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Archive for September, 2008

Chipotle

Chipotle Mexican Grill
Braintree, MA

Steak fajita burrito
Vegetarian salad

Apparently we had just missed the Great Lunch Rush, and that apparently explains everything about the experience we had at Chipotle. I wanted a vegetarian salad — not because I am a vegetarian, mind you, just because I wasn’t in the mood for meat at the present time. DH wanted a steak fajita burrito. The order-taking guy at the counter — we’ll call him Guy #1 — was really apologetic about not having either the steak or the sauteed peppers & onions ready for the steak fajita burrito. He was really nice about it, and we were feeling in a good mood, so we said no problem and we’d wait. He did my salad as far as he could and then I was waiting for peppers & onions too. He kept turning over his shoulder to the guys at the grill: “Steak done yet? Peppers & onions done yet?” Maybe they were tired of his nagging and that’s why what happened happened.

Finally, guy with freshly done steak bits — we’ll call him Guy #2 — saunters up to my salad with his steak and goes BAM! right into the middle of the lovely pile of cilantro-lime rice in the middle of my salad.

Um, that was supposed to be a vegetarian salad.

Guy #2, belligerently: “I thought you were waiting for steak.”

“No,” I said, pointing at DH, “he was waiting for steak for his steak fajita burrito.”

Guy #1 tried to intervene before Guy #2 went ballistic on me, and was just barely in time. So Guy #2 sullenly made me a new salad, and I didn’t get all the things I wanted on my salad (namely, the peppers & onions mix and some sour cream) because I just wanted to get my food and get away at this point.

Now, about the food. It was actually pretty tasty. I especially liked the texture of the guacamole and the roasted corn salsa was excellent in texture, taste, and color. And three cheers for cilantro-lime rice. The steak in DH’s steak fajita burrito was tastefully seasoned, but because of the way it was cooked, it was dead cold in the center. It made the texture of the burrito itself a little confusing, because everything was hot except for the steak, which changed the mouth-feel.

All in all, I would be willing to maybe try a different Chipotle restaurant, or send somebody out to bring me Chipotle take-out. But I was not at all impressed with this particular Chipotle on this particular day.

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Alba Restaurant

Alba Restaurant
Quincy, MA

Classic Reuben sandwich
Caesar salad with grilled shrimp

We literally tripped across the restaurant the other night while we were waiting for our order of Chinese take-out to be ready. We were impressed by the clean elegance of the interior, eggshell-colored paint contrasting with espresso-colored wood. In the evening it glowed, but in bright sunlight the next day it had lost much of its luster. I definitely recommend you go for dinner to enjoy the ambiance, not lunch. Although, it wasn’t until we went for lunch that I noticed the real gas lamps flanking the main doorway.

We’ve been on the lookout for a new rehearsal dinner location, and the Wine Room at Alba wins hands down. The same clean elegance upstairs carries down to this underground room, which is lined with wine bottles on every inch of wall.

The food is as clean and elegant as the decor. I found the dressing on the Caesar salad to be a little over-cheesy, but to me that is far, far better than being over salty or heavy on the anchovy. The grilled shrimp were excellently seasoned and perfect in texture and temperature.

The Reuben came with fries and red wine vinegar cole slaw. I am particularly against this style of cole slaw, it being the only type of slaw one finds out West. While this slaw wasn’t as offensive to my senses as those slaws from the past, it did have a certain citrusy tanginess one doesn’t usually expect from a slaw. If you are looking for something a little different, go for it; if you are a traditionalist, you might want to stay away. The fries were well textured but completely unspiced or unsalted — I like them that way, but DH always has to salt them. The Reuben itself was excellent in its contents, but DH just didn’t care for the crispy panini-style pressed bread. The second half of the sandwich was good as leftovers, though, after the bread had softened a little in the fridge.

The waitstaff was lovely, and attentive without being intrusive. Our water glasses were kept refreshed throughout the meal, and I always appreciate that. Granted, we must have been the only people in the restaurant at that time. Maybe on a busy Friday or Saturday night, the story may be different. At the end of our lunch we booked the Wine Room for our rehearsal dinner. Function menu prices are incredibly sensible for the elegance of the atmosphere and the quality of the food and the service.  For the price that some restaurants could charge for an entree, Alba is offering a full three-course meal. We’re really looking forward to sharing this culinary gem with our family and friends.

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Cheesecake Factory

The Cheesecake Factory
Braintree, MA

Lemonade
Luau Chicken Salad
Fresh Slices of Grilled Chicken Breast Layered with Mixed Greens, Cucumbers, Green Onions, Red and Yellow Peppers, Green Beans, Mango and Crisp Wontons with Macadamia Nuts and Sesame Seeds. Tossed in Our Vinaigrette
Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake

When my friend Meghan and I go out to dinner, this has sorta become “our place.” It’s in between us geographically, easy to get to, and we can generally predict the quality of both the service and the food. We went here for girls’ nite out dinner after my first wedding dress fitting in Providence.

What do I do after I find out that they need to take my dress in an inch or two? Eat myself silly.

Waitstaff was friendly if a little inattentive. Then again, I don’t usually clamour for attention. I don’t know about Meghan, but I certainly could have used a few refills on my lemonade as the evening wore on…I was parched. I could have at least used someone stopping by to ask how things were going, so I could ask for more lemonade or just a glass of ice water. I’ve been having a hankering for lemonade lately, and Cheesecake Factory’s lemonade hit the spot even if it was a little sweet for me. But I’ll never turn down a sugar-rimmed glass.

I do love the Luau Chicken salad. I wish it, and many of the Cheesecake Factory’s other salads, came in half portions even at dinnertime. Because if I haven’t eaten since dinner last night and you put that salad in front of me, I will eat all of it — and enjoy myself. The proportion of all the ingredients is usually spot-on, and they layer the salad creatively so it’s like a little adventure. From the top down: little pile of veggies, gigantic crispy wonton, veggies, gigantic crispy wonton, veggies, gigantic crispy wonton, veggies. Kudos on including mango in the salad, it’s an uncommon ingredient but there’s always something magical about it when it does turn up. There’s some sort of glaze on the wontons that make them absolutely addicting. Maybe a thick, sticky hoisin-style glaze?

It’s so good, in fact, that we both ordered it for our entrees. I usually don’t let that happen, if someone wants to order the same thing I want, I pick something else. But I knew how good this would taste so I stuck with it.

I hadn’t saved room for dessert, but I didn’t feel like letting that stop me.  They’ve got a 30th Anniversary cheesecake that seems to be some sort of cheesecake-chocolate cake hybrid, and it looked like it would send me in to sugar overload (and as I said, I hadn’t saved any room). I went with the Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake, basically plain ol’ cheesecake with a couple of big fat juicy strawberries on top. I avoided the whipped cream because there’s always too much, and I ate the glazed strawberries first, then the outer crust, so that when I knew I couldn’t eat another bite, I would have already eaten the best parts and I wouldn’t feel so bad.

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