Friday, April 30, 2010

Cleaning out the fridge- ends up on my dinner plate! Quick Pasta with Bacon, Chicken, Mushrooms and Green in a Smoky Tomato sauce

Yesterday I realized that I was very much in need of using up the ends of a bunch of ingredients that I had collected from various grocery shopping trips recently. A package of frozen chicken tenders that I was itching to use, the end of a package of thick cut bacon purchased for a project that I should be updating you all on next week (how’s that for a teaser?), half a carton of white mushrooms purchased for the same, and the end of a container of salad greens that were JUST getting that not great state were all part of the plan that I was concocting for dinner last night. When I returned home for work, I also noticed the remaining ½ a can of tomato puree sitting in the fridge as well- pasta night it became.

I started off by crisping four strips of thick cut bacon, cut into bite size pieces in a large sauté pan on the stove top. Once they were nice and crispy (nothing worse to me then under cooked bacon) I removed them from the pan with a fork, placed on paper towels to dry, and then drained all of the leftover grease from the pan. I drained it only, and did not dry the pan so what was left was a very small amount of grease in the bottom.

I added finely chopped onion and garlic to the bacon pan, but kept it off the heat. The residual heat from cooking the bacon allowed the aromatics to soften without burning in a hot pan. Satisfied with their progress, I placed the pan back over medium heat and I added the chicken tenders that I had defrosted throughout the day, and had cut into chunks. A little salt, and a lot of pepper were added to this pan. Then I added a couple of tablespoons of chopped parsley that I had leftover from earlier in the week. Once satisfied with the status of the chicken, I added the mushrooms that I had thickly sliced.

After the mushrooms had just started to cook, I added about a 1/3 of a cup of a table wine that I had started drinking during the week. Once the alcohol had cooked out, I added about a tablespoon and a half of tomato paste (I'm eyeballing here). The sauce that formed was a little too thick, so I added the end of the bottle of wine, another 1/4 or so. Satisfied with the sauce, and after tasting its deliciousness, I added the end of the box of greens-a lovely mixture of spinach and arugula.
When I was satisfied with the progress of the wilting greens, I added the drained pasta that I had set to boil on the stove earlier with just a teaspoon of the pasta water. A toss of everything together, a bit of a shower of fresh Parmesan cheese, and finally I added back in the crisp bacon, topped it with a little fresh chopped parsley and dinner was served.
As a meal that I concocted to use up odds and ends in my refrigerator, this was a very tasty meal. The tomato sauce, despite being thrown together in 10 minutes had a really nice deep flavor from the hint of bacon, nicely softened garlic and onion, and reduced wine. The spinach and the arugula held their own, adding lovely flavor and heft to the dish. The chicken was moist and flavorful. Finally the bacon had retained its crisp-ness and really tied a smoky vibe back into the sauce that made it incredible. I have to say- it was a warm and satisfying meal on a windy and cold night utilizing ingredients that I would have hated to have had to throw away for lack of use. It also made a very delicious lunch today!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

YUM: A Taste of Immigrant City

The weather reports are out, and this weekend looks to be one of those perfectly beautiful spring weekends here in Boston.  As such- I bet you're looking for ways to explore this great city now that the rain and wind and cold is heading out town. I've got a great idea for you!  The Welcome Project of Somerville, MA is hosting a food event titled YUM: A Taste of Immigrant City on Friday, April 30th between 6 and 10 pm at the Arts at the Armory.  

YUM will feature 13 restaurants all located in Somerville, and all owned by immigrants to Boston. A list of participating restaurants can be found here.  Tickets are $40 a piece inclusive of tastings from each of the participating restaurants as well as live entertainment.

So you may be wondering, as I was, what is The Welcome Project?  Begun in 1987 as the result of state mandated regulations for racial integration, The Welcome Project focuses on supporting and assisting new residents to Somerville who fled here, often times, to escape harassment at home.  The Welcome Project ensures that these new residents are welcomed here, and also offer assistance finding employment as well as education. 

More information can be found here:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Food Network's "Worst Cooks In America" is seeking recruits from Boston!

Alright Bostonians- The Food Network is coming back to our fair city to recruit again!  This time though- they don't want you if you're a good cook, a great cook or a fair cook- they want our worst cooks for their popular show- "Worst Cooks in America"!

The Food Network wants YOU if you truly lack the ability to cook, but are desperate to learn how.  "Worst Cooks in America" places contestants, known as recruits, through book camp to learn how to cook like a professional!  Recruits can either self nominate, or you can nominate a friend or loved one that you feel would be perfect for the role. To apply, simple email and tell them why you think you, or your friend, is the worst cook with the best intentions.  Please also include name, age, home town, occupation, phone number and a recent photo of the culinary challenged.

Interviews will take place on May 10th and May 11th, however as this is not an open casting call, locations will be revealed only to those selected to interview.

I can say this much- cooking is my greatest joy and my creative outlet.  If you have desire to learn how to cook but for whatever reason just haven't gotten it- you should definitely check this out!  What a great opportunity!!!  Those of you who do apply- drop me a line and let me know how it goes!  I'd love to hear about it! 

Bacon and Beer Fest -hosted by @eatBoston and SoWa Sundays

Time for a totally arbitrary, rather nonsensical pop culture reference.  Saturday was Bacon and Beer Fest- an event that over took Boston like Lady Gaga took over the pop air waves in 2009.  Last year I was astounded at how she shot from the ground all the way up to have several number 1 hits in the year.  Bacon and Beer Fest, in its first year, took two weeks for the first round of tickets to sell out, and 2 minutes for the second round of tickets to sell out.  That is crazy talk.  My theory?  Like Lady Gaga’s catchy tunes, Bacon and Beer Fest had the best name ever- combining two wonderful things-the always loved, ever revered bacon (really the king of meats) and beer-which some might describe as nectar from the gods.  I said “some” might describe J.  An event that combines these two pinnacles in their respective categories was sure to draw a crowd not unlike the Grammys.

I knew this going in, so why I thought that arriving 20 minutes before the scheduled start time to the event would get me in the door as one of the first guests, but I was wrong.  When we got there the line was formed already and it was long.  It snaked through the parking lot and we found ourselves at the end of it, and then it grew longer, and longer.  Once 2 o’clock hit and we found ourselves inching to the door- I realized that we were going to get in as one of the first guests despite being so far back in line because so many were stretching the line out even further- to other parking lots and streets.  Like flies to honey….

I kid though, and the line moved incredibly fast.  Soon enough we were inside the old South End Power Plant ready to taste as many variations of bacon we could get our hands on!  The highlights for me: we started with Bacon Fritters
from Gaslight Brasserie which were light and airy, delicious pastry, yet not quite enough bacon for my taste.  They were served with a delicious mustard however that I felt really made the dish.  Our second helping was a thick, delicious, perfectly cooked piece of bacon topped with pimento cheese and micro greens from Whole Foods. Wow- this was delicious.  The Pimento cheese was rich and creamy with a full flavor of pimentos.  It was perfect offset with the smoky bacon.  Absolutely a winner of a taste.  Next stop was at the Rialto table for fried oyster and bacon mini sandwiches which were delicious- the oysters were nicely fried, the bacon was clear, and the whole sandwich really

came together.   My final favorite of the day?  Bacon, that had been smoked over cocoa beans and then dipped in Taza Chocolate from the Happy Pig Salumi.  Oh my lord- I had to walk away from this table VERY quickly-it was dangerous.  The bacon had a very subtle chocolate flavor, the chocolate dip
was perfectly sweet. I am craving more just thinking about it!  The other rockstar dish was the chocolate cupcakes with a stout frosting all topped with a nice piece of bacon from the South End Buttery.  The stout taste in the frosting was light enough to not overpower, but just nicely compliment the chocolate- and again that mix of savory bacon with sweet concoctions is just heavenly!

I had just a couple disappointments-the first was little cones of popcorn, pretzels and cereal mix and I must have gotten a bum cone. I heard from other attendees that these were delicious and full of great bacon flavor, but sadly I didn’t taste any of that. I got popcorn.  Sad.  Also, the Garden at the Cellar dates wrapped in bacon and stuffed with goat cheese.  The dates were incredibly sweet, and the bacon added that great flavor reversal.  I just would have loved a hair more of the tangy goat cheese though to really break up the date flavor.

All in all this was a great event. The lines did get a bit long at some tables, but the mood was fun, and it made it seem to go by just that much faster.  But it wasn’t just a great food event, all proceeds less cost is going to several amazing charities: Community Servings, Share our Strength, South End Youth Baseball and, The Juniper Fund.  So Bacon and Beer, on a beautiful Saturday, and helping out some great organizations?  Excellent use of time in my opinion.  I also want to mention that the system that SoWa Sunday’s has put together for parking cars etc (all for free) is pretty incredible.  So, as Im anticipating more catchy tunes from Lady Gaga this year, I can’t wait for next years Bacon and Beer Fest.  @eatBoston and SoWa Sundays-thanks for an amazing event!  You guys did a fantastic job!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hotel Chocolat, Back Bay, Boston

After a pretty rough week, I decided it was time to treat myself.  So last Thursday evening I made a stop that I had meant to make for many months.  I finally checked into Hotel Chocolat located right on Newbury Street in Boston's Back Bay.  This little store, specializing in all things chocolate opened last fall and has been well acclaimed as having some delicious chocolate creations.  Of note, I've heard fantastic reviews of their chocolate pasta, their chili chocolate and their assorted truffles. I was ready for a real indulgence.

Entering the store I was immediately greeted by a very pleasant sales person who offered me a taste of their chocolate to start. I selected a piece of dark chocolate and was impressed by its deep velvety flavor. Strong chocolate, with just a hint of sweet that was perfect. I felt immediately that coming here would absolutely do the trick to reverse a bad mood into a chocolate induced happiness.

I wandered about the store and selected champagne truffles, rum truffles and the much talked about chili chocolate bar.  When bought in sets of three they totaled $18, which for gourmet chocolate I felt was somewhat reasonable.  I set off with my purchase, excited to try it out as my dessert for the evening.

I reached home, had myself a lovely dinner of leftover pasta, and then turned my attention to the chocolate at hand. I started with a small piece of the chili chocolate.  The chocolate had the same wonderful flavor as the piece I tried in the store, however I was disappointed that the chili flavor wasn't as present.  It seemed to be a back of the palate heat, which just slightly caught in the throat.  Sort of an odd sensation, and a bit disappointing that the flavor wasn't more present.

Next I tried the truffles.  Oh my.  The flavor that I had felt was missing from the chili chocolate was more than made up for in the truffles.  In credibly strong notes of alcohol came through when biting into these truffles, too strong.  The champagne truffle had an almost sickly sweet taste to it, as flat champagne would.  The rum truffle- well I'm finding them inedible.  Though the chocolate casing is delicious, the filling is so abrasive I felt like I was doing a straight shot of rum, and felt all of the grimacing normally experienced with that act.  I have completely sworn them off.

Now to be fair, others who have sampled my stash are not quite as put off by them as I have been, and actually have rather enjoyed the flavors present. So a bit of a disclaimer I suppose there.  I however, love the pure chocolate at Hotel Chocolat but am now looking for a place to donate my truffles- anyone want them?  Or should I just pour you a shot of not so great rum instead?  

UPDATE:  A Second Look at Hotel Chocolat 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Break from food- Home Heating Oil giveaway from Clickfilosophy

As discussed yesterday, it was Earth Day and while all over Boston restaurants and other food businesses were offering "green" alternatives, give aways and other great incentives, other businesses were doing the same. I try to keep this blog completely centered around food because, well, I'm completely centered around food! However, I was approached yesterday to let you all know about a contest that Clickfilosophy, an online heating oil company, is offering now until May 31, 2010. I am making an exception to my food obsession for this because during the economic climate that we've been faced with, I know that we could all use a break and the winner of this contest receives a free tank of home heating oil! With the winters we have- that's quite a prize!

More details and the entry form can be found here:

I hope that all of you home owners in the greater Boston area enter-it would be great to have one of you great food lovers win such an amazing prize!!!

And now back to our regularly scheduled food programming!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Taranta Celebrates Earth Day

Each April 22 the United States pauses for a moment to look at our consumption of natural products, and our waste of manufactured ones. Earth Day began in 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson. It was a time when pollution signaled success in the US, and the more that was generated the more we were working. On that first Earth Day rallies were held all over the country to spread the word that the environment, and its decline, were very real and needed to be attended to. Every year since then we have celebrated this day by renewing our pledge to continue our work to protect the earth, be mindful of waste, and give back where we can.

This year, as food industry seems to be moving more and more towards partnering with sustainable providers, and ensuring that the meals that they serve us aren't detrimental to our planet, we have a unique opportunity to enjoy a tasty meal, and celebrate Earth Day all in one.

Taranta Restaurant, a delicious blend of Italian and Peruvian delights and one of a few Certified Green Restaurants (, is partnering with Carapelli Olive Oil to offer a prix fixe menu that is earth friendly and heart friendly. The complete menu is offered for $49.00 per person can be seen here: Taranta will be offering this menu today through April 25, 2010.

I had the opportunity to dine at Taranta a few years back and had a wonderful experience. For your convenience- here is the link to that review: Taranta.

No matter what you do on Earth Day, please give some thought to the little changes that you can make to your every day life to help make sure that Earth is around for many many more centuries. To find out about volunteer activities around you:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Boloco- Bringing the Burrito to New Heights

Its funny, whenever I think of healthy eating, two people come to mind- my sister, who is a rockstar athlete, and second is a friend of mine who since I met her many years ago has introduced me to all sorts of different diets, and healthy eating ideas. As I recall, it all began when we worked together long ago, and she religiously came up with a new diet plan each week- the soup diet, the sandwich diet, the ever loved 5 & 2 diet (5 days of eating well, 2 days of indulgence). However as time went on she found just general good eating practices, and was ever the advocate of learning the ways to slim down popular entrees. It was she who, several years ago when I accompanied her out of the office during a lunch break, introduced me to the "bowl" at Boloco. A Burrito in a bowl? No tortilla? What was this crazy talk? Well that crazy talk was something delicious- all the great flavors of a tasty burrito without the added, unnecessary calories of a tortilla.
Since then Boloco has been on my radar for those days when I just don't want to bring my lunch to work, but don't want to sacrifice healthy eating either. With this in mind, you can imagine my delight when I was invited to attend a meet and greet and eat (I heart rhyming) with the CEO of Boloco last night. We met at their new headquarters located in the Berklee district of Boylston Street. We were led through the restaurant -which is sparkly clean by the way- and into a back conference room. Once there we were greeted by John Pepper and their executive chef and partner, Jason Hutchinson. We spent the next couple of hours eating tasty creations, as well as learning what makes Boloco so great.
Boloco (which stands for Boston Local Company) began in 1996 with the name "Under Wraps". It began as a place where one could get a "wrap"
inspired by the Mexican burrito. But they didn't want to be just another burrito shop- they wanted to be more. This is what I love about Boloco- 14 year later, and a couple of name changes as well, Boloco still holds this principle at their pinnacle. They are in no way "just another burrito shop". Sure- they offer items that are similar to a burrito, they may look like them, they may incorporate the same principles, but their flavor variations, ingredients, and constant attention to detail sets them far apart.
Pepper and Hutchinson made it clear last night that they are committed to not only bring the people of Boston tasty food fast, but they are committed to good food, nutritious food fast-if that's what you want. Every burrito is fully customizable so if you don't want cheese- then don't have cheese. If you want tofu instead of steak- go for it. If you don't want the carbs of a wrap- get it in a bowl. Want just a small meal? Try their mini size burritos- they are the PERFECT size for a light lunch. Even better? Before you head to Boloco hit up and check out their nutrition calculator- start with the base burrito of your choice and then add and subtract ingredients all while being mindful of their affect on calories and nutrients.
However, they don't stop there. Boloco seeks to bring more and more choice to their menu, offering things like brown rice, and now even testing a possible gluten free menu. Their principles are clear- they want to make the burrito better- better for everyone in regards to taste and nutrition. They are also making a mean smoothie over there! Served in 8 different flavors, they are cold and refreshing with a selection for everyone. I tried out the Jimmy Carter last night- peanut butter, banana, skim milk and non fat fro yo-amazing. I am absolutely craving another this morning.
I personally taste tested both the Memphis BBQ - BBQ sauce, coleslaw and pinto beans, made with Carnitas, as well as the Yucatan Habanero- which had a delightfully spicy salsa, pickled onions, sour cream, rice, and was made with chicken. They were both delicious-but completely different tastes. I really felt that if I went to Boloco every day, I could have a different tasting burrito every day and never be bored.
All in all, I have a new found appreciation for Boloco and admire their dedication to bring us a burrito that is SO much more than just a burrito.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rosemary Lemon Shortbread Cookies- helping kids learn to cook

Recently I've found myself walking down memory lane more often than normal, and was struck recently by a memory of my dad scarfing down shortbread cookies when I was little. As I recall we always had them around for holidays, and often, just as a special treat we would pick up a box of them when at the grocery store for my father. Those buttery little cookies were definitely his weakness. As I reflected on this, I realized that I haven't had a shortbread cookie in a ridiculously long time, so given the opportunity to supply baked goods for a bake sale this past weekend, I decided to try my hand at them.
I found a basic recipe on line at ( and decided to see if I could customize it a bit. After really loving the combination of lemon and rosemary from my gremolata the other day, I decided to try to replicate this flavor marriage. Shortbread is always so buttery and decadent, the idea of lightening it up with the taste of acidity, and that great woodsy-ness of rosemary just seemed like a perfect match!
As I set out making the cookies though- I realized that I had committed a grievous error. I had failed to read the directions carefully and had enough granulated sugar on hand but no powdered sugar, as the recipe called for. Being rather short on time to make these little devils, I decided to push through anyway and continue in my quest. I began by chopping several sprigs of fresh rosemary in a fine powder like substance, and then zested a lemon and half and ran my knife through that a few times. Then I began to follow the recipe by creaming 4 sticks of butter (I doubled the recipe), and then adding the rest of the ingredients as instructed by the recipe. Once it was all incorporated, I added the lemon and rosemary and blended for a just another minute or two, mindful of not over beating the dough. Then I scooped all of the dough together, wrapped it in plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for an hour or two. Once completely chilled, I rolled it out to about a 1/4 thick, and then set to work on cutting out cute little bars. These guys got baked for about 10- 15 minutes, when they started to brown, I pulled them from the oven.
For a first attempt at shortbread, and utilizing the wrong type of sugar- these little guys were delicious! Light and buttery just as I remember, with great note of lemon. The rosemary was very faint in the background- so the next time I make these I need to come up with another way to really have that flavor shine. The best part though? The bake sale raised over $100 for Operation Frontline, an offset of Share Our Strength, which organizes education programs for children to learn to cook. What a great cause!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Smorgie Launch Party

It has been a great technology week for the Boston food community! First with the unveiling of the and Litl partnership, and last night we were introduced to a new website being rolled out that can revolutionize the way we talk about restaurants to our friends and colleagues. How often does someone ask you for THE place to go for the best burger? Or the best menu with vegetarian options? Or that's good without being over crowded? And then, after they ask the question- how often do you look at them blankly because you just cannot remember the name of that place that you went that one time on that street with the thing? Maybe its just me- but it seems as though this happens all the time. Well, fret not, has the answer! is a brand new site, technically still in beta, that allows you to upload a list of your favorite restaurants, complete with comments on your favorite or least favorite things about the place, and then share those lists with your friends. It will organize your "wish list" of restaurants and is even there for you with suggestions when you're looking for a cocktail after a rough day.

It must be noted as well that the lovely launch party was held at the always chic Dante in the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge. I've always loved it there, both for the view, and the food which did not disappoint last night. Hors d'oeuvres of crispy crostini topped with sliced cucumber, beautifully creamy cheese and oil (type is being debated), delicious arancini, baked mussels that were topped with butter bread crumbs, and spring rolls were served through out, and nicely complimented by Dante's great drink selection. Smorgie-you chose a great spot for your launch!

I am really excited about the concept behind Smorgie, and I cannot wait to get in and start playing with it. I'll definitely keep you all updated on how its going, and when the official release is. All I know? This is going to be a really useful and fun website!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 and Litl Webbook!

As I'm sure it's no great surprise- food is my passion. I know- obvious statement of the year right? Of course this does not mean that food is the only thing that interests me. I am pretty addicted to new technology- and in this age where we all carry around a multitude of cell phones, blackberry's, iPods, laptops etc-technology is pretty fascinating. Last night I had the opportunity to join an event that celebrated both- food and technology- I was in heaven. The joint efforts of and Litl were the drivers behind last night's meet up, and was really a fantastic way to introduce both!, founded in 2006, was started with the idea of bringing together food lovers in a social on line forum - a true recipe share site, without corporate endorsements to sway the creativity. There are forums for members to discuss their recipes, ideas and thoughts for improvement, as well as a great system of those people known as "mentors" who can help with difficult challenges in the kitchen. What I love is that not only was this begun before the craze of Facebook and Twitter, but it's intention is so pure and allows the food world to really come together in a helpful spirit. Whether you're obsessed with food or not, you should definitely check out for all sorts of great information and helpful tips.

The second leg of last night event was really and truly remarkable. Litl, a great company based here in Boston, released in November a new on line tool that revolutionizes the way we should look at computing devices. Void of any operating system, Litl brings you the Internet in crystal clear images. Its revolutionary design is small and light, easy to transport around the house, and displays your sites, photos, weather, clock, even movies, where ever you go! What I loved was that the folks at Litl are busy rolling out all sorts of great "channels" like Bake Space, but if you find a site you love, and you want it to be part of your favorites- just subscribe to the RSS feed and Litl allows you to scroll through the content. This little thing is so much fun to use, great to look at (some are using the system as a digital picture frame when not using it for data), and incredibly convenient. I heart technology!

The evening was great as we got more familiar with all of the wonderful features of both and Litl-all while sipping wine and snacking on cupcakes!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Blueberry Thyme Pancakes

Saturday morning dawned rain free here in Boston, and since it was John's first weekend home after the longest business trip ever (I'm completely exaggerating), I decided to whip him up some breakfast. I decided to make him pancakes, and chose blueberry pancakes since I had some left over berries in the fridge I wanted to use up.

I started with just a box of Pancake mix. I could have been good and made them from scratch -but last week was long and it was Saturday, so I gave myself a break. I have to say, I love a good blueberry pancake, but am always annoyed if all that's in the cakes are spotty blueberries. People- I want blueberry flavor all throughout my pancakes. I decided to solve this issue. I pureed my blueberries before adding them to the mix. But I didn't just mash them up, I wanted some interesting flavors to them, so I combined the juice of half a lemon that was left over from the week previous (zest would have worked better, however the lemon chose not to zest), a handful of fresh chopped thyme (which has a lovely bright, citrusy flavor) and a pinch of salt with the blueberries. I used my trusty immersion blender (I have far too much love for that piece of machinery) and created a beautiful blueberry puree. Once liquefied, I added the puree to the batter, stirred to combine, and then ladled spoonfuls onto my hot pan. One flip to cook both sides, and breakfast was served.

I love the combination of lemon and blueberry, and the addition of thyme to the mix was a really nice twist. The flavors layered really nicely together, and with the addition of a little pure maple syrup the appeal of savory with sweet shone through. A perfect start to what turned into a gorgeous Saturday.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Event-Taste of the Nation- Boston

Several weeks ago I spoke to you all about Taste of the Nation, a Share Our Strength fundraiser, profits of which are put towards ending childhood hunger. Last evening I attended this incredible event and was blown away by the hard work and dedication that was put into not only it's organization, but also by those fantastic locally based chefs and wine purveyors who were there to feed us and keep our whistles wet. Every direction you turned was filled with tasty morsels of food, running the gamut of savory to sweet, and wine's of every different variety. Shall we say it was a decadent evening?

I took a few laps around the room before tasting anything to get acclimated- well and to enjoy the glass of Prosecco that was handed to me as I walked through the door. They certainly knew the way to my heart! My first bite that I finally selected- a lovely slice of hot dog slathered in a tasty mustard based sauce from Trina's Starlight Lounge. I missed a blogger event at Trina's a few weeks ago, and so I was excited to finally get a chance to check out their hot dogs. I am really excited to give Trina's a go now- Ill have to make it over to Inman Square soon- this was a perfect start to my evening!

The next table I hit was for The Blue Frog Bakery, located in Jamaica Plain. They were serving iced hot chocolate (whoa) and mini eclairs. That iced hot chocolate was so decadent, so chocolaty, for one of the first times in my life- I felt completely chocolate satisfied. If you know me- you know that's weird. Their eclairs were also delicious, however after the drink- well- I was good for a bit. I tend to forget to head over to JP for their amazing food locations- from now on The Blue Frog will have to be on my rotation.

As I continued my journey I stumbled upon Panificio's table. Now-Panificio and I go way back. I often frequented this great little cafe when I lived in Beacon Hill, and I have to credit them with inducing the ridiculous obsession I have with Tomato Soup. One chilly winter day, John went to Panificio to get us some lunch-I knew I wanted half a sandwich (their tomato, basil & mozzarella is second only to my own- mmm) but I also wanted soup. I asked John to get whatever soup they had without even thinking about it. He came back with Tomato. Now- I have never like Tomato soup. I have always found it either too sweet, too salty or just bland. But since I wanted soup, and John and gone through the trouble of getting it- I gave it a taste. Immediate, ever lasting, glorious love is what I felt. Rich flavors of tomato, perfect tomato, and basil shown through. The texture made you know it was fresh and homemade. Wonderful. So when I saw Panificio at Taste of the Nation well- I gushed. I chatted to their poor chef for quite some time about how wonderful their soup is. He rewarded me with two canolli. I am not one to turn down gifts of food. Delicious canolli-I have a little relief that I wont be tempted by them daily, though my sadness remains for their tomato soup.
As I continued my walk around I found this sign: Doesn't that just attract your attention? You see BACON some where- well-I know I'm immediately drawn to it. Turned out I was following the sign, not unlike the pied piper, to Hungry Mother table. The Hungry Mother is located in Kendall Square, Cambridge, and specializes in Southern Comfort food. Yes- I find bacon comforting. Their offering for the evening was extensive- spicy pimento sandwiches topped with a healthy slap of bacon and a slice of okra, cookies, and sweet tea. I snagged a sandwich and nibbled as I walked away- what a tasty sandwich! Such a simple concept but so well executed as the spice rang through without being overpowering, and then of course the bacon added delicious smokey-ness. Wonderful. It increased my need to visit The Hungry Mother even more.

My next stop was to the Verrill Farm table. Verrill Farm is located in Concord, MA and specializes in beautiful rich vegetables, while following the guidelines for sustainable agriculture. They were serving a gorgeous piece of steak with beautiful purple potatoes and spring greens last night. Such a tasty combination of flavors, and beautiful to look at as well. Verrill Farm supplies much of their produce to area restaurants, including many that were represented last night. Chances are that if you're chowing down on fresh vegetables, that are full of natural flavor, you are eating the bounty of Verrill Farm.

My next stop was one that I was extremely excited about. I had staked out the Dbar table early in the evening, and was excited to see that one of our latest local celebrity chefs Chris Coombs, Dbar's executive chef, was there manning the table. Chef Coombs appeared on the Food Network's show Chopped that aired earlier this week. He had taken second place in his competition, pitted against other talented chefs. As I had watched the episode I was intrigued by his cooking style, knowledge of different ingredients (extreme ones at that), and his creativity. His offering last night was a lamb dish with a tabbouleh like side. This was my favorite dish of the evening. The lamb was perfectly cooked to a gorgeous medium rare, with wonderful flavor, and the accompaniment was perfect- light and fresh, off setting the protein beautifully. I would like more of this Thank you. I have decided that Chef Coombs was robbed on Chopped. Robbed.

One of the vineyards that I was most intrigued by was Yellow + Blue wines. A green vineyard (get it- yellow and blue make green?? I had to have it explained to me) they are packaging their wines in what are called Tetra Packs- basically boxes that cuts down not only on waste, but on their carbon foot print. As it was explained to me- the box severely cuts the weight of the packaging, which means that they can ship more wine, which means fewer trucks. Less pollution. The concept is fantastic, and one that you would think more vineyards would be adopting. The wine stays fresh and delicious, and our environment does too. I hear a win win situation.

The food and wine industries commitment to going green was one of the facets that was most apparent last night, aside of course from their commitment to delicious and beautiful end products. Each purveyor that I spoke with talked about their commitment to sustainability, or cutting down their waste. We have moved beyond simply going local for our produce and meats. The industry seems to be taking a hard look at where exactly each item is coming from, and the beliefs of that company. Together the restaurants and purveyors work together to create a partnership that they can both be proud of, and a quality end result for the consumer. Its a great thing to observe.

Taste of the Nation really was an incredible event with great emphasis on attention to detail. The silent auction included a huge variety of items from wine, to food, to Nespresso machines, even an autographed Cougar Town poster (won by a colleague of mine). The live music was perfect in the background, not intrusive but adding the relaxed vibe, and every person there was a joy to talk to. Taste of the Nation brings a very real plight of children around the world to light, gives assistance in a major way, and provides a more than enjoyable evening for food buffs everywhere. Kudos to the founders and staff of Share Our Strength!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Berry Freeze, Coolidge Corner, Brookline

I think that I may have found my summertime obsession. Berry Freeze (located in the Coolidge Corner section of Brookline) could be categorized as just another place serving the oh so popular tart frozen yogurt. There does seem to be a rash of them popping up all over the city. However, this isn’t just another place at all. This place is awesome.

The first thing that makes this place awesome- it’s self serve-completely self serve. You choose your cup size, choose your flavor, and help your self to as much or as little as you want. THEN-the best part in my opinion, you help yourself to toppings-and they have QUITE the selection. As many different varieties as you want, in the varying quantities you prefer-all your own decision.

The second thing that makes this thing awesome- its all priced on weight- $.35 per ounce. Not a bad deal for you to help your self and compliment your flavor selection with the toppings you prefer.

Finally, the third awesome thing- the yogurt is only 100 calories for 3.5 ounces. Those are some numbers I can deal with.

My first experience at Berry Freeze, I helped myself to a small cup, selected coconut as my flavor choice and added a small twirl of yogurt to my cup. Then I helped myself to sliced kiwi fruit, bananas, strawberries, walnuts, and for a little decadence- a sprinkle of a few chocolate chips. The yogurt was extremely cold (great for those extremely hot summer days you know are on their way), and had great coconut flavor without seeming over done. The toppings were fresh and delicious-they even managed to keep the banana from turning brown! All in all this was a very tasty treat on one of the first summer like days of the spring. I can’t wait to return and try new flavor combinations!

Restaurant Reviews: A dead art?

Last December I declared 2023 the year I would return to food writing.  It was a bold statement (even now as I look at my last published dat...