Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I'm sorry that I haven't been as frequent with my posts this past week. I'm headed to Florida on Saturday and I have a lot to do before my husband and I will be anywhere near ready to leave.
In the meantime, here are some pictures from a barbeque fest I recently hosted for a friend's birthday. Basically, we picked up some BBQ sauce from Blue Ribbon in West Newton and grilled some chicken breasts. We then shredded the breasts and poured in the BBQ sauce and left the whole thing to marinate for a couple of hours. This was a really great way to do homemade BBQ for a bunch of people. I also made cornbread, salad, green beans with butter and the drink for the evening was fresh lemonaid with vodka. I highly recommend this menu if you have a bunch of peole since it was easy to do and easy to make into a buffet style meal. I wish I had gotten a picture of the full spread it looked awesome.
I leave you with a picture of the three different BBQs complete with sauce until I have a chance to post about the spice cake I made for this event.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Word of mouth is what brought this Bostonist to Taste Coffee House, while running errands in Newton. Taste is raved about by foodies and locals alike—and for good reason. Their pastries and breads are all local, hailing from Iggy’s in West Cambridge, and everything else on the menu is made in-house from the finest ingredients. Above all else, Taste is dedicated to brewing delicious coffee, which means that they only brew quality beans from local roasters such as George Howell and Barismo. The owner, twenty-four year old Nikolas Krankl, is also the barista—and a fine one he is too. He recently placed 2nd in the Northeast Regional Barista Competition a fact that is proudly displayed in a bright homemade sign behind the barista station.
In addition to good food and great coffee, Taste offers customers a comfortable, down-to-earth atmosphere. Absent are the disinterested baristas and annoyed customers that plague other coffee shops. At Taste, everyone seems truly happy to be there. Upon entering, you find your eyes drawn to the chalkboard wall menu boasting everything from breakfast to crepes and sandwiches. Then, of course, there’s the coffee. The small coffee menu is behind the bar, and can sometimes be a little difficult to see or read while standing in line. However, don’t be deterred. Taste is definitely the kind of place where, if you want it, you can probably get it, whether or not it’s on the menu. Small tables and chairs invite customers to take a load off while they wait, enjoy their coffee and a bite, or just sit and hang out with a laptop or a friend. Despite their limited space, Taste encourages customers to make themselves at home by offering a small collection of board games. If all of this wasn’t enough to make Taste a favorite, the shop also serves beer and wine! And what about the coffee, you ask? Well, the latte that this Bostonist sampled was both artistic and delicious, and the iced mocha was the perfect blend of coffee and chocolate—not too sweet and not the slightest bit bitter. We will definitely be going back to enjoy a fantastic cup of Joe with friends soon.
Original posted on the Bostonist.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Now, I have been wanting to try this one for years and I've never gotten around to it. All of the pictures I have seen have just made me drool though, so I was determined to give it a try. For this one I didn't follow a specific recipe, there are some aspects of the Kerrygold recipe in there as well as some others that I found. Mostly, if I liked the idea I put it in there. My biggest problem, it wouldn't thicken, so I ended up taking a trick from one of the premade chili kits I had and added a packet of masa ( or corn flour) this stuff worked perfectly and I ended up with a nice thick chili that was colorful and delicious.
Three bean Chicken chili
1 lb. chicken breast, cubed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large white onion, diced
1 yellow pepper diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 small can of mild green chiles (with liquid)
1 can Great Northern beans, drained
1 can navy beans
1 can cannaleni beans
28 oz chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
green tobasco for kick
Heat the olive oil in a deep sauté pan. Sauté the onion, garlic, celery, and pepper together. When onions and celery are soft, add the chicken and sauté for a few minutes. Pour in the beans, broth, and chilis. Bring the contents to boil and season to taste with salt and pepper and add the rest of the seasonings. If it is not thickening, use a tablespoon of Masa (corn flour).Reduce to simmer and cook for 45 minutes until the liquid thickens to desired consistency. Serve with jack cheese and tortilla chips or fritos.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Wellesley isn’t exactly what people think of when they are looking for a suburban food destination. The perception is that it’s difficult to get to by car or T, the people tend to be a little on the snobby side, it’s a dry town, and well, everything is really expensive. But this Bostonist has found a few gems that are well worth the trek out to Wellesley, and Susu bakery is one of them. Tucked away in a corner of Wellesley center, Susu is a sophisticated bakery with an elegant flare. Their delightful dining room boasts large tables with big comfortable chairs and booths, perfect for a lunch with the
girls or a quiet moment to yourself. Their lunch menu is simple but covers most of the basics with soup, salad, quiche, and sandwiches. Their chicken salad is particularly fine and will have you craving more about a week after your first taste, but come early, as they do run out of it. Despite the delicious lunch fare, the real attraction here is the baked goods.
This Bostonist considers herself something of a cupcake expert. She’s tried cupcakes from establishments all over town, and from Sweet to the South End Buttery, all have been disappointing. All, that is, except Susu. Here, the chocolate cupcakes are just the right balance of chocolate and sweet. They are neither so dry that they crumble nor so moist that they are sticky. The vanilla cupcakes are equally noteworthy - light and fluffy with just the right amount of vanilla, not overpowering. The cupcake feels like it might float away. In a world of mediocre frostings, Susu’s stands high above them all. The chocolate is a perfect balance of sugar and cocoa, and the vanilla has a wonderfully smooth texture and a taste that will have you straining not to lick it right off the top of the cupcake. And if you’re a coconut lover, you owe it to yourself to try one of the coconut cupcakes. All of these delicious little treasures translate into full cakes flawlessly, and cute decorations on cupcakes become elegantly designed cake masterpieces when translated to full size.
But cupcakes aren’t the only thing you’ll find at Susu. Their scones, cookies, and brownies are also well worth the trip. This Bostonist even had a passion fruit tart topped with meringue once that was such a perfect balance of sweet, tart, and fluffy meringue that she has never looked at passion fruit the same way.While pricey, this is Wellesley - Susu is well worth the trip and the expense for the hig h quality of baked good with elegant attention to detail. This will remain a favorite of this Bostonist for a long time to come.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I admit it, I've always been intimidated by chili. My mom made a pretty good one, my Stepmother makes a great one and mine has always fallen short. So, in honor of my friend Ron, this Friday I set out to make a decent chili. I had three different types in mind. A vegetarian chili, for my veggie friends, a white chili, and a regular kidney and black bean chili. Thanks to foodgawker and tastespotting I had plenty of recipes to choose from so I took the ingredient list of the five recipes I thought most promising and I set out for the stores. First hurdle, the chilis. In recipes, people label their chilis things like hatch chilis and medium/ small mild chilis or chipolte chilis are bandied about with little regard in most chili recipes.
The problem with this.... the grocery stores, even the nice specialty ones, label their chilis, chilis. That's it, sometimes their green or occasionally jalapeno, but other than that a girl is on her own. Now, I'm not a big spice fan but I figure that there is a reason that chili's typically go into these things. As a woman who used to shun Mushrooms and has since discovered their usefulness as flavor enhancers (though I still think texturally they are vile) I made a decision to stick with the chilis. However, in light of the overwhelming plethora of options I have to say I chickened out and went for the little ortega cans that said mild on them. Still, you gotta admire me sticking to my principals right. :)
Anyway on to the chili. This exercise started out very precise. I began with the vegetarian chili, my closest veggie friend is a picky eater and not a big spice woman herself so I wanted to make sure that I took great care with this one and made it right. Hence, the starting chili. I measured everything very precisely, and made sure that all of the ingredients were chopped very finely. I added them according to directions and I even bougth fake meat for her.
Well, the veggie chili turned out very well, thank you very much and I am a general veggie hater. I even added the fake meat and, you know what. It didn't really taste like anything but it sure texured like ground beef.
Here's the recipe:
- 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp (40 L) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- two 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
- two 15 oz cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- one 28-oz (794 mL) can diced tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) tomato paste
- 1/4 cup salsa, mild
- 2 Tbsp
- 1 tsp (5 mL) cumin
- 1 tsp (5 mL) dried oregano
- one package of fake ground meat of your choice
- Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the oil and onion. Saute for 3 minutes or until the onion is translucent.
- Add the carrots, red pepper and garlic. Saute for 2 minutes.
- Add the black beans, kidney beans, tomatoes, tomato pasta, salsa, chili powder, cumin, oregano and basil. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the carrots are cooked.
- Add the package of fake meat. Serve.
Monday, April 13, 2009
This Easter we went to my friend Pam's house, which was great because I didn't have to make dinner. Instead I got to volunteer for dessert. The request from my host was " something fruity". So I decided to give a strawberry tart a try. (I also made cupcakes because there were going to be kiddies there.) I found this recipe on Tastespotting and I was astounded at how easy it was.
The first major hurdle; I didn't have a 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom, I only had an 11 inch one. On my first try I figured, what's the difference, but the tart shell ended up coming out really thin, so the second try I made a double batch ( not easy in a standard cuisinart) and pushed as much as I thought necessary, the rest of the dough I pressed into little tart shells just to see if it would work, it did. The next problem was the cooking time, at 350 degrees, it needed 20 minutes, 25 burned it.
I have to say I have never worked with Mascarpone cheese before and I really enjoyed it I will definitely be trying to find more places to incorporate this newfound ingredient into my life. I even took the filling and tweaked it for another purpose (more on that in another post).
The only other problem that I encountered was my strawberries. They were distinctly out of season, and thus too tart and watery. The solution? Powered sugar tapped through a sieve over the berries before they were placed on the tart.
I made the crust the night before and let it sit out so that it would be ready for topping when I got up the next morning and it worked out really well. I highly recommend this dessert for dinner parties or any social gathering really. It is really easy to make and looks absolutely lovely.
• 3/4 cup sliced almonds
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1 cup flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
• 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
• 1 teaspoon almond extract
• 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
• 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
• 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
• 3/4 cup powdered sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 cups fresh raspberries or strawberries
Preheat oven to 350F. In a food processor, pulse almonds and granulated sugar until finely ground, being careful to stop before they turn into nut butter. Add flour and salt and pulse to blend. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. With motor running, add egg, egg yolk, and almond extract and whirl until dough comes together. It will be sticky but that's ok.
Press dough evenly into the bottom (not the sides) of a 10-in. tart pan with removable rim. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then remove rim. You can let this sit overnight to cool and it will be fine in the morning.
IMelt chocolate in the top of a double boiler, stir in 2 tbsp. cream. Spread chocolate on crust and let cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat remaining 1/2 cup cream to firm peaks ( no worries if you over beat it it'll still be fine). Beat in mascarpone, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Spread on chocolate-coated crust. Arrange strawberries on top. Serve tart immediately or cover with plastic wrap and chill up to overnight
Original recipe found on Berkley Cooking.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
I know I should be making cookies shaped like bunnies, chicks or easter eggs at this time of year, and that might come later on this week, but all I really want is a chocolate chip cookie. So last night after I made dinner and settled my husband in with his video game I did just that. These aren't particularly inventive, heck they aren't even my usual recipe, just good old nestle toll house chocolate chip cookies. Sometimes its best to just stick to the basics. More baking adventures this weekend as I prepare for Easter at my friend's parents house.
PREHEAT oven to 375° F.
COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each additionand and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
At the end of Moody Street, on the other side of the bridge from many of the regular Waltham haunts, there is a brick building nestled along the water. This old building used to house a fire station, but now it is home to Biagio, one of Waltham’s best Italian restaurants. Normally, when people talk of Moody Street they sing the virtues of the great Thai food, Pub food and Indian food that can be found there. Italian food is better left for the North End. But if you live in any of Waltham’s neighboring towns or even if you don’t, you owe it to yourself to pay Biagio a visit.
Their menu is an affordable mix of reliable Italian classics, Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan, Veal Saltimbocca, with complex and interesting options, like their Roasted ½ a Statler Chicken and Fig and Mascarpone Ravioli. Their delightful sauces and pastas are served in huge portions, perfect for sharing with friends or taking home for tomorrow night’s dinner. Their Fig and Prosciutto Crostini appetizer is so inventive and flavorful that this Bostonist has considered stopping in just to partake of this culinary delight. Biagio’s desserts are just as delicious and generously portioned, they reheat really well too, so don’t feel bad if you eyes are bigger than your stomach.
If you’re interested in a little bit of party with your dinner there is a comfy bar, lounge, and dance area upstairs for people who want to mix it up a bit. Their drinks are definitely worthwhile and are cheaper than you’d expect.
Prices are average, though well worth it for the quality and amount of food you receive. You can check out their menus here: http://www.biagiowaltham.com/dinner.html
So, next time you’re in Waltham, Newton, Weston, Natick, Framingham, or Watertown and you don’t know what to do for dinner, why don’t you give Biagio a try, it’s well worth the trip.This post marks the first of my weekly Stuff to do in the Suburbs series over at Bostonist.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
I'm on a diet. Now, anyone who has been reading my blog knows that this is a ludicrious endeavor. For a woman who is addicted to chocolate, red meat, and carbs going on a diet is like an exercise in torture. So, let me rephrase, I'm trying to take things in moderation and make some positive changes in my eating habits. There, that sounds better. :)
Part of the diet is drinking more liquids in an attempt to stay hydrated etc... The problem with this is that while I am alright with water, I mean I understand it is a necessity and what not, for the most part, I get tired of drinking it in a hurry. So, what's a girl to do when she needs to hydrate in a low calorie way but is seriously tired of drinking water? Brew up some iced tea!
I started making iced tea on a regular basis several months ago, originally at my husband's request and then later because it provided flavor and thirst quenchingness without the calories of sodas or vitamin water. My usual method was to boil up a big pot of water and then pour the water over about 10 teabags in my biggest tea pot an then let it sit for several hours, pour over ice and you're all set. The big problem with this is the time it takes and the strength of the tea, it never got strong enough unless you left it brewing over night.
So, for my birthday, my husabnd bought me an iced tea maker. this ingenious device brews the tea hot but then deposits it into a pitcher filled with ice. Presto, iced tea. This isn' t a very original idea but I simply love it. And I highly recommend buying this one, Hamilton Beach 40911 2-Quart Electric Iced Tea Maker, to anyone who makes a lot of iced tea.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Let me start out by saying that my friend Pam over at Cave Cibum is good to me. Recently, she was invited to this year’s Taste of the Nation Boston event at the Hynes Convention center and she somehow managed to get me invited as well. And oh my god, what an amazing event. Managed by Share Our Strength, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America, this year’s Taste of the Nation Boston boasted more than seventy of Boston’s finest restaurants, over forty wineries, and Bombay Sapphire drinks galore. To put it simply this event is foodie freakin heaven.
Now up until this Thursday, I had has only attended convention center events with the word fair tacked on at the end think: investment fair, job fair, school fair. So as I entered the Hynes I really didn’t know what to expect. We were offered VIP passes, meaning that we could enter at 5:30, and have full access to the VIP room. Being industrious foodies we of course arrived early, and checked our coats with the lovely volunteers.
As my friend Pam and I entered the convention hall, we were bombarded by fantastic smells and sights. In front of us was a veritable sea of chef’s stations and serving tables. Steam wafted from skillets and griddles around the room as complex culinary delights were created in miniature right before our eyes. It was an amazing site. This was the first instance that I turned to Pam and said ‘Wow, this is messed up, I can’t believe we’re here, for free. You rock.” She probably got tired of hearing this because as the evening progressed and I got more Bombay Sapphire drinks in me I said this more and more.
We were greeted by someone handing out glasses of preseco, a wonderful way start to any evening. Then we wandered off to the left, drawn by the cheese displays. There was a truffle company, that for the life of me I can’t remember the name of but they had some wonderful truffle oils and honey.
The Vermont Butter and Cheese Company was right at the front of the room with their elegant presentation of cheeses. They displayed four different goat cheeses and some fantastically creamy butter, the woman who was explaining the cheeses and butter informed us “This butter is 86% fat, the way butter should be.” Amen sister! The soft almost brie like Bijou is a ripened goat cheese that was very flavorful though a little too pungent for me. However the creamy Crottin, a younger version of the Bijou, had a light and subtle flavor that would work equally well as an addition to a salad or served on its own with some nice bread.In the background, behind the din of clanging pans, sizzling food, and people having a great time wound the melodies of the Cassavettes a young Boston based band. The band was placed on a stage at the back of the convention hall and surrounded by, well, food coma tables. You could see people drifting in and out of the seats throughout the night, pausing to enjoy the music and contemplate if they had reached their limits. The addition of live music to this event made it extra special and the band was really a great choice, their upbeat music kept the crowds awake and flowing throughout the evening.
Though a fantastic event overall, the evening was a bit overwhelming. There just aren’t that many situations where you get to wander around a large room where people hand you food and drink with little to no prompting, so remembering everything that was consumed is frankly impossible. However, there were a few standouts worth mentioning.
Masa, a southwestern inspired bistro located in the South End and Woburn, brought their tapas A game with their duck empanadas and chocolate barbeque sauce. At the Gargoyles booth they were serving a black truffle soup with potato foam topped with beet pollen which produced a really complex flavor, the soup was rich and meaty, almost overwhelmingly so, but the potato foam calmed the richness of the soup while the beet pollen added a little extra kick to finish off the flavor. Davios delivered a light springy dish with their spring pea and fresh ricotta ravioli with lemon butter, grape tomatoes, and micro pea tendrils. ChocoLee grabbed our attention with their beautiful display of gourmet chocolates we stopped for a moment to savor rich almond marzipan coated in dark chocolate and the sinfully good salted chocolate caramels.
Yummy Duck Empenadas
Despite all of these inventive offerings, the restaurant table that stood out the most for this Bostonist was Lobby. While they presented a simple table, no frills or special gimmicks, Lobby’s food spoke for itself. A salty duck quesadilla with fresh guacamole and a sweet and spicy butternut squash soup with ginger were simple elegant fare done right. While all of the restaurants mentioned above have earned a visit from this Bostonist, Lobby’s delicious offerings have earned them first place on the list.
Last but not least we must mention the overabundance of alcohol that was available, well everywhere. Bombay Sapphire Gin, Stella Artois, and Harpoon Brewery were some of the sponsors to provide drinks to this foodie shindig. There were Beer stations set up throughout the event and glasses sporting the Stella Artois and Harpoon logos were spotted on several occasions. Bombay Sapphire was serving up Raspberry Tom Collins, Sapphire Royales and Gimlets. And while the evening started with tiny plastic martini glasses, by the end they were filling up wine glasses with their surprisingly delicious cocktails. Not interested in Beer or Liquor? That’s ok, wine and water were abundant as well. There were ziggurats of wine glasses strategically placed at the entrance and near the band, allowing easy access for anyone wanting to sample the offerings of the abundant wine tables.
GIN! in Raspberry Tom Collins
There was also a silent auction, raffles, and an ingenious ducky auction. The ducky auction was so intriguing we almost bought one. The idea is simple, for 25 or 50 dollars, guests could buy a small rubber duck, they came in a variety of costumes, which would enter you in an auction for some great prizes, and even if you didn’t win you’d go home with a duck! All of the proceeds of this event go to fight childhood hunger in America.
The Cambridge Culinary academy was present everywhere with their tables of French cakes in the main hall and their chafing dishes of inventive gnocchi dishes in the VIP tent. While these imaginative students made some amazing gnocchi, unfortunately they’re baking skills were a little lacking. Tiramisu shouldn’t taste citrusy, citrus cake shouldn’t be bland, and the chocolate cake with pears was a bizarre combination that frankly wasn’t very well thought out. Though I do have to say they had some seriously cool baked sculptures.
Overall, this was a fantastic event. Well planned out and executed. Chefs, volunteers, and guests alike all enjoyed sharing in their love of great food and drink and everyone seemed to be having a genuinely great time. While the ticket prices are steep, $85-95 for general admission passes and $135-145 for VIP tickets, this event is worth the price. Though this Bostonist advises skipping the VIP tickets in favor of the cheaper general admission passes, the VIP room was a nice distraction but the separate band packed into the small VIP space made it too crowded and loud to really enjoy the extra drink and food perks. This is a great event for a great cause, we highly recommend this event for foodies and non-foodies alike.
portions of this post were originally posted to the Bostonist
Friday, April 3, 2009
I feel like I've been run over by a freight train. So with all of that I really haven't been blogging much this week. But the weekend is here and I might actually have some time, while my husband plays video games on the couch next to me. Look out for a post about Taste of the Nation, a rediscovery of an old favorite recipe and a new weekly column over at the Bostonist.
Thanks for being patient while my life settles!
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
For those of you who may be uninitiated in the ways of Restaurant Week, here's how it works. Restaurants around the city agree to join in the week and offer a special deal, providing pre-fix three course meals: just $33.09 per person for dinner and $20.09 for lunch (get it, because it's 2009!).
A great strategy for picking the best restaurant week deals is to compare what a dinner or lunch at a restaurant would normally cost you and then compare it to the Restaurant Week price. If you are coming out at least ten dollars ahead, than go ahead and book yourself a table. These great deals often allow new customers to try cuisine they couldn’t normally afford, and usually it turns out well for restaurant and diner. This year, sadly, too many restaurants did not bring their A game to the table(s), leaving us a little disappointed.
At Marliave, a recently renovated restaurant in Downtown Crossing, our dinner took over three hours from start to finish. Sometimes that's a good thing, but in this case most of that time was spent with nothing more than water glasses gracing our table. Even given ample time to prepare, the restaurant still managed to mix up our appetizer order. Following that unfortunate experience, another well-established Boston restaurant—we, uh, "won’t tell" which one—brought out a calculator at the end of the meal to scold us on our tip giving skills. Needless to say, we won’t be returning to that place anytime soon, if ever. Restaurant Week is a time to show off and attract new customers, not slack off (or mouth off) and drive them away.
Fortunately, there were many other restaurants that did a great job of creating coherent, well-thought-out menus for their restaurant week guests. Clink at the Liberty Hotel in Cambridge and Radius in the Financial District are two great examples of Restaurant Week standouts. These thoughtful establishments will be seeing this Bostonist again soon, despite their high regular prices.Overall, this Winter’s Restaurant Week offered a great variety. More than 200 restaurants were participated in the deals that spanned from March 15th through the 27th. Many restaurants even overlooked their usual practices and opened up Saturday nights to Restaurant Week guests. Several places also offered the newly introduced light lunch—two courses for fifteen dollars—in an attempt to entice workers out of their cubicles. While this Winter’s Restaurant Week was surely a success (online reservations were impossible to get for many places even three weeks in advance), some Boston restaurants need to learn that, in this economy, a bad first impression leads to lost customers. Reputation alone is no longer enough to pay the bills.
originally posted on the Bostonist