Local, Seasonal Brunch At Avenue One

On Sunday I had the pleasure of attending a Boston Brunchers brunch out on The Terrace at Avenue One, a restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Boston. I had not been able to make it to a Boston Brunchers event in months and was happy to reconnect with old friends as well as meet a bunch of people I have gotten to know through our blogs and Twitter -- all the while enjoying some fabulous food and long overdue sunshine.

Photo courtesy of Michelle

As soon as we stepped out onto the terrace, we were offered fruit smoothie shooters. I chose the mixed berry smoothie and thought it was just the right thing to kick off brunch... and my appetite.

Before we descended on the food stations, Executive Chef Kelly Armetta welcomed us all and talked to us about his philosophy and the food we would be trying that day, which will soon be on the restaurant's brunch menu.

His mission is to serve local, seasonal food, as well as appeal to international travelers (who are accustomed to cheeses and meats at breakfast), and he definitely showed us that in the spread he and his staff prepared for us that day.

After surveying all the options, I knew I'd have to carefully choose my courses in order to try as much as possible. I started over at the omelette station, and ordered the special omelette for the day, which was filled with caramelized onions, roasted portabellos, and Grafton cheddar. 

How beautiful does this look?

And I couldn't leave without grabbing a coddled egg as well. The coddled egg was served on top of arugula with crispy prosciutto, Marcona almonds, and honey-roasted stone fruit.

The coddled egg passed the test -- I broke into it to reveal a perfectly runny yolk. I wasn't sure how I would feel about eating the egg with fruit, but the sweet and savory flavors played off of each other, and I really enjoyed this dish. It's perfect for someone who likes eggs for breakfast but wants something on the light side as well.

Right after my first course, which I enjoyed with a glass of orange juice, the waitress came around and offered us Bloody Marys and mimosas. I usually opt for a mimosa, but I think I was more in the mood for a Bloody Mary after eating eggs. I asked the waitress whether the Bloody Marys were very spicy, and she went and had the bartender make me a mild one.

After a few sips of the  tomato-heavy and mildly spicy Bloody Mary, I headed back up to fill another plate. I knew I needed to try a croissant, and then I also grabbed some fruit, cheese, meat, and a little of the gluten-free granola with some yogurt and blackberry jam. The granola was fabulous and full of dried fruits.

The croissant was buttery and chewy and had just the right pull to it. It was one of my favorite bites of the day.

At that point, I was ready to try the lobster Benedict, but every time the skillet with the lobster Benedict was set out, all of its contents immediately disappeared. Finally, I figured out that I should keep watch on the door, and as soon as I saw a waiter come out with a skillet in hand, I hopped up and followed him over to the table. The lobster Benedict was mostly worth the wait. The poached egg was overcooked -- that coddled egg was a tough act to follow -- but the lobster was nicely cooked, the bacon (cured on corn cobs)was very flavorful, and the chive hollandaise pulled the whole dish together.

For my final course, I decided to end on a sweet note with the triple chocolate pancakes. I was initially shocked to see that the pancakes were pale in color because I was expecting chocolate pancakes, but I soon realized that all the chocolate components go on top. First, there's a sprinkling of Lake Champlain chocolate, then a drizzle of chocolate espresso sauce, and finally a dollop of white chocolate butter and some fresh fruit. I enjoyed the pancake but really wanted more chocolate! What can I say? I have a huge sweet tooth.

This review is based on a Boston Brunchers event that was co-hosted by Eversave and may not be a typical experience. Brunch cost $25 per person and included drinks, tax, and tip.

Brunch is not typically served on The Terrace (you can find it inside at the restaurant), but The Terrace is open in the evenings (weather permitting) from 5 p.m. until close for specialty cocktails and Chef's seasonal bites. There's even live music on Thursdays and Fridays.

What's your favorite brunch dish?


Minestra Di Pasta E Piselli

Minestra di pasta e piselli

On Sunday afternoon I finally made it to the farmers' market for the first time this year. My nearby farmers' market (in Union Square) runs on Saturdays, and I haven't been around on a Saturday since it opened at the beginning of the month, so when I realized I had a little bit of free time on Sunday afternoon, I took the opportunity to swing by the Charles Square Farmers Market (located in Harvard Square just outside the Charles Hotel).

The first thing I noticed when I got there is that the Charles Square Farmers Market has grown! I spotted the Siena Farms/Sofra stand first and then noticed a Formaggio stand and a vendor selling ice wine in addition to the usual vendors like Kimball Fruit Farm and Busa Farm.

I made a beeline for Sofra and could not refrain from purchasing a bag of chocolate chip cookies. Sofra has amazingly chewy and gooey chocolate chip cookies. With that first order of business taken care of, I wandered around checking out the offerings from Siena Farms and decided to pick up a bag of shelling peas.

I had no idea what I wanted to do with the peas, so when I got home, I flipped through some cookbooks seeking inspiration. Eventually I opened up Domenica Marchetti's The Glorious Pasta of Italy. I had recently received a review copy of this book and was eager to start cooking from it.

Fresh peas

The Glorious Pasta of Italy is published by Chronicle Books, which happens to be one of my favorite cookbook publishers. I love the layout, and the pictures are absolutely gorgeous. Many of the pictures even have a script font running across them with descriptions in Italian. The recipes are divided into chapters like pasta in soup, baked pasta dishes, pasta on the run, and showstoppers. Marchetti introduces each chapter, noting what she's included and why and what her inspiration for certain recipes is. Some of the recipes require fresh pasta, which Marchetti explains how to make in great detail, and others can be made with dried pasta.

Minestra di pasta e piselli

I looked through the book for recipes that would incorporate my fresh peas, and two caught my eye. One was for shells with artichokes, peas, and prosciutto, and the other was for a light minestrone with peas and pancetta. It was a tough decision, but the soup sounded more simple and required that I pick up fewer ingredients. It definitely sounded like the right thing to make on a lazy Sunday evening.

Minestra di pasta e piselli

Minestra Di Pasta E Piselli (adapted from The Glorious Pasta of Italy)


1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 ounces pancetta, cut into small dice
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
6 to 7 cups chicken broth
1 small piece rind from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 3/4 cups conchigliette (small shells) (Use 1 1/2 cups pasta for thinner soup.)
1 cup fresh peas
Kosher salt (optional)


Warm butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Once butter is melted, add onion and pancetta. Stir and cook for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle in the thyme and some pepper, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour in 6 cups of the broth, toss in the Parmigiano rind, and raise heat to medium-high.

Bring the broth to a boil, and then stir in the pasta and peas. Cook until pasta is al dente (follow times listed on the box). Add more broth if soup is thicker than you'd like.

Remove soup from heat, and stir in 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls, and top with remaining cheese.

Minestra di pasta e piselli

Note: The soup will thicken as it sits, so add more broth as necessary. It's also supposed to be served immediately, but I packed up three servings to take for lunch this week, adding extra broth to each container. It was still tasty, but this is definitely one of those soups that is best the day it's made -- when the peas are still fresh and the pancetta still a bit crisp and brown.

This soup immediately earned a spot among my favorites. It's subtly salty, full of flavor from the broth and Parmigiano, and dotted with sweet, fresh peas. I refilled my bowl three times the night I made it. It was the perfect thing to showcase my farmers' market find.

What was your latest farmers' market find?


Aruba Eats: Smokey Joe's Island Grill

Smokey Joe's, Aruba

We started and ended our stay in Aruba with dinner at Smokey Joe's Island Grill and hung out at the bar there midweek as well.

Smokey Joe's was like our Boston neighborhood bar and restaurant. It's located directly across the street from Playa Linda, and we soon found out that the owner lives in Providence, RI, went to college in Boston, and is a huge Boston sports fan. We found the whole bar decked out in Red Sox paraphernalia. (This was a good sign because we knew exactly where we'd be able to catch games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals.)

Smokey Joe's, Aruba

On the first day, we arrived at the hotel after a not exactly direct drive from the car rental place, dropped off our bags, and walked over to Smokey Joe's. It was about 4:30 and the restaurant didn't open until 5:00, so we strolled down to the beach to kill a little time before dinner. We said hi to and caught up with some friends of my parents who were also staying that same week, and soon enough 5:00 rolled around, and we headed back over to Smokey Joe's. (I should mention I was beyond famished at this point.)

We were seated right away a large, colorful table. Smokey Joe's boasts the "best ribs in the Caribbean," so those definitely had to be ordered. But first things first... drinks.

My mom and I got mojitos, and let me tell you, this was just the right way to let myself know I was officially on vacation and could finally unwind a little.

Mojito at Smokey Joe's, Aruba

Jeff had his first fruity drink of the week. We've decided it's totally fine to have unmanly drinks on tropical islands. This one is called the Pink Iguana and has pina colada mix and strawberries in it.

My dad partook of the local beer: Balashi.

I got shrimp on the barbie for an appetizer, and we also got an order of cheese fries (which are topped with not only cheese but also scallions, jalapenos, and bacon) to start with.

Wings and cheese fries at Smokey Joe's, Aruba

I loved the shrimp. They were very simply grilled with no rubs or flavorings or anything. I really started wishing I had a grill so I could make this simple dish at home too.

Shrimp on the barbie at Smokey Joe's, Aruba

Then I shared the ultimate combo platter, consisting of pulled pork, baby back ribs, rotisserie chicken, and more shrimp, with my parents. I'm not a huge bbq connossieur by any means, but the components of the platter were all well flavored, and I enjoyed being able to try so many different things.

One of my sisters ate buffalo wings from the appetizer menu for her meal, and my little brother tucked right into a platter of ribs.

Jeff got the tenderloin kebab with a caesar salad on the side.

My other sister got fish and chips made with grouper. She shared a piece with me, and it was so amazing that I got it when we went back to Smokey Joe's for our last night on the island.

Fish and chips at Smokey Joe's, Aruba

Jeff and I returned on Wednesday evening to watch the Bruins game and were happy to find that the employees were routing for the Bruins as well. We sat in the bar area in front of the large flatscreen TV and sipped cocktails.

I tried the Happy Tourist (rum, coconut rum, Amaretto, peach schnapps, and pineapple juice) while Jeff went with the Aruba Arriba.

Cocktails at Smokey Joe's, Aruba

Sadly, the Bruins lost that night, but we still had a really good time, and when we went back for dinner on Saturday night, we stayed and hung out in the bar again to watch game 2. This time Jeff got a Pink Iguana, but I stuck with the Happy Tourist. This was a better game with the Bruins in the lead 2 to 1 for the better part of the game, but the game ended with a tie and went into a very short overtime, which we watched back in the comfort of our hotel room. (Even though games 1 and 2 were disappointing, back at home we got to celebrate some big wins and see the Bruins take home the Stanley Cup!! We had a blast at the parade.)

Bruins parade
Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara at the Bruins Parade

I definitely recommend Smokey Joe's as a chill spot on the island to grab some good food and fun drinks!

Have you found any bars/restaurants away from home that remind you of home?