SoulCycle & Brio at Chestnut Hill Square

15 May

Last week I joined the Boston Brunchers for the first time in a while – it was so nice to get together with some great folks like Renee from Eat.Live.Blog and founder of the Boston Brunchers and Erin from A Girl & Her Mutt. I also finally met Tiffany from The Fab Empire and Melissa from Foodies at Work!

This was the plan: meet up at Chestnut Hill Square (the new complex across from Chestnut Hill Mall, where you can find Wegmans and a bunch of other retail stores and places to eat), check out a SoulCycle class, have brunch at Brio, and then do some shopping in the square.

SoulCycle at Chestnut Hill Square

First up was SoulCycle. SoulCycle has a great environment and their high level of customer service is everything you expect from a boutique workout spot. This is the kind of place that makes you want to work out: the music is loud, the staff beautiful, everything is spotless, and the regulars make spinning look like a viable way to get incredibly fit. I. Want. That. And for $30/class, you should get all of that.

Maybe I’m easily converted to fun workout options in general (okay, I am – I love exercise classes!), but I’m a fan. I’ve attended good spinning classes before, but not on bikes that require clip-in shoes, not in a room that’s lit by candles, and definitely not from a teacher who doubles as an enthusiastic fitness instructor AND a ripped DJ in a sports bra. I had such a good time that I forgot for small stretches of our 45 minute class that I was intensely exercising. Our instructor Molly was phenomenal – she’s based in LA and was teaching for a few weeks in Boston.

Here’s some of the Boston Brunchers clan after the class:


Following the class we walked next door to Brio Tuscan Grille. Opening in November, the Ohio-based chain restaurant’s Chestnut Hill location is the first to open in Massachusetts. Brio’s concept is Tuscan-inspired food, but the brunch menu seemed disconnected from this. Entrees on the eight-item brunch menu are fairly standard.

We started with bread and fruit salad – I was so hungry after the spin class, so it was nice to start with fruit. We sampled four items family style:

  • Berries & Cream French Toast: This was tasty, but very sweet, so it was good to have a small portion.
  • Ham & Biscuit Benedict and Turkey Sausage, Spinach & Biscuit Benedict (I didn’t try the latter, but looked very similar to the ham benedict): The benedicts are made with a biscuit on the bottom, which was a nice twist on the classic and provided a buttery base that complimented the hollandaise.
  • Roasted Turkey Sweet Potato Hash: The hash seemed more steamed than roasted – the flavor was good, but the preparation seemed a little off.

The Bloody Mary was mediocre – lots of ice, regular tomato juice, and horseradish. I’ve been spoiled by so many inventive breakfast cocktails that this wasn’t great in comparison. I always hope for some kind of kick (alcohol or otherwise), which was lacking from this drink.

Brio Brunch at Chestnut Hill Square


Brio Brunch at Chestnut Hill Square

With all of the high-endorphin levels and good vibes in the SoulCycle class, it was hard for brunch to Brio to live up to the occasion – in general, the whole brunch experience fell kind of flat. The servers seemed inexperienced, the atmosphere had a Cheesecake Factory kind of feeling, and I left feeling full, but wishing I had just stopped by Equinox’s Squeeze Juice Bar instead. We’ve had some AMAZING brunches through the Boston Brunchers (like The Sinclair, The Painted Burro, and Moksa); Brio was just in that less-memorable, but not terrible, category.

Following brunch we wandered around the square a bit, stopping to be fitted for sneakers at True Runner. I was super impressed that they offer an orthopedic-style analysis of your stride before fitting. We were ready for a nap after our busy morning, so we didn’t venture into Wegmans, but I’d like to check out their new location another time.

Thank you Boston Brunchers for planning such a fun Sunday! It was great to check out Chestnut Hill Square.

The SoulCycle class and food portion of brunch at Brio was complimentary through the Boston Brunchers, and I did not receive compensation for writing this post. I paid for the drink and tip at Brio. As with all EatingPlaces posts, opinions are my own.


I Met Ruth Reichl at the Brattle Theatre

12 May

Barbara Lynch & Ruth Reichl

On Friday, May 9 I sat three rows away from the Brattle Theatre stage in Cambridge where Barbara Lynch and Ruth Reichl talked about food, cooking, the restaurant industry, and Ruth’s newest book, Delicious! I adore Ruth – she was The New York Times restaurant critic, editor-in-chief of Gourmet, and continues to be an amazing food writer. Since reading Garlic and Sapphires, I became fascinated with her life, understanding of food, and descriptive writing style that lingers on the details for just the right amount of time. Delicious! is her first fictional book, so it was interesting to hear that she finds fiction much easier than memoir writing because there’s no right or wrong; there’s no checking in with people from your past to be sure they’re comfortable with what you wrote about them. Makes sense!

Barbara Lynch had just won a James Beard Award four days earlier, so it was great to see her still reveling in the happiness and surprise of her win. It had been ten years since an independent woman won the Outstanding Restaurateur award – this award is a huge deal for anyone, but, as Ruth commented on Friday night, for a woman who is a chef AND a business woman to win, it’s a big victory and very well-deserved.

Ever since I was editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper, I had this idea what I would become an editor of a food/travel/lifestyle magazine. Meeting someone who has been there and still has such a down-to-earth approach to life was such an inspiration.


The Q&A/conversation between Barbara and Ruth seemed very honest and intimate. They discussed Delicious! – Barbara mentioned a number of sections in detail that demonstrated how much she loved the book and how enthusiastic she was to share it. In the book, Billie Breslin travels from her home in California to New York City for a job at a food magazine. Then, the publication suddenly shuts down (not too different from the real-life Gourmet closing that Ruth experienced). In the library of the magazine, Billie finds a collection of letters written during World War II to James Beard. The story is about her adventure of learning through the letters about food, love, and life.

Both Barbara and Ruth spoke at length about inspiration. Ruth said that she wrote the letters in Delicious! at the time the idea came to her, all in one sitting. That was a powerful example for me of being inspired and immediately acting on the idea. The ability to plan (Barbara spoke about constantly having one-, three-, and five-year goals), be action-oriented, and trust that results will come were all themes in the conversation. At one point Ruth said “I kind of hate writing, but I love having written.”

Delicious Signed

They discussed how food media is shifting, mentioning Lucky Peach and Cherry Bombe as publications that are changing the way we think about food magazines. Responding to a great question from the audience, they also talked about fears and phobias, sharing what they have overcome and are continuing to work on today. Ruth summed it up well: “It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can change yourself.”

Next project for Ruth? She’s writing a cookbook based on her tweets from the year after Gourmet closed (you may already be a fan of Ruth’s poetic Twitter style). And for Barbara? She is also writing a book – her first one, a memoir.

Toward the end of the night, when answering a question about inspiration, Ruth said “there’s so much pleasure in the everyday.” These words rang particularly true for me. It was a treat to listen to such accomplished women in the food industry talk about what they love.

Delicious! was just released on May 6 – a copy was included with my ticket to the event through the Harvard Book Store. I look forward to reading it soon.

SSL: Desserts, March 1

1 Mar

Spicy Chocolate Pots De Creme

Saturday AND the beginning of March. I try not to rush away the seasons, but I am ready for spring.

I need to start by bringing back these delicious Spicy Chocolate Pots De Creme that I posted a while back. I created this recipe for a contest through Marx Foods. The recipe didn’t win, but I was inspired to create this dessert that I could not get enough of.

Coconut Rice Pudding with Mango Puree from a thought for food. This sounds perfect for spring and his pictures are beautiful, as always.

Spiced Double Chocolate Cookies, also from a thought for food, and not a new recipe…but after I found the coconut rice pudding, I started looking around, and you know how it goes.

I’ve never made anything like this Passionfruit & Red Bean New Year’s Cake from desserts for breakfast. I love most desserts with red beans.

gimme some oven’s 3-Ingredient Flourless Chocolate Cake. THREE ingredients. Mix it up, throw it in the oven. My kind of dessert.

Paleo Chocolate Chip, Coconut, & Almond Flour Cookies from Healthy Food for Living. I always feel like I can eat 500 of a somewhat healthier cookie.

Happy Saturday!

Homemade Sushi

24 Feb

Thank goodness for the warm(er) weather this weekend. I dodged puddles Saturday and Sunday, going for long walks around the neighborhood. It felt so good to be outside again. I was also inspired to put together a few food projects this weekend, including sushi.

My mom taught me how to make sushi when I was in middle school. My mom, sister, and I loved making it together – we made all types of veggie rolls, Philadelphia rolls (smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber), and others. Yes, it takes a while, and no, it’s not the same as having a trained-for-years sushi chef carefully carve sashimi, but it’s still a healthy, delicious, and fun-to-make treat.

When I was an RA in college, I hosted a sushi party for my residents. I prepared all of the ingredients, set them out buffet-style, and then everyone made sushi. It was a lot of fun and I have since done the same thing with some friends in Boston. I wrote a quick post about it years ago with one blurry picture, so when I made sushi again this weekend, I thought I’d post an update with a little more information.

homemade sushi

Making Sushi: Ingredients

  • sushi rice (see instructions below)
  • nori
  • blanched asparagus
  • julienned carrots, cucumber, red pepper
  • thinly sliced avocado
  • wasabi (I buy the all-natural powdered kind and add water)
  • pickled ginger (I should make this sometime, I’ve never tried though!)
  • other items: cutting board, bamboo sushi roller, plastic wrap to cover sushi roller, sharp knife

ingredients for sushi

Sushi Rice

  • 2 cup sushi rice (short grain)
  • 2 cups water
  • pinch salt
  • sugar (about a tablespoon)
  • rice wine vinegar (about 2 tablespoons)

I love to use a rice cooker to make sushi rice. Simply rinse the rice in water until the water runs clear, put in the rice maker with the water (1 cup of water for every cup of rice) and salt, and turn on. When the rice is cooked (i.e. when the rice cooker lets you know it’s done – so easy), transfer to a large bowl, and carefully fold over the rice with a rice paddle or large spoon so it begins to cool. As you are turning the rice, add about half a tablespoon of sugar and one tablespoon of rice wine vinegar. Keep turning over the rice, and then add the same amount of sugar and vinegar again. If you’re making a larger batch of rice, just use a bit more. I never measure them out and the rice always tastes great.

Put everything together!

1. With a sheet of nori on the plastic wrap, sushi roller, and cutting board (see image above), add about a 1/4 cup of rice to the lower third of the nori. Lightly press the rice down – I like to use the paddle and my fingers with a little water on them. Add a few pieces of vegetables (5-8 slices, depending on what fits) on top of the rice. Then, roll it up! Start at the bottom, rolling tightly. Wet the top edge of the nori with a little water. When you have a tightly wrapped roll, use a sharp knife to cut the roll into pieces.

To go with the sushi, I made miso soup with seaweed, tofu, and shiitake mushrooms (my go-to cold weather soup lately), and green tea.

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