Casa Molina Lynn, MA

My new favorite (and frequent) go-to place for a delicious, inexpensive dinner is Casa Molina on Lewis Street. I started going there a few months ago and have recently been getting dinner there at least twice a week. I was referred there by the same co-worker who told me to check out Jamaica’s Flavor, so I knew he wouldn’t steer me wrong. My first order was for delivery and I noticed right off the bat the friendliness of the staff. The person I spoke to on the phone was genuinely nice and pleasant, he repeated my order to me, gave me the total and a time estimate, all without having to ask. The food arrived to my door in the same time frame as any other delivery in the area but what surprised me the most was the freshness of the food. My tacos were made, including the crispy shells, right when I ordered them. They give you the option of American (lettuce, tomato, cheese) or Mexican (onion and cilantro) style with the tacos. So far, I have tried the chicken burrito, chorizo and chicken crispy tacos and the al pastor enchiladas.

I have become addicted to the chorizo crispy tacos, Mexican style with chicken being a very close second. You can get an order of 3 tacos for $4 or a 3 taco plate (with rice and beans) for $6. The enchiladas are my back-up for when I need a break from tacos. There are 4 enchiladas in an order for about $4 and even though they are listed under the appetizer section, they are definitely a meal on their own. You can get any of their menu items with any of the meats they offer.

I also finally tried the banana chimichanga. I may be biased because I would eat any kind of dessert just as long as it had a high sugar content, but this dish was delicious. It’s a whole banana wrapped in a sweet tortilla and deep fried. Of course anything deep fried is just plain awesome, but add ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate sauce and cinnamon to it and you’ve got a meal! Definitely a must try. I wanted to add pictures to this post but I seem to eat my food in its entirety before I even have a chance to whip out my camera.

I had the pleasure of meeting Douglas Molina on one of my many visits to pick up my order. As the owner he is always there, making the food, putting together the orders, serving people who are eating in all while genuinely hoping that you are enjoying your meal. He is extremely friendly to everyone I have seen him speak to and is an overall hard working and dedicated business owner.

If you in or around Lynn, definitely make your way over to Lewis street and check out Casa Molina. I found out today that Douglas will have a website up soon and I will update this post with pictures and a link to the site.

Jamaica’s Flavor Lynn, MA

I figured it was about time that some of the less publicized places in Lynn get some recognition. One of my favorites is Jamaica’s Flavor on Pleasant Street. Before coming to Jamaica’s Flavor, I had never tried Jamaican food. A co-worker told me they had the best curry chicken, so I had to give it a try. I stopped by on my way home from work and when you step inside, you get hit in the face with the wonderful smells of spices and meat. I came in at around 6:00pm and there wasn’t much food left. Tina, who owns the place with her husband, said that they make their food fresh and usually sell out by the end of the day. I was able to get a medium order of curry chicken with rice and the veggies of the day, and I also picked up one beef and one chicken patty. All of my food came out to less than $10 which is just great. The curry chicken was so moist and juicy and the spices were not too hot but very flavorful. I’m glad that Tina poured some of the curry over the rice because it seemed a bit bland without it. I had also tried the jerk chicken which was more of a dry rub and was definitely very spicy. But by far the best part of my meal was the beef patty. The chicken was ok, but the beef was just phenomenal. The beef is ground and cooked with Jamaican spices. I am so addicted to them that I stop by at least 3 times a week on my way home from work for 2 beef patties. But its best to call ahead to see if they have any since they usually sell out by early evening.

Blue Ox in Lynn, MA

If you’ve never been to Lynn, MA it’s quite an interesting place. Like most urban cities, it has its good sections and its bad, but downtown Lynn seems to be a mix. We are starting to see a change for the better with old factory buildings being converted into large lofts, young professionals moving to the area and the city offering perks for people to start businesses in the city. To that effect a new restaurant has opened up recently called The Blue Ox, located on Oxford Street. The Blue Ox sticks out like a sore thumb in downtown among the hole-in-the-wall eateries that surround it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking these other establishments as some of them are fantastic (see more on Jamaica’s Flavor and Casa Molina in upcoming posts). But if you have ever walked by The Blue Ox, you’ll notice its clean exterior, wood finishes in the entryway and trendy ambiance just from peeking through the window.

Since its opening, I’ve had dinner there twice. On both occasions I had a great meal. My first meal included New England clam chowder, grilled hanger steak with fries, and a chocolate cake for dessert. For my second meal, I had the clam chowder again, the gnocchi bolognese and a few bites of the cheesecake. In addition, I had bites of the filet mignon and the pork tenderloin. The crispy calamari is probably the best I have ever tasted. It is not overly fried, doesn’t taste oily and the batter is has light flavor. The portions were definitely larger than you would see at a similar restaurant in Boston and the prices are comparable. The clam chowder had applewood smoked bacon and touch of tobasco which I thought was a nice variation on a classic. The pork was cooked perfectly and was juicy and soft. I felt that the gnocchi had a bit too much rosemary in it, but I don’t particularly like rosemary so it could have just been me. The cheesecake was delicious and I’m a pretty harsh critic when it comes to dessert. The cocktails and beer are very reasonably priced and the selection is surprisingly diverse.

If you find yourself on the Northshore, check out The Blue Ox. The weekends seem to be busy but if you make a reservation in advance, getting a table is no problem. From time to time the restaurant hold cooking demos for approximately $35 where the chef will show you how to cook a meal and afterward you get to enjoy a three course meal with the demoed meal as the entree. I have yet to attend a demo, but will soon.

Cupcake Tea at the Ritz-Carlton

I read a lot of cupcake related blogs but I hadn’t been keeping up with them over the holidays. So when I got back to them in mid-January I noticed an old post from November about the Ritz-Carlton doing their Cupcake Tea for the holidays. I had never heard of it but since it involved cupcakes I had to investigate. I thought it had ended in December, but it turns out their website shows it as ongoing with the cupcake selections varying. So I immediately made a reservation, which are recommended and sometimes required if it’s a busy time. Cupcake Tea is simply five mini cupcakes served with a variety of tea selections. The cupcake flavors are chosen by the Ritz, so you can’t substitute any if you don’t like the flavor.

It is set in the lobby of the hotel, which seems a little weird at first but the set up is so nice that you feel like you are sitting in a living room. Our table was set up before we arrived with everything minus the tea and cupcakes.

All the utensils were made of silver and made especially for the hotel.

I’ve never seen a lemon squeezer before, but then again it is the Ritz.

My tea was delicious and the pot was on a silver stand with a tea light in it to keep it warm. The only issue was that the tea leaves stayed in the pot, so with each cup the tea got stronger and eventually over-brewed. Fortunately, the tea is unlimited.

The cupcakes were small, but after five of them I was stuffed. They were so delicious. I’m sure they are one-biters but a frosting-on-the-face situation would have occurred if I attempted that. The flavors from left to right: Raspberry Ginger, Apple Pie, Peppermint Patty, Boston Cream, and Eggnog.

I ate them in reverse order starting with the Eggnog which I thought I would like the least next to the Ginger one. Surprisingly it was delicious. The frosting was light and fluffy and had a sprinkle of nutmeg on top. Boston Cream was as expected, same for the Peppermint Patty which I did eat in one bite just to see if I could…

The Apple Pie one was probably my favorite even though it didn’t have any actual frosting on it. The apples on top were like pie filling, so good. The Raspberry Ginger one I think I liked the least probably because I am not a fan of ginger, but the cake was a spice cake and there was a small center of raspberry filling which was a nice surprise.

Needless to say, I did finish them all. I will definitely be going back to try out the other flavors.

Tangierino in Charlestown

This week is restaurant week in Boston, and like every year we like to try a new restaurant as well as return to some of our favorites. Due to the not so pleasant economical situation we decided to limit our restaurant choices to two this time, one new and one vintage. Tangierino was our new. It’s a Moroccan restaurant with influences from the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

First, I was a bit annoyed that they did not have their restaurant week menu posted online to view (well there was a link that was dead). When we arrived at the restaurant, I thought the decor was a bit over the top, it was very dark, lots of colored drapes everywhere and the restaurant is like a maze. The hostess took us in a zig zag to the back of the restaurant to seat us by the window and there was no way I could find my way back to the restrooms. Another drawback was the fact that they only served the restaurant week menu where other restaurants give you the option of ordering from their regular menu if the restaurant week options do not appeal to you. Our waitress was trying to convince us that during restaurant week, restaurants only serve what is on the prix-fixe menu, I decided to let it go and not argue with her.

I started off with a lychee champagne drink that did not really taste like lychee at all, but was still good. For appetizer I got the lamb in phylo dough with an eggplant vegetable side, it was very good. The lamb wasn’t too strong, the phylo wasn’t very oily and I typically stay away from eggplant as it tends to get mushy when cooked, but it was mixed very well with spices. Alex got the tuna tartar for appetizer which was severely lacking in tuna. It was mostly diced up cucumber and mango with some guacamole and what I think was Russian dressing on top. There was very little tuna. In fact this is what it was supposed to look like, and I am now kicking myself that I didn’t take a picture of what we actually got, it looked nothing like that.

For my entree I got duck breast with mashed potatoes, and I was fairly unimpressed. It was delicious but a very small portion. In fact, it was three small, medium thick slices of duck and a small round of mashed potatoes. The duck was very tasty but the mashed potatoes were nothing special, there was no Middle Eastern or Moroccan twist to them, just regular mashed potatoes. Also on my plate was a single cooked fig and a single cooked apricot. Gladly, I have a smaller appetite so this sized portion was just right for me after the appetizer I had had. Alex had the chicken with couscous for entree and it was about five times the size of my meal. He got two large pieces of chicken and a very large helping of couscous with plenty of seasoned vegetables on top. It was a very tasty meal although you could get the feeling that it was meant to have more spice and more of a kick to it. Maybe they assumed people couldn’t handle the spice and made it bland.

Dessert is my absolute favorite meal, and it will make or break a restaurant experience for me. Unfortunately, it broke this one. First there were only two dessert options, flourless chocolate cake and fruit sorbet. I went with the flourless chocolate cake mostly because I knew Alex would go for the sorbet. Now, if you’ve had the flourless chocolate cake at McCormick and Schmick’s you can only imagine how excited I was to try this one. Sadly, this one was nothing even close to McCormick and Schmick’s, in fact our waitress was incorrect in saying that it was a cake, it is actually a souffle as stated on their menu. Had I known this, I would not have ordered it. When it came out, the “cake” was warm much like a souffle would be and the ice cream on the side was half melted. I took one bite of the “cake” and was done. It tasted like chocolate gelatin, it was one of the worst desserts I have had. I ate what was left of the ice cream on my plate and shared the sorbet. The sorbet was very good, watermelon and tangerine. It was sweet and tarty and very fruity.

Overall, the food was good but I felt for restaurant week they could have done a better job especially since they were not serving anything from their regular menu. The dessert was a big disappointment. I would give them another chance but I would order off of the regular menu and probably not get any of the items I had for restaurant week.