This past summer I was contacted by Degustabox – they wanted to know if I’d give their product a shot. Why not?
I didn’t want to review anything before I had given it some time.
So first of all, what is Degustabox? It’s a monthly subscription box that contains 10-15 full size products.
I’ve received three so far, and all three have been interesting to say the least.
My family was kind enough to set the box aside for me and not open it until I got home. In no time at all, the arrival of my Degustabox has become a family event. After dinner I’d place the box on the counter and my entire family would surround me as I opened it.
A photo posted by @goodeatsmundial on Jun 3, 2016 at 9:47pm PDT
As a food blogger I get inundated with new products and sometimes it’s hard for me to even think about trying something new. This has been the perfect opportunity to try things I never would have and introduce my family to things they wouldn’t have normally bought while rushing through the grocery store.
This year I decided to stretch the boundaries of Good Eats: Mundial and cover the 2016 International Portuguese Music Awards (IPMA). The awards show recognizes outstanding achievement in the music industry by international artists of Portuguese ancestry.
It should come as no surprise that a few of the IPMA sponsors are restaurants. After all, if there is one thing Portuguese people are best at: it’s cooking and eating. So that’s what brought me to the door of Tia Maria’s European Café.
I sat down with owner Jessica Coelho to chat about the restaurant, the IPMA’s and the idea of community and what it means to her as a Portuguese-American (PA) woman and as a sponsor to the awards show.
According to Jessica, it was a no-brainer to help support the IPMA’s. After all, how could she turn down supporting a the IPMA’s as a Portuguese-American business owner who runs a Portuguese restaurant?!
A gorgeous xale (shawl) hanging on the wall at Tia Maria’s. Most of the items on the walls are personal or gifts from family, friends and customers.
“I turn it into a night out for me and my staff. Of course, we stay open – a lot of people will come here to have dinner before hand or dessert and coffee afterwards. But it’s nice to be able to celebrate with them too.”
Another deciding factor in her support of the IPMA’s is the changing face of Portuguese-Americans in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. One thing Jessica and I have in common (aside from a great name) is that both of our parents immigrated to the United States from Portugal. Southeastern MA and RI are seeing a huge increase in second and third generation Portuguese-Americans as opposed to first generation, like our parents. They’re younger and are completely immersed in American culture, as opposed to a lot of their older relatives. So there’s a sense amongst first and second generation PA’s to help foster new and modern forms of cultural preservation.
Pictured: Portuguese palissy ware. Every Portuguese-American has seen these in their grandparents homes or their own.
This immediately brought me back to the idea of community at Tia Maria’s. Speaking to Jessica was a refreshing change of pace from the tired, bored and sometimes forced friendliness that plagues some of the trendiest restaurant owners. She’s as real as they come and it reflects in every aspect of her restaurant: from her food, the service, the ambiance and the décor. Tia Maria’s delivers exactly what you need and want from a restaurant: nothing more, nothing less.
You’re greeted with a to-go counter – to the left, the dining room and to the right, a small bar.
The bar to the right.
The entrance to the dining room to the left. Notice the collection of galos along to top ledge, they’re all Jessica’s personal collection!
“During the week we’re definitely more of a neighborhood joint. We have a lot of businesses around us and I know a lot of my customers by name. Between 3-5 we turn into a coffee stop for people. On the weekends we have a lot of tourists who are visiting the Whaling Museum or are from the cruise ships. Then on Sunday’s we have a lot of family’s who stop in usually before or after church.”
Affectionally named, “Tia Maria’s Living Room” this space is used by people looking to spend some time catching up over espresso and a pastel de nata. Sometimes it’s used for business meetings over lunch. The print above the couch was a gift from Maria Lawton, who Good Eats: Mundial interviewed last year.
I asked about the businesses around her and how she got to know everyone. She told me a story that perfectly illustrated how she’s able to make these connections and how she has been so successful as a business owner.
“We used to offer express lunches, but I took them off the menu. Now we have a reason to interact with our customers when they come in. If they only have 30 minutes for lunch, we can tell them exactly which dishes will be best. For example, don’t order a pizza – it takes 12 minutes to cook!”
By removing the option of mindless ordering and eating, Jessica has created a dialogue between her staff and her customers. That’s how connections are made, and that’s why people return.
A testament to her connection with customers: to the far right of the image is an orange plate, and to the left of the plate, three glasses. Those glasses are engraved with the name of the restaurant. They were dropped off by a customer as a gift and to this day Jessica still doesn’t know which customer dropped them off. They’re proudly displayed in the dining room.
Another way she connects with her community? Social media.
“I love Instagram (tiamariascafe). I’ll post a picture of a special we’re offering and it’ll sell out the same day. I don’t use Twitter as much. What do I have to say on Twitter? It moves too fast. Instagram is perfect.”
I told her it seemed like she let her customers and community help guide her in how the restaurant ebbs and flows. It didn’t seem like Jessica was interested in forcing anything on her audience.
“Absolutely. I never thought we would turn into a coffee and dessert place at night, but that’s what happens!”
As the customers engage with Tia Maria’s, Jessica looks for opportunity. Of course, don’t think for a second that she is easily influenced or without direction. She knows exactly how she wants to run her business and described herself as a “little stubborn.”
“I’m always open to constructive criticism but there are some things I won’t change my mind on. Sometimes people will tell me I should play something other than fado. They think it’s too sad. You don’t want to go into an Irish bar and hear Justin Bieber, do you? I want fado music playing here. Besides, if you listen to the lyrics it’s not all sad.”
In fact between the fado, the food, the decorations and the cobblestone streets, it’s easy to forget you’re in New Bedford and not in Porto or Lisbon. Jessica is dead on: it sets the tone of the restaurant.
But let’s step back for a minute and talk food. We all know that’s why you’re here. I asked Jessica if she had a favorite dish.
“Our bifana is amazing…it’s so full of flavor.” The bifana is a pan-fried pork steak topped with hot peppers. It’s served on a Portuguese roll with hand sliced rodelas. All for $7.
I ended up ordering the Chicken Moçambique sandwich. The chicken is sautéed in a zesty saffron-garlic sauce, the same sauce used in the traditional Portuguese dish – typically made with camarão (shrimp). The sandwich was served on a freshly made Portuguese roll and served with a side of rodelas. Again, all for $8. The chicken was extremely tender and flavorful, and it was impossible to not dunk the sandwich in the moçambique sauce that comes on the side.
Chicken Moçambique sandwich ($8).
It’s not very often I enter a restaurant and then leave feeling this good about it. In fact, the last time that happened was probably a year ago in Atlanta. But there’s an undeniable combination of charm, quality and excitement that you get when you enter an establishment like Tia Maria’s. Jessica has put her everything into Tia Maria’s and it shows. We are lucky to have a venue like this in our backyard, and I can’t wait to go back!
Welcome to 2016! We are ready to hit the ground running here in Boston. Since our departure three years ago, restaurants have closed thanks to gentrification (we miss you already Xinh, Xinh – come back soon) and others have opened with the fanfare of celebrity we had gotten accustomed to in Atlanta.
The second restaurant by chef Tiffani Faison of Sweetcheeks Q is a much needed breath of fresh air in a neighborhood dominated by over priced, lack luster sports bars and chains. On the other side of the cuisine coin: it’s caused a moral dilemma in this Bostonians’ heart.
So here’s what you need to know.
TigerMama’s menu is a tour of Southeast Asia — Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia. It’s meant to be a creative nod to these cuisines, not necessarily authentic.
TigerMama seats 135 with a few tables equipped with lazy Susans, which is perfect for sharing a menu made up of small and medium sized plates. The ‘chefs table’ as the host called it, is located in the back of the restaurant over looking the open kitchen. It’s unclear if this spot will ever function in the true sense of a ‘chefs table.’ Right now it’s being used a communal table for people who didn’t realize you need to call two weeks in advance for a dining room seat on the weekends.
The space also features a living wall with herbs for the kitchen. A bar located at the front of the restaurant offers full service and is first come, first served. The second bar in the back is called the “Tiki Bar” and focuses on shaved iced cocktails. It’s also full service.
The few times I’ve gone everyone has been very helpful and friendly. The bartenders are incredibly knowledgable when it come to the cocktails and the menu items. The hosts were friendly and helpful when I asked them about a hundred questions regarding the layout of the restaurant, reservations and seat availability. There was one bartender who served a side of sass with one of our dishes, but…we think that’s part of his shtick. More on that later.
As far as how the food comes out: don’t expect to order three entrees for three people and have them served at the same time. These dishes are meant to be shared and will come from the kitchen as soon as they’re ready. The pace is manageable but if you’re not prepared for it, you can be left wondering.
As far as prices goes: they’re expensive. But then again, we can say the same for every other Boston restaurant that isn’t serving its drinks in plastic cups. Beer prices are comparable to the area and they serve everything from BeerLao to Sam Adams.
My drink at the Tiki Bar – at $11 it was the cheapest cocktail on their menu and featured Four Rose bourbon and a garnish that made me feel like I was at an all inclusive resort.
I don’t know if I can speak to this lobster being “charred” (I didn’t taste it or see it) but it was fresh and they certainly didn’t skimp. The roll is cut into pieces that will remind you of maki. We just went for it and ate with our hands. The peanut sauce was delicious, but sparse. You won’t find a pool of sauce in a bowl here. This is probably my favorite dish on their menu so far. It’s light, fresh and indulgent. I could have had two more.
Short Rib Rendang ($16) rich coconut Malaysian style curry, crispy peanuts and toasted coconut & Jasmine Rice ($3)
This dish was confusing to me. Flavor wise: it was obscenely delicious. I could have swam in the broth. Our bartender suggested the side of rice, and even though you could get away with not ordering it (it’s not THAT rich) I would suggest it just so you have a means of transportation for eating all that broth.
The meat itself melted in your mouth and fell apart when I prodded it with my chopsticks. The only downside of the dish was the toasted coconut. It added an unnecessary sweetness to the whole picture. The broth was already the perfect balance of sweet and savory. The coconut put it over the edge.
Shrimp Saigon ($19) coconut marinated and grilled shrimp, fish sauce, tomato vinaigrette
OKAY THIS DISH ALMOST MADE ME GIVE UP ON TIGERMAMA. I won’t lie. The pictures I saw on all of the Boston publications that have been reviewing TigerMama had me all excited. The presentation in person looked just like the press photos…which was a plus in my book. But then as it sat in front of me I realized I had just paid almost $5 a shrimp and I didn’t quite know why. Oh, the magic of marketing. It’s a brilliant thing.
My Shrimp Saigon…pretty darn close to the press picture!
The first shrimp I had tasted…not right. My knee jerk reaction was maybe there was something off with the shrimp. The char marks on it were beautiful, but I quickly realized something wasn’t meshing. My best guess was maybe it had been charred on an open flame and the gas stove gave it an “off” flavor. I asked the bartender for clarification on how the shrimp was prepared. He got oddly defensive and told me that “those little black marks are because they’re charred…”
I’m so glad that in 2016 I have still have big strong men to explain the hard things in life to me…!
Phew! By the way, he never did answer my question…but he did tell me that the presentation was supposed to evoke the feeling that you’re on a beach, on vacation. Yeah, it sure did. I often spend a lot of money on something I could get at home for half the price because I’m on vacation.
The tomato vinaigrette was delicious. It made downing the shrimp (and my pride) a little easier. At this point I had just forked out $20 for shrimp. There was no way I wasn’t going to eat them. Let’s be real.
I mean, worse comes to worse you DO get a half a bushel of mint with this presentation.
Verdict? Skip this dish – but the rest are worth a revisit and definitely make me confident going forward to try the rest of the menu.
For the Fenway neighborhood, TigerMama is a great addition. But between its over the top presentations (in some cases) and the patrons who look like they’d never step foot into the countries where the food they’re eating originated from, it makes me wonder if this is what we can expect to see in the way of Asian cuisine in Boston. It’s safe to say TigerMama is going to hold its own against Ming Tsai’s Blue Dragon. With gentrification and high rent rates are kicking out small, local spots in Chinatown…I hope that Boston diners still give the smaller, local spots a chance to thrive too.
AMC’s The Walking Dead (TWD) is in its fifth season and shows no sign of slowing. The comic book turned TV phenomenon follows our hero, Rick Grimes and his group of survivors as they try to navigate the waters of a post apocalyptic zombie invaded Atlanta has taken the world by storm.
The show is not only set it Atlanta, but it’s filmed here too. I’ll be perfectly honest it was probably one of the top reasons why I thought I might give Atlanta a chance. TWD is one of my all time favorite shows. In fact, I love it so much that I spent the better part of three years convincing my zombie fearing Mother that she should watch the show. I finally convinced her to watch Episode 1 from Season 1 a few weeks before she visited me. By the time she arrived in Atlanta she was already half way through season three. I thought that was enough to warrant a visit to our friends at Atlanta Movie Tours.
From their website:
The film industry is booming in Georgia, with over 700 movies and 20 television shows shot here since 1972. Atlanta has been fortunate to play a key role in many of them, including Driving Miss Daisy, The Vampire Diaries, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay and The Walking Dead. Since 2012, Atlanta Movie Tours has been providing a whole new way to see the city, revealing hidden corners of filming. Our Tour Guides are experienced actors who have worked on these sets, and they share fascinating behind-the-scenes stories you won’t hear anywhere else. Book a tour today and experience it for yourself!
Mind you, venturing through Atlanta looking for zombies on an empty stomach is a terrible idea. So here’s what I’d suggest, broken down by the TWD tours:
This tour starts early, so we knew a hearty breakfast was in order. My Mom and I ventured over to Buttermilk Kitchen on Roswell Road to gear up for the adventure ahead of us.
Their breakfast is perfect for zombie hunting. Just enough to keep you feeling full and energized but it doesn’t weigh you down. Although, to be honest, we put that theory to the test…we may or may not have ordered half the menu.
If you’re familiar with the show, then you already know that the earliest seasons of TWD take place in the city of Atlanta and the direct outskirts of the city. This tour shows you locations from Season 1 all the way through to Season 5.
Our tour guide was Charlie, a lovely engaging storyteller who was also a walker on the show multiple times! All of their tour guides have worked on the sets of the shows they are speaking about, which I think takes the entire experience up a notch.
As a fan girl, I think one of the worst things in the world is to get excited about something you love, and then have someone else sort of just Kanye shrug and “meh” at you. The guides, staff and the guests are all so enthusiastic about this show the energy is contagious! You can’t help but get swept up in it all.
Some places I saw on Big Zombie Tour Part 1:
And that’s not even the half of it.
Now, I don’t mean to brag (okay, I do) but I was lucky enough to happen to be on a tour that was surprised by the drop in of IronE Singleton. He played TDog on TWD until he courageously sacrificed himself to save Carol in the prison (RIP).
That’s the thing about these tours. Don’t for a second think you’re going to get a cookie cutter script and the same ol’ tired spots. Because they actively film in Atlanta, sets are always being added and you might even bump into an actor!
After we spent an afternoon rubbing elbows with a celebrity and chasing filming locations all over Atlanta, we were ravenous.
Instead of BRAAAIIINNNSSS we opted to visit SCK Midtown to get our fix of Southern food with a twist.
However, the true highlight of the meal came before the entrees. We indulged in pork belly and chicken livers.
The pork belly was one of the most tender and flavorful dishes I have ever had, period. All you needed was the side of your fork to cut a piece and it would start to melt as soon as it hit your tongue.
The chicken livers were out of this world. We contemplated ordering another dish, but we decided to show some sort of self-control. They were cooked to perfection, tender with a flavor that was well rounded and bold. The best part though? The earthy taste of the liver still came through. I’ve been cursed with chicken livers that lacked seasoning or had too much – these hit the sweet spot.
Yes, there’s a part two!
These tours are a bit later in the afternoon, so after you’ve had your breakfast at Buttermilk Kitchen you might need a quick snack before hitting the town of Senoia.
My guilty pleasure?
I pass a Krispy Kreme on the way so…
This tour starts in Senoia, GA where they do a lot of the filming for TWD. Main Street is the setting they used to film the infamous town of Woodbury, home to the villain we all loved to hate: the Governor.
Now, there’s one thing I’d like to specifically address here: I had been to Senoia three times before taking this tour. I had done my research about filming locations and taken myself on an impromptu tour. However going with Atlanta Movie Tours was completely eye opening. There were so many locations and sites right under my nose that they have access to that I couldn’t access on my own or even knew existed. There really is no substitute for this tour if you’re a fan of the show.
Our tour guide this time was Michael. Michael had me laughing the entire tour. Not only did he have amazing stories from his time on set but he just might hate Carl more than I do.
GET IN THE DAMN HOUSE CARL!
Some sites we saw on this tour?
That’s not even the entire list!
Main Street has some options for food and drinks that shouldn’t be missed.
You can hit up Senoia Coffee & Café for a great cup of coffee and pastry. Pro-tip: Norman Reedus will sometimes get his coffee there before filming! They do also offer lunch and dinner.
You can also venture to Katie Lou’s for some BBQ. Although this isn’t my top spot for BBQ, the homey feel of the restaurant and friendliness of the staff is what keeps people coming back for more.
If you prefer the bar scene, you can check out Camp Southern Ground Social Club. The venue is large and the staff is extremely friendly and helpful. They have a full selection behind the bar and offer a variety of Mexican and Southern dishes.
These are only just a few of the food places you can find on Main Street, which are all nestled between antique shops and of course, a Walking Dead store!
Whether you are a local or a tourist – you cannot miss Atlanta Movie Tours! Make sure you head on over there, support local and enjoy an incredible experience that doesn’t have a comparison.
To connect with Atlanta Movie Tours (and to book your first adventure) click here!
Disclaimer: I was granted complimentary press passes to take part in the Big Zombie Tour Part 2. All opinions are my own, and are in no way influenced by any outside factors.
It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Foodie Spotlight but it was well worth the wait. Today’s spotlight is on Audrey Abrams!
Audrey is one of my favorite land mermaids on the planet. We met as undergrads at Simmons College and I was incredibly grateful to meet someone who shared my sense of humor and was incredibly intelligent and loved to have fun. Even though we went our separate ways (she went on to get her Masters in Library Sciences and I made terrible life decisions to bounce around the United States) we’ve stayed in touch! Thank goodness too. She gets it. All of it. She’s
Audrey is currently living in Lima, Peru and working on making the rest of our daily lives look incredibly dull by comparison.
A perfect example of this: a couple weeks ago I noticed (aka I was Facebook stalking) that she had ventured to Mexico City. I asked if she’d be willing to write a guest entry for Good Eats: Mundial about a food tour she went on while there and she graciously accepted.
When you’re done reading make sure you go to her blog: Life in Espanol to read up about life in Peru.
After meeting with our tour guide Anias in front of the grand Palacio de Bellas Artes our 1st stop of the day was at a street food stand called El K-Guamo to sample some seafood tostadas. This place started out as a small stand that became so popular it
morphed into two larger stands with a counter top and tall stools for sitting, and it has since become so popular it also has an actual restaurant location a few blocks away in the central part of Mexico City.
El K-Guamo gets so busy during lunchtime that you can hardly walk through this block for the crushing amount of people lined up waiting to get their tostada. We all bellied up to the bar and first we were given a little cup of soup- caldo de camarones
(shrimp soup). It was a flavorful little shot of a shrimp broth soup. Then we were given a choice of camarones, pulpo (octopus), or crangrejo azul (blue crab). I went with octopus and my friend chose blue crab so we could share. It was divine! The pulpo was cooked perfectly- quite tender and flavorful. Aside from the seafood the tostadas were adorned with avocado, shredded cabbage, and limejuice.
To me, a seafood lover, this dish was absolute perfection in both taste and presentation. El K-Guam Guamo is definitely a place I want to come back to if I ever get the chance to visit Mexico City again.
We made our way through the maze of narrow streets to our 2nd stop of the day the Mercado San Juan, considered one of the high end/artisanal food markets in Mexico City. Here we met some of the vendors who sell handmade Oaxacan specialties, tropical fruits, Mexican wine, and dried chiles among a myriad of other foodstuffs. The highlights, for me, were definitely the two of the many varieties of cheeses we sampled- the Oaxaca cheese was a lot like smoked mozzarella stringy crossed with the flavor of Monterey Jack as well as a deliciously creamy requeson which tasted like the most decadent ricotta I’ve ever had. Plus I will not ever forget what was quite possibly the most interesting tasting of this stop; fried chapulines (crickets- Yes! Crickets!). I tried chapulines dusted in chili powder and some that were fried in garlic oil, crunchy and salty, but not something I’d want to eat all the time.
After Mercado San Juan we walked two blocks over to a tortilleria. The whole street was lined with one room shops all selling freshly made tortillas. We stopped at one, though the name of the establishment escapes me, and Anias told us a little bit about the history of tortillas and of course, the proper way to eat them. We were all given a tortilla hot off the grill and were instructed to sprinkle a bit of salt on, then quickly roll it up into a tight tube, and then munch away; the perfect to-go snack!
With piping hot tacos in hand our group made its way through the ever more packed and windy streets only to stop suddenly at an unassuming street corner. Here we met a one-woman operation on a street corner making and selling blue corn quesadillas and tlacoyos. After the seafood tostada, the tlacoyos were my second favorite dish; a slightly thicker than average hand formed tortilla stuffed with mashed fava beans and grilled over charcoal, topped with nopales, shredded cabbage and queso fresco.
From there we meandered a few blocks over to a tiny restaurant called Fonda Mi Lupita. Here we got to sample a traditional mole poblano (the kind made with chocolate). The proprietor, owner, and mole creator a very sweet old woman who reminded us all of a grandmother-figure served us up little plates of mole with tortillas and bread to mop it up. Mole poblano has a rich, complex flavor that is neither spicy nor sweet from the chocolate that is included in the recipe, but tangy and savory. I would have loved to try it over some shredded chicken or pork.
After departing from Fonda Mi Lupita, Anias brought us to another market, called Mercado San Juan Arcos de Belen. This market, she told us, was a more typical market unlike the artisanal market we first visited. The atmosphere here was much more chaotic and hectic than Mercado San Juan, and the place was absolutely jam-packed with people. Quite close to the entrance we stopped at one stall to sample steak flautas. Flautas are similar to what we know in the U.S. as taquitos. Our flautas were served up piping hot with shredded cabbage, red salsa, and queso fresco crumbled on top. And the best way to eat them, Anias told us, is to just pick it up and chow down until its gone.
Once we finished our flautas our group trooped across the street to Taqueria Gonzales, one of the more popular taqueria’s in the Centro Historico district, to sample their tacos campechanos. A very tasty combination of pork and beef is piled high on a tortilla along with caramelized onions and nopales. Although it was overall a delicious taco, I did not find the mix of meat to be very flavorful, so this stop was not my absolute favorite.
And our final stop of this whirlwind tour was at Pulqueria Las Duelistas for pulque tasting. Pulque is a traditional Mexican alcohol made from the fermented sap of the agave plant. With its unique flavor and viscous texture (think: thick kombucha); it is not a drink for the faint of heart (or stomach). We were all able to sample the different flavors Pulqueria offered that day: guava, mango & chili, oatmeal & cinnamon, celery & chili, beetroot, as well as the unflavored pulque. This last stop fell flat for me as well as for some of the other tour members, as puqlue is not something that is easy to drink due to its consistency and flavor, not to mention we were all cramped into the corner of a very crowded bar.
Overall the EatMexico Market tour was a fantastic way to experience a livelier and more authentic side of Mexico City. It was a great introduction to a city I did not know much about and had never had much interest in visiting. I’m pretty sure that I’d have never been able to taste fresh hot tortillas (seriously, heaven, guys) nor would I have gotten the opportunity to experience Mexico City culture as it is for its inhabitants and learn about its culinary history (something that is of great personal interest to me) if I’d not taken this tour. And I can safely say that Mexican food will never be the same for me again!