Friday, July 29, 2011

Whim Dinner at Smolak Farms with Andy Husbands of Tremont 647

When Gilt City popped up a while back with a feature of Whim dinner at Smolak Farms I was immediately excited.  Nick grew up about 5 minutes from the farm, and me only about 15, so we were excited to see what Smolak was up to.  Upon further review, the Whim dinners are held every Wednesday night at Smolak farms during the summer months and each dinner was going to feature a different chef from some amazing Boston and Cambridge restaurants.  We selected the July 27th date not only because Andy Husbands from Tremont 647 was the chef for the evening, a place we have been wanting to try but have not made it yet, but the date is also Nick's birthday - perfect!

So off we were in our Zipcar to the north shore in perfect weather for an outdoor meal.  Traffic was easy so we made it in about a half hour.  We arrived at the farm, turned down the dirt road and were greeted by large fields, apple trees and a beautiful pond.  We parked our car and were directed down a small path lit with tea lights in small white bags  and tiki torches all along the apple orchard.  

Not a bad walk to dinner
The walk to the tent just confirmed we were in for a treat for dinner.  After we crested the small hill we saw the tent set among the trees.

Tented Dinner

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Glass Castle - a Memoir by Jeannette Walls

When I was on vacation in Greece, my friend E recommended The Glass Castle - a Memoir by Jeannette Walls to me.  It was something she read on the plane ride home from her honeymoon, and she was about to start the author's second novel while in Greece.  With such a high recommendation, I was intrigued, and after reading up on it I decided to download it and give it a go.  Only a few pages in, I was hooked. 

Buy Me! source -
The story opens with Jeannette Walls as a three year old cooking for herself in the family trailer out in the western portion of the country and ending up in the hospital.  From there, her parents take her and her siblings on a wild "adventure" that crosses multiple states and areas - from California to New Mexico to Nevada.  Each time they only stay put for a short period of time.  Having only a small amount of money, they live on next to nothing with very few possessions.  For any number of reasons - running away from bills or the police - they pick up and move onto the next place.  In the beginning, when the children are younger, it really does seem like a fun adventure.  Their parents are fun and interesting to be with.  They always felt like they were in the middle of a fantasy, with the promise of the Glass House that their father designed.  

However, as they get older they begin to face the reality that maybe their parents are not so much fun, and that life for them is perhaps not that normal.  After some final circumstances in the southwest, the family moves to West Virginia to a small town in Appalachia where the author's father grew up, and they remained there through high school, living in a "house" where they didn't have indoor plumbing and had to bury their garbage in the back yard.  

This story was fascinating.  To think this is how a family actually lived their lives was amazing.  Even with such a crazy home life, all of the children were extremely smart, having been home schooled by their parents.  Watching them succeed and grow up in the face of such odd adversity was interesting and made for an absorbing read.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lamb Meatballs

I was looking for something to make for dinner recently and remembered seeing a yummy looking lamb recipe on the The Small Boston Kitchen, so I decided to give it a go. The recipe was actually for Moroccan Spiced Lamb Meatballs, and being a lamb lover, it sounded like a great way to bring this protein into my kitchen.

Lamb Meatballs!
I will say Savenor's came up big on this evening. They did not have ground lamb packaged, so I had to ask the friendly butchers behind the counter for some. At first they went in the back to check, but still nothing. They said that I could buy the whole top roast and grind that up, but that was a lot more money than I wanted or needed to spend. So, just as I was about to start figuring out something else to cook, the butchers checked again and sure enough, they had enough lamb scraps (from the top roast), which they ground up for me - thank you Savenor's!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Banana Muffins - my over-ripe banana go-to

I love bananas, but the minute they get too yellow with brown spots I am over them.  For some reason I used to think that banana bread or muffins or some other recipe to use up over-ripe bananas would just be too difficult.  A while ago I decided to stop being wasteful and give the baking ago - turns out, its pretty simple!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
I decided to go with the Joy of Cooking's "Easy Quick Banana Bread" recipe.  My copy of the Joy of Cooking is actually my mom's from the 70's that I "borrowed" for a pie crust recipe a few years back and kept because it is a great resource for newbie cooks like me.

The Ingredients

Monday, July 25, 2011

Red Lantern - Great drinks in an amazing space!

Whenever I go out to dinner or drinks with friend, being the blogger they always look to me for recommendations on where to go. So, when I was meeting two of my friends on a recent weeknight, I thought of Red Lantern because I heard a couple of great reviews about the space and food. When I arrived, my friend M was already there enjoying an 88 martini at the corner of the bar.

88 - Ketel Oranje, Domaine de Canton Ginger Cognac and Prosecco
I had looked at the drink menu earlier in the day and was having trouble making a decision, but when I saw a drink with sriracha I was completely intrigued. I turned to the bartender for help - how spicy was this drink? She was more than helpful and ready to adjust the amount of spice in the drink depending on how spicy I wanted it, so I went for it!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Chihuly Exhibit and Citizens Public House - makes for a great Sunday Funday

I have been seeing signs for the Chihuly exhibit at the MFA around Boston (in and around town?!) for awhile now, and in the beginning it felt like we had PLENTY of time to go see it.  I mean, August was so far away!  However, I recently realized that the exhibit end date was creeping up on us.  Being a member of the MFA I get into the museum for free (lucky me!), and I recently was sent some free tickets by the museum for friends (lucky Nick!).  With our free ticket in hand on a gorgeous Sunday we headed out to catch the green line and finally see the exhibit.  What's great about it is that you can head straight down to the Chihuly pieces - no special ticket needed other than general admission.

Once we wound our way down to the exhibition hall, we were immediately greeted by a gigantic piece that is really awe-inspiring.  Chihuly had once tried floating some of his pieces in the water, and some local kids were picking them up and stacking them in their old wooden boat.  He loved the way it looked.

Boat Piece
As you can tell, there are numerous pieces created to fill this boat.  All are different colors, textures and shapes.  My immediate thought was how on earth did they manage move all of the pieces here and install it without breaking anything!  And to think, in August they are going to have to pack it up again!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fresh Mozzarella and Roasted Kohlrabi Crostini

We have been getting our CSA share for three weeks now, and each week we have gotten kohlrabi (German turnip).  Having never seen this veggie before both Nick and I were at a bit of a loss as to what to do with it!  While we have read that you can eat it raw (and tried it, in coleslaw) we wanted to do something a bit more with it.  Nick looked around on Gojee and found a recipe that sounded too good not to try!

Kohlrabi - so Bizarre!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin

When I saw that Erik Larson, from "Devil in the White City" fame had a new book out I was immediately intrigued. I found his first book fascinating, but really had no other context of the story or the era in which it took place. However, I love WWII history, and with Larson's storytelling ability, I figured this ought to be pretty good. In preparation of our trip to Greece, I downloaded a couple of books, "In the Garden of Beasts" being one of them.

Buy Me! Source -
After plowing through "Freedom" by Johnathan Franzen, which I actually hated, I was excited to turn my attention to something a bit more my speed. "In the Garden of Beasts" tracks the lives of Ambassador Dodd and his daughter during their first year in Germany, which is when Hitler was just rising to power. Dodd and his family move to Berlin in the summer of 1933 during the time when Hindenburg was still president and Hitler's power had not achieved its full potential. His daughter, who was in her early 20's at the time, seemed like she could have been from this era. She socialized and had relationships with many men, including the original head of the Gestapo, and was a potential suitor for Hitler himself. Not a typical girl of the 1930's.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Homemade Oreo's- so worth it

For the Fourth of July this year I knew I wanted to bake something, I just wasn't sure what. After a little thought I realized that this would be the perfect occasion to attempt the homemade Oreo's in Joanne Chang's cookbook (I have been on a bit of a kick, obviously!)

After some issues with not fully reviewing the Coconut Cream Pie recipe all the way through, I made sure to look this one over very carefully! So, I knew that the first step did require some refrigeration, but also there was a helpful overnight hint from Joanne to take advantage of.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Brunch at Post 390

I love brunch - I think it is my favorite meal to go out and enjoy. Restaurants have really been upping their brunch selections lately, and longer do you just see bacon and eggs and some pancakes. Rather, they are more inventive, making brunch a special occasion and a reason to head out on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

On this Sunday (quite some time ago) Nick and I were at a bit of a loss of where to go to brunch. We knew we wanted to go to the Back Bay but were not sure where. After some back and forth we finally realized why not see if Post 390 does brunch - turns out they do, so we made reservations and headed out. We had been to Post once before ages ago for dinner and I think based on this we got a $20 gift card in the mail. I didn't think it could be for real, but we brought along just in case.

Since this trip was actually awhile ago it was still cold out. We walked in and were welcomed by a warm space with dark wooden walls and large fireplaces that were flickering away. While we had made reservations, the restaurant was not too packed yet, so we were seated straight away at a high top with a comfy booth and large leather chair. Looking over the menu I was really excited by what I saw and what was in store. Nick ordered the Cross Eyed Mary with house-infused spicy veggie vodka, the house bloody Mary mix and a pickle stick - how could he turn it down!

Bloody Mary

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer Food at the Summer Shack

After being in Greece for a bit, Nick's sister A emailed him wanting to catch up over some lobsters and steamers. Not in the mood to attempt this meal at home and not wanting to venture far outside of the city, we headed out to the Summer Shack. Having only been to the Alwife location ages ago, I was curious to see how the Back Bay spot would treat us. We had made reservations, which turned out to be a good thing even on a rainy Wednesday night - the place was packed! Once we were seated we were brought a basket of corn bread and rolls, which was a bit of a treat (especially having just come back from Greece, where every restaurant charges you for the bread basket!)

Cornbread and Rolls

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ina's Szechuan Noodles with Snap Peas

Another meatless Monday means attempting to come up with a tasty meal to make us forget that it is indeed meatless!  This time Nick was in charge and he naturally went to Ina Garten for help and found Szechuan Noodles.  Sounding delicious, he went for it.  It involved a lot of ingredients but luckily we had a lot of them on hand, and the recipe couldn't have been easier to pull together.

The Necessities....
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup good soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot chili oil
  • 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned - since I hate peppers Nick swapped this one out for peas
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, julienned
  • 4 scallions, sliced diagonally (white and green parts)

The Ingredients

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Traditional Dinner at Legal Seafood at the Pru

After work one evening I met my mom at the Pru for dinner (she was in town on the great "Mother of the Bride Dress Hunt"), and on this particular night her choice of restaurant was Legal Seafoods.  Being from the area, Legal's is something that I have been having for quite a long time, though when I first started going there it was for special occasions since it was one of the nicer restaurants up on the North Shore.  It was one of those places you could count on for a good meal, but it has been awhile since I have been.

When I sat down at the booth across from my mother it was like being taken back in time: the menu was super familiar and she, of course, went with her go-to meal and I went to one of mine.  I always order the lobster bisque.  I know their clam chowder is world famous but I am not a fan.  This, on the other hand, is right up my alley.  The bisque is smooth and creamy with loads of lobster meat mixed it.  I have never had a lobster bisque better than this one, and it was still as good as I remember.

Lobster Bisque

Monday, July 11, 2011

A night out at NeBo

Our friend C was coming to Boston and Nick and I were at a bit of a losts of where to go out to eat close to the Garden area, since we had to be at the Grand Canal later that evening to check out our potential wedding band.  Our other friend A suggested NeBo, and after going to the Action Kitchen event for the showing of "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" where he competed against the ladies of NeBo, I was excited to finally head over to see what the restaurant was all about. 

Nick and I arrived a bit before our reservation so we grabbed a glass of house Cabernet and a Peroni (we were in the North End, after all).  I loved that the glass of wine came with a little carafe so you could have a nice manageable glass of wine, but still had a large glass for the price. Also, these etched Peroni glasses are really cool!

Wine and Beer
Once our friends C and A arrived, we sat at our tables and they ordered a couple of fun cocktails.  One was a raspberry martini with loads of different raspberry liquors and raspberry puree, all topped off with some champagne.

Friday, July 8, 2011

CSA Time - what to do with loads of Bok Choi?

This past week our CSA began and we got TONS of veggies - I mean, look at them all!  I was having trouble deciding where to start and what to do.

Fridge Full!
I pulled out a a couple things I thought would go together - 2 bags of peas and a whole lot of bok choi, plugged them into Epicurious and got back a bunch of results.  The one that peeked my interest was an Asian Chicken Salad with Snap Peas and Bok Choy, so I used that as a starting point. 


Thursday, July 7, 2011

A trip to Neptune Oyster - not the tourist trap I thought it was...

On Saturday of the long 4th of July weekend, Nick and I headed over to the North End to browse the shops and grab lunch.  Once we were over there it dawned on us that we could finally try the famous lobster roll at Neptune Oyster!  While I believed the food would be good (it is, after all, on every "best of" list for their seafood) I thought the ambiance would leave something to be desired.  However, rather than a Disney-fied fish restaurant, we were welcomed by a small restaurant that just a had quaint old world feel, with punched tin ceilings, dark wood, white subway tiles and long marble surfaces - the perfect New England feel.  Since it is such a small space, we put our name on the list and continued to run the errands (I had a Rue La La coupon for In-jean-ius!).  As luck would have it, just as we were finishing up, we got a call that they were ready for us. 

Grabbing seats at the bar and wanting to make sure we enjoyed the afternoon to the fullest we ordered some drinks.  I went with a Geary's Summer Ale, which was fantastic and delicious to the point where later that weekend we special ordered it from our local liquor store. 

Yummy Beer
When you walk into the restaurant you are immediately drawn to the rather impressive raw bar, so of course we had to indulge.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Toasted Coconut Cream Pie with Lime Whipped Cream - yes its THAT good

After going to Joanne Chang's class at Flour, I was inspired to finally christen the Flour cookbook, and what better thing to attempt than to recreate the amazing dessert we had at Myers and Chang for dim sum: Coconut Cream Pie with a Lime Whipped Cream.

Coconut Cream Pie with a Lime Whipped Cream
Coconut is one of Nick's favorite things - if there is a coconut flavor listed among any groupings, he is going for it.  Really though, the same holds true for me as well.  However, the addition of the lime is what makes this dessert even more special.  When I saw the title of this recipe, I knew it had to be the first one to try from the cookbook, and thank goodness I did!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Wrap-up of Greece with Athens!

After some amazing times in Chania, Crete, Santorini, we finally were off to Athens - home of the Parthenon and other amazing ruins!

At the Parthenon
Actually, before we boarded the ferry to Athens, we went to a winery in Santorini - Santos Wine.  Turns out Santorini is home to dessert wines - Vinsanto is actually from the phrase "vino di Santorini."  Not a bad view for a winery...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

Hope you all have fun plans for the long weekend!  I will be staying in Boston and enjoying the fact that I have no where to be.  Lucky for Nick and I, our roof deck has a fantastic view of the fireworks, and if the wind blows just right, you can hear the music from the Hatch Shell :)

Finale 2009
Originally, Lionel Richie was supposed to be the main event, however, due to strained vocal chords he is unable to perform, so Martina McBride (for all those country lovers) will be singing this year.  For anyone looking for more info, the schedule and the line up can be found here (where I found the above picture - fireworks are VERY hard to photograph!)

The number of friends (stragglers left in the city) ranges each year, and this year we are expecting only a few as most seem to have travel plans.  That certainly is not going to stop me from trying to put together a fun spread!

(lighting provided by a light sabre)

This weekend I am going to be looking for food inspiration - let me know if you have any suggestions.  I hope everyone has a safe and fun Fourth of July weekend!
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