BIBLIOBITES IN MAY – Eating and writing!

May’s Bibliobites group read Garlic and Sapphires by bestselling author and former New York Times food critic Ruth Reichl.

Everyone said they loved the book and many revisited her two memoirs – Tender at the Bone and Comfort me with Apples. Some even went on to read her new fiction title Delicious – published in May.

ruth

 

It was great fun to read about little-known and soon to be discovered restaurant gems in the Big Apple along with tidbits about famed restaurants such as Daniel’s and Tavern on the Green – Many of us were fascinated by the NY food scene where restaurant critics are celebrities and recognized on sight. Reichl’s undercover disguises and her zany methods to remain undetected added to the fun as she chronicled her dining adventures in the city for us. We were all drooling over the food descriptions and eager to test our new-found critic’s eyes as we tackled our “homework” visiting both new and familiar restaurants. Some of us stayed in the area, others ventured as far as Maine to sample the culinary fare. We heard a variety of opinions as we ate our way across New England — some glowing, some so-so and some positively negative. But one thing was crystal clear from the discussions – this Bibliobites group likes to eat! And we like to talk about what we eat too!

 

 

Group members visited and reviewed the following restaurants:

Good for Lunch:
110 Grill - Chelmsford
Family Affair Restaurant & Catering located at The American Textile History Museum in Lowell

Family and Comfort Food
Aldo’s Café – Stoneham
Bonefish Grill – Burlington
Centro -  Lowell
Evviva Cucina –  Westford
Not Your Average Joes -  Acton
Red Heat Tavern – Wilmington

Specialty Restaurants
Bison County Bar and Grill – Waltham
Fishbones – Chelmsford
Margaritas -  Nashua

Out to Dinner
80 Thoreau - Concord
Earth at Hidden Pond- Kennebunkport, ME
Season 52 – Burlington
Sportello – Boston

Some of the group members’ restaurant  reviews are available in the comments section.  Do you have some restaurant suggestions or comments?  Add them in the comment section. – Bon Appetit!

 

 

3 comments to BIBLIOBITES IN MAY – Eating and writing!

  • Margaritas – Nashua
    Review by Andrea Grant
    Windy With a Chance of Guacamole

    Last week a group of us made the trek to downtown Nashua, NH to sample the Mexican food at Margarita’s. The restaurant is located in an old mill building overlooking the Nashua River. You can sit indoors or out; having been there before and remembering that the a/c works a bit too well, we opted to sit outside on a covered deck. It was a sunny, pleasant evening and our table was near a (manmade) waterfall, which probably at one time powered the mill. Sounds idyllic, except….a breeze picked up soon after we sat down, and continued to increase in velocity as the evening went on. Soon napkins, tortilla chips, and the occasional plastic cup were flying about. And the waterfall turned out to be so noisy we had to converse by yelling; this problem was exacerbated by the fact that our table seemed to be unusually large and therefore our seats were farther apart than usual.
    Environmental issues aside, Margarita’s has an extensive menu of familiar Mexican dishes, all of which were well-executed on the night of our visit. The aforementioned chips were properly thin and crispy and served with a not-too-spicy chunky salsa. We also ordered guacamole, which was fresh and loaded with large pieces of avocado. It rapidly disappeared! One person ordered a margarita, which oddly came in a plastic cup like what you’d serve a kid’s drink in, but was delicious all the same. No salt on the rim, though!
    As the wind continued to pick up, our main meals arrived. Everything arrived together, which was appreciated by all. One friend ordered the fish tacos, a beautiful-looking plate of three tacos filled with portions of fried fish topped with shredded purple cabbage. The fish was crisp, tender and not greasy. I had the shrimp tacos, which was two tacos filled with corn salsa, salsa fresco, lettuce, with the shrimp arranged across the top. The shrimp were drizzled with two delicious spicy, creamy sauces. Another friend ordered the “from the sea combo” so she was able to sample both a fish taco and a shrimp taco, as well as a fish taco del mar. Notably, the corn tortillas for these soft tacos were thin and delicious, tasting of corn and not chemicals. They really enhanced the flavor of the taco fillings. These tacos were all smaller plates, as they did not come with the usual sides of rice and beans. So be forewarned if you are extra-hungry!
    But not to worry—if you are in the mood for a good-sized meal, Margarita’s delivers. Two in our party ordered the “Mexican flag,” a combo of three enchiladas filled with chicken carnitas and topped with red, white, and green sauces. This plate came with rice and beans of your choice, and was so filling that there were considerable leftovers for lunch the next day. The chicken was tender and nicely spicy, the sauces complementary. I also ordered a “Tio’s Super Burrito” to go for my daughter at home, and it was a super-large burrito packed with shredded steak and covered in sauce and cheese. Tex-Mex at its finest! She enjoyed it so much I never even got a taste!
    By the time we finished our dinners we were all much too cold, and too tired of yelling at each other, to order dessert or coffee. Our server kindly brought us separate bills, though this made me realize I had paid $2.49 for a glass of seltzer water, which seemed a bit on the high side—though there were free refills on all sodas. I have noticed an annoying trend for restaurants to charge premium prices for coffee and sodas, perhaps to enable them to keep the prices of food lower? But I digress….if you go to Margarita’s, which I recommend you do, choose your seating carefully, and always bring a sweater! And check out the weekly special events—had we gone on Thursday night, our party of six women could have saved 40% on food and enjoyed discounted drinks in the bar, since Thursday is “Ladies’ Night.” Margarita’s isn’t exactly fine dining, but when you need your Mexican fix, it definitely fills the bill. Just watch out for flying tortilla chips!

  • 110 Grill – Chelmsford
    Review by Deborah

    The first time I went to the 110 Grill, though I did not know it, they had just lost their liquor license. That did not matter to my friend and me, since we had no intention of ordering any adult beverages. However, it had apparently affected their business so much that they were not even serving the full menu because of the small number of customers. We did stay, but as I recall, there were not many choices for our lunch, and the food was so-so.
    As we sat there, we watched numerous people come in, and then turn around and leave when they were told there was no liquor to be had.

    That was last year.
    Fast Forward to now.
    Same friend, same place, different experience.
    My friend assured me she had been several times since they reopened, and it was great — (Yes, they eventually closed until the license situation was resolved).

    So back we went for lunch.
    We were promptly seated by a window (not that there is much to look at). There is a small outdoor sitting area, but the weather was not cooperating.
    The waitress came over right away to take our drink order (just water please) and to tell us the special, which was lobster sliders.
    The menu was specifically for lunch, but had a variety of sandwiches and some more dinner like items as well. Several items were tempting me, including a rueben sandwich, turkey club, chicken caesar wrap, and the lowly egg salad sandwich. These all came with a choice of one side. I decided to go with a tuna melt on english muffin. My friend ordered a turkey club. She ordered a salad as her side item. I was undecided between regular french fries and sweet potato fries, When I asked if I could have a half order of each, there was no problem.
    The food arrived in a timely manner. The turkey club looked enormous, with a fair sized side of salad, which was of the field greens variety. It got the thumbs up from my friend.
    My tuna melt was tasty. It was white tuna, tomato and a thick piece of cheese. However the English muffin could have been crisper. The regular fries were OK, but the sweet potato fries were excellent. They were steak fry size, and quite crisp. I am not always thrilled with sweet potato fries, but I am a fan of these.

    We did not order any dessert, in fact, I am not sure there was any available, and when I looked online to refresh my memory, no desserts were listed.

    The week after we had our lunch there, I received an e-mail saying they were changing the menu. Our waitress had told us this, but did not have any preview at the time. The new menu, which I glanced at online, is smaller, and has some of the same items, and some new choices.
    I gave them my e-mail address, because in doing so, they promised to send a $5.00 coupon, which they did. So I will have to go again—maybe I will try dinner this time.

  • Evviva Cucina - Westford
    Review by Maggie
    Is there life after Bertucci’s?
    If you are looking for a casual night out, either as a couple or with the kids, consider checking out Evviva Cucina at Westford’s new Cornerstone Square. After three visits there, I have found the atmosphere to be attractive and warm, the wait staff attentive and knowledgeable, and the ingredients to be fresh, with unusual combinations.
    I have grown tired of Bertucci’s, so consider this as a step up, but in the same vein. The restaurant has an industrial chic feel with high ceilings, a combination of high top and regular tables, and an expansive bar with 80” screen TV’s broadcasting a variety of sports events, though not in an obtrusive way.
    The restaurant was conceived by the owner of the Burton’s Grill chain and is run by his son, Nick Harron. The focus is on the open kitchen, with regional Italian dishes made from scratch. They also have many draft beers and varieties of wine to complement any meal.
    On each visit, I have had an individual pizza, since I do not enjoy a presentation with large quantities of food. My samplings have included the shrimp scampi pizza (baby shrimp, feta, garlic, marinated tomatoes, white sauce), and the prosciutto pizza (fig jam, house made buratta, EVVO, prosciutto, arugula, shaved parmigiano, truffle salt, grilled lemon, and pickled shallots). All pizzas are prepared with a very thin crust, with either a Neopolitan style (traditional) or La Montanara (flash fried, toppings added, then finished in the oven). I have ordered the Neopolitan style every time, and it is extremely fresh and light. Although both of the pizzas mentioned above were high in taste, the Prosciutto was harder to manage since the toppings, especially the arugula, did not stay on very well. The flavors were there, but the pizza was harder to eat neatly.
    In addition to pizza, there are creative appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pasta, and several full plate dishes. They have a children’s menu which includes pizza, pasta, and several grilled options.
    Service for my three visits has been exemplary with attentive wait staff. Take out is also available. If you haven’t checked relatively new local restaurant out, I recommend that you do so soon.

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