Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pumpkin and Sausage Pasta

Nick was in charge of making dinner last week, which is great for two reasons: 1) I can relax, watch TV and blog a bit, and 2) he is a good cook!  Nick wanted to capitalize on the available fall flavors, and after a bit of searching came across an Autumn Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage that sounded delicious.  So, while I was lounging, Nick got to work!

Dinner is Served!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"A Visit From the Goon Squad"

As we all know, I think the world of my kindle.  However, when other people use kindles I cannot look to see what they are reading and that drives me nuts!  I love to get new book ideas from seeing what others are reading on the T or on plane rides.  Lucky for me, though, there were a few people on the plane to Greece that had some hard cover books.  One of the books I saw and then heard so much about was A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.

cover picture from
To be honest, I finally downloaded the book because I had seen those people reading it, but also because I started to see it on a number of best seller lists and figured it would be good.  While I do not think I am very picky about books, maybe I am (I hated Franzen's Freedom), but I really did not like this book.  

A Visit From the Goon Squad is a series of semi interconnected stories following different characters somehow involved in the music industry.  I did not see the stories working together very well.  Further, some of the stories and the voices I really enjoyed, however, those chapters often finished too quickly and moved onto another voice that may not have been as engaging.  I felt like some of the characters were just left hanging and their lives changed but the reader had no idea how or why.  

After reading some books that I reacted so strongly to, I think I like books that tell complete stories.  I like character development and seeing how things progress.  I need characters that are redeemable in a way that I believe it.  Watching characters fail without much hope of seeing how they get built back up doesn't do it for me. 

Obviously this book has been loved by many readers, I just do not happen to be one of them - not enough of a story for me.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lean on Lamb - Lamb Pizza!

About two months ago I was contacted by the Tri Lamb Group (a collaborativeinitiative of lamb producer organizations from the U.S., New Zealand andAustralia) about hosting a supper club for 10-12 of my closest friends.  The goal of this group is really to educate American's on lamb.  In general, I think people think of poultry, beef and the other white meat - pork - for meats when cooking dinners, while lamb is not something that typically comes to mind.  This group's goal is to change that.  Turns out, lamb is much leaner and nutritious than beef.

By providing the components for a great meal they are able to provide a group with a fantastic experiencing with lamb to get the ball rolling.  In addition to the ingredients, the group also provides some fun decorations, like lamb jokes that also include lamb facts.  My favorite joke: "What is a lamb's favorite protest?  Flock-upied Wall Street!"

Recipes and Jokes.
Growing up, my mom actually cooked lamb about once every two months for my family, and since moving out it is always my request from her when we have a "fancy" dinner at home.  When I go out to eat, if there is lamb on the menu, I generally order it.  However, I have only cooked lamb once at home.  I think I find the meat intimidating to cook for some reason.  So, when given the chance to put a meal together and get some more experience under my belt in a well-guided atmosphere, I jumped at the opportunity.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Shepard's Pie...ish

This recipe goes back aways - back to when we had fresh corn and onions on a weekly basis.  I mean, its only been two weeks and I am really missing our CSA goodie bag!  Having received so much corn and potatoes for a number of weeks in a row, we really were looking for meals that utilized these ingredients.  Nick decided to take the lead in the kitchen on this night and wing a recipe.  While not really a traditional shephard's pie in any way, the same flavor profile was there.

The Necessities...
To begin, Nick cut up loads of onions and put them in a saute pan with some olive oil and kept them heating low and slow for quite some time to get them fully caramelized.

Caramelizing onions....
Using the special corn trick, Nick cut the kernels off of the ears of corn.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Gallows

The Gallows is one of those restaurants that has been on our ever growing "list" for a while now.  When Boston Magazine listed The Gallows as one of the top restaurants in the area, it finally reminded me that I needed to go!  So that Tuesday, Nick and I headed over to check it out after work.

When I arrived, Nick was already sitting at a snug little booth sipping on a pumpkin beer, but the pumpkin martini on the cocktail list caught my eye!  This was delicious because it was not creamy but instead just had a good pumpkin spice flavor.

Pumpkin Martini
Inside, the Gallows is rustic and warm with its slatted wood ceiling and interesting lighting fixtures.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Butternut Squash Chili

After so many amazing months of getting great veggies from my CSA, I am so sad it has finally come to an end.  Mondays now come and go with no boxes of fresh produce.  However, I get to relive some of the last great pick-ups by writing them up here.  When I had a couple squashes to use, I turned to trusty Gojee and plugged in acorn and butternut squash (delicata squash is an easy substitute for butternut) and found a recipe for Cincinnati Chili from the Judicial Peach.  This recipe was for a regular chili, but had some squash, avocado and chocolate - how could I resist!

To begin, I started the long process of preparing the squash.  Luckily, delicata squash does not need to be peeled, so it cuts down on a lot of the prep, but stilled needed to be cubed.  The acorn squash, however, not only had to be cubed but also peeled.  Peeling a ribbed vegetable is not easy to say the least.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Highland Kitchen - a trip to Somerville

Nick and I had been trying to get together with friends G and J for what seemed like forever, but for whatever reason we could never figure out a date.  The original destination for our dinner was supposed to be P.F. Changs because we had a gift certificate, but we passed on the free pastures for something a bit more fun.  Even better for our Somerville friends, we decided to go out to them - a rarity! - and went to a great neighborhood restaurant: Highland Kitchen.

Driving up, we really wondered where we were going because from the outside, the restaurant looks like an old dive bar (which in fact it is - a pool hall to be exact).  When we arrived, we were told there was an hour wait, so we decided to head to the bar and grab some drinks.  Highland Kitchen has a pretty good cocktail list so I had no problem waiting - that, and we had perfect company!

Milk Stout
G could not wait to get her hands on a Mark and Stormy - a dark and stormy made with Makers Mark - and it was just as delicious as she remembered.

Mark and Stormy

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Villa Mexico - the "Gas Station Burrito Place!"

I have lived in Beacon Hill for over five years now and sadly only just experienced the amazingness that is Villa Mexico - AKA, the gas station burrito place!  Up until this night I only heard the rumors of how delicious the burritos were.  I had been many other Boston burrito places and while some are better than others, I really did not think Villa Mexico could be that different.

Burrito and Dia de los Muertos Bread
Villa Mexico is located right at the gas station on the corner of Cambridge and Grove Streets.  When I first moved to the area and saw the sign, I thought it was pointing out a restaurant that was behind the fence, but I quickly learned the truth.  On this night, Nick and I decided to walk down to grab some burritos because with all the rumors of the gas station building being re-purposed, I wanted to try out this burrito (just in case).

Friday, November 11, 2011

Spaghetti Squash Dinner

In the final weeks of our CSA we were getting tons of squashes, one of which was spaghetti squash, the flesh of which basically turns into spaghetti when you start scraping it out.  With this, I let Nick be the guinea pig and figure out how to make this squash into a meal.  Using the ever popular Gojee, Nick found a recipe for "Mexi Squash" from the Sprouted Kitchen.

To being, Nick cut the squash in half, pulled out the seeds, placed the halves face down on a baking sheet and put it in a 375 degree oven for about 50 minutes.  Once tender, he allowed the squash to cool a bit.

Cooling Roasted Squash
While the squash was resting, Nick combined the juice of two limes, olive oil, 2 teaspoons of minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, and some coriander in a small bowl.

Using a fork, Nick scraped out all the spaghetti goodnesss from the cooled squash into a large bowl.

Scraping out the spaghetti
Nick then added the sauce and a handful of feta crumbles to the bowl with the squash and combined.  You could also use a mexican cheese here, but since they didn't have any at the store that night, the recipe said feta would work just as well.

Dressed Squash
To beef up this dinner, Nick seasoned some chicken with the zest from the 2 limes, salt and pepper and put it on the Foreman Grill to cook through...
Some Seasoned Raw Chicken
...and then topped the mexi squash with the grilled chicken.
Dinner is ready!
Spaghetti squash is a really fun vegetable (well, technically, a really fun fruit,!) that offers the same concepts of a pasta but is way healthier.  With a crunchier texture, I liked the change up, but I will say, sometimes there really is no substitute for straight up pasta!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Brahmin

Recently I have had a couple of girls nights, and most of the time I get to select the location (being the blogger and all) but I still find the task a bit daunting.  On this night, however, I was excited to do so because I had been looking forward to going to The Brahmin, so I figured this would be the perfect time!  The term "Boston Brahmin" goes way back and basically describes the old Yankee families (those with lots of money but don't really show it "old money") who have relatives that fought in the Revolution and qualify for the DAR.

On a Wednesday, I met A and M over on Stanhope Street (the new "it" place to be) at the former 33 space, the top floor of which has been dramatically redone.  The main floor has a large bar area that is surrounded by comfy leather couches and brick walls.  The decorating does make you feel like you have entered an old brownstone - but with a twist.

The Front Door

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Portobello - Italian in Jupiter Florida

As a final entry on my trip to West Palm Beach back in September (!), on Saturday night of the visit, we headed up to Jupiter to have dinner with some of Nick's mother's friends at Portobello.  While we had reservations for our group of five, we really did not need them as it was still the off season during our visit.  It was amazing to see how many places were closed for the season, but after dealing with the heat and humidity for a long weekend, I am not surprised - it's HOT!

Upon sitting down, we ordered some wine for the table to share.  I really enjoyed this Malbec and would definitely consider getting it again.  In general, I feel like you get a nicer wine for less money with a Malbec

Dinner Wine
To go with our basket of bread at dinner we had some nicely roasted garlic cloves sitting in olive oil - is there anything better to put on bread than this?!  Good thing we were all friends here though, because I had more than my fair share of garlic.

Roasted Garlic

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Billy Tse's - North End Chinese

Not all restaurants in the North End are actually Italian!  While there aren't many outside the traditional fare, they do exist.  One such place is Billy Tse's, a Chinese/Japanese restaurant right on Commercial St.  When my friend L was looking to do a small bachelorette party, she decided to have dinner at the place where she and her future husband originally met.  Even better, they have Scorpion bowls, which is always a great way to get a ladies night going.  This scorpion bowl is served in a proper Tiki ceramic bowl with the volcano of fire (the traditional way).  However, in order to ensure I didn't waste any alcohol, I immediately blew out the fire - its 151!  Like most scorpion bowls, this has plenty of alcohol but tastes more like juice.

Scorpion Bowl
As in most Asian restaurants, we of course had to order some edamame.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Spinach, Chicken, Feta and Almonds...

I know I have mentioned Gojee as a good source for recipes a number of times.  While I get really annoyed with daily emails, I still allow Gojee's because they have some good suggestions and it only comes once a week, so I don't get too inundated.  Recently they sent an newsletter that featured Chicken Stuffed with Spinach, Feta and Almonds, which looked and sounded delicious.  Since it had been awhile since I had done a wrapped chicken (I went through a phase, pre-blog) I figured I should give this a go.

The Ingredients

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dinner at Area Four and a night cap at Catalyst

Recently I had a girls night with some lovely ladies: A, C, and G.  Being the blogger, I was tasked with finding a fun location for us girls, and based on a couple of things (location, cost and my desire to try somewhere new) I decided on Area Four - small plates and a good bar list always makes for a fun way to dine with a group.  So, we headed over to Kendall Square on a Friday night - who knew it's becoming a place to hang out outside of business hours!

When we arrived at Area 4, we actually were able to grab a 4-top in the bar area straight away and they said they would make a exception and give us a server - perfect!  However, these chairs were not what you would call easy to sit on - they were pitched forward, so I kept sliding out.  I promise I was not the only one having this problem.  Once we figured out the seats we looked over the drink menu, and while some decided on white wine and another on a pumpkin beer, I went with a sangria because I am always looking for a good red sangria.  This one was actually pretty good - a bit more juice-like but not too sweet.

Red Sangria
After reviewing the Area Four menu we decided on a couple of items that we could split.  The first to arrive was the roasted mushrooms with Maderia vinaigrette and gremolata.  Now, they were only $5 so I am not sure what portion I was expecting but what came out was tiny.  Really, we had about 2 or 3 mushrooms each.  This plate really is not one to share.  The flavors were good, but the size was off.

Roasted Mushrooms
Next to arrive was a bit of redemption: KK's bacon and sea salt pretzel nuggets with a side of Pimento cheese dip.  While these were tasty, soft on the inside with a little crunch on the outside, I did not get much in the way of bacon flavor.  The bites were great for snacking and were a more generous portion.  Also, they are definitely a different dish on a menu that was fun.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fluffiest Pancakes Ever

When I was doing my daily blog reading, I stumbled upon A Boston Food Diary's post for what looked to be the best pancake recipe ever.  One quick read and I knew I had to make them!  So, on a recent Sunday that Nick and I had to ourselves I knew pancakes would be perfect to accompany our morning coffee.

Fluffiest Pancakes!
The main difference between these pancakes and the more traditional recipes is that it calls for cake flour.  Since I had some on hand, I set to work.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Paris Wife

I take the T every morning to work, and those who have ever stepped foot on the green line know it can be a bit of a battle.  I only ride for six stops, making somewhat of a reverse commute, so its not too much of a hardship.  Really though, the way I make it even better is that I keep my kindle in my purse at all times.  Needless to say, getting lost in a book, even just for one chapter makes, the ride go by a lot easier.
Photo from Amazon...
I recently finished The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.  This was a novel I had seen in bookshops (when they were around!) and online for awhile, but I had not really looked at it closely.  Finally, Amazon recommended it so many times based on my other interests I decided to take a closer look.  Turns out this was a novel (historical fiction) about Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley Richardson and their time in Paris.  I must admit, I really have only read Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway and did not know much about him other than what Chris O'Donnell taught me in In Love and War.  What makes this book stand out, however, is Ernest Hemingway is only a supporting character, and the book is really about Hadley and written in her voice.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tasting Menu at Craigie on Main

I started this blog almost a year ago (November 4, 2010) and its amazing to see how far I have come since then.  When I first started, I really had no idea where it was going to take me but I knew it would be a great way to keep track of all the fun places I go and what I see - but also, it turned out to be a fantastic way to track all the restaurants I frequented.  Finally, I can recall what I ate and if I actually liked it!  Even better it got me to try new places rather than continually going to my comfort zone.

When a new internet venture, Tasted Menu, contacted me to help build up their website I was more that willing to help out.  Tasted Menu does not limit you to review the restaurant, but every menu item, so you have a good feeling about what the plates will look like when it comes to your table.  There is nothing worse than ordering a dish and being totally let down when you see it in person.  Since I loved the concept of Tasted Menu, I was more than willing to go into my archives and start add my reviews to the site.  As a thank you, the founder Alex took myself, RachelElizabeth and the One Food Guy, due to our number of photos, to Craigie on Main for the 8 course tasting menu.  Having been to Craigie once before for dinner and then for the BEST burger so needless to say I was excited for the tasting menu.

When I arrived, Rachel, Elizabeth and I were a bit early and decided to ask for some bread as we all had not eaten for most of day in order to leave plenty of room for dinner, but we were hungry!  Nothing like some fresh rolls to get things going for the evening.

Fresh Rolls
Once the rest of our table arrived, ordering went quickly because all we had to say was the 8 course tasting menu!  To begin, we were served three amuse preparations; house-cured Portuguese sardine, house-smoked artic char with a buttermilk vinaigrette and an Albacore tuna rillettes with hackleback caviar.  These really fit the definition of an amuse (something I did not know about until Top Chef), just a bite to awaken your taste buds to get you ready for the rest of dinner.  The flavors of these three bites did just that - fun combinations that just wet your whistle.
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