Category Archives: South End

ArtVenue; An Artful Resurgence

Photo by Evan Smith

Artists of all genres, mediums and ages devote countless hours to their craft, their passion and their labor of love. Finding time to research venues and keeping organized with follow-up and follow-through proves to be a more daunting task that you would think. Three art-admirers put their heads together and created ArtVenue, a site that acts as a curating matchmaker between artists and local businesses. Whether it’s blank wall space behind the cash register of a clothing boutique, in a dimly lit entrance of a cigar shoppe, or next to a shelf full of hair products in a salon – ArtVenue gives more artists the chance to display their work and gain exposure and potential revenue from their sales. Businesses get a cut as well, but, most importantly, they become supporters in a reciprocal movement that is sure to gain momentum with every artist and business sign up at ArtVenue. This is the start of a grassroots art resurgence!

ArtVenue, a MassChallenge finalist, is currently inviting artists and businesses to sign up and create a free profile on their site which is currently in beta. Check out the video below to see how ArtVenue works!

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There’s a New Deal in Town

I endorse the business model under which sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, BuyWithMe and other deal-of-the-day sites follow. Enjoying a delicious meal worth $50 when I’ve only paid $20? Yes, please. Partaking in 12 yoga classes when I only needed to pay for one? Ommmm. I am a huge fan of deal sites but in my hectic life I often neglect checking them; I’m just too busy or it simply slips my mind. Thank goodness there is one ultimate site, DealGator, that aggregates deals from every existing deal site (Groupon, LivingSocial, etc.) and presents them to me at one place and one time. How convenient is that?

DealGator is stupendously time-saving. Instead of aimlessly browsing other deal sites and hoping for a specific deal, I can just select or deselect deal categories and watch the list of deals instantly reorganize before my eyes! The site will even send a personalized list of completely new deals to my email every morning, saving me yet another step.

Let’s say I’m browsing restaurant deals and want to filter out Mexican food due to my preexisting burrito habit, entering the keyword “Mexican” excludes Mexican food related deals from my list. It’s like having a Vegas buffet catered to my dietary needs, taste preferences and gluttonous cravings I can have modified even while I feast. The combination of customizable deals is infinite and the only way to discover them is to go to DealGator and see for yourself!

See ya later, alligator!

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The Butcher Shop

One might not think it wise to mesh a fine dining establishment and bar with a butcher shop, let alone name a restaurant “The Butcher Shop”. Images of blood-tinged cleavers, fat-marbled bovine flesh and a chop-happy butcher who is all too eager to discuss his favorite parts of a cow flood the mind. It’s enough to send children and vegans* running. Fortunately, there are no signs of squeamishness anywhere in the South End’s carnivore-catering mecca of meat that is The Butcher Shop. Believe me, I checked.

Using a master-list of restaurants and the scientific method of “Shut-Eyes & Point Finger”, The Butcher Shop is deemed my first Restaurant Week Boston spot to experience. I opt for a weekday lunch and take my chances with a walk-in. There’s a light scattering of patrons which makes the mood relaxed and allows for a more personable experience. Black slate walls have handwritten chalk descriptions of their wines-The Butcher Shop’s wine list boasts over 100 different types. There is an actual butcher shop with an impressive assortment of game, meat, poultry, prepared foods, cured meat, and provisions, as well as a full-time butcher ready to assist you.

Here are the edible choices my lunch date and I happily made from their prix fixe lunch menu:

The Tomato Soup with smoked to-die-for croutons. Normally croutons aren’t my thing. I find them boring and rough on my tongue, but these are soft and soaked in flavor. My lunch date ordered the Panzanella Salad which looked pretty as a picture, and, judging from his empty plate, tasted even better.

Behold, the Hangar Steak with romesco and potatoes all drizzled with aioli, a perfect collaboration of savory taste and texture. Nothing beats the comfort of meat ‘n potatoes. I do wish, however, I was in the comfort of my own home so I could lick my plate clean without the scrutiny and judgement of strangers.

Chocolate Mousse, ’nuff said.

Experiencing The Butcher Shop for the first time during Restaurant Week was a dangerous venture because now I’ve had a taste, can confirm the integrity and deliciousness of their food and must return to conquer their regular menu. It also didn’t help bringing home a quarter pound of their spicy sopressata because I typically hoard Costco-sized portions of cured meat. I’d have to return in a few hours for my fix or viciously undergo meat withdrawal. This is the risk we all face partaking in Restaurant Week and is, of course, the strategy behind every participating restaurant. If you haven’t already, take advantage of Restaurant Week in Boston. The prix fixe menus are designed to provide a culinary summary of that restaurant and impress your taste buds in hopes of forging a symbiotic relationship. And what a tasty one it would be.

*Vegans, and people with all types of dietary beliefs, will be surprised and delighted to find a variety of meat-less menu items, just make sure you speak to your server so they can inform you exactly how a certain dish is prepared!

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Restaurant Week in Boston

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

I like to write, I like to make art, and I sure do love to eat. I’m entering a point in my life where I eat to savor, not just to nourish. And, depending on the hour, I also eat to [over]indulge. In my figurative mind, a delicious meal is like an engaging painting. A clean empty plate is like an untouched blank canvas and ingredients make up the subject and focus of the piece. Taste translates into sight and each hue of flavor provides color, depth, contrast and reason for that work of art to be. A chef is a taste artist, a painter is a visual chef, you get the picture.

I personally lean towards being a visual chef (artist) and food’s biggest fan, and I won’t accept this “starving artist” role. There are ways around this cliche and I couldn’t think of a better time to be here in Boston. Boston Restaurant Week is just around the corner, which means I have a few days left to spend some quality time at the gym before it’s August 15th and I turn into a glutton for Boston Neighborhoods‘ sake, or so I tell myself. It runs August 15th-20th and then the 22nd-27th.The alphabetized list of restaurants participating in Restaurant Week with their menus and restaurant info are just a click away. At this point I’ve thoroughly memorized the prix fixe menus from restaurants A-through-Dante. There’s a ‘Wild Salmon & Crab Burger’ from Bambara with my name on it.

When making your own dining itinerary, be sure to follow the six Restaurant Week Tips as mentioned on the site:

  1. Make reservations for Restaurant Week as early as possible, they tend to go fast.
  2. Do not make reservations at more than one restaurant for the same meal period, as it prevents others from getting the reservations they want.
  3. If you need to cancel your reservation, do so with as much notice as possible so restaurants have the opportunity to rebook the table.
  4. Look for specially priced wine pairings to accompany your meal – some restaurants offer wines by the glass or pairings to accompany the whole meal at reduced Restaurant Week prices.
  5. Some restaurants extend their participation in Restaurant Week by offering their prix fixe menu for an additional week, so ask your server.
  6. Tax and gratuity are not included in the prix fixe price. Be sure to show appreciation for good service by tipping generously…it’s good karma.

There will be more blogs entailing all the miraculously delectable foodie adventures to come, so keep an eye out!

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SoWa Sundays

Sundays might warrant laziness but resist the urge to flip your pillow to the cooler side and drift off into the late-afternoon. During the summer months, the South End hosts the wonderful SoWa Open Market. SoWa Sundays will invigorate your senses and leave a lasting impression that will have you planning a return visit on the following Sunday.

Between brick walls and bathed in sunlight is an eclectic collection of antique items waiting for that special owner to admire them as if they were new. From furniture to rotary telephones, lamps to Japanese paintings, and teacup sets to suits of armor, the SoWa Vintage Market has a bit of everything to fulfill your sentiment.

The Open Market is outdoors, and under the 10-by-10 feet tents you’ll discover a multitudinous array of handmade gifts and the people that made them. It’s an amazing shopping experience that trumps any you’d have in a mall. I thought I was going to be a responsible and detached journalist with a story being my only objective, but I couldn’t resist Liz Ryan’s incredibly thoughtful and one-of-a-kind jewelry. Check out her online Esty store!

It takes a lot of concentration browsing the SoWa Market, you don’t want to miss a thing, but luckily there are food and produce vendors that offer nourishment and refreshment. Sip on iced lemonade while picking out fresh herbs or baked loaves of bread, or indulge in a scrumptious brownie as you take a third look around SoWa. Be sure to check out the SoWa Food & Produce Market so you can take a piece of SoWa home and relish in its merriment!

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Morse Fish Company

An old woman, slow moving and assisted only by a cane, walks into Morse Fish Company and takes a seat in a plastic chair. It’s a stifling summer’s day and even I at 25 years young am drained from the heat and have sweat lightly trickling down my temple; I couldn’t possibly fathom a discomfort amplified by age. The old woman gathers her breath and orders a Haddock Sandwich to no Morse Fish Co. staff-member in particular. Immediately, a man wearing a greasy apron and heavy water-resistant boots comes up to the woman to clarify her order as he opens up a bottle of water without her even asking. He returns several times to deliver her lunch order, take her money when she’s ready to pay and to see if there’s anything else she could need. He never once feels bothered or shouts at her from a distance, and his assistance is more than obligatory, it is genuine. This is customer service at its best.

Morse Fish Company, as they say, has been serving the South End since 1903. And it shows. They have a nice selection of fish, shellfish and seasoned ready-to-cook seafood. There is no fishy odor, just the mouth-watering aroma of hot oil deep frying fresh seafood. During my visit last week, I placed a sit-down order of clam chowder, calamari, fried haddock and rice. It was perfection. Perfectly tasting, perfectly fried, perfectly breaded and perfectly complemented by perfectly pickle-y tartare sauce. I had enough leftover for another meal which perfectly suited my tummy and wallet.

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Two great summer cocktails in the South End

The Boston Globe has selected 10 of the best summertime cocktails from 10 restaurants in the Boston area.  Two of the cocktails chosen were from two spots right here in the South End, the first being the “Cantaloupe Mojito” from Pops Restaurant.

(Wendy Maeda)

Cantaloupe Mojito

In the mix:
- 1 ripe whole cantaloupe infused in a bottle of Bacardi rum over night
- 6 fresh mint leaves
- ½ a lime
- 1 ounce simple syrup
- Soda water
Muddle mint leaves, lime juice, and simple syrup. Fill rocks glass with ice and pour infused rum over ice. Shake and top with soda water, then garnish with a cantaloupe slice.

“The flavor of juicy cantaloupe with the freshness of mint and underlying fragrant citrus of lime, for me, is a perfect hot summer thirst quencher,” says chef/owner Felino Samson.

Pops Restaurant, located at 560 Tremont St, specializes in creative American cuisine made with organic ingredients.

The second cocktail highlighted was “The Coney Island Strong Man” from Coppa Enoteca.

(Essdras M Suarez)

The Coney Island Strong Man

In the mix:
- 1 ounce yellow chartreuse
- 1 ounce green chartreuse
- ¾ ounce lemon juice
- 1 Miller High Life pony
Served on the rocks in a tall novelty mug.

“It’s something that people haven’t seen before,” says general manager Courtney Bissonnette. “We saw a little bit of a surge with Micheladas, another version of it. A lot of people squeeze lime or lemon into their beer anyway. This does all of that for you, but we mixed a little extra booze in there to get the job done.”

Coppa Enoteca serves scrumptious Italian food prepared with local and seasonal ingredients.  It’s a great feeling to know that I can get such inspired cocktails right here in the South End. I’m off to get a drink!

Check out the other cocktails selected: Seasons Sippings: Summer 2010 from the Boston Globe

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The Pampered Pup

It’s tough to raise a city dog. Grass competes with cement, some apartments practice fur discrimination, and the common city dweller keeps a hectic lifestyle which efficiently leaves room for one beating heart-their own. Many first-time pet owners, like myself, resort to cats due to their self-sufficient bathroom habits and indoor independence. However, there is one Boston neighborhood that seems to truly understand what it takes to nurture the ultimate metropolitan mutt. Imagine, you’re a four-legged pup who wants nothing more than a toy to chew, a warm lap and belly rubs from your best human friend. The South End has dog parks, bakeries, spas, day care and boutiques inspired by humans who know what each type of dog and dog owner could ever need!

To Play

Tucked away in the South West Corridor of the South End is Carleton Court Dog Park. Clever is the hound-shaped wooden sign, practical are polk dot-painted hydrants lining one side of the play area and inviting are the colorful chew toys adorning the fence. There is adequate space to have a leashed canine social and waste bags are readily available for cleaning up after them. Another exciting dog park is Peters Park Dog Run which boasts over 13,000 sq/ft of unleashed fetch and frolic space. There are benches shaded by trees for you to sit on while your dog dashes around slabs of stone. If your pup is too tiny to run with the bigger dogs, there’s an enclosed section that is even scaled down to accommodate dogs 25 lbs and under. And after a long day of inexhaustible fun and hightailing, a water fountain quenches your dog’s thirst and provides a much needed cool down.

To Groom

Aromatherapy shampoo and conditioning treatment? Lovely, where do I sign up? Massage therapy? Yes, please! A nail trim? If you insist. De-shedding treatment? We’re not talking about people here, are we?

The South End pampers people and their pets, and the spas designed for our four-legged friends are absolutely luxurious, two paws up! One of the spas, such as Bark Place, offers indulgent services (including the ones above) and, as they call it, “Play Care” during the week so you can go to work and bring home the Beggin’ Strips. They have a DIY doggy bathsection with individual tubs and provide you with shampoo, conditioner, an apron and towels. What a perfect way to give your dog a thorough wash without the hassle of cleaning up. The facilities are spotless and there isn’t a whiff of wet dog anywhere! While your pup is getting professionally groomed, take a look around Bark Place’s boutique. There are plush beds, toys and nutritious food brands carefully selected to give your dog a higher quality of life you know they deserve.

To Savor

You’ve taken care of your pet’s social life and grooming needs, but now you should definitely give in and spoil them completely. Treats are a must! I am in awe of the Polka Dog Bakery. Not only is the space extremely tasteful and well-designed, the presentation and variety of treats is remarkable. The inner-locavore in you will be thrilled to know many of their “baked goods” are made right in South Boston. They have glass jars brimming with savory delicacies like Chicken Poppers, Tilapia Fish Jerky,  and bone-shaped Peking Duck Krispies. Behind the glass display case are trays of cookies. I chuckle knowing anywhere and anytime in Boston, a pooch could be crunching on a Peanut Butter Cinnamon, Kung Pug, After Dinner Mint, Liver’s Lane or Tuna Yelper cookie.

The Polka Dog Bakery has two levels, an upstairs stocked with wet and dry, refrigerated and non-refrigerated food and a downstairs room full of toys, beds and accessories for both cats and dogs. On the way down, there’s a large chalkboard explaining nutritional information and benefits of the brands of food they carry. It provides a sense of security knowing how much deliberation Polka Dog Bakery puts into every item in their “treat boutique.”

To Love

It doesn’t matter if you’re a cat or dog lover, regardless of the type of animal companion a loving pet owner has the same earnest intentions as the next. The bond between you and your pet grows exponentially and that little furball becomes a full-fledged family member. Animals impact us so deeply they become an inspiration behind an idea as simple as a logo or grand as a charity. These dog-enthusiastic spots were made possible by animal lovers and every little detail shows it. Peters Park Dog Run has a gated area which safely contains your dog even before entering the play areas. On the walls of Polka Dog Bakery are black and white polaroids of canine customers from the past and present. Throughout the South End, you will see water bowls sitting outside of storefronts and possibly a pet lounging within waiting to greet everyone. This is a pets-welcomed neighborhood that you and your furry bestfriend will truly cherish together.

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South End Formaggio

The dilemma:

A. Your significant other informs you that their [judgmental and disinterested] parents are having an impromptu visit in less than three hours and your pantry is anything but tantalizing.

B. You’ve scheduled a real-life date for Friday but backed yourself into a corner by embellishing your online dating profile and saying you’re a world-traveled cheese, cured meats and wine connoisseur. The closest thing to charcuterie you’ve ever tasted are Lit’l Smokies and the furthest destination you’ve ever been to is the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Oh, and it’s Thursday.

C. Your tongue wants to go on a fantastical journey, explore unchartered taste-territories it has never been to before and experience mind-bending flavors and food items worth bringing back to the Old World/your lackluster refrigerator.

The remedy:

A visit to South End Formaggio, which will cure any foodie-predicament. Whether you need to impress others with a sophisticated assortment of hors d’oeuvres and worldly wine or want to surprise your own palate with clever amuse-bouches, a knowledgeable staff member will provide you aide and endless information about their products. The diversity of their imported cheeses, wines, spices, oils, preserves, meats, sweets and prepared foods is overwhelming, but in a way that is so worth the initial shock. South End Formaggio might be small, but don’t shy away from the density of palatable possibilities and let your inner-gourmand run free.

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What’s better than walking into a whimsical gift shop and being greeted by a tail-wagging pooch named Bo? Knowing the gift shop you’re walking into is well in-tune with the surrounding neighborhood, pet-friendly, supports local artists and is owned and run by two philanthropic artists as well. Co-owner Marie has one-of-a-kind pottery and jewelry proudly showcased around the spacious store. Luke Adams, the other owner, displays his masterful hand-blown glass pieces too. The creativity is simply inspiring.

I enjoy the unpretentious selection that Gifted has to offer. From children’s books to painted pet portraits, and imaginative wall decorations to stylish handbags, there is a gift for every occasion and personality. Take your time while browsing, you don’t want to miss the perfect gift! And when you do stop into Gifted, tell Bo to, “Put ‘em up!” You’ll walk away with a smile and realization that you had one of the best retail experiences this side of the Charles River.

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