Monday, December 21, 2015

Pepperidge Farms Holiday Favorites

Sure, Christmas is the time for spending time with  family and friends and giving...but let's be honest it's also the time for cookies.  There is no debating it- a good cookie is worth its weight in gold, but let's face it- between the parties, the shopping, the gift wrapping and everything else going on during this time, baking the perfect cookie isn't exactly on the top of everyone's list.  Here's the secret though- the fact that Pepperidge Farms exists means that you don't have to make the perfect cookie- they do it for you!

Now, I enjoy a good baking session every so often, but for my money, the Pepperidge Farm varieties are so perfectly done that they always satisfy my craving- and this holiday they have introduced so gloriously festive types.  Take their peppermint Milanos.  Imagine the crispy, buttery milano, filled with not only rich dark chocolate, but also a perfect hint of peppermint to incorporate that classic pairing.  

During the holiday season they also sell boxes stuffed full of all different types of their cookies, from Milanos to chessmen and everything in between.  These are the perfect assortments to put out at any holiday party- or to snack on during those amazing Christmas movie marathons they run!

I gotta say though- my favorite this year were their gingerbread men.  Sweet and Spicy, crisp and delicious- these guys were perfect on their own, but I decided to jazz them up a bit. I swapped them into Martha Stewart's Cookie Pie Crust and then used the crust as the base for my Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie.  The flavor of these cookies made that pie irresistible, so much more fun than your average pie crust.  

In my mind, Pepperidge Farms does very little poorly- if at all.  Their holiday selections of cookies are perfectly delicious and the most wonderful way to honor your friends and family.            

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Cranberry-Marinated Rack of Australian Lamb

How did the wonders of lamb get relegated to springtime?  What law got passed so many years ago that said- all of the delicious dishes that lamb can make should really only be eaten between March and May?  I think it is long past time to change that rule- and luckily the Australian Lamb Board agrees with me. The US shortage of turkeys this year around our holiday season has sent a lot of people scrambling for an alternative to the healthy bird.  Lamb is well known as one of the leanest meats, its low in cholesterol and a 3 oz serving has only 175 calories.  So as your loved ones gather around the table- when you serve lamb you'll know that you are serving them a meal that will take care of them as much as delight their taste buds.

I was the very lucky recipient of two racks of lamb from the Australian Lamb Board a few weeks ago and I got to try one of their recipes perfectly crafted holiday inspired recipes- their Cranberry-Marinated Rack of Australian Lamb.  Now I've never made a rack of lamb before, but their recipe was so well written, and easy to follow that I flawlessly was able to serve a gorgeous and flavorful rack without too much fuss.  And really isn't delicious and easy two key features to a holiday meal?  

Give this recipe a try and impress every guest at your holiday party!

Servings:  6
Ingredients

2 Australian lamb racks, frenched
1 cup pure cranberry or pomegranate juice 
1 cup white or red wine 
½ cup cranberries
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


Place racks of lamb in large, deep dish. Add juice, wine, cranberries, and rosemary. Cover and marinate 2-3 hours or overnight. 

Remove lamb from marinade, pat dry and season to taste. Place marinade in
saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to a thin glaze. Discard rosemary. Keep glaze warm. 

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Heat oil in a large pan and sear lamb on all sides to brown, place in oven and cook 8-10 minutes for medium rare or until cooked as desired. Allow to rest for a few minutes before slicing into individual chops.

Spoon sauce over lamb and serve with rice and steamed green beans.
Tip

Marinate the lamb the day before. 

- See more at: http://www.australian-lamb.com/Lamb/Recipes/Cranberry-Marinated_Rack_of_Australian_Lamb_with_Almond_Wild_Rice/#sthash.GbqRmalU.dpuf

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Boston Wine Expo 2016

It's coming....the buzz is beginning....are you ready?  The 2016 Wine Expo is starting it's ramp up and it's promising to be the best year yet!  This year will be the 25th anniversary of the Expo which means that the red carpet is really being rolled out!

The Expo will feature over 1,800 different wines from over 200 different vineyards- which means you get to fully experience what the world of wine has to offer.  Ever wondered if you could really taste the differences between the terroir of a vineyard in Macon versus in Beaujolais?  Or the subtle differences of a grape year over year?  This is the best opportunity to try single vineyards year over year vintages as well as the unique twists that different growing areas can have in your glass.  

The team has just released the list of breakout sessions for this year.  If you are itching to learn more about specific types of wine, or regions for growth -these are the fantastic way to listen to the experts in a small group, taste a variety of wines, and get your questions answered.  

As time goes on, more information will be released so watch this space- and I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Krave Jerky- The Perfect Snack

Road trips have basically always been my all time favorite thing.  We did a lot of driving when I was growing up and there was always something cozy about piling into the car, singing along to the radio and playing road games with the family.  Let's be frank though- as much as I loved the activities, I was all about the car snacks (you can feign surprise now).  As my mom was always on top of making sure we had proper nutrients, car snacks were comprised of lots of fresh fruit and slices of cheese...and then normally when we'd make a pit stop we'd get some sort of a treat.  I remember carefully selecting my cookies or chips or, lets be frank here, holding out for a donut. We'd hang out with my father at the register while he paid and I always remember spying the bags of jerky that would undoubtedly be there.  My dad would always chuckle and make a joke about army food when he'd follow my gaze, and that was all I ever new of jerky- gas station food, hard little pucks of salty meat product.  Until....now.

Krave Jerky entered the scene just about 6 years ago, revolutionizing the snack market, and, for that matter, the jerky market.  Here's the deal with jerky- when made with quality ingredients- it is a low fat, high protein product.  It fills you up without adding in fillers that cost you precious calories when you're counting them.  They are low in carbohydrates and salt, making Krave Jerky a perfect refueling snack.

Honestly, being someone who really struggles with placing "good for me" over "tastes delicious", I love Krave because of all of the fun flavors it comes in.  Every pack is a different, interesting combo, and each one packs a serious punch for the taste buds.  My favorites have been the Pineapple Orange that reminds me of my families Christmas Ham with lots of sweet and warming spices, and the Basil Citrus that makes my inner Italian Grandmother far too happy.

If you haven't given Krave a shot- go try a pack.  This isn't that gas station variety jerky - this stuff is filling, flavorful and delicious!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Paleo Sweet Potato Apple Upside Down Cake

I've been quiet for a bit...I am not so pleased about it.  I could give you a host of excuses and reasons, but lets be honest- I was out living life.  There have been some big things happening- the biggest, of course, was the beautiful marriage of my beautiful sister to her groom.  In typical girl fashion, amidst flower and menu discussions, I dedicated myself to being in the best shape possible.  

It goes without saying that I love food. I love what it represents, I love its stories, I love creating it, I adore eating it.  This all makes dieting pretty rough on me.  So for two months before the wedding, I decided to try out the only diet I feel like I could stick to- Paleo.  I know- you all have heard of Paleo before, the idea stems from the Paleolithic era where food was simple and clean.  The idea is to eat all natural foods, and ones that are easy for the body to process naturally.  So it centers around lots of fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, and meat and seafood.  So I put that shiny cheese certification away for a couple months and dedicated my diet.  I'll be honest- it really wasnt so bad.  Yes, it sucked to bring my dinner to my friends places when they were all ordering take out.  It sucked to not indulge in breakfasts that my friends toiled over to introduce us to different cultures.  It sucked to not celebrate Friday with pizza.  But overall, I actually really enjoyed the challenge.  I got to stretch my brain to find alternatives to my favorite dishes, and create new ones.  Best of all, overall, I feel better.  

Anywho- one of the recipes that got me through was this insanely delicious
Sweet Potato Apple Upside Down Cake.   Basically, its pumpkin pie....delicious, wonderful, healthy, pumpkin pie.  I came up with this recipe after I tried another Paleo recipe for sweet potato bread that left a lot to be desired, to say the least.  This however is moist and delicious, spicy and heart warming...its everything great in the fall.

Sweet Potato Apple Upside Down Cake
  1. 3 cup cooked sweet potato
  2. 1/2 cup coconut flour
  3. 2 teaspoon baking soda
  4. 4 eggs
  5. 1/2 cup melted coconut oil + a little more for pan greasing
  6. 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  7. 1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  8. 1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  9. 1 Teaspoon Cloves
  10. 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  11. 1 Granny Smith Apple

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Peel and slice into cubes sweet potatoes, steam until they easily break apart with a fork. Transfer the sweet potatoes into a bowl and mash (I use a potato masher).  Add the flour, baking soda, salt, spices and oil.  Stir to combine thoroughly.  Add the eggs and combine thoroughly.  Set aside.

Core your apple and cut into slices, 1/2 inch in thickness.  Grease a round 9 inch pan with the coconut oil, and arrange the apple slices on the bottom of the pan into a circle. Pour the cake batter over the top.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool, and then place a large plate over the top of the pan and invert so the apple side comes out on top.  Sprinkle cinnamon over the top and serve.  

I love to have this for a mid morning snack topped with almond butter and organic maple syrup.  

Monday, July 13, 2015

Ribera y Rueda: Si What's Next Tour Hits Boston This Week!

A few months ago I introduced you all to the great new partnership of Ribera del Duero and Rueda wines.  The regions, joined in this partnership under the name of Ribera y Rueda produce intricately unique wines, concentrating mainly in Tempranillo and Verdejo.  Both of these wines are perfect for the hot summer months as they pair easily with lighter style foods and the all important BBQ.  

Verdejo, grown mainly in the Rueda region, may be one of the most perfect summer sippers.  High in acid, light in body, it projects elegance and refinement.  These wines are often very fruit forward with strong notes of peaches and nectarines with subtle hints of citrus.  Easy to sip on its own, and perfect to pair with lighter styles salads and seafood dishes, this is a perfect accompaniment for any summer gathering.  

Tempranillo is a fascinating grape.  A major component in Rioja wines, rarely do
you find it on it's own, more often playing a supporting role to Garnacha.  I am loving that Ribera del Duero is finally allowing this grape to shine on its own.  Rich in color, powerful tannins and high acidity makes this wine complex.  Full of flavors of dark fruits and plums with hints of smoke, I love pairing this wine with grilled meats and veggies.  

The association of Ribera y Rueda asked me to host a gathering featuring these
incredible wines and two of my favorite items- cheese and donuts.  I expanded the palate to include a few other fun items- namely a highly citrus based Gazpacho full of light summer vegetables, spiced with Serrano chili peppers and enhanced with cilantro, and the ultimate summer food - boiled local lobsters.  

We downed the Gazpacho, which I topped with the wonderfully crumbly and salty Cotija cheese and the lobsters with a bottle of the 2014 Circe, a truly wonderful Verdejo.  Light in body, high acid with very gentle sweetness it was a perfect compliment to the slight heat of the Gazpacho.  It also worked really nicely with the lobster providing bright acidity to contrast the decadence of the rich lobster meat and the totally necessary melted butter dip.  

The Tempranillo's were paired with a mix of decadent cheeses, sweet accompaniments and donuts...Union Square Donuts to be precise.  Let's start with the cheeses, yes?  Tempranillo, with it's deep color and flavor palate is a
fun one to pair.  Taleggio, a semi soft, usually cow's milk cheese with a washed rind, is the go to.  Taleggio has wonderful nutty and citrus notes that pair beautifully with the dark fruits and meatiness of the Tempranillo.  

Both of the Tempranillo's, the Celeste Crianza 2012 and the Heritage 2011, paired very with the Taleggio.  The Crianza was in the perfect state of aging- showing still bright fresh fruit notes, but also starting to show mellower flavors of mocha.  Medium + in body, and with great acidity and round tannins this was a beautiful wine.   The Heritage showed a bit more of a tartness on the palate, stronger vibes with the sour cherry and cranberry notes.  It's acidity was slightly higher and definitely held a bit more of a punch than its counterpart.   When paired with the Taleggio it brought out more of the citrus notes and worked well into a mouthwatering combination.

I went a bit crazy with my cheese pairings and also picked up a fresh cows milk
Robiola topped with shaved black truffles, an aged Manchego and a Crayeuse.  Robiola is one of my favorite cheeses simply because its fascinating.  I insist that if you pick this up - you must get a fresh milk version.  Robiola is a soft cheese and its flavors are purely determined by what the animal feasted on prior to milking, hence why the fresh milk portion is necessary.  The flavors can change by the season for this reason which makes it a fun cheese to check in on year round.  The decadent addition of truffles here brought a touch of mushroom earthiness to the otherwise tangy cheese.  Crayeuse is another cows milk cheese but this one is aged in stages- first quickly so the exterior portion is soft almost to runny and then slowly so the interior remains somewhat chalky.  The combination keeps the palate entertained.  Manchego was the only hard cheese I got to mix things up a bit.  Manchego is nutty and sometimes a bit gamey, a great stray from the citrus notes of the previous three cheeses.  Combining the Manchego with the Heritage was fantastic as it brought out more of the undertones of the wine, cutting past the tart fruit piece.  

The final, most important, piece of this evening was the donut pairing.  Union Square Donuts brought a dozen of their incredible confections to my door step making it basically the best day ever.  Included were flavors of Strawberry Glaze, Creamsicle, Malted Milk Chocolate, Chocolate Covered Pretzel and Bacon
Cheddar Sage- yes you read that right- Bacon. Cheddar. Sage.  Now you may not picture wine with donuts- I assume most of us pair coffee with those clouds of heaven, but let me tell you- this is a good pairing.  Follow the same rules as you would for any food/wine pairing - and match flavor components.  The light fruity flavors of Verdejo pair perfectly with the bright strawberry flavor of that glaze.   The deeper flavors of the chocolate or the savory sage, bacon and cheddar worked perfectly with the Tempranillo's even helping to temper the tannins down with the decadence that is a donut.  

If you want to experience all this for yourself, Ribera y Rueda is cruising around this summer in their own food truck and invite you to "Si What's Next" at the Taste of Cambridge tomorrow night, Tuesday, July 14th from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, and will be at Bauer Wine and Spirits on July 15th, from 4:00 pm to 8 pm EST doing tastings as well.  

Whether you can make it out to one of those locations or not, the Ribera y Rueda wines are perfect for your summer gathers whether your hosting a clam bake, relaxing at a barbecue or munching on some donuts with friends! 
  

The Spring House Bistro, Block Island, Rhode Island

As amazing as the hotel, location and staff is at The Spring House, I was truly blown away by the food.  The dedication that the team shows in caring for their multiple on site gardens is evident as you tour the grounds, but it becomes overwhelming when you taste the food.  We often discuss how much fresher food tastes when served closest to where it's grown, there may be no better place to taste this difference then at The Spring House Hotel.

Sitting out on their gorgeous wrap around porch, I feasted at dinner- taking
full advantage of their Restaurant Menu- so much of which was grown right on their grounds, or caught off their shores.  I began with their Calamari, tweaked from the typical pairing of banana peppers, to call on Italian influences.  Lightly fried, the delicate rings were paired with fresh leaves of basil, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and tossed with cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers and capers. I've found that calamari, while simple in its essence, seems to be something that is often over complicated or poorly constructed.  The Spring House let fresh, bright, clean ingredients shine.

I selected their pan roasted local cod for my main delicately set atop roasted
turnips grown in the garden just a few feet away and then piled high with spring rabe and a fennel orange salad.  It can't go without saying that the cod was perfectly cooked, but the stars of this show were the perfectly seasoned vegetables that combined into a wonderful play of varying textures.  The tunips had just a bit of bite to them, the rabe was sauteed to a soft mound, and the fennel, raw and sweet, brought a refreshing crisp to the plate.  The flavors were light and bright- a perfect homage to the summer that lay before us.

Every ingredient used in their dishes is carefully planned.  The vast majority come from their own garden which means that they are intimately familiar with every single one.  They treat them like the special gems they are- revered for their own beauty and nutrients.  They are playful with their dishes while keeping the integrity of classics.  The Spring House welcomes guests and visitors to the island alike to share in their culinary masterpieces, their views and their incredible hospitality.  It is a must stop for any island visitor.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Spring House Hotel, Block Island, Rhode Island

The snow piles have finally faded.  There are no more icicles hanging treacherously from every awning. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining and it is time to relish every single second of this summer.  So how's this- I have the PERFECT spot to do exactly that- Block Island!  

Located just off the mainland in Rhode Island, Block Island is 9 miles of complete heaven.  Chock full of bike rentals, mopeds, ice cream stands, beaches, hiking trails, kayaks and everything else that screams summer.  Recently I was invited out to the island to experience the island's oldest hotel- The Spring House.  

Built in 1852, The Spring House Hotel sits overlooking the ocean just outside
the busy town center and just a short walk from where the Ferry docks.  Honestly, I can't think of a better place to stay.  The hotel itself combines rustic historical features with all of the new amenities that one may desire during their beach retreat.  Antiques fill the common areas, throwbacks to the times when ball rooms were used for balls, and horse and carriages filled the large driveway, but the rooms are outfitted
with flat screen tv's and updated bathrooms.  My room, set on a corner with
views of the ocean close enough to hear the waves, was my respite.  Hours of naps and the most delicious night sleep that I've had in months were spent there.  


A great place for rest isn't all that The Spring House offers however, though I
personally think it would be great if it was.  A lively pub sits on the first floor of the hotel, a place used for decades for visitors and residents a like to gather, take in a pint or a glass of wine and dinner.  The expansive wrap around porch, with gorgeous views of the ocean, features it's own bar and menu for those who want to relish every single second of that sweet island life.

The grounds also contain multiple gardens where the majority of the produce used in
the Spring House restaurant, and, my favorite piece, the cafe and juice bar named The Phone Booth Cafe. Every day the friendly staff will combine their unbelievably fresh produce into juices to help their guests start their days off on the very best foot.

Over the next few days Ill take you on a tour of the rest of The Spring House's food (which is incredible) as well as the rest of Block Island, but first let me say this:  The Spring House Shines. It shines for its service, it shines for it's location and it shines for its amenities. It is the perfect combination of bowing to it's own history and forging into the future.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bambara, Kendall Square, Cambridge

Kendall  Square has been making food news for a while now.  It seems that every few months a new place opens touting inventive menus and critically acclaimed chefs.  One might assume that prior to the past few years Kendall Square was a veritable wasteland for food.  One would be wrong.  A few nights ago I was invited to dine at Bambara- a New American cuisine style restaurant located within the Hotel Marlow that, guess what, isn’t new at all. 

Quietly plugging along serving locally sourced ingredients combined into fresh dishes that truly showcase the bounty and beauty of this region, Bambara is producing consistent and delicious fare.  What I loved about my meal there was that they aren’t reinventing the wheel, you won’t find crazy molecular gastronomy here, but they are serving dishes with incredible flavor and creativity.  

Starting just with appetizers- their Warm Lobster Sliders and their Chickpea Fries, and you can already see the differences.  I can hear you though already- c’mon a lobster slider- this is Boston, we’ve been there and done that!  Let me tell you- you haven’t been there and done that- not like Bambara’s!  Toasted, buttery brioche baked into a top split roll, and jammed with as much butter poached lobster as possible- let me rephrase that- butter on top of butter….on top of lobster.  It’s finished with an herb slaw which cuts through all of that buttery goodness and adds these beautiful fresh
flavors depending on the season.  This isn’t your average ho hum lobster roll, if you can ever really call a lobster roll ho hum and I’m not sure you can.  Chickpea fries sound innocent enough don’t they?  They actually maybe don’t even sound that good- those mealy chickpeas made into fries?  What’s the big deal?  The big deal is the Chef at Bambara is making this silky puree of healthy chickpeas, forming it into long rectangles, chilling them and frying them.  The result are ultra crispy fries that have wonderful textural contrast with that chickpea filling.   They are served with an aioli dipping sauce that is lovely, but those fries can be eaten on their own- lord knows I was addicted!

On the lighter side, Chef Jay Silva is rocking his salad game with options including an Heirloom Tomato Salad and a Boston Feta Salad.  The Heirloom Tomato Salad is everything you’d hope for- gorgeous slices of perfect tomatoes surrounding an orb of creamy burrata, and covered under a shower of fresh basil and aged balsamic.  Then the unique twist- polenta croutons.  Croutons may be pretty boring on their own, but the polenta brings a whole new level to the game.   A similar feeling to the polenta fries, these had a gorgeous soft interior found once breaking through the crisp exterior.  I loved the contrast of the textures between these, the ripe
tomatoes and the impossibly creamy, oozy burrata.  If you’re looking for a more traditional salad, give the Boston Feta a go.  Boston Bibb Lettuce, topped with a perfect mix of cucumbers, roasted peppers (sweet and hot), Kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, a bright and acidic lemon vinaigrette and ample chunks of feta.

Let’s talk entrees.  It is Boston, so seafood is a
major component to satisfy our love of all things ocean.  How about a gorgeous piece of braised cod, perched above fresh spears of roasted asparagus and shrimp enhanced risotto, and  finished with a pancetta broth?  Or a mix of Pork and Clams combining smoked pork loin with native clams over perfect gnocchi with fava beans and a roasted garlic sauce?  The cod was so perfectly cooked, it surrendered to the fork without any resistance allowing huge chunks to be matched with the textural contrast of the creamy risotto.  The flavors of this dish, as it flowed between decadent and light were a fantastic spring/early summer contrast.  Now the smoked pork loin paired with fresh steamers was
my favorite of the entrees tried.  Surf and Turf can mean so many things to different chefs but this was a truly great interpretation.  Clams have such a beautiful salty and earthy flavor, pairing them here with a deep smoke from the pork brought together the true ideas of land and sea.  I immediately felt like I was both sitting in an ocean village and that I was at a back yard bbq- both are extremely happy places.  The backdrop of gnocchi shouldn’t be forgotten either.  Pillowy perfection playing the perfect supporting role and the best vehicle I can think of to sop up that roasted garlic sauce.


Bambara delivered in every category, their food was well put together and showed the ability to push the limits of the box to include ideas that aren’t the norm.  The flavors will dazzle the palate and each dish is well executed.  Bambara isn’t an it place, but that just means you can actually sit and enjoy your meal without being rushed or jostled. Add it to your list of must go's in Kendall Square.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Farmavore, Lunch Delivered to Your Office

It’s lunchtime, you’re stuck in the office, and all you really want, even more than that 3rd cup of coffee, is for someone, some angel, to deliver a healthy and delicious lunch.  Deliver it to your office, immediately.   Well that is no longer just a dream my friends, that is reality.

The folks behind Farmavore had this idea- that lunch should be a mid day meal that would give you energy to push through the rest of your day, it should give provide you with nutrients but not make you groggy, it should be delicious and filling.  Sounds like a pretty great idea right?   So they set to work creating a concept of delivering farm fresh meals to your place of work, each one designed by chefs to and approved by dietitians to ensure that you are getting not only delicious food, but useful food. 

I had the extreme pleasure of receiving two of their meals at my home office and man- they did not over promise.  I was treated to lamb burger, served with a fresh arugula salad and a delicious hunk of focaccia bread, and a wonderfully flavorful pork loin paired with a sweet potato hash.  The burger was simply enhanced- salt and pepper to the meat and then topped with roasted red peppers and black olives- the Mediterranean pairing that you would anticipate for lamb.  Simple flavors, but wonderfully prepared- exactly what you would want if you were sitting on a beach in Greece, or in your cubicle.  The focaccia had just enough chew to it, and just enough of those crisp places where the olive oil it was baked with pooled just a bit- enough to be fun but not so much to incite guilt.  The arugula salad, with feta cheese and tomatoes was the perfect light addition- providing a good dose of greens. 

Now the pork was absolutely delicious.  Pork loin isn’t easy and is so often over cooked to dry nothingness.  It loses all of its natural decadence and instead is lifeless and, sometimes, just bad.  Farmavore didn’t let that happen.  Their pork was tender and well seasoned.  It showed pride in the meat with just a little gravy topping it- allowing the true beauty of the pig shine forth.  Green beans served along side were fresh and crisp- nothing fancy just good and clean.  I loved the sweet potato hash here too- big chunks of the peeled potatoes, sauteed with melted leeks- it felt decadent but I knew it was just a wonderful  pairing.

Farmavore is delivering what it promises.  Their meals are fresh, delicious and health conscious.  They are ample in size but not comatose inspiring.  Their meals are exactly what lunch should be.  

Monday, May 18, 2015

Under Fire, Back Bay, Boston

Let's say you're wandering around the Back Bay.  You've explored, you've shopped and now you're ready to drop....unless, of course, you get a little sustenance.  Opening just a few weeks ago is a brand new spot that's offering a bright new fantastic option to make sure you're ready to take on the rest of the stores.  

Now, lets be clear, this isn't your average pub grub.  Under Fire, opened in the downstairs bar area of Fire and Ice, is bringing its diners fun, easy and delicious foods at bargain prices for the area.  Their menu is full of finger foods- a burger bar, fantastic tacos and delicacies known as BLT sliders.  I had the opportunity to attend a media function there recently and loved every bite.

Let's start with those BLT sliders.  Delicate rolls, stuffed with juicy tomatoes, crisp lettuce, a slather of mayo and...pork belly.  Under Fire isn't using regular old thin strips of bacon here.  No, their pork belly is thick, rich and full of that perfect smoky flavor meaning it's not getting lost in this sandwich.  Every bite yields a full helping of each ingredient making it the perfect sandwich.

The tacos are what really stole the show however!  I loved how they are putting a unique twist on the standard format of tacos.  How about the Pollo Pesto which combines grilled chicken with a sunflower pesto, tomatoes, fresh basil and that awesome salty deliciousness of Queso Fresco.  This was a great unique twist on your average taco borrowing influence from Italy and combining big leaves of fresh basil with that queso fresco that we all have been gifted from Mexico.  Or check out The Club which brings that amazing pork belly to center stage again and combines it with fire grilled chicken, guacamole that they are making fresh in house and a jalapeno garlic aioli.  

Their burger bar is chock full of interesting toppings and additions such as peach bourbon BBQ sauce, red cabbage slaw, or pulled pork.  And this burger bar isn't just beef burgers, turkey and veggie are also options.

Under Fire is a fantastic addition to the Back Bay.  They have fun cocktails, a friendly staff and a menu designed to make sure you're noshing on only delicious items.  

Friday, May 1, 2015

Chestnut Hill Square- Spend a Day and Have a Ball!

The city of Boston is great, you will never hear me say anything to the contrary- but I get it, if you don't live within the city limits it can be challenging to get into.  Parking is tough to find and can be expensive.  The T isn't always up to snuff...it can be a bother.  I understand.  Until recently though, it was the best option to spend a day- the shopping, the activities, the food...oh the food.  However, in just the past year and a half or so the little village of Chestnut Hill has been emerging as a perfect alternative.  

The Chestnut Hill Square is jam packed with everything needed for a full day of fun.  Start off the day with something to energize you- a hard core work out at Equinox, or a total sweat session at SoulCycle will bring out all of your best and prepare you to face the rest of your day head on.

Once you've gotten your energized from your work out, re load with a nutritious breakfast sandwich from Panera.  Panera produces good, clean, easy breakfasts
packed with protein rich eggs and cheese which are the perfect food to feast on after a tough work out.  

After breakfast- get to shopping!!  The Chestnut Hill Square is chock full of tons of awesome stores like Francesca's which houses super cute clothes, accessories and even great decorative items for the home at great prices.  Anthropologie picks up the lux a bit offering higher end clothing and housing accessories.  This store places an emphasis on boho chic and their home decorations are my personal favorite.  I always joke about wanting to just move
into the store. 

Of course maybe after that great work out that you had, you're looking to refresh your work out gear.  Have no fear- Chestnut Hill Square has both Athleta and TrueRunner to keep your fashions as tight as your abs.  

All of this shopping may make you a bit hungry though- there are solutions for that as well!  Whether you're looking for something decadent or health conscious there are options for all.  Cupcakes from Sweet, Italian fare at Brio, health conscious fresh dishes at Seasons 52 or hearty steaks at Capital Grill.  Whatever your craving is- it will be satisfied at the Square.

While I was buzzing around the Square
with their team, I was treated to a fantastic dinner at Capital Grill.  They are, of course, known for their delicious carnivorous steaks, but they have so much more than that and in fact have just launched a full burger menu.  They are serving up Wagyu beef all ground up and grilled to perfection with an incredible list of topping- think Gorgonzola Cheese and Truffles or wild mushrooms with an aged balsamic drizzle.  It was a tough choice but I settled in on their Wagyu burger topped with fried onions and that oh so decadent fried egg.  You know- the thing I struggle most with when I order a burger is what temperature to order it at.  Medium rare, rare- both have a place in my heart, Capital Grill didn't make me choose.  They offered up a Rare Plus- a mid point between the two which completely made my day.  As fantastic as the burger was- and believe me- it was amazing- Capital Grill shines with their service and attention to detail.  Their staff can provide countless facts and information on the menu and their ingredients, and they can do so with a smile and a funny story.  They work to ensure that every need of their guest is met whether it be a refill on water, or an explanation of the wine list, or a joke for a smile.  Capital Grill has always been a great celebration spot, but with their new burger menu- its a great anytime spot as well!

The Chestnut Hill Square packs a full day of fun, shopping and dining, all with a big parking lot making it a fantastic spot to visit with in city options and full on convenience.  If you haven't checked it out yet, you should- ASAP!    

Friday, April 24, 2015

TBD Foods, Somerville MA

There is nothing more comforting, more relaxing, than being invited into someones home for a meal.  Sitting down at their dining room table, with friends and strangers alike, and sharing a meal is one of life's greatest intimacies.  Terrence Rogers, owner of TBD Foods, has been extending this incredible hospitality to his diners for the past few months and treating them to his take on haute cuisine.

The night we joined the Chef Rogers and his tight knit followers, he was collaborating with Chef John Suh a classically trained chef who has had several high end sushi spots during his career.  Their partnership for this meal resulted in some truly creative, out of the box dishes.  

We started with arancini stuffed with pickled mushrooms, and resting on a parsnip miso puree.  I loved the pop of flavors that burst through with this dish.  Where arancini are normally heavy and decadent, these were elevated with the vinegar and bright flavors making them the perfect way to kick off a meal.  

They further awakened our senses with our second course- a Sopa de Ajo.
 Spicy tomato based soup, enhanced with roasted garlic, Spanish ham, and, the piece du resistance- a poached egg.  I was urged by my friend who had accompanied me to break the yolk early as its creamy goodness provided the perfect contrast to the spice of the soup.  The soup itself though had tremendous depth of flavor - a perfect soup to warm up with.

Up next was gorgeous raw Kabachi Tuna paired with a wakami salad and a sake and soy reduction.  After the spice and the richness of the soup, this was a wonderful way to refresh the palate.  Fresh and clean with accoutrement's of pickled ginger and wasabi, the dish felt as light as sushi, and was a wonderful precursor to the remainder of the courses.

What I loved about the meal was the chances that Terrence was happy to take.
 His next course was a grilled kale salad with lightly pickled golden beets, candied pistachios and fennel pollen.   The mix of textures was spot on, but more exciting was the way in which the kale was prepared.  Grilling kale brought out sweet notes, and infiltrated it with robust smokey flavor. It was something Id never considered before and I really enjoyed it!


Keeping with the smokey notes, our final savory course offered smoked lamb shoulder paired with popcorn grits, anchovy salsa verde and fried potatoes.  Let's pause for a moment- popcorn grits.  Buttery, a touch salty, like sitting down with a giant bowl of popcorn, but mashed into submission.  I literally could have eaten a vat of these- a vat.  Totally fantastic.  The lamb paired so nicely with it, light flavors of smoke just created a feeling of nostalgia for outside BBQs and lighthearted summertime fun.  These comforting notes were contrasted beautifully with the bright and acidic salsa verde which held everything together and made the dish.

They finished our meal on the sweet side with gorgeous slice of Chocolate Decadence Cake paired with a fresh raspberry sauce and salted whipped cream.  The cake alone, deep, rich, bittersweet and fabulous would have been enough, but when paired with that classic raspberry sauce it sang.  I loved the idea of incorporating salt into the whipped cream instead of what has become a standard sprinkle on top of chocolate desserts.  It was a creative and well executed twist.  

Chefs Terrence and John did an incredible job with this meal.  Their concept is fabulous, their execution fantastic and generally know how to make a Saturday night delicious.  Terrence is currently moving his operation into a bigger space so he's able to host more of these, so I definitely urge you to go, dine at TBD Foods table.  Relish the conversation among new friends who become old friends by the last sip of wine, and savor every bite.  This is what food is all about.


Friday, April 3, 2015

American Lamb Jam Returns to Boston April 12, 2015

After what has seemed like the longest winter ever, Spring, wonderful, sunshiney, happy Spring, is finally clawing its way through the snow piles.  Now what could be a better way to celebrate this incredible arrival than with piles and piles of delicious lamb?  One of the best events of the year occurs each year as the grass begins to sprout- Lamb Jam!

Held this year on April 12, Lamb Jam, hosted by the American Lamb Board brings together 20 different chefs, from all over New England, competing for the title of champion with their own unique takes on globally inspired lamb dishes. If you are looking for the place to truly experience lamb- this is it.  Feast on lamb from the likes of Tiffani Faison, Robert Sisca, Chris Gould and so many others, and then was it all down with a selection of locally sourced beers from Mystic Brewing, Smuttynose Brewing Company, Jacks Abby and many others...its one heck of a party.


It may surprise you how incredible lamb really is.  A lean protein, packed with omega-3s and, that which is raised here in the US contains no artificial or synthetic growth hormones.  But you know- why don't I let an expert tell you about why American lamb is best?  I was able to attend an amazing lunch at Tavern Road celebrating lamb a few weeks ago and Mary from North Star Farms had some great things to say!


Lamb Jam every year produces a fantastic event and one great way to kick off Spring so get your tickets now- they will sell out!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ribera del Duero and Rueda- a Marriage Made in Heaven

Photo Credit:  Ribera del Duero & Rueda
If you've ever taken a wine tour with me then you've heard me talk about some of the great marriages in the wine world:  Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Grenache.  Well today, it's time to announce a brand new couple- but this union is all different.  This is the union of two great Spanish D.O.'s - Rueda and Ribera del Duero.  

These two regions sit on the River Duero, which gives them similar continental climates with long hot summers and cold winters, and soil filled with lime, gravel and clay.  The roots of the vines have to dig down deep to get their nutrients giving character and strength to the wines.  As similar as these two regions are, they vary in varieties, though again, in perfect harmony.  Ribera del Duero produces, most notably, Tinto Fino, also known as Tempranillo.  Rueda, on the other hand, is most well known for their Verdejo.  

Now, you all know Tempranillo.  It reigns supreme in every one's go to Spanish red- lovingly known as Rijoa.  Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero is medium to
Photo Credit:  Ribera del Duero & Rueda
medium high in body.  It is medium to medium high in acid.  It imparts beautiful flavors of red fruits- cranberries, strawberries, plums, hints of almond and vanilla. These are powerful wines- ones you can easily sip on a chilly evening or pair with a hearty bean stew, or with a Tortilla Espanola.  As it doesn't have high tannins, this isn't a wine that demands rich and fatty foods, but one that can easily pair with those chicken and pork dishes, or even pair with swordfish.


Verdejo is special.  Verdejo can be compared to Sauvignon Blanc, with its citrus and stone fruit palates, and can also show signs of herbaceous qualities.  However it is fuller in body than your typical Sauvignon Blanc, making Verdejo, in my opinion just a bit more versatile.  It will pair beautifully with your shrimp or scallop dishes, but can easily work with bigger, heartier fair as well.  This one of those white wines that can hold its own in the winter months.  

The partnership of these two regions means that both of these wines will be easier to find.  They are showcasing them over the next few years in American markets and they are excited to teach us about their treasures.  Don't skip these bottles - I had the opportunity to taste the 2014 Verdejo and it was outstanding.  These two promise great things for many years.    

Monday, March 2, 2015

Travelers Forbidden Apple Ale

Oh Traveler's Ales....you have done it again!  A few years ago I was introduced to their shandys- blends of juices with wheat beers.  Their blends were both unique and comforting and I fell in love.  A few weeks ago they let me in on their newest brain child- their Forbidden Apple Ale.

I'll be frank with you- I was hesitant with this one.  I am a cider drinker but even for me, some apple products can just be too sweet.  This Forbidden Ale though...wow.  It is a wheat beer, brewed with apples...and not sugar.  The flavor is clean, it has a strong beer flavor with this wonderful, subtle fresh apple feel.  This is not like alcoholic soda- this is beer, tried and true, with a little autumnal feel.

This one is seasonal- so get it while it lasts!

Friday, February 27, 2015

5 Napkin Burger, Back Bay, Boston

Sometimes there is nothing, and I mean nothing, like a burger.  Grilled beef, sandwiched between buns...yeah there's some connotation there, and there should be.  When the craving hits- is there anything that satisfies the desire more?

However, on the flip side, there may not be anything more disappointing than an ill prepared burger.  Improper meat temperature, poorly put together, too many toppings, a flimsy bun...any of these can ruin the entire burger experience so finding the right spot to indulge is pretty critical.  You may have heard about this place, this New York founded spot that touts not only amazing burgers but also options for those of your party not jonesing for the escalated sandwich.  5 Napkin Burgers is delivering not only tasty burgers, but a host of other dishes encompassing a wide range of desires.

We started out exploration of the new offerings with a sampling of their appetizers: a Pesto Flatbread, Soy Bean Hummus, onion rings and Rhode Island style calamari complete with those fried peppers.  It would be incredibly difficult to find fault here.  The flatbread had a warm, crisp crust, topped with garlicky and salty pesto then smothered in cheese and tomato...how can you go wrong?  The onion rings were a sight to be seen, arriving at the table, golden circles stacked upon each other.  Their batter fried to perfection and yielding as you bit into each one with a satisfying crunch. The batter didn't overwhelm the onion, nor the onion overwhelm the batter and, best of all, the fry didn't permeate each bite with that harsh reminder that those delicious rings are, in fact, an indulgence.  My favorite here however, was the Soy Bean hummus.  The natural nutty flavor of the beans was preserved and paired with the refreshing crisp of peppery radishes.  It was an appetizer packing in nutrients that you can feel great about ordering.

I elected to have the turkey burger, topped with asiago cheese, pepper relish, pesto mayo and a slice of roasted tomato.  One of the things I love about 5 Napkins is their options for sides with their burgers- instead of being forced into fried accompaniments, here there are a host of options to enhance your meal.  I chose their tomato, avocado and cotija cheese salad.  I gotta say this was the MOST flavorful turkey burger I've ever had.  The combination of the salty asiago, the pesto mayo and the pepper relish packed a wallop.  The burger itself was juicy and well seasoned.  I loved the light feeling of the tomato salad.  Not dressed at all, the true fresh flavors of the ingredients shone on their own.  

Now no burger meal would be complete without a frappe.  I'm going to
assume that you all have not been to Kimball's Ice Cream and explain that a frappe is a milk shake that incorporates ice cream.  I realize that in the rest of the world a milk shake has ice cream but around here a milk shake is milk and syrup so from here on out- we're chatting frappes. 5 Napkin offers a wide array of frappes- think S'More (WITH a toasty marshmallow!), or Cookies 'N Cream, or Salted Caramel...

5 Napkin Burger is a large scale restaurant with a neighborhood vibe.  If you're looking for a great burger, or perhaps tacos or chicken and waffles - their menu is extensive with something for everyone.  So go, head on over and try out all of their new offerings!  

    

Monday, February 16, 2015

Johnny's Luncheonette, Newton Center, Newton

Warm up with this Portuguese inspired fish stew made with all locally caught seafood
There are those people out there, those companies founded, that are just good.  They do good things.  They bring good to people.  They operate in a good way.  They create good opportunities.  They make good food.  This is the story of two of these companies.

We'll start with an institution. A home away from home.  A place that has earned itself a space in the hearts of Bostonians for decades- Johnny's Luncheonette. Nestled in the heart of Newton center, Johnny's has provided a hearty meal, a welcoming smile and a neighborly feel since it opened in 1993.  Johnny's is a diner, maybe not an old boxcar diner, but a breakfast all day, blue plate special, ice cream in your milkshake diner. 
Baked local white fish, lightly breaded served with local veggies
Their food has always been big, it's been comforting and it's been carb-tastic with the heaping stacks of pancakes, piles of fries (both French and home), and mouthwatering sandwiches.  It hasn't, however, been environmentally friendly, at least not until March 2014, when the Masterson family took the helm.  Well known from their days at Nourish, their style has always been great food, locally sourced.  They have brought their skills, and their connections, to Johnny's and are now making those sandwiches on Iggy's bread, getting their ice cream from Richardson's, and their meat from a small ranch in Maine.  I hear you though maybe this isn't groundbreaking anymore. Maybe this use of the fabulous artisans around the area is come to be expected.  So what about their seafood?  This is where my second story comes into play.

You may recall an article I wrote several years ago about an incredible Boston based company finally giving those fishies who swim in our waters but aren't the mighty scrod, or a lobster or scallop a name.  I am, of course, referring to Red's Best.  This little company, based on the fish pier in oh so trendy fort point channel now, is doing, I must say not only good
Fish tacos- local fish crisp breading, loaded with flavor
work.  They are doing the best work.  They have given our small fisherman, in our harbors, the ability to hit large markets.  They have taken the stage away from just the big name fish and are showcasing true local flavor.  To wax on a bit, they are doing their part to save our fishing industry. They are doing great work.

The team at Johnny's has teamed up with the guys at Red's Best, to bring in their catch, and make it even more delicious.  So now, that fish and chips you feast on?  The lightly
What's a meal without dessert?
breaded tender white fish you so enjoy?  The fish stew that warms you up on a cold night?  That's all made with locally caught seafood, sourced by Red's Best.

Johnny's Luncheonette, though improved, is the same great spot to pull up a chair, settle in and indulge in some of the best classic comfort food.  Those improvements have only made that comfort food tastier, their carbon foot print less, and their feel more neighborly.

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