Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Allston's Hidden Slice of Texas

You wouldn't guess it by the dark, unmarked exterior, but Lone Star Taco Bar is a vibrant, cozy place to warm up with gourmet tacos and Mexican beer. Everything about it echoes Deep Ellum - they're both owned by the same people - to the point that if feels like you're in some kind of Texan parallel universe next to its sister bar. And I have just as many good things to say about Lone Star as Deep Ellum.

It barely seems possible, but Lone Star is a little smaller than Deep Ellum, but in a cozy way. The old cowboy westerns playing on a TV above the bar, mounted bison head, and dim lighting (at least when we went around 9PM last Thursday) made you feel like you may have just stepped into Texas. Not a cheesy Hollywood version of Texas, but a cool, slightly upscale version where hipsters go for conversation and delicious food. There must be hipsters in Texas, right?

Lone Star was crowded when we got there, so we grabbed the last two seats at the bar, but by 10 it had nearly emptied out and we could hear the music again. The music was chill, but probably the only piece of the puzzle that didn't fit the authentic Texas feeling.

I couldn't resist trying the Chelado - the Pacifico on draft mixed with lime juice over ice with a salted rim. It managed to taste refreshing but not watered down at all. Brittany tried the Chica Facil (haha), a delicious blend of tequila, aperol, lime, agave, and orange bitters.

Baja Fish and Carnitas Pork Tacos
Then we moved on to the difficult food decision - everything on the taco menu looked great, but we could only eat so much (especially since I had already technically had dinner). I got the Baja Fish of the Day while Brittany chose the Carnitas Pork and the Grilled Avocado with Griddled Queso. She had been to Lone Star before so she prepared me for how great they would be, but I was still in awe. The balance of hot/cold, sweet/savory in my fish taco was exactly right.

Brittany and I followed up our first drinks with Pacifico on tap - only $4 for a pint of a decent Mexican beer.

It was a great place to catch up and adventure into some unique TexMex flavors. The Lone Star bartenders were great, too - attentive and clearly skilled at their job.

Although the tacos were gourmet, we were a little disappointed to learn after eating from one of our bartenders that the real deal at Lone Star are the tostadas: only $5 for a heaping pile of delicious ingredients. Not as gourmet or as meticulously made as the tacos, which are in a class of their own, but still delicious and at a great price.

I feel like I say this about most bars I visit... but I'll definitely be going back.

P.S. For those keeping track, no, we didn't go to jm Curley like we promised in our last blog post. By the time Brittany was done with classes and work on her long-day Thursday, we went for something closer to home. But jm Curley is still on the to-do list!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tapped in Allston: Drinking (at Home) on a Budget

This week, due to lack of funds and high stress, Alicia and I decided to give our readers a new take on our Tapped in Allston lifestyle. We approached the night with two major goals: put together our trifecta of a kitchen cart turned counter space and dining area, and make a strongly worded phone call to Comcast due to our lack of internet. What better way to accept this challenge than with a much-needed Sangria buzz? The best part about this stay-at-home adventure is that it barely cost a thing and we could stay in our sweatpants as it happened.

Alicia and I are personally huge fans of making our own Sangria, so all we needed was to pick up a bottle of wine from our all-too-convenient Brookline Liquor Mart and add the rest. Having an awesome liquor store, where the staff can quickly lead you to a bottle of wine you've never tasted, as well as supply you with the classics (Sam Adams Harvest Collection/Blue Moon) has made quality drinking at home that much more affordable.

Our next door neighbors: Brookline Liquor Mart

Every Sangria recipe is completely different, which is perfect since we wanted to keep it simple and use most of what we already had. We used a $5 bottle of Headbutt red wine, sugar, rum, and Sprite (unfortunately we had no fruit to add). Before we could set out to take care of our kitchen cart, we cooked a quick dinner and enjoyed it where we spend most of our dinners - on the living room floor. This feels like an important detail to mention, since this project stopped us from going out this week.

The many pieces of our kitchen cart had been sitting in our hallway for about a week, and with our two chairs completed (shout out to Sam Ratner), we were ready to commit to the project. I've never considered us a handy pair, but it did feel pretty good to build it ourselves in a little over an hour.

The Final Product!

As to not disappoint ourselves and our readers (specifically our family) we promise to follow this post up with a MUCH more exciting one when we head to jm Curley later this week! 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Beers at The Avenue

Sorry readers and drinkers, we've waited far too long to blog about our antics in the city. Moving, traveling, work, and starting up school and a new internship have added up to not enough free time and free energy for our beloved blog. But don't worry! We've been going out plenty in the past month.

At long last, this past Thursday we chose The Avenue to grab a few drinks and catch up. It's surprising how even as roommates we can end up seeing each other so infrequently. The Avenue was the perfect choice: not too bright or too dark, not too loud even with some games on, just a couple blocks from home, and enough good beer options to keep us drinking.

The Avenue's beer board from July

Despite being located so close to some less-desirable college bars like White Horse and Tavern in the Square (commonly known as TITS - does that tell you anything?), The Avenue has a great vibe. The wall of taps and a giant chalkboard over the bar show off how many options there are to drink at good prices - most beers on tap are $5, some heavier options are a little more, and bud light is always $3.50. The bar is pretty small but has a lot of seating and I've only ever waited for a table on Mondays when burgers cost a dollar (that's right - $1 and totally worth it).

Not only was the beer selection great, but so was the service. I've had decent enough service when I've been at The Avenue in the past, but last week we had an exceptional server, Kyle. He was always checking up on us, never let our glasses empty, and offered his advice on beer based on our tastes. Without asking, I even got a small glass to taste Shipyard Pumpkinhead when he realized I didn't like the Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale I had tried first. I found the Smuttynose too bitter and hoppy with not enough pumpkin flavor. Although I already knew what Shipyard Pumpkinhead tastes like, I certainly didn't turn down his offer for a free taste!

Probably laughing at how ridiclous
we always feel taking pictures with
our beer
As I told Brittany at The Avenue, I have a scale of pumpkin beers, and Smuttynose fell on the far end of too bitter. However, Shipyard is too sweet, like drinking a liquified pumpkin pie. But Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin? Just right.

For a second beer I ended up trying the Jack's Abby Jabby Brau, which I had heard of through Boston craft beer circles, and was a little disappointed. It was completely drinkable, but not much more, and I like a little more flavor and excitement to my beer. I finished with Avery Ellie's Brown Ale, which I really enjoyed. It reminded me I should try brown ales more often. They'll probably be a better option once we work our way through the fall beers filling our fridge and need some heavier options for winter!

Meanwhile, Brittany started with one of her favorites, Sam Adams Octoberfest. I think I'm the only beer drinker I know that doesn't like Octoberfest. I preferred her second beer, the Brooklyn Oktoberfest, but Brittany definitely did not and switched right back to Sam Adams.

We didn't eat at The Avenue this week, but I've been plenty of times in the past with friends for dollar burgers. Don't let the price fool you: these burgers are always a good choice, even for the regular prices (nothing over $10, most under $5, including some amazing sweet potato tots).

I'm ready to go back already.

Monday, August 27, 2012

We Love Restaurant Week

After a three week hiatus from Tapped in Boston we realized that the only way to remain in our readers' good graces was by going BIG, and what better time than one of the four weeks a year that all of the fanciest and completely unaffordable (to our broke selves) restaurants create fixed menus where you can get a three course meal for $33.12. Last year, for our first Restaurant Week as roommates, we went to The Beehive and loved it so much that we decided to go back for more this year.

The Beehive is located in the South End, fittingly not too far from the SoWa Vintage Market. The Beehive is one of my favorite places for a few reasons. Though it's an upscale restaurant, it features nightly music including jazz and funk newcomers, as well as a collection of art scaling the high walls from seemingly unknown artists. This year we had front row seats to the musical stylings of Baron Brown & Bruce Bartlett with the AB's, an ensemble consisting of four musicians playing freestyle funk, cues based purely on exchanged glances. The Beehive wants you to enjoy your $12 martini in a place that surrounds you with hipster/bohemian culture, making it feel a little more like home.

When we walked into The Beehive we could not have been more excited to be seated about ten feet away from the small stage. Unfortunately for our server, our expectations from last year were set too high to accept his unenthusiastic personality that lasted from when he first approached us until the moment that we left the restaurant. Luckily for us, The Beehive has enough personality to make up for his.

For our first drinks I went with the Valentino Martini (vodka, blood orange, passion fruit, $11) while Alicia went with one of the many "bubbly cocktails," Persian Kitty (champagne, pomegranate, ginger liquor, $11.50). It took a lot of deliberating to decide our three courses, I ultimately went with Lobster Bisque, Chicken Piccata, and Bread Pudding as dessert. Three choices I have no regrets about, especially the Bread Pudding - it was topped with a thick cream and maple syrup that made the dessert taste like thick and chewy pancakes - possibly the best dessert I've ever had. Never one to leave without a second round Alicia went with the Hemingway Daiquiri (pretty much the same recipe as the drink of the same name at Deep Ellum) and I went for the Queen Bee. We weren't disappointed.

Once our bank accounts recover from the hit they took from restaurant week, we will absolutely be returning to this perfectly mood-lit bar.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

National Tequila Day at Sunset Cantina

I'm the first to admit I'm addicted to Twitter. I don't miss many tweets during the week and have met a few people through Twitter but never in real life. I'm not entirely sure what that says about me, but I know one thing: it's told me about news and events I wouldn't have known about so quickly, if at all, without Twitter -- including Drink Craft Beer Summerfest and free tickets to the Odyssey Cruise on the Boston Harbor. What did I learn today? It's National Tequila Day.

Brittany and I originally planned to check out The Lower Depths in Kenmore Square last night, but decided to postpone that trip in favor of a classic tequila spot just down the road: Sunset Cantina. There were a lot of tempting tequila menus elsewhere in the city, but not with similar prices. And of course by the end of the night we realized it's still nothing in comparison to Border Cafe. (If this blog teaches you anything about getting good, cheap Mexican food in Boston, it should be to go to Border Cafe.)

I happen to be very familiar with the margarita list and over 100 tequilas at Sunset Cantina - for the past few months, it's been home to biweekly "Pay Day Margaritas Fridays" with my coworkers. Between that and several past visits to Sunset Grill and Tap, their mirror restaurant with a staggering beer selection, I knew we'd be in for some delicious drinks and Mexican food. Thankfully Brittany and I came with growling stomachs and were ready to make the most of the tequila holiday.

By the end of the night, we had just about demolished two large plates of vegetable quesadilla and blackened swordfish tacos along with four margaritas. It was a delicious way to spend National Tequila Day. The four margaritas, all on the rocks with a salt or sugar rim, were:
  • Lime and coconut margarita (Margaritaville Lime and Coconut Tequila, sour mix, coconut): my favorite - strong coconut flavor and light alcohol taste
  • Melon Rita (Margaritaville Tangerine, Midori, triple sec, sour mix, lime wedge): sweet and strong
  • Horny Margarita (Sauza Hornitos Plata, Sour Mix, a splash of pineapple with sugared rim): insert "horny" joke here... love the drink, hate the name
  • Perfecto Margarita (Sauza Hornitos, fresh lime and lemonade with agave nectar): strong and a great taste of lime
For $8 or $9 each, these weren't the cheapest drinks in the city but far from the most expensive - in the end, not a bad price to pay for tasty margaritas with good company, even if it's not affordable for every night. It was certainly a good way to spend one of my new favorite holidays, National Tequila Day!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Drink Craft Beer Summerfest

Last weekend I had an amazing time volunteering at the Drink Craft Beer Summerfest: A Celebration of Farmhouse Ale. Unfortunately Brittany didn't make the volunteer cut, but we'll both be marking our calendars for the next one. The event was held at the Center for Arts at the Armory in Somerville and I can't say enough good things. Devon and Jeff, the founders of the awesome Drink Craft Beer website - and community - hosted dozens of local brewers and a few local food vendors (Quinn Vermont maple and sea salt popcorn? Yes please!) for a fun night with chill music and company.

An event that supports good, local beer is certainly a worthy cause for any beer lover and beer blogger, so I was particularly excited for the opportunity to volunteer at Summerfest and give a little bit back to the community I've been learning more and more about since launching this blog.

The event didn't disappoint: as volunteers we spent the night carrying ice, keeping the water flowing, cutting up temporary tattoos (we're pro kindergartners), and checking on the brewers - while also getting to taste some delicious beers. Everyone involved was great company and I even got to meet some Twitter friends in real life. I only regret not staying to help out at the evening session and chill with the brewers at the end of the night!

I can't possibly list all the beers on tap at the Summerfest (luckily Drink Craft Beer already did that for me), but my favorites:
  • Peak Organic Brewing Company: Pomegranate Wheat (5.9%) - so sweet and light
  • John Harvard's Brewery: The British East India Company’s Tonic - Sour Mashed Saison with Lime and Juniper (5.7%) - like a margarita in a beer glass, sour and delicious
  • Downeast Cider House: Downeast Cider Original Blend (5.1%) - you could taste the natural ingredients, so refreshing and probably the best cider I've ever tried
Here's to the next beer festival!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Perks of Bloggin', The Odyssey Life

As a server and a young professional, there are just not enough times that we can get away with wearing dresses and heels, let alone drink martinis in those dresses and heels. Now that is class. Keeping our love for a fancy occasion in mind, how could we not jump on the opportunity for a Boston Skyline Dining Cruise aboard the Odyssey?

\We first found out about free tickets through Rachel Leah Blumenthal of Boston Food Bloggers, knowing it meant a three-course meal on a boat with a beautiful view of the Boston skyline, and the opportunity to meet some fellow bloggers.

We went into the night with about $20 for each of us for drinks, enough to enjoy some drinks while being responsible attendees. Only once we were aboard did we find out there would be an OPEN BAR in addition to our glass of free champagne. Not just any old limited-option open bar either; we're talking full menu, VIP-status open bar. A newly 21-year-old's dream. And everyone else seemed just as excited.

We were immediately blown away by the attentive service of our man Drew, who not only informed us of the open bar but saw to it that we had a drink in front of us throughout the entire night. The three-course meal was spaced over the few hours we were on board and allowed us time to enjoy the view. live music, and the firing of the USS Constitution's cannon at sunset.

Surrounded by fellow food bloggers we learned a lot about what the blogger life is like; as it turns out, it's a good time and involves other foodie events like "The Bacon Takedown." No need for further explanation. Shout out to Oh Cake's Jessica Hose, Food Writer Cristin Nelson, and their husbands for excellent dinner company and insider knowledge.  

But back to the open bar. After a long look at the extensive drink menu, for my first drink I decided on something on the sweeter side, the Key Lime Martini, complete with graham cracker rim, while Alicia went with "The Perfect Storm," a amped up Dark N' Stormy. Both great choices.

After our perfectly paced bread-drink-salad - we didn't want to be those girls - we were ready for our second drink, which is where we found our favorites. For Alicia, it was the Maui Sunrise (Absolut, Dekupyer Amaretto, Soco, OJ, sweet and sour, and grenadine) and for me the St. Germain Cocktail (Grey goose vodka, St Germain, champagne, and an edible orchid), which might actually be my favorite martini to date. I don't recommend eating the orchid, it tastes like what you think a flower would taste like. 

The Perfect Storm, Key Lime Maritini, and Champagne
Maui Sunrise and St. Germain Cocktail
Not only did we love the drinks, but we were blown away by the size of our entrees, Alicia got the salmon and I got roasted vegetables, my first experience with ratatouille. We loved both, and I only regretted not getting the ribs after trying a piece off of Jessica's plate. I ate as much as my dress would allow before we decided to head up to the three decks to get a view of the city before the sun went down. 

The Odyssey has three decks, one that's level with the dining room, one in the middle with a bar and dining tables, as well as a deck on top where you can sit and enjoy the breeze. When the majority of our table had retreated back to the dining room, we were brought our desserts: mine a red velvet cake and Alicia's the New York style cheesecake. One of the many joys of having a sister is that you can never be judged for eating off of her plate. I counted my blessings more than once last night. 

The live music of the evening was an amazing trio of musicians on board, including one of the most soothing singing voices I've ever heard. The music set the vibe just right for the evening, more for the 20 couples celebrating their anniversaries than for diners like Alicia and I, but I was down with it. 

I'd recommend a dinner cruise for anyone looking for a classy night out - as long as you can afford it or find free tickets! Bring your friends or your honey and prepare to be wined and dined. Especially if an open bar is involved.