Sunday, December 18, 2011

Visit to Harvard Common Press

Last Sunday the Boston Brunchers went on an educational excursion to Harvard Common Press. Somebody (yes, me) showed up 30 minutes early be because she forgot to read her email.... So I ended up checking out the SoWa vintage market, a gallery of strange Japanese-inspired pottery, and the SoWa market, where I bought some Swiss chard and ricotta ravioli that I am dying to still try... They are in my freezer, and last week was so busy that I can't remember if I even made dinner at home at all.[Yep, by the time I'd updated this post, I can tell you they were delicious.]

I also apologize for not having any photos of this event. I get distracted when everyone is taking pictures and think, ok, someone got a picture of that, surely I don't need to also. Oops.

When we came in to HCP's offices, they had two bowls of punch (red and green, how festive) and coffee set up. Adam and Bruce took people around the offices and let us explore. They are in an old piano factory and have wonderful woven rugs from Oaxaca on the floors (so female employees in heels won't slip on the wood). Bruce also started collecting art from Mexico, included super cool wood cared sculptures.

The staff had made breakfast for us, a spinach and cheese strata, raspberry cream cheese coffeecake, and several other goodies, and we were able to sit in bruce's wife's sunny art studio next door to eat, drink wine from Richard at the Passionate Foodie, and listen to a great presentation about bloggers and the cookbook process.

It takes an unbelievable amount of time to get from blog posts to books on shelves and virtual shelves, what a dedication! Also, bloggers have to have at least 75% new recipes for books. Definitely not in my future! (see also, forgot to take any pictures.)

HCP was also amazing and left cookbooks as centerpieces for us to each take. I snuck away with a huuuuuge tome on pies! (Pies! We all know I love pie.) and the Baker's Field Guide. Most of us also snagged a galley copy of herbivoracious, which I am so excited to use. The only downside is, the photography from that book sounds awesome - it's all photos taken by the blog-author and it's all of vegetables!

Renee did a fantastic job organizing this one!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Temple Bar with Boston Brunchers

Yesterday I had the opportunity to head to Temple Bar for brunch with the Boston Brunchers.
I was pretty happy to have an event on this side of the river (especially because the t isn't running to my neighborhood) and it was a short shuttle bus ride away.

Temple Bar gets an A++ for service and hospitality. Their bartender mixed a special cocktail for us brunchers and the wait staff was really attentive.

They were also totally open to making substitutions to the menu for the pescatarians at the table.

We started out with coffee and pastries - banana bread and chocolate muffins, arranged very geometrically.

I ordered the citrus and fennel gravlax. Unfortunately, as a non-meat eater, the brunch menu was pretty limited for me. My other option was the mascarpone stuffed French toast (I had a taste and it was yummy) but I'm really glad I didn't order it... You'll find out why in a minute. The waiter also was quick to offer a substitution of smoked salmon on the eggs Benedict for one of the other gIrls at the table. I think my brunch may have had the most photos taken of it, the presentation was quite colorful. Also, the salmon had a really great flavor, not overly fishy as some smoked salmon is and nice subtle citrus.

Then, the waiters brought out 4 different desserts for us to try. (I only got a photo of the cranberry cake, the restaurant was dark, which had several of us using the flashlight apps on our phones to light photographs.) We also had pumpkin mousse, caramel creme brûlée seasoned with cardamom, and my favorite, chocolate bread pudding with caramel sauce.... Yum. Yum.

After brunch, several of us walked to Harvard Square to check out the craft fair and independent designers market.

All in all, a great way to start Saturday - and I went for a run beforehand! I'd definitely head back to Temple Bar, but probably not for brunch, just because options for me are too limited. The service was amazing though, and who am I kidding, I've been there for drinks before!

And yes, brunch was free to us, but my opinions are my own.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Pumpkin Spice Cake

So the theme of recent posts is apparently being hungover and making bad decisions? Last Sunday, after a night out with rowers, I woke up and thought I needed to bake a cake. My brother and his friend had stayed with me Saturday night so while we were all waking up and drinking our coffee I reasoned that I needed to bake a cake because Halloween was Monday and I could bring the cake to my parents' house during trick or treating. Uhm, nope, Halloween is tomorrow and last week I was out of town for two days for work. Whoops.

I made half a dozen cupcakes and two layers of cake and sent the cupcakes back on the road with Alex and his friend. The recipe was a pumpkin spice cake that i came across on Bon Appetit's site. It has a lot of spices and orange rind for flavoring. I halved the oil and replaced the rest with applesauce to make it "slightly healthier". Once the cakes were cool, I wrapped them and stuck them in the freezer.

Friday night I took the cakes out to defrost, and Saturday got down with the powdered sugar and made a cream cheese frosting. It's orange so I could decorate the cake like a jack o lantern (I got chocolate jimmies to decorate with). I got out a piping bag and tips to decorate, but I guess I haven't done this in a while, because for some reason I put the tip outside instead of inside the bag to pipe, yeah oops. Minus all of the disasters here, the cake turned out awesome. Really moist and flavorful, good texture, and the creamcheese frosting, with a little rum for flavoring was a great complement.

We had a Halloween party and people came out despite the snow to drink and eat cake. My favorite costume modification was when Joanna was turned into a tipsy cupcake. My hpv vaccine/zombie Michelle Bachman plan was scrapped because I was a little under the weather and didn't feel like putting on zombie makeup, so that kind of sucked (I still managed to stay up till 3 though?).

Island Creek Oyster Bar with the Boston Brunchers

I usually blog about food that I make, so reviewing meals is new to me. Here goes.....

I've been pretty active on twitter since moving back to Boston (this also coincides with getting a smartphone) and am following Renee and some of the other Boston Brunchers. When I saw that (1) the anniversary brunch was at Island Creek Oyster Bar (and I follow them on twitter too...) and that (2) Renee was giving away some tickets to non-brunchers I was psyched. Definitely a challenge to myself to win one - and I did, from Sue at Public Radio Kitchen, who I ended up sitting with during brunch in fact (but I was a little hungover and it took us a while to put this together).

We had gone to Somerville Local First's Harvestfest the night before, so I was desperately in need of some coffee when we showed up. Fun fact: Island Creek brews coffee from Jim's Organic Coffee. I met their New England sales rep the following weekend at Head of the Charles, and Mike was awesome enough to give me a bag of coffee to try. They are a local, green company so it's cool to see restaurants using quality local products!

It was great to eat with other local bloggers too (Eating Places, The Economical Eater, Doves and Figs, The Passionate Foodie, and Baking Me Hungry).

First up, we ordered drinks. I went for the bloody mary, sort of a hair of the dog thing. It was definitely good and with the spiciness helped bring me out of my fog.

We also had an amazing pastry basket in front of us. I could have eaten them all, but went for the sticky bun. It was not too sweet which was wonderful, and had good texture, not like a sticky ball of dough at all.

There were 4 choices for brunch, but our table went with either the lobster roll or the french toast with sautéed apples. I went with the lobster roll to get the savory after the pastry basket, but the French toast looked and smelled amazing.

The lobster roll was awesome. It's always a good problem when you can't determine the best way to eat something. I did the slice in half and eat with hands. The rosemary bun on this lobster roll is not to be missed.

The other fantastic part of brunch was our ridiculous goodie bags from the brunch sponsors (below). Renee did a fabulous job getting sponsors, and my mom and husband were super impressed with what I brought home.

America's Test Kitchen
Barefoot Wine
Biltmore Bar and Grill
Boston Ballet
Boston Center for Adult Education
Boston Food Finds
Cow and Crumb
Cumberland Farms
Dorado Tacos & Cemitas
Dore Creperie
Doves and Figs Kitchen
Eversave Boston
Foodies of New England
The Four Seasons Boston
Harvard Common Press
KO Catering & Pies
Langham Hotel Boston
Phillips Candy House
Pretzel Crisps
Stages of Beauty
USA Pears

Brunch was gratis, but my opinions are my own.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Almost one bowl brownies

I'm running a 10k tomorrow (and pretty happy I *didn't* run the BAA half with this hot weather) and after a morning of cleaning and a fun afternoon with the man - we watched the Pats game in 3 different bars, in 2 different cities - and a surprisingly yummy dinner at Foundry, it's time for some sweets.

First, can I tell you about dinner? We shared a flatbread and then the Parisian Gnocchi at Foundry. I didn't snap a photo, but here's the description: sauteed pate a choux dumplings, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, brown sugar-roasted acorn squash. This was served in half of a roasted acorn squash. Yumyum.

Now, brownies! I don't even know why I decided I should make brownies, but the recipe I have is a pretty simple, quick recipe that leaves you with a pan of gooey fudgy brownies in minutes.

Well, almost minutes. There is some butter melting, measuring, stirring, egg cracking. But everything mixes in a pot on the stove, and often I don't even use a second bowl for anything.
The bowl in the picture however I sifted my cocoa powder into and then tossed all of the dirty utensils in.

And, kids - this is why you need to pay attention in math class:

I halved the recipe since I knew we wouldn't (shouldn't?) have a whole pan of brownies on hand. I used the same pan dimensions though, and knew that the brownies would be very thin - so I cut the baking time to only 15 minutes.

Brownies don't photograph well, but trust me, they were delicious.

Other stuff that happened this week:
I doctored some TJ's coffee cake mix into muffins, made with applesauce. OK, these don't look pretty either, but they made a nice breakfast treat.

I made the NYT Recipes for Health chocolate pecan bars.

These, I don't recommend. I'm sorry, but it was a disaster - the egg/honey mixture on top ended up soaking into the crust and making an almost frittata-like texture of the recipe.

I was rowing (for the first time since surgery in 2008).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

In the Sunday Night Kitchen

For the past many weeks I've been baking every Sunday night.
Things I've made recently:
  • Peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips
  • Chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips
  • Chocolate chip cookies
  • Toffee chocolate chip cookies
I also made things that are not cookies:
  • Blueberry muffins
  • Lemon blueberry bread (with a lemon/powdered sugar glaze ftw)
  • Mark Bittman's beer bread
  • Mark Bittman's beer bread with cheese
  • Plum cake cockaigne
And tonight...

Banana Bread from Joanne Chang's FLOUR Cookbook!

If you're reading this (is anyone?) and you're not in the Boston area, Flour is a phenomenal bakery located in Central Square, the South End, and Fort Point. The style of baked goodies is so in line with what I like to bake and I was super excited that my brother bought me the cookbook and had it signed as a Christmas present this year.

Back to the banana bread:
As recipes go, quickbreads are fairly easy - mix the wet, mix the dry, mix them together, and bake. This one is slightly more bowl intensive and actually requires the use of my baby (aka trusty kitchenaid!) to beat the sugar and eggs together for 5 mins.
(As an aside, our fridge runs cold up top, and my eggs keep freezing! I'm not sure how to remedy this - maybe remember to put the eggs not in their eggslot on the door?)
I attempt to pan-toast walnuts to throw into this bread, but instead I pan-burned them. I also had dinner in the oven, so maybe I was too distracted by the glorious smell of melting cheese to smell the nuts toasting. So I just used chocolate chips in stead, darn.

Anyway, I wont bore you, here are some photos: