Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Musical Benefit for the Medford Farmers Market

Aha! A rare collision of my music and food worlds occurs this weekend! At the Medford City Hall this Saturday, April 2nd, from 7pm until 10pm, you (yes, you!) can support the Medford Farmers Market and see me (and laugh, if you feel so inclined) dressed up in full librarian regalia, rockin' out on flute with my band, The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library. Not so sure you'll be into it? Well, our debut album has been described as "the greatest album by a library-themed baroque indie-pop band of all time." (TimeOut Boston, 2/21/11) Now aren't you intrigued?

But don't do it for us - you can catch us at a regular rock club later in the month anyways. Do it for the market! The farmers! The veggies! Don't you love your veggies??

The Medford Farmers Market will be opening for its fifth season on June 16 and running through October 13 on Thursday afternoons from 3pm until 7pm. All proceeds from Saturday's event will go towards the operating costs of the market.

In addition to supporting a fabulous community resource, your $20 ticket ($25 at the door) will gain you access to three hours of snacks provided by local vendors, a cash bar, and music from us and two other performers, Susan Cattaneo and Max Heinegg.

Hope to see you there!
...or you will be viciously shushed.

(More information about the event can be found here.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Scenes from a Gathering at Bondir

In late February, on a chilly morning after my band's CD release show, I found myself waking up earlier than I probably would have liked and trudging through snow to meet up with a group of bloggers for lunch at Bondir, hidden just outside the main part of Inman Square. Stepping through the door, I found a fireplace (yes!) and a lot of friendly faces, many of whom I hadn't met before or had only met at one or two previous events. (Most of the attendees actually traveled all the way from the North Shore to attend!) The get-together was organized by Maggie of Eat Boutique; Bondir put together a prix-fixe family-style lunch for us. Maggie's write-up is absolutely lovely, so head over there for the details. This was too long ago for me to really comment on the food in detail, but I do remember that nearly all of the dishes were rather impressive and everyone left happy, full, and relaxed. Some photos:

Intersection of winter and spring
A welcome sight after a snowy walk!
Someone at my side of the table couldn't eat someone had to eat all the extra biscuits... :)
I easily could have eaten this entire portion of risotto in minutes. Alas, with family-style dining comes sharing...
Bondir's menu changes daily and focuses on local, sustainable ingredients. Cozy, friendly, and delicious, it's definitely worth a try.

Bondir on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 25, 2011

Jimbo's Famous Roast Beef & Seafood

I'll admit I'm wary of restaurants that praise themselves in their names, throwing around words like "famous." Was that part of the original name? Were they "famous" on the day they opened?

I'll also admit that Mur-Mac's, a now-closed Stoughton, Massachusetts shack o' beef, ruined all other roast beef sandwiches for me. For reference, I'll re-post a Yelp review that I wrote:
I grew up a town over, and Mur-Mac's was an institution. Roast beef is ruined for me; it'll just never measure up to a simple Mur-Mac's sandwich with A1. The toasted buns were always perfectly done: soft and buttery on the inside and lightly crispy around the edges. The meat was so rare, I'm surprised we never heard it moo. And the fries....oh, the fries. The place was grungy and kinda creepy, but that was part of the charm.

A few years go, I was meaning to go back for the first time in a long time. Kept putting it off. Then, one day, it was closed, and now the epic roast beef sandwich is only a memory.
I hadn't bothered to search for a replacement - or an acceptable substitution, at least - until recently, when I realized that several roast beef places with good reputations were within walking distance of my apartment. First, I tried Roast Beef and Pizza King and found the roast beef a bit dry and salty. Not terrible, but definitely not a contender.

A few days ago, I found myself having to walk to Union Square (Somerville) to pick up a certified letter from the post office. Turns out it was about an NSTAR gas inspection...totally not worth the 25 minute walk each way.

But all was not in vain. There was roast beef en route: Jimbo's Famous (there's that word) Roast Beef & Seafood. The reviews looked promising.

While melt-in-your-mouth should only be used to describe M+M's, I can't help but use it here. (I just drafted several sentences expanding on this thought, but they all came out with a rather X-rated and probably unappetizing vibe, so I'll just tell you that the beef was extremely thinly sliced, rare, and tender.)

The bun that comes with the Junior Roast Beef Sandwich, as shown above, is not very exciting, but the bigger sandwiches on the menu come with other options, like an onion roll.

My ideal roast beef topping is A1, but I decided to give Jimbo's BBQ sauce a try. It was more like a sweet and sour sauce than BBQ. Not bad, but in the future, if I'm taking it home, I'd probably get it plain and add my own A1.

While this is no Mur-Mac's replacement, it certainly satisfies my roast beef craving, and I will definitely return.

Jimbo's Famous Roastbeef and Seafood on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

BFB "Homework" #1 and a Giveaway!

A couple weeks ago, I sent out the first newsletter. (You can view it here if you're not on the list; there's also a subscribe link near the upper left corner if you'd like to receive future newsletters right in your inbox. They'll be going out twice a month or less.) Each newsletter is going to have a "homework assignment" - a blogging prompt that'll hopefully get bloggers thinking outside of the box a bit. Completed assignments will be featured in the following newsletter and on Since newsletter #2 is going out later today, I figured I should probably complete the assignment myself as well. The task: a restaurant review of 500 words or less with no photos, just descriptive language. For extra credit, words like "tasty" and "delicious" should be avoided.

My review follows, and details about a completely unrelated giveaway are below that!

Coriander Bistro: A Multi-Use Name

My hometown of Sharon, Massachusetts lacks nice restaurants. I can count the non-fast food spots on one hand, or maybe two. No matter; my family virtually lived at Mandarin Taste anyways, so there was no need for options. A few years ago, there was much excitement about the opening of an upscale French restaurant, Coriander Bistro, right in the center of town. It did well, but not well enough. Now under new management, Coriander is still Coriander, but it serves Indian and Nepali food, owned by the same people as West Roxbury’s Himalayan Bistro. The name seems a bit more relevant now, as coriander is found in Indian food more often than French food.

When I was home for a quick visit last weekend, we decided to pull ourselves out of the Mandarin Taste routine and finally try Coriander, which has been receiving encouraging reviews. We arrived at noon for the lunch buffet, a mistake. Like most Indian restaurants that offer a buffet, Coriander completely dumbed down its menu, offering only the most stereotypically American-accessible dishes. The line of copper pots held chicken tikka masala, chicken tandoori, chicken biryani, vegetable pakora, and the other usual suspects. The only “daring” dish in the line-up was a goat curry. There were no Nepali dishes, which I found very disappointing.

Our favorite: chicken tandoori, tender and flavorful. The biryani was the blandest I’ve had, and the chicken tikka masala texture was off. The buffet accompaniments were solid: garlic naan, soft and warm and glistening with butter, plus a surprise order of dosa, crispy potato-stuffed crepes. I found the kheer (rice pudding) to be an acceptable sweet ending, but my dining companions barely touched the gazar ko haluwa (carrot cake) that they had taken.

The ambiance suggests more hand-me-downs from the previous owner than just the name. The straight-backed chairs and layers of white and pale green tablecloths suggest a banquet hall (or stuffy French bistro, perhaps) rather than a taste of India, but the Taj Mahal poster loudly reminds you where you are. Subtle wood carvings do accent the walls nicely.

My experience seems at odds with the reviews I’ve read, and I’ll refrain from making a real judgment until I’ve ordered from the full menu, which features a wide range of Indian dishes (from several regions of the country) and Nepali dishes. From this experience, though, I’d recommend skipping the buffet.

And on a completely unrelated note, I have a $10 HSN Gift Card to give to a reader. The fine print: it's valid for HSNTV or purchases, it can't be combined with other offers, and it expires soon - 4/30/2011. HSN provided this gift card to me as part of promotion for HSN Cooks Spring Weekend Event (presented by Bon Appetit), happening this weekend (March 26-27). HSN describes this weekend as the "ultimate kitchen and food shopping experience with celebrity chefs and culinary experts presenting high-quality kitchenware, time-saving appliances and tasty cuisine." (It is also aimed at "women who enjoy cooking." HSN, I'm sure it's true that your target demographic leans heavily toward women, but perhaps "people" would have been a better choice here. I know plenty of men who enjoy cooking, and maybe some of them are interested in the latest kitchen gadgets.) Anyway, featured chefs include Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse, Padma Lakshmi, Ken Hom, The Lee Bros., and Jacques "Mr. Chocolate" Torres.

Want the gift card? Here's how to enter; the first one is required and the others are optional:

1. (Required) Check out and leave a comment here about what you'd like to buy.
2. Tweet about this giveaway (must include link). Leave a comment here to let me know that you've done so.
3. A little bit of BFB cross-promotion: sign up for the newsletter here:

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The giveaway ends this Friday (3/25/11) at noon.

Coriander Bistro on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Spicy Cookies with Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Ghost Chili

These cookies are a huge hit with my friends who either love spicy food or love torturing themselves. Ghost chili is addictive: it burns, but then it triggers this strange euphoria that leaves you wondering when you can get your next spicy fix. (This song plays on repeat in my head when eating anything containing ghost chili. Don't try to read too much into that; I have no clue what the lyrics mean, but we love the pain and want some more of it seems to apply!)

These spicy cookies came about after I saw Bianca's recipe for Dark Chocolate Cookies with Espresso Salt on her blog, Confessions of a Chocoholic. I had already experimented with brownies topped with ghost chili sea salt (success!), and I wanted to expand the idea to cookies, dark chocolate cookies in particular. (I also love to put this salt on top of dark chocolate ice cream!) When I saw Bianca's dark chocolate cookies topped with a fancy espresso salt, I figured it'd be easy enough to replace one salt with another. The result? Amazing.

This is such an easy batter. It's basically chocolate peanut butter (a lot of it) with a few other things mixed in. There is no way these cookies are remotely healthy.

I followed Bianca's recipe almost exactly: mix together one cup of chocolate peanut butter (she and I both used Peanut Butter & Co. Dark Chocolate Dreams), one cup of light brown sugar, 1/4 cup of white sugar, one egg, one tablespoon vanilla extract, one cup of dark chocolate chips (we both used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Chocolate Chips, although I'd go even darker if I found something in the 70% range next time), and three tablespoons dark chocolate cocoa powder or hot chocolate blend (I used Green and Black's Organic Cocoa Powder). You should preheat your oven to 350 somewhere along the way as well.

I added one extra ingredient to the mix: ghost chili powder, about a half teaspoon. I order mine online. (Spicy addition #1...there's more to come!) I guess you could skip this step...or maybe some cayenne would do the trick. (It wouldn't be nearly as spicy, but it'd be something, at least.)

The first time I made this recipe, it made about two dozen, as Bianca indicates. Tonight, though, I must have gotten overzealous and ended up with twelve huge cookies. I hope they're cooked all the way through...they're cooling at the moment, but I guess I'll find out soon! In any case, once you portion out the batter onto the baking sheet, that's when spicy addition #2 comes in! Instead of espresso salt, get out your ghost chili salt and sprinkle it generously on the top of each cookie. What? You don't have ghost chili salt? Order it now. No, I'm not being paid to say this. I'm just frighteningly addicted to this stuff. It's good on everything. Ice cream, popcorn, salads, cookies, steak, chicken, fish...get it now.

Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350. Since my cookies ended up nearly double-sized this time, I left them in for an extra five minutes or so.

These cookies are The Lights Out-approved and also get a thumbs up from most of the non-vegan section of The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library. These will have to be my go-to treat for all music-related gatherings now!

These cookies will melt your face off.

Here's a PDF version of the recipe if you'd like to print or download it.

Here's a newer post about the cookies, including a video!

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