Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Clear Flour Bread, Allston

Good bread is not so easy to find.  Have you ever noticed this?  A good, crusty, chewy loaf of French bread is one of the toughest things to find.  Either the crust is soft, or the inside is too dense, or the whole thing has a peculiar taste to it- a good loaf of bread is an art.  It is the testament to a good baker, an utter joy when done well, a complete disappointment when it fails.  Bread, simply spread with a bit of butter, is one of my very favorite treats.  Its carbo rich feel is comforting, its simplicity is familiar.  When the world seems to swirl with no end in sight, and it feels like I've lost my footing, there is nothing better than leaning against the counter in my kitchen, munching on a piece of fresh baguette, with a light hint of butter spread on top and catching my breath.  The crackle that the crust makes when I bite through makes me smile, and the soft interior envelops like a big hug.  To me it is one of life's great joys. 

I have learned, the hard way, that well executed bread is crucial to the equation, and I have tested many a contender around the area determining which offer the lovely French bread respite I seek, and who's are sorely lacking.  I could write an entire essay on which lack, however I'm here to focus on the positive and with that I give you my choice for the best in Boston. 

Clear Flour Bakery sits, hidden from the average person, in the back roads that connect Coolidge Corner to Allston. It's out of the way location however doesn't prove a deterrent for those "in the know" and weekend mornings their line stretches down the block.  One might think that waiting in line for baked goods is silly-I would challenge those persons though.  I would challenge them to enjoy a bite of Clear Flour's "Morning Bun", or a buttery croissant and then argue the same. 

Of course the real treasure is their bread.  They produce several different types, all made on site, daily, but to me their piece de resistance is their French Baguette.  The crust crackles satisfyingly and the interior is soft chewy with just enough air pockets to let you know that this dough was kneaded correctly and not over worked.  The flavor is clean, with a hint of yeast, but without the odd sweetness or tang that some other breads can contain. 

Clear Flour's bread is the perfect bread for all of your needs.  It grills nicely for bruschetta, it perfectly surrounds cold cuts or salads for a hefty sandwich, and it soaks up French Toast batter like no body's business.  

When I have a craving for classic, delicious bread- Clear Flour is definitely my destination. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

The 2011 New England Dessert Showcase-Exhibitor Discount!

Do you run a restaurant, bakery or catering business here in the Boston area?  Are you looking for a new way to gain customers?  The New England Dessert Showcase is coming to Boston once again and will fill every need!

Held on September 17th, at the Sheraton Boston Hotel, hundreds of consumers will descend on the ballroom to sample the offerings of some of the best dessert makers in the area.  Joining those consumers will be dessert buys, and media outlets.

Let me break this down a bit- the New England Dessert Showcase offers restaurants, caterers and bakeries the chance for:

"– Over 100 exhibitors, media outlets and live demos "


– Excellent resource to generate immediate and residual sales

– Establish new business connections, partnerships, clients and accounts

– Connect corporate partners and exhibitors with targeted buyers, media and key stakeholders

– Network and share ideas with others in related industries

– Ability to penetrate both consumers and b2b audience in one event

– Activate and leverage targeted audience to strengthen brand recognition

– Awards and recognition for Best in Showcase categories will be presented.
* text pulled from marketing materials for the New England Dessert Showcase
 
The New England Dessert Showcase is THE premiere event to show off your perfected recipes, ground breaking methods, or unique twists.  Your name, and creations, will reach thousands of people ensuring great new leads.
 
Two levels of Exhibitor Packages are available:
 
PLATINUM PACKAGE ($899)

                  – 12’ booth space (includes 2 tables, chairs, tablecloth)
                  – One listing in The New England Dessert Showcase official event
                     program (additional are just $10 a piece)                  – Waste removal
                  – Basic electricity
                  – Eight (8) passes to The Showcase (additional are just $20  
                     each)

DIAMOND PACKAGE ($499)
                – 6’ booth space (includes table, chairs, tablecloth)
                – One listing in The New England Dessert Showcase official event
                   program (additional are just $10 each)
                – Waste removal
                – Basic electricity
                – Five (5) passes to the Showcase (additional are just $20 each)

ADDITIONAL PERKS

                – Exhibitors will be able to sell products or goods
               
                – Premium exhibitor space available for additional $300
                – Block of rooms on hold at hotel (Friday/Saturday)
                – Digital and social media exposure
                – Couponing, lead generation and other marketing initiatives
                – Admission to all additional Dessert Showcase weekend events
                – Program listings

                         – Includes company name, website, contact info
                         – Choice of category to be listed under (Catering, Bakeries,                               etc)
                         – Additional listings are just $10 each
                         – Featured program listings (first page) are an additional
                            $50.

I've heard great reports about this event in the past- and I know what a great resource it is for local businesses.  To make the pie even sweeter (pun intended) readers of A Boston Food Diary will receive $200 off of their package price!  Just contact Ann Holden at Anthem Events and she will hook you up!

All dessert lovers out there- there are still tickets available as well-please visit: http://www.nedessertshowcase.com/tickets.html

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Highland Kitchen, Somerville, MA

Ladies out there, you will understand this.  You know those nights when all you need is some time with your gal pals?  A night of gabbing, gossiping, and laughter?  A night where you gleefully alert your waitress that you will, in fact, be lingering, not wanting the evening to end?  After a few stressful weeks, with all sorts of good, bad, and exciting things going on, a night with girlfriends was exactly what I was craving. Luckily Ms. Jen and Ms. Aimee were feeling similarly and so an evening was booked, an evening to indulge in good food, a cocktail or two and good friends.  The destination for such a soiree?  The Highland Kitchen located in Somerville, MA.

Highland Kitchen has been on my "must visit" list for ages it seems.  I'd say one out of every five recommendations I receive for restaurants to check out (FYI- please send recommendations- I love them!), is for Highland Kitchen.  Out of sheer laziness (lets call a spade a spade folks) I kept putting off my visit, but was thrilled when Highland was suggested as our girls night location. 

Highland Kitchen is on the busy corner of Central and Highland Streets in Somerville, and immediately upon entering the restaurant, you can tell that this is a "neighborhood" spot.  From the friendly hostess, to the relaxed atmosphere, to the "all ages" patrons (seriously toddlers to the wise), this place seems to fit every need.  Their menu seems to fit every need as well- with appetizers, small plates, sandwiches and full entrees spanning the globe, and the desire.  

We finally settled on starting our meal with the North African Dip Plate-which was grilled pitas served with a variety of dips.  On our plate were hummus, a carrot and almond dip and a roasted red pepper and walnut dip. The hummus was classic in flavor and texture.  Thick, creamy and clean tasting with the flavor of chickpea strong, and the flavor of tahini lightly supporting, it was a delicious and simple hummus.  The carrot and almond dip was my favorite of the trio- pureed sweet carrots with the richness of almonds combined into a wonderfully sweet, but full bodied dip.  The roasted red pepper and walnuts, enhanced with some parsley, did similarly- sweet but robust, this was a flavorful creation.  The North African Dip Plate was a wonderful starter, satisfying, creative, delicious and easy to share.

I've been on a bit of a pulled pork kick lately, so I selected their North Carolina style Pulled Pork Sandwich, served with side salad for my entree.  Now, if I had my druthers, I would have North Carolina style pulled pork every time I have pulled pork.  The sauce is vinegar based, which cuts through the fatty pork meat perfectly. It is paired with a creamy coleslaw, which is the perfect, crisp, accompaniment. Highland Kitchen did a really nice job with their rendition.  Great chunks of hand pulled pork, slathered in a wonderfully tangy sauce that had a slight kick, and really nice, creamy coleslaw.  As normal, the sandwich was a bit too messy to pick up and eat as a normal sandwich so I picked at it with my fork and then took a bite or two of the soft, fluffy and lightly toasted bun it was encased in. While the bun was tasty, it had been buttered before it's toasting, which in theory was nice, but was over done here.  I also could have used more of the coleslaw in my sandwich.  Otherwise, this was a delicious sandwich which conjured up wonderful memories of my trips to North Carolina and the barbecue I have enjoyed there. 

Highland Kitchen was well worthy of it's recommendations and acclaim.  The menu, though not large, contained enough range to satisfy any one's palate.  It was comforting and welcoming, and allowed us girls to linger over cocktails long after our plates had been cleared. A perfect location to catch up with friends, and fill your belly all at once.     

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Kickass Cupcakes Giving Back to Rosie's Place

Photo Cred- Kickass Cupcakes
Have I talked to you guys before about my love affair with Kickass Cupcakes?  I know that I've mentioned some of the fun new products they've launched and how they were featured on the Food Network's Kid In A Candy Store.  Well today, I wanted to bring you news of a promotion that they are holding this week that I think is pretty incredible.

If you are from the Boston area, you are probably acquainted with a woman's shelter known as Rosie's Place.  Founded in 1974, Rosie's Place provides housing, meals, support, and assistance for job placement for homeless women.  The work that they do is truly life changing.  They are called upon often for long term support, and in emergency situations.  They assist women in getting back on their feet when disaster has struck.  Their mission is clear- tp provide an "oasis of hope and nourishment at Rosie’s Place".

Well this week, Kickass Cupcakes is doing what they can to support the great Rosie's Place.  Sara Ross, owner of Kickass Cupcakes, has created the Raspberry Rose Cupcake, a limited edition treat offered just this week, and all proceeds from the sale of these cupcakes will go directly to Rosies Place.

So what is a Raspberry Rose Cupcake?  A vanilla based and filled with a rose scented raspberry jam center with raspberry frosting.  These will be sold all week long, both at the Davis Square store location, and on board the Kickass Cupcake Truck (schedule below).  So head on over to your favorite source and pick up one of these amazing cupcakes!

Monday:
Berkeley Street & Columbus Avenue, 3pm- 10pm

Tuesday:

Washington Street & West Dedham Street, 11am-2:45pm,

Peters Park, 3pm-9pm

Wednesday:

Berkeley Street & Columbus Avenue, 11am- 10pm

Thursday:

Clarendon St. between Newbury & Boylston, 3-10pm

Friday:

Boylston St. Boston Public Library, 3-10pm

Saturday:

Commonwealth Ave. near Kenmore Square, 11am-2:30pm

Clarendon Street, 3-10pm

Sunday:

Commonwealth Avenue near Kenmore Square, 11am-2:30pm

Clarendon Street, 3-10pm
 
For more information please visit: www.kickasscupcakes.com

Monday, August 22, 2011

El Centro, South End, Boston

You've heard me complain for ages about the lack of good, authentic, Mexican food in this town. I have ranted about the cheese covered abominations, the neon green guacamole, and the spice void offerings of our local "scene". Sure, there have been a few saving graces that I've noted, but nothing truly stand out. Today I am considering re-trying all of those "bright spots" as I have now, truly, had fantastic Mexican cuisine right here in Boston.


Tucked away on a corner of Shawmut Ave in the South End stands El Centro. It is unassuming, non chalant in it's presence, in fact you might miss it when walking past -I did. But don't let it's quiet exterior fool you-El Centro will welcome you with open arms, and dazzle your taste buds with every dish.


My journey began at El Centro with their "spiced Sangria" and their own guacamole. Our waiters explanation of the Sangria was right on-their red sangria, enhanced with spices and a few slices of Jalapeno had a bite to it when sipped, but the real heat would come from munching on the jalapenos. I loved this take on Sangria. The cinnamon-y beauty of the drink shown through, but was wonderfully offset by the additional spices. It was a creative way to give a unique twist on a classic libation.


The guacamole was similarly unique, and delicious. The standard avocados mashed to perfection with hints of citrus, but then just before serving a crumble of cheese sprinkled on top, and a drizzle of chili (Chorizo?) oil completed the offering. Both of these accompaniments were welcome additions. The cheese, salty and robust contrasted the creaminess of the avocado, and the chili oil started a fire that was immediately cooled. Every bite was different, and every bit woke up the taste buds.


We decided to split our meal, and then began with three tacos-the Al Pastor, the Fish, and the Barbacoa. It is more than worth noting, the team at El Centro makes their tortillas fresh, so a taco at El Centro is not your standard, run of the mill taco with its casing hinting at stale or processed.  These tortillas are fresh, and clean tasting.

Al Pastor, which usually refers to pork paired with spices and pineapple, is one of my go to options.  El Centro worth paired chopped pork, rich with spice and good heat with the sweet pineapple and a smooth guacamole. The pork was tender, and contained real spice which was a very welcome change to many other restaurants interpretation of spice.  The guacamole was cooling in the face of the heat, and together they made an addictive taco.  The sweet pineapple flavor was light, I personally would have enjoyed a bit more of that flavor for the complexity it would provide, however, over all this was a delicious taco.  

For my second helping I tried out their Fist Taco.  Under normal circumstances, I shy away from fish tacos.  I love the idea of them, but far too often, they contain heavily fried fish, which ruins the dish for me. We clarified ahead of time, and at El Centro, the fish is seasoned and baked, making for a much lighter, and in my opinion, flavorful dish.  It is served with a creamy cilantro sauce, and crisp shredded vegetables.  The fish did get a bit lost in its blanket of sauce, but the flavors were perfect.  The creamy sauce, with the mildly spicy fish, all complimented with the crunch of vegetables.  This was a fish taco I could have again and again.

My final bite was of the Barbacoa. Beer marinated beef, slow cooked and shredded.  The flavor here was delicate, but complex.  It was deep and rich, with perhaps just a hint of smoke?  I paired these bites with the house made hot sauce that was delivered to the table.  I can honestly say, for the first time in a restaurant, this hot sauce packed a serious punch, resulting in slight eye watering, and that weird, sick, desire to eat more of it.  Spice is a funny thing.

Finally, we moved into our next course, Camarones Al Chipotle  (shrimp in chipotle sauce).  This was highly recommended by our waiter and he did not lead us astray.  The shrimp were beyond "large", plump and perfectly cooked.  They were then set in a beautiful bath of a creamy chipotle sauce, and paired with rice, corn and cilantro. The chipotle sauce was perfection, to be honest, I could eaten it as a soup. Rich, spicy and decadent.  When paired with those delicate shrimp the sauce somehow complimented their sweet freshness, but did not overcome it.  The sweet corn was a perfect accompaniment, and the rice was a wonderful vehicle for sopping up the, um, extra sauce.

El Centro exceeded my expectations at every turn.  It's exterior may be quiet and unassuming, but inside is filled with warm, wonderful people, who are creating food full of rich, hearty flavors, true spice, and authentic pairings.  This is not your average "thrown beans in it and blanket it with melted cheese and call it a day" Mexican food.  This is food that truly celebrates the country, and El Centro plays the part of inviting each patron into their home to guide them through their kitchen.

Word to the wise, we arrived at 7:30 on a Friday evening, tables were available.  Within moments however every last table was full, and a small line was forming outside the door.  Reservations are not accepted- so get there early- this is food you want to make the time for.    

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Walnut, Strawberry and Nectarine Bread

Every year I fill out these wellness tests for my health insurance, and every year I receive the same feedback- eat more fruit!  Somehow this always proves challenging to me-but this year I decided to take it to heart and have been packing myself a fruit salad to eat when I get to work in the morning.  Berries, melon, pineapple, nectarines- whatever looks fresh and tasty I purchase and then cut up and dole out portions of each morning.  Honestly- chowing down on my fruit salad while I sort through the over night emails at my desk is one of the highlights of my morning now.  However, invariably, at the end of the week I have some leftover fruit- and I am left with ways to use it up. 

This past sunday, I opened my fridge to find something for breakfast and I found an almost empty carton of strawberries staring back at me.  They were bruised, a little soft for my palatte, and itching to be incorporated into something that did not require them to be at their peak.  So decision made- I would be making something with strawberries- but what?  Not enough of them for Strawberry Ice Cream, they weren't nice enough for Strawberry Shortcake.  I pulled out my trusty King Arthur Flour cook book and started scouring it for strawberry recipes. And then I found it- Walnut Strawberry Bread in their quick breads section.  I read the recipe, and realized that I had every ingredient I needed-score!

Off to the kitchen I went, and just about an hour later I had piping hot loaf of Walnut Strawberry Bread.  Well...kinda.

Once I mashed the strawberries I realised that I just didn't have enough of them.  The recipe mentioned combining the strawberries with rhubarb, but I definitely didn't have any rhubarb.  However, what I did have was some almost over ripe nectarines.  They would do.  I peeled and mashed two of those- and hit my measurement for mashed fruit.  I also realized (very late in the process) that I was out of vegetable oil- I subbed in the same amount of melted butter- successful substitution- game on!

Walnut-Strawberry and Nectarine Quick Bread (adapted from King Arthur Flour)

1/2 cup (2 ounces) chopped walnuts

1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon zest OR 1/4 teaspoon lemon oil
2 eggs
1 cup (10 ounces) mashed strawberries*
1/2 cup peeled and mashed nectarines
1/2 cup (3 7/8 ounces) vegetable oil

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and flour (or spray with non-stick vegetable oil spray) a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.


In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the walnuts, flour, sugar, soda, salt and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, whisk together the lemon, eggs, strawberries and vegetable oil. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, whisking until well-blended.


Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the bread in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove it from the pan and transfer it to a rack to cool completely, 1 hour or longer. For best flavor and easiest slicing, wrap the bread while still slightly warm and let it sit overnight.

This was the easiest, most delicious bread!  The fruit was sweet and flavorful throughout, and the lemon zest really made the flavors pop with every bite.  Nutmeg can often over power, but here it just created a real dept of flavor and made this bread seem much more complex than it really was.  I will definitely be making this bread again- and I might start trying new fruits in it as well! 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Beer Corn Soup-the way it should be!

Oh corn -what has happened to you?  I read so many menus, all celebrating your season with delightful renditions of corn soup-but so many, so very many, are pairing you with wine.  I myself made corn soup that I dressed up with Marscapone cheese just for the fun of it.  I look back now and wonder why?  Why are we all pushing corn into the "refined" world of wine and Marscapone?  Corn is food to be eaten outside, at a barbecue, with your hands.  It is made for melting butter on top of and accenting with pepper and salt and ripping its sweet flesh off the cob with your teeth.  It isn't a refined food.  Corn is delicious, it is versatile, but refined it is not. 

I was craving some corn soup, and, as I considered how I would make it, this revelation occurred to me, and I decided to bring corn soup back home again.  Beer.  What could be more BBQ than beer?  This hoppy, bitter liquid just calls out for campfires, hot dogs and friends. 

Of course, the real question was, what beer to use.  I stood in staring at the selection and finally decided on what was touted as Beer of the Year, Dogfish Head's Raison D'Etra.  It was described as a "deep mahogany ale, brewed with Belgian beer sugars, green raisins and a sense of purpose".  Sounded to me like it would complement corn well. 

Back in my kitchen I began the soup by cutting the kernels off of two ears of corn, and then cutting down the cobs into pieces that would fit in a small sauce pan, covered them with water and set them a-boiling.  In a large skillet pan I melted a tablespoon of butter over low heat and then added 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves, and a tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley, salt and pepper.  When the garlic had softened, I added the corn kernels, and a teaspoon more of butter.  At this stage, I wanted to keep a fair amount of liquid in the pan and over a low enough heat where the corn kernels would cook, but not fry or crisp.  Once the butter had melted, I added 2 tablespoons or so of the beer, and raised the heat to a low medium.  I covered it, and let it saute.  A few minutes later, I gave the corn a good stir, and added more beer, and then covered again.  I repeated this until about half the beer had been used, and then kept it covered and over the heat until the alcohol had burned off.

I transferred the mix to my Cuisinart, and blended the mix into a paste.  Then I thinned it with the corn stock that had been simmering on the stove.  Once we reached a good consistency, if a little thick, I transferred the puree int my chinoise and pressed the wonderful corn juice through its mesh.  Finally I was left with just the remaining corn meal, which I would later form into patties with a little extra parsley and sear on the stove top for corn cakes.  I placed the soup itself over the heat of the stove again, and simmered until any remaining beer alcohol had simmered out.  

The soup itself screamed summer to me. Sweet corn, deep flavored beer, lots of salt, butter and pepper...Every spoonful (despite the slightly unappetizing color) was like corn on the cob in liquid format.

Oh corn- you were always meant for beer weren't you? 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Cookies

I'm not one for wishing seasons away, but the past couple of weeks I've been thinking about fall.  The back to school commercials are out, my favorite Pumpkin beers are on the shelves, and (for the time being) the temperature is more bearable.  Usually when it gets to this part of the summer, my instinct turns to baking. 

Today, I was struck hard with the desire to bake, and for some reason-my thought was for honey cookies.  Don't ask me why, I've never had honey cookies before, but they just sounded delicious to me.  So, as I went about my Sunday routine (grocery shopping) I kept thinking about honey cookies.  Now, when I think honey, I think peanut butter.  For some reason-they go hand in hand.  So then I started thinking about Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiched between honey cookies.  This whole idea sounded pretty tasty to me, and I figured- perfect for fall and back to school snacks!

A quick search of the internet found me on A Cozy Kitchen's website- reading through her recipe for Honey Bee Cookies.  These looked simple to make, and looked absolutely delicious.  Even better, all of the ingredients were located in my cupboard.  Phenomenal.

These cookies were incredibly easy to make, and with spirals of peanut butter and jam drizzled in between two -they are fantastic little sandwich cookies.  

Honey Bee Cookies
Adapted from A Cozy Kitchen's adaptation of the Alpha-Bakery Children’s Cookbook
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup honey
1 egg
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.


Beat together the butter, brown sugar, honey and egg in a medium bowl until smooth, scraping the sides occasionally. Stir in all remaining ingredients.


Drop spoon fulls of dough onto a greased or lined baking sheet. Bake about 7 to 10 minutes, or until the cookies are set and the edges are beginning to brown. The cookies will still look shiny when they’re done.

   


Friday, August 12, 2011

Dunkin' Donuts New PM Sandwich Line

My lunch time view
Now, through reading this blog, you can tell I am not a big proponent of fast food. To be perfectly frank- I'm not even sure when the last time I had "fast food" was- but I can tell you this- I can bet I know what it was:  a Dunkin' Donuts Egg White Turkey Sausage Breakfast Flat Bread.  I love them.  They pack a hearty punch of protein without many calories or fat, and they taste pretty delicious.  They are my go to road trip breakfast.  You know those days- you're headed off on the road, the coffee is hot, the sun is rising and your stomach is growling- you want something to satiate you for the trip ahead- enough so those questionable bags of chips in gas station convenience stores don't appeal to you.  Sure Dunkin' Donuts has all of those tempting donuts staring you in the face, but for a breakfast that will really keep you full and happy- I go for their egg white flat breads every time. 

So a couple of weeks ago when I was contacted by the PR firm for Dunkin' Donuts and sent a gift card to try their new line of lunch sandwiches- I was intrigued.  Dunkin's has added a chicken salad sandwich, a tuna melt and a tuna salad sandwich to their line up of mid day food items.  These sandwiches are not meant to be health conscious as my beloved egg white flat bread is, but I thought I'd give them a shot anyway to see if they'd be a good substitute when time robs me of my lunch making routine.  I elected to have the chicken salad sandwich on a toasted everything bagel.  

Thick and doughy, the bagel had good flavor from the scattering of garlic powder, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds.  The chicken salad itself however was a bit of a disappointment.  There were plentiful chunks of white meat chicken, however the rest of the sandwich was made up, almost solely, of mayo save a few pieces of gray/brown celery thrown in.  The flavor, therefore, was mainly the flavor of slightly sweet mayo.  The sandwich was edible, definitely helped by the bagel choice, and would definitely do in a pinch, but left a fair amount to be desired as well. I would have loved to have seen real fresh pieces of celery or onion in the mix, and perhaps have tasted some more herbs or spices with the chicken and mayo.  

Overall, for $3.49 it made for a filling lunch for a fair price.   

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dorado Tacos and Cemitas Celebrate 2 Years with Free Tacos!

 It's Thursday- the sun is shining, the air is warm, and it's almost the weekend!  I think this calls for a celebration.  Perhaps you're doing a little vacation dreaming?  Perhaps to a warm and tropical location where a Corona sits in one hand, and a perfect taco occupies the other as you watch the palm trees sway?  Well I can't sponsor a trip for you to Mexico, or any other tropical location, but I do know of a great celebration going on that will help you get you in a vacation state of mind!

Dorado Tacos and Cemitas, located on Harvard Ave just outside Coolidge Corner is celebrating their second anniversary today!  They are marking this momentous occasion by giving away....get this....free Ensenada style Fish Tacos!  This great give away is happening between 5 and 8 pm tonight for patrons of Dorado!  If you haven't been to Dorado before, I urge you to head over (tonight especially- why turn down free food?) and check them out.  Their tacos are full of fresh, well flavored ingredients, which contain actual spice for those of us who like it. Their guacamole is the appropriate color green, not some weird neon color, signifying its freshness, and their traditional black beans have a kick to them.  

They also serve Coronas to those of us over 21, and some lovely outdoor seating.  Dorado is my favorite place to stop for a quick taco fix-check them out and help them celebrate their two years in business! 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

S'Mores Marshmallows

I adore when I can pay back debts in food.  Obviously, this doesn't work all the time, but a friend who has been doing me a pretty humongous favor the past few months has agreed to payment via baked goods- a God send that guy is!  So last night, finding myself with unexpected downtime, I decided to try my hand S'mores Marshmallows. 

We all remember S'mores from when we were kids- a sweet and puffy marshmallow toasted up over a roaring campfire sandwiched between two graham crackers with chocolate in between, melting from the heat of the marshmallow.  The result was always a sticky mess, but completely and utterly delicious.  I won't lie- I could NEVER stop at just one. 

S'Mores Marshmallows combine all of the same aspects of that great childhood treat- marshmallow, melted chocolate and graham crackers.  They are simple to make, and definitely satisfy that "S'More craving".

25 Marshmallows (large size)
6-7 squares of Semi Sweet baking chocolate
1/2 package of Graham Crackers, crumbled into small pieces

Melt the chocolate either in a double boiler, or in a glass bowl over a pot of boiling water.  While the chocolate melts, crumble the Graham Crackers.  I laid these out in a thick layer on a sheet of wax paper.  Once the chocolate has melted, give it a quick stir to ensure all the lumps are out, and then dip a marshmallow into the chocolate- covering as much of the surface as possible with the chocolate.  Once the marshmallow is sufficiently covered, roll it in the Graham Cracker crumbs.  Set aside to cool.  Continue these steps until all of your marshmallows are completed. Enjoy.

Now there was one major component of these tasty treats missing- the campfire.  The burned sugar was gone, no blistered smoky spots present.  To me, a lover of burned marshmallows, this point was a little sad.  I think that the next time I make these however Ill leave one end of the marshmallow uncovered, and use my blow torch to caramelize it.  

Either way- these are a great treat for these summer months, when a campfire is just not possible! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Royal Rose Radicchio, Strawberry and Walnut Salad

Before we begin-I must apologize for the lack of new photos in this post- I ate the finished product before I remembered to snap some images.



As I briefly stated in my last post where I threw some incredible radicchio into a bowl with blue cheese, bacon and an amazing Balsamic vinegar, I have been the recipient of quite a few lovely heads of Royal Rose Radicchio.  I am now deep in the throws of finding delicious ways of using this bitter leaf vegetable. 

After making my delicious lunch salad on Sunday, I knew I wanted to make another salad for dinner, and since I had bacon and blue cheese leftover- I wanted to use them up as well.  The rest of my fridge contents contributed fresh strawberries, walnuts and the end of my jar of apricot jam that I purchased to make my I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Toast Ambassador recipe.  

Now, to some this sounds like a whole lot of ingredients that don't in, any way, go together.  However to me, this sounded like a perfect combination.  Bitter radicchio, sweet strawberries, tangy blue cheese, smoky bacon, and that wonderful nuttiness and crunch of the walnuts, all held together with apricot jam?  I was in.

I chopped half a head of radicchio, and sliced 7-8 strawberries into a bowl.  I fried up 4 slices of thick cut bacon cut into 1/2 inch pieces.  I chopped about 1/4 cup of walnuts.  I tossed all of this together.  Then in a small bowl I combined 1/4 of a cup of apricot jam with a tablespoon and a half of champagne vinegar, two teaspoons of olive oil, salt, pepper and a healthy sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes.  Just before serving, I added the dressing to the salad bowl and stirred until all elements of the salad were well combined.

Honestly- I was a little worried about how this salad would turn out.  There were a lot of elements in it which didn't necessarily spell out "classic pairing".  However, the end result was truly delicious.  The radicchio was bitter as ever, full of all of those wonderful nutrients, but was perfectly offset by the sweet and slightly spicy dressing and the wonderful naturally sweet strawberries.  The bacon and the nuts provided some great textural contrast.  I have since eaten this salad a few times, and have shared it with friends who echoed my sentiments- it was a weird mix of ingredients, but really worked when pulled all together.  

This is a perfect summer salad- I'll definitely be recreating in the weeks ahead!  

Monday, August 8, 2011

Royal Rose Radicchio-Enhanced with Blue Cheese and Bacon

Last week I received an email from Royal Rose Radicchio announcing their new campaign, salads for adults. Their (ingenious) idea creates salad dressings that include alcohol to spice them up for a fun kick to a boring salad.  Now it is my personal opinion that when using radicchio a salad is pretty exciting already.  Radicchio is a type of chickory, extremely bitter in flavor, but pairs beautifully with so many different flavors, brightening each against its strong flavor.  So, when I received the email from Royal Rose, and they offered to send me some samples of their radicchio- I jumped at it.

Friday evening I arrived home and there awaiting for me was one giant box chock full of beautiful red/purple radicchio.  Sunday afternoon, after an indulgent weekend of treats I was craving something leafy, and something fresh.  Now I'm all about the adult style salad dressings, but this being a rainy salad where I didn't want to rush around looking for too many ingredients, I decided instead to make something from what I had at home.

My refigerator, besides containing quite a few heads of radicchio, also had a bit of bacon, and some blue cheese.  And then, my pride and joy, a beautiful bottle of Rabio Balsamic Vinegar that I was given during the Bertolli tour of the North End a few weeks ago.  Rabio is an amazing Balsamic- sweet, thick and without any of the mouth pucker that can come with vinegar. Honestly, Im not sure that words can do it justice.  I could drink Rabio Balsamic straight from the bottle.  

To begin my salad, I started by slicing bacon into small pieces and frying them up in a pan.  I drained them, and sat them aside while I peeled off the out leaves of the radicchio, sliced and chopped about half the head, and tossed it into a big salad bowl.  I crumbled about a 1/4 cup of blue cheese into the bowl, added the bacon bits and combined gently with my hands.  I plated the mix, and then lightly drizzled the balsamic over the top.  

The combination of flavors was so delicious.  Smoky bacon, stinky blue cheese, bitter radicchio all sweetened up with that wonderful balsamic.....simple perfection.   

I am really excited to make the dressings created by Royal Rose, but I have to say- this was a great start to my week of radicchio.     

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thoughts on Food

Last night I had the extreme pleasure of attending the engagement party of a dear friend from high school.  The real beauty of this engagement lies in the fact that I had the opportunity to attend high school with both the bride and groom. Though years had passed, these two were able to find love with a real basis in where we we grew up- in home.  The party, as one would expect, was a bit like a mini reunion with her friends and his friends mingling once again.  I won't lie- I was missing homeroom a bit.  Catching up with these old faces, and meeting all of the new friends among us was a joy, and after all of the stories had been told, and bonds renewed, the conversation, much to my extreme delight, turned to food.  

We excitedly discussed the tasting menu at James Beard award winning Eleven Madison Park, the wonders of Mario Batali's Eataly, the beauty of the food at Alinea, and the sadness of El Bulli closing.  We spoke about the amazing things that chefs are doing, proudly described our most decadent dinners, traded cooking secrets, and revealed our dream dining destinations.  The conversation is not a new one to me. It might be my favorite conversation to be honest, one that I have as frequently as possible with anyone who will engage in it with me, whether we've discussed it previously or not.  This conversation, to me, is not at all odd, rather it is the norm.  

Later however, as the party was dissected on the way home, I realized how rare those conversations are in every day life.  Apparently, 90% of general  conversations do not include recipes or menu recaps.  Strange, I know.  As I considered this, after of course I got over my shock and awe, I realized that that this fact is true.  Most people don't obsess over making mozzarella cheese in their kitchen, or read endless articles about what's new in the food world.  However, in another very true fact, everyone has an opinion on food.

Food just might be the greatest bonding conversation in the world.  No matter your culture, food is an integral part of life.  We all must eat to survive, and therefore, as a common thread between us, food is a conversation we can all engage in.  Food is something that we remember.  We look to food for comfort, as the memories of eating certain items brings us to happier, or simpler, times.  We return to the ice cream stands of our childhood, we relish the memories of our mothers apple pies or meatloaf. We indulge in cake for celebrations.  We cheat with pasta and cheese.  Food may not be an obsession for all, but it is one of a few things that runs as a common thread between us.  

Food brings us home.  It can bring us joy, it can challenge us, and it can comfort us.  It may not inhabit most peoples brains 95% of the time as it does mine, but it brings me such joy to know that after years apart, with our lives spread to different corners of the United States and our careers in so many different places, we can all come together and bond with a simple discussion of food.       

   

Monday, August 1, 2011

Kayem Celebrates National Hot Dog Day with Josh Reddick!

Photo Cred: Kayem
Those who know me, know that I'm a pretty big Sox fan.  I watch far too many games each year, I relish every opportunity to go to Fenway, and I score check constantly during games I can't watch.  Now, as you may have noticed, any opportunity that I can take to be involved with our great team, I take.  Sadly, I missed out on a very fun opportunity last week, but I still wanted to make sure you all knew what went down.

The official Hot Dog of the Boston Red Sox, Kayem, sponsored a great event down at the Prudential Center last Wednesday celebrating National Hot Dog Day.  Really making this a great celebration, in addition to free hot dogs for attendees, Kayem had the 2004 and 2007 World Series Trophies on hand for photo ops, and got the great Josh Reddick to grill up some 'dogs as well.

Next time I hear about one of these awesome events, I'll be sure to let you guys know ahead of time so you can make it on down yourselves!

For your viewing pleasure:  Mr. Josh Reddick!
Photo cred: Kayem

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