When Times Call for Amazing Food Thursday, Oct 15 2009 

Jason had quite a day on Tuesday.  He’s really into the stock market and has been pushing $OPTT for the last few weeks.  $OPTT, or Ocean Power Technologies, is a company that is working on turning ocean waves into a source of natural energy.

Just a few weeks after investing in this stock, $OPTT did amazingly.  It grew nearly 50% within a few hours — and was the #1 stock IN THE WORLD on Tuesday.

Jason was beyond thrilled.

He decided that we should celebrate.

The two of us happen to be really, really into food.  It’s a bit of a mutual passion.  So many of our conversations are about food, we have lists of restaurants to try, and we have a million special food places (Neptune Oyster, Erbaluce and our secret place outside Boston and my mom’s kitchen are a few of them).

So if we’re celebrating anything at all, food is involved!

After deciding to go for steak, we settled on the Capital Grille on Newbury St., where neither of us had been before.

Here is our complete feast:


A fabulous wine from the “Interesting Reds” list — I can’t remember the name of it!


Oysters. We ADORE oysters.  These were ice-cold, plump and juicy — fabulous.


Prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella.


The daily special salad: with blue cheese, pears, almonds and more.


We split a porterhouse.


The other half.


Some seasonal veggies to keep the meal SLIGHTLY healthy…


And, negating that, some lobster mac and cheese.


What the hell — let’s throw a four-pound stuffed lobster on there!


Our fabulous feast…


We finished with a complimentary dessert — an OPTT chocolate espresso cake in honor of our celebration!

(Buy it.  Even now, Jason thinks it’s a smart stock to buy.)

The Vegan Diet Experiment: Days 1 and 2 Tuesday, May 12 2009 

Thank you for all the comments!  I’ve had a few requests for updates on my vegan diet experiment, so here goes:

Day One:

Breakfast: Starbucks grande bold (soy milk and one Splenda, which is what I usually get anyway).  Plain bagel, no topping.  (I know, not the healthiest thing, but we have them for free at work every Monday.)

Lunch: Two apples.

Dinner (eaten at two different seatings a few hours apart): One vegan burger.  Two grape leaves.  Half a cup of baby carrots.  Four tablespoons of horseradish hummus.

Snack: Five Triscuits and two tablespoons of horseradish hummus (LOVE that stuff!).

Exercise: Walked home from work (45 minutes).  Took a brisk 70-minute walk around the neighborhood.  Did some planks, push-ups and sit-ups.

Net calories: 612

Day Two:

Breakfast: Starbucks grande bold. (I know, I know.)

Lunch/Workday food: Two apples.  One soy yogurt.

Dinner/Evening food: Four pieces of vegetable sushi. One grape leaf. Two-thirds of a cup of baby carrots. Six tablespoons horseradish hummus.

Exercise: Walked home from work (45 minutes). Took a brisk walk around the neighborhood (50 minutes).  Did some planks, push-ups, sit-ups and squats. Did 20 minutes of weights for my arms.

Net calories: 426

I’m keeping track through the iPhone, which recommends a 916-calorie day to lose two pounds a week and a 1,166-calorie day to lose one and a half pounds a week.

I didn’t crave anything unhealthy today, though I was a bit tempted to grab free pizza at a rally that Menino had today.

A few of the challenges that lie ahead: avoiding the office candy.  The desk next to mine is the unofficial “candy desk,” so I spend a LOT of time hearing people unwrap Twixes and Peppermint Patties and my favorite, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  And my coworkers LOVE their street meat (aka Herrera’s, the best burritos in Boston from a cart on Washington St.).

Also, I have a work lunch out on Thursday, but I know the menu of this place and how to adapt what they have.  And more work dinners out next week, if I’m still going vegan by then.

I’m also going to make an attempt to strictly limit the alcohol — just in time for company drinks on Wednesday and a friend’s birthday party at a bar that I love on Friday.

In other news, my foot is doing SO much better — the tendinitis has more or less cleared up and I’m out of the boot, but it turns out that the arches in my feet are flattening.  Wearing arch supports is helping a lot, but I still get pain now and then.

But I have found a new love — therapeutic massage.  After just one visit, I am doing SO much better in my back, my foot and all the other parts of me that have been in pain over the past few months.  I can’t wait to go back tomorrow!!  I’m a fan of chiropractry, but this is so much better.

I will keep you posted…the veganism is easy on the second day, but let’s see if it can last!

Vegan for Vegas Monday, May 11 2009 

A month from today, my friends and I leave for Vegas.  We’re starting to make the preliminary reservations — dinner at N9NE, cabana at Tao Beach — but the most important part MUST start now.

Operation Vegas.

We came about the term by accident.  I think it was Jen who initially came up with it.  But Operation Vegas refers to any kind of diet and exercise plan to lose weight, look good and feel fabulous by the time we stroll into the Palazzo on June 11.

Since I was a vegetarian for nine months last year and lost a ton of weight that way, I’ve decided to be a vegetarian (more like a pescatarian) for the final month.  I decided to limit alcohol, too, since that’s the easiest way to knock off the pounds.

I’ve done all that before, though.  What would be more of a challenge?

Going vegan.

I’ve read Skinny Bitch.  Hell, I own Skinny Bitch (thanks, Lisa!).  I know there are SO many benefits to going vegan.  If you do it right, it’s one of the healthiest diets you can have.  (If you do it wrong, eating nothing but bread, of course you’re going to gain weight and feel awful.)

But it is SO DIFFICULT!  You won’t believe some of the things that have milk or eggs in them, like my favorite fake chicken patties and even some multi-grain baked goods.  You have to read the labels on EVERYTHING.

It’s also tough for me because I’m a microwave cook and a grazer.  I used to love cooking in college, but now having no time, money or desire to do so, I just don’t, ever.

I went to Trader Joe’s and bought tons of supplies: vegetables, horseradish hummus (SO SO GOOD!!), soy yogurt, vegan vegetable fried rice, Tofurkey Italian sausage, vegan burgers, etc.

Also, some products would be vegan except that they are made in facilities that use milk and eggs.  I am allowing myself those, because without them, there would be ALMOST NOTHING.

I’m not going to go vegan for the whole month.  I’m going to try it for a week, through Sunday, and then go back to pescatarianism until we get to Vegas.  And then I’ll reward myself with caviar, a filet and a lobster tail at N9NE.

Let’s see how this works.  I’ll let you know if I succeed or ultimately fail in a very big way.

Dining at Mare Saturday, Mar 21 2009 

For Restaurant Week, my friends and I decided to try out Mare, an organic Italian seafood restaurant in the North End.  I’ve been wanting to go there since it opened a few years ago, so I was glad to finally make it there.

Here it is in a nutshell:


Not your typical North End restaurant — think sleek, minimalist decor.  There are cool videos of Italian cities on TVs in the corners, and I occasionally yelped out, “My school!  My apartment!” when scenes from Florence were shown.

The restaurant is small and the tiny “bar” only has four seats, so there really isn’t a place to hang out while waiting for your table.


I should chalk it up to being restaurant week, but it wasn’t that good.  It took forever to get someone to acknowledge you, whether it was the hostess or the waiter.  Everyone was polite as long as they were at our table, but take these two instances:

  1. I asked the hostess if our table would be ready soon.  Her response: “Oh, yeah — they’re paying, but I don’t know if some of them are going to want to stay.  But we’re trying to make everyone nervous tonight.”  Great…to say that to someone who is apparently about to become one of those nervous people.
  2. The waiter brought our wine, saying to me, “Here’s your Montepulciano.” I said, “Oh, I actually ordered the Montalcino.” “Oh, yeah. That’s Montalcino.” “Is it really?” I asked. “Because they’re different…” (From two different Tuscan hill towns not far from my adopted city of Florence.) “Yeah. Montalcino.”  (For the record, the wine was delicious and they charged me for a Montalcino.  But still…



I like octopus, and I’ve had it several different ways, but THIS was THE BEST OCTOPUS I HAVE EVER HAD.  It was steamed to the point of melting in your mouth — not the usual gumminess — and came with some delicious, flavorful, insanely fresh pesto.  I couldn’t get enough of it.

The main course was pappardelle with wild boar — a dish from San Gimigniano that I used to eat all the time in Florence, but I’d never had it in the US.  And they did it VERY well.  It didn’t blow me away the way the octopus did, but I was impressed nonetheless.

Dessert was tiramisu.  I’m pretty picky about tiramisu — I like it soupy and with as little cake as possible — and though this was cakier than I preferred, I enjoyed it immensely.  Best of all was that there was a little SALTY CHOCOLATE BALL (not kidding) served with it that acted as the perfect counterpart.

My friends enjoyed their meals as well, sampling everything from salmon to gnocchi to Chilean sea bass.

Would I return?  Yeah, if someone else were paying!  I probably wouldn’t go to Mare if I had to pay out of my own pocket.  The prices are on par with some of the pricier restaurants (but not the priciest) in Boston.  But it’s a perfect bargain for the $33.09 Restaurant Week price, and I recommend it.

But you MUST try that octopus!

The Most Argentine Night Ever Friday, Dec 19 2008 

My Sunday night in Buenos Aires was probably the most quintessentially Argentine night of my trip, and it was one of the best nights there.

Because of that, I’m only going to blog about this night in depth.  I’ll skim over everything else lightly.

After a morning (well, in Buenos Aires, the morning begins at noon) shopping and enjoying the market in Plaza Serrano in Palermo Viejo, right down the street from my house.  Later that evening, I hopped down to San Telmo to go see a band called Rosal perform at Bar el Nacional.

Rosal was FANTASTIC.  Two (or three) acoustic guitars, and I LOVE multiple acoustic guitars, and the girl had a wonderful voice.  Here they are:

Louis, my Couchsurfing friend from Chicago, found out about the band and invited us.  Christian, our Couchsurfing friend from Los Angeles, came as well.

Christian (check out his blog, Aimless Wanderers) is traveling around South America for nearly a year.  He had spent time in Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, and is planning to spend more time in Argentina, then Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and I believe Costa Rica, then heading home.

Louis was in Argentina for about a month — he just got back.  He rented a pretty amazing apartment in Palermo SoHo (oh, yeah — and this is weird, but YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF THE BUILDING without a key!!!  FIRE HAZARD!!!) for two weeks, then went down to Bariloche and up to Iguazu Falls before returning to Buenos Aires, then home.

I love these guys.  🙂

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ños there, and that was perfect.

After that, we walked around and decided to go to a parrilla — pronounced pa-REE-sha by Argentines — and sample some legendary steaks.

And wow, was that ever a meal.

We started out with sausages — Christian looks eager to dig in — salads and prosciutto.

And some FANTASTIC papas fritas!

Poor Louis was fighting off a bout of food poisoning.  He ate as much as he could — it was all about the experience, he said.

Christian, on the other hand, spent most of the meal like this.

I believe that’s Christian’s pork.  Some of the steaks are so tender, they CARVE them with a SPOON.

Our delicious spread.  That’s my filet in the front.  (Yeah, the vegetarianism kind of went out the window in the name of experiencing Buenos Aires to the fullest.)  What I love — that was one of the most expensive cuts on the menu, and it cost about $15.00.

Self-portrait!  Christian’s got a better one…

We also enjoyed a bottle of Malbec.  It was lovely.

Awww.  Poor Louis.  I felt so bad for him…he wanted to enjoy the food so much…

After dinner, I grabbed a cab back to Palermo Viejo.  (30-minute cab — $10.00.  Love it.)  And sadly, I had to say goodbye to Louis, who was leaving for Bariloche.  Christian and I made plans to meet up the next day.

After getting back to the hostel, a group of backpackers, including Sarah from Boston (she used to live in Southie!) decided to go out.  I thought we were going to a club.

We ended up at a tango milonga!

Now, this is the most fascinating people-watching I have ever seen.  Dozens of couples fill the dance floor.  The men are in jeans and button-downs of all levels of style.  The women wear everything from leggings to short denim skirts to casual dresses — but all of them wear gorgeous tango shoes.

Everyone dances perfectly, intricately, not missing a beat.

The most fascinating thing is that everybody who dances like this appears to be so passionately connected, so deeply in love.  And then, often, they switch partners.  And it begins all over again.

What a great night — it was truly unforgettable.

It’s ironic, though, that I glorify this particular night, considering that I missed the ONE thing I hoped not to miss and tried not to miss, but missed anyway.

Hmm.  How do I put this?

Of all the lessons I learned from my college creative writing advisor, Dr. White, one stands out the most: “Just because it happened that way, it doesn’t mean it makes good fiction.”

But sometimes, the opposite happens.

Things happen to you in life that you don’t expect.  Things that hurt badly.  But you know what?  This experience would make FANTASTIC fiction.

And I lived that.

God, that’s pretty fucking poetic.

How to Lose Weight: Become a Vegetarian! Tuesday, Aug 5 2008 

I’ve been wanting to write this entry for a long time.  I never, EVER dreamed that I would become a vegetarian, but I did — and the rewards have been phenomenal.  I never dreamed that I would lose weight this easily!

My whole life, I’ve been very skinny, and I grew up in a family of skinny people (as in those who say “I hope there’s food left” whenever a fat family leaves a restaurant).

Essentially, in my family, being fat is the ultimate sin.  Gay?  Awesome.  Dumb as rocks?  Okay.  Republican?  Forgivable.  But fat?  NO.  ABSOLUTELY NOT.

I was always pin-thin growing up, and even remained skinny after I got curvy in late high school and early college.  I never gained the “freshman 15” — I maintained my weight while everyone else gained extra pounds.

However, I gained a lot of weight during my junior year in college.  I studied abroad in Florence during fall of junior year, and that’s when the pounds got packed on.  In addition to enjoying the pasta, pizza, wine and fabulous steaks of Florence, I was also binge drinking to the point of blacking out and/or vomiting at least once a week.  It wasn’t healthy; in fact, it was quite dangerous.  That semester, I gained a LOT of weight.

(That’s when my sister and even my parents started calling me Heavy K.  Sarah drew a cartoon of Heavy K at home, complete with a “forgotten pie” trapped between the rolls in her stomach.  I was the fat one in the family.)

The weight came off a bit being home from Italy for a bit, but senior year, I gained even more, mostly due to drinking and discovering how much I liked to cook.

At any rate, I was the heaviest I had ever been when I graduated from college.  I was always the skinniest girl while growing up, but I ended college at 5’4″ and a weight of 142 pounds.  I had started college at the same height and 111 pounds.

Here I am at the end of college:

Fat Kate and roomie Kelly Anne at the Fairfield Senior Ball at Foxwoods

Fat Kate at the Fairfield Senior Ball at Foxwoods

Fat Kate with BFF Kara at the Family Dance at Fairfield

Fat Kate with her girls at the Levee at Fairfield the night of graduation

Six months after graduation, I moved to Boston and started walking at least two miles a day to and from work.  That helped a bit — about 10 pounds came off — but I was still much heavier than I wanted to be.

This winter, my friend Lisa got me the book Skinny Bitch, which is a bestseller in the U.S.  Basically, it’s a bitchy, no-nonsense diet book for girls — and once you start reading it, it actually tricks you into becoming a vegan.  A vegan, for the record, is one who eats NO animal products, including meat, fish, eggs or dairy.

Skinny Bitch is definitely worth reading — it really surprised me with the information it presented.  However, here are a few of the most interesting facts in the book:

  • No species other than the human race drinks milk past infancy — and we are the only ones who drink milk of a different species.
  • Most of the meat sold in this country, along with most of the dairy, is filled with hormones designed to make animals grow fat — which, in turn, makes you fat.
  • The atrocities that animals face in slaughterhouses are infuriating and heartbreaking, even to someone like me, who is ambivalent at best about most animals.

For the record, this book is not perfect.  But it can point you in the right direction.

I never thought I’d become a vegetarian.  I adore bacon more than anyone else I know, I have a soft spot for buffalo tenders, and I grew to adore the bloodiest steaks imaginable in Florence.

I always made fun of vegetarians and called PETA the “People for the Eating of Tasty Animals.” I considered myself the last person to become a vegetarian.

But after reading about the hormones and toxins in meat, I decided to stop eating meat, just to try it out.  And it was so easy!  Once I stopped, I had no reason to start again!  I didn’t even miss bacon!

For the past six months, I’ve been living a meat-free lifestyle. I acquired new staples to my diet like meat-free Quorn chik’n patties and chik’n nuggets, Morningstar black bean burgers and tomato basil burgers, and soy milk and yogurt.  (I still eat dairy, but much less than before, and if there’s a soy option available, I take it.)  I’ve added more vegetables, more hummus and more snacks like nuts and sunflower seeds.

And the result?

Without adding exercise, I lost another ten pounds without any effort.  That’s 8.5% of my weight.

Do I miss meat?  Nope.  Not at all.  I am SHOCKED — I thought I would at least miss it a little bit, but no!  Once you cut it out, you don’t miss it.  And being vegetarian often forces you to make smarter choices, like eating salads more often.

I will admit that I have fallen off the wagon a few times.  I once decided to try a McDonald’s cheeseburger to see what would happen after a few meat-free months.  The result?  It felt like a heavy weight in my stomach and my entire face broke out within a few hours.

That’s another thing.  My skin has been so much clearer since giving up meat.

But — let’s face it — losing weight is the most important part.

So, let’s take a look at the results!

Skinny Kate in Reading a few weeks ago

Skinny Kate with Joshua at a house party in Jamaica Plain three months ago

Skinny Kate with Holly at Kingston Station in Boston two months ago

Skinny Kate with Lisa in Vegas a month and a half ago

I’m not quite where I want to be in terms of weight.  I have another ten pounds to go before I get to my pre-college weight, but I’m pretty sure that’s unattainable, given the changes a girl’s body goes through between ages 18 and 20.

I’ll never be a size 0, at least not without looking like a freak, and I’ve come to terms with that.  Still, I’d love to lose another five or so.

Becoming a vegetarian has been so much more successful than I ever imagined. I can’t believe it was so easy to lose so much weight.

And now that I’m skinnier, I can wear clothes like this:

That’s me on my 24th birthday this past weekend with my mom and my sister.

And you know what?

They haven’t called me Heavy K in months.

Earl Grey Latte Wednesday, Apr 9 2008 

I dropped by Starbucks for the first time in a while and decided to get one of my favorite drinks, a London Fogger.  (It’s Earl Grey tea with steamed milk and four pumps of vanilla.  Try it — it’s great!)

Strangely enough, the Starbucks in Davis was nearly deserted (and it was only around 6:30!).  The barista and I chatted for a few minutes while the other barista made my drink.

Nearly every time I order a London Fogger, I have to explain exactly what it is.  The Starbucks in Downtown Crossing had it as a featured drink last year, so those baristas were pushing it like crazy, but nobody else knows what it is!

“That’s weird,” the barista told me, “but not the weirdest drink I ever got.”

“Really?  What was that?” I asked.

“Well, it was a grande, and it had an L on the side, so it was a latte, and then he asked for me to put an Earl Grey teabag in it.  Espresso, steamed milk and Earl Grey tea.  I tried it out of curiosity.  It wasn’t bad.”

Well, it’s no orange mocha frappuccino, but it’s still pretty scary.

Also, when you Google Image “Evil Starbucks,” this is what you get:

LifeWater: I’m not impressed. Wednesday, Mar 12 2008 

When LifeWater came out a month ago or so, I knew I had to try it. I love Vitamin Water — it’s full of sugar, but so yummy! But most of all, it was because of their awesome Super Bowl commercial:

I decided to go with pomegranate cherry for my first try. I love both of those flavors on their own, so it was perfect.

Not very exciting. Not very flavorful. It felt empty, and almost like it had a chemical-sugar taste. There was hardly any fruit.

Well, I thought, maybe it was the flavor. The other day, I tried blackberry grape.

COUGH SYRUP. Watery cough syrup. And not the yummy Dimetapp kind.

Yeah, I think I’m going to stick with Power-C and Multi-V Vitamin Water for now…

Prostitutes at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze? Or just drunks? Thursday, Dec 20 2007 

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people write really negative reviews of restaurants on Citysearch that have no basis. Usually, what happens is that one mildly negative incident happens and then they wildly exaggerate the rest of the events to make the restaurant sound terrible.

In those reviews, you get lines like, “The hostess held up one finger to us and said, ‘Just a minute,’ in a very rude tone. Then she walked five steps in front of us as she led us to our table and never told us to enjoy our evening. She didn’t even look at us on our way out. I will never return there again.” Come on. That’s crap. Why is it so hard for people to be reasonable?

Anyway, I read a GREAT story behind one of these reviews on Maze at the London Hotel in New York on nymag.com. This is one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants. Here is the review that New York magazine received:

My husband and I were at the New York restaurant, Maze @ the London Hotel tonight 12-18-07. We were so upset. He had four clients he was taking out. At one point one of the clients noticed that there were two prostitutes at the bar, trying to pick up men.

When my husband’s guest complained to the staff, they became hostile and asked us to leave. When we talked to the hotel staff, they informed us that, “This happens all the time, You need to talk to the management of Gordon Ramsey.” We were very upset — how could they let that go on? It’s almost like they were getting a cut of their action.

We will never dine at a Gordon Ramsey Rest. We spend $800, and had to watch a common prostitute pick up her johns. It was very ugly, shame on Gordon Ramsey and Shame on the London.

Well, that’s pretty cruisazy. So, what did NYmag do? They called Gordon Ramsay’s PR team. Here’s what they had to say:

There was a party of six people in last night, and they were very loud and obnoxious, yelling things at ladies at the bar — who were just ladies at the bar! People started complaining, and they became very nasty, so that’s when the restaurant asked them to leave. They were very intoxicated.

Well, well, well.

That explains a LOT.

I guess it just comes down to the guests’ word vs. that of Maze, but I think I’m inclined to believe the restaurant.

What do you think?

To those of you in New York… Friday, Nov 16 2007 

Breaking: Serendipity 3 Closed by DOH

Eater has rumblings, and our trusty Channel 4 has just confirmed that Serendipity 3, that Upper East Side bastion of desserts and diabetes, has been shut down by the Department of Health. Let’s hope it’s because of some anal plumbing violation and not, y’know, because there are rodents near the Frozen Hot Chocolate.

BREAKING: Serendipty Shut Down By The Department of Health? [Eater]

Update With Bonus Vomit: “In last night’s inspection, the inspector observed a live mouse, mouse droppings in multiple areas of the restaurant, fruit flies, house flies, over 100 live cockroaches.”

Oh, my God! Most of my clients are in New York, and I send them to Serendipity 3 all the time. It’s a really nice dessert place, and it’s great for post-theater, for romance and for families….

Over 100 live cockroaches?!?! Holy crap!! I’ve worked in restaurants before, and if you have, you know that no matter what, even in fine dining establishments, pests will find their way in. But over 100 live cockroaches?!?!

This may be the beginning of the end of Serendipity 3….

What a deal! Wednesday, Oct 17 2007 

The other night, I went to go visit my friend Carissa’s new apartment, which is right by Malden Center. (WHAT an apartment, first of all! My friends all have the coolest places!

Oh, my God. I just realized that it’s true. ALL OF MY FRIENDS HAVE THE COOLEST PLACES.
–Jen has that huge, gorgeous apartment in the Back Bay.
–Alexa has that apartment with the giant TV, the beautiful lobby and the awesome gym.
–Beth, Tricia and Andrea have that huge, awesome, brand new place in Texas for $300 a month each!!!!

But keep in mind that I absolutely LOVE my place. If we had a dishwasher, it would be perfect!!)

But I digress.

The four of us (me, Carissa, Lisa and Carissa’s friend Callie) went to dinner at the Pearl Street Station. The restaurant is a reasonably priced restaurant with great pizzas and other classic American fare.

But you won’t believe just how far we stretched our dollar.

Between the four of us, we had:

–One martini/cocktail each
–One order of chicken fingers, shared
–Two large salads: one regular, one Greek, both shared
–One extra large margherita pizza, shared
–One giant chocolate volcano, shared
–Our waitress was great, and we tipped her 25%.

So, how much did we each spend altogether?


For all that food AND a 25% tip.

I am completely serious.

We stayed around long enough to learn that a Red Sox playoff game and karaoke in the same location DO NOT mix.

Go visit the Pearl Street Saloon — they have awesome pizza and $5.95 martinis. What could be better?

Best of Boston Sunday, Sep 2 2007 

I was going to make this into three separate entries, but with the craziness of my life, I’ll have to consolidate them to one.

First of all, Lisa and I went to Union, who continued their Restaurant Week menu through the end of the month.

Holy God, our waiter was gorgeous.

Lisa tends to laugh uncontrollably at inappropriate moments. I don’t, but as soon as SHE starts laughing, I never stop. Therefore, whenever our waiter came by to talk to us, we would both be nearly in hysterics and our waiter smiled sheepishly. Then we started talking with him, and it turns out that he’s a pretty cool guy (and not just unforgivably gorgeous). After that, we saw him as a person, not just a perfectly sculpted piece of meat who looked just like a young George Clooney with a bit of Stamos thrown in. We like ’em tall and dark.

Besides the waiter, Union was awesome — definitely my favorite restaurant so far. Everything was great. The food — oh, the food! — is upscale New American food, or, more simply, really upscale comfort food. In addition to their nice entrees (I had coriandar-dusted sea scallops and she had barbecued salmon), they’re known for dishes like their gnocchi, burger, sandwiches, NICE brunch, and just a lot of familiar food that they manage to recraft as fine dining. The food was great. My favorite course was the appetizer, prosciutto-wrapped plums, which made it seem, between the texture and the meat, that you were actually eating steak! We both had smores tarts for dessert.

The atmosphere is great, as well. There are these awesome black round leather banquettes where you can fit five people, and the lighting is great, there are little, bright-colored single flowers at each table, and there’s even a bit of rustic wood. It sounds like it wouldn’t match, but it works. It works quite well.

As for the service, it was fantastic. Our waiter was great, and when I mentioned how L’Espalier felt robotic and weird, he told me that he knows someone who works there and they have to follow all these strict rules and start out keeping only 50% of their tips. Yikes! He said that at Union, they’re pretty much allowed to do their own thing. You could tell — he seemed himself. I still have to say that I give Excelsior the highest marks for doing everything and seeming like they’re never there, but Union is a close second.

Also, I saw an ex across the room. Not pleasant. I had previously mentioned on this blog that I was going on that particular night, so it’s certainly no fault of mine.

Lisa and I went to the Hong Kong for some karaoke afterward (“I would walk 500 miles” and “I Touch Myself”) and, as usual, we met a pair of guys, and, as usual, we overheard them discussing who would go for whom, and, as usual, the unattractive one picked me. ALWAYS!!

This past week, we found out about quite an unusual event. DONNIE WAHLBERG, former New Kid on the Block and brother of Marky Mark, was having his birthday party in Boston, and it was open to the public!!

We had to go.

The party was at the Estate, where Mansion used to be (not that I had previously been to either) and there was no cover until 11. The club is really opulent — chandeliers everywhere, including the bathroom stalls, red velvet couches, and scenes from old movies were playing on screens. The drinks were astoundingly expensive, which sent us on a search to find guys to buy free drinks for us.

We quickly learned that it wasn’t nearly as easy as when we’re at Sissy K’s, one of our more frequented places, where the guys are all from the suburbs and the drinks in question are $1.50.

We started asking, portraying it as a bit of a joke (when it really wasn’t), and one guy told us to find the “little guy in a suit” named Sal, and that he’d hook us up.

We started going up to every remotely small guy in any combination of clothing that could be considered a suit and going, “Sal?” If he stared blankly, we moved on.

We eventually came up to the guy who we had described as a “little dark Ryan Seacrest” and went, “Sal?”

He broke into a huge smile and said, “Hey, how have you guys been?”

Hilarious. I love when people try to act like they remember you when they actually don’t — and when they SHOULDN’T, because they’ve never met you!!

We talked to him for a bit, and we were a bit too polite to outright ask him to hook us up with free stuff. Later, though, we were talking with this guy who had really long hair and the girls giving away free beers loved him, so they hooked us up, too.

Donnie himself only spent around 30 minutes at the club. We tried our hardest to get up to the VIP platform, but the bouncers were EXTREMELY adamant about keeping us as far from the stage as possible. We got yelled at. A lot. We did get a few good pictures of Donnie blowing out his candles. (He looks ROUGH. It was his 38th birthday.) Sadly, Marky Mark wasn’t there, but Jordan Knight was.

We then went to Chau Chow City to gorge ourselves on chicken fingers and crab rangoons. My sister lives right by there, so I called her, but she was sleeping.

Overall, Lisa and I agreed that, even though we hadn’t met any more New Kids (I met Joey McIntyre once, and she’s met him a few times), the night had been a success.

I haven’t slept this week at all, and I’ve been a complete grouch because of it. It was SO fantastic to sleep in today. Now it’s 1:30, I’m still in my pajamas, and I’m transferring my music from my old computer to my new one (finally).

I love my new computer, by the way. It’s a Dell Inspiron 1521, and it is nothing short of SUBLIME. I love it, I love it, I love it!

On Friday night, my new roommate, Jessica, and I had no plans, so we decided to go to see The Nanny Diaries, which is now playing at the little Somerville Theater in our neighborhood. We had both heard that the movie wasn’t supposed to be that great, but we both enjoyed the book and liked the cast.

We also decided that, as this is the only movie theater we had ever been to (except for the one where I went in Florence) that actually sells BEER, we had to get some. We got Harpoon UFOs and wristbands.

The movie was pretty good — we both enjoyed it. It was no The Devil Wears Prada, and Laura Linney’s no Meryl Streep, that’s for sure, but it was a fun girly popcorn movie. I felt like they included a lot of parts from the book but only briefly, and it probably seemed rushed and random to people who hadn’t read the book. For example, they included the parts with the crazy cokehead Park Avenue mother who threw cake frosting everywhere, and the part when the grandmother showed up, but both were for less than a minute.

I did love that Donna Murphy was in it (she’s the ballet teacher in Center Stage, one of my favorite movies of all time) and I thought she and Scarlett Johansson looked like a realistic mother and daughter.

After the movie, we decided to hit up Johnny D’s. Johnny D’s is one of the best-known places in Davis Square, and I was surprised that people came from all over, including a woman from Reading, and I actually know her son! I was expecting the Somerville/Cambridge/Medford/Arlington crowd, but it was much more than that.

Johnny D’s is famous for its live musics, with shows almost every night. It also has a nice jazz brunch that I’d like to check out. There was a well-known blues singer that night, Jeff Pitchell, and he and his band were great — a lot of fun. Great music.

What will always stick out in my mind the most, however, is one particular dancer.

The club wasn’t that crowded, but a good amount of people were on the dance floor by the middle of the night. This included his “groupies,” as Jessica and I dubbed them, three (sadly) overweight and unattractive women in various degrees of skimpy clothing who were dancing like crazy and singing along to every song.

One of the women — oh my GOD! She was, I’m sad to say, quite homely, and she wore a short-sleeved see-through flesh-colored lace top over a black tank top, and an incomprehensible denim skirt. The skirt was quite short — shorter than mid-thigh — and had two layers of ruffles at the bottom, one denim, one white.

She proceeded to dance like crazy the entire night, drinking and flaying her arms around, becoming more and more wild.

That’s when her skirt began to flip up.

She was wearing white Hanes Her Way undies, and they were CLEARLY visible to the entire bar. She kept turning and turning, and the skirt kept flipping halfway up her butt.

“This is like a car crash,” said Jessica. “I can’t look away.”

“Aren’t those supposed to be her friends?” I pointed out.

Well, we left a few hours later, and she was still going strong, still showing her ass to the masses. I have no idea if she ever even noticed.

Poor girl.

Boston Summer Restaurant Week 2007 Monday, Aug 20 2007 

The two official weeks of Boston Summer Restaurant Week 2007 have officially passed, and though I have two upcoming dinners at Union and Pigalle (which are extending their menus through the end of the month), I will now write some commentary on the three restaurant meals I had. I am pleased with myself for securing reservations at three of the very best restaurants in Boston.

The restaurants:
–Smith & Wollensky

Since I started working in the luxury market, I’ve become a bit of a foodie from a distance — I’ve looked through so many menus in New York and elsewhere, and I feel like I’ve gotten a good feel for restaurants, between reading lots of different reviews and seeing people’s tastes, especially when I discuss restaurants with my clients.

Because of this, I’ve been trying to become more of a foodie. I already love and appreciate fantastic and innovative food. The only thing is that I can’t really afford to do it, and most of my friends can’t, either. I will settle for a meal at a really nice restaurant at least once every two months, even if it’s just for brunch or afternoon tea. I think I’ve been doing pretty well so far. In the past year, I’ve been to ten nice restaurants in Boston (at least on OpenTable).

Here’s the rundown:

Meal One: L’Espalier
Went for: Lunch
Went with: Sarah

–Appetizer: Chilled watermelon soup with creme fraiche
–Entree: Baked trout over chickpeas with asparagus
–Dessert: Small fig cake and small brownie with whipped cream

Food: 9/10

Each dish was delicious and quite innovative, with the exception of the dessert. The dessert didn’t seem very inspired. Otherwise, the watermelon soup was surprisingly savory, minty and the creme fraiche made it robust. The trout was AMAZING, and the chickpea and onion mixture had an almost cinnamony, nutmegy taste. The asparagus was nice and lemony. Everything was perfect. It was a shame that the dessert, while delicious, was a bit of a letdown after the meal.

Sarah had the trout as well, and she had a salad with strawberries and goat cheese for her appetizer. The goat cheese was incredible. Also, I loved the bread and butter so much that I had three pieces.

Service: 9/10

Our waiter was very attentive and wasn’t obtrusive. My only critique of him was that he seemed a bit robotic — he didn’t smile once. There is a very low staff-to-guest ratio, and when you walk in, dozens of people welcome you. It did, however, feel a bit unnerving when they did rounds in the tiny room. It didn’t seem necessary — it kind of reminded me of teachers’ aides walking around the cafeteria to keep an eye on us.

Atmosphere: 8/10

It’s hard to critique the atmosphere during lunch when normally the restaurant is for dinner only. It’s definitely a nighttime restaurant — hushed and quiet. L’Espalier is just about the fanciest restaurant in Boston, and Sarah and I felt like we were disturbing the perfect silence by speaking louder than a whisper. Because of that, I found the atmosphere kind of creepy. I’m sure it’s much better for dinner, however. The restaurant is situated in an old house, and it will be moving to one of the ritzy hotels next year. The restaurant is beautiful. Again, being in a small house, it felt more personal — like you were invited to dinner at someone’s house.

Meal 2: Smith & Wollensky
Went for: Dinner
Went with: Dad and Sarah

–Appetizer: Split pea soup
–Entree: Bacon-wrapped filet mignon
–Sides: Asparagus and whipped potatoes
–Dessert: Key lime pie

Food: 9/10

Everything was so good, I thought I would die. Especially the steaks — my god, that was the best steak I have ever had in the U.S.! (You just can’t compare it to the steaks in Bella Firenze. Steak is what Florentines DO. There’s no comparison.) The steak was absolutely perfect. I can’t even go into adequate detail — it was nirvana. The split pea soup was creamy and delicious, and the croutons became nice and soggy (in a good way), instead of not absorbing any liquid. The key lime pie was all right — it tasted good, but the filling was soupy, and the crust was quite hard. I just scooped up the filling with my fork.

Sarah had a gorgonzola-crusted filet and my dad had an Oscar style filet. They were delicious. Each of them got the creme brulee. I consider myself a bit of an aficionado when it comes to creme brulee, and I’ve eaten it in at least four different countries (U.S., Canada, France, Italy). It was quite good, but not outstanding.

Service: 7/10

Our waiter was all right. He was professional and courteous. However, he didn’t have the seamlessness about him that you would expect from a waiter in a fine dining restaurant. For those prices, I expect better than that. I was about at the same level as him when I worked at Joe’s, and Joe’s isn’t nearly as pricey as Smith & Wollensky.

The seamlessness was there between the hosts downstairs and upstairs, and the back-end waitress was great (mostly for putting up with my dad’s antics. He was so excited to be there, he was like a little boy on Christmas morning). We were left on our own most of the time, and it never felt like the waitstaff intruded.

Atmosphere: 8/10

The restaurant is in the Castle in the Back Bay, which is pretty cool in itself. The interior covers several floors, and my friend Jess told me not to sit on the first floor. We sat on the second floor. The interior is decorated in an old American style — just like Joe’s, only slightly more upscale. We were seated in a little round dining room. The thing is, it’s a steakhouse — the atmosphere can’t compare with a fine dining restaurant. For a steakhouse, I give it a high rating.

Meal Three: Excelsior
Went for: Dinner
Went with: Andy

–Appetizer: Asparagus vichyssoise with scallops
–Entree: Pork schnitzel with potatoes
–Dessert: Chocolate AMAZING LITTLE THING (can’t remember exactly what it was)

Food: 9/10

The asparagus vichyssoise was beyond amazing. It was fantastic. I couldn’t imagine a better accompaniment than the scallops. I was so sad to be scraping the bottom of my bowl after a few minutes. I’m almost inspired to look up a recipe for it, though I know mine wouldn’t be nearly as good! To be honest, I found the entree choices less than inspiring. I was expecting something more than pork schnitzel or baked haddock, though both were delicious. Neither were innovative. The desserts, however, were unbelievable. I can’t describe the texture of my chocolate amazing little thing — it looked like fudge, but it was softer than silk, yet glistening with moisture (in a good way).

Andy got the baked haddock for his entree, which was pretty good. He got panna cotta with blueberry consomme for his dessert, and it was wonderful, different and delicious.

We both did the half-glass wine pairing. Neither Andy nor I thought the first wine matched the vichyssoise well, though the second and third wines matched very well. It was a great way to have the wine experience — half glasses were perfect. (Any more than that and we likely would have ended up making a scene, Per Se-style.)

Service: 10/10

Now, THIS was a restaurant that got the service right. Everyone was courteous, polite and moved seamlessly. I couldn’t tell you what my waiter looked like — he just swept in with a smile and was gone the moment he became extraneous. He was quite pleasant for the few moments that he was there. All of the movements were fluid and must have been calculated. Everything was timed perfectly, and we didn’t feel rushed or bad for lingering. (I was expecting to get my check dropped with dessert, but that didn’t happen at all.)

Atmosphere: 9/10

The atmosphere is a 9 only because I wasn’t blown away or shocked in any way. That being said, the atmosphere was fantastic. One very cool thing is the wine elevator. The glass elevator goes up a few stories and is surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of wine bottles — Excelsior is known for being one of the top Boston restaurants for wine enthusiasts.

The restaurant is dark and seems to be equally classic and modern. Some tables have a great view of the Public Garden. You can tell that it’s a really nice place, but it doesn’t have a pretentiousness about it. I think that may have been one of the problems with L’Espalier — it felt like I was intruding, and I felt like nobody in the room really fit. After all, everyone was dressed up in the middle of the day! At Excelsior, however, I felt like it was perfectly appropriate that I was eating there. It felt very comfortable.

The circumstances under which I would return (assuming I have enough funds to have a nice meal for any time other than Restaurant Week):

I would go to L’Espalier for a very romantic evening, or to celebrate something special. I would go all out and do a tasting menu, letting Frank McLelland do what he does best. I would only want to take people who are both serious about food and open-minded when it comes to cuisine. I would only want to go with a few people — four at most.

I told my dad and sister that I would take them back to Smith & Wollensky to celebrate my book deal, whenever in my life that ends up happening. It would be a great place for my crazy family, friends or a big group. Getting wild and crazy wouldn’t be taboo the way it would be at the other restaurants.

I would go to Excelsior anytime! It’s a very good choice for someone who doesn’t know exactly where to go, because I can see it fitting well for several different scenarios. Of course, I would want to go with a fellow foodie and especially someone who enjoys good wine.

Here are the remaining places where I would like to go most. Let me know if you’ve got some money to burn and you’d like to join me.

–The Beehive (so hot right now)
–Sibling Rivalry
–Pho Republique
–Gargoyles on the Square (in my neighborhood!)
–Sabur (also in my neighborhood!)
–Tremont 647 (for the pajama brunch especially)
–Hammersley’s Bistro


Okay. I swear I’ll get to writing about Bob Saget soon. But first:

My sister and I decided to get brunch in the South End this past Sunday, since that’s just about the only way we can afford to eat there. The menu at Masa looked awesome and awesomely cheap (everything under $10.00!), so we made that our destination.

We had a lovely meal (I had the Santa Fe Eggs Benedict, on a biscuit with avocado and salsa, and Sars had the “holy diabetes” fried Texas Toast stuffed with bananas, then we shared a cherry creme brulee), which was outside on a gorgeous day, and I kept looking at the couple sitting next to us. What struck me was that the guy looked just like Tom Brady, only skinnier, and he was sitting with a girl who was definitely skinny enough to be Gisele, but her hair looked darker and was pulled up in a knot. They were both wearing sunglasses.

“We’re sitting next to Tom Brady and Gisele,” I whispered to Sars. She looked, then laughed. I mean, it looked like them, but would they REALLY be here, in Boston (weren’t they just in Europe?), having brunch al fresco where anyone could see them?

Near the end of our meal, they got up to leave. I then saw that the girl was MUCH shorter than the guy. She was wearing flats, yeah. I thought that Gisele and Tom Brady were pretty close in height. And they weren’t wearing THAT nice clothes. She had nice sunglasses, but those were the only parts of their outfits that looked designer. And Tom was REALLY skinny — too skinny. Couldn’t possibly be him.

Sarah and I enjoyed the rest of our day, walking around in the South End, hanging out in a park, doing some Newbury Street shopping, watching the ducks in the Public Garden and shopping at DSW. I nearly forgot about the Tom and Gisele lookalike couple.


I dropped by my dad’s tonight to pick up some of my summer clothes and have some dinner. I was chattering away, filling him in on everything that had happened in the last few days. “And we probably sat next to Tom Brady in Gisele when we had brunch in the South End,” I said dismissively.

“They were in the South End last week,” my dad replied equally as dismissively.

“WHAT?!” I gasped. “How do you know that?! I KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT CELEBRITIES!!”

“He’s always in the South End. He has an apartment in the Back Bay.”

“He lives in BOSTON?!?!”

“Yeah….” My dad gave me a look as if to say, “I thought you knew about this,” with a bit of “I can’t believe neither of my kids turned out to be a sports fan.”

“I don’t think it was him,” I said. “He was really skinny.”

“He IS pretty skinny,” my dad said.

I had always thought that he, being a football player, would be decently big.

“She was short, though,” I added. “Much shorter than him.”

“Yeah, she is,” he replied. “She’s what, 5’11”? He’s 6’6″ or so.”

OH. MY. GOD. (How does he know this stuff?)

“I can’t believe I was sitting RIGHT NEXT TO THEM and I didn’t take a picture!” I shrieked. “This is exactly why I always carry my camera around with me!!”

“Come on. Let them live!” he chided me.

Well, there you go.

What do you think? Was it them? Has Gisele’s hair been darker lately? And have we found the REAL source of my love of celebrity gossip?

Last Texas Entry! Monday, Apr 9 2007 

After far too long, here is the final blog entry about my trip to Texas!

On Sunday, Beth and I planned to do the one thing I wanted to do more than anything else: go to MEXICO!! I have to admit that I am a bit of a collector when it comes to travel, and yes, I know that’s not a good thing, because it will rob me of genuine experiences that travelers should have in favor of culturally enriching things, etc. But anyways, I have never been to Mexico, and I’ve wanted to add it to the map of countries where I’ve been.

Brownsville is right on the Mexican border, but the Mexican city next door, Matamoros, isn’t the nicest place. Beth took me to Nuevo Progreso, instead, which is 40 minutes away and across the border from Progreso, Texas. Nuevo Progreso is touristy and features great shopping. There’s also a parking lot on the U.S. side, so you can park and walk over and not have to worry about leaving your car in Mexico.

Beth poses with a giant rooster as we get ready to cross the border. This picture is so her.

My mother has a similar, slightly smaller wooden rooster in her kitchen. My sister named it Ugly.

It costs $0.25 to cross the border and $0.30 to return to the U.S. Once you cross the Rio Grande, Nuevo Progreso springs out of nowhere (it’s pretty rural on the U.S. side). According to signs, most Mexicans are dentists and can offer you discount treatments. There are also stores where you can buy SO much cheap stuff — ceramics, crafts, fake designer bags, bootleg movies, jewelry, and cheap liquor (everything is in U.S. dollars, and a bottle of Bacardi costs around $8.00).

Beth and I walked around, and I bought some birthday presents for my mom and sister. Since I’ve already given them, I can say that I got three ceramic dragonflies for my mom (she loves dragonflies) and a fake Prada bag for my sister. They both loved them. I also got a fake Prada bag for myself.

Then Beth insisted I try some fruit with chile. She loves it. All these people sell pieces of canteloupe, pineapple and watermelon topped with this chile mixture and fresh lime juice. I figured I’d love it.

I kind of hated it, but wanted to finish it. And I did. I’m not sure why. It was okay — I had a TON of chile on mine, and while I love spicy food and unusual food, this just didn’t sit well with me. Maybe I felt guilty throwing away uneaten food when there are so many children around who don’t have enough to eat….

Another view of Nuevo Progreso, the view when you first enter, though it’s taken from the exit side.

Quince dresses! These are some of the more extravagant dresses for Quinceaneras, the birthday celebrations for fifteen-year-old girls. You buy everything matching: the dresses, nosegays, fabric-covered albums, favors, everything matching the dress perfectly. I absolutely LOVE these dresses. Most of you know my weakness for fancy gowns and costumes.

Soooooo, in addition to the Mexican shops, the bootleg DVDs, the fake designer ware and the questionable food, a big business in Nuevo Progreso is getting your hair cornrowed. It was only $10.00, so I definitely wanted to get it done! I’ve never been to the Caribbean or anything, so I’ve never gotten it done. (My family does not believe in lie-on-the-beach vacations. It’s either camping or packing as much culture into as little time as possible.)

I love this Mexican lady! There was also a REALLY weird lady who was getting her hair done. She was in her fifties with short blonde hair that was cut off at the top, like she grabbed a fistful and chopped it with scissors. I figured she was mentally unstable, which was confirmed when she mentioned that she was here because burned all her hair off again.

I call a few friends at the border. “GUESS WHERE I AM — I’M IN MEXICO!! NOW I’M IN AMERICA!! NOW I’M IN MEXICO….”

The Rio Grande, separating the two nations.

Mormons on bicycles again!! You can barely see, but the guy is to the left of the top rung.

Beth drove me around Brownsville for a while, showing me the town center and the historical parts, including beautiful Palm Street. We then went grocery shopping, since I had decided to make dinner for Beth, Tricia and Andrea, to thank them for their wonderful hospitality. And let me tell you, it’s SO different shopping in a region of the country that doesn’t have a large Italian population! You wouldn’t believe how hard we had to look to find marinated artichoke hearts, and there was NO basil, so I had to scrap my insalata caprese. (Beth: “You can just make it without basil.” Me: “THERE’S NO POINT WITHOUT BASIL!!” Grazie, Firenze.)

We went back and made dinner. I made chicken verdicchio, one of my best dishes, which is chicken with artichoke hearts and lemons over pasta. It’s Sicilian, and it’s my favorite food that my mom makes. I also made my signature prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, which is a personal creation of mine that I love sharing with people. Beth made a salad and an angel food cake stuffed and covered with cool whip and strawberries — the four of us TORE through that!

I really love cooking for my friends, and I love to hear what they think — Andrea told me that she doesn’t usually like asparagus, but she loved the way I made it. (Me: “I KNOW!!! You have to ROAST IT!! That’s the secret! People have it all wrong with boiling it!!”)

It was such a nice dinner — and it, along with so much of the weekend, made me realize how much I miss having such close female friends. Most of my good friends are guys these days, and I don’t see my best girlfriends very often….it was so nice. The girls are very lucky to have each other.

I can’t believe I never mentioned this little guy! This is Bandit, Tricia’s dog. He is ADORABLE — a chihuahua and Jack Russell Terrier mix. What’s strange is that he never barked at me ONCE. Dogs don’t usually like me (and the feeling’s mutual), but he loved me right away, and was cuddling up to me the whole time I was there. And the strangest part of all is that he was abused by his last owner, so he has his guard up really high. But he loved me unconditionally. Can you believe that? I love this little puppy!

The awesome and SO hospitable girls — Andrea, Tricia and Beth, with Bandit! I love these girls so much. You truly rock. And I can’t wait to see you again — perhaps another Valley visit will be in the future for this fall, with a possible Austin visit this summer? Who knows? 🙂

My flights back went as planned, albeit a bit turbulent. And it was cool flying over Oak Island in Revere, where my mother grew up, and flying over Revere Beach, where I spent so much time when I was little, and seeing Nahant and East Boston from that angle. But upon landing, I was so upset! It was SO COLD in Massachusetts, and I missed the heat and humidity terribly!

My mom picked me up at Logan, and on the way back, I gushed about everything and told her about my revelation: “I’m so tired of the winters here. I want to move to Texas.”

“I knew you were going to say that when you got back,” she replied.

I’m probably just in the honeymoon phase of loving Texas, but it’s nice to know that the option is there.

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