Monday, January 24, 2011

Tomatoes Times Two

Subzero temperatures? Whatever. Nothing will stop me from attending a tomato tasting! While I can't claim to know much of anything about tomatoes - heirloom? What does that even mean? - I do know that they're pretty much my favorite food ever. The bulk of my diet is composed of tomato soup, pasta in a variety of tomato-based sauces, and salads made solely of greens and tomatoes.

Anyways, I spent this frigid evening at Garden at the Cellar at a promo event for Muir Glen organic tomatoes. Chef Will Gilson was one of five chefs chosen around the country to showcase Muir Glen's 2010 Reserve Tomatoes by creating recipes featuring these flavorful gems, and for the love of tomatoes, I braved the cold and met up with fellow bloggers Megan (Delicious Dishings), Meghan (Travel, Wine, and Dine), Elizabeth (Free Food Boston), Katie (The Small Boston Kitchen), and Brian (A Thought For Food) to indulge in a variety of apps and entrees showcasing the Muir Glen tomatoes. (I also got to say a quick hello to Glenn of Wine Dine With Us, and I saw Jen of Tiny Urban Kitchen from afar, but I have yet to meet her. If you haven't heard, Jen is totally representing the Boston food blogger community on the national front; she vanquished hundreds of competitors in Foodbuzz's Project Food Blog competition and took home the gold! Woohoo!)

This was only my second visit to Garden at the Cellar; my first was very enjoyable. (I had also previously tasted Chef Gilson's food at a fair trade event in October 2009, where he smoked meat using a bong. That technique was learned in the culinary school dorms, apparently.)

After a frustratingly long commute, I stumbled in cold, hungry, and disheveled, but I was warmly greeted with wine, blogger buddies, and apps, which I neglected to photograph very well. I tried tomato soup shooters with cheddar sandwiches (best. combination. ever.) and slow cooked pork belly with sweet and sour tomato jam (fatty, tender manna from heaven). Also available: grilled bruschetta with tomato, eggplant, and smoked feta and flatbread pizza with smoked tomatoes and roasted cauliflower.

We sat down to enjoy three entrees family-style:

Local Seafood and Tomato Stew

Braised Lamb with Tomato and Curry Leaf Confit

Pasta with Grilled Sausage and Parmesan
Rich and rustic, with little hints of spice, all three were quite enjoyable. A glutton for any carb-and-meat combo, I was a big fan of the pasta and sausage. The tomatoes really shined in every dish, bringing up memories of sun-warmed late summer tomatoes from farmers' market stalls, bursting with juice, a sweet/tart balance.

We left with a gift box containing four cans of Muir Glen tomatoes, plus a booklet of recipes created by the five chefs on the Muir Glen Tomato Vine Dining Tour.

Silly me, making new year's resolutions about walking up the 200+ Porter Station stairs. Tonight was no exception. I dragged this box up about 14 flights.
Worth the effort! Totally looking forward to trying out some of the recipes.
Tonight was fun - and worth the walk in the cold!

On the topic of tomatoes, back in September, I was invited to a five-course heirloom tomato dinner at Bistro 5 in Medford. I remember every course being fantastic, but I sadly never got around to blogging about it. I just hooked up ye olde external hard drive to resurrect my photos from the event so that I could share the photos and menu with you. Since it was so long ago, I won't comment on the courses except to say that I remember finding the tomato creme brulee very odd (although everyone else seemed to love it), and I was pleasantly surprised by the tomato dessert. (Tomato's a fruit, after all!)

All the tomatoes were from Kimball Farm, and each course was paired with a different type of basil from Soluna Garden Farm.

Lobster Bisque: Pineapple Tomato Bisque, Lemon Basil, Saffron Bubbles and Brioche (paired with 2009 Domaine Felines Jourdan, Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc)

EVOO Fried Green Tomatoes: Copia Tomatoes "In Carrozza", Buffalo Mozzarella and Opal Basil Pesto (paired with 2008 Larochette Manciat, Macon Les Morizovittes)

Heirloom Tomato Risotto: Red Brandywine Tomatoes and Queso Leonora Goat Cheese with Crispy Prosciutto and Lime Basil (paired with 2008 Lancon, Domaine de la Solitude, Cotes du Rhone Rose)

Duck Confit Strudel: Smoked Speckled Roman Tomato Brulee, Sweet and Sour Kuri Squash, Port Poached Seckle Pear with Thai Basil and Pickled Ginger (paired with 2008 Vigneti Zabu 'Il Passo', Nero d'Avola Blend, Sicily)

Tomato...Sweet Tomato: Organic Peach Tomato Napoleon, Cinnamon Basil Yogurt Gelato, Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise and Pistachio-Estevia Pesto (paired with 2009 Sarocco, Moscato d'Asti)

I can't wait until tomatoes are back in season! In the meantime, though, I'm looking forward to trying out these Muir Glen cans that I lugged home. Maybe I'll even branch out and make something other than pasta!

Disclosure: Both of these meals were provided to me free of charge. While on occasion I accept food and product samples and meals, my acceptance of these things does not obligate me to write a positive review - or any review at all. Regardless of cost or lack thereof, all opinions expressed in this blog are my full and honest opinions.

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