Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Birthday Wish List: Origami Owl Locket

B is for birthday, but more importantly, B is for bling! What's a birthday celebration without that extra touch of sparkle?

Today in the weekly Birthday Wish List series, I'd like to introduce you to a company called Origami Owl. This jewelry business' founder just graduated from high school and celebrated her 18th birthday! Very impressive.

Origami Owl allows you to create custom lockets for family and friends, first by choosing the chain, then the locket frame and finally the charms to fill the locket.

I discovered this idea on one of my favorite fashion blogs, Electric Blogarella, written by Miami mama Ginger Harris. She was able to attend an event with the Origami Owl founder and create a locket for herself and one for her daughter. Here is one of her photos:

You can also check out some styling suggestions on the Origami Owl Facebook page.

Though their branding is a bit juvenile, I love the idea of creating a personalized, wearable keepsake. Not all of us have the budget to buy our friends a pile of Alex + Ani bangles, so this is a way to customize a gift that is truly unique for the birthday girl.

Personally, I'm loving the Rose Gold Living Locket with crystals, the piñata charm, the boat drink charm, the double scoop ice cream cone charm, the vintage bus charm (with surfboard!), the palm tree charm and the bon voyage suitcase charm.

Check out Origami Owl's website and starting building a locket for your mom, sister, roomie or BFF.

*Image 1 courtesy of Electric Blogarella, images 2-3 courtesy of the Origami Owl Facebook page.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dining Out: Lone Star Taco Bar

Every Thursday night since I graduated (all the way back in 2006) I have dinner with one of my best friends from college. Each week we try to come up with something new and exciting to do together and last night we decided to try a restaurant that had been on both of our "must-try" lists, Lone Star Taco Bar.

Lone Star opened in January 2012 on Cambridge Street in Allston. It is directly adjacent to Deep Ellum, which is owned by the same duo, Aaron Sanders and Max Toste. Lone Star is basically Deep Ellum's taco-obssessed younger sib.

If you're unfamiliar with this Allston neighborhood, it would be easy to miss Lone Star as it doesn't really have a sign, but instead one silver star above the door. It looks like the spur of a cowboy boot.

Inside, the restaurant space is quite narrow with a bar on the right and the dining tables on the left. We arrived at 7:30pm and every single seat was taken.

While waiting for a table, I couldn't help but notice the funky light fixtures hanging over the bar.

I also had time to look up and become smitten with the exposed beams on the ceiling.

To help the wait fly by, we each ordered a cocktail. The Paloma for me (blanco tequila, grapefruit, lime and salt) and the Lone Star margarita for my BFF (blanco tequila, lime, lemon, sugar, orange liqueur).

I highly recommend the Paloma. It was light and sweet and you could not taste the alcohol at all (the best kind of drink).

After about a 15 minute wait a table became available and we slid into our seats. The menus were already on the table. Lone Star has a limited selection, but absolutely everything is enticing.

We were debating between starting with the chips and guacamole or the victory club nachos and we caved and went with the nachos. It was a generous spread of chips topped with two kinds of cheese, Napa cabbage, jalapeños and guacamole.

The nachos were great, but unfortunately the goodies weren't evenly distributed, so some bites were packed with flavor and other bites were just plain naked chip.

For her main meal, my friend ordered the chicken ranchero tostada. The dish is built on a crispy tortilla (like a flat taco shell) then topped with ranchero braised, shredded chicken and garnished with Napa cabbage, cotija cheese, crema and pickled onions.

After a few bites she said, "This is very good. The chicken is a bit spicy for me, but I love the tortilla and the taste of the chicken with the cabbage. I would definitely order this again." She also mentioned that after the nachos, this was the perfect portion size.

Speaking of sizes, I ordered the grilled avocado taco which I assumed would be an order of two or three tacos, but turned out to be one small plate. In addition to the avocado, the tortilla was topped with grilled queso, salsa verde and corn relish.

I was psyched to find a vegetarian dish on the menu that sounded so killer. I have to say though, I was pretty disappointed in this taco. The serving size was teeny and the flavor was just too bland. Maybe I should have shaken some hot sauce on it.

To share, we placed an order for the grilled street corn which was dressed with chili lime aioli, cotija cheese and cilantro. This was hands down the best thing we ate all night.

Now ladies, please be advised, this corn is not first date food. The only date you'll be going on is with a pile of napkins and your dental floss.

I seriously got the aioli all over my face and I was bummed because I wanted to eat every last bit of it! It was incredible. The char on the corn really elevated the dish and gave it a summer time feel. I would go back just to eat the corn again.

Overall, our experience at Lone Star Taco Bar was a good one. The bouncer (in a Superman t-shirt) was friendly and helped us get a table as soon as he could. Our waitress at the bar and at our table was nice, attentive and offered solid recommendations. My only qualm, and I am going to sound like such an old lady (mock if you must) was that the music was ridiculously loud. We were shouting across the table to have a conversation. I'm all for great music in a restaurant, just not at a deafening volume.

For those who love Lone Star, but don't live in Allston or Brighton, fear not! The owners are opening a second location across the river in Cambridge. You can read those details here.

Have you been to Lone Star Taco Bar? Which taco is your favorite?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

#RockportChallenge: 5 Pair Giveaway

Last Wednesday we talked about summer wedding style with the #RockportChallenge and I introduced you to one of their fabulous Seven to 7 styles, the Laser Peep Toe Wedge in Poppy Red. Though this wedge is a dynamite addition to any wedding day ensemble, it's also the perfect pop of color to brighten up your work wardrobe or your weekend wear.

#RockportChallenge Part II

Jigsaw black velvet top / Forever New button jacket / White and black skirt / Bench shorts / Rockport peep toe wedge shoes / R j graziano jewelry / Fendi vintage style sunglasses 

With their ADIPRENE by adidas sport technology, these wedges have the fashion and flair of pumps, with all the comfort and support of a running shoe. 

Wishing you had a pair of these Poppy Red peep toes for yourself? 

Well, you're in luck. The very generous people of Rockport are offering five Pop.Bop.Shop. readers a pair of their very own.

Is there anything better than fabulous free shoes? I think not. 

To enter to win one of the five pairs of this Seven to 7 Laser Peep Toe Wedge in Poppy Red: 

1. Like the Pop.Bop.Shop. Facebook page
2. Leave a comment below about where you'd love to rock these wedges 

This giveaway will be open until 11:59pm EST on Tuesday 7/22. Five winners will be selected at random. Rockport will do their best to fulfill the prize with the same style and color shown above. However, due to size availability, winners may receive a different Seven to 7 style or color. 

Good luck shoe lovers! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Birthday Wish List: Tote Bags As Gift Bags

This week marks the third installment of the weekly Birthday Wish List series. As those who read the blog regularly know, I am turning 30 this September (eeeek!). In preparation for the big day, I'm sharing with you my top picks for the perfect b-day gift.

Today's post is actually not about a gift idea, but rather a creative idea for wrapping. Rather than buying a lame bag and tissue paper at CVS or Target, my new go-to move is to gift birthday presents in tote bags. I have the best time searching for the perfect tote and then stuffing it with goodies.

So where do I find these gems? One of my favorite places to search is Etsy. The ExLibrisJournals shop has a huge selection of bags. You can customize one with the birthday girl's name:

You can toast to a day of poppin' bottles:

This one is my favorites because well, it's so true:

For the chef in your life, West Elm has hilarious foodie-themed totes. This one gets me every time:

Into super greens? Oh kale yeah.

I actually have a friend who cans and makes jam, so this one is a must!

Now some people plan trips for their 30th birthday and if that's the case, order one of these CABOCADO totes with the name of the upcoming destination.

Channel Lilly Pulitzer with this Nantucket tote:

Hop aboard the ferry to Martha's Vineyard:

Pack up a beach day's worth of treats for the birthday girl in this Cape Cod bag:

Now that you've seen a few examples, are you all aboard the tote bag train? I seriously can't stop doing this for family and friends. It makes every gift that much more fun to give.

What are your tips for personalizing a birthday gift?

*Images 1-3 courtesy of ExLibrisJournals, images 4-6 courtesy of West Elm and images 7-9 courtesy of CABOCADO

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dining Out: Sarma

To say that I am a fan of Boston chef Ana Sortun would be a drastic understatement. Her Mediterranean bakery, Sofra, is just a few blocks from my house and has become a weekend staple. Each week I look forward to popping in for a piping hot bowl of shakshuka, a fragrant pastry, an ice cold Red Dragon tea or grabbing some mezze spreads to go. Her Cambridge restaurant, Oleana, is exquisite. In that space they serve tapas-style Mediterranean food and also boast a gorgeous outdoor patio. So imagine my sheer delight to learn Chef Sortun was opening a third restaurant, her newest baby named Sarma.

I first learned about Sarma in a post by Eater back in May 2013. This winter the restaurant opened on Pearl Street in Winter Hill in Somerville.

Inside, Sarma's dining room is bursting with vibrant colors. A blue accent wall adorned with patterned plates decorates the space above a rainbow colored banquette. 

The bar area also has a few tables which are set against a combination of exposed brick and olive green walls. Notice the beautiful tile on the floor (below). 

The week before our night at Sarma we tried to make a reservation on Open Table, but the earliest spot they had was 9:30pm (I am getting old and that's a wee bit late to start dinner), so we decided to head there at 6:30pm, willing to wait it out.

When we walked in the hostess asked if we had a reservation. We hung our heads and said, "Sadly, no." Then she offered, "If you're open to sitting at our communal table in the bar area, we can seat you right now." We looked at each other, then back at her and in unison shouted, "Great!"

We took our seats at the communal table, a high top behind the bar. We were seated in between two families (each a set of parents with one elementary school age child). From our seats we could see the whole bar area, the dining room and the through the floor-to-ceiling windows up front. 

Once seated we were quickly greeted by our waitress who brought menus and ice cold waters. 

The Sarma menu features a wide variety of Mediterranean specialities, but in case you are unfamiliar with some of the dishes or ingredient names, there is a glossary right on the menu. Genius! 

To begin the evening, we each ordered a drink. My dinner date for the evening doesn't drink alcohol and lucky for her, Sarma had a special non-alcoholic drink menu. She went for the Buzz Aldrin which is orange, cinnamon, sage and lemon. 

I'm a fan of the cocktail called the Pimm's Cup, so when I saw Sarma had a Pimm's based drink, I went for it. It's called the Admiral Nelson which is cucumber, dill, vodka, Pimm's, ginger, lime and mint. 

The cocktail was super refreshing and the hint of dill was delicious. The fresh mint reminded me of all the great meals I enjoyed in Israel. No one loves a mint garnish more than the Israelis.

While sipping on our drinks, our waitress brought us a piece of bread dusted with za'atar and a side of olive oil. 

The Sarma menu is meant to be ordered like tapas - a few plates per person. Our waitress recommended three plates for each of us, but we wanted to taste as many things as possible, so we basically ordered everything that looked good with the intention of splitting each plate.

The first to arrive was the haloumi fries. For those who haven't had it before, haloumi is type of cheese, very popular in Mediterranean dishes. I ate tons of it in Israel. In this dish, the cheese is lightly battered (including black sesame seeds) and served with a side of white fig ketchup, sprinkled with oregano. 

The fries were excellent. We gobbled them up in seconds. My advice, order a plate of these for yourself.

Second to arrive was the feta cheese gnocchi. The light pillows of pasta were swimming in a spicy broth with morel mushrooms and peas. This sauce was so expertly seasoned that I wanted to lick the bowl. 

After the gnocchi, we moved onto the butter radishes served with harissa and cilantro. Of everything we ordered, this dish was my least favorite. The radishes were too firm and the greens were too bitter. 

Following the radishes, we dug into the fatoush. Fatoush is a bread salad, like the Italian panzanella. This rendition had strawberries, fennel, arugula and sumac. I absolutely love strawberries in summer salads, they add the perfect dose of natural sugar. In this salad the greens were fresh, the bread brought a great crunch and the dressing tasted like balsamic, which is the ideal compliment for strawberries. 

The green garlic keftedes (vegetable pancakes) were an item I spotted right when we sat down. The plate of three pancakes is topped with kohlrabi remoulade and crinkled cress (how much do you love the alliteration 'crinkled cress'?). 

This was another one of my favorites. I could have devoured all three of these pancakes myself. They were fried to the ideal level of crispiness and the flavor built with the addition of the remoulade and cress.

Our final dish was the asparagus, served with egg katayifi, avgolemono and black truffles. The egg is served the same way they serve the egg in the Turkish breakfast at Sofra, in a nest. 

The soft boiled egg, the crunch from the nest and the butter sauce turned that asparagus into some of the best I've tasted.

In addition to the dishes we ordered, something unique about Sarma is the way they showcase their specials for the evening. Like Dim Sum, they bring each dish around on trays and if you are interested in what you're seeing (and smelling!) you can request it right then and there and they will place it on the table.

After our six round feast we were pretty sure we needed to tap out, but that didn't stop us from perusing the dessert menu. Their are two offerings on the Sarma dessert menu: ricotta donuts and Greek frozen yogurt with your choice of house made toppings. That toppings list includes: lime curd with blackberries, halva caramel, aleppo peanuts, cherry-ouzo sauce and more.

Though tempted, we decided to call it quits.

Overall, our experience at Sarma was a fantastic one. We expected to have to wait at least an hour, but the communal table allowed us to be seated right away. Our waitress was great, our drinks were fabulous and the food was exotic and decadent.

Have you been to Sarma yet? What was your favorite dish? 
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