Eating Around Beantown: Our Favorite Dishes in Boston

SCVFoodie visited Boston last week for a college reunion, and I was pleasantly suprised by the area’s number of great eateries over my long weekend. It’s a long way from the SCV, yes, but definitely worth the writeup.

No matter where I stopped, I wasn’t disappointed. Two reasons probably accounted for the tasty adventures: 1) Friends stayed in Boston after graduation and know the food scene and where to go; 2) It helps that we’re not on college budgets anymore.

Here’s a chronological travelogue of eating adventures, and I recommend these places if you find yourself around Beantown in the near future.

Tatte Bakery & Cafe (various locations)

After getting off a redeye on Thursday morning at 8 a.m., I needed coffee…badly…since my hotel wasn’t going to be available until 3 p.m. After dropping off my bag, I wandered my old Brookline neighborhood and found Tatte near Coolidge Corner. It’s a local chain that’s now expanded to Washington, D.C., but 15 years ago, founder Tzurit Or started off in her home kitchen, selling her baked goods at the Copley Square farmers market.

While the croque madame, shakshuka and fattoush were tempting (there’s a mix of Israeli/Mediterranean dishes and French pastries), I opted for the simple cappuccino and almond croissant, filled with a housemade almond filling and topped with tons of almond slices. It was a good start to the morning, and the cafe was cozy.

Pinocchio’s Pizza & Subs (74 Winthrop St., Harvard Square)

With more energy after coffee, I started walking down Commonwealth Avenue to visit some of my old college haunts. Some are gone, some are still there — the poster store I used to work at is now a Vietnamese restaurant — but the memories remain.

And I kept on walking and decided to head over the Charles River to Harvard Square, less than three miles away. After an unfortunate turn, and Siri being of no help through the neighborhoods of Cambridge, I doubled the mileage. But I had to get to Pinocchio’s.

This small pizza shop at Harvard’s campus has the best Sicilian slices I’ve ever had. I was anxious whether the pandemic had changed their operations and pizza, but happily, no. The sauce is zesty, not spicy, and the cheese-to-sauce ratio is perfect. The restaurant only has five tables and it’s tight, but they’re doing something right after 50 years in business. I overheard a family next to my table mention that they drove to Pinoochio’s straight from Logan Airport. Smart folks. Must be Harvard alums.

Taberna de Haro (999 Beacon St., Brookline)

After stopping in for a cocktail at the upscale pub The Washington Square Tavern — which used to be The Hammond Lounge (the diviest of dives) — the super-friendly bartenders named some of their favorite restaurants in Boston. One of them was the Spanish restaurant Taberna de Haro. And thank you bartenders.

Squid ink paella at Taberna de Haro in Brookline.

My friend Eileen and I had a delicious squid ink seafood paella with loads of squid and a saffron shellfish stock. The rice was al dente and the ink was savory and not salty. We scraped that cast-iron pan to make sure we finished every morsel. Chef Owner Deborah Hansen also earned her Sommeliere title in Madrid, so Taberna has an extensive wine and sherry list to accompany the tapas and raciones on the menu.

Since I hadn’t slept in 40 hours and walked more than a dozen miles through Boston, I was happy and content but tired after Taberna. But the eating adventures continued the next day…

Sugar Magnolias (112 Main St., Gloucester)

Located 37 miles north of Boston is the little fishing town of Gloucester, made famous by The Perfect Storm — a Sebastian Junger book and feature film with George Clooney. One of my college roommates lives on the North Shore, and we took a little road trip up the coast. While the weather was miserable that day, breakfast at Sugar Magnolias (Sugar Mags as the locals call it) was anything but.

Eileen opted for the crab cake special, served with eggs, avocado and swiss cheese on an English muffin. I had a few bites, and it was savory and delightfully decadent. Sugar Mags’ crab cakes weren’t greasy; crunchy on the outside and filled with moist lump crab inside.

Blueberry-lemon-ricotta pancakes at Sugar Magnolias.

The menu was a bit overwhelming so I took the server’s advice and opted for the blueberry-lemon-ricotta pancakes. After the first bite, I thought that this is what heaven must taste like. The buttermilk pancakes were soft and fluffy and nearly melted in my mouth. The icing hardened while cooling, turning the pancakes to a guilty pleasure. Like dessert for breakfast. The server talked me into a full stack of two pancakes, but I should have only ordered one because I wasn’t able to finish the breakfast. Besides, I knew where my friend was taking me for lunch.

Woodman’s of Essex (119 Main St., Essex)

After a couple hours of walking and driving around the North Shore, it was time for lunch. Before I headed to Boston this time around, I mentioned to my old roommate that what I really wanted (besides Pinocchio’s pizza) was a really good clam roll. You can’t really find them in Southern California.

So she drove us to Woodman’s of Essex, which has been around since 1914. Since I knew a dinner adventure was ahead of us, I ordered a clam roll (sandwich) with the whole belly clam instead of strips. Strips tend to be rubbery, and Woodman’s whole-belly gives eaters that briny taste with the tenderness that’s often lost with strips alone. Lightly coated and not greasy, the roll offered a generous heap of clams for the price (around $24).

Audubon (838 Beacon St., Boston)

Once back in Boston, reunion weekend had officially begun, and several of us met at Audubon near Kenmore Square (and Fenway Park) for dinner. Our friend Eric knows Chef Sergio Salas, who offers an eclectic menu of shareable plates.

We were having so much fun catching up that this is the only picture I took at Audubon. The pic doesn’t do the fried gnocci justice.

We tried the Dirty Potatoes (with chorizo, pepperjack cheese, BBQ sauce and scallion sour cream); pork potstickers, salt & pepper shrimp and beef brisket wontons. The dishes were delicious but the shrimp was a standout. I can’t speak to the San Diego tacos but I heard they were delicious. Just as we were wrapping up, Chef Sergio sent out a skillet of fried, crispy gnocchi with mozzerella and marinara. And we tucked into it with aplomb. It was simple and hearty dish that could have come out of a nonna’s kitchen Buono, Sergio!

Dolce Vita Ristorante (221 Hanover St., Boston)

After all the eating, my body needed a break so nothing to speak of on Saturday, but a Ceasar salad with chicken and Boston College reunion catering.

Before heading to my airport hotel on Sunday, Eileen and I headed to Boston’s North End (the city’s Little Italy) for sparkling waters and cappuccino at Caffe Vittoria’s outdoor tables, people watching on a gorgeous almost-summer day. I was transported to the sidewalk cafes of Rome. The North End is such an experience.

My final meal before leaving Beantown was at a windowside table at Dolce Vita Ristorante. Starting off with a fresh, simple house salad with a balsalmic dressing, it set the stage for the restaurant’s fettuccine bolognese. It was *chef’s kiss* one of the best bolognese dishes I’ve had in a long, long time. (Their bruschetta was the only thing I’d skip.)The sauce was made with a mixture of veal, pork and beef in tomato sauce, and wasn’t too heavy, oily or too salty, which I find many bolognese sauces to be. Dolce Vita balanced the flavor nicely and the pasta was cooked perfectly.

Thank you, Boston, for a wonderfully long weekend filled with great foods and friends. I’ll see you again in another five years.


Get Thee to Café Ficelle

The pain au chocolate at Café Ficelle in Ventura. | Photo:

Missing from SCV’s food landscape is a tried-and-true French bakery. Baguettes. Batards. Flaky croissants.

If you find yourself headed out toward Ventura, Café Ficelle, located off the Main Street exit on the 101 fills the French pastry void in Santa Clarita.

The boulangerie and patisserie serves up breads and sweets and offers heartier items including crepes, the croque-monsieur/madame, and breakfast and lunch sandwiches. Though we’ve only been picking up items, we can imagine the cavernous eatery busy and bustling when we used to do things like…brunch.

The almond croissant at Café Ficelle. | Photo:

We’ve made the drive to Café Ficelle a couple times for takeout pandemic treats. (There is another location in Camarillo, but we’ve only been to the Ventura outpost.) The croissants are American-sized (aka HUGE) —buttery and flaky; there’s a crunch on first bite and are chewy on the inside. The chocolate croissant has an extra drizzle on top for those who prefer a more-than-less approach to the sweet treat. The almond offers a generous layer of sliced almonds on top with a dusting of powdered sugar (which isn’t necessary, but doesn’t take away from pastry.

Café Ficelle’s Kouign-amann. | Image:

Other offerings include a Breton cake, the Kouign-amann, which is difficult to make with intricate layers of butter, dough, sugar and then more butter. The sugar becomes sticky and carmelized, adding the sweet to a a denser version of the croissant. Café Ficelle’s version is more cyclical and airier than the other Kouign-amann we’ve tried (there’s a hole in the middle where wavy layers meet to create an almost flower-like design). But whatever, the cafe’s is a buttery, decadent delight.

For savory items, SCVFoodie can attest to the hearty ham and Gruyere croissant and their homemade version of the English muffin, which has the crunch of corn nuts (yep) sprinkled on top.

Once this pandemic is over, we can’t wait to sit in the cafe, slowly sip our cappuccinos and taste its croque madame, but until then, we’ll order takeout and pretend we’re in Paris.

Café Ficelle
390 South Mills Rd. Suite B, Ventura
(805) 941-3444

2024 Ventura Blvd. Unit 110, Camarillo
(805) 312-7155

Eat This Now: Jazmin’s Stuffed Croissants

Jazmin’s Bakery, a longtime staple of downtown Newhall, offers a quick breakfast option with a kick. Amid the racks of cakes, pastries and desserts are their croissants.

While their chocolate croissant is good, look for one marked with a jalapeño slice on top. That’s the one you want. It’s baked with a sausage patty, cheese and jalapeño slices inside.

The stuffed croissant from Jazmin’s. |

It’s filling (carbs + protein + fats) with just enough heat that wakes up the tongue. Eat it just the way it is; or, if you have time at home, cut the croissant in half, scramble or fry up a couple eggs and stuff them inside. It’s large enough to share, too. (Unless you have a gargantuan appetite.)

The jalapeño sausage croissant won’t break the budget at $3.50, either.

Jazmin’s Bakery
24330 Main St., Newhall

Quantine Treat #743: Martino’s Tea Cakes

Martino’s Bakery has been a Burbank staple since 1926, when Victor and Eva Martino started a pie business in their garage. More than 90 years later, the baked goods are still enticing crowds—especially their signature teacakes (available in both regular as well as cranberry and blueberry flavors).

The original version of the little square cake is soft and moist on the inside with a hint of vanilla or caramel, and topped with a sugar glaze that hardens. The fruit-enhanced versions are closer to muffins than the original tea cake, but just as tasty.

If you still aren’t convinced that a drive out to Burbank is worth it for these tea cakes, then the prices—$1.69 (original) to $1.79 for the cranberry/blueberry flavors—just might.

Just remember to order ahead of time online so your order will be ready for an even safer, physically distanced pick up.

Martino’s Bakery
335 N. Victory Blvd., Burbank

SCVFoodie’s Favorite Foods of 2019

Happy New Year! 2019 just flew by, but in reflecting upon the ups, downs and adventures of last year, many highlights centered around good food. Some dishes were fancy schmancy. Others were simple delights made special by the company or context. In no particular order, here’s what tickled our taste buds and surprised us in 2019.

Beef Soup Noodles

Beef stew soup noodles at Dai Ho in Temple City, Calif.

On assignment for another publication, SCVFoodie checked out the mom-and-pop operations of Dai Ho, a Taiwanese noodle shop in Temple City that was awarded a Michel. The beef noodle soup makes for perfect comfort food especially during the SoCal winter.

Chilaquiles and a Cinnamon Roll

The Old Town Junction in Newhall, which has already established itself as one of Santa Clarita’s go-to eateries, offers phenomenal weekend brunch items. Why spend Saturday or Sunday mornings waiting in a ridiculous Egg Plantation line when your chances are better at the Junction? We had a memorable meal with the chilaquiles (tortilla chips, slow-braised short rib, fried egg, crema, picked onion, serrano, queso cotija over black beans and topped with cilantro. And as a shared breakfast/brunch dessert item, we opted for the so-much-better-than-Cinnabon roll (for the table to share, of course.)

Strawberry Bomb

Meet the Strawberry Bomb at Cici’s Cafe in Tarzana

Did you ever have breakfast envy? Mr. SCVFoodie ordered this delightful flavor bomb at Cici’s in Tarzana, and my club sandwich order was really good, but not this good. The pancakes, powdered sugar, almond slices and whipped cream were a strawberry lover’s dream. Cici’s has an extensive menu (re: HUGE) and we can’t wait to try all the strawberry and blueberry pancake options..some day.

A Valley secret: Annie’s Sweet Oven’s breakfast croissant

We would have never have known about Annie’s Sweet Oven were it not for a friend who lives up the street from this small strip mall in Sylmar (off the 210 at Yarnell). It’s a simple bakery and cafe, and this egg, spinach and cheese breakfast croissant was amazing. The croissant was flaky, buttery as any good croissant worth its salt should be — and at $5.75, it was a bargain.

Lobster and Clam Rolls

Doug’s Seafood is a family-run market and restaurant that has grown in popularity over the years in Bonita Springs, Fla., located near the cities of Ft. Myers and Naples. The Maine transplants have brought wicked good New England style seafood to Florida, and their lobster rolls are some of the simplest and best ones we’ve tried. (We’re partial to the Connecticut style —hot and served on a buttered roll — instead of the Maine roll, which is served cold with mayo.) On a recent trip in November, we tried something different: Their clam strip roll. The battered and fried clams were tender, not chewy and immediately transported us back to the clam rolls we had growing up in New England and the Northeast. It was that good. Plus, the clam roll was way cheaper ($7.95) then the hot lobster roll ($15.95 for a small to $26.95 for a large).

Summer Vacation Eats

Ladurée’s avocado toast at ORLY airport in Paris was a religious experience. It was served on pain aux céréales with hummus and goat cheese cubes.

Eating Through Amsterdam and France

This summer, SCVFoodie was fortunate enough to go on a Rhine river cruise that started in Amsterdam and ended in Bern, Switzerland. As you can imagine, we ate pretty well throughout the two-week trip, particularly in France. Highlights include a fresh goat cheese salad in Lourdes, France, near the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains to Dutch pancakes at a street fair.

Oedipus Beer and Arancini in Amsterdam

Dutch Mini Pancakes in Amsterdam

Mini Dutch pancakes at the Albert Cuyp market.

SCVFoodie found these mini Dutch pancake puffs (poffertjes) at the Albert Cuyp street market. Served hot and topped with powdered sugar, these tasted like what would happen if a funnel cake and a popover had a baby. The video below shows how they’re made.

SCVFoodie in Amsterdam: Mini Dutch pancakes at the (street) fair.

Tarte Flambée in Strasbourg, France

Don’t call me a pizza: This is a tarte flambée.

The city of Strasbourg, France, has been governed by France or Germany, with rulers fighting for and taking over several times. Located in the area formerly known as Alsace, in northeastern France, the food in Strasbourg is reflective of both cultures. We had the opportunity to create our own thick-cut bacon and onion tarte flambée at the Brasserie Dauphin as part of a tour activity. It’s a very thin-crusted dough topped with crème fraîche, bacon, onions and seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg. It was fired in a pizza oven for a minute or two, and it was fresh, hot and as simple and tasty as you can imagine it to be.

Lourdes, France: Country Cuisine

  • goat cheese salad
  • chicken risotto
  • croque madame sandwich

Lourdes is located in the south of France in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains; it’s closer to Barcelona than Paris. The region is known for its lamb, chicken, trout and cheeses like the Pyrénées and le Barousse and Basque influences. The city is filled with tourist cafes and brasseries, but for the most part, we were pleasantly surprised with the food. The three best items were the chicken risotto from Le Geneve; a goat cheese salad and a croque madame (a grilled ham and cheese sandwich — a croque monsieur — with a fried egg) at random street cafes. While those restaurant names are forgotten, the dishes certainly aren’t.

Midnight Sandwich

Cuban sandwich in Key West, Fla.

Key West is located approximately 90 mi. from Cuba, so naturally, we wanted Cuban food and coffee while in town for two days. We stumbled upon Key West Cuban Coffee, which seats about a dozen people. The cortadito was strong and perfect, and the midnight sandwich (medianoche) with its roast pork, ham, mustard, Swiss cheese and sweet pickles was more so as served up on a soft, sweet egg bread. Never judge a book — or restaurant — by its covers.

Pickle Soup

Pickle soup

Pierogi Spot opened in 2019 on Golden Valley Road, offering Polish comfort food like pierogis, sausages, cabbage rolls, stews and soups. It’s a terrific family-owned restaurant. The pierogis come with a daily soup and salad, so on our visit, we tried the creamy dill pickle soup. Not being huge fans of dill pickles, we were a bit skeptical, but it was not sour or acidic. The soup was creamy and comforting and perfect for winter. 

Sluttiest Brownies in West L.A.

  • Sluttiest brownie
  • Sluttiest brownie

B Sweet Dessert Bar on Sawtelle has been around for several years, and the Sluttiest Brownie has been there from the beginning. On a recent Christmas shopping trip to West L.A., we stopped in for a treat. B Sweet’s known for its rotating bread pudding flavors each week, but this brownie is a classic. The five-layer dessert includes a brownie, chocolate chip cookie, Oreo cookie, graham cracker and marshmallow. It’s rich, decadent and delicious as it sounds.

Happy New Year to all and happy eating in 2020!

Eat This Now: Tamales Express

Pork tamale from Tamales Express. | Photo: Christine N. Ziemba

Though tamales are eaten for breakfast and dinner all-year round, there’s always a bigger demand around the holidays. And if you’re lucky enough to be part of a family assembly line making them for Christmas, then nothing beats tamales made with love. BUT, if like SCV Foodie, you have to buy your tamales, we found another go-to spot in Santa Clarita.

In addition to our personal favs like Jazmin’s Bakery in Newhall and Me Gusta at the Sunday farmer’s market at College of the Canyons, Tamales Express is a great new option.

Located near the intersection of Soledad Canyon and Sierra Hwy., the small eatery has a limited menu focusing on…tamales: beef, chicken, pork and cheese with jalapeño. Open for about three months, it took over the space of The Cajun Belle bar.

On a recent Sunday morning, we got there about 10:30 a.m., and they were already out of the beef, so we tried the chicken and pork. The masa was moist and the fillings were generous. Unlike some tamales, which need to be drowned in salsa or sauce, the Tamales Express offerings didn’t need a thing.

Both had a little spice, but if we had to pick a favorite, we’d choose the pork. Its heat complemented the flavors of the savory and tender pork.

Now here’s the best part: The tamales were $2.25 each. Compared to the $3.50 at the farmer’s market, they’re a real bargain. A dozen from Tamales Express runs $25 — perfect for pre-holiday ordering.

Tamales Express
18283 Soledad Canyon Rd.
Santa Clarita, CA 91387

Free Coffee Mondays at Bodhi Leaf Sierra Hwy

Passing along this great deal for SCV coffee drinkers: This Monday and next (Sept. 23 and 30), Bodhi Leaf on Sierra Highway is giving out free coffee while supplies last.

Customers can get a 12-oz. cold brew or drip coffee for free. Gratis. Libre. No purchase necessary (though we can personally vouch for the Bodhi Leaf blueberry cornbread coffee cake).

The deal does not apply to Bodhi’s Soledad Canyon location.

Limit one free coffee per customer. And the deal doesn’t include fancy drinks, matcha, teas, half-caf, oatmilk lattes, etc., just coffee, hot or cold.

Bodhi Leaf Sierra Highway
26910 Sierra Hwy, D-2
Santa Clarita

Cheap Eats: Taco Tuesday at the Alamo

These are the Alamo’s nachos with chicken….what’s up with the carrots? | Photo:

Despite its full name—The Alamo Rotisserie—most SCV residents just refer to the restaurant in Granary Square as “The Alamo.” The eatery has been serving up economical, no-frills Mexican food since the ’80s, and judging from the crowd on a recent summer night, it’ll hopefully be around awhile longer.

While the cramped inside of the restaurant looks like it hasn’t been remodeled since the ’80s, most customers choose to sit on the patio anyway to enjoy cheap pitchers of beer or margaritas. (They do have a full liquor license, but other than shots, a Jack and Coke or Rum and Coke, the mixed drink choices are limited. (We once asked for a 7&7 after spotting Seagram’s 7 on the shelf, but were met with confusion.) So stick to the beers on tap or margaritas.

Now, the food: It’s not the best Mexican food ever—but it’s cheap. On [Taco] Tuesdays, the soft street tacos are $1 each. The two chicken tacos we ordered recently were filled with good-sized chunks of chicken, as seen below.

On Taco Tuesdays, these are $1 each. | Photo:

If you haven’t checked out The Alamo in awhile, go back. Have a beer on the patio, people watch and try to make it on a Tuesday if you can.

The Alamo Rotisserie
25946 McBean Pkwy., Valencia

(661) 254-3131

Eat This Now: Filé Gumbo from SCV Fish Market

The gumbo from SCV Fish Market. | Photo: Christine N. Ziemba

The SCV Fish Market opened about four months ago in little strip mall behind the Chevron on Bouquet Canyon and Soledad roads.

Its name is a little misleading because it’s not a market, per se. In fact, its fish case isn’t too tantalizing; it lacks a finesse in showcasing the items for sale. But we’ll venture to guess that most customers aren’t interested in buying the fish to take home and cook it themselves. Why would they when SCV Fish Market can turn out delicious New Orleans’ seafood fare?

SCV Fish Market serves up Southern / Cajun style food.

SCVFoodie dropped by this past Saturday afternoon.  And while the place wasn’t packed, the restaurant did a steady number of walk-in and phone orders. While there’s grilled or fried fish, shrimp, oyster combos on the menu board, we opted for the full-on Big Easy fare: the Filé Gumbo.

The small order of the stew ($9.50) came with a ton of chicken sausage and crab mixed with Cajun/Creole herbs and spices. (We didn’t get shrimp, but the generous amounts of the other proteins made up for it.) The dish, which wasn’t too thick or too watery, was served with white steamed rice on the side. Mix in as much or as little rice as you prefer for an even heartier meal. The smokiness of the sausage complemented the flavor of the crab (which you have to bust open by hand).

Even though we asked for the food to dine-in, the gumbo was served in a to-go plastic container, and the rice was served in another plastic container. We were then given a third cup to mix parts of both into. It was a little awkward, but we made do.

We sampled the Red Beans & Rice at SCV Fish Market, and the flavors transported us back to New Orleans. | Photo: Christine N. Ziemba

While we heard that people are disappointed that the SCV Fish Market doesn’t serve a traditional English fish and chips with malt vinegar, we wanted our readers to be aware that this is Southern/Cajun fair. Hush puppies, collard greens and red beans and rice are on the side menu, which would nicely complement one of the Po’ Boy sandwiches we’ll get on our next visit.

SCV Fish Market
26234 Bouquet Canyon Rd., Santa Clarita
Opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday, noon on Sundays

Eat This Now: Kouign Amann at 85°C

Meet the kouign amann from 85°C. 

Late last year, 85°C opened its Valencia location, introducing many Santa Clarita residents to the “Starbucks of Taiwan” and its Taiwanese-style pastries, desserts and savory baked goods. While there are a number of yummy offerings at 85°C, SCVFoodie has become a little obsessed with one particular item: 85°C’s version of the kouign amann (pronunciation: kween ah-mahn).

With its origins in Brittany, France, the traditional Breton butter pastry has only a few ingredients: sugar, salt, flour, yeast and LOTS of butter. Also called the “caramel danish” at 85°C, the kouign amann is a flaky, croissant-like pastry with a caramel coat and a powdered sugar dusting. The layers are folded to take on a muffin-like shape.

At 280 calories, the indulgence isn’t too bad for an occasional treat. And for $2, it’s a steal. Frustratingly, the pasty is not always available when we stop by 85°C, which is probably a good thing for SCVFoodie’s waistline.

24455 Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia
(661) 255-8585