Welcome BACK Brunch at North Street Grille!

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It’s been 2 months and 22 days since I’ve written about my love of food and I apologize for the wait (life…oy vey).

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Kicking off my return to writing I came prepared with a fork in the left and a drink in my right to tell you about a semi secret, yet not so secret spot in the bustling North End perfect for your brunch munch cravings, North Street Grille!

Opened back in October 2010 on North Street, dinner is served 5 nights a week from 5pm to 11pm and brunch from 8am to 3pm Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Holiday Mondays! A new addition to my Friday Brunch line up! On street parking around here is a bit tough, but there are lots close by or one can take the train in and walk from Haymarket.

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Whoop Whoop!

 

It’s the perfect, cozy location for a chill brunch; whether you’re coming from working out and wanted to grab a bite while unwinding with pals or you’re hungover and literally dragging your bum through the door.

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The menu is broken down into generous sections providing eaters to sample and indulge in some tasty treats. Prices vary from $5 to $17 for entrees with wine, beer, and cocktails varying from $5 to $10. Very inviting for many budgets!

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For my homecoming feast I went for the Banana Bread French Toast and washed it down with the Flirtini cocktail. Need I say I was also on a date (wink wink). I think I would have picked something different if I knew they gave you FRESH BANANA BREAD as a starter snack. So moist and chewy; a nice way to start off any brunch.

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My Flirtini was a blend of Cruzan Raspberry, Champagne, Chambord, Pineapple and Cranberry juice. Absolutely Re-Freshing! I had to have two, with no guilt! I must admit it’s been a while since I’ve had fruity drinks but this one was even blended and with the use of champagne it made the drink more like a punch, which I enjoyed.

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My Banana Bread French Toast was to die for! Sitting in it’s already soaked goodness of a caramelized banana sauce this lovely thick Texas toast style bread was decorated to the nines with fresh bananas atop, confection sugar, and whipped cream.

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This place Knows Bananas!

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Each bite better than the first, and with little need to add extra maple syrup, one can eat continuously unless needing a drink break. It happens.

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Sadly I couldn’t finish my plate 100% but I managed to get ‘er down to a solid 85% devoured!

 

Next time I visit for brunch I’m going with their ‘Benedict in Bed’, which is a French Toast stuffed with Canadian Bacon & Cheddar topped with Poached Eggs & Hollandaise Sauce. Sounds dangerous I know, but with my stomach up for the challenge I KNOW I’ll get to the bottom of it!

 

I can’t say the date was a hit, but at least my potbelly was visible. Xo.

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North Street Grille

 

229 North St.

 

Boston, MA 02113

 

(617) 720-2010

 

http://www.northstreetgrille.com/ordereze/home.aspx

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Neighborhood Staple with Purple Cactus!

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The first time I EVER had Purple Cactus in Jamaica Plain was back in the Spring of 2004.  An ex-boyfriend took me there, raving it was his favorite burrito spot.  I remember the physical experience vaguely but two things stuck out:  my burrito’s size AND my burrito’s taste!  Flash-forward to 2014 and the eatery still stands remaining one of my FAVORITE burrito locations in all of Hub.

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Opened back in 1999 this healthy take on California style burritos has become a neighborhood gem, getting reviews from Boston.com saying, “this place is the bomb!” and “fast food worth waiting for,” from the Boston Globe.  When the first location opened in Provincetown or “P-town” in 1993 the menu had only 3 burritos, chips, guac, and salsa.  Currently the menu has 8 sections, including breakfast, as well as side options.  Normal hours are 9am to 10pm daily with the full menu starting at 10am and Winter Sundays are 9am to 9pm.

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I’ve tried the Vegetarian Chili, which was quite tasty containing a variety of Beans, Monterey Jack Cheese, and Tortilla Chips.  I was quite contempt with my small 8oz. cup.

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I’ve also done the Grilled Chicken and Grilled Steak burritos, but never the Shrimp.  Today was the day!  I ordered my Shrimp burrito with a Spinach tortilla wrap.  Other wrap choices are: white, wheat, none (in a bowl) or Red Chile (I want to try that next!).  I had to make it a “Super Burrito” so I added guac and sour cream on the side.  It was only $1.20 extra and VERY worth it!  For a drink I got my favorite, a Cabo Cooler, a.k.a Lime-aid.

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If you’re more on the no meat or fish side they also offer salads and other vegetarian options, including TOFU burritos!

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What really works for me here is that the customer isn’t skimped by any means with their food.  When your paying the extra for steak over chicken your getting good HUNKS of steak in your burrito, not thin strips.  Prices here vary with the highest priced item being $8.75 for the Carne Asada (Grilled Beef) with Peppers Quesadilla.  My total came to about $9.50, which for the size of these burritos isn’t too shabby.  I wasn’t worried about my shrimp quantity or quantity at all.

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Turns out my Shrimp burrito was Fantastic!  The shrimp were as juicy and poached as described with about 4 nice sized shrimp in each burrito half! Sooo good!  My cabo cooler was refreshing as always.

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Next time I think I’ll switch it up and order a Smoothie.  I wasn’t even aware they had those.  A Classic Blonde – Apple Juice, Bananas, and Strawberries- sounds good, with a Turkey Avocado Wrap.  Yea, that sounds sensational!

With Love and High Recommendation,

Potbelly Tara.  Xo!

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The Purple Cactus

674 Centre Street

Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

617 522-7422

http://www.thepurplecactus.com

Warming Up With Pho Pasteur!

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It’s been so cold in Boston going out to eat is becoming a minor hassle.  Whether you drive or “T” it either option is a drag, especially when it’s a whopping 15-degree’s out.  Yea.  Yikes.

Fortunately cold weather brings on warming meals, which is what lead me to do a quick stop at Pho Pasteur in Chinatown.  And what would be the meal of choice in this establishment you may ponder?

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I’ll give you a “hint”: pho.  But what is “pho’?

Pho is a popular Vietnamese street food consisting of broth, thick veggies, meat, and noodles.

I started drinking the soup back in high school around 2004.  Something about the size, even when a small, and quality keeps me returning.  It’s also the perfect meal when tight on a budget.IMG_3465

Opened 7 days a week from 9AM to 10:45PM Pho Pasteur is has a chill cozy set up with reasonable prices.  Appetizers are between $3.75 and $10.25, while pho is between $7.25 and $7.95.  Other items on the menu include salad, rice plates, seafood options, and desserts.  There’s also wine and beer options for guest over 21.

Although it was my second time visiting this popular destination near the heart of the city it was my first trying an appetizer.   Usually I go straight for my bowl, but this time my friends sparked my interested and I thought, “why not”.  My pho of choice was Bun Nuoc Ca Ry Ga (Chicken Curry Vermicelli Soup).

I wanted to try something different to drink so to “spice” it up I went with the Chanh Muoi (Salty Ice Lemonade with Sugar).  Although I’m glad to say I tried this beverage I can say I’m all set with it.  As cold as the glass was every time I drank it my body warmed up.  It was quite an experience.

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We started with Cha Gio (Fried Egg Rolls).  The rolls contained ground pork, egg, carrots, onion, rice vermicelli, and mushroom wrapped in a rice paper and deep-fried golden.  Very good rolls; a nice start to our dinner.  I haven’t had an egg roll in some time.  My only regret is not trying them with the fish sauce that came on the side.

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When the server placed my soup on the table my eyes lit up!  The bright gold of the curry, the chunky veggies, the thick pieces of chicken throughout; this was a soup of champions and I was determined to retain my status.  I became full so quick I had to take the rest home with me.  The curry powder was used JUST right, giving off the spice I think most broth soups need.  Lovely.

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Anytime your feeling the chill in the city, consider a nice bowl of pho at Pho Pasteur. Trust me, once you start, you’ll never wanna stop!

Pho Pasteur

682 Washington Street

Boston, MA 02111

617-482-7467

617-542-8543

http://phopasteurboston.net/

Celebrations at Cinquecento!

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The South End is home to many amazing local favorites for dining.  With a nice blend of old and new eateries, patrons can choose between sticking with what they know or dining at the areas newest hot spot.  Since I’m always up for a challenge for my sister’s birthday her best friend and I surprised her with Cinquecento!

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Now, if you haven’t been to this new addition…

Stop Everything and check it OUT!

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Business hours for dinner are 5pm to 11pm Monday thru Wednesday and 5pm to 12am Thursday thru Friday.  As their site states, Cinquecento offers, “this edgy community [South End] a contemporary, casual and energetic Roman Trattoria, perfect for a spontaneous night out or your go-to spot for dinner and brunch”.  Agreed!  This restaurant definitely fills the void of an Italian cuisine meeting scene.  Affiliated with the fabulous Aquitaine Group, this new addition since November 2012 is as aesthetically pleasing as its sister restaurants with not only a main dining room and bar but a private function room equipped with a bar.  With on street parking and a free parking lot adjacent to the restaurant patrons can drive in knowing they won’t have to fight for parking or pay a ridiculous fee.

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I heard the brunch here is fabulous (I will try it soon), served from 10am to 3pm Saturday and Sunday. I can’t wait for the patio in the summer!

Dinner menu items start from $8 and go as high as $30.50 not including sides that start at $6.50 and salumi (cured sliced meats) starting at $5.25.  Cocktails are either $10 or $11, beer is between $4 and $28, while Amari (Italian liqueur with bitters) range from $6 to $11.

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To get our party started we began with the Cozze in Brodo.  This appetizer consisted of Steamed Mussles, Red Onion, and Basil marinated in a Spicy Broth.  For my main I got the Bucatini alla Carbonara containing Pancetta (pork belly), Pecorino (Italian cheese from sheep’s milk), and Black Pepper.  My sister had the Vitello Milanese con Gorgonzola e Rapini or Fried Veal with Gorgonzola Cream and Broccoli Rabe.  Her best friend tried the Taglaiata alla Fiorentina; Char-Grilled Bavette (fan-shaped cut) Steak, Toasted Sage Oil, Garlic Spinach & Roasted Potatoes.  Since I had to get a cocktail due to the occasion I drank the Autunno, made with Vanilla Bean Infused Apple Cider, Rye, and Fresh Lemon Juice.

First out was our drinks and I loved mines.  It wasn’t too harsh and I loved that you were able to taste the rye within as well as the vanilla notes.

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Following our whistle wetters were the yummy mussels.  These we’re some of the yummiest mussels I’ve had mainly because of the spicy sauce they were swimming in.  The nice and thin broth definitely made this appetizer stand out!

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In a reasonable amount of time our entrée’s arrived.  For a busy Friday night the wait was not long.  My carbonara was lovely!  I’m so glad I didn’t add chicken; the pork was plenty meat for me.  The cheese clung and melted throughout the pasta, distributing nicely through each bite.

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I had a bite of my sister’s veal and her friend’s steak.  The veal was nice and lean!  I enjoyed how the young beef was breaded.

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The steak was delicious on it’s one but was fantastic when combined with the toasted sage oil.  Two thumbs up!

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To end our “tour di roma” for dessert we went with the Lemon & Riccota Torta which I wasn’t too excited about…but then I changed my mind.  This treat contained a Ricotta Pound Cake with Lemon Crema & Blood Orange Sciroppo (syrup).  First bite and I fell in love!  The pound cake was light, while the cream and syrup both were refreshing additions, turning the traditional everyday pound cake into a celebratory dessert.  Great choice made by sissy.

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I’m glad that not only did my sister enjoy her Birthday present but we were able to bond over good food and conversation in a new, sleek atmosphere.  Shouldn’t that always be the case? Maybe I’m just fat, ha-ha. Xo.

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Some of the lovely staff. Thank you!

Cinquecento

500 Harrison Ave.

Boston, MA 02118

617-338-9500

http://www.cinquecentoboston.com

Friday Brunch at Ferrara’s!

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Whenever I’m off work on a Friday (which is rare) I like taking in luxuries of the day for instance waking up later than usual, walking around the city like a tourist, and of course having a REAL lunch. The usual 30-minute break doesn’t allow much catching up or better yet food enjoyment.  It’s more like a mundane necessity than extraordinary nourishment for the body.  This is how I stumbled upon Ferrara’s.

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I was looking for lunch with friends, and instead they said, “let’s do brunch”.  “On a Friday?” I thought.  No way!

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Voted Best Brunch in Boston Ferrara’s keeps brunch lovers like myself happy with an amazing menu Friday thru Sunday from 8am to 3pm!  If you’re not a brunchie junkie like me then you can join Ferrara’s for dinner Monday thru Sunday from 4pm til closing.  The only thing that makes me sad is that I’m just finding out about this gem and they’ve been open since June 2012. So many wasted Sundays!!!  And Fridays!!!

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Casual and modern patrons can come in right after work for a drink and hangout or make Ferrara’s a destination for dining. The location of the restaurant is close to Haymarket Station making commuting by T easy peasy.

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Menu meal prices are between $4.95 and $16.95 while sides are between $1.95 and $4.95.  I was excited when I seen the “Seafood Benedict” option on the menu and had to have it.  I went with the Fresh Lobster Meat instead of the other options of Maryland Lump Crab or Shrimp and washed it down with some cranberry juice.  This was only the start of a beautiful experience.

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My lobster was SO tender with nice chunks!  The home fries here are to die for!  Cooked up with onions and seasoning, they don’t need any ketchup.  I was full, I was happy…and then the chalkboard caught my eye.  It read, “Egg in a Jar”.  I read the contents and ordered one for my table.  We agreed to not have your potbellies “visible” so we shared this special.

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The Egg in a Jar contained Creamy Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Mushrooms, Seasoned Grilled Chicken, a toped with a Warm Sunny-Side Up Egg and Crispy Prosciutto. At the time it just sounded different, but after the first bite it was my fate.  The prosciutto was yummy!  I never had it crispy before then.  We broke the yolk of the egg so it could run throughout the jar, which worked out well.  Served with elongated Siciliano bread we quickly dug into our jar, almost as if we didn’t consume our brunch prior.  The mash and chicken delivered as promised and the mushrooms were a nice balance.  If this item is served again when I return I’m getting it for MYSELF hands down.

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So Yummy

I can see how and why Ferrara’s is worthy of high ranks in the city.  With good service, good prices, and tasty meals one has to give credit where it’s do.

Xo!

FERRARA’S KITCHEN + BAR

76 SALEM STREET

BOSTON

857.753.4615

http://www.ferrarasnorthend.com

Historic Dinner at Steel and Rye

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I always forget the town of Milton is a stone throw away from me since I live in Dorchester, but I’ll never forget how close it is now after visiting Steel & Rye.  This restaurant, built in an old ambulance garage, gave the Lower Mills area both a new dinner spot and a neighborhood hangout since November 2012.

With free valet and street parking patrons can choose to park and walk themselves a couple steps to the door or hand over their keys to the trusting attendants.  Both are equally appealing.  This contemporary open space for dining displays lots of “steal” fixtures and furniture, showcasing a modern yet rustic look.

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FOOD

The dining room opens for dinner at 5pm everyday and closes at 10pm Sunday through Thursday and 11pm Friday and Saturday.  Price points for apps are $2.75 to $14, including their snack options.  Homemade Pasta’s and Mains are $16 to $29.  I got a snack to start off, Fried Green Olives with Black Pepper Cream Cheese, and ordered pasta to finish, Gnocchetti (A pasta variety that is shaped like a curved shell with ridges on the outer surface).

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Historic fun fact: this restaurant has their own Anadama Bread!  It’s a traditional New England bread made of cornmeal and molasses.   This dark, sweet bread was served with nicely whipped butter on the side.  Very creamy and light.

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I like snack options because they’re usually sharable and lighter than an appetizers.  That’s exactly what my olives were.  The crunchy, salty green olives were complimented with the peppery cream cheese.  I didn’t want these to end.

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At that point I wasn’t sure how things could get better and then out came my pasta.  The Gnocchetti contained Niman Ranch Spicy Sausage, Rapini (broccoli rabe), Ricotta, and Chili Flakes.  This dish was spicy, reasonably cheesy, and satisfying.

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Another great entrée (which is currently unavailable) is their Catfish Sandwich with pickled okra on the side with a dipping sauce.  Talk about flavorful!  I got to sample it and not only was it my first time having catfish but it was my first time eating okra.  Both wins!  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve known and seen okra all my life but never wanted it.  Now, it’s a craving.

To end my delightful feast I ordered “Treats”, a spread of Cashew Crème Brulee, Lollipop, and Milano Cookies with white chocolate flakes sprinkled on top.  Great variety.  The lollipop was ice cream coated with a chocolate ganache.  The Milano cookies were soft and sweet, and the crème brulee was very smooth.  Dinner complete!

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Thanks Steel and Rye!

DRINK

Now, the reason why after a year I ran to check out this spot was mainly because of their new holiday drink,  “Tom and Jerry”.  I had the pleasure of meeting the bar manager, Ted Gallagher who describes the drink as, “like winter in a glass” and he went through the mixing steps.

Historic fun fact: this drink dates back to the mid-1800’s from a St. Louis hotel.

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When done from scratch it can take about 20 minutes to complete, but when pre-made it’s a normal drink wait.  First, the egg whites and yolks are separated and beaten.  This is required for the process.  My batch was beaten by hand making it even more authentic than if done by a mixer.  Then sugar is added to the yolks, cream of tartar to the whites, and both are folded together with rum and brandy.  After, the mixture is served with warm milk (or water) and MORE liquor.  Yes MORE liquor!

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My instagram shot!

This drink is definitely a sipper. Perfect to warm you up on a winter night.  Gallagher said it’s the perfect thing to enjoy after the first snowstorm hits Boston.  Sounds like he’ll see me soon!

Steel and Rye

95 Eliot St

Milton, MA 02186

617.690.2787

http://steelandrye.com

Impromptu Teatime at L.A. Burdick!

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Teatime in Boston is hard to orchestrate without planning.  Some places require reservations ahead of time, meanwhile some prices are worth it ONLY on a special occasion.  However, if you’re in the mood for a pot of tea and pastries in a non-rushed environment L.A. Burdick is the place to go!

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I stumbled upon this location in the Back Bay area a couple of months ago while walking around Newbury St. after some shopping.  I fell in love with the set up and bright décor, and also with the idea that you can sit and have a pot of tea.  The other highlight for me is that L.A. Burdick is a European inspired Handmade Chocolate company!  They have holiday chocolates, bonbons, mice and penguins, drinking chocolate, bars and confections!  This location is split as both a coffee shop and a chocolate store. Lucky me!

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Dating back to their 1st location in New York City 1987, L.A. Burdick has brought to the East Coast handmade delicacies that are perfect for enjoying with a cup of tea, coffee, or even a glass of champagne.  There are now, “several cafés and chocolate shops, a French-style restaurant and small specialty grocery store.”  Locations vary throughout Boston, New York City, and Walpole New Hampshire.

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Will attempting to have tea and conversation I stopped in here with a friend.  Because we wanted the moment to resemble a chill version of high tea, we ordered two pastries to share with our pot.  The lucky two of the day were the Linzer Torte Slice and Burdick’s Slice.  For tea, to keep the atmosphere relaxing we ordered Peppermint.  Tea is served as a pot of hot water with a bag on the side on a dish.  We placed the bag right in the center of the pot.

Things to know when having tea at L.A. Burdick:

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  1. It can get VERY BUSY! Have your companion grab a table ASAP if you’d like to dine in so you can place your order.
  2. You CANNOT have a pot of tea UNLESS you have a Table!  This is why it’s important to follow step #1.
  3. The noise volume can get quite high.  Don’t treat this experience as the end all for tea time if you’re looking for a quiet location.  Just relax, settle in and enjoy the company of your guest. 🙂

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Our pastries arrived first and they looked as good as they tasted.  The Linzer Torte contains almonds, spices, a layer of raspberry jam and is coated with sugar.  On Valentine’s Day THIS is the cake for “cozy celebrating”.  I loved the texture of this treat.  The jam wasn’t too thick or goopy.  The nuts really made the dessert come together with a crumbly crust.

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Next was Burdick’s Slice filled with layers of japonaise (a baked meringue flavored with nuts) and rum ganache.  The japonaise was like shortbread in-between the chocolate.  So sweet and creamy.  Great for lovers of dense chocolate.

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One of the best moments this experience was knowing I got so much for less than I would typically pay.  I shared a pot of tea for $4.75 and enjoyed two pastries for $4 apiece making my total a whopping $13.64.  Not bad for a quick fix in the city.  Next time I’m there I’m buying the drinking chocolate so I can bring in the holidays with a gourmet treat.  Mixy Mixy!

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L.A. Burdick

220 Clarendon Street, Boston, MA

(617) 303-0113

http://www.burdickchocolate.com