Sunday, July 31, 2011

Take a Gander at This Grilled Goose

The smell of citronella candles invariably triggers nostalgia for carefree summer nights with friends and family (and blissful freedom from mosquito bites). Last night, the hippocampal connections were reinforced as another wonderful memory was added to the summer mix: a night of grilled goose, aged wine, and good friends - and their dog - under the Somerville moonlight, hanging out next to the old porch piano and catching a glimpse of Henry the neighborhood rabbit hopping around nearby. (No, we're not going to eat Henry.)

The goose - two pounds of deep red breast meat - was given to us by one of Joel's co-workers, a hunter, in exchange for a recipe. The perfect opportunity for recipe-gathering arose last weekend when Joel and I judged the Cadillac Culinary Challenge and had a chance to chat with Chef Jonathan Waxman and Chef Jason Santos after the competition. We ended up mostly following Chef Waxman's advice to marinate the goose for two days (olive oil, red wine, garlic, chili pepper), grill it on medium heat, cook it to medium, and let it rest before slicing across the grain. (Chef Santos had recommended simply seasoning it with salt and pepper and cooking it over low heat in cast iron, letting it cook in the fat drippings.)

We imagined goose would pair well with berries, so we chose a favorite sweet, cheap wine for the marinade: Jam Jar, a South African shiraz we discovered thanks to a wine and chocolate course we took awhile back. We used what was left of the bottle as a simple wine reduction to drizzle over the goose.

For sides, we threw together a salad with vegetables from our CSA, and we made Hasselback potatoes with pesto, based on this recipe. The potatoes that came with the CSA were Yukon gold, so we used those, but in the future, a sturdier potato like a russet would be a better choice - much easier to slice properly. Despite some slicing errors, these potatoes were gorgeous and delicious, and I plan on making this recipe again and again. It's endlessly customizable; plenty of toppings would work well, and more than just garlic and butter could be hidden between the slices. Fresh herbs might be a nice fit.

We figured that a nice summer night with friends and an unusual meat provided the perfect opportunity to break open a bottle of wine I've been aging since the summer of 2005. For my birthday that summer, I visited some wineries in the Finger Lakes; I was living in Rochester, New York at the time. On a whim, I decided to buy a wine to age for five years. At one of the wineries, Standing Stone, they recommended that year's Pinnacle, a blend of bordeaux, as a wine that would age well by 2010. I didn't get around to opening the bottle last year, so I've been waiting for the right occasion.

For a summer that has not been nearly as relaxing as I'd hoped, there's no better interruption to a busy schedule than a dinner out on the back porch with great friends and great food. As the hours stretched on, I could barely keep my eyes open, but sleep is overrated; late nights like these are the most important ones, the memories-in-the-making that come drifting back with every future scent of citronella in the summer breeze.

Grilled Goose with Jam Jar Glaze

  • goose breast - cleaned, boneless, skinless
  • red wine - try a sweet one with strong berry flavors
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • red pepper flakes

  1. Brine the goose for up to a day. (We brined it for about six hours.)
  2. Marinate the goose breast in a mixture of red wine, olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes for up to two days. (We used about a half cup of olive oil - just enough to barely cover the meat - and about a half bottle of wine.)
  3. Grill on medium heat until cooked to medium.
  4. Let rest for 20 minutes.
  5. Slice thinly across the grain.
  6. Optional: drizzle with red wine reduction. (We literally just reduced the wine we had left - no other ingredients - but you can get as creative as you'd like with the reduction.)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

This Saturday: Music at the Market (Union Square, Somerville, MA)

Last fall, my band had the pleasure of providing the music for one day of the farmers' market in Union Square (Somerville), and we'll be reprising that experience this weekend - Saturday, July 28, 2011, between about 10am and noon.

Come by, get some veggies, and stay for a few songs! Last year, someone threw green beans at us. We're not sure if it was meant to be a tip or a request to stop playing...but either way, we had a great time!

Want to know what you're getting yourself into? Check out our debut album streaming online, and download the first track, Amylee, for free. (It's my favorite!) Bring the kids to the market - we're 100% kid-friendly, and we encourage reading!

You can find a full list of the 2011 Union Square Farmers' Market vendors here. You'll find plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as bread, chocolate, meat, nuts, wine, and more. There's even a kitchen knife and garden tool sharpener, so bring your dull knives! (Please don't throw those at us. Chocolate and veggies are more than welcome, though!)

Here we are at last year's show. It was cold!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Event Recap: Cadillac Culinary Challenge - Chef Jonathan Waxman vs. Chef Jason Santos

This weekend I had my first (and hopefully not last!) opportunity to judge a food event. Eating food is, of course, fun enough - but a little friendly competition between chefs certainly adds some excitement. The event was the Dedham, MA stop of Cadillac's Culinary Challenge Tour. I'm not sure if there's really a relevant connection between Cadillacs and food, but hey, we got to eat some tasty stuff, chat with a couple chefs, judge said chefs, and test drive a couple nice cars, so - not a bad day! (Joel did the test driving; I actually haven't driven in two or three years. To be honest, I can't even come close to naming the cars we tried out. I know nothing about cars.)

After working up quite an appetite on the road, Joel and I prepared to be the tasting panel, along with Alex from Greater Boston Gala Girls. The chefs - Jason Santos of Blue Inc. here in Boston (and formerly on Hell's Kitchen and at Gargoyles on the Square) and Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto in New York - began preparing dishes that both contained the challenge ingredient, summer squash. Host Mary Nolan (from the Food Network) asked the chefs questions as they cooked and traded a few playful barbs with each other.

Chef Santos' dish was pretty much a basic Greek salad with lamb (and he claimed he'd never made it before). The lamb was cooked perfectly, and I was surprised to find that I enjoyed the topping, a black olive yogurt. Typically I dislike olives.

Chef Waxman made a squash ragout with merguez sausage. The flavors melded together beautifully, but the dish was rather oily.

It was a tough decision, but in the end, I was the minority vote for Santos while Alex and Joel preferred Waxman. The audience, however, gave the popular vote to Santos.

It was a pleasure to watch such talented chefs up close and learn a bit from their techniques. Waxman definitely seemed more at ease engaging with the audience, but after the competition, both chefs were kind enough to chat with us for a bit. Joel has a co-worker who hunts and gave us some goose breast, so we asked each chef for some pointers on how to cook it, and they both obliged. Stay tuned - we'll be eating it soon, and I'll surely blog about it.

The Recipes

Grilled Lamb with Greek-Style Summer Squash & Tomato Salad Served with Black Olive Yogurt
Chef Jason Santos, Blue Inc., Boston


For the salad:
  • Four 4 oz lamb loins
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 summer squash (medium diced)
  • 6 cups assorted tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cucumber, seeded and sliced
  • 1/2 cup pepperoncini, sliced
  • 1 small red onion, julienned
  • 1 cup crumbled feta
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp dried oregano
For the yogurt:
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp black olive puree
  • Salt and pepper


For the salad:
  1. Season lamb with salt and pepper and pan sear/grill until medium rare.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Slice lamb and serve over salad.
  4. Top with black olive yogurt. 

For the yogurt:
  1. Toast garlic in olive oil.
  2. Mix the toasted garlic with the yogurt, lemon juice, and black olive puree.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.

Squash Ragout with Spicy Merguez, Eggplant, Tomato, 
Zucchini, Onions, Peppers, and Gruyere Cheese
Chef Jonathan Waxman, Barbuto, New York


For the ragout:
  • 1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb fresh merguez sausage
  • 1 head of fresh garlic
  • 1 lb baby eggplant
  • 1 lb baby zucchini
  • 2 sweet onions
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 lb heirloom beefsteak tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup grated Gruyere
  • 1/4 cup pesto (see below)
For the pesto: 
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 4 cups fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil


For the ragout:
  1. Dice sausage.
  2. Peel garlic and mince 3 cloves; leave 6 whole without skin.
  3. Dice eggplant and zucchini.
  4. Peel and dice onions.
  5. Chop bell peppers.
  6. Dice tomatoes.
  7. In a large skillet, saute the sausage with garlic in olive oil. When brown, remove and add the eggplant. When that's brown, remove and add the zucchini, onions, and peppers. When they are brown, add back the eggplant and sausage.
  8. Toss with pesto and tomatoes and add the cheese. Serve hot!
For the pesto:
  1. In a food processor, combine the garlic, pine nuts, basil, and Parmesan. 
  2. Blend, then drizzle in olive oil to desired thickness.
The Tour is continuing through several more cities. For more information, check out the Twitter and Facebook pages.

This event was free and open to the public. My participation as a judge was not monetarily compensated; I received the same food samples as all attendees. By participating, I was under no obligation to write about the event.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Review: Plotting Rebellions at Cafe Pamplona (CBS Boston)

“Can we, like, come here all the time and plot rebellions and stuff?” a college student asked his friend as they ducked inside the basement cafe looking for change for a dollar. Something about Cafe Pamplona does evoke a revolutionary feeling, although it’s unclear just what gives that impression at first glance.

There’s no hiding the fact that it’s in a basement: the ceiling is almost uncomfortably low, even for me, and I barely reach five feet. It’s held up by square pillars, and pipes are visible around the edges. The floor, black and white checkers, is scuffed and uneven; the pale yellow walls are decorated by just one painting, a mural faded by the years that cigarette smoke was allowed and embraced indoors.

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

More photos:

Cafe Pamplona on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Scenes from a Summer Evening

There hasn't really been much summer yet, has there? Between awful weather and a busy schedule, I've hardly had a chance to enjoy the outdoors and just sit around with friends. A few weeks ago, though, I got a cryptic invitation from a friend for something called "Epic Feast #1" at Gaining Ground farm in Concord. Turns out my friend has some friends involved in the farm, which is a volunteer-run organization, and they were hosting a giant potluck. We brought Joel's mandel bread and my spicy cheesy kale chips.

What started as an evening with mostly strangers quickly turned into an amazing meal, complete with hoe-down (we had been instructed to bring instruments!) One of the other attendees actually went to band camp with me back in the mid-90s, so it was pretty crazy to jam with a fellow E/C alum. Also, it was great to see some stars for a change and to be surrounded by the real quietness that you can only get by leaving the city. Some snapshots of the night:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Review: Sinatra Sundays at Lucky's Lounge (CBS Boston)

Come dine with me. Fly me to the food. It was a very good meal. I could go on and on… but I won’t. Instead, I’m going to tell you where you can get your Sinatra fix and a solid brunch.

There’s no sign for Lucky’s Lounge, just a hard-to-spot garden-level entrance in a brick building on Congress Street. The menu’s posted outside, but no other evidence indicates that a restaurant is inside. It’s got a bit of a speakeasy feel, but don’t worry, you won’t need a password to get in. (A reservation’s a good idea, though. This hidden spot gets packed.)

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

More photos:

Lucky's Lounge on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Theatre Review: West Side Story (CBS Boston)

West Side Story has a special place in my heart. As a hopelessly awkward eighth grader, I somehow got cast as Anita in the school production, mamboing in my bright red dress and turning on the attitude to deliver lines dripping with innuendos that I probably didn’t understand. My first kiss was even on that stage, in front of an audience of 500 – a clumsy rite of passage that only barely parallels the hopelessly fantastical coming of age triumphs and tragedies within the musical.

The 2011 Broadway Across America national tour of West Side Story has taken up residence at Boston’s gorgeous Colonial Theatre for three weeks of June and July. The modern Romeo and Juliet story is beautiful in its naivete: desperately hopeful teenagers thinking that love will overcome the obstacles brought about by nothing more than their place of birth. Even the tough-acting members of the rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, seem so very young and innocent (despite being played by 30-something men).

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Rock 'n' Roll Social: Networking for Artists and Musicians (CBS Boston)

Being a musician isn’t just about playing music. A huge component — oftentimes harder and more time-consuming than the music itself — is the endless self-promotion. Especially if your band is unsigned, you may find yourself playing the roles of booking agent, publicist, and manager simultaneously. Some musicians find this truth to be unpleasant: networking is just as important in the arts as it is in other industries. You have to become your own salesman.

Boston’s vibrant musical community touches on virtually every genre imaginable, and networking is relatively easy within a given genre, but many musicians never interact with others outside of their own small circles. This puts a damper on the infinite strange and wonderful collaborations that could arise from inter-genre networking. Fortunately, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Social, founded in 2003, exists to help bridge these gaps, connecting musicians to each other and to others in the industry that could help launch an unknown band into the spotlight, at least locally.

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

More photos:

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