Tuesday, July 23, 2013

80 Thoreau... Soooo good

A month ago, I went with my family for dinner at 80 Thoreau in Concord Ma. Set in an unassuming shopping area in the center of Concord, as you approach you would never think that you were about to enter a amazing farm to table gourmet dining experience. 80 Thoreau is an amazing space with beautiful dark wood beams, high ceilings, sky lights, cozy booths, and a gorgeous dark wood bar. It's split into two rooms with 3 separate areas; a bar area, a smaller cozier dining room, and then another dining room next to the open kitchen where you can watch delightful dishes take shape.

80 Thoreau is dedicated to using fresh local ingredients, as a result the menu is constantly changing. Chef Carolyn Johnson, formerly associated with Rialto and Icarus, really does an amazing job of getting the most out of her fresh seasonal ingredients.

I LOVE it when a restaurant brings an amuse-bouche and this one was a tiny radish cut in half topped with garlic scape butter and garnished with a little edible flower. I'm normally not a huge radish fan, but this was a delightfully fresh and seasonally appropriate little bite to start the evening.

For appetizers, 3 out of 4 people at the table opted to start with the gnocchi accompanied by nettles, prosciutto, and I believe a garlic scape purée. The gnocchi were tiny, fried, crispy pillows of deliciousness. I've had two different preparations of gnocchi there now and both times were delightfully memorable. All of our plates were wiped clean by the time were through. The fourth person chose an artichoke white bean soup with capers which was rich, creamy, and a great way to highlight the favors of early summer.

For dinner I had Rohan duck breast with cherries, walnuts, and kale. I'm not in love with kale but this treatment was enough to make me rethink my position. The dish was topped with crispy salty kale chips and the kale itself was really the perfect texture; a little chewy but not too chewy and mixed with the cherries and walnuts every bite was a great balance of sweet and salty with just a touch of bitter thrown in with the walnuts. The duck was shockingly light and went perfectly with all the sides. I was so excited about the duck that I forgot to take a picture of it.

We had two different desserts, The chocolate Bete Noir, a delightful chocolate cake, I would bet flourless. The cake itself was both smooth and dense. I'm a huge chocolate fan and this was one of the best chocolate cake options I've had in Boston or the suburbs. it came with a mint julep ice cream that was very good. It was a light ice cream with a texture somewhere between creamy and icy. The mint flavor was light and sweet but in no way overwhelming. There was a candied mint leaf on top, it was a beautiful touch that made me exclaim "Yes that is a candied friggin mint leaf. I love it here!"

The second dessert consisted of roasted strawberries, a light olive oil cake, and ice cream with a side of lavender honeycomb. I love honeycomb. I have to admit that I stole most of it before my fellow diners got to it. As a rule, I will always default to chocolate, but this was a great spring/summer desert, perfect consistency with flavors that are a light fresh touch and not overwhelming. The perfect end to a delicious meal.

80 Thoreau is honestly one of my favorite restaurants in the greater Boston area.  I can't recommend it highly enough. I didn't cover drinks in this post because honestly the wonderful things that come out of their bar deserve their own post, and I intend to visit for drinks and write that post soon. I highly recommend 80 Thoreau for any occasion I hope you'll go out and give it a try!

Cool summer memories and a simple delicious sorbet

When I was little, my mom had a real gourmet ice cream maker. It hadits own refrigerating element, so no cranking or rolling or salted needed! This was back in the dark ages when NO ONE had an ice cream maker that froze on its own. There was no Williams Sonoms at the mall where you could conveniently find any kitchen gadget you wanted. the internet did not yet exist. 
This thing was a hideous shade of yellow and weighed 1000 pounds. My father would complain every summer when he lugged it from its winter spot in the basement to the cleared off spot on the counter that would be its summer home.

Little me called my mom a gourmet, making things that no other mother would attempt. Weird concoctions that no one had ever heard of made a regular appearance in our kitchen. She often had strange mushrooms soaking on the counter that I would poke at, a disgusted look on my face. My favorite "gourmet" treat of my mothers was the most coveted treat of summer... Grapefruit sorbet. This sweet, tart, and overall delightful dessert was a favorite of the whole family including all of the grandparents. Like so many other things that were a family favorite, my mom would always make a big deal about it, enlisting me to squeeze the pink juicy grapefruits, and letting me drink the extra juice. When she turned the ice cream maker on we would all flee from the horrible racket. She was fond of telling us  "That thing could wake the dead." It was so loud that it would often drive my father and I out of the house; him for chores, me for pool time or playing in the yard. When the sorbet was ready, it was scooped out slowly and with reverence into one of our seldom used Tupperware containers. We each got a spoonful but had to wait for a bowl until it had solidified (cleverly on my moms part that was often after dinner). My mom seldom wasted her homemade sorbet on  burgers or porkchops. So, sorbet often accompanied what my mom would call a "summer outside meal." Which translated to something too messy to eat in her pristine kitchen. In our world that meant tacos or lobster. The delight of the special dinner was heightened by the anticipation of the sorbet cooling in the freezer. The first bite is like a burst of flavor hitting your tongue. To this day I'm always shocked at how good this simple recipe is. It is by far my favorite frozen treat. 

Grapefruit sorbet
2 cups fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
1 cup simple syrup 

For the simple syrup, combine 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water in a sauce pan. Heat on low until the sugar has dissolved. 
Cool the simple syrup in the fridge for several hours or overnight. 
If you don't start with refrigerated grapefruit squeeze the grapefruit and let cool in fridge for several hours or overnight. 
Combine the simple syrup and grapefruit juice in the container of a  self freezing ice cream maker. Set for approx 40 minutes (though they're all different so check on it periodically and add more time if needed)
Scoop sorbet into container and let set in freezer for 2 hours. That is the sweet spot and the perfect time to eat it. It will keep in the freezer for a few weeks but when you're finished with it take a piece of wax paper and push it down on the top of the sorbet. This will help keep it from freezer burning. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Lobster and corn "risotto"

So I would have sworn that I got this recipe from cavecibum but I can't find it on her site. Or mine, so I guess I haven't written about this before. I made this dish up last summer when I was more into the eating healthy than I was in any way about writing about it. This dish could be as simple as butter, corn, lobster, seasonings, but I had some stuff to use ( leftover stuff from other people's farm shares, I thought I had more time on my hands this week to make dinner ingredients) so I went with more of a kitchen sink approach. I have to say it came out deliciously and is a wonderful not too bad for you summer meal. The fresh corn is definitely what makes this and the sweet cherry tomatoes are just icing on the cake, I don't think this meal would work nearly as well with less fresh ingredients so this is a summer meal if I've ever seen one.

The meat from 2 lobsters pre-cooked (I just get them to steam lobsters for me at the store)
the corn cut off of 4 ears of corn
1 cup fresh peas ( optional)
1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
4 tablespoons of butter
a splash of heavy cream (though light will work too if you have it)
a sprinkle of fresh chives
1T extra virgin olive oil

heat up the olive oil, add in the cherry tomatoes and cook the cherry tomatoes until they're a bit warm ( you can add some basil at this point too if you want. Add in 2T of the butter. Add the peas. Cook the peas for 5 minutes. Add one more T of butter add in the corn. Cook the corn and peas for another 5 minutes, add the splash of heavy cream. Finally, add the last pat of butter and the lobster meat and chives, stir and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes 3 servings

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ok, so apparently I lied

I recently said that I was going to make this more of a lifestyle blog. Well, apparently I lied because the next day I went out and made another blog... called All Purpose Geekery to cover all of the lifestyle items that I could possibly want to discuss. And since I started that blog I have blogged twice on here, about food. I know. It's weird. What is going on? Well for now I think I'll keep the food over here ( unless it is geeky food then a crossover might occur) and all the other stuff over there. I did make something tonight that I totally forgot to get a pic of but it might be worth recreating because frankly it was TASTY I will tell you it involved ricotta and figs but no more for now. This week, we have some food adventures to new places and a BUNCH of work to do for my day job so I might not be posting as much as last week, but hey, I also want to see if I can keep this trend going so you never know. :)

Friday's outing to get my book signed by Joanne Chang!

This past friday I headed to the Copley Square William's Sonoma for a book signing and demonstration by one of my favorite local chefs, Joanne Chang. Her new book Flour Too came out less than a month ago and I picked my signing date within the first couple of days of the release of the calendar. Her first book, Flour, is one of my favorite cookbooks, containing some daring stuff that I didn't think I would every try. Her recipes are complicated and definitely require a good read-through before you get started, a point Chef Chang emphasized during her demonstration on Friday. I don't know that I would recommend a lot of them for beginner bakers. But I have to say that I have never made something out of the Flour cookbook that was not universally loved. In fact, last year when my parents came to visit, I made her chocolate cream pie specifically for my father, a man who might be called a chocolate pie aficionado by some, and he declared it the best he has ever tasted. He even asked if I could make it for them when they come to visit me again this year. A few years ago I even baked outside the box to make a king cake out of the brioche recipe in Flour and it was better than anything I ever tasted when I lived in New Orleans.

Clearly, I was excited about the release of Flour Too. Now, while Flour is a collection consisting almost entirely of desserts, Flour Too tries to cast a wider net, showcasing some of Chef Chang's talents in the savory arts. There are sections containing breakfast items, lunch, dinner, party, and of course additional dessert gems. I for one was particularly excited to see the BLT recipe that I recently fell in love with off of the Flour Bakery menu.

Chef Chang demonstrated how to make gougeres, a savory cream puff that is actually a favorite of my husband. I've always been too intimidated to make them because they seemed complicated and easy to mess up. However, they seem like the easiest thing in the world as Chef Chang chatted amicably to the crowd, pausing every once in a while to show us what this or that stage of the batter should look like. She even offered up the first tip that I've ever heard in real favor of using unsalted butter over salted butter; it's fresher!

After the delightful demonstration, Chef Chang signed books for everyone. She was courteous and gracious throughout, listening to stories, chatting up people, commenting on compliments, and posing for pics. I was fond of her for her food and her cookbooks before this encounter but now I'm doubly fond of her for her great attitude and pleasant demeanor. It was really a delight to meet her and I can't wait to dive into some of the inspirational goodies contained in Four Too!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Nostalgia in my coffee cup

As I procrastinate from doing work today I decided I need a snack. Though since I'm currently on a slight diet my snack options are limited. I can have some fruit or meat but that's what I'll be having for lunch in 2 hours, so that's completely unappealing. One small indulgence I allow myself a few days a week is to swap out my between breakfast and lunch snack with a sugary coffee. I just picked up a new bottle of cocoa metro ( if you haven't tried this delicious chocolaty treat run to your nearest Whole Foods and pick some up). My plan was to just make a mocha but then I remembered that I had a bottle of coffee mate girl scouts caramel and coconut creamer in the fridge. SO I decided to add some of that to the cocoa metro mocha. WOW! I think this was the best idea I've had in ages. I've had the coconut caramel creamer by itself in coffee a few times now and I've been meaning to write about it because it makes a delicious cup of coffee. But combining it with the chocolately goodness of the cocoa metro just threw my coffee over the top. If you like Girl Scout cookie Caramel Delights or if you enjoy your coffee sugary and desserty I highly recommend this new addition to the Coffee-Mate creamer family.

Monday, June 17, 2013


Sadly my blog hasn't been getting the attention it deserves over the past few years. Work and life keeps getting in the way of trying new recipes let alone writing them down. So I've decided to make a change. I'm going to morph this into more of a lifestyle blog. Rather than just food, I'm going to write about food, and my many geeky past times, which include, nails, reading, gaming, and other crafty and random goodness. This is an experiment. If it turns out that I hate it I might go back to food or I might find that I love writing about other things and do a branch out blog. We'll see hopefully if nothing else this will get me writing again. Ok I'm off to workout and maybe get some work done. Till later