Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Tour of the Taza Chocolate Factory

The commute to a high school job had me driving by Mansfield’s century-old ADM Cocoa factory several times a week for a few years awhile back. What a heavenly smell, right? Wrong. I quickly came to believe that the production of chocolate is pretty foul smelling. Imagine my surprise, then, when I arrived at Somerville’s own Taza Chocolate factory recently, and the aroma was simply amazing. Not bitter and burnt like ADM or cloyingly sweet like at the Hershey theme park in Pennsylvania – no, this was something on another level: subtle floral notes, hints of spices, appetizing odors all around.

Rumor has it that the Taza owners are sick of the Wonka comparison; so I’ll refrain from describing the factory store that way. It doesn’t give off a whimsical vibe, anyways, and it’s not the type of sweet treat that brings out the kid in all of us. No, Taza Chocolate is of a different variety – a more complicated, acquired taste like a fine wine or liqueur – and as you sample your way through the store, you’ll find that you want to move slowly to figure out the intricacies of each flavor.

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

More photos:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Boston's Best Pizza: Newtowne Grille (CBS Boston)

It can be tough dating a pizza snob. There’s that time I brought him to one of my old favorites from childhood – Town Spa in Stoughton – and he was less than impressed by my beloved bacon pizza, extra crispy. Or that time he made me wait in line for two hours – and then at the table for another two hours – to try Sally’s Apizza in New Haven. (I’ll admit that that one was out of this world, but I’d never wait that long for pizza again.)

Sometimes I think it comes down to an argument over the definition: I’ll allow for favorites in a variety of pizza genres, like the pub-style pies at Town Spa, or the fancy combinations at places like Emma’s or Zing or Za, or the good old-fashioned Italian-style pizza. The snob, a Connecticut native, will only accept pizza as “good” if it fits into that narrow New Haven-style genre: cooked at ridiculously high temperatures (preferably with coal) to result in a crust that perfectly balances chewy, doughy and charred; a sauce that is flavorful but not too sweet; a golden ratio of cheese to sauce.

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

Newtowne Grille on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Museum of Bad Art: Even the World’s Worst Artwork Deserves to Be Seen (CBS Boston)

One generally assumes that museums house collections of art, artifacts, or other objects that have some value, be it intellectual, aesthetic, or perhaps even controversial. The Museum of Bad Art, however, meets none of these standards. In spite of – or more likely because of – this, MOBA is a must-see attraction in Somerville, Dedham, or Brookline (or all three if you have high stamina for bad taste). Exactly as the name suggests, it features art – fantastically horrendous, unabashedly tacky, gloriously ugly art.

First, some things that do not count as bad art: young children’s creations, paintings on black velvet (in particular, velvet Elvises), paint-by-numbers, and latch-hook kits. No, insists MOBA: these are actually “probably better suited for the Museum of Questionable Taste, The International Schlock Collection, or the National Treasury of Dubious Home Decoration.”

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

More photos:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Restaurant Review: Cambridge Common (CBS Boston)

There are three main reasons to check out Cambridge Common, a restaurant and bar sitting between Porter Square and Harvard Square on Mass. Ave: a fantastic beer selection, addictive tater tots, and an intimate live music venue.

The beer: With 31 beers on tap, 16 of which are constantly rotating, you’d have to be pretty picky to not find one you’ll like. There’s always at least one organic option, and plenty of local microbrews get featured. For the permanent selections, Cambridge Common has the basics (Guinness, Miller Lite, Harpoon IPA) as well as the somewhat more exciting (Victory Golden Monkey, Berkshire Coffeehouse Porter, Ommegang BPA). On a recent visit, the rotating tap included selections like Pretty Things Jack D’Or, Rogue Double Dead Guy, and Mayflower Summer Rye. You’re not going to find a book-sized beer menu here like at Brookline’s Publick House or Allston’s Sunset Grill & Tap, but the selection is strong and reasonably priced. Indecisive? Try the staff’s daily picks in a sampler of four small pours, or create your own sampler.

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

More photos:

Cambridge Common on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Restaurant Review: Hungry Mother (CBS Boston)

I’ve noticed a fairly common unwillingness in this region to pay a high price for Southern cuisine. Grits, ham, sorghum, catfish: these words seem to trigger immediate outrage when paired with fine dining costs. Somewhere along the line, we’ve managed to box Southern food into a small container of cheapness and deep frying. Fortunately, there are several Boston-area spots that destroy this stereotype, offering up high quality Southern food to packed houses night after night; once people are willing to take the plunge, they’re hooked. Kendall Square’s gem, Hungry Mother, is one of these places.

Just over three years old, Hungry Mother has already made quite a name for itself (or herself?), serving up beautifully constructed Southern-style dishes with a Northeastern flair: Chef Barry Maiden (also an owner of the restaurant) uses local, sustainable ingredients whenever possible, and draws from Virginian Appalachia and surrounding areas for specialty items that aren’t available up here. Maiden hails from Virginia, where, by the way, there is a state park called Hungry Mother.

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

More photos:

Hungry Mother on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Video: Super Spicy Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

I wrote about these cookies back in March, but I figured they'd be a fun subject to revisit for another video post. Through the Foodbuzz Tastemakers program, I recently received a complimentary sample of Ghirardelli's new Intense Dark chocolates, and I had always wanted to try out the cookies with a darker chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Chocolate Chips for all the other times I've baked these cookies.) Goodbye 60%, hello 86%!

Joel took a hammer to a couple bars: the 72% ("Twilight Delight") and the 86% ("Midnight Reverie"). We were afraid to make the cookies too bitter, so we included about a 2:1 ratio of the twilight to the midnight. (As for the leftover chocolate? Well, let's just say there's no such thing as leftover chocolate.)

The result? The most delicious batch of the spicy cookies that we've ever made...but it was also the least spicy. I think I used the same amount of ghost chili powder and salt as usual - except for that one time when I was a bit tipsy and included a heaping spoonful of the powder - so I'm guessing maybe the stronger, darker chocolate masks the spice a bit more. Upon eating the cookies, I still got the strange chill and euphoria that ghost chili seems to trigger for me. In any case, these remain my favorite cookies to bake - and to share with unsuspecting friends!

If you'd like to download or print the recipe, check out the PDF version here.

Links to stuff mentioned in the video:

Special thanks to Joel Edinberg, who (a) helped me shoot the video, particularly when I'm the one on screen, (b) helped me bake and eat the cookies, and (c) did all of the music/sound work, including writing, performing, and recording the music, recording my voiceovers, and tracking down the perfect cat and elephant noises.

Also, thanks to several of my co-workers, who, with varying levels of enthusiasm, allowed me to record video of them tasting the cookies: Rob Ciampa, Yelena Kadeykina, and Theresa Moore.

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