Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June 2010 Events Archive

This is an archive of June 2010 events. Where applicable, relevant blog posts are listed. For information about upcoming food events in and around Boston, check out the events page.

June 5
Container Gardening for the Urban Dweller (10am-2pm at Boston Center for Adult Education, $39 members, $45 general, plus $5 for materials)
"Turn your brown thumb green by cultivating city slicker horticultural skills...windowsill mint = insta-mojitos."
[via DailyCandy]

June 6
World Oceans Day (11am-3pm at New England Aquarium)
Free family activities on the Aquarium Plaza at Central Wharf. Events include a sustainable seafood cooking demonstration.
Chefs Stand with Haiti  (6pm reception, 7pm dinner and live auction at Rialto, $1000/person)
A Partners in Health benefit featuring well-known local chefs, including Jody Adams, Ken Oringer, Andy Husbands, Gordon Hamersley, and more.

June 7 - 23
Events related to the movie FRESH
FRESH Screening at Brattle Theatre (June 18-23) - A celebration of "the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system."
Wine Bottega and Taza Chocolate Tasting (June 12, 2-4pm at Wine Bottega, $10) - Wine and chocolate! Your ticket includes a voucher to see FRESH.
Farm to Fork (June 16, 6:30pm-8:30pm at BU's Sargent College, $10) - A panel discussion about how we get the food we eat. Speakers include John Lee of Allandale Farm and JJ Gonson of Cuisine en Locale. Your ticket includes a voucher to see FRESH.

Farm to Table Dinners (all tickets include a voucher to see FRESH)
Henrietta's Table (June 7-17, 7pm, $35-42) - order from the Yard Sale portion of the menu
Ten Tables (June 14, 5:30pm, $42) - featuring Allandale Farm and Spring Harvest Wines
Rendezvous (June 15, 5pm, $40) - featuring Verrill Farm
Coda (June 15-17, 5pm, $40) - featuring Verrill Farm and Pretty Things brewery
Craigie on Main (June 16, 5:30pm, $80) - the Whole Animal Philosophy: nose-to-tail, fin-to-gill
[via Kate Turcotte, FRESH]

June 8
Taste of Somerville (5:30-8:30pm at the Somerville Holiday Inn, $25 advance/$30 door - proceeds benefit Door2Door)
Participating restaurants include Burren, Diva Indian Bistro, Gargoyles on the Square, Highland Kitchen, The Independent, Lyndell's Bakery, Ronnarong, Sabur, and a lot more.

June 10
Taste of the World (6-8pm at the City Year Building - 287 Columbus Ave, $60 - proceeds from silent auction benefit Hostelling International USA's Cultural Kitchen program)
Participating restaurants include Mumbai Chopstix, Danish Pastry House, Estragon Tapas Bar, Istanbul'lu, and more.
[via Zagat Buzz]

June 11 - July 4
Strawberry Dessert Festival (at more than 25 participating restaurants - portion of proceeds benefit Federation of Mass Farmers Markets)
Enjoy special strawberry desserts at participating restaurants, including The Beehive, EVOO, Henrietta's Table, Pizzeria Posto, and more.

June 13
National Lobster Day - blog post

Church Restaurant & Nightclub will offer a Maine lobster omelet (with mushrooms, tomatoes, and truffle oil) for brunch. Breakfast potatoes and toast will accompany the omelet.
The Reagle Beagle will offer lobster eggs Benedict (with lemon-chive Hollandaise) for brunch, accompanied by roasted potatoes.
[via Rina Peselman, Dramshop Hospitality]

June 17
Big Easy Dinner Party (6:30-9pm at Davio's, $75)
"Get ready to party N’Awlins-style...complete with live jazz and fare like seafood gumbo and crispy pan-fried catfish."
[via Zagat Buzz]

Six-Course Seafood Dinner (at T.W. Food, $65 plus $35 for wine pairings)
"...with dishes including native fluke carpaccio and terrine of scallops." A vegetarian menu is available upon request. View the menu here (pdf).
[via Grub Street Boston]

Boulder Beer Dinner (6:30pm-9:30pm at Cambridge Common, $50)
Four course dinner with beer pairings. Menu is available at the above link. 

June 18
Family-Friendly Father's Day Fine Dining (5:30-10pm at Aura at the Seaport Hotel, $30 adult prix fixe, $14 bento boxes for kids, $3 purees for babies)
"There’s a special “romper room” for kids filled with toys & crafts. Children will be able to make their own personal card for Dad, while their parents have a chance to enjoy a nice dinner out. 
The $30 adult prix fix menu (with beverages priced separately), aimed at pleasing our Daddy palate, includes Skirt Steak with potato puree, sweet corn and tomato succotash, and red wine glace – as well as Grilled Salmon with warm curried quinoa and golden raisin salad, braised Swiss chard, Tamarind Sauce & raita. And, to make Dad feel even more special, Aura offers a unique Father’s Day treat: a matching craft beer menu pairing each entrée with the perfect brew. Featured beers include Sam Adams, Peak Nut and Harpoon.
Children’s meals, priced at $14, come in bright red Bento boxes. Look for Sweet & Sour Shrimp with Noodles and Turkey Burgers with corn on the cob and sweet potato fries. Chef Klein offers a seasonal selection of baby purees for the smallest diners at $3."
[via Carol Yelverton, Regan Communications] 

June 19
ONCE (One Night Culinary Event) Cheese (7pm at a location TBA if you make a reservation, $50)
"Endless courses of dishes prepared with the most fantastic local cheeses we can get our paws on.
Please reserve soon, we need to get our head count together fast to be sure we get enough CHEESE!
Yeh, cheese."
[via JJ Gonson, Cuisine en Locale]

June 20-26
$5 Draught Week (Lord Hobo)
"All draught beers are 5 bucks for 7 days/nights." As of 6/10/10, the draught selections include: Pretty Things Jack D'Or, Great Divide Oak-Aged Yeti (one of Fork it over, Boston!'s favorites!), North Coast Brewing Co. Old Rasputin (another favorite), Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA (ok, another favorite), and a whole lot more.

June 24 (rain date June 29)
Taste of Cambridge (5:30-8:30pm at the Charles Hotel, $15/children, $50/adult, $75/adult VIP - proceeds benefit CitySprouts and YWCA)
Participating restaurants include Addis Red Sea, Bambara, Craigie on Main, East Coast Grill, Harvest, Henrietta's Table, Hungry Mother, Lord Hobo, Rialto, Ten Tables, and many more.

June 25
Chefs in Shorts (7-9:30pm at Seaport World Trade Center, $60 - proceeds benefit Greater Boston Food Bank) 
"It’s almost that time again – the time when Chefs In Shorts escape the kitchen to show off their legs (and grilling skills) under the stars. The 13th annual event...aims to once again include a night of grill-offs, bold flavors and drinks to go with. Participating chefs include Rachel Klein (Aura Restaurant), Kelly Armetta (Avenue One), Rodney Murillo (Avila), Jerry Pabla (Mantra), Chris Damskey (Market), Todd Winer (Metropolitan Club), S. Giridhar (Mumbai Chopstix) and Carla and Christina Pallotta (Nebo)." 
[via Zagat Buzz]

June 26
Great American Food & Music Festival (12-10:30pm at Gillette Stadium, $34-$600 depending on how VIP you want to be)
"Television food stars appearing at GAFMF include: Paula Deen, Tom Colicchio, Pat and Gina Neely, Duff Goldman, Stephen Rushmore, Roadfood founders Jane and Michael Stern and Philly cheese steak connoisseur Tony Luke and wine expert Gary Vaynerchuk.

Musicians include: Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, Buckwheat Zydeco, Melinda Doolittle.

...restaurants involved in GAFMF include the iconic Anchor Bar (Buffalo, NY), inventor of the buffalo wing...Junior's Cheesecake (Brooklyn, NY)...All Star Sandwich Bar (Cambridge, MA)..."
[via Gillian Britt, gBritt PR]

June 30
Urban Farm Dinner (6pm at The Blue Room, $75 minimum donation - 100% of proceeds benefit The Breast Health Center at Tufts Medical Center)
"Join us as we replicate our One Long Table farm dinners "urban" style on our breezy outdoor patio.  We'll still be celebrating all that is good, whole + local from Bay End Farm, but this time we're working with The Staley Foundation and ALL proceeds will benefit the patients and families of The Breast Health Center.
4 courses paired with organic wines
the local farm-inspired menu will be determined that day
for questions or FAQs
click here
100% of your donation supports the patients and families of the Breast Health Center at Tufts Medical Center.  What does that mean?  We're talking support groups, prosthesis, wigs, transportation, peace of mind..."

Baked Tofu with Sauteed Rainbow Carrots and Tsoi Tsim

I apologize ahead of time for the complete lack of photos accompanying this post - a total shame, because rainbow carrots and tsoi tsim are both extremely photogenic! Last night was hectic, checking and re-checking out an apartment while coordinating with the parents, the future roommate, and the realtor. This place had an amazing location, but ultimately I think we're going to have to compromise on location so that we can get a huge place, good for cooking and entertaining. So, the search continues.

I had picked up a giant bunch of rainbow carrots and tsoi tsim at the Copley market yesterday, intrigued by the pretty carrots and excited to find tsoi tsim again. Walking around Boston with a giant tree of carrot leaves sprouting up out of my bag was fun.

Rainbow carrots are the same as normal orange carrots; they've just been selectively bred with a variety of pigments, resulting in dark purple, white, and yellow carrots, to name a few. This is more than an aesthetic improvement: the different colors are a result of different plant pigments, and different pigments have a variety of biological effects. For example, the orange pigment found abundantly in standard carrots, carotene, is an antioxidant that is good for the human eye. A purple pigment, anthocyanin, is present in dark purple carrots. Anthocyanin research in blackberries has suggested positive cancer-fighting effects.

We had a lot of seafood and red meat over the last week or so, and I saw adorable baby chicks at work yesterday, so we decided to skip meat and chicken for the evening, settling on tofu.

Baked Tofu
I have absolutely no experience with tofu. I've enjoyed it fried in some Thai and Chinese dishes, but in general, the texture weirds me out a bit. For dinner, I picked up a block of extra firm, pressed it between plates and under soup cans as recommended by more experienced tofu-eating friends, sliced it (extremely poorly), and haphazardly marinated it in a strange mixture that actually turned out really well:
  • Soy sauce - enough to lightly coat both sides of each piece
  • Orange marmalade - enough to put a generous dab on one side of each piece
  • BBQ sauce (I used the inimitable Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Sensuous Slathering Sauce) - a generous pour into the marinating baggie (probably about a half cup)
  • Rice wine vinegar - a generous splash into the marinating baggie (probably about a quarter cup)
I threw it in the oven at 350, turned the pieces over after about 10 minutes, and then cooked it for another 15 minutes or so. It firmed up nicely, and the marinade miraculously tasted delicious! It had a light BBQ taste with an occasional sweet bite of orange marmaladey yumminess.

Sauteed Tsoi Tsim
I did pretty much the same thing as last time, although this time I threw the blossoms in the sautee pan as well. They sort of shriveled up; I didn't see very many in the finished product. Like I mentioned in my earlier tsoi tsim post, the vegetable retains its bright colors very well; no need to blanch it. It has a lovely not-too-salty kale flavor, and the stems give it a fun crunch. I sauteed my tsoi tsim for 3-4 minutes.

Sauteed Rainbow Carrots
I sliced them into coin-shaped pieces and sauteed them for 5-6 minutes in a little bit of unsalted butter with a pinch of salt, black pepper, and dried parsley. They got a little brown around the edges and remained crunchy and flavorful. Plus, they looked beautiful on the plate! I have some carrots left, so hopefully I'll get a chance to make this again and show you a photo.

We accompanied the meal with a fresh baguette from the New Breadsong Corner Bakery stand (Copley market) and ended with a sweet dessert: raspberries and blueberries in those mini angel food cups that Shaw's always has near the berries, topped with a dollop of Cool Whip.

It was a nice summer meal, and tofu is really starting to win me over!

Feed Me
What's your favorite tofu dish to make for people that are on the fence about tofu?

More information on Foodista
Baked Bbq Orange Tofu on FoodistaBaked Bbq Orange TofuTsoi Tsim on FoodistaTsoi Tsim 

    Tuesday, June 29, 2010

    Cupcake Quest: Cakeology

    This post is part of the Cupcake Quest series on Fork it over, Boston!

    My Cupcake Quest has reached a dangerous new level. First, co-workers started bringing me cupcakes. Then, a couple weeks ago, I received an email from Victoria Donnelly, owner of a new mobile cupcakery launching this month called Cakeology. (I love the science-y name!) She wanted to know if I would try out her "little darlings." In the spirit of the Cupcake Quest, I'll take cupcakes any way I can get 'em, and I'll write about them all. These were free and hand-delivered right to my office doorstep, but in the review that follows, they will be subjected to the same scrutiny as all the other store-bought cupcakes in the Quest. (For more information about my product review policy, please read this page.)

    Victoria arrived at 11am on the dot last Friday - which just so happened to be my birthday! - and handed over a sturdy pink box with a big sticker on the top: Bruce the Panda, the adorable Cakeology logo. (Victoria has loved pandas since she was a kid. Her logo was designed by Mike Lok at Urbane Dog.) She described the flavors, and then I headed back upstairs to take photos...and eat!

    A nice sturdy box. No squished cupcakes here!
    When I opened the box, the cupcakes announced their flavors to me with adorable little name tags!

    All of my usual co-tasters were out of the office. What's a birthday girl to do? I skipped lunch and tried a Mint Chocolate cupcake for a late morning snack and a Cookies & Creamsicle for an afternoon snack. I promise to eat more vegetables soon.

    Mint Chocolate Cupcake, from the "Gooey" category of Cakeology's menu: "Ghirardelli chocolate mint cake with green mint buttercream, chocolate ganache and a Junior Mint candy"
    This is actually the first appearance of a mint chocolate cupcake on my Quest! It's one of my all-time favorite flavor combos. Cakeology's Mint Chocolate did not disappoint. The cake had a dense, almost-but-not-quite brownie-like texture. Although it leaned toward the dry side, little bits of melty chocolate balanced it out well. The frosting was light and sugary, similar to Sweet but not as obnoxiously large compared to the cake. The strong minty smell is detectable several feet away; a nearby co-worker was very curious.

    Cookies & Creamsicle, from the "Old Skool" category of Cakeology's menu: "Fragrant chocolate orange cake with a creamy frosting mountain, rolled in crushed cookies"
    I had my doubts that orange and chocolate would work, but it actually turned out quite well. The orange flavor was subtle, resulting in a spice cake or orange madeleine sort of flavor. This cupcake isn't quite as attractive as the whimsical Mint Chocolate, but it makes up for it with flavor. One bite and you'll fall in love with the creamy frosting.

    The menu is split up into six categories: Classic 6, Old Skool, Gooey, Fruity, Boozy, and All Day Breakfast. Here are some flavors that sound pretty awesome:
    • Root Beer Float (Old Skool): "Root beer cake with root beer buttercream and a boiled root beer barrel candy on top"
    • Chocolate Chili (Gooey): "Real chillies nestled in dark chocolate goo. Exotic and bold, yet perfectly yummy"
    • Margarita (Boozy): "Tangy tequila cake with a sweet & sour lime glaze, rimmed with fleur de sel and a wedge"
    • Earl Grey & Honey (All Day Breakfast): "Flowery bergamot cake with purple bergamot frosting and a generous drizzle of honey"
    While Cakeology cupcakes will be available only by delivery for now, Victoria expects to have a storefront early next year. She hopes to eventually offer gluten-free versions of all flavors, and she will be sourcing ingredients from a local dairy once she finds a suitable one.

    Delivery is free to Boston and Cambridge, and there is a 12-cupcake minimum. 12 cupcakes will run you $39, 24 for $78, and so on. Considering some local stores sell cupcakes for more than $3 each, Cakeology cupcakes seem to be priced fairly as you're also getting delivery.

    So, why should you get a Cakeology delivery instead of walking into one of the many stores selling cupcakes around town? Well, for one thing, there's just something special about buying a product from someone who is toiling away in her own kitchen, painstakingly packaging and delivering cupcakes to your door, doing something she's passionate about. "My cakes are the kind you'd make at home if you had the time and knew how," said Victoria. "They're not the fancy but soulless type, like a lot of cupcakes out there right now. They've got heart, and I want you to love them as much as I do!" I'm excited to see Victoria open up a storefront next year, and I hope that her cupcakes will still maintain the homemade feel even as her business expands.

    The Obligatory Silly Interview Question: I asked Victoria what flavor she'd be if she were a cupcake. "Pina Colada," she decided. "Light and silly but with an unexpected kick."

    The Verdict: Cakeology cupcakes would be a nice addition to a social gathering. It would be fun to order a Boozy combo for a summer party: Pina Colada, Margarita, and Rum & Coke, oh my! The menu hits the standards, like vanilla, chocolate, and red velvet, and then delves into creative territory with interesting-sounding items like Fluffer Nutter and Chocolate Banana Split. It's well-rounded with flavors that would please kids as well as more adult-oriented flavors. Blindly ordering delivery seems a bit risky - you really don't know what you're going to get - but give Cakeology a try, and based on the two flavors I sampled, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

    Follow Victoria on Twitter, and check out the Cakeology website, which will be fully launching within the next couple weeks.

    Monday, June 28, 2010

    25th Birthday Celebration, Part II: Cupcakes and East Coast Grill

    My parents arrived at my apartment bearing an assortment of 25 gifts - it was like Chanukah times 3.33! - and many were food-related, such as a beautiful Teavana tea set, spicy chipotle rub, potato scrubbing gloves (awesome!), cupcake lip gloss, Barbie fruit snacks (because they apparently think I still like playing with Barbie dolls), Food Lovers' Guide to Massachusetts, and A Baker's Field Guide to Cupcakes. Soon I'll be supplementing my Cupcake Quest with posts about my own attempts at fancy cupcakes!

    They also came bearing real cupcakes. Guess I'll have to put off the cupcake break for a few more days. These are Shaw's minis, which I've previously described as "always decent." They didn't disappoint, although this spray paint-style frosting tastes more chemically than the normal frostings. (It's a bit hard to see in the picture, but the cupcakes all have white frosting with pink and purple color seemingly sprayed on.)

    Next, we met Joel at the always-amazing East Coast Grill, where I have previously tormented myself at two Hell Nights, enjoyed an amazing Cinco de Mayo media dinner, and devoured The Best Meal I Have Ever Had. Our waiter, Arthur, is also ECG's social media guru, manning the Twitter and Facebook pages. After apparently seeing my Twitter posting about going there to celebrate my birthday, he wished me a happy birthday and offered us a couple desserts on the house! Yum! He even asked permission to sing to me; I appreciated being asked first. Of course we had to get the peanut butter pie with candied bacon as well as the key lime pie, and both were delicious. The key lime pie was the real thing - not bright green. (Check out Joel's recent guest post to learn more about what makes key lime pie awesome.) The entrees were fabulous as usual. I just can't contain my love for East Coast Grill. I've never been disappointed there. By the way, East Coast Grill is also celebrating a 25th birthday very soon! From July 11-16, participate in their birthday celebration. Three-course prix fixe meals will be available for $25.

    After dinner, Joel and I promptly passed out in food coma mode and didn't accomplish anything else that night.

    The next night, Sunday, we went to Church (the bar near Fenway) for a drink with Geoff and Julia, who are about to move away. Note to self: Do not order a drink called Death on a weeknight. And then my birthday weekend was over, and Monday arrived, full of humid, 90+ degree grossness. Such is life.

    Fork it over, Rochester!

    My food blogging days began in Rochester, NY during the summer of 2008. I was an active commenter on restaurant pages on RocWiki, a Wikipedia-like site for Rochester, and one day I decided to expand one of my comments into a full review, which I posted on a shiny new blog that I'm pretty sure I called Rachel's Restaurant Reviews. Creative, huh? Well, I don't think I posted more than one or two entries, but an editor for the Rochester Insider - now Metromix Rochester - stumbled on my blog and asked me to be a food blogger for the Insider's website. At that point, I was already planning on going to grad school for science journalism, so I jumped at the chance to get some pseudo-clips. For the next few months, I had a great time blogging about food, but then it was time to move back to Boston for grad school.

    I was organizing my Google Docs a few days ago and stumbled on most of my posts from the old blog, which my editor had titled Fork It Over. (Thanks Todd!) As you can see, I continued using that title once I moved back to Boston. The old blog is no longer accessible online, so I decided to import some of the entries to the beginning of this blog, backdated to the original posting dates. Although a few are Rochester-specific, I hope you'll still find them interesting as travel posts.

    Here's a complete chronological list of the old posts that have found a new home here at Fork it over, Boston!:

    Saturday, June 26, 2010

    25th Birthday Celebration, Part I: Dali Restaurant & Tapas Bar

    Well, I can finally rent a car! I turned 25 yesterday, and a few of us went out to dinner at Dali to kick off the celebration.

    Dali is located right in the corner of awesomeness within the no-man's-land between Harvard Square and Inman Square. (Neighbors include Bergamot in EVOO's former spot, The Wine and Cheese Cask, and The Kebab Factory.) When we walked in, I felt like I was entering a festive, heavily decorated cave with sangria waterfalls flowing freely. The sangria waterfalls only exist in my head, but Dali's interior is beautiful and welcoming. 

    The servers at Dali are completely and genuinely warm and friendly, and they mix in a little Spanish when they speak to you, seemingly appreciating any mangled attempts to respond in Spanish. Our waitress was attentive, and we were impressed by her extraordinary patience as she carefully prepared my glass of absinthe, setting the sugar on fire and waiting for it to slowly drip into the alcohol below, and then adding ice water to the mix after the flames burned out. This is a variation on the "Bohemian method" (read: modern, flashy, and totally historically inaccurate) of preparing absinthe, where the burning sugar cube (which is soaked in alcohol prior to being set aflame) is dropped into the absinthe, producing a stronger drink. When the flames are allowed to burn out, as in the "Flaming Green Fairy" method practiced at Dali, nearly all of the alcohol on the sugar cube is removed. Another preparation - the "French method" - does not involve fire. (Much less fun, I'd think. However, bartenders should be careful when playing with fire. Perhaps you've heard about the recent arrest of bartender Albert Trummer at New York's Apotheke bar. Interestingly enough, fire marshals aren't really into bartenders setting the top of the bar on fire.)

    absinthe fixes everything by Tony Delgrosso
    Regardless of the method of preparation, the mixing of water and absinthe causes the liquid to change from clear or green to a milky white. This cloudy solution is called the louche, and it's a result of the non-water-soluble components of the absinthe, including anise and fennel, falling out of solution when the water is added. Read more about absinthe preparation here (note: a video autoplays on that page.)

    We also got some cava sangria for the table: light, fruity, and fun. Later, we realized we totally missed out on an even more exciting drink, though. The happy, rowdy table behind us was passing around a communal drinking vessel called a porron, sharing white wine and probably a healthy dose of mononucleosis.  Actually, the vessel is designed in a way that the liquid can be poured from the spout through the air and into the mouth, so no one ever actually has to put his or her mouth directly on the container.

    El misteri dels porrons by Oriol Llado
    Let's see if I can remember everything we ate...

    Tortilla Española: Dan ate this one. I'm not sure how it was, but I think he finished it and enjoyed it. It was much thicker than other Tortilla Españolas that I've seen - it looked like a giant slice of pie, but made of scrambled eggs, potato, and onions.

    Gazpacho: A classic summer soup, served cold. We all enjoyed this refreshing chunky tomato and onion combo.

    Gambas al Ajillo: One of my favorites! It's a simple dish of small shrimp sauteed in a whole lot of oil and a whole lot of garlic. Although it tasted great, it was about half the size and $1.50 more expensive than the same dish over at Tasca, a tapas restaurant in my neck of the woods.

    Pincho Royal: It's a rule: wrapping anything in bacon makes it ten times better. This bacon-wrapped shrimp dish was no exception.

    Ravioles de Mariscos: Rich, filling lobster and crabmeat ravioli in a rich, filling Langostino sauce

    Chorizo a la Plancha: Simple grilled sausage. Yum!

    Caldereta Genoveva: Whoa. This was ridiculous. Our vegetarian friend recommended it - he was compelled to try it once, despite the lamb, and he now recommends it to all his meat-eating friends. This is a braised lamb dish in a brown curry-like sauce embellished with almonds and mint essence. The mint gives it such a unique flavor. You must try this.

    We finished off the meal with a dessert special that consisted of fried strawberries and ice cream in some sort of sweet, creamy sauce. Fried strawberries are kind of cool, but I think I like them better fresh and unfried.

    Of course, there was also the obligatory (and awesome) birthday song. Dali is really into birthdays, and mine was one of three that night. They turn off and/or flicker the lights and come out singing, shooting bubbles with a bubble gun. They placed a huge frog-shaped candle holder in front of me, and I got to make a wish.

    Dali was the perfect place to start off the birthday debauchery. Although the interior of Dali is romantic and intimate, it does get rather loud; it's a fun place for groups celebrating birthdays and other occasions. The communal drinks definitely encourage this atmosphere.

    After dinner, we walked down the street to The Thirsty Scholar Pub (caution: music autoplays) for some beer and met up with more friends. Thirsty Scholar is nice - especially this time of year - because there are almost always tables available, and the noise level isn't too obnoxious.

    Then, we went back to Joel's place and combined forces with Andy and Casey's goodbye party. Andy, Joel's roommate and our bassist in The Bowties, is heading to med school. At this point, the night devolved into a whiskey-drinking jam session with The Bowties and friends. Our whiskey of choice was Georgia Moon, a cheap, clear moonshine-style corn whiskey sold in a mason jar. A Guatemalan friend of Andy's commented that it tasted like guado, the alcohol her "grandparents sold to alcoholics in little plastic bags fifteen times a day."

    Appropriately enough, we rocked out to Moonshiner, a traditional folk song that's been popularized by Bob Dylan and others.

    Dalí on Urbanspoon

    Friday, June 25, 2010

    Cupcake Quest: Sportello

     This post is part of the Cupcake Quest series on Fork it over, Boston!

    ...although you're going to have to read through a bit of an anecdote before I get to the cupcakes.

    Wednesday was an odd day of bad luck and good luck. I went to my temp job for the first half of the day dressed for a job interview later in the day. My nice suit pants are on the long side, so I wear them with a high pair of heels that are not so great for walking long distances, but aside from a twenty minute walk to the interview, I wasn't anticipating moving much.

    Then, the fire drill went off. I'm on the top floor of a ten-floor building, and it took a frighteningly long time for us all to file down all the flights of stairs. We reached the bottom, and my group is apparently supposed to meet a few blocks away on the steps of the Public Library to make sure everyone's out of the building. Already limping, and drenched in sweat from the almost-90-degree day, I hobbled to the meeting spot and eventually back to the office.

    Fast forward a few hours: time to go to the interview. I limped halfway there and stopped by a Dunkin' Donuts for a quick lunch, desperate to sit down and relax for a minute. had counters only. No tables. I stood at the counter, painfully shifting from one foot to the other, and ate my bagel. A guy spilled a whole iced coffee on the floor right next to me, and it splattered on my pants. Awesome. I cleaned up and headed to the interview, which was near South Station.

    After, I had to make a stop at one of my favorite restaurants, Sportello. I rarely find myself around Fort Point, so when I do, I feel compelled to eat there, even if I'm alone and it's 3:30PM, like on Wednesday. The first bit of good luck: my obsession, the spicy tomato soup, had not yet disappeared from the menu! Last year I was disappointed to find that it's only on the winter menu, replaced by a not-quite-as-exciting soup in the warmer weather. But here it was, late June, and it was still available. My luck was changing! It actually looked like the staff was learning about the new summer menu while I was there. They were all sitting at a long table with pens and paper, looking at a variety of dishes. I wonder if I stopped by on the very last day of the winter menu.

    Sportello's amazing spicy tomato soup with grilled cheese crostini!
    As I ate my soup, I happened to glance over at the bakery section in the corner. (Ok, it was more of a deliberate look than a chance glance.) Cupcakes! I picked out three cupcakes, they brought them over to me, and I waited for my check. And waited. After a few minutes, the waitress apologized and told me that all the computers crashed at once, so they were rebooting. Then, she returned and said I was all set. I guess the computers were really not cooperating. Free lunch! Awesome! I left a tip and went on my merry way, cradling the box of cupcakes. I stopped for a minute near the Children's Museum to fish my phone out of my bag, and a little girl wandered over and got very curious about my cupcakes. I snatched them away before she managed to touch them, and I headed to the T.

    Finally...on to the tasting! Joel and Dan - my Julia and Joy replacement Cupcake Quest duo - helped out with this one. After the Kickass Cupcakes debacle when Joel and Dan split the best cupcake in the world and I didn't get to try it (until our second visit later that day), we decided to split the cupcakes in three parts this time so we could each try all of them.

    First up, the obligatory red velvet. This one was more of a rusty brown than red, and the cake was sadly very dry and bland. The frosting, however, was delicious - thick and creamy and topped with crunchy walnut bits. Dan and Joel were less angry about the dry cake than I was. They thought the creamy frosting balanced it out.

    Next up, a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting, sea salt, and peanuts. Unlike the peanut butter chocolate cupcake from Petsi Pies, which had frosting that (appropriately) tasted like peanut butter pie filling, the Sportello cupcake's frosting tasted like straight up smooth, creamy peanut butter. Insanely delicious. The sea salt and peanuts brought this to a whole new level of awesome. Have you ever had a chocolate-covered, peanut butter-filled pretzel? It was like that, but even better. Again, the cake was very dry, but with the best frosting in the world, the cake matters a little bit less.

    We saved the toasted marshmallow cupcake for last, due to its impressive visual display. I wonder how they managed to char the edges of the marshmallow frosting like that - a torch, I guess? Anyway, sad news on the toasted marshmallow front. This cake was even dryer and more tasteless than the other two - almost inedible - and the marshmallow frosting had a weird granular texture. We were unimpressed, which makes me very sad, because I absolutely love Sportello.

    The Verdict: The peanut butter frosting was soooo good. I would get that and possibly the red velvet again as the awesome frosting outweighs the mediocre cake, but I'd avoid the toasted marshmallow. I also think it'd be worth a revisit earlier in the day to see if the cake is less dry.

    Sportello on Urbanspoon

    Thursday, June 24, 2010

    Cupcake Quest: Sweet Bites

    This post is part of the Cupcake Quest series on Fork it over, Boston! It's also a guest post by Joel Edinberg, my trusty dining companion who frequently makes guest appearances in my posts. I figured it was about time to let him speak for himself! So without further ado, here’s Joel!

    Hello Fork it Over, Boston! readers. This is Joel, adding my own adventure to Rachel’s Cupcake Quest. Before I start talking about my individual cupcake journey, I would like to give you a little background as to how and why I have joined this quest...cupcakes are awesome! End of story.

    I could finish my post right there, and I’d feel complete, but I’m sure you’d rather waste the rest of your day reading what I have to say. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I love expensive sandwiches. Luckily, even though I work just over a half hour outside of Boston, I’ve been able to find such a restaurant in Acton, MA that serves such delicious expensive sandwiches. I bring you Sweet Bites Café/Bakery. I found this place while looking online for a bigger variety of lunch places near where I work and figured it was worth a shot. I am a huge fan of their tuna melt with avocado, though some (Rachel...cough cough) may inherently think this is the worst food idea ever. Their BLT is also really good as they use sourdough and really thick Bacon. (Yes, “Bacon” should always be capitalized. It is that important.)

    I come here fairly often, but until recently, I had only tried the café part. But, since I’ve been involved with Rachel’s Cupcake Quest for awhile, and I knew that I was going to the gym later that day, I figured it was time to try one of their cupcakes. I’ve been eyeing these for a long time and was very excited to try them out. They even make the cupcakes in a mini size, which I like because it helps me avoid overeating. Well, one flavor really stuck out: a mini key lime cheesecake cupcake.

    Key Lime Cheesecake Cupcakes!!! My mind was saying “F#@% Yeah!” when I saw this. (Rachel must be getting so jealous now.) This cupcake is basically a vanilla cupcake with a key lime pie filling and a cheesecake-like frosting. To top it off, it had a piece of red and green chocolate on top and a graham cracker crumbly topping on the edges of the frosting. Upon first bite, it tasted somewhere between a key lime pie and a key lime cheesecake. The cake was a bit dry, almost muffin-like in texture, but I found this to be a good complement to the pie filling. The topping was perfect. It was a light cheesecake on top, which held perfectly to the cake and added a really nice creaminess to complement the tang of the key lime filling.

    On the downside though, the filling was green and not yellow. Key limes are yellow! The best key lime pies are yellow! They only make it green because people associate all limes with the color green, but with key lime desserts, it’s only green if they add food coloring. Anyone from Florida, or anyone who watches Dexter, knows this. If not, well now you know, and knowing is half the battle. These cupcakes are serious contenders for a great cupcake, but I will have to try more (maybe after doing double time in the gym) to really see if their cupcakes are worth a random trip out to Acton.

    Sweet Bites on Urbanspoon

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010

    Linguine with Sauteed Swiss Chard and Garlic Scape-Tomato Pesto

    Another Tuesday, another trip to the Copley farmers' market! Over the last couple weeks, I've noticed an abundance of garlic scapes, both at the markets and in the food blogosphere, so I finally grabbed some. Scapes are immature flowering stalks found on some plants, and garlic growers remove them to help the bulb's growth. Then, the scapes are sold separately. Some people like to add them to stir fries or make them into pesto. I decided on pesto.

    Since I'm relatively new to the kitchen, I'm trying to develop my palate. When trying new foods, I like to close my eyes and really try to internalize the taste. If I ever find myself on Hell's Kitchen, I'll be well prepared! The closed eyes palate challenge seems to make an appearance every season.

    The thick end of a garlic scape tastes like a garlicky green bean, while the thin, grassy end tastes like, well, grass.

    I had a couple tomatoes left over from last week's trip to the market, and I also had some Parmesan lying around, so I decided to make a pesto out of scapes, tomato, cheese, and olive oil. Garlic and tomato are always a good pair, so I figured it'd work out.

    I chopped up 10 scapes, which came out to about 3/4 of a cup.

    Then, I chopped up one medium tomato, which yielded about 1 1/2 cups.

    I don't know much about making pesto - in fact, this was probably my first time - so I just went with the 2:1 tomato:scape ratio and hoped for the best. I also added in about 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan plus salt and pepper to taste.

    I don't think I've introduced my kitty Sierra to you yet. She was hanging out on the kitchen windowsill enjoying the sunlight while I was making the pesto...

     ...until the blender started. Then, she jumped down and ran away after uttering an offended "mrow!" Blending the pesto took awhile; my blender seems to get stuck a lot. I added in about 1/4 cup of olive oil while blending. The result was rather disappointing: it tasted fine, but it looked pretty unappetizing.

    I threw it in the fridge for the time being while I figured out the rest of the meal.

    I also got some pattypan squash at the market, although I don't usually like squash. I'm trying to broaden my horizons, and these bright yellow scalloped squashes looked so cute, I figured I'd give them a try. I planned to sautee them and toss them with pasta, and then top it all with the pesto.

    I sliced one of them up, and the scalloped slices looked so pretty that I really wanted to like them.

    But the buttery flavor had an overwhelming mushroomy earthiness that I just didn't like, and it grew stronger with the aftertaste. I shoveled the slices into tupperware and threw it in the fridge, hoping I could pawn it off on Joel before it goes bad. While it's likely that it'd taste better sauteed, which was my original plan, I was already feeling iffy about the success of the pesto, so I didn't want to throw in two shaky factors.

    After ditching the squash, I broke out the swiss chard - another vegetable that I've never cooked or eaten. First observation: it's beautiful! Look at those colors! The end of the bunch looks like a rainbow of celery!

    The stalk tasted like earthy celery and the leaf was similar to spinach but with an uncomfortable aftertaste. Once sauteed, This was the best part of the meal! I just ripped the leaves off and sauteed them very quickly with olive oil and salt while the smoke detector squealed in the background. (I can't wait to get out of this apartment. I can't sautee anything without setting off the smoke detector.)

    I had some whole wheat flaxseed linguine from Nella Pasta in the freezer, so I cooked it up and mixed in the sauteed swiss chard. I ended up heating up the pesto: it just seemed more sauce-like than pesto-like, so it seemed weird to serve it cold. I was wary of how it would taste, and it still looked pretty gross, but once it was mixed with the pasta and chard, it actually tasted pretty decent.

    I'm not overly enthusiastic about how this meal turned out, but I'd definitely get swiss chard again. Next time I'd like to find a way to use the stalks, not just the leaves. As for pesto, I have some reading to do because I clearly don't know how to make it properly. I guess the ugliness is from the tomatoes; it'd look more like a pesto if it were green.

    Is it a faux pas to put tomatoes in pesto, or is there a proper way of doing it? And what do you do with the stalks of your swiss chard? And how can I prepare my squash in a way that I might actually like?

    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Cupcake Quest: Kickass Cupcakes

    This post is part of the Cupcake Quest series on Fork it over, Boston!

    This was a kickass cupcake quest, in which we rescued five cookie dough cupcakes from the foul spray of a young skunk and had a late night cupcake picnic outside of Cambridge Common.

    I spend a lot of time around Davis Square, but I had never made it over to Kickass Cupcakes until yesterday. To make up for lost time, I went twice. (On a somewhat related note, I think it's almost time for a cupcake hiatus. My pants are feeling a bit tight.)

    Kickass Cupcakes Quest, Part I: The Beginning
    Joel and I were sitting in Mr. Crepe in Davis Square, pigging out on crepes and talking about how I've been eating disgusting amounts of sugar lately and how I should probably take a cupcake break. Then, I realized I hadn't yet been to Kickass Cupcakes. We decided to go there after lunch and get it over with.

    We got three cupcakes: cookie dough (one of Joel's favorite ice creams), s'mores (it had a toasted marshmallow!), and mojito (my favorite cocktail). They have frosting shots like Sweet, but we already know that that's a terrible idea for anyone over ten years old.

    Cookie Dough (front left), S'mores (front right), Mojito (back)
    Joel's roommate, Dan, works at an office where they get cupcakes once a month. Kickass Cupcakes is an office favorite. He was hanging out at home when we arrived with cupcakes, so we divided each in half so everyone could taste two different halves. I chose mojito and s'mores.

    The Mojito: rum-soaked cupcake with sugar cane lime frosting and fresh mint...or not
    The mint mentioned on the menu is missing. Too bad - I love mint! The frosting was sweet and summery, a smooth and creamy lime that extended into the middle of the cake as filling. It didn't really taste especially mojito-ish, but it was definitely enjoyable.

    S'Mores (Friday Flavor of the Day): graham cracker cupcake with chocolate ganache and a toasted vanilla bean marshmallow...stick and campfire not included
    Ah, s'mores. This one brings back memories of camp, sitting around the weekly campfire, waiting for the younger kids to finally go to bed. Then, the older kids and staff got to find sticks and roast marshmallows. Kickass' version is nicely charred, and the chocolate ganache is heavenly. The graham cracker cupcake works well, although it was a bit dry.

    Cookie Dough (Limited Edition): Chocolate chip cookie dough in a vanilla cupcake and vanilla buttercream frosting with chocolate sauce
    Well, I clearly made the wrong choice. Dan and Joel consumed the cookie dough cupcake while uttering phrases like, "I think this is the best cupcake I've ever had" and moaning inappropriately. My two flavors were good, but the cookie dough was apparently transcendental. You're probably wondering why it's called cookie dough; it's not apparent from the photo. A huge gooey glob of cookie dough resides inside the cake, just underneath the frosting. I eyed the cookie dough hungrily and made a mental note to return to Kickass Cupcakes soon, before this limited edition flavor goes away.

    The Baseball Interlude
    Kim was in town from New York. Her boyfriend is spending the summer working as a radio announcer for a collegiate baseball team, the North Shore Navigators, so a few of us drove out to Lynn to watch a game. We were bad luck; the Navs broke a four-game winning streak and lost 9-1 to the New Bedford Bay Sox. We had some great (cheap!) ball park food while we were there, though:
    Kim had a blue snow cone, most of which ended up on the ground.

    Jen got a caramel apple and made it smile :)
    ...and hot dogs and beer, of course. $4 beer! Rob the beer man was very friendly and even addressed us by name after checking our IDs. It's such a simple thing, but I've never heard a bartender do that before. It's a nice personal touch.

    We discussed cupcakes since apparently that's all I can think of now (I even dream about cupcakes sometimes. Just kidding. Maybe.) Jen told me about a particularly dangerous cupcake place that I'll have to check out: ShotCakes at the Burlington Mall. Ice cream-filled cupcakes...what?!? Time for a road trip to the Burlington Mall. Joel and I discussed the cupcakes we had earlier, and somehow it was decided that everyone needed to try the cookie dough cupcakes. Kickass Cupcakes closed at 10pm, and it was around 8:30pm, so Joel and I left the game a bit early to procure more cupcakes, with plans to meet everyone at Cambridge Common later.

    Kickass Cupcakes Quest, Part II: Skunks and Munchies
    Joel live-parked in front of Kickass Cupcakes and I ran in. A few people were milling about trying to decide on flavors, but I knew what I wanted. I went right up and enthusiastically ordered five cookie dough cupcakes, and the girl gave me a weird look. It was only later when we got back to Joel's to regroup that I remembered my eyes were completely bloodshot. I'd been having some contact lens issues that day and I looked like a total mess. The Kickass Cupcakes staff must have thought I had a major case of the munchies, although I'd imagine that's not uncommon for them.

    Anyway, cupcakes in hand, we started walking from Joel's to Cambridge Common to meet up with everyone. As we were nearing Porter Square, I glanced into a yard next to us and saw the glow of beady eyes staring back at me, accompanied by black and white fur. "Aww, it's a cute animal," I thought, until suddenly it dawned on me. "Skunk. Skunk!" The cupcakes must be saved! (Ok, cupcakes were actually the last thing on my mind. I was more concerned about myself.) Fearing the spray, we quickly debated whether to turn around and go the other way or walk by it quickly. We ended up sprinting across the street. When we looked back, Mr. Skunk was gone.

    Finally, we arrived, although the others were running late. We loitered next to the bar for awhile, and once everyone showed up, we had a cupcake picnic...the best kind of picnic. After all the build up, I was a bit disappointed. It was a solid cupcake, but it was just too sweet for me. I think I've overdone it lately on sugar. Everyone else thought the cookie dough cupcakes were delicious, though.

    The Verdict: I was pleasantly surprised. I've heard lots of complaints about how Kickass Cupcakes' cupcakes are too small and too dry, but I found them to be an average size and pretty moist, except for the graham cracker cake. Five of my friends thought the cookie dough cupcake was amazing. In general, all the flavors were a bit sweet for me, but then again, I've been eating way too much sweet stuff lately, so I've lost the taste for it. Anyway, as I'll be living nearby in the fall, I'll definitely return (after an extended cupcake hiatus). I might even buy some kittycakes for my kitty, Sierra!

    Kickass Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

    Saturday, June 19, 2010

    A Picnic at Corey Hill Outlook Park

    Bet you didn't know Brookline has a mountain! Ok, I'm exaggerating just a bit...but Summit Avenue is called that for a reason. If you ascend to the top, you'll pass several blocks of beautiful houses, including a castle - seriously, this thing has a turret! - and you'll find yourself in a small oasis, Corey Hill Outlook Park. On one side of the street, there's a gentle slope and a rumored amazing view of Boston's skyline, but at this time of year, the leaves on the trees block most of the view. On the other side of the street, there's a playground.

    What a hike. Such hills should not be walked in 90 degree weather when dehydrated and carrying heavy bags. I broke out my funny shoes for the workout.

    We set up our blanket at the top of the slope. If you look closely between the two leftmost trees, you can see a hint of skyline:
    I had picked up a random assortment of goodies at the Copley farmers' market for the picnic: strawberries (Old Friends Farm, I think), tomatoes and bok choy (Atlas Farm), dinner rolls (Iggy's), ginger goat cheese (Crystal Brook Farm), shelling peas (Siena Farm), herbal nuts (The Herb Lyceum), and M+M cookies (New Breadsong Bakery).
    I've recently become obsessed with raw bok choy. It's also great sauteed or in a stir fry, but raw, it's so refreshing. The stem is like celery but with more flavor and no stringy stuff getting stuck in your teeth. The leaf tastes like a mild cabbage. Seems like an odd thing to take on a picnic, but we really enjoyed it!
    The Crystal Brook Farm stand had a wide variety of goat cheeses available. I decided to go for the strangest - ginger. I love ginger, but ginger-flavored cheese seemed pretty weird.
    We spread it on the dinner rolls from Iggy's, and it remarkably worked really well. The ginger added a good deal of sweetness without actually tasting gingery.
    My other recent raw veggie obsession is shelling peas. They're so much fun to open up, and they taste really sweet.
    And finally, dessert!
    It was starting to get buggy, so we packed up, resisted the urge to roll down the hill, and walked back down Summit, into the sunset!
    Corey Outlook Park is great because it's not overcrowded, and the slope discourages sports, so you can picnic without dodging frisbees. I'd love to check out the view in the winter when the trees are bare. So, romantic picnic-planners, this is a great spot for you, as long as you and your date are prepared for a bit of a hike. Or you could drive...but then you'd miss half the fun.
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