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

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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/

Rum and Cake Party with Mayan Fiesta Rum Cakes!

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Have you tried rum cake?  If so, do you LIKE rum cake?

Answers to those questions may vary, but what remains constant is that rum cake exist, period.

I LOVE rum cake.  Coming from a Jamaican family I don’t think I really had a choice (I’m sure I did).  Every Christmas and Easter I’m guaranteed, if at no other point in the year, a piece of that dark moist goodness.  But about last year I found out something quite impressive about rum cake in Cozumel, Mexico:

  1. The cake color could actually be yellow, and
  2. You can make different FLAVORS!

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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of ALL AGES I present to you Mayan Fiesta Rum Cake Co.!

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With their two awesome slogans of “it’s Rum O’Clock somewhere!” and “The Rummiest!”  this company delivers a rum cake containing FOUR TIMES the rum usually used in rum cake taking away the need for water.  That’s right, this rum cake is made with NO water, just rum!  So cool!

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When I tried a sample last year I bought one mini cake for under $9 to bring back to the states.  This year I bought 6 so my family and I could try out other flavors!

Perks about the small cakes:

–       You can eat it all yourself OR share the rum

–       They store easily in your luggage

–       You can try MULTIPLE flavors and eat a whole cake at the same time! (yes, I’m greedy)

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Of all the flavors we purchased I LOVED the Lime Margarita and Banana Crème best. I enjoyed the taste of bananas in this rum cake; it’s not overbearing or faint, but just right!  As for the Lime Margarita, something about it reminded me of Jamaican Rum Cake, which was a treat because I enjoyed this snack just before the holidays.  Both cakes equally moist and full of bold flavor!  How does this family run company keep their cakes so tasty is a great secret that I’m happy I can devour.

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My niece’s hand modeling

Although the company’s website is under construction, you can still phone order from them and get your product shipped!  It’s so worth the S&H. Nothing like arriving home and having food waiting for you to eat it on your doorstep.

Sweet!

Mayan  Fiesta Rum Cakes Co.

Av. Rafael E. Melgar,

Cozumel 77600, Mexico

888-344-3402

http://www.rainforestrumcakes.com/

Local Favs at Tiki Tok!

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Every time I visit Cozumel, Mexico I fall deeper in love.  Their downtown strip on Avenida Rafael e Melgar offers tourist mucho finds from jewelry, cheeky souvenirs, and of course, tasty food!   One of my favorites so far on the island is Tiki Tok Restaurant Bar.

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I discovered Tiki Tok on my first visit to last year but not for the food.  Actually it was for their coconuts!  I LOVE coconuts.  Nothing says refreshing like a big green coconut filled with coconut water.  Yum.  This year, the restaurant outdid itself by actually putting a face on the coconut made out of fruits.  Way to jazz up the “coco frio natural”.  Cute.

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The server recommended the fajitas as the best item on the menu. I love it when employees are familiar with their menu.  Usually in America I don’t eat fajitas, so I was interested in how delicious it would be in it’s homeland.  My party got the Fajita Combo of Chicken and Shrimp accompanied by Quac, Sour Cream, and Black Beans.

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In addition to the coconut water I grabbed a Strawberry Margarita Fresa.  This frozen beverage was perfect for the hot day under the roof of the outdoorsy restaurant.  There’s even sand seating if you want to feel like your right at the beach, even though the beach is directly across the street.

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When our sizzling fajita came out I was instantly excited.  The smell was inviting, the appearance enticing.  I already knew what I was in stored for.  Juicy chicken with tender shrimp.  The guacamole was a nice chucky texture and I couldn’t ask for any more onions (love onions).  The pitas were soft and the overall combination in my mouth was superb.

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Next time I go to Tiki Tok I HAVE to spend more.  My table got 2 margs, shared the fajita, and 2 coconuts for only $435 pesos or $36.25 US dollars.  They use the same dollar symbol we do so it can look daunting at first but TRUST me, it’s worth every cent.

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Tiki Tok Restaurant Bar

Av. Rafael E. Melgar, Upper Level | between 2nd and 4th St.

Cozumel 77600, Mexico

987-869-8119

Dry Foodie Shelter at The Wet Lizard!

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Sweet Belize!

Hot weather, friendly people, and yummy food!  With a culture mixed with Caribbean and Spanish, this country has a mix to gather their culinary skills from.  On my quick visit this year I had to try at least ONE of their tasty snacks.  The place of eats, The Wet Lizard Restaurant.

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Located on the port of Belize City this restaurant offers fresh seafood, a nice view of the ocean, and a gift shop upon entry.  Before even going in the restaurant you receive a buy one get one for your drinks.  Nice!

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Showcasing a simple menu of drinks, starters, seafood, dessert, and “a bit of everything” Wet Lizard keeps it simple for tourist and locals alike.  Prices are very reasonable, meaning for $40 U.S. dollars you can get a good-sized meal for two. What caught my groups attention were The Wet Lizards Famous Fritters Conch.  We seen someone walk by with it and were determined to try.  The last time I had conch was April 2012 in Jamaica as the chaser in a drink (seriously) so I couldn’t pass this up.  In addition to the conch we also ordered the Coconut Shrimp, which were shrimp dipped in coconut, fried to perfection, and served with “secret” coconut sauce and coleslaw.  My mouth became a human waterfall as I waited.

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Both starters came out together leaving only the questions of, “which one first?”  I started with the fritters, which were soooooo yummy!  Within the fritters were mixed veggies.  I tasted the onion and tomato and LOVED IT!  Accompanied with some homemade tartar sauce this meal was off to a good start!

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Then I had the shrimp.  O. M. G!  Not only were the shrimp a good size but they were also juicy, fresh, AND amazing when dipped in the coconut sauce.  That sauce was fantastic!  So sweet and tangy.  Funny enough I’m not even a huge coconut fan.  The coleslaw was surprising as well.  It wasn’t full of mayo like I’m used to, but instead had a vinaigrette base.  So good!

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Although I didn’t get anything to drink besides water the restaurant has a full bar with many options to enjoy.  Seems Rum Punch was a high seller.  Not too surprising though, it’s both Central America AND the Caribbean!

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Xo Belize, til next time!

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Wet Lizard

Fort St, Belize City, Belize

+501 223-5973

No Passport for Amsterdam Falafel Shop!

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Wanna get a taste of the Middle East without traveling out the U.S.?  Fear not, Amsterdam Falafel Shop in Somerville is here!  New in Boston since July 2012 and pushing out falafel like hot cakes.  Now dawns the questions for some…what’s a falafel?

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Falafel is spiced mashed chickpeas formed into balls (hushpuppies) or fritters and deep-fried, usually eaten with or in pita bread.  Perfect for all types of eaters Amsterdam Falafel makes eating fun with some basic order rules:

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  1. Build your sandwich carefully; there are over 21 sauces and toppings to lace your falafel balls with.  You can choose either a pita sandwich or bowl and how many balls you’d like.
  2. CRUSH YOUR BALLS!!! (love this) Make your sandwich a bit flatter so you can stuff all your toppings inside the pita pocket!
  3. Mix Up for Combinations; go gentle with some ingredients for instance the garlic can be intense.
  4. No Double-Dipping or Topping! You can only top a NEW falafel sandwich at the bar.  Makes sense for sanitation laws and purpose.

I wanted my falafel to be a mountain of amazing sensations so I topped my pita with hummus, baba ganoush (a thick spread made from ground eggplant, sesame seeds, olive oil, lemon, and garlic), yogurt dill (greek style dip), garlic cream, tahini (a Middle Eastern sauce made from ground sesame seeds), and some spicy cole slaw!  Sooooo good.

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How can you really go wrong here?  The price is reasonable (at most $10 for a meal) and the toppings are so healthy.  Next time I go I’ll adding beets!

Not into falafel?  They also have fries, wait, excuse me Dutch-styled “frieten” with a lovely crunch and lovely taste.  A pretty good alternative to me. Especially with the Curry Ketchup!  Drool!

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I totally agree with the site that these locations helps one escape on a mini get away to Amsterdam, away from work and everyday troubles.  I washed my meal down with an Izze since I was in the mood for healthy carbonation.

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Opened 7 days a week, swing in to Amsterdam Falafel in Davis Square and get your Middle Eastern kick!  I have to send my thanks to Washington DC for the start of this company.  Now with other locations, branching to Maryland this company is only gonna grow and expand.  I wish them all the best!

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Stay yummy!

Amsterdam Falafel

248 Elm Street

Somerville, MA 02144

(617) 764-3334

http://www.falafelshop.com/

Boston Love’s Boloco!

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I love that Dirty Water! Boston’s You’re MY Home!

What can I say, I’m a proud Bostonian and with the recent victory of the Red Sox becoming the 2013 World Series Champions I had to do a write up on one of the successful eateries that’s local based.  This year Boloco turned 16 years old and I thought why not stop in and grab a bite while visiting Northeastern University.

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Imagine 4 guys from the East Coast living on the West Coast decided to share what they love about wraps and burritos from the West Coast back to the East Coast.  Sounds like a lot of back and fourth, but this was how the idea behind Boloco (Boston Local Company) was started.  The chain originally dates back to 1997 when the men opened up “Under Wraps” near Berkeley College on Massachusetts Ave.  Although popular the location lasted for a few months but brought about the group’s newer converted restaurant, “The Wrap” which was later changed to “Boloco”.

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John Pepper is one of the original founders and CEO of the company and continues to keep Boloco innovative with their menu selection.  The menu is broken into a hot section and a cold section.  Options for a burrito wrap or bowl with 3 different sizes assist customers with choosing what best fits their appetite and their wallet.  Prices on the menu are under $10 making a meal within reach for the typical college student.  There’s also the choice of having a shake or smoothie if you didn’t want a fountain or bottled drink.

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Having an environmentally friendly set up within the restaurant for trash, plastics, and compost (as well as LED lighting and Paperstone countertops) it’s clear Boloco prouds itself on being a green restaurant.  They were actually the 1st Certified Green restaurant in the entire country.  Not only healthy, good for you food BUT a good for you Environment too!

I kept my order simple today yet I “goloco” ‘d it.  Goloco is when you, “create your concoction using the ingredients from the add or substitute menu.”  I got boloco rice (white), pinto beans, chicken, and shredded cheese.  The chicken served was (when alive) vegetarian fed, humanely raised, grilled thigh meat.  Good to know what were putting in our bodies wasn’t eating unhealthy.

My chicken was good as always.  I’ve been eating here since 2006.  Always juicy chicken with properly cooked rice and melted cheese.  I got to sample the buffalo bowl too (spicy buffalo sauce, bleu cheese dressing, celery, and boloco rice).  So good.  Lots of flavor and the buffalo sauce wasn’t overwhelming.  Both good options.  For smoothies my go-to is the Cape Codder (cranberries, blueberries, apple juice, raspberry sorbet, and non-fat frozen yogurt) and for shakes I LOVE the Jimmy Carter Shake (all natural creamy peanut butter, banana, skim milk, and non-fat frozen yogurt).

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The Buffalo Bowl…

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I will always visit a nearby Boloco no matter where I am in the states.  There are now over 22 locations (including Rhode Island, Vermont, Maryland and D.C.) proving Boloco will continue to share their passion of providing good food and good customer service throughout the East Coast!  I love the fact that even after 16 years there in no rush to expand faster than needed.  The focus here is quality not quantity, which is exactly what brought the Red Sox to their victory this year.  It’s not about how many “all-stars” you have on a team, it’s the Drive of that team, and THAT is why Boloco is successful!

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Wishing you another 16 years and BEYOND! Xo.

Boloco

359-369 Huntington Ave.

Boston, MA 02115

617-536-6814

http://boloco.com