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.

Monday, July 9, 2012

French Fries and Hemingway

The combination of french fries and Hemingway can only mean one thing, if you're familiar with Boston bars: Deep Ellum.  An early Thursday night at this small spot in Allston ended up being much more indulgent visit than we expected.

Awkwardly laughing at the flash in the dimly lit bar
After starting with a couple bottles of Blue Moon and Leffe Blonde at home  (and after a lot of debate about where to go), we made our way to nearby Allston for a drink or two. Those familiar with the center of Harvard Ave in Allston may not have heard of Deep Ellum - it's tucked a little farther down Brighton Ave, past Silhouette, in the small corner of Union Square. The exterior is fairly nondescript and blends in with the surrounding Allston drab, but the menu is something else entirely.

From what I had read, I knew Deep Ellum would have a good list of craft beers, bottled and on tap. I had been here once before and also remembered the bitters-filled mixed drink offerings. The restaurant has a comfortable atmosphere, feeling like a dive with class thanks to the dim lighting, dark wood and brick walls, and classic martini menu that made me feel like I was time traveling in Midnight in Paris - all the while balanced out with the tattooed servers, young crowd, and rock music that let you know you're definitely still in present-day Allston. The added touch of a longhorn bull skull above the bar speaks to (surprise!) their inspiration from the original Deep Ellum, a cultural hub in Dallas.

The menu wasn't too long or complex but had such diverse and unique offerings that it took us some time to decide. Wanting to try both a beer and martini, we were immediately drawn to the Hemingway Daiquiri (Santa Teresa Rum, grapefruit, Luxardo Maraschino, lime) because it looked great and just seemed to fit with the atmosphere. We also agreed that the Clown Shoes Clementine (Belgian Style White Ale - 5%) sounded delicious - and it's local to Mass!

Luckily for us, both of our choices were good ones. The martini had a muddled look with lemon twist right in the drink. It managed to be sweet, tart, and bitter at the same time - a delicious balance to sip on. The Clementine was a great choice as well; the smell of clementine (or orange, how can you tell the difference?) was strong, as was the taste. It had a bolder flavor than Blue Moon and went down smooth.

The food menu also looked pretty good, and a recent Boston Magazine article had pointed us in the direction of truffled gorgonzola fries. When we asked our waitress for advice, she didn't hesitate to recommend them as well, so we went for it. We weren't expecting the massive plate of unbelievably delicious fries that came out, crispy and doused in a white truffle sauce with chunks of gorgonzola. We couldn't stop shaking our heads in disbelief at how tasty they were. It was a little heavy for us to finish after dinner, but we did, and it was so worth it. And worth every penny (and more) for $6!

With my 6:30 wake-up time, we decided to head home early. Our stomachs were full, but we could have explored Deep Ellum's drink menu more. And we were disappointed when we realized we missed out on the cute outdoor patio in back. It's definitely a place to go back to again (and again).