Tag Archives: brunch

A Series of Misses: John Harvard’s Brewery and Ale House Brunch

2 Apr

I was invited to try John Harvard’s Brewery and Ale House brunch in Harvard Square in February through the Boston Brunchers. With six locations between Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, I was looking forward to a more mainstream brunch than what I typically go for. They added a brunch menu in November, so I was curious to see what they had to offer.

Some background: I’m the first to admit that I’m completely spoiled by attending events through the Boston Brunchers. It’s free food, the opportunity to meet other bloggers, and try new restaurants. As you might assume, the restaurants know we’re coming – these events (and I do consider them to be events rather than regular meals) are set up in advance – they know we’re providing blog posts about our experiences. So, because I’m dining as a disclosed reviewer, I expect the best food possible to come out of the kitchen (i.e. the same or better than what I would receive dining anonymously). During this visit to John Harvard’s I dined with my boyfriend. They had our reservation, knew we were coming from the brunchers group, and our server knew I was reviewing and that this was a complimentary meal.

We sat down to a variety of menus – a huge lunch/dinner menu with everything from salads, sandwiches, pizza, and entrees; a brunch menu; and a drink menu.

Our waiter was kind, but inexperienced. I think he had two tables during our hour and a half meal – it was very quiet for lunch on a Saturday in Harvard Square.

John Harvard bread basket

At the start of the meal we were served a the bread basket. The pieces of bread were hit or miss – I had one soft and fresh piece, and then the other two I tried were hard and dried out.

John Harvard Hot Chocolate

I ordered a hot chocolate. The presentation was good – a cute mug with some foam on top – and our server proudly explained that he made it himself and hoped I would like it. When I took a sip, I realized it was warm milk and sugar. Not a hint of chocolate. After his introduction, though, I just couldn’t bring myself to say anything.

My boyfriend ordered a decaf coffee, which was mediocre and not quite hot enough. I was optimistic that the drink difficulties would be overshadowed by the food, though.

John Harvard Clams

We started with the Harvard Ale Steamed Clams. The tomatoes and smoked bacon were a nice addition, although the bacon was all very soft (a slight crispiness would have been a nice contrast to the soft clams). The bowl had plenty of broth and the subtle flavors were a good way to start the meal. One of the clams hadn’t opened, which was strange to see plated.

John Harvard Eggs Benedict

For my meal I had the Eggs Benedict that was served with a side of homefries. The homefries were fine and the onions were a nice touch. The star of the show, however, had major difficulties: there was something off about the hollandaise – the consistency was far too thick and it had an overpowering tangy flavor, the poached egg was completely hard inside, and the english muffin under the lackluster ham wasn’t toasted and added a soggy component that didn’t help any other element of the dish.

John Harvard Overcooked Eggs

All I could bring myself to eat were the homefries and a few bites of salty ham. I haven’t experienced a dish with so many inedible elements in a very long time.

John Harvard Steak and Eggs

My boyfriend ordered the Steak and Eggs. The steak, which he ordered medium, was severely undercooked in some areas and overcooked to a crisp in others. The white of the eggs was also undercooked – I love a drippy yoke, but the whites shouldn’t be clear on a sunny-side up egg.

There were few diners at 12:30pm on Saturday and, after my brunch experience, I understand why. None of the details the kitchen should be looking for were considered. I can’t help but wonder: who was back there Saturday morning and were they tasting or testing anything?

Sure, I’ve had my share of difficult meals and I sometimes blame it on a bad day, but John Harvard’s knew we were coming – my name and ‘Boston Brunchers’ were listed on the host’s reservation sheet. I’m curious what quality of food I might have received if they didn’t know who I was.

Furthermore, Boston Brunchers and I reached out multiple times to the restaurant for a comment on this meal and my experience. We received no response.

Maybe for a beer and some fries John Harvard’s is an acceptable option, but not for brunch.

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My visit to John Harvard’s Brewery and Ale House was set up through the Boston Brunchers. Our meal and two non-alcoholic drinks were complimentary. We provided a tip. As with all EatingPlaces posts, opinions are my own.

Brunch at B Street

3 Jul

June was a very long month (although I still can’t believe it’s July!). The fundraising event I planned for work was on Thursday: a 300+ person catered event at MIT with three bands, a program, and a silent auction. This was the event’s seventh year and my first time coordinating it, so it was interesting to navigate expectations from previous years while still putting a new spin on it. It was a huge success and a lot of fun, but it felt good to sleep all weekend and do those little things I had been neglecting…like cleaning my apartment!

I took a break from sleeping (isn’t that the life?) to join the Boston Brunchers on Saturday. B Street in Newton Centre set up a nice brunch for our group of eight that offered a good sampling from their menu.

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We started with Rose Sangria and a B Street Bloody Mary. I didn’t try the sangria because of my red wine allergy (I know, a sad allergy to have), but I did have the Bloody Mary – it was a basic bloody, exactly what I make at home.

We were then treated to a variety of tastings – my favorites were the Steak & Scrambled Egg Quesadilla (above left) and the French Toast (below). The steak was cooked nicely and the pico de gallo was refreshing. I was impressed with the french toast – a solid choice for french toast lovers that uses challah bread. The bread was eggy yet fluffy, and the apples added a summery sweetness. The Breakfast Flatbread (above right) was visually impressive, but the flavors fell flat.

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We then chose an entree from their egg-centric options (burger with a fried egg, turkey hash with two over-easy, omelet, scrambled eggs). Emily from What Emily Cooks and I split the ‘Hangover Burger’, a 10 oz burger with bacon, cheddar, and a fried egg served on an english muffin – it was a good pick. The browned, skin-on potatoes on the side were delicious. I’d recommend ordering a side of home fries to go with your meal.

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This was a lot of food, but there were no complaints when we were surprised with dessert. We shared (clockwise below) a blueberry tart, strawberry rhubarb crisp, and, my favorite, a S’mores Baked Alaska! The Baked Alaska best highlighted B Street’s dessert abilities – a graham cracker cake on the bottom with meringue on top and delicious chocolate ice cream inside. Did you know the French first made a Baked Alaska? Except they called it a ‘Norwegian Omelette’.

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B Street offers lunch, brunch, dinner, and late-night menus, so while we enjoyed brunch, I’m also curious to see the space transform into a drink spot in the evenings. There is so much brunch competition in the Boston area that restaurants really need to impress with unique flavor combinations. B Street seems to be embracing the challenge.

B Street, 796 Beacon Street, Newton, MA

I attended this complimentary brunch at B Street through the Boston Brunchers. All opinions are my own.

Boston Brunchers Birthday at Island Creek Oyster Bar

17 Oct

What’s better than brunch at Island Creek Oyster Bar? Chatting with food bloggers over brunch at ICOBar!

I was very fortunate to win a ticket to the Boston Brunchers Birthday celebration on Sunday, October 16. Renee from Eat.Live.Blog. beautifully organized the event and, particularly after reading the menu and long list of event sponsors, I was counting down to Sunday all last week.

Boston food blogging events are a wonderful mix of meeting people whose blogs I follow regularly and learning about blogs completely new to me. I sat with a fantastic group of bloggers: Sue (Public Radio Kitchen), Michelle (The Economical Eater), Anthea (Night Kitchener), Robin (Doves & Figs, who gave everyone a delicious-looking Cranberry Chocolate Jam in our gift bags!), and Richard (The Passionate Foodie).

About a year ago I ate one of my most memorable dinners in Boston at Island Creek, so I was very excited to try brunch. When I entered the dining room I saw some familiar faces, tables set in modern-meets-tradition ICOBar fashion, and huge gift bags for each attendee.


A pastry basket for the table featured a variety of baked goods, including the lemon-zest citrus scone that had a crisp, sugar-coated exterior and soft interior with a moist crumb. I ordered the McCarthy’s Crossing cocktail, which appealed to me because it had the creativity of drinks I’ve loved at ICOBar before (from the menu: ‘Clear Creek pear brandy, spiced honey, rose vermouth, fresh lemon, and bubbles’). The flavor reminded me of the botanical-infused ‘Perfect 10′ gin that I love from Nashoba Valley Winery. Aside from enjoying the delicate mix of flavors in ICOBar cocktails, it should also be known that the bartenders consistently make a strong drink!


At our table we all ordered cinnamon french toast topped with apples and toasted walnuts or lobster rolls with chips and cole slaw, so I’m curious to hear how the other two meals were (bagel, lox, and cream cheese; baked beans, bacon, and egg). I paired each bite of my french toast with apple for a perfectly autumn-inspired combo.

There were giveaways throughout the meal from Boston Brunchers sponsors, the service was extremely friendly and helpful, and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with bloggers at my table.

Thank you Renee for orchestrating the event and Island Creek Oyster Bar for providing us a natural-light-filled venue and complimentary brunch with which to celebrate the first birthday of Boston Brunchers. Thank you as well to the sponsors who contributed to the gift bag. I look forward to making my way through some of my favorites, including two new cookbooks!

Island Creek Oyster Bar, 500 Commonwealth Ave, Boston

Henrietta’s Table for Restaurant Week

19 Aug

It’s Restaurant Week in Boston. Some people love it and others hate it, but if you’re on a tight budget it’s a great way to sample that high-cost restaurant you’ve been eying (after volunteering with AmeriCorps for the year, the only option is to be frugal).

During the week (actually two weeks), participating restaurants typically offer a two- or three-course prix fixe menu for $15.11 or $20.11 for lunch and $33.11 for a three-course dinner. Henrietta’s Table is unique in that it maintains its regular menu through Restaurant Week with two- and three-course lunch options.

Located in the Charles Hotel of Harvard Square, the space is airy and relaxed, as if you’ve entered your cool grandma’s farmhouse kitchen in Vermont.

My friend and I had reservations for noon on Tuesday and arrived a few minutes early, so we were asked to wait on ordering until the kitchen was ready. I asked the hostess about the Restaurant Week menu and she explained that we could order anything from either side of the menu to make up a two- or three-course meal. Fantastic!

We were seated by the window with three types of bread (my favorites were cranberry bread from Pain D’Avignon, the most amazing Cape bakery, and anadama, delicious slathered in butter).

We both chose the Maine Rock Crab and Corn Chowder with Smoked Bacon. It was brought to our table in hot cast iron bowls forty-five seconds after we ordered, which slightly raised a red flag. The balance of creamy corn and crab was a good combination of flavors, but the crab was in tiny threads rather than small chunks and the two minute bacon pieces didn’t contribute salt or smoke that would have made this dish amazing.

For my entree I ordered the Baked Gloucester Scrod. The contrast between fresh fish and crisp buttery breading made every bite complete. The roasted organic potatoes on the side had a great flavor, but next to white fish and brown breading, a small salad of micro greens and a light vinaigrette would have been perfection. The lemon on the side was delicious over the scrod, although I wish they had washed off the bright green stamp.

My friend ordered the steak special over a beautiful (and huge) mixed greens salad with bright red tomatoes that tasted like they came from my parents’ garden. She was a happy customer.

We received our bill without the Restaurant Week prices, which our server changed to $15.11 for me and $20.11 for my friend. Back when the hostess showed us both sides of the menu, she said everything was included in the Restaurant Week prices. We managed to track down our server and she explained they add $5 for the specials with the Restaurant Week option. She said she’d correct the hostess, but didn’t change our bill.

Overall, I would recommend Henrietta’s Table. The environment and quality of ingredients (some locally sourced and/or organic) were great, while the food preparation and service could have been improved (there are almost too many servers in the dining room, but few are attentive to customers’ needs). I look forward to coming back for a Saturday brunch, of which I’ve heard only excellent reviews.

Henrietta’s Table, Charles Hotel, 1 Bennett St, Cambridge

Henrietta's Table on Urbanspoon

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