Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Eating Well in Boston

   I don’t think it’s a big secret that I love to eat good food. I think that it’s an improvement from my previous position of just loving to eat…nearly any food. As I age and grow wiser, I try to make better decisions on how I treat my body and that starts with what I put in it. That said, when I’m at home I follow a strict diet and try to give myself a fighting chance to enjoy my later years. This also has the benefit of make those times when I indulge purely for the joy of taste less detrimental to my overall plan.

   I don’t eat out too often, but when I do I’m very selective in where I go and what I eat. I look for places that can present healthy choices  (relatively speaking considering how I eat at home) without sacrificing extraordinary taste. Once I find such a place, they gain a loyal customer…and I gain weight (LOL!). 

   I have decided to showcase my top five favorite places to eat. If you live in the Boston area, treat yourself and check these places out. If you don’t live here but find yourself visiting for a bit, treat yourself and check these places out. I present them in alphabetical order…because that’s just how my OCD works.

1.) Al Wadi Lebanese Restaurant - West Roxbury, MA

   If you don’t like Lebanese food, stop now. I happen to LOVE Mediterranean food with a particular emphasis on the Lebanese flavor. The price range is moderate, especially for the amount of food you get. In fact, if I have one complaint, it’s the amount of food you get. After ordering a bunch of small appetizers before the main course (because there are so many I wanted to try that I couldn’t settle on just one), I found myself completely stuffed by the time the main dish arrived! Understand, this is not a real complaint, but a testament to the fact that you can walk in this place, order a few appetizers, and be completely satisfied…stuffed in fact. My favorite combination of “appetizer” dinner is: Warak Enab - A tasty mix of parsley, onions, tomatoes, rice and a hint of lemon wrapped in grape leaves. Fatayer Sabenegh - Mini pies prepared with fresh dough stuffed with spinach, lemon and sumac. Arnabeet Mekleh - Hand cut Cauliflowers lightly fried and served with tahini sauce. On top of that, the atmosphere is relaxing, the staff is courteous and personable, and the food is phenomenal.

2.) Fairmount Grille - Hyde Park, MA

   This place has quickly become the only place to be in Hyde Park if you’re hungry. After the space went through a few eateries, the current owner struck gold with the combination of talent he has brought together. Without a doubt, Chef Jako is one of the best in the business. Claiming that the spirits of all the great chefs of the past speak to him while cooking, I’m inclined not to argue since the culinary euphoria is real. I don’t want it to become a recurring theme (nor do I want to reveal my greed) but portion sizes is again an issue…that’s not really an issue. I have to be absolutely starving to actually finish a plate here, otherwise…I’m bringing something home. On top of all this, the drinks are among the best in the entire city. My usual delight is the Baked Atlantic Haddock - baked with lemon, white wine, butter, topped with seasoned bread crumbs with pesto rice and broccolini. Yes…I have tried to duplicate the pesto rice at home. No…I have not been successful. I’m quickly becoming a regular, and loving every bite.

UPDATE: This restaurant has closed.

3.) In House Cafe - Allston, MA

   Just mentioning this place is making my mouth water…and I’m not even hungry as I write this. They tout themselves as serving the freshest food…and you can certainly taste the difference. I usually frequent this place for a better breakfast than you are going to get anywhere else. Really…if you’re going to one of those other chain restaurants and thinking you’re having a good breakfast, this place will make you realize that eating garbage is not a good breakfast. Of course they serve lunch and dinner as well, but I’m never in the area for dinner and only periodically in the area for lunch. The larger point though is that when I’m in the area, this is where I’ll be eating at. The staff is very appreciative of recurring customers and remember who you are to the point of anticipating what you will be eating when you arrive. They already know when they see me that I’m probably going to order the Mediterranean Omelette - Spinach, fresh tomato, feta cheese and a hint of roasted garlic or the Falafel Wrap (with hummus) - Lettuce or parsley with tomato, turnips or pickles and tahini sauce. I always leave here looking forward to returning.

UPDATE: This restaurant has closed.

4.) Sophia Italian Steakhouse - West Roxbury, MA

   A little bit on the pricey side, it’s totally understandable for the atmosphere they provide and incredible food they serve. Everyone should treat themselves to this type of restaurant every now and then and just enjoy the experience. The menu has been through a recent change, but this hasn’t changed the fact that this one of the best places to eat in the city. The staff is downright fun, which might come as a surprise given the elegance of the place, but not too surprising as this is a common occurrence with all the restaurants in this post. I should also note that they make the best Clear Chocolate Martini…period. My usual indulgence is either the Graham Crusted Cod - With beurre blanc, red bliss parmesan mashed potato and asparagus or the Grilled Atlantic Salmon - With a grilled asparagus pesto, roasted fingerling potatoes and sautéed spinach. Most of my time is spent deciding which one to get. One day I’m just going to order both…then explode.

UPDATE: This restaurant has drastically changed the menu.
5.) Stone Hearth Pizza - Needham, MA

   First let me say that this restaurant has six locations and this review is exclusive to the one in Needham. I can say without a doubt that not all of them are the same…having been to the Allston location, and finding this out the hard way. That said the Needham location makes the best pizza…on the planet! Granted, I have not eaten pizza all over the globe, but just the fact the pizza makes you feel this way says something about their dedication to making great food. Their modus operandi is “sustainable, organic and local” and you can certainly taste the difference! In fact, this restaurant is single-handily responsible for my refusal to eat pizza from anywhere else. I just can’t stomach the difference. It’s like having the opportunity to commute via a Bentley, and taking up an offer instead to commute by tricycle. It’s just not gonna happen. The variety of awesome food on the menu is vast so please appreciate my efforts when I limit this list to just my three favorite pizzas (in order from least to best) .The Bean - Garlic oil, white bean spread, fresh mozzarella and sautéed red onion, topped with a salad of spinach, shaved red onion and pesto. Roasted Garden - Garlic-infused olive oil, spinach, fontina and parmesan cheese over a sauce consisting of braised red/yellow peppers, onions, rosemary, tomatoes. The Divine Goddess  - Garlic oil, topped with a mixture of fresh spinach, broccoli, local ricotta cheese, garlic, then finished with our cheese blend and a pinch of parmesan. Although I have tried, words do not adequately describe the joy the food here brings.

UPDATE: The cook bought this location from the chain and t
his restaurant in now called Hearth Pizzeria.
   So there you have it…my definitive list of the best places to eat in Boston, and as an added bonus, if you are ever in
Arizona…check out the Pita Jungle. My experience at their Arcadia location remains one of the best…ever.

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