Dinner At West On Centre, West Roxbury, Mass.

We moved to West Roxbury a little over a month ago and are learning our neighborhood little by little. It will definitely be so much nicer and easier when the weather gets warmer and we can walk around and explore. In the meantime, we're lucky enough to have friends who volunteered to come out to our neighborhood for dinner so we could check out a new-to-us restaurant. I have a long list of places I want to try in both West Roxbury and Roslindale but somehow selected West on Centre for this particular evening.

West on Centre is located right in the heart of West Roxbury on Centre Street and is a quick drive from our house. I had heard the food was good and was looking forward to a nice evening there. We arrived a few minutes early for our reservation and waited in the bar area for our table to be ready. I immediately loved the bar area and thought it was so cozy. I can definitely see going back for a glass or two of wine and some appetizers.


Croques And Cocktails At Bistro Du Midi

Looking for something fun and inexpensive to do tonight? Every Tuesday at Bistro du Midi from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., you can find $5 specialty croque monsieurs. A croque monsieur is technically a hot ham and cheese grilled sandwich, but Bistro du Midi will offer variations on the classic. There will even be a weekly skinny croque. And if that's not enough, you'll find wine and cocktail pairings too.


Legends From Europe Dinner At Meritage

About a month after we returned from our honeymoon, I found myself sitting down to an Italian dinner at Meritage. But it wasn't just any Italian dinner. This dinner was sponsored by Legends from Europe and was meant to introduce and promote some of the foods Italy is known for that have P.D.O. (Protected Designation of Origin) certification. You may also see this marked as D.O.P. (Denominazione di Origine Protetta). In order for a food product to receive this certification, it must be produced according to tradition and in a specific geographic region and meet quality standards. The thought is that the flavor, texture, and other unique components of a traditionally made food are "formed through a complex interaction of soil, plant life, and centuries-old production methods that cannot be replicated elsewhere," according to Legends from Europe.

You may remember from my honeymoon posts that Parmigiano-Reggiano has the P.D.O. certification. Grana Padano, Prosciutto di San Daniele, Montasio, and Prosciutto di Parma do as well. The dinner would incorporate each of these Italian treasures.


Honeymoon Recap And Lessons Learned

Throughout the course of our honeymoon, whenever something would go slightly awry (for example, we'd show up at a restaurant and the owner would hang up the closed sign), Jeff and I would just look at each other and say, "Lesson learned." This became the motto for our trip.

I decided to put a post together with the things we learned, as well as some helpful tips.


Honeymoon -- Day 11 -- Rome (Evening)

Finishing our mission to try some pizza in every city we stayed in, we went to Pizzeria da Baffetto for dinner on our last night in Rome. It is a hopping little place and seems popular among both locals and tourists. We stood outside in line until a table was ready for us. The host almost skipped over us, but an Italian woman standing near us made sure he knew we were next.

Pizzeria da Baffetto, Rome, Italy


Honeymoon -- Day 11 -- Rome (Afternoon)

After spending the morning touring the Vatican, we trekked over to Roscioli for lunch. I had read about Roscioli on Jen's blog (lucky for me she did a little Rome trip right when I was planning our honeymoon), and I knew I wanted to eat there if we could fit it in during our trip.

Roscioli, Rome, Italy


Honeymoon -- Day 11 -- Rome (Morning)

On our second day in Rome (and our last full day in Italy), we got up early and headed off for a tour of the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica.

Ponte Sant'Angelo, Rome, Italy
Ponte Sant'Angelo


Honeymoon -- Day 10 -- Rome (Evening)

For our first dinner in Rome, we once again consulted the guidebooks, and I even searched around online a bit. We found a couple of places that sounded interesting and came across Ristorante Da Fortunato first. The restaurant was recommended by Rick Steves and The Guardian. We asked for a table and were told we'd have to sit inside since we didn't have a reservation. And then we were sat by a doorway. Our waiter was very cool toward us, almost as if he couldn't be bothered with us. I was getting a bad feeling and started thinking we should leave. But I couldn't convince myself fast enough and soon we had ordered water, and I figured we were stuck. As much as I wasn't loving the atmosphere or our waiter, the restaurant did have good reviews, so I kept my hopes up for the food.


Honeymoon: Day 10 -- Rome (Afternoon)

We spent our first afternoon in Rome taking a 3-hour tour of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. The tour was really informative but also really long. We stood outside the Colosseum talking about it for about a half-hour before actually walking in. Everyone was antsy to just get in and see it... which we finally did. It's pretty amazing. The Colosseum, a largely Roman structure with Greek influences, was built back in A.D. 80 and served as an arena for gladiator contests.

Colosseum, Rome, Italy


Honeymoon -- Day 10 -- Rome (Morning/Afternoon)

We got up early on October 18 and headed to Rome. We had to return our rental car at the airport by 11 a.m. and grab a shuttle from the airport to our hotel. (We figured Rome would be much easier to navigate without a car, and we were right.)

Mt. Vesuvius
View of Mt. Vesuvius on our way to Rome from Positano


Honeymoon -- Day 9 -- Positano (Evening)

When we first arrived in Positano, we checked TripAdvisor and the guidebooks to figure out where we should eat, and we noticed that the then No. 1 restaurant on TripAdvisor, La Tagliata, had some interesting reviews. Apparently, the restaurant sends a shuttle to pick you up at your hotel and bring you up to Montepertuso and then back to your hotel after dinner. There's no menu -- you're just served whatever is being cooked that night -- and the whole meal, including wine and dessert, is 35 euros per person. We thought it sounded like it would be a fun experience at a good price and checked in with our hotel to see if they could set up the reservation. There wasn't anything available for our second night in Positano (we went to Chez Black instead), but they did have something for the third night, so we made a reservation for that night.

We waited in the hotel lobby for the shuttle and joined other diners when it arrived. Everyone was quiet on the windy trip up to the restaurant. You could tell we were really climbing, and looking out the window was a little frightening! We made it safe and sound though.

La Tagliata, Positano, Italy


Honeymoon -- Day 9 -- Amalfi (Morning/Afternoon)

On the morning of October 17, there were boats running to Amalfi (they weren't running the day before due to wind), so we decided to head over there for part of the day. The boat ride is about 30 minutes and costs 8 euros per person. We thought it would be more fun, better for sightseeing (and frankly, less dangerous) than taking the bus.

Positano, Italy


Tomato And Sourdough Soup

Grilled cheese and tomato soup

The first meals we had in our new house were from local takeout spots (The Real Deal, Christo's Pizza, The Red-Eyed Pig, a Chinese place we won't try again) and those prepared, transported, and cooked by my mom. It wasn't until December 29, a week after we moved in, that I actually cooked. It was a snowy evening, and the first meal I made was the ultimate comfort food: tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.


Ringing In 2013

Happy New Year! How did you ring in 2013? I spent yesterday afternoon braising beef shanks for a wintry dinner of beef shank sauce over polenta. I'd never made beef shanks before and wanted to try something new to ring in the new year. I picked up about 5 pounds of them from Whole Foods (and the butcher very kindly cut them 2 inches thick for me), got them home, and set to work. Following this recipe from Food & Wine, I seared the shanks, created a luscious tomato-wine mixture for them, and placed them in the oven to braise for 3 hours. I took them out and threw some polenta in the oven to bake for an hour. While the polenta baked, I shredded up the meat and added it back to the sauce. Then I left the sauce on a low simmer until dinnertime.