Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cardio and chicken

I love productive Saturdays! I got up this morning and headed to the gym and got in a great cardio workout. Unfortunately I didn't time it so well so I ended up being unable to get in any weight training...oh well tomorrow will be another day for it. Then I headed to help with some furniture reorganization and got a ton done.

Now I'm relaxing for a bit and watching Serendipity before I make a spicy chicken breast for dinner. Right now it is marinating in lime juice, cayenne pepper, jalapeƱos, garlic powder, and a little chipotle salsa. Hoping it turns really spicy. I can't decide if I want to have it as a sandwich or just plain with a salad I put together with fresh veggies. Decisions decisions!

Hope everyone has had productive Saturdays as well!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Night

It has has been a crazy week filled with fun activities, great meal and good friends. Tonight though- tonight is about making a simple dinner for me, enjoying a glass of wine...or two, and watching chick flicks.

I have eaten a delicious piece of steak with a fantastic salad, and now my white wine and I are settling in to watch 27 Dresses!

Happy Friday all! Hope you are enjoying yours as much as I am!

Entertaining Made Easy! Gorgonzola Quinoa Salad and Dijon Marinated Steak Tips

A few evenings ago, John's friend Paul stopped by the apartment to pay us a visit.  Paul and his wonderful wife Meaghan are some of John's dearest friends, and people I adore as well.  I won't even start to go on about how much I love their baby daughter...Needless to say, as soon as I heard that Paul would be by after work, I immediately started planning what I could make for dinner for us, should he have time to stay, that would be simple so I could continue enjoying the company, delicious, and elegant.  I am still rather obsessed with Quinoa, so I decided to make a nice Quinoa salad, and since John and I were "fished out" from our trip to Portland, I thought some steak tips might also be nice.  At the last minute, worried that I didn't have enough, I threw some Garlic Chicken Sausage in the cart as well-just in case.

When I arrived back home- I was VERY glad I had chosen such an easy meal- it was very nice to catch up with Paul.  As we chatted in the kitchen, I threw together a quick refrigerator marinade (basically of anything I could find in my fridge) of Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, a little salt, and pepper.  I love making marinades this way- it uses up ingredients, it's fun to flavor combine, and it doesn't take much thought.  Perfect. I added the marinade to a large Ziploc bag, and then added the steak tips, sealed the bag and shook it til each piece was nicely coated.  I wanted them to marinate just a bit, so I started on the Quinoa.

I am still SO impressed at how easy this stuff is to make.  2 cups water, 1 cup Quinoa-boil and simmer- and done when the water is completely absorbed.  It really does make this a perfect weeknight dinner.  Simple and nutritious.

Of course, I had to jazz up the Quinoa a little right?  When it was finished cooking, I crumbled about half a medium size wedge of Gorgonzola cheese into a bowl, and then added the Quinoa on top.  I stirred to combined and ended up with Gorgonzola Quinoa-yum.  Then I added a few handfuls of baby spinach to the mix, along with a hand full or two of slivered almonds, the same of dried cranberries, a teaspoon of garlic powder, and a little salt and pepper.  A quick stir in the bowl and the spinach wilted, and then it was done.  It looked gorgeous, and it smelled delicious.  

With that out of the way, and two hungry guys on my hands- I immediately started the steak tips and the chicken sausage.  Normally, I would have liked to have used the grill pan for both, but decided to broil the sausage in the oven while the steak tips cooked in the grill pan.  I think I might always cook it that way- the "sausages" got that great blistered look to them as they do on the grill, so they just looked like summer.  When the steak tips were done in the grill pan, a simple plating for everyone to serve themselves and we were ready to dine.

This was my second salad using Quinoa and I swear- I love it more and more!  The creamy and tangy Gorgonzola cheese complimented the nutty seed so nicely, and then paired with the tart cranberries and the crunchy nuts- the combination was just fantastic!  The spinach added a "healthy" vibe in the midst of what tasted otherwise decadent.  

I had chosen the Gorgonzola because so often you find it paired with steak in steak houses- the flavors always seem to mix so nicely to me.  Here was no exception, but it was lovely to have the flavors present without the Gorgonzola sprinkled over french fries or put into butter.  The steak itself was really tasty as well- and somehow I actually nailed "medium" on each piece!  I tend to make meat pretty rare (which is how I like it) and John is much more on the medium side- I was glad to meet the goal this time!  The marinade had lent a nice punch of flavor to the meat, not over powering, just present enough to be interesting.

I have to say, for a week night meal when guests are over- this was a home run (can you tell I have Sox on the brain??)- What are some of your favorite weeknight entertaining menus?

On another note:
I want to give a big shout out THANK YOU to the folks over at En Chocolat who featured me today in their Follow Friday write up!  They have a great site over there- with plenty of chocolate give aways and great information- check them out!  Thank you SO much!   

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Guacaholics Anonymous 2010, Fenway Cantina

As I briefly mentioned last night- yesterday was the first Guacaholics Anonymous event (I'm assuming it will be come annual-right?)!  This event, bringing together the people of Boston who don't just LIKE guacamole, don't just love it, but seem pretty obsessed with it in a forum where it was made and then feasted upon.  Chefs from Poe's Kitchen at the Rattlesnake, La Verdad, El Pelon, Zocalo, Dorado and Anna's Taqueria all offered up their versions of the green stuff, some traditional, and some swaying from the pack with the additions of fruit and other interesting ingredients.  The event's organizer did invite a few amateurs to participate as well and some of the entries were absolutely amazing!  

Though I didn't get the opportunity to try out too many of the other offerings- I was amazed by what I saw walking past my station!  It really is incredibly how many different variations there are on this great dip, from color, to consistency, to the other ingredients used.  Each plate that I offered my simple addition to was littered with incredible amounts of green, but each one insanely different looking from each other. Impressed is the best way to describe my thoughts.

Since I am not able to comment on the other entrants, I present to you a photographic journey of the evening.  Please enjoy :-)

Getting Started!

Technique right there
Time to mash!
Fresh squeezed lime juice to help keep the green color fresh, and add some lovely flavor
Adding some color with chunky tomatoes
Action shot of the stir
Adding in more of everything! 
Ready to go!  Bring on the masses!
Serving away- and safely I might add :-)
All gone! 
It was such a fun night!  I have never had the opportunity to make and serve to so many people, and it was an absolute blast.  I really loved chatting with everyone there- and it was great to meet some readers of A Boston Food Diary!

Thanks again to Aaron @EatBoston for organizing!  The best part about this, is that while we were all having a great time with the green stuff, we were helping out three great charities, Lovin’ Spoonful, Share our Strength and Community Servings!  Please be sure to check them out-they are doing great things!!  

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Holy Guacamole

Wow...I have never seen so much Guacamole! Guacaholics Anonymous was this evening and was a sight to be seen! Hundreds of people filed in to the Fenway Cantina to try the guacamole of local chefs as well as a few of us amateurs around town. I'll give the complete play by play tomorrow, but I am definitely still buzzing over the excitement!

Was anyone else there? What did you think?

The Haven JP; Jamaica Plain

Some of my favorite memories come from the time that I spent living in London, England during my senior year of college.  The extreme sense of pride that I had in myself for leaving everything, and everyone, that I knew and traveling to a far away place, fulfilling a life long dream to live in London, and then enjoying every moment that I was there, makes me often think back on those four months.  The things that I saw, the experiences that I had, and the wonderful people I met are memories I cherish, and whenever I have the ability to relish them in whatever capacity here in the States- I take it.  Whether it be seeking out an ale I used to enjoy, dousing my chips in malt vinegar, or looking through my scrap book of that time, I am immediately brought back to the lovely land that captured my heart several years ago.  

It comes as no surprise then, that when Jason from The Haven JP, a Scottish tavern that opened just about 5 weeks ago in Jamaica Plain, emailed me asking me to come check them out- well- I knew I'd be there as fast as humanly possible. 

Last night was the elected night, so John and I headed over to The Haven, located on Perkins Street.  As soon as we entered I loved the vibe- very laid back, incredibly friendly, pub-like without being that dank, dark vibe that be sometimes be a little off putting.  We were seated by the incredibly friendly waitress who's name I cannot at all recall (I'll blame that on the delicious Scottish beer I enjoyed) and we began to look over the menu.  The first thing that I noticed about the menu was how entirely UK it was, and this was definitely seconded by Jason who also greeted us.  Of course there are dishes that are typically Scottish, like their Haggis and Neeps, but also great dishes like Tikka Masala and Fish and Chips.  As we perused the menu we were given pistachio crisps or cakes-small and almost cookie like, these nutty clusters were delicious, especially when dipped into just a little of the salted butter they were served with. 

We decided to start off, at the recommendation of Jason, with their Haggis and Neeps.  Here I'll be honest- I have never had Haggis and Neeps.  The dish may have been a bit too adventurous for me when I was living in the UK, as the Haggis typically features chopped heart, liver and lungs from a sheep, mixed with seasonings and minced onions and then stuffed into the intestine of the sheep and cooked that way.  Last night though, as my palate has expanded 10 fold since college, I thought it was a wonderful way to kick things off at The Haven.  Their version was actually Lamb based, and was served with accompanying kohlrabi (a type of turnip), and a Drambuie butter sauce.  Drambuie is a Scottish liquor of honey and herbs.  The presentation was absolutely gorgeous- the plump "sausage" sitting in the middle of a beautiful bowl of neeps, accented with lemon zest and chopped parsley.  Again- I have never had Haggis before so I wasn't sure what to expect, but the inside was surprisingly un scary- the internal lamb resembled ground beef, and was very lightly seasoned.  I almost missed the lack of salt (darn American palate) but then realized that when combined with the lovely lemon zest or the butter sauce, or even the pickled vegetables and fruits that were served all the flavors came together in perfect harmony.  Lovely.

Feeling nostalgic, I chose the Chicken Tikka Masala for my main course, and John selected the Hamburger for his.  

My Tikka Masala was outrageously delicious- the skin of the chicken was perfectly crisped and the tender meat was flavorful and incredibly juicy.  The accompanying bed of white rice with assorted root and leaf vegetables dressed in a tomato curry sauce were all fantastic.  The rice had a rich buttery flavor to it, and the curry was light, yet flavorful and all together the dish was harmonious.

John's burger was just as tasty.  8 ounces of ground chuck, grilled perfectly, topped with Cotswold cheese and a bacon and onion marmalade-it had tremendous flavor.  And if this is any high praise- John loved it -onions and all!  The chips served with it were thick cut but each crispy and delicious, and when paired with the house made ketchup or malt vinegar-truly delicious.

Another visit from Jason convinced us to share another course, another Scottish delicacy- a Scotch Egg.  This little treasure is basically a hard boiled egg, wrapped in house made sausage, and then deep fried.  It is served with a dollop of spicy mustard and a side of salad greens.  All I can say about this one is "whoa".  The sausage, despite being deep fried, was still somehow lighter tasting than other sausages, and was not overly season either so the pureness of the meat shown through.  What was really incredible though was the wonderful textural contrasts between the crispy meat with the creamy egg white and the somewhat mealy yolk.  Each element had its own personality, and just really played off of each other nicely.  

I had to include John's great photography skills with this one!
In the short time that The Haven has been open- they are already doing amazing things.  The run like a well oiled machine, and their food is delicious and different from anything you could find else where in Boston.  Each item has a unique twist, and the care that they are taking to present it is obvious.  But perhaps even greater than their food, is the attitude that takes over the place -which each crowd or couple that enters, the vibe is reinforced as a place to relax, to enjoy your food, to savor a brew, and to reminisce or catch up.  

The Haven is definitely a place that we will return to.   

The Haven on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Indulgence Events Coming to Boston! Parfaits and Pearls!

It is a hectic day over here at A Boston Food Diary, but I simply could not let my lunch hour pass without bringing your attention to TWO great events that are going on in the next week!

First off, between August 2 and August 6 Yoplait Delight Parfait samples will be handed out to those lucky commuters at those high foot traffic areas around town.  So just imagine, your walking through the Common, or weaving your way through Downtown Crossing, or perhaps rushing off the T and there, like a mirage in the dessert, is a friendly face offering you a delicious treat.  Doesn't that sound like a wonderful mid-summer delight??  

You might be wondering-exactly what IS a Yoplait Delight Parfait?  Well, I am so glad you asked!  These little cups combine two different flavors of yogurt (think chocolate and raspberry, or a lemon torte with lemon yogurt and vanilla) layered on top of each other parfait style- all of just 100 calories!  This is like indulging into decadence without having to forgo that beach day.  

Even better- if you happen to be ON the beach the week that Yoplait visits Boston- click here to receive a coupon for discounted Delight Parfaits at your grocery store!  Those of you in town- please leave me comments or Twitter at me to let us all know where you are finding the Yoplait teams!

Now, it is obviously decadence week here in Boston-and this next event is celebrating all things luxurious!  The Bristol Lounge at The Four Seasons is celebrating National Oyster Day on August 5th!  To honor this wonderful holiday they are offering $2 oysters, and $10 glasses of bubbly to indulge in.  However they aren't stopping there- oh no!  The Bristol Lounge has teamed up with amazing jewelry team at Pageo are offering the chance to win a GORGEOUS 8.5 mm Fresh Water Pearl Necklace finished with an 18K gold clasp and two small white diamonds - valued at $795.  The rules are- the first twenty people who send live tweets from the National Oyster Day event at The Bristol Lounge, between 5 and 7:30 pm on August 5, will be entered to win.  The contest will close at 7:30 sharp, and the winner will be announced on Twitter the morning of August 6th.  Be sure to follow them on Twitter!  

Really-no loser for this event- even if you don't win the necklace- $2 oysters and a few glasses of bubbly I'm sure will make you feel better!

Isn't Boston great?  So much going on lately!  OH and don't forget- Be on the look out for the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Truck giving out FREE ICE CREAM starting tomorrow!  

Monday, July 26, 2010

Chopping Veggies and Dinner on Memory Lane

Have you heard the news? Tomorrow is "Guacaholics Anonymous" a great event being held down at the Fenway Cantina celebrating all things guacamole. This event was started to raise funds for deserving local organizations Lovin' Spoonfuls, Share our Strength, and Community Servings. I am especially excited as I will actually get to be a part of the fun by contributing my own guacamole! I'll have my guac out there with a great group of amateur cooks as well as some local chefs! Very exciting- and i hope to see some of you there!

So tonight I got home from work, started prepping my ingredients for the guacamole (holy jalapeƱos!) and then headed off to dinner!

I will tell you more about dinner tomorrow but what I will say- I feel as though I had the opportunity tonight to travel back to my time abroad....and I felt at home again. What a wonderful place and a wonderful meal.

For now though, Good Will Hunting is on TV and I am going to settle in and relax....

Night all!!

Entertaining and toys

I love suprise evenings! One of John's good friends dropped by after work and I got to test out my entertaining skills by whipping up a quick and easy yet elegant and delicious dinner. I'll post more about it later but I will say that it included more quinoa!

Now John and I are trying to hook up a new toy... It is becoming frustrating!!

Back to the toy...

Locally Featured Road Trip: Portland, Maine

Welcome to Portland
It should come as no surprise to you that I have a pretty severe crush on the great city of Portland, Maine.  I know I have waxed on about how great the food is, how eclectic the "scene" is, how beautiful the scenery etc.  Today, in honor of Locally Featured Monday, and summer road trips, I thought it might be a perfect time to really look at the city, and the great commitment they have to the local food and slow food movements.

Tea Time at The Danforth Hotel
Over the past several years, Portland has risen to food notoriety to a level rivaling most "major" cities in their creativity, expertise, and use of what is around them.  As an article by The New York Times described almost a year ago, Portland is a place where rules don't exist when it comes to form or classic techniques.  As varied as the artists and musicians who have made this city their home, the chefs here are young and constantly experimenting.

Pete Kilpatrick
It really is true that Portland is an artists community, evidence of this shows everywhere you look from the sports pub that displays paintings and photographs for sale on their walls, to the musicians that appear all over the street corners.  Cooking is just another creative outlet, with each ingredient showing the same potential as a pain brush.  When these ingredients are fresh, and the cooks mind creative, Picasso can live in every dish created.

Salade du Crevettes at The Merry Table Creperie
It stands to reason that these kitchen artists are well aware of this fact, and since they have no shortage of brain power, it is here that the local food movement enters into the equation, to assist in getting them the right ingredients.  Portland has long embraced using food as local as possible, and savoring the food that they have, long before it became widely talked about. They joined The Slow Food movement officially in 2005, and have been active users of sites like Eat Maine Food, and Maine Foods Network which link the people of Maine, and the chefs as well to the farms in the area who can supply the produce and dairy that they need and want.

Evidence of how important eating quality food, savoring every bite, and creating the dishes that are worth it can be noted all over the city.  It is shown in the early morning deliveries to the restaurants to ensure that their dinner service will feature the freshest produce possible.  It is evident in the way small restaurant owners treat their patrons, for the regulars a hug, the new comers a friendly hello and perhaps a thank you for a kind deed.  It is obvious even down to the hot dog carts that dot the roadways during the hot summer months as they offer organic lemonade with their fare.  This is a city that has taken the time to slow down, to enjoy their lives and the beauty that exists there.

I really feel that Portland is a city that sets a great example for how we all should live, and that is evident in their love of good local food, prepared and enjoyed in appropriate time.  They take care of one another, and genuinely support each others craft.  Isn't that really the basis of the slow food and the local food movements?     

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Love love love

I have nothing but love for Portland... So far we have indulged in delicious buffalo wings at our favorite first stop, we have had drinks with great company on a retired boat and listened to an amazing band live on port. I love love love this city.

We are off to celebrate with a fantastic dinner... From ABFD happy Saturday evening...hope you all are havilng LOVEly weekends!

Road trip!!

Happy Saturday!!

After a few quick errands around town John and I are off to celebrate our anniversary with a quick get away to Maine!

I am so excited to get out of town even just for a little while! I can already almost smell the delicious seafood I'm sure we'll be enjoying soon!

Ok I'm being a terrible road trip partner -John is singing U2 all by himself :-)

Friday, July 23, 2010

KO Prime, "Steakcation" Tasting Menu, Downtown, Boston

I am not shy to admit it- I love steak.  I could never, in a million years, be a vegetarian.  It is not in the cards for me.  I have tried to eat less meat, but I can't do it.  Steak is a love of mine-right up there with chocolate and cheese...and if I'm really going to be honest- it probably wins out more times than not.  So when I was invited to a Steakcation dinner at KO Prime I immediately said yes.  Steak at a much talked about steakhouse that I haven't yet had the opportunity to go to? Is there any question?

KO Prime is located within the chic Nine Zero hotel in the heart of downtown Boston on Tremont Street.  The really wonderful part of the location is that it looks out over the old Granary Burying ground, home of the final resting place of Samuel Adams and Paul Revere.  The haunting, historic nature of the view is beautifully contrasted with the minimalistic and modern decor of the restaurant.  Together the feel of the restaurant is a beautiful combination of old and new wrapped into sophisticated elegance.  The food, created by Chef Ken Oringer and Executive Chef Josh Buehler, falls right in line.

We began our culinary journey last night with an Amuse Bouche of Squash Blossoms, stuffed with a Crab Rangoon type of filling, deep fried and served with duck sauce.  I have always had a love of squash blossoms and remember them to be one of my mothers favorites as well.  Because of this, I have associated them with primarily Italian cooking, and was excited to try them in a more Asian inspired creation.  I have to say- those squash blossoms are good no matter what!  The Crab Rangoon filling was rich with creamy cheese, and had just a hint of spice that was so nicely mellowed with the sweet plum sauce.  The blossoms themselves were perfectly fried to crispy deliciousness.  The batter used resulted in a crust that was light and airy enough to not over power the delicate nature of the flower, but simply added a wonderful texture variation.  

The first actual course was an Heirloom Tomato Salad, beautifully layered tomatoes of varying colors, with a lovely side of Manouri cheese, lightly crisped and then all accented with a peach and apricot aioli. I started with the tomatoes which were earthy sweet, and a perfect reminder of the wonderful flavors of Massachusetts in the summer.  I was actually unaware of Manouri cheese, and so had to do some quick research on it- it is a Greek style cheese, semi soft and made with whey either from Goat or Sheep's milk. They had crisped just the outside of this cheese which made for another great texture variance.  I also loved the tanginess of the cheese combined with the simply sweet tomatoes.  The aioli, lightly flavored with the fragrant fruits was the perfect relief from the other flavors and added a really special element to the dish.  I also spied just a few strands of Saffron in over the top of the gorgeous tomatoes- a wonderful touch.

We then moved on to a roasted Jalapeno Beef Tartare that was topped with a beautifully crisped quail egg, with a black bean, corn and Poblano  pepper jam.  Beef Tartare is one of those wonderful dishes to me, that just screams decadence.  The beef chopped finely and combined with the different spices and oils results in a creamy consistency, and when combined with a beautifully runny egg yolk...just delicious and ever so creamy. The jam was lovely as well, warm flavors, roasted to a gorgeous smokey flavor with an ever so slight background of sweetness to round it all out.  This dish was perfection, with exact flavors, textural intricacies and visual intrigue.

Our next course was a Fricassee of Escargot with pureed carrots, mushrooms, lardons and a healthy wedge of brioche.  This was my first time having Escargot in a non traditional preparation.  Whenever I've had them in the past they have been served with plenty of garlic and butter.  Here they were paired with much different flavors with a rich and velvety carrot puree that was so beautifully sweet and was gorgeous with the robust escargot.  I have to point out the beauty of the presentation of this dish as well, as you can see the photo- it was the little touches not forgotten here, and the chef dressed up what could have been a rather monochromatic dish with a gorgeous single flower petal. The contrast was striking.  

Next we were served a perfectly cooked Stripped Sea Bass with a summer succotash, Cockles, and a house made chorizo.  I fell in love with this dish!  The Bass was beautiful- clean and perfect with a gorgeous crispy skin.  If this were a movie, the Succotash would not be forgotten and would absolutely be up for Best Supporting Actor.  Every vegetable and bean was perfect- beautifully cooked, maintaining their gorgeous colors, and together with the chorizo the dish had fantastic spice to it.  I eat FAR too many spicy things and this had really nice heat, but wasn't over powering either.  Absolutely delicious.

Just in time for a quick break, the chef served us a little palate cleanser of Apricot soda with an Yuzu-Mint creme fraiche foam.  This looked beautiful, and did a perfect job of gearing up our taste buds for the next course.  The soda itself was slightly bitter, but when combined with the foam it was a rounded taste.  Beyond that, it looked like a perfect fountain drink with the foam- it made me long for my days of scooping ice cream -trying to achieve foam like that!

polenta cake, stewed olives and tomatoes, pickled ramps and a beautiful smear of Harissa. The pork had been dressed with a dry rub that gave the pork a really lovely flavor that somehow reminded me of Christmas Ham.  The steak....oh the steak.  Perfectly cooked, well seasoned....amazing.  I loved the accompaniments as well, though I felt to some degree that the olives over powered the tomatoes a bit which was a bit disappointing.  I happen to love olives though, so it wasn't really so bad :-).  The Harissa was also delicious, though sweeter than it was spicy.  Again though, the flavor was amazing and after the Bass dish, I didn't miss the heat.

After cleaning my plate...again...we were greeted with another palate cleanser- this time pineapple sorbet with a passion fruit dressing.  Light, with real pieces of pineapple, and deliciously sweet with the passion fruit.  After enjoying just a couple of bites of this, I was armed and ready for dessert.

Of course, I wasn't at all disappointed in the dessert which was a dark chocolate Marquis cake served with buttery popcorn flavored ice cream and a decadent caramel sauce.  Oh that cake- a beautiful combination of mousse and cake and glaze...incredibly decadent and rich but absolutely amazing with each layer of cake a different texture.  The relief of the ice cream was perfect, though unfortunately my palate didn't pick up on the idea of buttered popcorn from the flavor, but rather a end note nuttiness.  Either way- it was delicious.   Finally, the addition of caramel was perfect, and tied the whole dish together, especially with a gorgeous piece of caramel corn sitting atop the chocolate cake.  The presentation was beautiful and the dish was delicious.  The perfect end to the meal.

Of course once we thought we were done, they sent out beautiful cookies as well.  I stole just one- a chocolate sandwich cookie with a raspberry cream inside.  Perfectly executed.

Chef Buehler made an amazing tasting journey of dishes last night.  In each his creativity and playfulness with food was evident, and each was perfectly executed.  This was a perfect meal that I am thrilled that I was able to be a part of.  KO Prime will absolutely join my list of "special occasion" restaurants, a place I hope to return to soon, I would love more of that succotash...perhaps with some of their lovely steak as well.  And finally, a sincere thank you to all for an incredible evening!   

KO Prime on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Second Helping: Technology and Food: Looking at the iPhone Apps

After the article I wrote a couple of weeks ago about Social Media and food, and the revolutionary nature of it as it takes the food world by storm, I've been doing a lot of thinking about technology in general- and a lot of researching as well.  Of course Social Media is absolutely a fascinating topic, and the sheer volume of advertising that can be reached within a few seconds is mind boggling, however, the long arms of "technology" stretch far further than that.  

A few years back Apple released a new kind of cell phone, a cell phone that would completely change the way we looked at such a device.  The iPhone would allow you to basically have your computer at your fingertips, in your pocket, all in a sleek little device.  Surfing the web while on the train became infinitely easier, as did loading maps and other tools.  Even better though, the iPhone came with "apps"- applications that could provide direct links to news, weather, traffic, financial updates, as well as sports, entertainment, and even games.  I remember watching the press conference announcing this new device and knowing the world was changing.

Now there are several editions of the iPhone released, and the list of applications that can be accessed from it seems to grow daily.  I'm not telling you anything you didn't already know.  The Apple iPhone isn't news to anyone- however the sheer number of things that you can use it to do is simply crazy, and it seems that everything is automatically made simpler.

Of course, that includes feeding that hungry body of yours!  Whether you're looking for a simple recipe, or a great place to dine- the iPhone has it all.  Applications by Martha Stewart, Tyler Florence, Jamie Oliver, or others can be instantly accessed and a delicious recipe chosen based on mood, or even just what you have in your fridge.  There are apps to help you determine what cut of meat you need to buy at the butcher, and of course how to prepare it.  Even more so there are apps to help find great restaurants, and how to snag a table the same day.

Last week though, I was introduced to an all new kind of that combines all of the things you want to do in life into one great spot.  CityRover originally started in New York, but is now launching Boston as it's second city.  At first glance- it looks like just another spot to look up restaurants, but it is so much more than that!  Yes- you can sort restaurants by type, even going beyond the standard "Italian", "French", "Open Late" adjectives and can drill into "romantic, "social," or "relaxed".  So in essence, with CityRover you can find the best spot for what you desire, not the labels someone else has determined for it.  Once you find the location you're looking for- well then you can call the restaurant directly to make a reservation, connect to their website, find its exact location, even send a note to your friends to meet you there.  Technology networking at it's best right?

Maybe you're a little more high maintenance than that (hey-there's nothing wrong with it!) and you want your dining location to fit a few different needs- maybe you want a sports bar, that serves great food, and still has a cozy vibe?  CityRover allows you to search on several criteria to be sure you find the perfect spot.  And when you find that spot- let me know!  Its a tough one!  In fact though, CityRover will do you one better- say you've just had a rough day at the office and all you want to do is relax?  Filter based on mellow, or laid back- and a whole new list of results will pop up.

Another portion of CityRover that I really enjoy is that they are focused on the "local" spots.  So many other applications will pop up your generic eateries, which shall remain nameless here, but you know the ones- the ones that all look the same, and serve the same food here, or in Boise, Idaho.  CityRover wants no part of those generic spots though- they are concentrating on places that are creative, inventive, and tied to the neighborhoods.  The spots that the locals rave about, and tourists WANT to know about.  

Though I am, of course, concentrating more on the "food" minded side of CityRover, the developers didn't.  My favorite non food feature?  Say you want to take a walk to burn off some of those calories-no problem!  CityRover can show you some of the best walking tours in the city- and even include and audio tour for them!  You can turn the city of Boston into your own museum.  Good stuff!

That is really the amazing part about technology lately -it has the ability to show us the world in any number of different mediums.  By trading photos, viewing restaurants, finding hidden pathways, or providing score updates from crowded stadiums, technology is connecting us all.  It can be a bit daunting to think about, but with apps like CityRover, well they are making it all a bit more manageable.      

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Home Plate and a Soccer Ball

What I love about Boston, especially lately, is the wonderful special events that have been being going on at Fenway. Over the winter the Bruins took over the in field at good ol' Fenway and tonight it has been invaded by Scottish and Potugese Soccer...or Football... Players! It's amazing to see how different Fenway is when it is inflitrated by a non baseball crowd!

So here I sit, enjoying the crowd, a brew, and great game playing... Enjoying all that is Boston and Fenway.

Good night all....

Summer Corn, Shrimp and Quinoa Salad

Over the past year or so, I have been noticing that Quinoa has been taking the food world by storm.  Now maybe it is just because I spend most of my free time reading about, studying and talking about food...that might be it...but I have seen references to this grain-like substance everywhere- on TV, in magazines, in any number of blogs, and on menus.  Now, of course, Quinoa has been around for centuries, dating back all the way to the time of the Inca's, but for some reason it didn't seem to hit my radar until recently.  It seems now that it is one those "wonder" foods that is just jam packed with nutrients, and is tasty to boot.  Studies that I have read have found it to be extremely high in protein, offering us a more complete source for protein than other vegetables, and it is also high in fiber and iron.  It is also, apparently, gluten free which is fantastic.  So, the other day I wanted to make a light summer salad, something that would be filling but not weighty, something hearty, but still light.  I decided to try my hand at Quinoa for the very first time.

Now, I have had Quinoa before, in restaurants, but having never cooked it before, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect.  I decided to make a chilled salad, containing all of those light summer ingredients- sweet corn, lemon, shrimp, even some arugula.  I started by boiling the Quinoa in two cups of chicken stock to add some extra flavor to it.  The recipe said two cups of water- but thought-why not amp it up some?  I'm sure though it would be tasty with just water as well. At the same time, in a separate pot, I boiled up three ears of fresh corn as well.  Once it was all done cooking, I just strained the Quinoa-which is actually a seed-, removed the corn from the water, and set everything aside to cool.  Then, I lightly salted and peppered some beautiful fresh shrimp and then grilled them on my stove top grill pan.  So far- this was an easy-peasy meal.  

I wanted everything to cool before eating, so I set the shrimp aside as well until it got closer to dinner time.  When I felt it was about "that time" I removed the corn from its ears, then I chopped up some veggies (cucumber, red onion, sugar snap peas) and a small handful of parsley, and placed them in a large container.  I added a few handfuls of baby arugula, and several heaping spoonfuls of the Quinoa.  I also added a generous crumble of Ricotta Salata- which may be one of my very favorite cheeses in salads.

I made just a quick dressing as well- a simple vinaigrette with the juice of a lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, a sprinkle of Italian Seasoning, and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.  I tossed the salad in the dressing, and then laid the shrimp over the top.

This was a perfect meal for a hot summer night.  The salad itself was cool, but really quite filling, especially when used as a side dish to a hearty hamburger!  The Quinoa itself had an almost nutty flavor, but a texture similar to brown rice, though it didn't leave you with that "stuffed" feeling.  I loved the combination of  all of the other ingredients as well!  Parsley-with its incredible "fresh" flavor is one of my favorite raw herbs that I just don't use raw enough. I feel as though it always lends itself so well to citrus flavors and yet I often fall into the rut of using it primarily in marinara sauces, or in soups.  Parsley-I have neglected you long enough!  It combined so nicely with the peppery arugula, as well as the slightly salty Ricotta Salata and the sweet corn.

I really loved how all of the flavors and textures came together for this salad- it is definitely one I will be enjoying again.  I can also imagine all of the great combinations that can can be made with different proteins- steak or tuna- delicious! 

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...