Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Regina Pizzeria - A Boston Classic

When you think of Boston pizza, there are two places people immediately mention: Santarpio's and Regina Pizzeria.  Having finally made it to Santarpio's this past spring I wanted to compare it to the original Regina's (the South Station walk-up window cannot be a proper test!).  So, when Nick and I found ourselves close to the North End and in need of a quick meal , Regina's seemed like the perfect option.  While typically there is a line out the door, we were lucky to walk right in and sit.  Shortly thereafter, we got a pitcher of diet coke (living on the edge!) and tried to figure out what to order.

lots of diet coke

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

An attempt at brussel sprouts...

Brussel sprouts are one of the foods that I believe to be an acquired taste.  It was something I never had growing up because my mother hates them.  Nick, however, loves brussel sprouts - seriously, one of his favorites.  The first time I tried them was at Craigie on Main.  There, the brussel sprouts were roasted in duck fat - I mean, if there was ever a time to try them, it was there.  Sure enough they were super tasty.  My favorite?  No, but definitely something I would have again.

Trying to be the good fiance that all significant others strive for, I decided to attempt brussel sprouts at home as a nice side to some the frozen pre-seasoned fish from Whole Foods that I love so much.  Lets just say, I did not enjoy these as much as I hoped.  They were good, but I just need more crunch to my brussel sprouts.  Maybe roasting is a better option.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Vanilla Apple Sauce - More Apple Picking Spoils

After apple picking at Smolak Farms we knew we had enough apples for an apple and pear crisp as well as something else delicious.  After seeing Jen's vanilla spiced applesauce I knew I had to make it, especially since I still had some vanilla beans from the spice souk in Dubai!

Delicious Apples
The Necessities (recipe adapted from Beantown Baker)
  • 6 Apples, roughly peeled and chopped
  • 3 Vanilla Beans
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
After preparing the apples I put them in a large dutch oven and then turned my attention to the vanilla beans, which looked and smelled incredible.  There was no doubt that they were packed with so much flavor!  I sliced open the vanilla beans, and using my knife I scooped out the seeds inside and added them to the pot.  I then tossed in the beans themselves for a little extra flavor.

Vanilla Beans from Dubai!
I then added the remaining ingredients to the pot, gave it a big stir and brought the water to a boil.

All in the pot
All stirred up
Once the water reached a boil, I turned the heat down to medium low, covered the pot and let it cook for another 20 minutes.  Our apartment smelled amazing - ll of these spices were so fragrant even through the cast iron dutch oven!

After 20 minutes
Twenty minutes later, the apples were nice and soft.  I first removed the three vanilla bean pods and then stirred up and mushed the apples up a bit with a wooden spoon.  I then brought out the big guns and used the potato masher to make sure the consistency of the apple sauce was nice and smooth.

All mashed up
After letting it cool, we grabbed a bowl and dug in!  I will say, the left-overs - about 2 or 3 days later - were ever better.  I think that all the spices sitting together for sometime allowed the dish to come together amazingly well.  The vanilla was definitely the strongest flavor but was so delicious!  I think the vanilla flavor was even more prominent when the apple sauce was cold.

Final Product
This was my first time making applesauce and I was surprised by how easy it really is.  There are so many ways to dress up applesauce in general, so I cannot wait to play around with some new ingredients!

Have you ever made a dish that was easier than expected?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Empire in the Seaport

When word got out that the people behind Red Lantern were planning a massive new restaurant in the Seaport District, you knew that it would also have the Big Night Entertainment's signature eclectic over-the-top look.  When M and S wanted to get together for dinner, both were curious about seeing what Empire was all about, and we all know I am always up for trying a new restaurant!  The space is HUGE - over 14,000 square feet and decked out in contemporary Asian decor.  Every nook and cranny of the space has the Asian theme done to the fullest extent.

Empire's Lounge
When I arrived a bit early I grabbed a seat at the bar, ordered a drink and took in the atmosphere.  The cocktail list is extensive, and after a bit of debating, I settled on the Dancing Geisha, a martini with Grey Goose, Lillet Rose, Pomegranate and Lime.  The martini was strong, but I was hoping for a bit more depth.  After a few quick sips of the drink, the rest of my party arrived and we were brought to our table in the main dining room.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

East Cambridge Rib Fest - So Many AMAZING Ribs!

This past Sunday Nick and I spent the afternoon over in East Cambridge at the East Cambridge Business Association's Smoke This Rib Fest, where we walked up and down the street all in the name of determining which of 21 restaurants had the BEST ribs in town.  Proving I was dedicated to the cause, I rolled up my white shirt sleeves (silly decision, I know!) and tasted all 21 ribs!  That is a lot of ribs, but of course, in the midst of eating and smearing BBQ sauce all over my face, I snapped a few (or many) photos!

West Bridge's Rib - cherry mustard confit with beef ribs 
Once I checked in and checked out the map (now covered in sauce!), we decided to start with booth #1 and work our way up from there.  Most of the restaurants were from around East Cambridge and were places I was familiar with, though there were still some new places to experience!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Designer Grilled Cheese Night

After a busy day of Apple Picking and whipping up some Apple and Pear Crisp, we knew that some unpleasent weather was on its way.  Rather than venturing out in the rain to a restaurant, we stopped in at Savenor's before the weather turned and got the supplies for an evening of designer grilled cheeses!

Grilled Cheese!
Since there is an impressive cheese selection at Savenor's, we chose a variety of hard cheese from both cows and goats.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Heading to Napa Valley, and stops at Muir Woods and Sonoma Square

After three amazing days in San Francisco, it was time for Nick and I to head to Napa Valley for some wine tasting fun!  We left the city at around 10:30am and headed out over the Golden Gate Bridge in pursuit of some trees.

Over the bridge we go...
After heading down some very windy roads into a valley we descended into Muir Woods.

Road to Muir Woods

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Apple and Pear Crisp - Apple Picking Spoils!

After spending the day at Smolak Farms picking apples, we had loads of apples to put to good use in the kitchen.  That is, of course, if I did not eat them first!  One of Nick's favorite desserts ever is Apple Crisp, so needless to say this was an easy decision.  Last year I made a Fruit Crisp using Ina Garten's Back to Basics recipe, and while it turned out well, I wanted to experiment with recipes a bit.  Since I had some pears on hand from our CSA, I decided to utilize those as well.

Apple Crisp
This time around, I turned to the Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking, which had a basic crisp recipe to start with.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Italian Easter Bread

At this point, Megan is somewhere in Italy drinking amazing wine and cappuccino and indulging is loads of pasta!  In honor of her Italian trip and her amazing baking, I wanted to share a post on Italian Easter Bread (even though we are nowhere near Easter!).  When I traveled through Italy in 2002 it was Easter time and I ate delicious Easter Bread with almost every meal.  I remember it fondly, and find myself craving it from time to time.

If you want to read more about this recipe, head on over to Delicious Dishings where I am guest posting for the Day!  Congratulations again Megan, I hope you are having an amazing time on your honeymoon!

Easter Bread

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Apple Picking at Smolak Farms

For some reason, this fall I have been on an apple picking mission.  I haven't been on a true apple picking trip since elementary school, and I decided that this was my year to change that.  Given Nick's attachment to Smolak Farms and the two amazing Whim Dinners we have been to, we figured it was time to see the farm during its peak apple picking season.

Eating while picking :)
We arrived at Smolak Farms at around 10:30AM and while the Farm was crowded, there's plenty of room to spread out, so it never seemed too bad.  Shortly after parking, we walked directly to the Antique Orchard that had many varieties of apples not generally sold in stores.  It was about $5 more for a peck bag than the standard Macintosh/Cortland orchard, but it was so fun to get to taste so many apples!  In addition to Macs and Cortlands, the Antique Orchard featured varieties like Pink Ladies, Northern Spy, Winter Banana (which actually taste a bit like banana!), Smokehouse and Sheepnose.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

State Bird Provisions - Bon Appetit's Best New Restaurant

I am going to finish off my San Francisco posts with the amazing meal we had at State Bird Provisions, which was just named Bon Appetit's best new restaurant of 2012.  I must be honest: I had nothing to do with getting this reservation.  While we were in San Francisco we first stayed with some of Nick's friends, but on our last night following our trip to Napa we stayed with one of my oldest friends (going back to Kindergaten!) who is an avid In and Around Town reader.  When she knew Nick and I were coming out, she asked where we wanted to go for dinner, but having fully planned and scheduled Napa I was happy to let her make the decision.  When she mentioned State Bird Provisions, I had no idea the press it had been getting - in addition to Bon Appetit, it has also been featured in the New York Times and Esquire!   Once I got caught up, I could not believe she got a reservation, as they are now one of the toughest in town!

Open Kitchen by Front Door
State Bird Provisions is something totally unique as it is an American Style Dim Sum concept, complete with servers walking around with trays and carts filled with food.  When we arrived, we had to wait a bit for our table, which now does not surprise me.  It is hard to commit to ending your meal since new plates always seem to be rounding the bend just as you start getting full and, of course, since everything is delicious you keep making room!  While we waited, A and I got a glass of prosecco and the boys went with drafts of the Almanac Honey Saison, a California table beer.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Roasted Veggie Salad with Lime Tahini Dressing

Like a lot of people, when it's time to cook dinner we often have a few ingredients on hand that will determine the direction of the meal.  As an example, I recently had some sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts at home, and using Gojee I found delicious inspiration for a modified salad that would be perfect for dinner.

Roasted Veggie Salad
Roasted Veggie Salad - The Necessities (adapted from Bitchin' Camero)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Touring San Francisco and Burma Superstar!

After spending the morning exploring Alcatraz, we were back on the main land and hungry.  Rather than getting sucked in at the extreme tourist traps at Fisherman's Wharf, we headed down towards the Ferry Building.  For Boston readers, imagine a building similar in style to Faneuil Hall if it was filled with delicious, local vendors and locals who actually want to hang out and indulge (we can dream, right?!)
The Ferry Building
On the inside...
After walking up and down the building checking out the various vendors, Cowgirl Creamery Sidekick caught our eyes immediately.  D and J had packed up some of the Creamery's Red Hawk cheese for our picnic lunch and it was amazing, so an actual meal made with their cheese was too much to pass up!  My open face grilled cheese with an apple chutney and Nick's cheese toasties were just the right thing to perk us up and put us back on the touring track.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lands End by Day, AT&T Park by Night

On our first full day in San Francisco, we originally had plans to head to an early afternoon baseball game.  However, since it was a Dodgers/Giants game and the two teams were duking it out in a pennant race, the powers that be moved the game to accomodate Sunday Night Baseball, and our 1:00 game was suddenly a 5:00 gam.  That switch allowed us to take advantage of a beautiful San Francisco day.  Our guides, D and J, came up with the great idea of heading to Lands End, which is on the northwestern corner of San Francisco near the famed Cliff House.  With its rocky cliffs, lovely walking paths and amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge, it seemed like a great way to start touring the city.

Original Home of the Sutro Baths
Lands End was also home to the once popular Sutro Baths.  Opened in 1896, the baths were an indoor swimming area with both fresh and salt water pools that filled the small inlet above.  The building was made of glass, iron and concrete, which proved too difficult to maintain in the salty, windy Bay Area.  The Baths eventually closed in 1966.  Hard to believe such a building was set over the inlet!

Monday, October 1, 2012

First Night In San Francisco - Dinner at The Abbot's Cellar

On our first day in San Francisco, we arrived at our friends' place at about noon where D had packed a lunch for J, Nick and I to enjoy while she worked (talk about a nice welcome!).  Since it was so nice out, we walked down to Mission Dolores Park and enjoyed what ended up being too much sunshine (note the raccoon eyes and reverse sock tan in later photos!) and a few local beers.  Before we knew it,  it was time to pack up and head back and thank D for her delicious lunch, catch up some more, and get ourselves ready for dinner.

In Mission Dolores Park
Before dinner, D and J took us up one of the many hilltops above the Castro district to take in the downtown San Francisco skyline.  It's hard to believe how clear it was!

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