Monday, October 20, 2014

Celebrate: National Pizza Month

There are so many great things about the month of October - the gorgeous foliage, the crisp fall weather, weekend apple picking, pumpkin coffee and desserts - but the best thing may be that it's National Pizza Month.

Who better to talk pizza with on this momentous occasion than Chef and Co-Owner of Area Four and A4 Pizza, Jeff Pond? While Jeff and his team were busy firing up pizzas, I had the chance to fire off a few questions on his love of 'za.

What is your first memory of tasting really killer pizza?

Jeff: The first really good pizza I ever had was at a place called Pizza Time in Bridgeport, CT. It was down the street from my house, and I was probably nine or ten, maybe eight years old. It wasn't anything crazy in terms of today's standards, but there was nice cheese, a good sauce and the chef/owner made his dough in-house.

There are a lot of pizza shops and restaurants in Boston. What makes the Area Four and A4 pies special? 

Jeff: The dough, the oven and the length of time we choose to cook our pizzas at. The Neopolitan pizza - the 90 second cook - remains really trendy, but we're not trying to do that. We do a nice, artisanal pie with a three and a half to four minute back time.

In your opinion, what is the most underrated pizza topping? 

Jeff: Soppressata instead of pepperoni. It might not be underrated, but it is sometimes unknown.

After talking with Jeff, I knew I finally had to make my way to A4 Pizza in Somerville. I've been a long time customer of the Area Four location in Kendall Square, but I hadn't been able to visit its sibling.

A4 Pizza is located just outside of Union Square, right across the street from Market Basket.

Inside, the space is small but warm, cozy and inviting. The bar runs along the entire left wall, eventually stopping just before the pizza oven. From any seat at the bar you can see the pizzas going in.

We waited about 15 minutes before seats opened at the bar and then grabbed three stools. A very friendly bartender delivered us menus. The A4 menu has two sections, each with a simple header, "Pizza" and "Not Pizza." 

Before ordering any pies, we started with drinks. Wine and beer for the girls and Bantam cider for me. If you haven't had Bantam cider it's super delicious and it's made right here in Somerville! In fact, the bartender informed me that Bantam has a tasting room. Apparently it's right near the Target in Union Square. Adding that to my list! 

With drinks in hand, we ordered up two appetizers to share, starting with the roasted cauliflower. For some reason, perhaps because it came served an iron skillet, I presumed the cauliflower would be hot. It was actually served room temperature, which was a surprise. 

I love cauliflower and this was definitely an interesting take. Almost like rolling your cauliflower through pizza sauce. 

Next up, the mixed greens topped with shaved pecorino. This was a great first round dish because it was tasty without being too filling. You have to leave room for the main event. 

For pizza, we shared two pies, starting with the classic margherita. Though made from simple ingredients, it was fantastic. The crust is the ideal ratio of crispy to chewy and dotted with those delicious bubbles created through the cooking process. The sauce was flavorful and a nice compliment to the creamy mozzarella. 

We were tempted to devour this entire pie, but resisted and took it home. 

We also sampled the shiitake mushroom pizza.

This pie is topped with mushroom sauce, fontina, gremolata and Baffoni Farm eggs. I don't know about you, but I absolutely love egg on pizza. 

With this particular pizza, the crust was really just a vehicle for consuming all the incredible goodies! The mushroom and the egg were such a rich, harmonious pairing. 

As you all know, I am a huge dessert person. Sadly, A4 only offers a dessert special on the weekend. That dish is a unique collaboration with their neighbor around the corner, Union Square Donuts. 

There are still 11 days left to celebrate National Pizza Month at A4 Pizza or Area Four. Trust me, you need to experience that margherita pizza!

Tell me, what's your favorite pie?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Grey's Anatomy: Meredith Is Terrible With Sisters

Rather than open on the traditional Meredith Grey voice over monologue, last night's episode of "Grey's Anatomy" began with a clip of Ellis Grey (though the way we first saw it, it seemed live, and not like the video recording it turned out to be). Knowing Ellis is dead, it was jarring to see her on screen again.

This hour we saw Ellis not only as we remember her (senile and screaming at Meredith), but a young Ellis and a young Richard as interns in Seattle. The actress playing the young Ellis has the exact same voice as Meredith.

Throughout the episode we are taken through flashbacks of Ellis and Richard's relationship, as well as to when Meredith was five years old and her memories of her mother trying to kill herself.

Back in real time, Derek tries to talk Maggie into staying at Seattle Grace, but she won't reveal the reason why she's going. She keeps saying, "Talk to your wife." Well, that hasn't been going well.

When Derek is finally clued in, he says to Maggie, "So Richard's your father? And Meredith is your sister? Meredith is terrible with sisters, just so you know, and I love sisters, I have a bunch of them. I'm glad you told me. It's nice to meet you." Then they hug and it's just adorable. Finally, a positive reaction to her news!

Across the hospital, Alex wants to know why Meredith didn't vote for him in the competition for Yang's board seat. She replies, "Alex, you would make a fine board member, but Bailey will make an exceptional one. Is that what you want me to do? Vote for you to be good? To be fine? You want my pity vote? I wouldn't." Wow. How much does she sound like Ellis?

At the end of the hour, Meredith confesses to Derek that she did actually remember her mom being pregnant. When she finally releases that truth, you can feel her and Derek sincerely connecting for the first time in . . . forever. I hate when they fight.

Feeling relieved, Meredith finds Maggie and shares Ellis' journal with her, pointing out the exact page where her notes change once she realized she was pregnant.

The episode ends on the same clip of Ellis from the very beginning. I'm not sure why, but it's really haunting.

In previews for next week, the focus is on Callie and Arizona. They are fighting over Arizona's new fellowship and find themselves in couples therapy. Apparently Arizona suggests, "I think we should take a break." Oh boy. Here we go again. Remember when Arizona was hooking up with Murphy in hotel rooms?

What did you think of this week's episode? Did you like the flashbacks?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Coming Soon: Bully Boy Hub Punch

I'm a vodka girl. If you've ever been out drinking with me, you know that's my liquor of choice.

Back in 2011, I read an article about two brothers, Will and Dave Willis, who were starting a Boston-based distillery. They named it Bully Boy and one of their first products would be vodka.

Since taking my first sip of Bully Boy vodka, that has been the only vodka I serve at my house (and you all know how often I entertain).

Now, just in time for hot toddy season, Bully Boy is releasing their new craft liquor, Hub Punch. To create this rum infusion, the brothers steep their Boston rum with orange peel, lemon peel and raspberry, then infuse that mixture with a secret (sssshhh!) assortment of botanicals and herbs. The result is a 70 proof booze that is equally delicious on the rocks or mixed with soda, lemonade or tea.

Hub Punch is not yet available in stores, so I couldn't test drive it myself. I was planning to mix up a drink for all of you, but instead, I started cruising Pinterest for a new bar cart. I think I need this one as well as this sign, right?

Though it won't hit shelves until late October, you can be one of the first to sample Hub Punch at its launch party on Wednesday, October 22nd at The Hawthorne. The bartenders at this renowned cocktail haven will be mixing up specialty drinks featuring Hub Punch. Get your tickets to the party here.

Who is ready for a sip?

*Image sources 1, 2 and 3

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Mindy Project: A Case Of Mindy Fever

Last night's episode of "The Mindy Project" featured theatrics, fake accents and a black sheep sweatshirt.

The episode begins with the doctors arriving to the hospital to meet their new boss, Dr. Jean Fishman, formerly of Mass General. I love the way Mindy constantly works nods to Boston into her scripts.

In the middle of Dr. Fishman's presentation, Mindy's phone starts to go off. Naturally her ring tone is Iggy Azalea's "Fancy."

Dr. Fishman is less than impressed by Mindy & co. and it takes a lot of groveling and one very unexpected kiss for Mindy to get back in her good graces.

Afraid to come clean to Dr. Fishman about her heterosexuality, Danny explains to Mindy, "I know you love your little white lies, but it's one thing to hole punch your own frequent yogurt card, it's another thing to mess with someone's heart." Which reminds me, I wish the frozen yogurt place in Watertown was open past 9:00pm.

Meanwhile, across town, Peter and Jeremy are at the Dartmouth alumni club for a beer pong tournament. Jeremy is donning a fake American accent while Peter is trying to get out from under his terrible college nickname, Lefty (as in, all the girls have left him).

Who are they facing off against in pong? Shonda Rhimes! After Peter sinks the winning shot he shouts, "What's up, Shonda? Am I the new mayor of Shondaland?" Hilarious.

In the final scene of the episode, Mindy and Danny have a very dramatic faux fight in front of Dr. Fishman and her wife (who looks freakishly like Danny). Once they've successfully tricked the ladies, Mindy and Danny were feeling pretty satisfied with themselves and I was feeling like I only want to watch those two from now on. Goodbye supporting cast, hello, Rom Com.

What did you think of last night's episode? As funny as Diamond Dan?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Shop: Fall Favorites At Madewell

Happy faux Monday, everyone! Hope you all had a great Columbus Day weekend. I spent mine in Washington D.C. It was my first time there in over six years. I can't wait to share all the places I dined!

Now that it's mid-October, the fall weather has truly set in. There's a chill in the air every morning, the daily commute requires a light jacket and the sun is setting earlier and earlier. So what does that mean? New fall clothes, but of course!

I get about a million shopping emails a day, but one from Madewell really caught my attention. I was immediately drawn to this jacket on the left:

I clicked through to browse and discovered it's their reversible bomber jacket.

How soft and cozy does this look? It's part varsity letter jacket, part polar bear.

For dressier outings, I'm lusting after this colorblock streetcar coat. What can I say, I'm addicted to neutrals.

It's a bit pricey, but it's a classic. You could wear this year after year.

In addition to head-turning coats, Madewell is also offering gorgeous sweaters that are perfect for work or weekend wear. This cloudweight plaid pullover sweater feels very Burberry to me.

For something a bit more casual, I love this buffalo plaid sweatshirt. It's 90% pajama, 10% chic.

If you've hung out with me in person, you know that I never wear pants. I only wear skirts and dresses. A huge part of my fall wardrobe is sweater dresses. I like the unexpected touch of the black sleeves on this jumpstart sweater dress.

Major bonus, you can get it for 30% off with the code OHFALL.

Now for the tricky part, how to decide which piece to order first?!

Where do you find your fall essentials?

*All images courtesy of Madewell.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Grey's Anatomy: Resentment

Hello, friends! Happy Friday!

Forgive me if this recap post is a bit incoherent, I didn't get a chance to write it until 11:30pm last night. I was out at a fabulous event and got home much later than I anticipated.

Before getting into this week's episode, I have to share a startling discovery. Did you know that the actress who plays Jo Wilson is British? She was a guest judge (with the rest of the cast) on "Top Chef Duels" and she had a British accent! Shocking.

This week's major story line revolved around Meredith and Derek. Would it be too much to ask for them to stay happy for more than one episode? I mean, really.

Meredith confides in Alex about the situation and declares that her career is just as important. She shouts, "I'm the sun. I'm the sun. And he can go suck it! I'm the sun." Then she takes a giant swig from a bottle of booze.

Meanwhile, Derek is treating his sister (She Shepherd) like crap. He steals her brain aneurysm surgery, the patient dies and then they have a very heated argument. Turns out he really did want that job in Washington, D.C.

Across the hospital, Owen and Callie are working together to try and provide robotic prosthetic legs to wounded veterans. They get into a fight in the hallway and Callie shuts him down. She says, "On the surgical floor you are my chief. In my lab, funded by the money I procured, I am in charge. Are we clear?" Way to go, sister!

Also this hour, Alex and Bailey go head to head for Cristina's board seat. When Alex tries to rehearse his speech in front of Meredith, she admits her alligence to Bailey, "Bailey did deliver my baby. And save my life. What have you ever done?"

Alex decides to show Meredith some loyalty by helping to track down Ellis' medical records. Turns out, in the spring of 1983 Ellis tried to kill herself. When brought into the emergency room, her chart said she was pregnant. Armed with this news, Meredith calls the chief to come over. It is so clear how much Ellis still haunts both of them. It's really sad.

At the close of the episode, the chief finally gets the courage to tell Maggie the truth and she freaks out.

In the final scene, Alex and Bailey are sitting outside a conference room waiting for the board decision. Arizona calls Alex in. Bailey thinks she has lost and starts to cry. Then Alex storms out and we learn that Bailey secured Cristina's old seat.

In previews for next week, it seems Meredith is pushing Derek to head to D.C. and try to get his dream job back. Here we go again.

Before I sign off on Grey's for the week, did anyone else think the patient story line with the tree limb was awfully similar to the story line several seasons ago where a man and a woman had a metal pole through their abdomens? Remember, they were stuck together, facing each other?

Tell me, what did you think of last night's episode?

*Image source.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dining Out: Earls Kitchen & Bar

On Monday I shared with you my review of the movie "Gone Girl," which I saw at the brand spankin' new Assembly Row theater. If you haven't been yet - you must!

What I didn't get to say on Monday, but I am thrilled to tell you now, is that before the movie we tried one of Assembly Row's newest arrivals, Earls Kitchen & Bar.

The restaurant is located just steps beyond the new J.P. Licks, overlooking the Mystic River.

When we walked in, a hostess was in the entry way (before you could even step inside the restaurant) taking names down on an iPad. We offered our name and she told us it would be about 10-15 minutes.

Right at the 10 minute mark we got a text message that our table was ready. Love that!

There were about six girls behind the hostess stand, all doing nothing. We waited several minutes for anyone to acknowledge us.

We were eventually seated in a cozy, round booth. It's hard to see in this photo, but the booths are actually quite nice.

In between each of the booths there are outlets for charging your phone. Genius!

Our waitress popped by with menus and each one had a different design.

I think these are fun, creative and add extra personality to the place.

The Earls name is marked on each piece of silverware with a lower case "E."

Since we were headed into a movie (and one where we needed to pay attention) we opted to skip the alcohol and try some of Earls housemade soda concoctions. Below is the lemongrass orange blossom (on the left) and the raspberry lime (on the right).

I ordered the raspberry lime soda which was raspberry cordial, lime bitters and soda. It tasted like a melted raspberry lime rickey popsicle, with a touch of carbonation.

Across the table, a friend was sipping the lemongrass orange blossom which was lemongrass syrup, orange blossom bitters, fresh lemon juice and soda. She commented, "I love that it's not overly sweet. It has a great, refreshing orange taste."

Another friend ordered a Diet Coke which came in a pint glass stamped with the Earls logo.

As we enjoyed our drinks, one friend said, "You know what? I would come here just to charge my phone and have a soda." Ha! 

To start, we decided to share an order of the truffle fries. When are truffle fries not a good idea?

The fries mostly tasted of black pepper, not of truffle. I was also wishing they had parmesan cheese, as truffle fries often do.

The highlight of the dish was actually the garlic aioli dipping sauce. It was so good we asked for a second helping!

You will notice in the photos to come, that all three of us took advantage of the soup special for the evening, which was tomato. Now that the fall weather has really set in, soup is just the perfect comfort food.

For our entrees, my friend ordered the chicken, brie and fig sandwich which came with roasted apples, spinach, that amazing garlic aioli and ciabatta bread. In lieu of French fries, she asked for the tomato soup on the side.

It was a very generous serving of soup, topped with cheesy croutons and parsley.

The sandwich looked beautiful. When she finished, she said, "The ciabatta bread is very soft. They did not skimp at all on the brie, the chicken is grilled nicely and the roasting of the apples was such a nice touch. I think I tasted a hint of cinnamon. Also, that fig spread was to die for!"

She also remarked, "The sandwich wasn't really that big on its own, so if I hadn't had the soup, I think I would still be hungry."

Meanwhile, across the table, a friend was enjoying the mixed greens salad. Normally a mixed greens or house salad at a restaurant is lackluster, but this one was gorgeous. It was topped with apples, candied walnuts, goat cheese and a light dressing.

Like the chicken sandwich, she too commented, "The salad wouldn't be enough on its own. You definitely need something to pair with it."

And pair with it she did! She opted for a menu combo called the Salad, Soup and Pan Bread. With her salad she also received a bowl of tomato soup and a thick slice of bread.

After much deliberation, I went with the vegetarian burger. It was chickpea falafel, cucumber, tomato, feta cheese, citrus Greek yogurt and hummus. I know, I know. My breath did smell horrible afterward.

The burger was gorgeous and it tasted like everything you love about a Greek salad, with the added bonus of the perfectly cooked and crispy falafel patty. Falafel can be super greasy, but this wasn't at all. It was delicious.

I also decided to sub my French fries for tomato soup. Sadly, my bowl of soup was warm, but not hot. With each bite, it seemed to cool down more. The other girls swore theirs was piping hot, but I didn't have that luck.

Though my burger was fantastic, it was super hard to hold! It was several inches tall and kept slipping through my fingers, literally.

To all my single ladies, if you head to Earls on a date, do not order this! Unless you want your date to think you have no motor skills or are a complete slob.

All in all, our experience at Earls was a good one. The restaurant is super lively. It has three separate dining room areas and three separate bars, so there is a ton of action. The crowd ranges from families to young professionals to even a few AARP folks.

When the weather is warm, they will surely open all their windows to let in the fresh air and views of the river.

Have you been checking out all the new restaurants opening in Assembly Row? Which one is your favorite so far? 
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