What I’m Loving Lately

I actually had to search my own blog to see if I’ve previously done a post with this title, because it sounded so familiar. But good news – I haven’t! So here’s a little round-up of a few things I’m loving lately, because I don’t want to write a whole blog post on each of them (and I don’t think that would be nearly as fun for you to read, either).

Blaze Pizza

I’ll start with full disclosure…Blaze sent me two free pizza vouchers, and those are what Jeff and I used the first time we tried this place. But we have also been talking non-stop about it, and have made plans to return on a couple of occasions. (Both plans were foiled for a variety of reasons, but that’s not important.)

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I describe Blaze Pizza as “Subway, but with pizza”. For a flat fee (thick crust is extra…and worth it), you go down the line and pick as many toppings as you want. Then the pizza is fast-fired at an extremely hot temperature, and ready for you in minutes. You can also add finishing touches after the pizza is done, like balsamic vinegar or – oh baby – ranch dressing. While I was happy with the creation I made above, I was very jealous of Jeff’s pizza, which escaped into his stomach before I could get a photo of it. Guess we’ll just have to go back so he can recreate it and I can get my picture! Blaze is a national chain so look for your closest location here.

Wither Hills Pinot Noir

As most of you know, I’ve tried a lot of wines in my day. And I’m sure I’ve tried a New Zealand Pinot Noir somewhere along the way. But a recent standout for me was the Wither Hills Pinot Noir from Marlborough, New Zealand (again, full disclosure, a sample sent to me free of charge).

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I opened it on a random Monday night and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this wine! Paired with a sundried tomato and goat cheese salad with falafel (from my favorite Allston spot Inbound Pizza…oh how I miss it), this made for a fantastic dinner and was a great way to kick off the week ahead. Wither Hills is distrubuted in MA and is not too pricey at all, so keep an eye out or ask for it in your local liquor store! Bonus points for the easy twist-top.

Cypress Grove Cheese

I tried Cypress Grove cheese during the Wine Riot that took place here in Boston in October. Holy truffle. I try a lot of cheeses at various events, but it’s rare that one sticks with me enough mentally that I spot it at the store and buy it to have at home. Every bite of this stuff is an amazing experience. Look for it in your local Whole Foods. As you can see from the photo below, you may even find it on sale!

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Chicken Salad

I wrote a post over the summer about being psyched to eat something other than a salad for lunch. During that time, my lunch of choice was a wrap made with deli turkey. Now, it is chicken salad. And not the fancy kind with walnuts or grapes. I’m talking classic rotisserie chicken salad from the deli counter, and I usually dip Trader Joe’s veggie chips into it. Now I just need to move somewhere warm so I can have Publix chicken salad, the best ever, all the time. I’m not going to include a photo of chicken salad here because it’s not photogenic at all.

The North Star

Folks who know my usual taste in restaurants will be surprised by this one, but hear me out. I’ve been going to The North Star for a couple of years now to watch University of Tennessee football games, since it’s where the Boston alumni chapter meets. But this past season Jeff and I have been going to watch more of those games, and to watch University of Houston (Jeff’s alma mater) games too, especially now that we live so close.

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That has resulted in trying more of The North Star’s food, and discovering that they even serve brunch. But not just any brunch, a really REALLY good brunch. Seriously, even if you aren’t heading to a game at the TD Garden, or going to watch sports, check out brunch at The North Star. We were both really pleasantly surprised by it, and the lunch/dinner food is great too. Classic bar food, but it doesn’t try to be anything it’s not, as in it doesn’t try too hard.

Ready to watch Houston, and eat nachos.

Ready to watch Houston, and eat nachos.

That’s what I’m loving lately – now let me know what you’re loving in the comments!

Recent Boston Eats

It’s been awhile since I shared some of the good food I’ve experienced here in Boston, so I figured I’d comb through my camera roll and highlight anything I found in there that was taken recently. In my eyes, if I took a picture then the food must have been good (the exception, of course, being if the lighting was awful…in that case, no photographs are taken).

Bar Mezzana: Pasta

If you haven’t tried Bar Mezzana yet, drop what you are doing and go there now. You don’t even have to read the rest of this post; I’m confident the experience you end up having will tell you why I’m recommending it. The restaurant is located in the South End’s luxury Ink Block apartment complex and focuses on pastas, raw seafood, fresh crusty bread topped with all varieties of spreads, and prosciutto with house mozz. LOTS of house mozz.

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I personally cannot stay away from the pastas. I’ve sampled three so far and can’t wait to return for more. I’d recommend all of those three: orecchiette with sausage and fennel, paccheri with lobster, and another variety with rabbit that looks like it’s off the menu now (darn). For dessert, go for an espresso martini. Bar Mezzana’s bar staff is super knowledgeable and this espresso martini is probably the best I’ve ever had.

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4 Favorite Dinners (And What They Mean)

I have really enjoyed cooking dinners for Jeff and I to enjoy together at home, even before we moved in together (check out my Pinterest account to see almost every recipe I’ve ever made). This post first started as a sort of round-up of four favorite home-cooked meals that we both have loved. However, I realized after I picked out the four that they all had a common theme. They were all meals that I would not have made for myself at home (as-is, at least) a couple of years ago…or even a year ago.

I used to consider home-cooked meals my “chance” to have complete, 100% control over ingredients and cooking methods. That meant making everything as “clean” as possible (very little fats, if any…veggie based…carbs only if I had worked out that day). In my head, this off-set any meals that I had out or bites and drinks I enjoyed at events I attended. So when sharing these four favorite dinners, I’d also like to highlight what about each dish makes it a big step for me, and shows how far I have come in my search for letting go and just enjoying food.

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To this day I still am not a HUGE fan of rice, but Jeff loves it. He had mentioned jambalaya to me several times, so I decided to try my hand at making it using an easy recipe from Cook, Craft, Love. I considered doing the rice on the side and having none or only a little, but what good is a deconstructed jambalaya? So I just made it all in one pot, just like the recipe asked, and actually ended up really enjoying it…rice (carb) and all.

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Exploring Plum Island With Maven

I received my Drive Maven experience as well as some of the food in this post free of charge, but opinions of my experiences are 100% my own.

Jeff and I had a great time during our recent trip to Blue Inn in Plum Island, MA. That was thanks in part to our mode of transportation, a red 2016 Cadillac ATS from Maven. Maven is a car-sharing service, similar to ZipCar, that is offered in Boston, LA , Chicago, and other large cities. But the biggest – and best – difference from ZipCar is that, for a limited time, Maven is free to join! Once I heard about that major benefit, I was completely on board when the company offered us a car to take on our weekend getaway.

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Maven has nine different vehicle pickup locations in Boston, and we picked the one closest to our Charlestown apartment, the Government Center parking garage. The Maven app actually serves as the keys to your car. Once next to our Cadillac, I was able to use my phone to unlock the vehicle. Jeff also downloaded the app onto his phone and, signed in under my account, had access to unlock and lock the car as well. Which worked out well, since I usually (always) ask him to drive.

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Getaway to Blue in Plum Island

Though I received my stay at Blue Inn free of charge, my opinions are 100% my own. In short, I’d pay to go back in a second!

I have never encountered a Lark Hotels location I didn’t love (I’ve stayed at Gilded in Newport, and dined at Whitehall in Camden), and last Sunday’s visit to Blue Inn, located in Plum Island, MA, was no exception. The Plum Island and Newburyport area have always been special to Jeff and me, because we took our first overnight trip there as a couple and also visited Plum Island on one of our first dates. Staying at Blue sounded great to us because we already know the area (well, Jeff does), so the trip felt like a staycation despite us being almost an hour away from Boston. Blue picked out a gorgeous ocean view king suite for us, which somehow managed to feel like a quaint beach house while also feeling fabulous and luxurious.

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I always appreciate a combo of beach and fall decor!

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New Normal

As I started to write this post, and fill in the title, it sounded familiar to me. So I entered “new normal” into the search term field on my own blog, and this post came up…from November of 2013. Back then I was still living in Connecticut, on the hunt for a new job but with 90+ Cellars and Boston nowhere in sight. Reading the post now is funny. In it I feel guilty for some pretty silly things, and reassure myself by basking in habits that I now no longer have. It’s really kind of sad to read, but I know it was all part of the recovery process.

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I had Columbus Day off yesterday, so Jeff and I went over to Night Shift Brewery, which encourages bringing your own food. So we brought Wendy’s. I went to a half hour bootcamp that morning, but didn’t think twice about the fact that I “only” worked out for half an hour and was eating fast food. I ordered what I wanted. I stopped when I was full (which happened to be when all my food was gone). There was no mental agonizing over that fact. There was no carb counting. There was just me enjoying a gorgeous fall day off with my boyfriend. Though critical thoughts about my body and eating/workout habits are still present, they are so much easier now to push out of my head, and move past. This is my current new normal.

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Cooking Classes at Tavern Road

Though I received this experience free of charge, all opinions are my own.

Though I haven’t been writing too much lately thanks to an issue with my comments (they all disappeared and I’m not sure where they went…has this ever happened to anyone else?), that doesn’t mean I haven’t had anything to write about. I’ve got a few upcoming posts planned, sharing both fun events I’ve been to and some cool stuff I’ve got coming up. This post falls into the former category. Last month, I got the chance to try one of Tavern Road’s new cooking classes with my friends Matt, Georgina, and Jeannie. Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday night!

Tavern Road is located in Boston’s Fort Point, between the Seaport and Southie. The food, drink, and decor of the restaurant mirror the creativity and innovation often found in the neighborhood (there seems to be public art around every corner). The bar program, headed up by Insta-celeb Tenzin Samdo, is a go-to of mine for both funky and classic cocktails. Chef Louis DiBiccari’s menu of “street food” is mostly small-plates, influenced by global cuisine while composed of an impressive amount of local ingredients. Personal favorites include the burger, anything involving bluefish pate, and all of the tacos.

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Though Tavern Road has hosted wine and guest chef dinners for awhile now, Chef Louis recently started teaching these weekly cooking classes with a focus on using ingredients purchased from the farmers market as recently as that afternoon. Each Tuesday at 6:30PM, students gather for hands-on learning – and eating. And let’s be honest, if there’s eating involved, I’m very likely to say, “I’m in!” So, I did.

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Sayonara, Salads

The title of this post is a bit ironic because while writing this I was eating a salad (the Cobb from Ward 8 – HIGHLY recommend). But today I’d like to talk about salads, and how I am eating less of them, and why I am psyched about that.

I realize that that’s pretty strange. Most people spend their days saying they should eat more salads. But having at least one salad per day has been a “rule” I’ve had for myself for a long time now, even after making huge progress in my recovery from an eating disorder. Ever since graduating from college in 2011 and starting full-time work, I have packed a salad for lunch almost every single day. I have often told people who asked that I do it to save money, but truthfully it has always been easier to allow myself to have wine or carbs in the evening if I am able to tell myself I had a carb-less, green lunch.  Salads have been my security blanket. I have choked down raw spinach – lunches I’ve hated – more times than I can count. I have refrained from wrapping up dinner at restaurants and taking it home, because I didn’t want to be tempted to pack it for lunch the next day instead of a salad. I have turned down free lunch at work (in fact, I did this every Friday for 2.5 years at my first job in Connecticut) in favor of a salad I had no desire to eat.

Frankly, I have just gotten SO SICK of salads.

So about a month ago at the store, I did something I hadn’t in a long time – I approached the deli counter. I bought turkey, and Muenster cheese, and wraps. And I started making myself turkey wraps to bring to work. And I LOVE it. It has been so nice to actually look forward to what I packed for lunch. It’s wonderful to eat my food and move on and not sit at my desk dreaming of what else I could eat or have obsessive thoughts about what I will have for dinner since I “earned” it with my salad. By making my lunch less of a big deal, food is less of a big deal, and I feel more free.

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Free to order pasta out at restaurants, something I couldn’t do last year.

Obviously I’m still going to want a salad every now and then, especially since many delicious salads exist, like the aforementioned Ward 8 Cobb or the taco salad I made for Jeff and I a couple of months ago.

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Nantucket Wine Fest 2016

I actually started this post as a “Five Highlights Of Summer” thing, but quickly realized I had too much to say about and too many pictures from Nantucket Wine Fest to not make it its own post, despite the fact that the event took place three months ago! But wine, parties, and fabulous New England destinations never get old, so let’s get to it.

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My favorite spot on the island (and unfortunately the most expensive) is Cru!

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Cheesin’ in the Vineyard Vines store in town.

ACK Wine Fest weekend took place during my last two weeks at 90+ Cellars, and I can’t think of a better send-off. This was my third (and definitely not last) time in Nantucket for this crazy whirlwind of work, parties, food, wine, and general ridiculousness. And I got to bring Jeff with me and share the fun with him!

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My New Neighborhood ClassPass Workouts

Starting a new job and moving to a new neighborhood in June meant a change to my workout routine! Thankfully ClassPass (click that link to get $30 off your first month, and full disclosure, I get $30 off too) has options all over Boston, so the service I use has stayed the same, but the classes I pick have now mostly changed from those I used to attend. Since I live in Charlestown and work in the North End, I’m mostly attending workouts in those two areas of the city.

Exhale Battery Wharf

I’ve been to the Exhale in Back Bay before, but had never gone to the Battery Wharf location until I moved. I actually prefer it over Back Bay! No need to take an elevator to the locker room, and the entire studio feels more sleek and zen to me…maybe because it’s on the second floor and I can’t see shadows walking by when I’m in barre. The 7:05 AM morning classes have been really convenient, especially since Exhale offers the nicest locker rooms I’ve ever been in, complete with provided robes and shower flip flops (it’s SO great not to pack those). I’ve tried regular Core Fusion Barre, Cardio + Barre (half an hour of cardio followed by half an hour of barre…loved this), Extreme (this was set up with five bootcamp stations), and Yoga. It will always be hard for me to get through a normal hour long barre or yoga class without getting antsy, but the Cardio Barre and Extreme classes both fly by, despite them being the same length. I’ve also yet to have a bad instructor at any Exhale location – always a plus.

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Image from Exhale on Instagram

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