On The Menu

Favorite Bars

Comments (1) | Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Top 5 (okay 6) favorite bars. This is a small list as most of my favorite bars are mentioned in my top ten restaurants to frequent. (i.e. On the Hill Tavern, Bonfire, etc)

Again, it’s not in any particular order as my tastes and moods are always changing.

Bacco. North End. Also known as “The $11 mojito place”. They make the best mojitos I’ve had in Boston. They also crafted a drink after the coconut-chocolate girl scout cookie. I think they’re called samoas. It’s sweet and tastes just like the cookie (!) but unlike the cookie, it gives you a great buzz (bonus!). The bartenders are friendly and also make terrific Belvedere and tonics. At least we think they do…It’s a cool bar if you’re in the mood to have a couple of drinks, but if it’s one of those nights where you’d like to drink a lot, I’d suggest going someplace cheaper. It’s very easy to stay at this bar for hours, just adding drinks to your tab and come midnight when your tab is over $200, it's a bit of a downer. However, by this point you’ve had 5 or 6 (or 9) drinks and you can fret about the cost in the morning.

Kennedy’s. Downtown Crossing. Cold Guinness. Irish bartenders. And Ken. Kennedy’s is a chill bar with good people, good beer, good food and nudie hunt. My favorite nights are the nights when Ken plays cover songs. If you go, ask him to play Crazy, the Gnarls Barkley version, not the Seal version, although that’s good too. Chances are, I’m there and I’ve already requested it, but hey, more requests won’t hurt. He also plays a mean version of TLC’s “Waterfalls”. His version is so stellar, you’re halfway through the song before you realize what you’re singing along to. I also like going on random nights when it’s not too crowded. Kennedy’s is a bar you can go to with a date and actually hear each other talk. And if conversation is lacking, you can always play erotic photo hunt for 50 cents.

JJ Foleys. South End. PBR on tap. I don’t need to say anything further. But I will. No frills. I like that my feet stick to the floor, less chance of me slipping if I’m stuck. Bartenders are always nice. Haven’t eaten off the menu, but don’t really need to. There are games in the back. And like On the Hill Tavern, there is always a game shown on TV. On St Patty’s they serve corned beef sandwiches and a pint. Heaven.

Pho Republic. South End. If you can get a spot at the bar, it’s awesome. If you have to stand, it’s still awesome, but you have to watch out for the busy waitresses running drinks and food. The bartenders make excellent mixed drinks. Recently I tried the cherry sake mojito. Splendid. Their prices are on par with the area ($10-$12) for specialty drinks. However, their vodka & sodas are under $10 which was a pleasant surprise. Griff and Lisa work Thursday & Friday nights. They are exceptional bartenders. Their personalities are as fantastic as the drinks they mix.

Boston Beerworks. North Station. Maybe it’s because I’m sappy and JP and I had our first date there. Maybe it's because it’s the first time I ever watched the Sooners play. Maybe it’s because their beer is so tasty. Who knows? Whatever the reason, I like this bar. They have homemade brews, which I love. I love breweries. I also love when they allow you to have samples of 4 or 5 of the beers on tap. I can try more without paying more! If I get two samples, that’s 10 brews for the price of 2! Obviously it’s the same amount of beer as 2 beers, but who cares? Variety is the spice of life or something like that. The food is pretty good too. Nachos, burgers, chicken fried steak. Something for everyone, unless you’re a vegetarian, but no one really cares about them anyway.

Peoples Republik. Central. Cool crowd, cheap beer, and they have darts. Lots of them. So you can have tournaments against your friends and make them buy you beer when you win. The food, especially the o-rings, is tasty. Their assortment of beer is delightful; I’m a happy girl when I can find Magic Hat on tap. Another plus is the bathroom. Generally it’s clean and it’s larger than most bathrooms. Just be careful if you’re walking to it, you can walk right into the middle of a dart game and take one to the head. Not that that’s happened to me or anything.

Honorable Mentions: Goody Glovers (for trivia!), The BHP, Delux, The Times, An Tua Nua (any bar that allows for flip-cup tournaments gets an A in my book)

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Here are some of my favorite blogs, food-related and otherwise:

For Boston related food blogs, I tend to go to these sites:


I already mentioned Eric Ripert's site, but also check out the other famous chefs' websites:
Michael Ruhlman's blog, great for a lot of kitchen tips
Boudain's blog on Travel Channel, not updated as much as I would like

Some of my daily non-food websites that help me get through my days at work:

TheBigLead, the best sports blog in the entire inter-web, with just enough pop culture included so I can keep up with Abby's perezhilton fix.
Channing Frye's blog which is freaking hilarious
Henry Abbot's TrueHoop, which I was a reader before it got bought by ESPN

And, finally, my brother Tino's mock-blog site making fun of me

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Mustard Crusted Salmon Fillets on Paper Plates

Comments (0) | Monday, July 28, 2008

Eric Ripert has a blog where he has video recipes using a toaster oven. It's quite a blog. www.aveceric.com

I saw this recipe this morning and thought it'd be worth giving a try. On a trip to Foodies in search of some deli meats to make sandwiches for dinner, I told Abby about this recipe and we decided it to give it a try. Turned out really great. Salmon was super flaky and moist, and even though we didn't make the creme fraiche dressing, the salmon had enough flavor on it's own.

Check out his website and try out some of the recipes. We'll likely try the red snapper one eventually.

(Yes we know it's not classy to be trying to show off fancy food on paper plates, but whatever. All our dishes were in the dish washer, and this makes cleanup a hell of a lot easier.)

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Top Ten!

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My top ten bars and restaurants to cavort in around Boston (and the surrounding area)

This isn’t in any particular order solely because my tastes change and sometimes certain bars are more appealing than others.

Bonfire. Park Plaza Hotel. Bonfire is fantastic because they have the best gourmet ($12) tacos around. If you want cheap tacos that are the closest to L.A. tacos (or so I’m told as I’ve never had L.A. tacos…soon though, soon.) head to Taco Loco on Broadway in Somerville. But I digress…Bonfire also has a great menu with items you won’t find in most places, like bone marrow. Yes, they serve bone marrow. It’s buttery and unlike anything else I’ve ever tried. So yummy. They have a great bar area with friendly bartenders and $2 beers throughout Red Sox season. You won’t find beers cheaper than that unless you go to Fanny…at least at Bonfire the average person wasn’t born after 1986…

Masa. South End. Masa is my favorite restaurant in Boston. Hands down. They have great food and the bar area is chill. They offer salsa nights and during happy hour they have a deal on the tapas menu (10 items for $5). As for drinks, my favorite is the Banderitas shot. It’s a three shots shot. The first is lime juice. Take it, but don’t swallow. Now it’s time for shot number two, tequila. Take the shot and mix it with the lime juice you are already holding in your mouth. Swallow. The third shot is a chaser of their spicy bloody mary mix. Perfection. And sometimes they run specials where the shot is only $5. Can’t beat that.

Blue Ginger. Wellesley. It’s in the suburbs, and a bit of a hike, but the drive is worth it. Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger is easily in my top five favorite restaurants. The food is always cooked to perfection. The first time we went, John Paul ordered duck, which I had never had before. I keep thinking I never should have had it there first because every time we eat it now it’s never as good as Blue Ginger. We only usually go for our February anniversary, so each year around November I start getting excited for February. I also love that Blue Ginger’s anniversary is the same day as ours. When the staff overheard us talking and found out it was our anniversary, at the end of the night, they had “Happy Anniversary” cookies delivered to our table! Last year when they celebrated their 10th anniversary, Ming was actually there! We asked if we could meet him and take a picture and he kindly obliged. The restaurant gets very busy on the weekend and I would definitely recommend having reservations.

Bukowski’s. Cambridge, not Back Bay. I prefer the Cambridge location because it’s larger and you always get a seat. Plus it’s a different crowd. There’s less business peeps and more locals, which I like better. They run a special every weekday. Before 8pm hamburgers are $2 and French fries are a buck. They have an incredible assortment of beers (read: PBR) and I love how they tell you the alcohol content. Why order a 3% when you can get a beer that’s 9%? They only take cash, but they have a generic ATM if you don’t bring enough.

On The Hill Tavern. Somerville. It’s down the street from my old place so it was a place we frequented due to its close proximity…and cheap beer. When we first started going there, they had $5 pitchers of Bud, Bud Lite, and Amber Boch. They’ve raised their prices slightly. I think pitchers are $6.50, but the draft beers are only $1.50 or $2.00. The food is pretty good too. They have yummy steak tips and I love their hamburgers. Most items on the menu are under $10 so it usually makes for a pretty cheap night. They have free darts (bring your own) and they have pool tables. There are karaoke nights, which we (thankfully) never made it to. They also have a lot of TVs and will always have a game on. Tuesday night is stump trivia. It’s a pretty big crowd, so the competition is pretty fierce.

New Saigon Sandwich.
Chinatown. 696 Washington St. Warm French bread. Pickled carrots. Tofu. All this can be yours for a mere $3 at New Saigon Sandwich. These giant sandwiches are filling and cheap. You can also get them with Vietnamese spam and other meats, but I prefer the tofu. They can make a mean ca phe sua da. The people who work there are Chinese though, so you have to order in English because if you say it in Vietnamese they look at you funny. That could also be because I don’t speak Vietnamese very well, or at all…

Pho Pasteur. Chinatown. Washington St. Best Pho in town. Pho Vietnam used to be the best until they suddenly closed. Anyway, Pho Pasteur has great pho tai. The meat comes out rare so you cook it until you like it. Their broth is yummy. Flavorful. Not too salty. And they always give us extra limes when we ask. This place is so good that, I try to go 4-5 times a month. Actually, maybe we’ll go tonight. It’s been too long.

Neptune Oysters. North End. Fresh seafood. Amazing blue cheese mussels (when they are actually on the menu) and the best oysters around. It’s a very small restaurant so if you go when it’s crowded you’ll have to wait. I prefer the bar because you get one on one attention from the great bar staff. The last time we were there, we were told about Mercy. Basically, you show up at 5pm when the kitchen opens and you eat until you have to beg for mercy. You don’t get to choose what you eat; the chef makes you whatever he feels like feeding you. It’s about $75 and it sounds AMAZING. You need 6 people to do it and need to make reservations ahead of time. Anyone reading this that lives in the area that would want to join John Paul and myself, let us know! We’d definitely be down for doing this!

Steak Night. South End. Back Bay. And coming soon, Brookline. A night of steaks, Flour, and lots and lots of red wine. Sometimes steak night has veggies (super-spicy asparagus or yummy green beans), but more often than not, it’s just meat, sweets, and alcohol. They learned from AB how to make the perfect steak. And perfect it is (at least 9 times out of 10). It’s one of my favorite nights of the month and I’m super happy when it happens more than once a month. Good friends, good wine (note to self: do not buy Writers Block again), and it’s always a plus when the next day your home and clothes still smell like steak.

Intermission Tavern. Theatre District. Yummy food, great bartenders, and awesome infused vodka. It’s usually low-key unless it’s before a show. My favorite is the Texas burger with the homemade potato chips. The burger is always perfectly cooked (medium for me) and the bbq sauce tastes great. I love the potato chips because they’re always super crispy and sometimes even come with ranch powder. However, the infused vodka is what gets me to keep coming back. I love the mango, but the pineapple and strawberry/kiwi taste terrific too. They all taste great on the rocks, with a splash of tonic, or with a cranberry & orange juice combo. Also, most drinks are under $10 so it’s a pretty good deal if you’re going to be drinking a lot, which has been known to happen on occasion.

Dino’s. North End. Best. Subs. Ever. Anyone who has ever eaten at Dino’s can attest their greatness. Their steak and cheese is by far the best steak and cheese I’ve ever eaten. I love their chicken parm and The Dino’s Special. The subs are so big, you can eat half before going out and then have the second half when you’re at home, craving food, after a long night of drinking. Their salads are also pretty scrumptious. They’re big enough to share between two people with some leftover. Subs aren’t more than $8 and salads are around the same. Dino’s used to be cash only, but within the last month or so, they’ve started taking cards.

Myers and Chang. South End. Asian tapas. Sounds strange, but it’s a great way to try food without being afraid of wasting it; if you hate it, just order something else. Most dishes are around $10 and they’re small, but big enough for two people to try. I like the green papaya slaw. It’s spicy but cool. I suggest sitting at the bar. You can watch as each chef creates your dish or dishes. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, Ms. Chang is there herself. And she’ll even talk to you (!!), which was obviously the highlight of my night.

Okay so I lied and it’s not my top ten, but I was on a roll and couldn’t stop.

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Yellow Curry Mussels

Comments (0) | Sunday, July 27, 2008

At the Great Bay Restaurant in Kenmore Square, there is a mussels in curry sauce appetizer. This turned out to be a simple dish to make at home. Here's the recipe:

2 - 2 1/2 pounds of mussels
1 tbls garlic (minced)
1 tbls shallot (minced)
2 tbls curry paste
2 tbls curry powder
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
1 loaf of Italian bread
2 tbls butter
2 tbls olive oil
2 cans of coconut milk

1. wash and de-beard the mussels
2. heat a pot or large frying pan on medium high
3. add the butter and oil
4. add the tomatoes, garlic, and shallots and cook for 5 minutes
5. add the coconut milk and curry paste and powder and simmer for 8-10 mins
6. add the mussels and cover, cook for 5 minutes
7. serve in big bowls and use the bread to soap up all the yummy curry goodness

We got the Italian bread at the South End Open Market this morning. In the parking lot of the BSC, there were 15-20 little tents with different types of wares for sale. Will have to grab some of the cool South End T-shirts one day.

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A Day With Abby's Family; Intermission Tavern (JP's Review)

Comments (1) | Saturday, July 26, 2008

So it's a lovely Saturday in Boston. The weather cannot be any better, low 80's with a slight breeze. Abby's parents came into town today to visit with us and see the new condo. They arrived around 10:00AM and I just finished cooking breakfast. Spicy homefries, scrambled eggs with cheese and peppers, and some crispy bacon. A very good hearty breakfast to fill up for a day full of walking.

Once Abby's brother showed up, we headed out on a nice walk. We went down Washington Street, choosing not to jump onto the Crack Taxi (Silver Line) pointing out all the great restaurants, bars and shops that are in our neighborhood to Abby's family. Her brother will actually be moving into the neighborhood in September and he's excited about being in the city.

After walking from our condo all the way through Chinatown, Downtown Crossing and finally getting to Faneuil Hall, we were all ready for a nice tasty beverage. We ducked down the stairs of Black Horse Tavern, a nice little bar in the heart of Faneuil Hall that is normally empty of tourists. Well, even with the normal urine smell and sticky floors, there were a handful of tourists having lunch. Very strange...this is not the type of place I would find myself into if I was walking around Boston for the first time. I mean, North End is right there with all the great restaurants. But, then again, I suggested this place for us knowing that the beers are nice and cold and we could have a conversation. We didn't linger too long, after a couple of Black and Tans we headed out and towards the North End. Abby's brother was hungry for a snack, and I knew the best place for it: Ernesto's.

Ernesto's, to me, is the best pizza joint in all of Boston. People will scream about Upper Crust and Bertuccis, but none of them compare to the large slices of Ernesto's. For anyone wanting to come here, remember that a slice of pizza is 1/4th of a whole pizza. It's sliced down the middle and is essentially two huge slices. Starting at $3.50 for a one topping pizza, it might be one of the best steals in Boston. Abby and I split a slice, as did her parents. Her brother, who was really hungry, got one to himself. I got the sausage and pepperoni and it was toasty and smoking hot out of the oven with just the right about of grease on top. Absolutely fabulous!

While we were finishing our pizza break, Abby's cousin Annie showed up to say hi. We walked down Salem to see the Old North Church and then cut across to get to Hanover St, which was partially shut down for the St. Josephs' Festival. There were a lot of little booths of food and games. I would have snacked there if I had known about this, but I think we made the right choice with Ernesto's. After checking out the festival, we headed out of North End towards the Financial District for another drink. We make a stop to The Times bar, which has a great outdoor patio. This is a relatively new bar to me, only discovered a couple of months ago. I gotta say...I like it. While we were sitting down and telling Abby's parents that we like this bar, they ask us "Are there any bars in this town you don't like?" Which is a pretty valid question, considering all day we were pointing out all our favorite watering holes and restaurants as we walked through the city. (This is a whole other blog topic, one that will come soon in a few days. A list of our favorites and least favorite places throughout Boston.)

Finally, we walked through the financial district, through downtown crossing and then into the Commons. After a quick stroll through the park, we headed to our dinner spot: Intermission Tavern.

Located on Tremont Street, opposite of the 7-11, lies Intermission Tavern. A bar that has great bartenders and waitstaff and surprisingly really, really good bar food. I mean, this is not a bar trying to make ultra-high end bar food, with saffron and foie gras burgers...no this is just a bar that takes bar food and does it really, really well. Juicy thick burgers, homemade potato chips, and tasty mac and cheese. Nothing pretentious at all. We start by ordering a drink that I'd like to take credit for inventing a couple of years ago at the Intermission Tavern, but I know I didn't. They have a few infused vodkas behind the bar, normally a pineapple, strawberry and kiwi, and mango, just to name a few. Today I got the pineapple vodka with orange juice and cranberry juice. Yes I know this is an already known drink for generations, but I still like to think I invented it with the infused vodkas. For dinner, Abby and her mom got burgers, and all the men got the Guinness battered fish and chips. I gotta say, I was slightly disappointed with the fish and chips. It was cooked perfectly, with the fish flaking at the touch, but the batter and the fish were a little bland. Maybe the seasonings were just forgotten during the battering process...I don't know. The fries were not greasy at all and very crispy. Abby got the potato chips with her burger and they were cooked perfectly. However, I remember the Intermission putting a ranch powder all over the chips, but not today. We have noticed that in the past, it all depends on who's cooking in the slightly open kitchen. We didn't recognize the crew working inside the hot kitchen today, so maybe that lead to the slight imperfections in our meal. Even so, we'll still come back and enjoy the infused vodkas and eat the good food.

I give Intermission Tavern a 4 out of 5.

Intermission Tavern on Urbanspoon

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Pho Republique (JP's Review)

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A couple of years ago I lived in the South End and I loved it. The South End is my favorite neighborhood in Boston. Parking is very doable, people are very friendly (very unlike the rest of Boston), and there are numerous restaurants and bars that range from extremely hip and trendy to casual. Pho Republique was a spot we would hit to start the night off, or if we were stumbling home along Washington St, to grab a night cap. Last month, after a year in Cambridge, I moved back to South End when we bought our new condo. We were both eager to start being more regulars at places that were only 2 blocks away from our place. Friday night, we started with Pho Republique.

In all the times we've ever come to Pho Republique, it was always for drinks, not food. I've never really looked at the food menu before, other than the fact that I was a little put off by the bowl of Pho listed for $13.50. Pho shouldn't cost more than $6. In Oklahoma, the average price is about $4. In Seattle, it's about $5. In Boston, because Boston loves jacking up prices for everything, the average price is probably a little more than $6. Pho, if you didn't know, is the quintessential dish of Vietnam. (I could write a lot more on pho, and I probably will in another post.) So, I realize that Pho Republique is not trying to be a traditional Vietnamese pho restaurant. It's a hip and trendy Asian fusion joint that is loved by locals and highly liked by reviewers. Since we wanted to start a food blog, we were going to finally eat at Pho Republique.

We walk in and immediately see something we haven't seen before: open seats at the bar. I was stoked. Every other time we've been here, we stood behind the lucky souls who had seats and had to avoid being hit by the servers carrying the large hot bowls of pho to the tables that run along the walls near the bar. We sit down and I ordered my typical starter drink, a Belvedere and tonic. Our bartender Griff is a pro. One of the best I've seen in Boston. He's friendly to everybody, talks to the strangers the same way he does the regulars, and makes the drinks nice and strong. (Side note, the couple on our right were talking sports and didn't know anything about anything! Normally my big mouth would lead me into trouble as I interject the correct sport facts as well as my own opinion trying to make them feel inferior and stupid about not knowing anything. I contained myself tonight...lucky them.) After Abby ordered her drink, some type of mojito I believe, we sat for a while looking over the menu.

The menu had about 7 or 8 appetizers, a few different types of pho (including crispy duck which sounded yummy) and some rice and noodle dishes that had more of a Thai and Chinese feel than Vietnamese. I was really hoping to try something that was traditional Vietnamese done on a different level. Looking at the menu, the only dish that fit that criteria was the pho, and while I might have looked over the price tag this one time, it was way too hot for me to eat a steaming bowl of hot broth and noodles. Abby and I asked Griff what was on the Pu Pu Platter ($24.50). He replied that there are usually 6 or 7 items with a few twists added from time to time. Today's twist was a cold, spicy noodle appetizer. The other items were the Tuna Sashimi Springrolls, the Shrimp Shumai, Gyozas, Pot Stickers, Candied Garlic Spareribs, and Crab Rangoon Eggrolls. It was served with three sauces: soy sauce, garlic say sauce, and plum sauce. In about 5 minutes after we ordered it, a waiter was right behind us asking us to move our drinks so he can place down the Pu Pu Platter. If anything in that bar other than the "33" beer was like Vietnam, this was it...the fast service was incredible. I noticed this same speedy service for our unknowledgeable sports fans sitting next to us as their Tuna Sashimi Springrolls came out a few minutes after they had ordered.

The special item noodles were very good cold lo mein style noodles with a nice liitle kick of spice. The crab rangoon eggrolls were good, but a little heavy. I probably couldn't order a whole plate of them on their own. I really, really enjoyed the tuna sashimi spring rolls, but I have one small complaint: spring rolls are typically not fried. This is a pet peeve of mine. For some reason a lot of people think spring rolls are synonymous with fried eggrolls. I dunno why this is, but I have an idea that the crappy Chinese take out places that people are so used to labeled their eggrolls as spring rolls. Well at most Vietnamese places, the un-fried, wrapped in rice paper rolls are Goi Cuan, and are labeled in English as spring rolls. Cha Gio, the deep fried cousin, is labeled as eggrolls. Nothing major, just my pet peeve. Anyway, back to the appetizers. The size of the tuna in the sashimi roll was incredible. The roll itself was the size of a small burrito. The rice was cooked perfectly and the fried outer shell was a nice complement to the sashimi. Very tasty, with and without the garlic soy sauce. The gyoza was somewhat sweet and was a pleasant surprise. The pot stickers and shumai were very typical of a Dim Sum restaurant, and this is not a complaint at all. Finally, the candied garlic spareribs were very tasty with it's sweet bar-b-que type of sauce. The meat was cooked perfectly, with the bones falling right off.

We didn't come to eat dinner, so we only had the Pu Pu Platter. We came to have a few drinks and relax after a long week. I had another Belvedere and tonic, then I moved onto one of their specialty drinks. Lisa was our bartender now, Griff was talking to some locals on the other end of the bar, and she suggested bourbon on the rocks. I'm not manly enough for that just yet, if ever. What caught my eye was the Lychee Martini. Not extremely original, because a lot of Asian fusion bars are serving something similar, but I really wanted some lychee to snack on. I asked Lisa for extra, and she obliged. The drink itself is gin, lychido, lychee and lime. Was refreshing and sweet, but I could probably only have one for a night.

Now for the big surprise...the bill came. In our heads we were thinking it would be over $95. Roughly $10 for each of our 6 drinks, and $25 for the pu pu platter. It was only $80. Which, while not extremely cheap at all, anytime I can get Belvedere and tonics for under $8, I'm a happy man.

I will eventually try more of the main entrees I promise, but overall, I love this bar. The bartenders are great, the drinks are great, everything about it is great. One of my favorite spots in Boston.

I give it 4 1/2 stars out of 5.

Pho Republique on Urbanspoon

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New Boston Food Blog

Comments (0) | Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hello!!!! Welcome to our new food blog.

So, what makes us qualified to have a food blog? Probably the same credentials that allowed thousands and thousands of others to start their own blogs: NOTHING! That's right, neither of us are chefs or have been trained at all. Though Abby has worked as a waitress in the past, and JP is known to be a pretty god-damn good home chef (it's my blog, I can make up lies and talk in the 3rd person if I want to), and we watch tons of Food Network, Top Chef, and anything Bourdain, we wanted to share our experiences and opinions on the many fine restaurants (Per Se, for example) and many hidden hole in the walls (i.e. Taco Loco) we've been lucky to have dined.

Along with restaurant reviews, we'll include our own favorite recipes and also expand out to another passion of ours : booze.

In the end, we just hope to be amusing to our family and friends, maybe be of some assistance to someone looking for a restaurant review on the web, and basically just have fun doing this.


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