waiting so long to write about Captain Carlo's Restaurant in Gloucester (we tried the place just before Labor Day weekend). But it is kind of nice to be writing about it now, as it brings back memories of balmy breezes, outdoor dining, and the smell of salt in the air (as opposed to salt on the roads, car, sidewalk, and so on).

photo of Captain Carlo's Restaurant, Gloucester, Massachusetts We drove up to Gloucester on a stifling hot day in late August to escape the heat that was almost unbearable in Boston. But what was a 96 degree day in Beantown was a cool, calm 72 degrees along the Gloucester coast. Captain Carlo's has both indoor and outdoor seating, but we had had enough of being indoors in air conditioning, so we opted for a table outside (though under the covering, as there were lots of birds flying overhead). It took awhile for us to get our food, but we didn't mind the wait as it was such a beautiful evening. The food itself turned out to be pretty good; the fried scallops were tasty and had a light batter with little grease, though they had a bit of a sandy consistency to them. The fried haddock was better, with very little waste and a similarly light batter. And the broiled sea scallops were just about perfect, as they were tender and fresh, with a nice buttery flavor.

As we were getting ready to head out, we noticed a number of people arriving who seemed ready to party, and apparently for good reason; it seems that Captain Carlo's can get pretty wild on weekend nights, as they have all kinds of musical entertainment and dancing in their rather large outdoor area along the water. We didn't stay for the music, but I was thinking it might be fun to go back in the spring or summer to check out a good blues or rock band there.

So what is the verdict on Captain Carlo's? Well, I've had better seafood, and the service was a bit shaky at times, but Captain Carlo's does seem to have enough going for it (outdoor dining, sea breezes, entertainment) to bring me back there, especially as an escape from the heat (which again seems odd talking about today, but it's certainly nice to dream about better weather!).

For those of you want the address and phone number for Captain Carlo's, here it is: Captain Carlo's Restaurant, 27-29 Harbor Loop, Gloucester, MA 01930. Phone: (978) 283-6342

Related Blog Entries: Gloucester restaurants, outdoor dining, seafood restaurants

Monday, December 17, 2007
Loco Tapas and Wine Bar, South Easton: Outstanding

I am not the biggest fan of tapas restaurants, but we sure hit a good one on Saturday night. Loco Tapas and Wine Bar is located on Route 138 in South Easton, which is perhaps not a place you would think of for a restaurant like this, but locals seem to love it, and for good reason; the food is wonderful, and it is not a stretch to say that this was one of the top ten dining experiences in all of 2007 for me.

We called ahead to make sure we would be able to get into Loco and at the time, the place was pretty empty. By the time we arrived, however, a lot of people were waiting for tables (the small dining area didn't help), so we waited at the bar for about a half hour, drinking both red and white sangria (the red was better) while nibbling on a terrific appetizer of various Spanish cheeses with membrillo (quince paste) and crostini (thin slices of toast).

Once seated in Loco's warm, cozy dining room, we skipped getting other appetizers and ordered a couple of main entrees. And what entrees they were; the paella, which was served in a traditional flat pan, was exquisite, was a mouthwatering mix of smoked chicken, mussels, peas, tomatoes, chorizo, and saffron rice. And the Catalan-style baked cannelloni had a delicious mix of pasta, spinach, herbed ricotta, and tomato sauce, all covered by a tasty parmesan crust.

After eating these amazing dishes, we had no room for dessert, but that didn't stop us. The reason we ordered dessert even though we were full was because Loco had churros on the dessert menu. If you don't know what churros are, well, they can perhaps be described as long, slender donuts with cinnamon and sugar on them and served with warm chocolate sauce. Needless to say, they were completely addictive and were gone almost before the waitress placed them on our table.

I was not expecting to love Loco Tapas and Wine Bar, mainly because, as stated before, I am generally not a lover of these types of restaurants. But Loco was so good that even I was impressed, and can't wait to get back, perhaps to try the breaded chicken breast stuffed with hot peppers and herbed cheese. Now If you're thinking that this restaurant will likely be featured on the Boston's Hidden Restaurants site, well, you're probably correct. But there is one fly in the ointment, and it is this: Loco is slated to move to another location in January, 2008. And while they will be relocating in a spot not too far from the original, I would like to hold off featuring it until I see the new space and try the food one more time. Stay tuned...

Related Blog Entries: Easton restaurants

Thursday, December 13, 2007
High-Quality Fast Food at UBurger, Kenmore Square

I ended up going to UBurger in Kenmore Square earlier this week. I hadn't planned on hitting this fairly new burger joint, but plans in Kenmore Square had been canceled, so I figured that it was as good a time as any to try the place.

photo of UBurger, Boston, Massachusetts UBurger looks a bit like a fast food joint, but with unusual touches, including corrugated aluminum walls and odd red circles cut into the ceiling. The place was packed when I got there, but by the time I received my order, it had cleared out enough for me to grab a table near the front windows. I wanted to go as simple as possible, so I ordered a cheeseburger with ketchup, along with a side order of fries. The griddled burger was delicious, with fresh meat ground on the premises, and a tasty slice of cheese on a rather ordinary bun. The crispy, thin-cut fries were even better, as they were handcut and browned enough to give them a truly mouthwatering flavor.

It is difficult to compare the griddled patties at UBurger with the thicker burgers at places like O'Sullivan's in Somerville or the Bristol Lounge in Boston. A more reasonable comparison would include fast-food places such as McDonald's, Burger King, or Wendy's, and in my opinion, UBurger stands head and shoulders above all of them.

For those of you who would like the address and phone number for UBurger, here it is: UBurger, 636 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02215. Phone: (617) 536-0448

Related Blog Entries: Boston restaurants, hamburgers

Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Ogunquit and Wells Dining (and the Kennebunkport Prelude)

For the second year in a row, we went up to the Kennebunkport Christmas Prelude, but this time, we stayed near Perkins Cove instead of in Wells, and we avoided dining in Kennebunkport itself, as we had to wait a long time for a table last year. And as was the case last year, we had mixed results with the food, though none of the meals were all that bad.

photo of the Impastable Dream, Ogunquit, Maine We left Boston on Friday morning, arriving in Maine around noon. After a quick, basic lunch at The Weathervane in Kittery, we took the slow route to Ogunquit and Perkins Cove, arriving at the lodge we were staying at around mid-afternoon. After wandering around the ground of the lodge (and strolling along the beautiful Marginal Way for a bit), we went over to a place on Shore Road called The Impastable Dream for dinner. Silly name aside, The Impastable Dream turned out to be a great place; the atmosphere was cozy and peaceful (with an enclosed porch area, which is where we sat), the food was excellent, and the waitstaff was friendly, prompt, and efficient. We enjoyed some really nice dishes, including a sinfully tasty order of garlic bread, a couple of healthy, fresh salads, and a couple of entrees (penne pesto and lobster ravioli) that could have rivaled similar dishes from many restaurants in the North End of Boston. With bellies that were not quite full but very happy, we took a short trip up Shore Road to the center of Ogunquit, where we had a nightcap at a place called the Front Porch (more on the Front Porch later).

photo of the Bull and Claw, Wells, Maine Saturday morning was freezing, with howling winds off the water, so we decided against wandering along the Marginal Way again. Instead, we had breakfast at the lodge, then drove around Perkins Cove and York Beach before heading back to Ogunquit. After hitting a few shops and galleries there, we decided to head up to the Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport, stopping for lunch in Wells. We decided against the Maine Diner, as our meals there last year were just ok (plus the place was packed), so we went across the street to the Bull and Claw, a cavernous family restaurant that seemed to be right in place on Route 1, an historic byway lined with old-fashioned dining spots like this. The food at the Bull and Claw was all right, with the beef burgundy being tasty (though swimming in sauce), and the grilled hot dogs hitting the spot, but it is not what you could call a memorable restaurant. Still, we liked it enough and the prices were dirt cheap, and more importantly we were in and out of the restaurant in no time, which is more than folks could say about restaurants in Kennebunkport that afternoon.

photo of the Front Porch Cafe, Ogunquit, Maine We spent a few hours at the Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport, enjoying the festive atmosphere, the interesting shops, and the beautiful light displays throughout the town. It started to get very cold, though, so we hit the road once again, taking a ride through Cape Porpoise, Biddeford, and Kennebunk before heading back to Ogunquit for dinner. We decided to try the aforementioned Front Porch, a large place containing a restaurant, bar, and piano lounge. Beginning in the dining area, we ordered a tasty Cesar salad and a couple of wonderful baked flatbread pizzas. The pizzas at the Front Porch were long, thin strips and were served on wooden planks, and were they ever good. The margherita pizza had fresh tomatoes and basil, while the three cheese pizza came with roasted garlic, and both were gone within a couple of minutes. They weren't huge pizzas, so we had room for their dessert special, which was a yummy trio of white chocolate (ice cream, cookies, and hot cocoa). That, too, was finished in no time, and we paid the bill then walked upstairs to the piano lounge. The place was pretty full, with many of the people apparently having been there for awhile, as they were swaying and singing a bit too loudly. But what a time it was, with the pianist playing mostly Christmas tunes, much to the delight of both the drunk and non-drunk folks in the lounge.

photo of The Grog, Newburyport, Massachusetts Sunday morning came around and we had a quick breakfast at the lodge before checking out and taking the long way home, driving through Kittery, Portsmouth, New Castle, Rye, Hampton, Seabrook, Salisbury, and Newburyport, which is where we took a short break. I used to go to The Grog quite often, but hadn't been for awhile, so we decided to have lunch at this Newburyport institution. I always love the dark, cozy feel of the place, with its ceiling beams, dark wooden walls, and charming bar area. I started out with what may have been the best chili I've had in years, followed by an unusual but very tasty sweet potato burrito. The turkey club was excellent, too, as were the steak fries. We passed on dessert, as we were racing to get back to the Boston area before the snows hit, so we paid up, quickly left Newburyport and jumped on the highway for home, ending another great trip to Southern Maine.

So what was the best meal we had in the Ogunquit area? I would probably say that the food at the Impastable Dream impressed me the most, especially since the name of the place conjured up images of a cheesy, tacky, low-end Italian restaurant. It was anything but that, however, and was probably good enough to be featured on the site sometime in the near future. Stay tuned!

Related Blog Entries: Maine restaurants, Ogunquit restaurants

Sunday, December 2, 2007
Dinner at a Jam-Packed Sugar and Spice, Cambridge

We tried a Thai restaurant called Sugar and Spice in Porter Square, Cambridge, a few weeks ago. We were very impressed by the place, and so, apparently, were lots of others, as the restaurant was about as crowded as I've seen in the area for a Wednesday evening.

When we arrived, the restaurant wasn't too crowded, though granted, we got to Sugar and Spice pretty early in the evening. The host sat us down at a window seat and we checked out the sidewalk scene for awhile before ordering pan-fried veggie dumplings for an appetizer. The dumplings were delicious, and very different, as they were almost like a Thai version of potato pancakes (but with pureed vegetables inside them). For our main entrees, we tried a couple of dishes: The drunken noodles with chicken were spicy and hot, with a powerful basil taste, and the noodles were fresh and also less greasy than those I've had in other places; the country-style pad Thai was incredibly spicy, but the flavor of the dish wasn't compromised by the extreme heat.

I've heard that service can be inconsistent at Sugar and Spice, but the night we were there, the people who waited on our table were friendly, efficient, and always nearby in case we ran out of water. They did a terrific job, especially considering how crowded the restaurant became as the evening went on. By the time we left Sugar and Spice, there was a line of people out the door waiting for tables. Based on this, I don't feel like we can feature Sugar and Spice on our site because it seems anything but "hidden," but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try it; the food, while not quite up to the level of Brookline's Dok Bua or Khao Sarn, it was very, very good and definitely worth a trip, in my opinion.

For those who would like the address and phone number for Sugar and Spice, here it is: Sugar and Spice, 1933 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 01840. Phone: (617) 868-4200

Related Blog Entries: Cambridge restaurants, Thai restaurants