SweetWorks (North Attleboro, MA)

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I was super excited to come to SweetWorks for brunch this past weekend with a bunch of girlfriends in between bachelorette day activities.  A review of the menu revealed many scrumptious sounding items both off the breakfast and lunch menus that caught my attention.  So much potential!

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We came on Saturday around noon, pleased to find that the small restaurant was not packed and that our group could be seated right away.  Immediately, my eyes were drawn to cakes, cupcakes, cakeballs, pastries, and other beauties in the dessert case.  I went to check out the ice cream options since they were right next to this display case.

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Most of the group ordered breakfast items but I wanted lunch so I went for a cup of the chicken noodle soup and the spinach salad, as well as a cappuccino.  Service was spotty and aloof with both our waitress and the employees behind the counter.

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My chicken soup arrived long before anyone else had food in front of them (I ordered it as a soup + salad lunch) but I was polite and waited and the soup cooled.  The soup itself was nothing special; it tasted pre-made.  The salad was satisfying though – with a warm bacon dressing,  and I was pleasantly surprised by how good the cappuccino was.  Also, when the food arrived our table was short one set of silverware and I was starting to get hangry from having to wait even longer after the soup had been sitting in front of me.

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Someone from our group went up to the counter at one point to order the Wedding Cake Balls to bring home with us (our friends wedding was the next day) and noted that while there were a handful of employees behind the counter it took a while for anyone to help her even though no other customer was there.  The cake balls were tasty, and I liked the rest of the food, but service could’ve been better.

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38 S Washington St
North Attleboro, MA 02760
(508) 695-3626

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Wildflour Vegan Bakery and Café (Pawtucket, RI)

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Ever since I learned of Wildflour, I’ve been dying to come check it out.  I finally had the opportunity to drop by today since I was back in the area for a wedding this past weekend.  This place was everything I hoped it would be and more.

Wildflour did not exist when I lived a few streets away (10th St. – just over the line in Providence) half a decade ago, and in a way I am glad it didn’t.  I probably would have been here more often than I could afford on my research assistant salary.  While it’s pricey, I think it falls into the expensive but worth it category.

I came around lunch today.  After several days of unhealthy eating (more cheese and bread consumed in the past three days compared to what I usually eat in an entire month) this is exactly what I needed.

I splurged on a Rainforest Smoothie ($8 – omg!!) and a more reasonably priced kale salad that had quinoa, carrots, and a dressing so good that I saved half to use for home cooked vegetables later.  I also picked up a Henry’s Hemp Bar for the drive home to Connecticut and a sample of raw cheesecake.  I loved it all.

Their dessert case was a thing of beauty – fully stocked with gorgeous goodies including raw, vegan, gluten free items.  Big variety of attractive cupcakes, cakes, truffles, cookies, bars, bread.  All of their prepared items looked fresh and tempting as well.  I’d love to come back and try some of the fresh juices and more baked or raw goods.

727 E Ave
Pawtucket, RI 02860
(401) 475-4718

Pai Men Miyake (Portland, ME)

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My sister and I were here for a late lunch yesterday.  I’d never been but it has been a spot I wanted to hit up after seeing their menu last winter.  My sister had been, for the ramen, and she had a pleasant experience.

We arrived at 3pm and I was surprised how busy the restaurant was.  The place was pretty packed, which doesn’t take a whole lot since it’s not a large restaurant to begin with.  There were a few two-person high tables available up by the open kitchen so we were seated immediately.  There’s also outdoor seating which I am sure would be lovely in the warmer months.

Right away, I loved the brick wall on one side, the raised wood wall of the other side, within the narrow, high-ceilinged, open-feeling restaurant look.  Labeled jars of spices lined a partition wall by the bathrooms. We sat so close to the action in the kitchen that the smells that wafted over and the sizzling sounds of cooking at high heat were very much part of the experience.  This made my stomach rumble even though I’d already had my first lunch a few hours earlier.

A review of the menu revealed many unique and interesting items.  We decided to get a few things and split.  We went with a house salad, a shiitake mushroom sushi roll, a tuna roll, and gyoza.  To drink my sister ordered the Yuzu Lemonade and I the Tandem Malt Iced Coffee.

Everything was terrific.  The gyoza was a textural dream.  Pan seared to perfection, they were soft on some sides and had a nice crispy crunch on the seared side.  Great with the accompanying dipping sauce.  The salad could have used more dressing, but it was was also very good and quite large.  Our favorite thing of the entire meal was the shiitake + avocado roll.  This is undoubtably the best vegetarian sushi roll I have ever had!   Shiitake in a sushi roll is genius as it imparts a woody, earthy, savory taste while maintaining a firm softness.  The tuna roll, while good, was not quite as memorable.  The shiitake roll was definitely the highlight of the meal.  After a bit of inquiry, I discovered that they are soaked in tamari and mirin prior to being used in the rolls.

Tandem Coffee Roasters Malt Iced Coffee was excellent.  I could drink this every day of my life.  An alcoholic version is available with vanilla bean vodka.  I think that will be a must-try for a day when I don’t have a 5 hour drive ahead.  My sister loved her drink, made with sake, and said it wasn’t too strong and had good flavor.

Service was great and prices were very reasonable.  I will be back and I want to try the ramen next time!

188 State St
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 541-9204

Gracie’s (Providence, RI)

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I invite you to ask yourself which restaurant, if there is one, do you love so much that you’d drive a long distance just to have dinner.  For me, that restaurant is Gracie’s.  Last night we made a three hour round trip drive to Gracie’s for Providence Restaurant Week from Connecticut.  Gracie’s, once again, provided an experience that was well worth every second of that trip.

I am no stranger to the Providence dining scene after having lived in Rhode Island for nearly a decade and in Providence for almost half of that time.  I’ve been to many  the great restaurants in Providence – Al Forno, New Rivers, CAV, to name a few.  While they all shine in their own ways, they don’t compare to Gracie’s.   Nothing compares to Gracie’s.  Not in Rhode Island, not anywhere.  Gracie’s is the star that shines the brightest.

In early January I’d learned of Providence Restaurant Week and immediately placed a reservation.  I booked an early reservation for 5pm.  Just so you know, because we didn’t, the restaurant does not open it’s doors and a valet is not available a second before 5pm.  We learned the hard way on this intensely cold evening.  All of this was forgotten though, when the clock struck five and we entered the magical space that is Gracie’s.

We were seated in a cozy intimate corner and immediately one of our waiters came over to introduce himself and take our drink orders.  He told us about the drink special of the night, the Black Apricot, a cocktail containing whiskey and St. Germain.  Sounded good to me!  As we admired the elegant, charming, and whimsical decor that I adore about Gracie’s, we watched as the dining room began to fill up.  Our early arrival was met with a quiet restaurant with just several other tables of people, but shortly after the restaurant began to fill up quickly.

Soon after we placed our orders the first of a couple amuse-bouches arrived:  a pickled Italian salad consisting of pickled cauliflower and carrots.  It was sweet and tangy, the vegetables had a nice crunch.  Before we knew it the bread basket got around to us and we had a choice between a red onion and rosemary focaccia, cranberry sourdough, classic french bread, and my favorite, the honey glazed beer bread.  The rich and creamy butter speckled with sea salt was delightful on each of the bread choices.  We had a chance to sample all four by sharing.

My boyfriend and I both had the turnip soup as an appetizer.  Large bowls were presented before us containing duck fat turnips, pickled apples, and crispy confit while waitstaff came to our sides and poured the liquid portion of the soup in thick, steaming, steady streams into our bowls.  The soup was divine and our favorite part of the meal.  After we finished the soup, the second amuse-bouche arrived:  a grapefruit and ginger sorbet.  Nice and refreshing – the perfect palate cleanser.  Next came our entrees.  He opted for the rigatoni campagnaro while I got the duck.  Both were excellent.  The pasta came in a large portion and was the ultimate bowl of comfort.  The duck was a smaller portion and a touch more refined.  Lastly, for dessert he ordered the chocolate cheesecake and I chose a honey and banana bread pudding.

If you like coffee, the coffee here is not to be missed.  It truly was the best cup of coffee I have had in a very long time.  Rich, full bodied, and almost velvety, with cocoa notes.  One sip and my boyfriend said, “Wow, this is really good coffee.  It tastes like the coffee I had in Paris.”  Each serving of coffee comes in it’s own french press containing about two or so cups worth of coffee, creamer and demerara sugar on the side.  The coffee is from New Harvest Coffee Roasters, which is located in Pawtucket, RI. They use sustainable practices and source directly from small coffee farms in South and Central America. The coffee beens used are sourced from Costa Rica.

This coffee is sold at Ellie’s, Gracie’s new bakery down the street that recently had a soft opening.  I will be sure to pay a visit next time I am in town.  If by now my review doesn’t  sufficiently describe how much I love this place, maybe this will:  at one point in the night I said to my boyfriend, “Honey, I hope that in the future we will have two daughters so we can name them Gracie and Ellie.”  He just rolled his eyes a little, but I was completely serious.

By the time we finished dessert we were stuffed.  We couldn’t even dream of having another bite of food.  Just  then two maple cranberry macarons appeared at our table.  Our last little treat…or so we thought.  We savored the airy little French cookies, paid the bill, and headed out to the valet.  After the valet pulled up the car he officially concluded our evening by handing us a small, simply but elegantly wrapped package containing two chocolate chip cookies for the road.  Like everything else, they were delicious.

And that, my friends, is why Gracie’s is my favorite.

Thank you Nadiv, Eric, and the rest of the staff for another exquisite evening!

194 Washington St
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 272-7811

Lollicup Teazone Quincy (Quincy, MA)

After the Kam Man Marketplace renovations the name of this place changed slightly (I think it was Lollicup Teazone before) and there is a different phone number.

This place is and has always been slightly below average.  The menu is huge and attractive, and the service friendly.  Unfortunately, the handful of drinks I have had here have never been  great.  I’ve tried the Thai Iced Tea with tapioca balls, hot milk tea, and most recently an iced Royal Milk Tea.  No matter what I order, it’s always way too sweet and has somewhat of an artificial flavor.  I would never go out of my way to come here but because it is located directly across from the checkout lines at Kam Man Market I always give it another try in hopes that it will be better.

If you like things very sweet this might be for you.  For more authentic and delicious milk tea try Bao Bao Bakery or Eldo Cake House in Chinatown.

219 Quincy Ave
Quincy, MA 02169
(617) 471-1141

Hong Kong Eatery (Quincy, MA)

This location is so much more convenient for me to go to than the Chinatown one but the food is just not as good.  It’s okay, not terrible – but the original Hong Kong Eatery in Boston’s Chinatown definitely has consistently better food.

Recently I stopped by around lunchtime on a Saturday.  I found it strange that no other patrons were there, just like the last time I was in.  After I was seated, two other people came in to eat and there were a few take-out orders.  I got the beef brisket rice dish and the large portion came out piping hot!  The meat was very fatty (fattier than other brisket I’ve had) and the brown sauce lacked complexity of flavor.  A few bites in and my tastebuds were bored.  The last time I was here  I had a wonton noodle soup and it was the same story.  Definitely not the same as the wonton noodle soup at the Chinatown Hong Kong Eatery that I have known and loved since childhood.

Other reviewers have noted the poor service but I found the waiters and waitresses to be friendly.  I guess it could have helped that I spoke Chinese with them.  In addition, the roasted meats are quite good.  They are supposedly prepared at the other location and brought in first thing in the morning.  I got two whole roast ducks and several pounds of roast pork that the family enjoyed.

1510 Hancock Street
Quincy, MA 02169
(617) 770-3330

Mesa Verde (Portland, Maine)

Came here for a pre-dinner snack last week with a group of ladies coming from Andrea’s the bridal shop.  It was one of the only places open at the odd dining time between lunch and dinner.  The vegan in our group stated that she had been here before and liked it – and they had stuff she could eat.  Yay!

We sat at one of the extremely large comfy booths and braved the gusts of wind and cold air that came through the door every time a patron came in or out.  Drafty!  The table shared a bunch of stuff, tapas-style, each person ordering something different – except the vegan.  She ordered her own stuff.

The chicken quesadilla I ordered was very good.  It totally hit the spot and the rice and beans that came with it were tasty as well.  Jalapeno poppers were just ok, and the chunks of meat on the chicken fajitas could have used a little more flavor and could have been cut a little smaller.  I didn’t get to try the beef fajita but was told it suffered the same issues as the chicken fajita.  Nachos were decent.  Pina colada was better than the watery and strong Strawberry Daquiri.  The vegan was alarmed by the meat-like substance in her veggie chili but was relieved when she found out it was a soy-based meat substitute

618 Congress St
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 774-6089

Back from Maine

As usual, Maine was a lovely time.  A few pics of what I did:

Made some cupcakes for my sister’s baby shower…

Threw her a party…

With lots of food…

Shopped in Freeport and a grabbed a milkshake for the road headed back to wonderful Connecticut…