Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pomegranate-Glazed Porgy and Latkes

This post is belated; we made this during Chanukah, hence the latkes. The porgy (also known as scup) is from our favorite fish market, New Deal, located between Inman Square and Lechmere in Cambridge. We asked for advice on what would go nicely with a pomegranate glaze (other than salmon, which seemed like the most obvious choice, but Joel had had that a restaurant a few days prior and wanted something else). The porgy was recommended to us because in winter, it's a bit fattier than in warmer weather while still marked by a fairly light flavor; it seemed like a good fit in terms of texture and taste.

We grilled it on our cast iron grill pan (an absolutely essential kitchen tool as far as we're concerned). The idea for the pomegranate glaze was two-fold: mainly, I'm just obsessed with pomegranates while they're in season (and I finally learned how to easily remove the arils without making the kitchen look like a murder scene). Also, pomegranates figure prominently into a variety of Jewish traditions, so it seemed like a good way to celebrate Chanukah. (That and presents. And gelt, of course.)

Latkes and sauteed greens went well on the side.

And we finally opened up a Dr. Loosen late harvest riesling we picked up a few months back. It was spectacular and played nicely with the pomegranate.

Happy much-belated Chanukah!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Porter Exchange: Cambridge's Little Japan (CBS Boston)

Cambridge’s Little Japan – Porter Exchange – is tucked away inside a Lesley University building in Porter Square, quite hidden if you don’t know where to find it. It’s worth finding. The Exchange houses a bookstore, a sporting goods store, and a cluster of Japanese gems: several restaurants, a bakery, a bubble tea counter, and even a gift shop, Tokai, which is full of tea sets, bento boxes, chopsticks, and more. There used to be a Japanese grocery store in the Exchange as well, but Lesley ousted it in 2009 to make room for the bookstore. In fall 2011, however, the original owners of Tokai are opening up a new grocery store, Miso Market, just a few blocks down Mass Ave.

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

More photos:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Blogger Dinner at Ceia Kitchen + Bar

Newburyport seems like a gem of a town, from what I glimpsed of a tiny piece of downtown one evening in November. I joined Kevin (The Mighty Rib), Tara (Wine Me A River), and Lena (Lena on the Beach) for a blogger tasting at Ceia (Portuguese for "supper"), a dark and intimate brick-walled oasis of locally-sourced yet European-inspired dishes. Executive Chef Billy 'Brando' Brandolini created a lovely five-course tasting for us.

We began with a baby beet salad (candied butternut, cabrales blue, hearts on fire, and guanciale vinaigrette) - pleasant overall, but texturally too soft. Something crunchy or crispy - nuts, perhaps - would have taken this to the next level. Nonetheless, it was a nice way to start out, and the blue cheese was sparse enough that I could avoid it after confirming that yes, I still don't like blue cheese.

Next, a pasta course: pappardelle with local pulled rabbit, dijon and veal ragout, rams head fungi, brillat mousse. I panicked a little upon seeing the menu; I've owned pet rabbits, Yeti and Bigfoot, and my current roommate owns a big old one named Jane, so despite my usually carnivorous ways, I can't bring myself to eat rabbit. I'm also not a mushroom fan. Even so, I ended up ignoring my hangups and ate most of this course. Turns out it was pretty tasty, and I haven't been haunted by the ghosts of Yeti and Bigfoot. Just don't tell Jane.

Then, we moved on to the fish course, cod accompanied by garbanzo mash, creamed bright lights chard, and infused EVOO. I'm embarrassed to admit that I had a hangup with this course as well. Garbanzo beans, especially in mashed form, are very unappealing to me, but I gave these a try, and I'll file them under "OK, that wasn't so bad." The cod was delicate and flaky, seared perfectly, and very enjoyable.

The next course was supposed to be suckling pig, but the chef on duty (not 'Brando') wasn't happy with how part of the course turned out. Instead, he whipped up a surf 'n' turf 'n' eggs combo that was delightful. Nothing better than ultra-rare beef.

Dessert was a big hunk of brillat savarin; it was too strong a cheese for me to handle.

The after-dinner drink, however, was outstanding. Now if only I could remember what it was...

The wine served with dinner was also fantastic - Convento San Francisco Temperanillo, Ribera Del Duero 2005.

Worth the long drive from Boston? I enjoyed it, but I don't think I'd make a special trip out just for the restaurant. If I happened to be in the area, it'd be worth another visit. Special thanks to Kevin for organizing.

Disclosure: This meal was complimentary, but all opinions expressed are my own.

Ceia Kitchen + Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dining at the W (Scene Boston)

On the Tremont Street side of the W Hotel, across from the Wilbur, the Wang, and their digital marquees, sits one of the newest outposts of legendary chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Market - not to be confused with his Market in Paris or Spice Market in New York City. His collection of restaurants, which spans from Las Vegas to New York to Shanghai and beyond, has accumulated a number of Michelin stars and other accolades, and one taste of Market makes it clear that his reputation is well deserved.

Read the rest of my article over on Scene Boston.

More photos:

Market by Jean-Georges (W Hotel) on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sponsored Post: Help Your Favorite Charity Win $1000 from ableBanking

This is a cross-post from Sorry if you see it twice...but I hope that seeing it again will convince you to take 10 seconds to nominate your favorite Massachusetts charity for this contest!

As a food writer, I often feel guilty that this thing that I treat as a luxury, an adventure, and a novelty is something that others have to treat as a need that is barely met. While I write fluff pieces on food, others are barely managing to get the sustenance they need to survive. When ableBanking contacted me about promoting their charitable giving contest to support Massachusetts organizations, I thought it would be a great way for the food blogging community to throw support behind fighting hunger by nominating one of Massachusetts' worthy food-related causes.

ableBanking, an online-only savings bank with a huge interest in charitable giving, is launching soon. In the meantime, they're running a contest through January 31: anyone can nominate any Massachusetts nonprofit, and the top five nominated groups will each receive $1000, an amount that can do a huge amount of good for a small organization. Nominate your favorite Massachusetts nonprofit here. I'm nominating Project Bread - the Walk for Hunger Inc., because while I'm grateful to be enjoying the luxury of food from a food blogger's perspective, I want to do what I can to ensure that others are not going hungry.

More about ableBanking:
Launching as an online-only bank gets rid of a lot of the overhead that brick-and-mortar banks deal with, freeing up funds for better things, like great rates for customers and donations to charity. ableBanking is doing both of those things. When you sign up for an account, ableBanking gives $25 to a charity of your choice. Each year, ableBanking matches a portion of your savings with another charitable donation. Pretty neat, right? To learn more, check out their blog post on the topic, or take a look at this October 2011 article in The Boston Globe.

Connect with ableBanking on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The Twitter hashtag for this contest is #ablegiving.

More about Project Bread:
"Project Bread is dedicated to alleviating, preventing, and ultimately ending hunger in Massachusetts." It's an important mission, considering that over 250,000 Massachusetts households are at risk for hunger. Project Bread strives to be a thought leader, coming up with scalable solutions towards ending hunger, and raises millions of dollars through its yearly Walk for Hunger, the oldest continual pledge walk in the country. The organization supports 400 emergency food programs in Massachusetts (such as soup kitchens and food banks) and fields a hotline, FoodSource, to help hungry people know where to turn.

Connect with Project Bread on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

More food-related charity opportunities:
One of ableBanking's featured partners, the Greater Boston Food Bank, has declared every January "Super Hunger Month," and it's filled with opportunities for giving. For example, on Wednesday, January 25th, the Four Seasons is hosting the Super Hunger Chef fundraiser for the sixth year in a row; local chefs including Jody Adams, Brooke Vosika, Michael Schlow, and Tim Cushman will treat attendees to an "international culinary tour." Tickets are $125; proceeds benefit the Greater Boston Food Bank. Additionally, Super Hunger Brunch takes place on Saturday the 28th and Sunday the 29th.

In addition to Project Bread and the Greater Boston Food Bank, Boston has many other food-related organizations that could use our support, such as Future Chefs, The Women's Lunch Place, The Friday Night Supper Program, and The Food Project.

I hope you'll take a minute - that's all it'll take - to nominate your favorite local charity for this contest. $1000 can make a big difference. And I'd love to hear about which charity you're nominating; please feel free to share your thoughts and stories in the comments below, and please share this information with the rest of the Massachusetts blogosphere and general community.

Disclosure: I am receiving monetary compensation from ableBanking to promote this contest.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Restaurant Review: Five Horses Tavern (CBS Boston)

Davis Square is full of great restaurants and bars – and full of people. The sidewalks are often almost unbearably congested, and it’s easy to run into a long wait at every dinner spot on the square or enter a bar so packed you can barely reach the restrooms. I love Davis, but I hate crowds, so I was excited to stumble on a new place set back a little bit from the center of the action. Five Horses Tavern has taken over Sagra’s old space, and from the beer selection alone, I was a fan even before stepping inside.

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

More photos:

Five Horses Tavern on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Late Night Noodles with Guchi's Midnight Ramen

It's 3 A.M. on Tuesday morning and I just got home. My belly is sleepily full of ramen, but my veins are coursing with the epic amounts of caffeine I consumed to ensure I wouldn't fall asleep face-first in a giant ramen bowl at tonight', this morning's...industry preview of Guchi's Midnight Ramen, the latest addition to Boston's batch of pop-up culinary adventures. (Special thanks to my bandmate and blogger friend Holly, who had an extra ticket and invited me along for the ride.)

Guchi's Midnight Ramen (Twitter/Facebook) is brought to us (from heaven, probably) by a couple of O Ya's chefs, Yukihiro Kawaguchi ("Guchi") and Mark O'Leary, along with O Ya alum Tracy Chang, plus (non-O Ya-related) Vilas Dhar, a lawyer interested in food entrepreneurship. O Ya times three? Oh yeah. (Sorry, I had to do it.) Anyways, after my extraordinarily memorable grand omakase experience at O Ya, I'd probably try anything by those people.

Let's see if I can stay awake long enough to recap this morning's festivities, which took place at Bondir, a place I really need to get to under normal circumstances. I've been there once before, for a special prix fixe lunch set up by Maggie of Eat Boutique. I love the ambiance, and Chef Bond's food was fantastic.

First up, the pork belly bun, a soft and squishy and savory preview of the wonderfulness to come.

Meanwhile, Mark and Guchi were hard at work prepping the main course.

The bowls arrived at our table along with a camera, with which we were instructed to photograph each other's first slurps.

And slurp we did. The rich broth became even more complex as we added the side sauce, the "umami oil." When we weren't slurping, we were dissecting the contents of the soup and the sauce. The velvety egg yolk slowly permeated the mixture, and the tender fat-lined pork grew softer as it soaked up the broth. Balancing chopsticks and spoons, we threw dignity aside and nearly dunked our faces in the huge bowls.

The bottom of the bowl was a sad sight, but perhaps a relief. My late night ramen stamina was fading fast. But there was still dessert to come, green tea cookies bursting with melted chocolate.

Late night ramen adventure? Success. I'd do it again. It's the ultimate mix of comfort and spontaneity, and the food is just solidly delicious. What's not to love?

Special thanks to my fun and interesting tablemates: Holly (Nomsense), Meredith (Serious Eats: Slice), and Patrick (Server Not Servant).

Disclosure: This was an industry preview event. All food was complimentary.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Restaurant Review: Blackstrap BBQ (CBS Boston)

I’m on a mission to find great BBQ in the Boston area. I have no real Southern BBQ experience, so take my opinion with the necessary grain of salt. For context, the BBQ I obsess over is at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (the original two locations in Syracuse and Rochester – forget the newer ones) and Fette Sau in Brooklyn. While I haven’t thoroughly exhausted the options closest to me yet, I’ve been intrigued by the buzz about the newish place in Winthrop, Blackstrap BBQ. My mom lived in Winthrop until she was nine, so last time my parents came into town from the ‘burbs to meet me for dinner, we decided to drive out to Winthrop, see the old house, and give Blackstrap a try.

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

More photos:

Blackstrap BBQ on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 9, 2012

Venue Review: Sanders Theatre (CBS Boston)

Nearly ten minutes of thunderous applause brought the reclusive Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel back to the stage for one more encore. He finally re-emerged and quietly began to sing and play his guitar un-amplified on the edge of the stage. As all 1,166 of us slowly joined in, it seemed as though you could pick out each individual voice in the crowd, Mangum’s above all. Each voice bounced gently off Sanders Theatre’s vast vaulted ceiling, falling together in an eerie and beautiful chorus that sounded more like a prayer than a song. To see a musician like Mangum in a place like Sanders Theatre feels sacred – simultaneously solemn and joyful. Sanders’ long pew-style benches contribute to the religious experience, as do the tremendous stained glass windows throughout the hall.

While the theatre’s amazing acoustics make it an ideal setting for serious choral and orchestral performances, Mangum is only one example of the numerous less traditional acts that are booked there as well. In late September, for example, the theatre provided a home for the 2011 Nobel Prize Ceremony, honoring improbable research (“research that makes people laugh and then think.”) The ceremony included the world premiere of a mini-opera called “Chemist in a Coffee Shop,” an appearance by a 2007 winner who co-authored a study on the side effects of sword swallowing, and many other curiosities.

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

Austin/Boston Food Love

Last month, the Boston Food Bloggers (BFB) teamed up with our new friends in Texas, the Austin Food Blogger Alliance (AFBA), to do a holiday gift swap. I'll write more about the background (and hopefully future!) of the swap in a recap post over on, but over here, I want to recap my personal swap experience. I worked with Jodi Bart, the AFBA's Communications Chair, to organize the event, and we decided to participate as well by becoming swap partners. (Yep, the AFBA actually has a Board of Directors and everything. Pretty snazzy. Something to think about for BFB?)

Jodi (whose blog is Tasty Touring) and I were both dealing with particularly hectic lives around the swap and never got a chance to talk on the phone (I'm totally phone-awkward anyways!), but we swapped a few emails and learned a little bit about each other. Jody was born up in Ottawa and attended a French immersion kindergarten in Montreal; I'm a total francophile nerd (and minored in French), so I hope we have a chance to parler en franรงais at some point! (Yes, I know "to parler" is redundant, but I'm making up my own Franglish rules here.) Fast-forward to college at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where Jodi studied history. Then, she moved to NYC to do PR for The New Yorker before moving to Austin in 2003.

She's been blogging since 2008 - me too! - and awesomely won a national food blogger video contest through Whole Foods last year, resulting in a fabulous free trip to Europe. Amazing.

From Boston to Austin

Picking out the local goodies to share with Jodi was pretty exciting. There are the obvious choices that came to mind right away, like Taza chocolates and local honey from Follow the Honey; the ones that I came across randomly, having never heard of them before, like Fat Toad caramel and Minnie's Mandelbrot; and everything in between.

Here's what I sent:

Wildflower Honey from Warm Colors Apiary in Deerfield (purchased at Follow the Honey in Cambridge)

Follow the Honey is a newish bee-themed store in Cambridge. I first learned about it from a friend of a friend who worked there, and I went in, tasted a ton of honey, took a ton of photos, and wrote about it for CBS Boston. I was expecting just a store full of honey, but it’s so much more than that. Product-wise, there are bee and honey-themed accessories, beauty products, and honey from all over the world. The staff is also extremely knowledgeable about bees, colony collapse disorder, etc., and many of them are artists, so the store is gorgeous.

Most of the local honeys available last time I went in would have put me too close to the budget limit for the swap, but fortunately this local wildflower honey was “on tap” at a reasonable price - they have a rotating selection on tap that you jar yourself. It's from Warm Colors Apiary. (As you'll read a bit further down, Jodi also sent me a local honey!)

I had hoped to include print-outs of recipes from the websites of several of the products I was sending and stores I was visiting, but I unfortunately ran out of time. Warm Colors has a nice collection of honey-based recipes here.

Chocolate from Taza Chocolate in Somerville (purchased at Magpie in Somerville)

Taza is headquartered in Somerville - my home! The chocolate is gritty and intense, not creamy like European-style chocolate. Pretty sure most Boston swap participants included some Taza in their package. I’ve toured the factory twice. Lots of fun! I included one of my favorite flavors, guajillo chili, and one that everyone else seems to love, salted caramel. These are sold all over the place as of the last year or so; I picked these up at a cute gift shop called Magpie in Somerville's Davis Square.

Here's Taza's recipe collection, which makes me drool. A lot.

Italian Plum and Wild Concord Grape Jam from Central Bottle in Cambridge (includes plums from Autumn Hill Farm in Groton)

I’ve never tasted this one, but I love the store, Central Bottle. It’s primarily a wine store - a great one - but they have some other goodies, including a sandwich that I occasionally power-walked 14 minutes from the office to get for lunch when I worked in Kendall Square - goat cheese, arugula, walnuts, pecorino. And amazing bread! Central Bottle jarred the jam, which includes plums from Autumn Hills Orchard in Groton. According to the ingredient list, it also includes chartreuse (which I love) and “tastiness.” Yay! I hope it tastes good!

Mexican Chocolate Cashews from Q's Nuts in Somerville (purchased at the Eat Boutique holiday market in Boston)

Q’s Nuts makes the rounds at many of the local farmer’s markets, and I stumbled upon this flavor awhile ago and loved it. This bag was bought at a local holiday market organized by Maggie of Eat Boutique, a Boston-based food blog-turned-business that creates awesome food gift boxes that you can subscribe to - or send to friends. Check out the stunning recipe collection on the Eat Boutique website.

Minnie's Mandelbrot in Boston (purchased at the Eat Boutique holiday market)

And now for something a bit more Chanukah-oriented! I found this cinnamon, raisin, and walnut mandelbrot, made by Minnie's Mandelbrot, at the Eat Boutique holiday market, tried a sample, and thought it’d make a nice addition to the box. Minnie was the baker’s great-grandmother, who brought this recipe over from Belarus more than a century ago. (Never had mandelbrot? It's pretty much a Jewish/Eastern-European version of biscotti.)

Goat's Milk Vanilla Bean Caramel from Fat Toad Farm in Brookfield, VT (purchased at the Eat Boutique holiday market)

Another random purchase from the Eat Boutique holiday market! No special significance - I just tried a sample and thought it was delicious. Fat Toad Farm is a family-run goat dairy in Vermont, which still counts as local, right? Be sure to check out their tasty-looking recipes.

Vegan Chocolate Ginger Bomb Cookies from 3 Little Figs in Somerville

3 Little Figs is my new favorite place! It’s a Greek-inspired cafe that recently opened just five minutes’ walk from my apartment. I’m in love. Everything’s delicious, especially the sandwiches. I’ve never had these cookies, but I’ve had a bunch of other spectacular baked goods from here.

Mayflower Poultry Coaster from Magpie in Somerville

I’ve never been to Mayflower Poultry in Cambridge, but it has been around since the 1930s, and its logo is very well-known around here. They even sell branded thongs on the Mayflower website. This coaster is from Magpie, the aforementioned Somerville gift shop.

2010 Holiday Cookies Issue from America's Test Kitchen in Brookline

Just a whole lot of cookie recipes from Brookline-based America’s Test Kitchen! Yum! America's Test Kitchen, of course, has a ton of recipes on their website.

To describe the items that I sent, I printed out a collection of some of my favorite photos that I've taken around Boston, and I wrote about each item on the back of a photo. I had a great time putting together this collection of goodies and supporting some of my favorite local businesses while discovering new ones.

From Austin to Boston

What's a big event like this without a little drama and mystery?

As other swap participants happily tweeted about the packages that they were receiving, I started feeling a little sad...mine hadn't arrived yet even though I thought Jodi had shipped it a couple days before I had shipped mine. Jodi got worried as well and tracked the package, delivering the devastating news that it had apparently been delivered to my porch a week before. Remembering reading an article about a spate of porch package thefts in my neighborhood that week, I actually called the Somerville police department and left a message about my missing package; one of the articles stated that the thieves had been arrested, and police were working through hundreds of packages found in the thieves' car and apartment to try to return them to the owners, so I wanted to make sure they could contact me easily if mine were to be found.

Then - and I should have done this first - I called FedEx with the tracking number Jodi had given me. When I put in the number online, I could see very limited information - it was delivered to my porch on a specific date - but it turns out FedEx had more details to provide. A very nice lady read through the information, including one very key detail. "Let's see, this says that the package was delivered to your back porch..." Back porch! I have a back porch! I live on the second floor of a triple decker; the back porch is only attached to the first floor tenants' door, so I'd never have a reason to go back there, and no one has ever delivered a package to me at that door before, so I completely forgot it existed. The FedEx lady said that the drivers had been instructed to be extra careful during the holiday season, and many were apparently delivering to side and back doors to try to avoid theft. I hurriedly ran out in the rain to find the package sitting rather forlornly, a little soggy and a week old, on the back porch. Success!

As it turns out, nothing was damaged by the rain, and a detective from the Somerville police department even returned my call. I felt bad wasting his time since it turns out I had the package all along, but he was very nice about it.

So here's what I got:

Austin Publications

I didn't know this at the time, but it turns out I'm actually going to be traveling to Austin in March for SXSW, so these publications have become very good research materials for me! Jodi sent me the December issue of The Austin Chronicle (the gift guide), a "Cooks!" edition of Edible Austin (a sister publication to Edible Boston), and the special food issue of Austin Monthly, which I devoured in order to figure out where to eat during my trip. Turns out Jodi's actually in this issue of Austin Monthly - she is one of the experts consulted to build the "best of" list. Awesome.

Barbecue Sauce from The County Line

I told Jodi that I loved barbecue, so this was a perfect choice! I haven't tried it yet, but I bet it'll be amazing. The County Line's original location apparently opened in 1975 and has since expanded. Since  1990, it has been shipping meats, sauces, and more all around the country. Good to know in case I fall in love with this sauce!

Hot Sauce

As you might already know, I really really really like spicy food, so of course I was excited to find a Texas hot sauce in the package. I can't wait to burn my tongue on this.

Cheddar Jalapeno Pretzel Chips from Fat Belly Bakery

"...for the German heritage," wrote Jodi. I haven't had a chance to try these pretzel chips from Fat Belly yet, but they're next on my list.

Pure Wildflower Honey from Goodflow Honey Co.

This honey comes from Goodflow Honey Co., a family-run Austin business that has been around since 1975.

Pumpkin Seed Cheddar Snackers from Doctor Kracker

Yeah, I pretty much devoured these within days of receiving the package. This Dallas-based company, Doctor Kracker, is carried at a variety of stores across the country...including Cambridge Naturals, which I walk by almost daily. SCORE. I will be getting more of these. Oh yes.

Bearded Brothers Mighty Maca Chocolate Energy Bar

If there's one thing I need more of, it's energy. Bearded Brothers - which, you might guess, is a duo of brothers with beards - produces a variety of energy bars. This one is chocolate. Yum.

Enchanted Rock Soap with Sweet Almond Oil and Red Clay from Austin Natural Soap

This Austin Natural Soap smells absolutely fantastic, and a portion of the proceeds benefit Texas parks and wildlife.

Just What the Dr Ordered Brownie from Lovepuppies Brownies

OMG. I might have to order more of these from Lovepuppies or stock up when I'm town. Obviously, this was the first thing I devoured. Dark chocolate (yes!), Dr Pepper (Texas' state drink and probably my favorite soda), and Texas-grown pecans. And heaven.

Thanks Jodi!

At least from my perspective, the Austin to Boston Food Swap was a huge, exciting success, and I hope we can do it again next year. (More on that in the post that I eventually write for BFB!) I'm also very excited to actually meet Jodi in person when I travel to Austin in a couple months!

Read about Jodi's thoughts on the swap on her blog.

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