Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Recap- Homegrown's Cambridge Soup Swap


This past Saturday at Atwood’s Tavern in Cambridge, Bostonist attended our first official Soup Swap, hosted by Homegrown.org. A website founded by Farm Aid to help spread their message, Homegrown.org provides a community for people dedicated to supporting small, local farms, home gardening efforts, great cooking, good fresh food, and a connection to the source of our food.

This Saturday marked the second soup swap in the Boston area run by Cornelia Hoskin of Homegrown.org. The last swap in January was hosted in Cornelia’s home and was reportedly a roaring success. This spring’s swap was moved to Atwood’s to ensure enough room for the participants hoping to stock up on enough soup to last them through the rest of the cold weather.

The concept behind the swap was simple: everyone participating in the swap was asked to make six quarts of soup and separate it into six different containers, preferably quart sized Ziplocs. At the swap, they got to choose six other quarts of soup. Thus they left with the same amount of soup they arrived with, but now six different varieties instead of just one. In addition to their soup for swapping, participants were also asked to bring a can of soup or a monetary donation for the Greater Boston Food Bank.

This Bostonist forgot to label her cream of broccoli soup, but Cornelia was prepared with a pile of Post-its and pens. As people trickled in, the soups were placed on a central table and momentarily forgotten while people mingled. Everyone was really friendly and of course shared a love of cooking and good fresh food. Recipes were swapped, occupations discussed, drinks drunk, and new friendships were made by all. Once all of the participants had arrived, the soups became the center of attention. Each participant drew a number and, once the order was established, people were asked to participate in The Telling of the Soup. This tradition involves the chefs telling the rest of the group anything about their soup that they feel is important to share, such as the ingredients, the recipe’s origin, or even a personal story about making the soup.

After The Telling of the Soup, people were encouraged to go up and pick their six new soups. There was an abundance of vegetarian options at this swap, and this Bostonist ended up with a little bit of everything from zucchini leek to sixteen bean vegetarian soup.

In addition to the soup, participants also left with Homegrown buttons and a map of the Boston area’s local community gardens. Overall this was a great gathering, with great people and over the course of the afternoon, there was talk of some more summer based swaps like a salsa swap and an ice cream swap, so keep your eye on the Homegrown website for more info on future swaps and other events. If you are interested in hosting your own soup swap, go here.

Originally posted on the Bostonist

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Restaurant Week: What the Heck

Last week we went to Locke Ober, known as a Boston food legend. However, last week we had an unfortunate experience. While the food was mediocre and the service not that great (one of the waiters kept pouring my sparking water into the glass of someone who was drinking regular water while we were telling him not to).There was a particular incident that my friend Pam wrote about, where the waiter brought out a calculator on us and asked if we had meant to leave him a 10 percent tip, it turns out that the tip might have been a little low though 10 percent is a bit of an exaduration. After talking to us like we were children for a couple of minutes he left us with our credit card bills and the cash and told us we could "work it out". And I found it even more offensive that he waited until my husband had left to go pick up the car to reprimand us. The implication that the incompetent women couldn't handle divvying up the check was not lost on any of us. That waiter is lucky that we didn't remove the tip we had given him.
needless to say their poor service and food performance has left me boycotting Locke Ober and telling everyone I know to do the same.

I'll post a wrap up of other restaurant week visits as well as my take on this years restaurant week in general tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Freezin some Strawberries

In the middle of all of this Restuarant week hoopla I took a couple of minutes to get back to my inner chef and froze some strawberries that were about to go bad. I just rinsed them, sliced them and placed the pieces on parchment paper on a cookie sheet in the freezer. I am really exited about the fresh tasting smoothies that are going to come my way this week. More pictures and recipes to come as soon as I have time to make them!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Restaurant Week Clink

This past Sunday I visited Clink at the Liberty Hotel to sample their restaurant week menu.
This was by far the best restaurant week dinner that I have had this season. Their menu was obviously well planned and their ingredients were seasonal and fresh. I really enjoyed the parsnip and pear soup. and the braised short ribs over polenta was tender and delicious. Each course was well paired to form a coherent menu that flowed very well from one dish to the next. The meal ended with an apple, cranberry cobbler that was one of the best I have had outside of my own house, the fruits were perfectly cooked and topped with a crust that seemed to be a cross between puff pastry and pie crust, flaky and light but with a rich buttery flavor.

While the drinks at clink looked delicious, most of their specialty drinks came in at about 14 dollars making them a little pricy for a night out. The restaurant has a suprising amount of light and does a great job of incorporating the small jail touches into their light decor.
I highly recommend Clink and will be returning soon.

Counteracting the health benefits of celery

Last Tuesday I tried my first Restaurant Week lunch. I went with my friend Pam to the Melting Pot downtown. I like fondue but haven't really had it that much, it tends to be expensive and my husband isn't a huge fan so, we don't go that often. I was very excited at the huge menu that the Melting Pot was offering to their guests. There were multiple cheese options and almost their entire compliment of dessert fondues were available. There was no option for the entree course but, they offered their broth fondue, which is what I would have chosen anyway.
I thoroughly enjoyed the cheese course, cheddar and Swiss cheeses, mixed with garlic oil and spices. The green apple was delicious in the cheese as was everything else. The broth was good but, it took a long time to cook everything, and while this is a great thing if you're trying to eat slower, I was bored with sticking my food in a vat to cook by the end. However, the broccoli was delicious when cooked in the broth.

Finally, we come to my favorite part, the chocolate! My friend Pam isn't a big fan of the marshmallow so we went for the standard dark chocolate fondue. While the chocolate was delicious, it was the dipping items that really got me excited. I actually said, " Oh my God, are those freaking Rice Crispy Treats?" when they brought the tray by. While the options also included strawberries, bananas, cheesecake, pound cake, brownies, and marshmallows, the Rice Crispy treats and strawberries were by far my favorite. The best part... our waiter casually inquired about our favorites and then he brought a whole plate of extra goodies for free. Which is apparently their policy for all of the courses. :)

For twenty dollars this was a fantastic value. I completely recommend it for lunch or dinner for restaurant week. If you are thinking of going during the rest of the year, I would recommend just going with the cheese and the chocolate or just the chocolate.

Overall, I had a great experience at the melting pot and plan on attending their ladies night in the near future!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Troquet, a birthday dinner, and dessert, to die for

This week was my birthday and my choice for a birthday dinner was Troquet. A small french bistro and Patisserie in the middle of the Emerson campus on Boylston street. I went with my husband and his parents. Now to preface this I have eaten there before, I once met a girlfriend for drinks and appetizers, and this was an experience I have carried with me ever since. First of all, they have a very extensive wine list and they offer 2 oz and 4 oz glasses of many of their wines. Also, their bar is one of the only in Boston to carry Ron Zacappa, a Guatemalan rum that I am particularly fond of. When you combine all of this alcoholy goodness with great tasting food you get a winning combination that I am going to want to try again.

The wait staff managed to impress me within the first couple of minutes. Instead of generic butter, Troquet waiters serve butter out of a giant wooden bucket with a odd curly knife. They place a curl of butter on each plate and then whisk in with their tasty warm rolls. I had finished my roll and had barely uttered a brief, "Oh, I'm out of bread" before another piece magically appeared on my plate accompanied by the smiling face of our waiter ready to take our appetizer order.

One thing to note about Troquet is that their menu isn't really what it seems, so ask questions. While the Short rib Cannelloni is described pretty efficiently on the menu the suckling pig, which seemed interesting but uncomplicated turned out to be a trio of creations all involving suckling pig. Something I never would have guessed from reading the menu description. The wait staff is knowledgeable and friendly so ask away about anything you're interested in.

I started off with the short rib cannelloni, one of the appetizers I had previously sampled, and it was delicious, a wonderful blend of slightly sweet tomatoy beef, combined with tender fresh pasta and a delightfully salty, and foamy Parmesan cream sauce. I recommend this dish to everyone who walks in the door.

Next I moved on to the lamb because I was fascinated by the concept of lamb bacon. While the lamb saddle was delicious, tender with none of the aftertaste that you sometimes get with lamb, the "bacon" was a bit strange, crispy on top with layer of fat in the middle and finishing off with some rather fatty lamb meat. The lamb topped a light tomato/broth that was swimming with white beans. While I thoroughly enjoyed this dish, the lamb bacon was more of an odd novelty than a culinary revelation.

Then we came to dessert. I had been warned by my friend Pam that this pastry chef was rumored to be particularly good. So I was extra excited about dessert. Because I simply love souffles and they are impossible to find I ordered the dark chocolate souffle with a grand Mainer dark chocolate sauce and Maderin orange ice cream. At my behest my husband ordered the flourless chocolate cake. An order of banana spring rolls also made it to the table.

The souffle was not exactly what I was expecting. When I hear dark chocolate I expect a chocolaty richness that was not present in this dessert. However, by eliminating the overpowering chocolate the souffle was allowed to shine. It was crispy on top while light and airy on the inside. The gran Mainer sauce was a great dark chocolate sauce with just a touch of the orange liquor, not too overpowering, which was a great compliment to the souffle. And the ice cream tasted like an less sweet creamsicle which had the entire table tasting it and going back for more.

The banana spring rolls were delightful,. They tasted like someone had wrapped a banana in thin doughnut dough and then deep fried it. They were accompanied by a carmel sauce served in an edible praline cup, delicious!

Despite this wonderful dessert bounty, the flourless chocolate cake was by far the winner of the evening. A small bar of chocolate elegantly presented and accompanied with raspberry sauce and pistachio ice cream. The cake appeared with a layer of ganache, not liquid but not quite solid either. This rich dark chocolate cake had the texture of slightly warm light fudge. It started to melt in your mouth as soon as it hit your tongue. This is by far the best flourless chocolate cake I have tasted in this city!

As we were leaving I was so excited by the cake that I felt the need to compliment the chef, something I rarely if ever do, she was very sweet and handed me a flier for their dessert only option. Downstairs at Troquet you can grab some of their pastry chef's delighful creations and enjoy a drink without having to eat dinner. And I promise I will be doing that sometime soon.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Restaurant Week Take 1

This is the best picture I got from Marliave because of the dark lighting, everything else came out either really dark, or seriously overexposed.

Our first offering for this years Restaurant Week was Marliave an old classic that was recently bought and reworked by the people who own Grotto, one of my favorite Italian restaurants.
Marliave's restaurant week menu was rather extensive, offering a large variety of choices in each section of the menu. They are also extending their restaurant week all month long and are among the growing number of restaurants including Saturdays in their restaurant week lineup. We started off with drinks from their unique drink menu. While I found the drink menu overwhelming I ordered the same drink as my friend Pam a Tres Crurieux its, bitterness combined with the added bubbles from a shot of champagne made this one a great pre-dinner and accompaniment drink. Yellow Journalism seemed like a good idea to one of my friends combining pear nectar with champagne but the taste was not what was anticipated, more bitter than sweet with a dry aftertaste.

From there we moved on to dinner, I have been oddly fascinated with oxtail lately ( though I have no desire to make it myself) so I went with the oxtail ravioli for my appetizer. We did have a serious problem at this point. four of us were eating together and only two appetizers arrived at the table (admittedly topped with silver warming lids) and we were informed that there had been a mix-up. Now take into account that we were one of 5 full tables in the restaurant and I call that a big problem. It took another 15 minutes to rustle up the missing appetizers, not a great testament to the general service quality. The oxtail ravioli were interesting. Fresh tender pasta encased salty tender bits of meat that was immersed in a sauce that felt like french onion soup that had been severely reduced. The onions and the beef complimented each other nicely though overall I was expecting more both from the portions, the entire dish consisted of two raviolis, and from the overall flavor of the dish.

For my entree I selected the individual beef wellington with foie-gras and Duxelles. Again the service issues interrupted our meal. While every one's order was actually placed this time, it took twenty minutes in between finishing our appetizers and receiving our dinner. We happily talked away not really noticing the time but missing our food terribly. When it finally arrived again I was disappointed. The puff pastry was severely undercooked on the bottom of the dish, the Duxelles were cut extremely small which created an odd addition to the piece and the foie gras was simply a bad idea. When eaten with the meat it gave the beef an odd taste and mostly just did not fit in with the meal at all and the beef was unremarkable.

Finally we came to dessert and another very long wait between courses. At this point we were all beginning to get a little antsy, and we started discussing the lag time. I ordered the flourless chocolate cake, not surprising, and I was unimpressed. The chocolate was too sweet and while they had clearly used nuts to bind the cake they didn't use enough to give it a good nutty texture or flavor.

Now, they did comp two of our drinks for all of the service woes, but not the drink of one of the people who had their appetizers forgotten.

Marliave was an underwhelming experience, and though I might go back for drinks at some point, considering their regular prices I don't think I'll be returning for dinner any time soon.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Let the games Begin

I am off to enjoy the beautiful weather we are having here in Boston but tonight is my first Restaurant week reservation at Cafe Marliave. I will write you an update tomorrow. Enjoy the beautiful day Boston!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

mmm breakfast

Something that needs no introduction and no recipe (unless you don't happen to have the side of a Bisquick box handy) Waffles!! (and fruit) My husband requested this for breakfast this morning and I obliged him.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Aquitaine in Chestnut Hill, a Lovely Dinner

Last week was just rife with Dinners out, but my favorite of the week was the one I had at Aquitaine Bis. They were running a Restaurant Week Rehearsal menu alongside their regular menu and while I only ordered my entree off of the restaurant week menu between the four people we had at our table, the entire restaurant week menu was ordered. Before I get into that let me say a few things about Aquitaine in Chestnut Hill. This is a great little French bistro. They have daily specials that change with the seasons, and their standard menu is well balanced and delicious. Their food is consistently good whether sampling the specials or ordering off of the regular menu. I would recommend their steak frites above all of the others I've tried in the city.

I am also an enormous fan of their pastry chef. At most restaurants, I go straight for the chocolatyist thing on the menu. However, after trying a bite of my friends dessert once I have become addicted to their Tarte Tatin. It is to die for. I don't usually go to restaurants, other than Finale, just for dessert but I have done just that for Aquitaine's Tarte Tatain.

Back to Restaurant Week.
Aquitaine's Restaurant Week Rehearsal menu













The eggplant Napoleon was a delightful balance of textures and flavors. The crispy eggplant was a pleasant surprise paired with wilted spinach and ricotta cheese. Accenting this salty tower was a sweet pepper compote that added a hint of smoky sweetness that frankly made the dish. The Duck Confit was another exercise in well balanced salt and sweetness. I think without the apple sour kraut the duck and sausage would have been overwhelming but instead the dish was the perfect combination of flavors. The dessert was a little disappointing, White Peach cobbler with cinnamon ice cream. The flavors were somehow off. Maybe it was a bad ice cream pairing or the creamy cinnamon mixing poorly with whatever they used to spice the cobbler, or maybe it's that peaches aren't really in season. But considering the high bar that they have set for their desserts I was disappointed in this sub standard option.

While Aquitaine has a completely different menu slated to launch for restaurant week I am seriously thinking of going back before sunday for the eggplant napoleon and a quick tarte tatin.

I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who hasn't visited it before and if your restaurant week dance card isn't full you might try adding it to your list of restaurants to visit in the coming weeks.
Aquitaine has a location in Chestnut Hill and one in the South End.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Living in Boston, the concept of spring is kind of lost on us. We have averaged around two weeks of spring total in the last six years. Usually what happens is, sometime in mid May it is really rainy and cold, around forty, one day, and the next day you wake up and it's suddenly eighty and probably still rainy. No warning, nothing but a splitting headache to herald the arrival of summer. And then it will stay between 70-90 not including humidity until around September when fall actually exists through November when Winter arrives again. I used to live in New Orleans so you might say I'm a little bitter about the cold.

Daylight savings time has arrived and according to the weather channel it is 56 degrees outside right now. I actually have the front door open so that only a screen blocks my household from the outdoors. Three cats are currently clogging my front doorway and there is some kind of bird singing outside. Could it be that we are actually going to get Spring this year? Probably not, there is probably a snow storm gearing up as I type and tomorrow I will wake up to a front yard once again covered in snow. But for now I am going to go take a walk, and come up with something in my kitchen that reminds me of spring.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Fuckin cookies

Everyone has their cooking phobias and nightmare recipes. Well, this is mine.

Every year at Christmas time I make my Dad these cookies. They are my grandmother's recipe and I am the only one in the family who can "make them right" now that my grandmother has passed on. Man do I hate these fucking cookies. I wouldn't make these things for my husband if they were they only sweets he would ever eat. But I make them every year because they are my father's favorite thing in the world. Only for him do I endure the torture and annoyance of making these fucking cookies.

Only for my father, and then only once a year. This year I was laid up post surgery at christmas, so I would have made them for his Valentines birthday but, I was at a wedding for Valentines day so I just managed to make them this weekend. They are still his Valentine/birthday present, hence the heart shapes. It took me and a friend an entire day to get these things made. And this is not a job you can do by yourself or you will go mad. As it was we needed a stiff drink by the time we were finished.

First the dough, a simple enough recipe (they are a family secret so forgive me if I don't give the exact recipe here) flour, butter, eggs, sugar, salt. There is a cuisinart involved. Then you have to pat the dough down into discs and refrigerate it. The recipe says refrigerate for an hour, but if you don't leave it in the fridge at least overnight you're in trouble.

Then there is the rolling. Now most cookie recipes call for rolling out to a 1/4 of an inch or 1/2 an inch thickness. No no, this stuff has to be rolled out almost paper thin, and it is sticky as all hell. I have to use a silpat covered in flour with flour sprinkled over the dough and flour on the rolling pin in order to keep them from sticking to the silpat or the rolling pin, this flouring process needs to be repeated constantly. Then you need to cut them out and very carefully, as you can image being paper thin they are very fragile, transfer them to cookie sheets. Then, because they aren't enough of a pain in the ass already, you need to decorate them with loose cookie sugar before they go in the oven.

The cookies are shipping out to Atlanta on Monday and my cookie cutters and colored sugars will head into storage for another year. Banished to the recesses of my house not to be thought of again until next years dreaded Christmas cookie marathon looms.

I think I'll go make something easier, like coq au vin or chocolate mousse now.