reviews

Best Bites of 2012

I was asked to contribute to the best bites list - a compilation of media folks' recommendations published by Boston's Hidden Restaurants. Given the stellar company, I can't hope to provide a secret favorite or a yet-to-be-discovered spot (although I DO know of a new dumpling house coming to Chinatown - scoop!)

I took a different approach. What are some of the unexpected spots or standout dishes at perhaps surprising spots that I'd recommend?

Here, then are my picks for the...

Best Bites of 2012

Oysters at Mare Oyster Bar - selection that’s hard to beat, perfectly shucked. Sure there are tons of good oyster bars in town now, but this was a surprising addition to a North End spot and I've not had a more perfectly shucked, diverse dozen anywhere.

Cassoulet at Les Zygomates - just wonderfully rendered version of this home-style dish, the tagines are pretty terrific, too.

Sichuan dumplings at New Shanghai - The Sichuan chili oil defines tantalizing.

Sichuan dumpling

Ramen or soba at Pai Men Miyake - okay it’s in Portland, but it takes less time to drive there than it does to wait on line at any top ramen spot in Boston. I don't believe anyone in Boston even does yakitori over binchotan coal...the motsu (pork intestine yakitori) might be the single bite that stands out this year.

yakitori Pai Men Miyake

Red Wattle heirloom pork and barley dish at Russell House Tavern. An off-the-menu item that is worth asking for. If enough of us do, maybe Chef Scelfo will put it on the menu? This luscious barley and Red Wattle fat is the stuff of dreams.

Clams at Enzo in Newburyport - off the charts umami, Enzo is a perfect marriage of sustainable, local ingredients, contemporary interpretations of traditional Ligurian dishes. These are Woodbury clams and the Striper that day was also amazing. What I love is that the Chef Reilly is confident enough to let the technique and the ingredients speak for themselves. No ego on the plate, getting in the way.

Enzo Clams

 

Two final thoughts:

I had the most ethereal falafel at the new Piperi, haven't been back but I bet it's going to be just as good next time. And, the head cheese at 51 Lincoln (in addition to other dishes there) were so good, I was sad to realize that it was 2011 when last I was there. Must remedy that!

World of Flavor and Portuguese Stew

When you think about what Portugal has contributed to the world of gastronomic pleasure, we really do - all of us, owe them a debt of gratitude.

I was thrilled to receive David Leite's The New Portuguese Table (ahem) a while ago. As I do, I have spent months reading it and imagining making each recipe that catches my eye, imagining traveling to the town where the author first enjoyed it, or resting for a spell on the island from which it hails.

Yes, I do this with menus as well, so you never want to go out to eat with me if you're very hungry. "Oh look at this, what an interesting combination of flavors." "So you're having that?" "No, I was thinking of this instead, but it's really interesting to imagine that flavor profile. I wonder where the chef got her inspiration?" Yes, this how I approach almost every menu. It is part of the case for my husband's ascension sainthood. He - prone to low blood sugar crashes - has to remind me too often, I fear, that he's HUNGRY, NOW and can we JUST PICK SOMETHING AND ORDER PLEASE? Sorry, sometimes a girl just gets lost.

Lust and Lusophilia

I have been a Lusophile (Lusitania was the region of ancient times that corresponds to Portugal and Western Spain) myself since college. I learned a bit through customers in the wine shop about their visits, their love for the Fado sung with such passion in the cafés. Their descriptions of the pousadas (old mansions and castles, now inns for tourists) was so romantic, I openly wished and planned for a visit one day.

More recently, I learned about Madeira and Port and the wonderful wines of Esporão (and fantastic olive oil) at this tasting with my buddy Rich. I was thrilled to meet Marco Montez of New Bedford's own Travessia Winery and I'll be heading to see you soon Marco (what a great video intro to your winery!)

If you know anything about Portuguese history - you know it is, in a sense, a world history. The early Portuguese were such travelers, you'd be hard-pressed to find a country or a cuisine that did not reflect some influence or contact with Portuguese. In my native Japan we have Tempura (from Portuguese) and we call bread "pan" which is a Japanese pronunciation of the Portuguese "Pão".

Back to Portugal and Fall River. And Lamb stew.

Foodies among my readers will know David as the publisher of Leite's Culinaria - a beautiful and well-loved site dishing up "Hot Food. Dry Wit" (every time I read that I wish I'd thought of it first!) I know David through IACP (we were *this close* to doing a panel together for this year's conference.) He is a wonderful, accessible and down-to-earth guy who is always willing to share time, advice and insights, whether it's in a webinar for other cookbook authors and wanna-be publishers, or during an interview in the middle of alternate side of the street parking negotiation.

So my confession is two-fold: first, this is my first actual recipe I've cooked from the book (I think) and second, I didn't do the recipe straight. Don't hate me - I can explain!

Recently, we feasted for a week on Indian food lovingly prepared by our friend's visiting Mother. With the Indian spice palette lingering in my memory (and on my palate - please take note word-manglers out there - these are two different words), I turned to my beautiful boneless leg of lamb and to David's New Portuguese Table.

Lo and behold, a gorgeous recipe using many of the same warm spices we had been enjoying all week. Cinnamon, coriander, cumin, cloves, ginger and garlic. White beans and carrots are the called for vegetables in Borrego Ensopado com Feijão Bronco, and they appeared in our stew, too. I also had some fingerling potatoes leftover from a bag half-used in another dish, so in they went.

We enjoyed it over rice and I had my leftovers served atop grits I simmered in homemade vegetable stock. I told myself that these little divergences would be forgiven and possibly not uncommon in a true Portuguese kitchen. I think or imagine at least, that many of these kitchens are like those of my ancestors where nothing gets wasted. So the dish may have ended up a little different from its original but then, isn't that the beauty of the multicultural world we live in today? And frugality? Hardly new, but new again, and much in evidence around here.

One of the things I love about this book is the way you are welcomed into a Portuguese kitchen. You can easily imagine sharing a coffee with a slice of Bolo de Laranja (Orange Cake, p 220) as he tells you stories, of his family in Fall River, Massachusetts or his time in Lisbon, or the traditions of this town or that. You just want to sit for hours and eat and drink and laugh.

This cake - coming soon to a kitchen near you ~ posting the recipe next.

That, my friends is what I encourage you to do - share a meal. Pick up this book, dream and travel the globe through it. Imagine the warm and lusty flavors of the Azores, the seafood, the salty cured olives or sausages. Then enjoy some hot food and dry wit with your friends or family. Or just on your own. Any way you do it, you really must just enjoy it. To help you ~ I'm offering a free copy to one of the lucky commenters here.

An Invitation ~ Convite

Share with us your connection to Portugal. Have you been? Where do you wish to go?

What flavors does your native cuisine share or borrow from Portugal? Been to an Azorean restaurant?

If you have a favorite fish curry from Goa ~ or have a hankering for Vindhaloo - you're longing for the flavors of Portuguese food. Love those little custard tarts in Chinese bakeries? "Po-tat" or "Dan-tat" (Pastéis de Nata, p 217) are said to have Portuguese origins coming to Hong Kong via Macau. Japanese tempura, bacalhao, enjoy a nice glass of Port or Madeira or Vinho Verde? Well, you get my drift.

So drop a comment and enter to win a copy of this gorgeous book. Just don't blame me if you also become a Lusophile. There's always room for one more at our table, no matter where in the world you hail from we've got you covered. And fed.

Go Here, Eat This - Suishaya

It's easy to fall into an ordering rut. You go to a favorite place - you order your favorite dishes.

Gook su bok kum at Suishaya in Chinatown is a perfect example of why we should venture beyond "the usual." Stir fried noodles with spicy pork served on a sizzling platter for $12.95 easily enough for 2-3 people to share depending on what other dishes you order.

Warming, spicy and a welcome departure from the usual bulgogi or kalbi.

An order of Mandu (Korean potstickers or gyoza) and you have a dinner for two. Panchan - the little pickled side dishes are cheerfully refilled. 

Suishaya

  • 2 Tyler St (Corner of Tyler and Beach)
  • Mon - Sun 11AM - 2 AM.
  • (617) 423-3848

Holiday Gift Ideas 2011 - Bookworms' Edition

In the spirit of holiday gift giving, and for those of you with birthdays to buy for as well, I offer a list of cookbooks that are guaranteed to delight the cooks on your list. I'm enriched beyond words by knowing many of these authors and inspired in ways I cannot count. I hope that you'll consider purchasing one of these lovely books for someone on your list:

 

Books' Staying Power

Despite the popularity of tablets, apps, and the shrinking attention spans of the majority of readers, I still believe in books. In fact, I love them. I admire my friends who are published and hope to join their ranks one day. I will join them one day.

Here's an interesting piece (particularly the comments; is print really dead? who can make such pronouncements?) on the value of indie bookstores. I support the Brookline Booksmith here in the Boston area. Powell's made it easier to partner with them so I have these books on my Powell's Partner shelf. If you buy from my shelf I make a few pennies (honestly, a very few but the thought and the action matters) and I thank you. It is no easy road to choose, this business of being a writer.

The article above was flagged for me by my new friend Maria Speck whose sexy Ancient Grains for Modern Meals tops the New York Times Holiday Year's Notable Cookbooks list. (and the list of lists that Maria's book is recognized on is growing daily - HUZZAH!) I adore her and her book and was inspired by it to add a dish to my Thanksgiving Buffet. Black Quinoa with Golden Beets and Pomegranate. A hit. Recipe soon.

Right now we're at the end of holiday shopping crunch time. Books make perfect gifts. Long after the last tinsel is vacuumed up, a gift of a cookbook will continue to nourish and inspire your kitchen-dwelling friends. Trust me, they'll thank you each time they open it. If you're lucky, maybe they'll even cook for you from it.

 

Seriously Sexy Food - I keep telling people that Maria's book is helping to address the PR problem grains have had. Hippie food in all shades of gray and brown has no appeal. That food, thankfully, does not appear here. Ancient Grains has captured attention in part, because it does not begin with admonishments, preaching or urging us toward healthy goals. It says simply 'here's some lovely, delicious food' and they happen to be dishes most anyone can make. As well, they come from the traditions of the healthy Mediterranean cuisine.

Listen up, Y'all - I have to give a big shout out to Virginia Willis' and her From Basic to Brilliant, Y'all. One of a newish surge of interest in Southern cuisine. In this cookbook, Virginia's second, she takes a basic recipe most anyone can do, and shows you how to alter it slightly to make it a dish for when company's coming. It's a great idea and we have already begun cooking from it. I loved the concept when Virginia shared it with me last year and am so delighted for her success. Did you see her on Martha Stewart? Like her first book, it's full of lovely vignettes and headnotes with grace. The language of the South with a French accent. That's our V. Lovely.

"Be interestED and you'll be interestING." It was advice given to single girls back in the day. Well, I took it as a given that I was not waiting around for someone else to make my life interesting! And, my corollary was that I would not wait for someone else to join me, to make a great meal. Regardless of whether anyone else is around to see it, don't you deserve to eat well? Joe Yonan's Serve Yourself cheerfully answers in the affirmative. with relish. It's not only a love letter to our single selves, it is a fun reminder that we matter, and we should care for ourselves, and love our selves, nourish and nurture our selves, just as we do others. Serve Yourself it's full of great recipes you can make at home when you're cooking for one. (Truthfully, many can be doubled for company or could be supplemented by a good salad and you could make dinner for two from them.) As someone who happily assumed I'd always be single, I used to cook wonderful meals for myself, but I had plenty of friends who did not. They might have done so with this book.

Becky Selengut was my kinda gal the moment I met her: irreverent and sharp and always willing to laugh at herself first (and then others, when they've earned it.) One thing is unquestionable, her devotion to the ocean. She does with Good Fish what Virginia does with Southern cuisine. She introduces us to basic sustainability concepts and recipes, then gives us recipes we can grow into as our skills and comfort level allow. Anyone could pick up the book and make a delicious, sustainable recipe in short order. Don't we all wish for that sort of competence and confidence in the kitchen? Oh, and we benefit from her proximity to a solid sommelier and partner April Pogue. Each recipe comes with suggested pairings. I was honored to be asked to contribute a quote and thrilled to have it appear at the end of the acknowledgements.

 

Few people have done more for sustainable seafood than Barton Seaver and he has been rocking along as a National Geographic fellow, a chef, a speaker and now, a published cookbook author. For Cod & Country is a hefty book but one worth adding to your bookshelf. His food is not too "cheffie" - you know, most of the dishes are things we could make at home, any one of us.

 

Come all ye virgins - canning for everyone! You may remember my trepidatious start to home canning. What with the cuts and the mismatched pots, it is a miracle that I got anything done. But I did and it is in no small measure owing to the good cheer and steady tutelage of friends like Sherri Brooks Vinton. (See Confessions of a Canning Virgin) Sherri's jalapeño pickled heirloom carrots were gobbled up so quickly at Thanksgiving only a precious few guests got to sample them. Come see me in January or February when we pop open a jar of tomato corn salsa or make a cobbler from summer peaches preserved in spicy vanilla syrup.

Speaking of spice - que caliente y delicioso - Sandra Guttierez' New Southern-Latino table shows us a multifaceted side of Southern cuisine rounded out by spices, techniques and recipes of the many cultures that give true sabor to the South. I learned sopes and tomatillo-avocado salsa at Sandra's side and I cannot wait to see what else lies inside this well-received unique guide to Latino tastes in the US.

 

From the elegant dining rooms of our top toques to frigid rain and ice-drenched days, Erin Byers Murray goes from urban editor to oyster-poop cleaner and shares a unique story with us. Her story is part investigative journalism, part self-renewal, part sheer voyeuristic joy. For anyone who's looked at their umpteenth ridiculous email and wondered why, this story lends a rare window into the glorious but not often glamourous life of oystermen. For those who did not grow up near the shore, for those with an interest in a small business success story, for those who have a curiosity about our beloved bivalves - Shucked - gives one woman's insights into the stories that unfold when one simply looks up and says "what if?"

Because oysters have always held that sense of joy and wonder -- of possibility -- for me, Erin's story holds particular fascination. It's a quick read, and a peek into one aspect of our "farm to table" food systems. It really makes you wonder how and why we should enjoy delectable plump, briny-sweet gems of ocean kisses for a buck or two -- when you know what went into their cultivation. Wait, did I just say that out loud? Don't tell!

 

Really? You used to be a vegetarian? - It's true but as unbelievable to me as it is to those who've seen me chow down on meat. What I'll tell you is that my childhood was not filled with gorgeous prime ribs or rib eye steaks, we were all about the chuck roast (still probably my favorite). Since coming to know more about how beef is raised, I've taken a "less is more" approach with this resource-heavy, expensive luxury item. I'd rather eat it less often and eat better quality (Grass-fed, local, safely and hopefully humanely butchered). Where ever you may be on the journey from nondescript grocery story "meat" to a local, sustainable option - this book will show you exactly what cuts are good for what styles of preparation and also give you instructions from a professionsl butcher (who just happens to be a woman) on how best to cut, cook and enjoy your beef. Just as it helps to understand how a car works even if you never intend to change the engine block yourself, I'm a firm believer in being an educated consumer. Besides, if you know what to ask for a the butcher (or the mechanic's) you're likely to get treated with more respect. Why take what you eat any less seriously than what you drive?

(See also In Heels and Backwards. Women Butchers Breaking Bones and Barriers)

Goat Gone Wild - Yes, it is true. I'm a member of the Goaterie. We're a goat loving group of food writers and cooks who took up the call to arms and joined in some fun goat cookery. After meeting Mark and Bruce online and chatting over sustainable meats, pork, and of course, goat, I decided to have a look at this book which I'd been tipped off to by its food savvy publicist, Marisa Dobson. The book is charming, laugh out loud funny in many parts, and just plain good. You will certainly enjoy the Empanadas de Cabrito but I don't require you to make them at Medianoche (midnight.) Just make them. They're that good.

Finally,our entry in the "Wish I could cook more from it but can't" category is SugarBaby. What a delightful introduction to candy making. If you don't think you can do it, let me just give an image. People elbowing each other to get the last crumbs of some candy in the bottom of the cookie jar in my kitchen. And some of those elbows might've belonged to some in-laws. Who can cast blame? These treats are so good. Most of them not hard, but many of the most enticing recipes call for butter, so my hips are spared by the allergy. Small consolation.

 

A Giveaway to Brighten your Holiday

Drop a comment here and tell me:

1. what book you've most enjoyed getting or giving? (any)

2. Or, tell me which of these book you most look forward to cooking from and why?

AND

3. Tweet a link to this post (#bookwormsXmas) and you will be entered in a random drawing to receive:

- copy of Shucked - Or-

-  copy of For Cod and Country.

 

_ Hurry! Contest closes midnight Tuesday! _

 

Contest Closed: and the Winners are:

  • David: gets Shucked (Random.org: Timestamp: 2011-12-21 05:09:46 UTC)
  • Kristina: gets For Cod and Country (Random.org: Timestamp: 2011-12-21 05:10:47 UTC)

CONGRATULATIONS! We look forward to hearing how you like these books. 

 

Thanks to everyone for commenting, tweeting, now who's up for some sustainable seafood?

 

Treats for our Four-legged Friends

Inspired by Yvette van Boeven's Home Made - a Kitchn Holiday pick, I've been thinking about treats for our doggie friends. I've been wanting to bake some treats for our canine buddies in the building Tucker, Herbie, Doc and possibly Gia depending on her diet. I've come to learn that some foods are harmful in even tiny quantities while others are okay in small amounts. Then of course, doing research you see recipes that clearly violate what another forbids and dire warnings of gastrointestinal distress or worse that might be caused if the wrong ingredients are chosen.

My love for dogs overcomes the worries. And, just as with humans, a small treat once in awhile is far less harmful than something that makes up more than 15% of your diet. (Can you imagine potato chips as 15% of your diet?) So understanding that onions, garlic, grapes and chocolate are verboten...here's my first ever recipe for doggie treats. I will report back news from testers.

Folks in the area may see me from time to time, flying on the end of a red leash on the other end of which is one Tucker a black lab mix of some sort (and certainly there's some tracking/scent dog in there!)

 

Recipe: LDG Doggie Treats

Ingredients:

 

  • 1/2 tsp of grated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp of beef demi-glace dissolved in 2/3 C boiling water
  • 1 TBSP duck fat, plus fat from bacon
  • 1  1/2 TBSP chopped bacon, parcooked to render fat
  • 2 C flour
  • 1/2 C cooked barley
  • smidge of olive oil to make dough pliable enough to roll out

 

Mixed all together, kneaded just a bit to make a dough ball we can roll out.

Cut into shape and sizes appropriate to canine friends' mouths, then baked in 400 degree oven for 25 minutes.

I'll report back shortly! Fingers crossed.

The Business of Being a (Food) Writer

Michael Ruhlman the author of the captivating inside look into the Culinary Institute of America (see his Soul of a Chef trilogy) and more recently the author of Ratio and Twenty, was also the author of this Tweet on a recent morning:

"email to cia student: learn 2 b excellent writer first, then turn that skill toward food. no one should set out to be a food writer."

This got me thinking of all the emails I've gotten and networking coffees I have drunk, when a friend of a friend calls to discuss "becoming a food writer." Not one of these coffee dates in recent memory resulted in the kid taking me up on my offer to review their work. Many have even forgotten to toss off a quick email thanking me for my time (which is also my money, meaning the time I sat with you to discuss why you think you could do my job, I wasn't making any money, or querying anyone else about my next paid piece of work.)

I do a lot fewer of these than I used to.

A Day in the Life:

People often ask me "what do you DO all day?" Just to give you some idea of how my day goes, today I'm:

  • Trying to learn what I need to add to my iPad to make it not only fun, but also a useful and productive tool.
  • Looking forward to, and preparing for, a speaking engagement tomorrow for a group called ASPIRE that reaches out to Asian American women. We are a panel in the food industry and I'm eager to hear what Patricia Yeo (Om) and Alison Fong (Bon ME)  have to say. I think it's interesting that all three of us have taken unconventional paths to where we are.
  • I'm also setting up and shooting photos for two other posts.
  • Troubleshooting my camera flash card reader. Why now?
  • Outlining my Thanksgiving wrap up post.
  • Following up on sponsor queries. ("Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful...")
  • Tackling a billing problem with AT&T who suspended my service for no apparent reason. Yesterday my one and only phone, the one I use for business, was suspended. (Victory: I got a big credit and a sincere apology, acknowledging that not one, but two people dropped the ball on their end. Never mind it took the better part of an hour. And the two calls that took more than two hours in the past two weeks.)
  • Planning dinner (which includes a recipe to test and photos to shoot), post to outline.
  • It's time to go for a walk (it's late actually, but I had to shoot while the light was good and then I discovered the card reader broke.) I gave up the gym and now walk for exercise. One of the dangers of working from home is living close to the refrigerator, testing recipes doesn't help. Yoga pants are not your friend.
  • Drafting my holiday gift guide. (90% done)
  • Looking at the pile of books to be reviewed and thinking how I can turn it into a post or two.
  • Reminding myself of the in-flight magazine query I have nearly ready to go...

 

A Big Milestone and a Big Decision

With the publication of my first piece in The Washington Post, I was inundated with emails thanking me for the piece. I am thrilled. And, I'm broke. This dichotomy has me thinking a lot about the business of being a writer. It's never been more difficult to be a writer. Like the back end of a horse, or a peek inside the sausage factory, people seem not to want to pay attention to the realities of being a writer. Like the beret-wearing, Moleskin-toting café denizen I like to call "Existential Crisis Dude", after every other boy I met in college, writing is often a solitary and unrewarded affair. But is it a job? I think it can be.

First and foremost, as a writer (whether it's about food or anything else) you are your own business. While the appeal of being your own boss is real (and there are benefits) most folks don't think beyond that.

Here is a quick post I put up on Facebook a few weeks back:

I wish to lodge a complaint with my Manager (me) that my IT Dept (me) is taking far too much time away from my employee's (my) productive work. Also, the Marketing Dept (me) is so terribly far behind that the Accounts Receivable Dept (me) is going to blow a gasket. Accounts Payable (me) is not happy either.

HR (me) is quite concerned, especially with all the personal time this employee (me) has been taking do deal with "family matters." Legal (me) is looking into this. We may need to involve the EAP (me).

Sales (me) as usual, is just hitting the bricks and trying to make a buck to keep this whole operation afloat. Sure hope the Executive Planning Committee (me) is taking note.

There was a period when everything broke or went South at once (the dishwasher, the refrigerator, the computer, etc.) and medical and family matters reared their heads, too. Inevitably, these things happen at once. So you're trying to follow up on queries to editors, scare up some news sponsors, while fielding calls to repairmen on the dishwasher, while scheduling the refrigerator repairman, and watching appointments vanish from your calendar while your support person says "I've never seen that happen!" And so on. People have said, "Oh, I hate when that happens." But they are collecting a paycheck and making those calls from work, from a desk which someone else paid for, by lights that someone else is paying to keep on. I'm still in a hole from the "everything's broken/breaking" period.

Being self employed also means you cannot take a sick day, even if you get sick. No one pays you for a personal day to run to a specialist doctor it took you six months to book an appointment with. The upside is if it's not a delusional fever you have, you can stay in bed in your jammies and get something done. Even if it's just photo editing. People often think if you have not posted anything you have not been working. Each piece you post has been written, edited, photos have been planned, recipes tested, etc. It's not that I've been sitting on the sofa watching Judge Judy.

Work like mine is not for the faint of heart. I am in awe of people like Michael Ruhlman and all the published authors I know, who somehow manage to get it done and support themselves in the process. I'm very tough, thick-skinned, creative at problem-solving and entrepreneurial by nature. I'm organized, I'm confident. And yet, it is a struggle. Very few writers I know actually support themselves with writing alone. Editors are beleaguered, many of them are now writing what they used to pay freelancers to write for their publications. People who used to pay for workshops now have no budget, or are hopeful they'll have one again in the Spring.

More successful writers than I advise me to "never work for less than a dollar a word." As far as I can tell, that mostly means "never work (period)." It's been a long, long time since I've found anyone paying that rate. If you want to be a (food) writer, my first piece of advice is: do not quit your current job. This is no economy in which to be casual about things like a paycheck, medical benefits, retirement accounts.

My second piece of advice echoes Ruhlman's - be a writer. DO the work. Ask for feedback, but be mindful of the time of those you are imposing on. The availability of free blogging platforms means anyone can have a blog. This is mostly a mixed bag. Too many people give away their work for free. Then they ask me how I make money as a food writer. Here's a hint: stop giving your work away for free. Just because you have a computer and a blog, doesn't make you are a writer. Just as having a camera doesn't make you Ansel Adams; you must work at your craft. Do it every day, get better. Treat it like exercise. Do something every day.

Be tenacious, flexible and thick-skinned. Be professional. (I cannot tell you how many editors tell me that freelancers regularly miss deadlines. I cannot believe it, but they swear it's true.)

The writing I want to do, the writing I cannot not do, will not get done while I'm chasing payments, querying editors and negotiating fees above twenty cents a word. So, while Mom asks if my Washington Post piece has "resulted in any offers" (if only it worked like that!), I have decided to go back into job search mode.

Yes, for the first time in five years, I'm looking for a conventional job. A "real job". I don't need benefits, I don't need to advance in an organization. I'd like something that allows me to make a contribution, maybe exercise the gray matter, and I will write before or after work. We'll see how this next chapter unfolds.

I will continue to write and hopefully, my readers and sponsors will stick around. In the meantime, if you know of anyone hiring...here's a little about what I've done in the not-too-distant past.


Before I became a Writer...

I moved to Boston for law school in 1985, having been convinced that this was my route to having an impact while earning a living. This was prior to our city’s culinary renaissance and it is no exaggeration to say that the quality of food in this city at that time nearly caused me to leave. While new opportunities kept me here much longer than anticipated, I watched our city discover its capacity for more than boiled potatoes and broiled cod.

I have enjoyed many aspects of success in conventional employment, all the while keeping connected to the food world through volunteer experiences. (I’ve co-chaired charity events at nationally acclaimed restaurants, I’ve also volunteered teaching cooking skills to at-risk kids, developed marketing plan for a specialty food product, and I’ve looked at culinary school and other hands-on cooking jobs, too.)

After two years of law, left it for the consulting field and enjoyed the fit of business over law. I used the skills learned in practice to succeed in account executive and consulting roles. Strategic thinking and client focus enabled me to successfully prospect business, develop high level client relationships at Fortune 500 companies, and to consistently exceed goals. Some of my corporate accomplishments include:

  • Simultaneous management of all 13 GE business unit relationships; effectively developing those with strategic opportunity and turning those into partner, rather than vendor,     relationships. These resulted in new revenue streams for my company and in my being invited to speak at Crotonville, GE's leadership training center.
  • Turned around an at-risk client making it into a high-margin, high-satisfaction client. Developed, and was only outsider invited to, cross-business, cross-functional steering committee.
  • Grew Fidelity speaking engagement (Spring Leadership Conference) into a consulting project with Systems Company. Resulted in higher customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction for units that implemented our flexible work arrangements system. Fidelity is now implementing the system corporate-wide.

Within my own company, I designed and implemented organizational effectiveness manual and training, developed the first cross-functional account team, and was project manager and contributing writer to the telecommuting handbook.

After years of consulting, I took a spin through several startups, with great successes, followed too closely by pink slip after pink slip. I love the ability to contribute whatever you can in a startup environment, unfettered by title. Often one can contribute in ways that are not possible in larger more evolved organizations. Some of the startup successes I enjoyed included:

 

  • Closing a multi-million dollar deal for the first national extra-net VOIP network. (I knew nothing of hardware technology before taking that job but learned it, and impressed people with my ability to make deals, build relationships.)
  • Creating a joint venture between a major insurer and a hi tech company with innovative supply chain protection tool.
  • Developing new verticals and bringing at-risk clients back to a technology driven, distance-learning company.

Since my career path is unconventional, HR software will screen me out of most jobs I might apply to. So, I'll be reaching out to friends and acquaintances, networking like nobody's business. Put your thinking caps on and accept my gratitude in advance.

Allons-y!




 

Recipe for a New Golden Age of Patronage and Some Golden Pumpkin Spice Rolls

This did not come easy, but then, life is not easy. While the downward compression of pay for writers continues, our costs go up. I'm offered fifteen cents a word for a job that last year might have been $1 a word. My hosting service and my newsletter service both cost real money and those costs increase. In fact, the newsletter which has won the All Star award, costs me more as more people subscribe! When I started this writing thing, I resisted adding a "donate" button to the site. "I'm not a charity, I'm a business!" I protested. I'm a freelance writer, published in great places like The Washington Post. I've gotten numerous small awards and much-appreciated nods from editors and writers I admire. Even better, my readers have written me lovely emails indicating how my writing has educated them as well as entertained them. These emails and comments, and the professional recognition, mean a lot.

A better experience for you, costs me

I do a few things differently from other writers and bloggers. You will never see a product advertised here that I don't believe in. I know other writers that make different choices and honestly, I understand why. But do the pennies they earn from those ads, mean more to them than my experience on their site? Maybe they haven't thought of it that way.

I also don't enjoy reading good writing about nourishing our families, while having belly fat or mortgage re-fi ads in my face. I don't like reading about supporting local family family farms and seeing Big Ag ads like Kraft Singles or Hamburger Helper, interspersed in the post.

These choices I make to improve my readers' experience and are a reflection of my desire to publish this blog consistent with my values. But it comes at a cost. As I continue to seek new sponsors, and to be grateful for those I've got, I'm experimenting with a donate button here on the sidebar.

A new Golden Age of Patronage?

I hope you might donate through that button and support my work.  I want to make improvements that I cannot now afford. I know my comment module sucks. I am sorry, but it costs real money to hire a developer to do that work. I'd like to migrate back to Wordpress so I can make changes like this, myself but that site migration costs, too. And it costs a lot.

I hope that the way people have embraced crowd-sourced funding like Kickstarter campaigns and Awesome grants, means that people will not be offended. Maybe we are in a new Golden Age of Patronage? Similar to various Renaissance patrons who supported artists and composers, we now see the growth in opportunities to support artists in various ways. Think of this as a virtual upturned hat and me as a busker playing a really good cover of your favorite song. If 50 people find a post here as valuable as their morning latte, and donate that $3.00 I could pay for the next couple email newsletters. If 500 did, I could fix that damn comment module.

I believe people value good writing, compelling story telling, well-researched information.

I am proud that my readership has reached a level where potential advertisers have contacted me to inquire about ad space here. I am confident that turning down those ads -- ads for products and services that have nothing to do with my core values or my "brand", nothing to do with the things I care about and the things you like to read about -- I believe saying no to them is the right decision. But maybe I'm wrong.

Please tell me I am not by kicking in a few bucks to my upturned PayPal hat. I care deeply about your experience here. I appreciate all the support I've gotten via sponsors and readers, via Tweets and Facebook shares. Keep it up as long as you think I'm holding up my end of the bargain and producing good content. Forward the newsletter to your friends, forward this post to them, especially. Encourage them to read me, too.

And do let me know what you think I'm getting right, what I could do better, and how you feel about the dreaded (maybe only by me?) "Donate" button.

Giving thanks to you, I now share a recipe for your Thanksgiving table:

 

pumpkinrolls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOLDEN PUMPKIN SPICE DINNER ROLLS

The golden color fairly screams Autumn harvest. I think it's perfect to break bread and open this discussion of the new Golden Age of Patronage.

The flavor is pretty subtle, and the texture is definitely dinner roll, not sweet, nor muffiny, nor too flaky, like a Southern biscuit. I've modified this from an old recipe, I think it was in Gourmet. The recipe is pretty simple, not too time consuming, and best of all you can make them now and freeze them. One less thing to do just before the big meal. Take them out the morning of or night before. Warm them in the leftover heat of the oven as your turkey rests or if you have a warming drawer, pop them in there.

This recipe was modified to make it dairy free. You can substitute real dairy if you like. For those with egg allergy, you could brush with milk, soy milk, or just thinned honey.

Ingredients:

 

  • one package active dry yeast
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 3/4 C So Delicious Coconut Milk or Earth Balance Soy Milk
  • 5 C All Purpose Flour
  • 2 C Organic Pastry Flour
  • 1 generous teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg (throw out that old tin in your cupboard that has long since lost its oomph. Get whole nutmeg, grate as needed. You will thank me.)
  • 1 teaspoon Chai spice (I love Arvinda's if you're in the Greater Toronto area. Or try my friend Raghavan Iyer's new Chai Masala. Alternately, you could add some Chinese Five Spice powder.)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt or sea salt
  • 3/4 C Earth Balance Soy butter or baking bars
  • 1 large egg lightly beaten
  • 1 can of organic pumpkin puree (not the pie filling; alternatively you may make your own puree, but various pumpkins and squashes have different sugar levels and moisture levels, I find the good canned variety of puree easier)
  • egg wash: one egg yolk or one whole egg beaten with a TBSP of warm water and 1-2 tsp of honey

 

 

Directions:

 

  1. Butter a 13x9x2 metal baking pan.
  2. Warm milk to about 110, in a small bowl place one tsp of the sugar, the yeast and the milk. Whisk it with a fork to unclump the yeast. In a few minutes it should look frothy. This is "proof" the yeast is indeed, "active." Hence the term "proofing the yeast." (Don't ask me why it's not "proving the yeast.")
  3. In a large bowl measure the flours, spices, salt, remaining sugar.
  4. Use a pastry blender or two knives to cut in the shortening or butter or butter substitute.
  5. Add the whole egg, pumpkin puree, yeasty milk and stir until it's all well-mixed.
  1. Here is where that tea-ball duster idea comes in handy. Sprinkle a fine layer of flour on that cool counter, then turn dough, wet and dry bits together onto the counter.
  2. Knead about ten minutes until the whole thing comes together in a springy, golden ball. Only dust a little flour if it's really too sticky but if you're not worried about the whole thing, trust me the dough will come together without much more flour. A bench scraper works well here. Scrape the counter to gather all the dough bits together and knead it all into a ball.
  3. Clean out your big bowl, butter it, then turn the springy golden dough ball into the bowl, turning to coat it.
  4. Place the bowl in a warm spot or in the oven on proofing temp if you have that (85-100 degrees)
  5. After about an hour, the dough should have risen to about double in size.
  6. Turn onto that lightly dusted counter, and roll out into a fat log, divide in half.
  7. Roll log out to about 1 1/2 to 2" in diameter. Use your bench scraper or a butter knife to divide in half, then into balls about the size of a lemon.
  8. Do the same with the other log.
  9. Place the balls into the prepared pan, you should have about four rows of seven.
  10. Second rise, cover lightly and return to warm spot for another rise ~ 45 minutes. They'll puff up a bit and fill in any gaps.
  11. Preheat oven to 350.
  12. Brush the rolls lightly with the egg-honey wash. Don't let them get soggy.
  13. Bake about 30-35 minutes. The house will be fragrant enough that your snoozing spouse will lift his head and say "something smells good."
Cool in the pan, then on a rack to cool completely. Wrap tightly and freeze until the day before the big feast. To reheat frozen and thawed rolls wrap tightly in foil and warm in your 350 degree oven about 20 minutes.
These are really good at dinner or for next day leftover turkey, cranberry sandwiches, or in a leftover bread pudding or strada. Most likely, you won't have that many leftover though!
Here's to a new Golden Age of Patronage. Thank you for your readership and your support!

 

The Art of Beef Cutting - Book for Beef Lovers

 

Learning your way around an old-fashioned butcher's counter can be tough. If you grew up, as I did, with "meat" coming wrapped in plastic (not paper) on a styrofoam tray, you had little clue what part of the animal the meat came from or truly, that it even came from an animal.

 

Kari Underly Range Partners

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/02/dining/the-lost-art-of-buying-from-a-butcher.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha210&adxnnlx=1320238853-cPlCjnq5f1NcqSmk32tUmw

Peach Insomnia or Why Lawyers Make the Worst Home Canners

You may recall I've sneaked around canning like a voyeur at a sex club. Very intrigued. Not jumping in. I was delighted to connect my experienced friends when the Canvolution got underway and to attend the first event here in the Boston area.

Canning (listen Rich, we know they're jars, but it's called canning and jarring just sounds, well, jarring) is a practice that combines so many things I love:

  • celebration of local food
  • DIY, self-sufficiency
  • feeding ourselves and others from the heart
  • cheating
  • worrying.

peaches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me explain. Enjoying local, seasonal food is just a no-brainer. It's better for us, better for the environment, I can support the local farms I love. Support the local economy, reduce my carbon footprint for the foods I buy. Vote for low pesticide use and organic methods with my food $. We can enjoy foods at the peak of freshness and nutrition.

There was a time not too long ago for many of us when Do it Yourself things were not chic. What our grandmothers did to survive was something we may have been too quick to discard or move away from. Rather than food in jars and head cheese we wanted fresh raspberries in January and only the best loin chops with nary a thought to how a raspberry would arrive in New England in January or what happened to the rest of that pig or how she or he lived their life or met their end.

Canning connects us to each other. We share food, share questions about proper preservation. We nourish families with the food put by in Summer with thoughts of Winter eating. We can, sort of, cheat Mother Nature in this way. Frozen properly, seasonal farm-fresh produce retains color and nutrients. Canned we gain freezer space with shelf-stable processed foods and we can look forward to creative ways to use the precisely balanced recipes we followed when putting these foods up.

I've done some beautiful beets, some nice corn, tomato salsa which we can add to beans and burritos or scoop up with tortillas or chips.

Turning our Attention to Worrying

I come from world-class worriers. I have friends or acquaintances who are worriers and many more who are not at all. Never. Worried. About. Anything.

This worries me.

There are some who worry with style, like Nanette, the elegant Gourmet Worrier. That is not me.

Then there are those like me that can develop a bout of insomnia over a few pints of peaches. Read my Confessions of a Canning Virgin for a good laugh.

I 'd like to blame it on my training as a lawyer, but truth be told, I was a worrier long before law school. I have learned the joys of living a bit more free of worry, and of taking big risks. But there are times in one's life when one is flush with confidence and feeling as if you are a capable partner to life's challenges. Risks fade. Other times, careful research and planning can assuage fears that creep around. Worry beads for the non-sectarian - prayers for the atheists - we put much faith in books, in experts, in research.

And, finally there are times when research can be your enemy. When peaches can wake you from a deep sleep, whispering that they harbor clostridium botulinum. Anyone who is jumping on the canning bandwagon (and I hope there are plenty of you) and doesn't know what that is, should worry. And learn.

More than one friend has told me that they had to get off WebMD because they became convinced they had cancer or were soon to meet another horrible fate. Been there, done that. Back to botulism. We can do dangerous things like driving or even jumping out of planes safely, when we follow certain precautions. Ignore the risks at your own peril. Follow the rules of the road and your training, you'll most likely be fine.

Food preservation by boiling water method or canning by hot water bath method can be, I think, thought of in the same way. I share my peach-inspired insomnia to help you avoid the worry and to encourage you to can SAFELY.

Good lord, I've seen some worrying things. "Fresh lemon juice" in canning tomatoes, for example. Most of us would not choose bottled lemon juice over fresh squeezed. Guess what, when you're balancing the acid to prevent the growth of deadly bacteria - you want a reliable level of acid. Bottled has that, fresh lemons can vary.

 

 

peaches_closeup

 

 

 

 

 

  peaches_lids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For now, sit back and relax. I'll do the worrying for you.

Go Here, Eat This - BBQSmith Rolls into Leather District

A surprise opportunity for lunch with my husband leads to a savory, sweet discovery. Boston's burgeoning food truck scene delivers tasty results to Chinatown and Leather District neighbors. Real American Barbecue. On wheels and in the hood five days a week. Meet BBQSmith.

Restraint and BBQ

It might sound like an oxymoron, since BBQ is so often about BIG and BOLD flavors. It's about SPICE and SMOKE. It's about FAT and FIRE. But, restraint?

If you find yourself in my neighborhood, and you want to switch it up from Chinese style BBQ, head toward the Chinatown gate and look for the BBQSmith food truck. These guys balance just the right levels of smoke and spice, exhibiting admirable restraint in a menu of really full flavors.

BBQSmith in the shadow of the Chinatown gate.

The menu - with daily specials. Yes, you can find them on FB & Twitter, but they're better in person!

I chose the smoked beef sandwich. Doc had smoked pork. Both sandwiches were fantastic.

 

We shared a couple sides and the team threw in a couple extras to try. Not only were the sandwiches fantastic, a delicate, not overpowering smoke, tender meat; the meats are natural without added hormones or antibiotics.

Black beans also displayed restraint. Crunchy slaw, green tomato pickle, with optional hot pickled peppers - piquant, textural counterpoints to soft smoky meats.

Sides feature local farm ingredients and the corn, cuke, cherry tomato and dilly bean salad (without the buttermilk for dairy allergy girl!) was a delicious late-summer celebration.

Watermelon lemonade was like a not-too-sweet agua fresca, really refreshing.

Bonus: A frequent diner card!

 

August Winners - BBQ Bonanza

 

photo: Denise Woodward

 

So, it's almost 2:30 AM and I've finally cleaned the kitchen of most traces of, and all dishes dirtied in, the maiden voyage into canning-land. Eight pints and one bandaged finger later we have a tremendous sense of accomplishment and a foreboding sense of what lies ahead tomorrow morning when I try to rise in time for HVAC guy coming to investigate our AC's recent crapping out.

After Irene (who came closely on the heels of Mr. what-was-that?-Here?!-Yes, Earthquake), I realized that having good food put by for emergencies is even more important than ever. Well, it seems so anyway. Could be I'm simply trying to make myself feel better about this horribly bandaged finger. Did I mention I have a latex allergy? Actually all adhesives... but I digress.

One more thing I had to do before slugging the last of my G&T (Knockabout Gin, Ryan & Wood, Newburyport, MA) from a Ball jar, natch, was to pick our winners for August BBQ Bonanza prizes!

I am so genuinely grateful to our sponsors this year. And for the record, this little virtual cookout we've got going here has generated over 5,500 hits on these four August posts. Think this means we've gotta do it again next year. And stay tuned in September - more great guest posts coming!

July

August

AND THE WINNERS ARE:

Thank you to our sponsors for these terrific gifts.

PRIZE #1

A Sauce trio from the Silk Road BBQ guys. This is an exclusive offering of three of their sauces.

  • one bottle of Carolina sauce (for dressing pulled pork);
  • one bottle of pomegranate chili sauce (versatile sweet/sour/spicy);
  • and one bottle of jerk marinade (meat brine or stew base or ceviche base).

 

Gloria - Congratulations Gloria!

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:

10

Timestamp: 2011-09-01 06:17:05 UTC

Ask Jenni how she's enjoying the sauces, she was our July winner. Who will win in September?

 

PRIZE #2

Our second prize was donated by The Lisa Ekus Group. Andy Schloss is the author and we both have the honor of Lisa as our agent. Beyond cool to be amongst such a great group of accomplished authors. Mine is coming - promise!

Congratulations Sharon! As a baker, a home charcueterie maker and a great broad who knows her way around a heritage breed pig or goat, I'm confident Sharon will thoroughly enjoy this prize!

Here are your random numbers:

3

Timestamp: 2011-09-01 06:18:39 UTC


Prize #3

Finally our four piece grilling tool set, courtesy of OXO creator of our favorite kitchen and bath tools. I love the marriage of practical and efficient with affordable good design. Who doesn't?

I could not be happier that our friend the Random Number Generator picked David for this prize. Poor guy has been grilling everything since Irene visited his house and left with his electricity. As a huge supporter of local farms like Blackbird Farms (terrific Angus, pastured and dry-aged) he had a freezer full of good meat for his lucky girls. Unfortunately, last I checked he still had no power!

David will certainly get good use out of these.

Here are your random numbers:

2

Timestamp: 2011-09-01 06:20:11 UTC

 

Okay barbecue fans, stay tuned to see what's next in our BBQ Bonanza! Like a scavenger hunt?

✘ Find the location on Silk Road BBQ's site that is NOT one of their actual locations and enter the answer here for a chance to win.

 

Two Months of Sustainability at the Grill

Today I thought I'd collect links from our Sustainability at the Grill BBQ Bonanza series. It's been an impressive run and we're going to be grilling through September as well, so keep this bookmarked and share your own grilling recipes, sustainability questions, tips and traumas. We've got a fabulous crew who are helping us take new steps toward a more sustainable, but first and foremost, deliciously satisfying grilling experience.

[photo credit: Denise Woodward]


July

August

Gratitude & Love for Our Sponsors


 



...is giving away another set of their terrific barbecue sauces (exclusively available for us); each winner will receive:

  • one bottle of Carolina sauce (for dressing pulled pork);
  • one bottle of pomegranate chili sauce (versatile sweet/sour/spicy);
  • and one bottle of jerk marinade (meat brine or stew base or ceviche base).
✘ Find the location on Silk Road BBQ's site that is NOT one of their actual locations and enter the answer here for a chance to win.

 

Comment on BBQ Bonanza August posts also enter you to win Fire it Up: 400 Recipes for Grilling Everything. (Even includes recipes for goat, donuts, I kid you not, and scallops with grapefruit mojo. Really - there ARE recipes for grilling everything!)

 

 

The good people at OXO have graciously added this Four Piece Grilling Set to our August Contest!

 

How to win one of these THREE prizes:

  1. Enter a comment in any August BBQ Bonanza post.
  2. Write your own post on the theme of Sustainability at the Grill and link back here. You'll get a second entry!
  3. Hit the Silk Road! Find the phony location of a Silk Road yurt, post the true and the false locations in your comment here, and gain another chance to win.
  4. Tweet, RT (#BBQBonanza), post to Facebook.

Don't forget to stop by our sponsors' sites. Share a tip with fellow readers here in a comment.

  • Which OXO tool do you love the most?
  • What's your favorite order at Silk Road BBQ?
  • What would you most love to see a recipe for?

 

Go Here, Eat This - 51 Lincoln

 

Where to Go? What to Order?

Looking for a place to eat in Boston? The "must-try" spot for Dumplings? Dim Sum? My favorite burger or pizza? A Gluten-free menu or an out-of-the-way find?

People often ask me where they should eat in Boston and what they should order when they get there.

“Go Here, Eat This” posts are my quick reviews of good spots to eat. I’ll let you know what is unique about the place and include some of my favorite dishes. These may be either house specialities, indicative of the cuisine, or just ones that I really enjoy. I'll also try to add observations like whether the place is friendly to those with allergies, or disabilities, etc., those things it might be helpful to know.

Search on “where to go” or “eat this” or just check back on the Noshes, News, and Notes page for these new posts. If some write full reviews, think of these as small plates: quick to consume but full of flavor.

 

Go Here, Eat This - 51 Lincoln

Eating at 51 Lincoln is akin to being in the company of a slightly eccentric and much-loved relative. The Aunt who has traveled further than anyone else, who wears unconventional hats or the odd piece of jewelry, each with a fascinating story. It is full of grace, good hospitality, and quietly shows its character, seasoned by life and peppered with the loving remnants of adventure.

Chef Fournier's art adorns the walls.

One of the first things you notice is the good buzz in the room. Not the raucous, clanging sounds favored by restaurants downtown eager to prove they are the hot new thing. It's located in Newtown Highlands, a stone’s throw from the green line in a tidy row of tony shops and those that strive in that direction. Apparently, they roll the sidewalks up at 5 because my first visit (a media dinner) seemed like something from a sci-fi movie. Where are all the people?, I kept wondering. They were inside the restaurant!

Never mind, this only contributes to the sense of adventure. Once inside you are cosseted in a place that feels like home, if your home were decorated by that well-traveled slightly relative with expensive tastes.The art on the walls, most or all of it, is painted by the chef owner, Jeffrey Fournier. It might be the most brash thing in the room, adding a splash of color here and there to the understated decor.

The food arrives promptly even with the dining room nearly at capacity. The menu changes regularly with fun specials like May’s “30 days of Crab” in which each day offers a new special using this seasonal ingredient like soft shell crabs. The wines are paired with a parallel 30 days of specials. Sommelier Miguel Escobar is enthusiastic and just the personality one hopes for when it comes to ordering wine. He’s knowledgeable without making one feel bad if you are less so. He’s proud of the list and eager to share a taste of what’s new, special or exclusive to the restaurant.

...a knockout rosé

Outstanding taste memories from my first visit included the house-made charcuterie which shines in all aspects and includes the most ethereal head cheese I may ever have tasted thanks to Sous Chef Max Burns. “Ethereal head cheese” probably three words you’re not used to seeing together, but there you have it. The menu strikes the right balance between familiar flavors and daring notes.

 

Kudos to Sous Chef Max Burns for the ethereal head cheese

Local and seasonal

These words form a popular mantra for many restaurants. At 51 Lincoln, they take the phrase, but not themselves, seriously. (fried pickles anyone?) Dishes are thoughtfully put together with really local produce and a sense of humour is in evidence. They’ve started a rooftop garden which they hope to expand in 2012. This year, look for “rooftop assisted” dishes like the most excellent Pat Woodbury’s clams with Hungarian Wax Peppers, cilantro and tomatoes from the roof.

Meats are from small farms and co-ops around New England, backyard favorites like Allendale Farms, much of the meats are grass-fed and pastured. The menu recognizes local producers simply and servers were mostly able to answer questions on the spot.

Artful plating is an affront if the food itself is not satisfying. Here one gets the best of of both worlds. The “Fluke Amok” pays homage to a recent journey to Cambodia and is plated in a large banana leaf which gently cups the perfect-sized fillet and the lemon grass, ginger scented coconut curry. Watermelon steak is perhaps the farthest reach toward fun, but it added more of a surprise element to the meal. Frickles are another example of the humour in the menu, tasty, too.

Using catch of the day, fish may vary, this was fluke.

Fried + pickles = Frickles

End the meal with desserts, cheese board, and after dinner drinks, MEM teas, or George Howell coffees. No desserts disappointed, even sorbets came in interesting flavors.

“Where’s the Cake Lebowski” was a hit with Coen brothers fans at our table.

Beginning to end, (roof)top to bottom, this just-outside-Boston restaurant was a delightful surprise for this city girl. I’m definitely going back.

Where to go:

51 Lincoln

51 Lincoln St., Newton Highlands

617.965.5100

Lunch M-F 11:30- 2:30

Dinner Mon - Sat 5:00 - 10:30

Website: 51 Lincoln

 

What to eat:

Any “rooftop assisted” is a good choice.

Get the clams if they’re on the menu.

The charcuterie is a standout and shows a skilled kitchen.

Ask what specials are particularly good that day and definitely have a conversation with Miguel Escobar their sommelier.

A cheese board is available and but for my dairy allergy, I’d have tried that with Miguel’s pairings.

 

 

Unique about this place:

...are the rooftop-assisted dishes.

Up there ...

...where cilantro grows.

More plantings are planned for next year

and they've begun composting.

Emphasis on local ingredients with unique global flavors.

Classical influence, modern sensibilities.

Classes offered beginning this "soon".

Mondays and Tuesdays are dollar oyster days, belly up to the bar.

Wednesdays - wine flights and pairings.

 

Note:

Full bar and thoughtfully prepared wine list and drinks menus, both reflect “old school” and “new school” offerings. Bar menu includes a handful of dishes from pasta, to tacos and burger, as well as charcuterie cheeses and snacks.

They bake fresh breads every day.

House-made charcuterie is a stand-out.

House-made charcuterie

Street level access, near T.

 

cozy private dining room, downstairs.

 

Questions? Comments? Please drop a note if you've eaten here and share any dishes you think are on the "must-try" list!

 

 

 

 

Go Here, Eat This - Tico

Where to Go? What to Order?

Looking for a place to eat in Boston? The "must-try" spot for Chinese food? Dumplings? Dim Sum? My favorite burger? Pizza? A Gluten-free joint? Who does the best dollar oysters? Roast pig?

People often ask me where they should eat in Boston and what they should order when they get there. In these "Go Here, Eat This" quick posts, I'm going to share notes of good spots to eat, highlighting what's unique about the place, including some of my favorite dishes. The ones that are house specialities, indicative of the cuisine, or just ones that I really enjoy. I'll also try to note things like whether the place is friendly to those with allergies, or disabilities, etc. Just stuff you ought to know.

Going forward you can search on "where to go" or just look at the "Noshes and News" page. When I add new posts, I'll add them there and post on the home page, too.

Where to go:

Tico Restaurant Boston

222 BERKELEY STREET BOSTON MA 02116

617 351 0400

M-F 11:30 AM-2 AM, SAT. & SUN. 11AM-2AM

 

Unique about this place:

...is a large pan-Latin menu covers flavor profiles of Mexico, Spain, Central and South America. Large selection of small plates, tacos and entrees covering seafood, meat, vegetarian options.

Note:

Large, lively bar with over 80 Tequilas.

Some outdoor seating available.

What to eat:

Pork belly, Grilled octopus with aji amarillo, Shishito peppers,

 

Questions? Comments? Please drop a note if you've eaten here and share any dishes you think are on the "must-try" list!

 

Tomatoland: a Thinking Person's Love Story

As a person that loves to read, a child who spent hours with her nose in dictionaries and encyclopedias, it pains me that I read so slowly. But I do so with relish and with great appreciation of the work that goes into good writing. It's no secret that Apples of Love get me hot. And, food justice issues get the lawyer in me riled up, too.

So it will surprise no one that I have just finished Barry Estabrook's Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, nor that I love it and highly recommend it.

An Exposé, a Page-Turner

In parts, this reads like a David and Goliath legal battle page-turner. Other chapters will recall the best travel writing, where the reader feels the dust on your clothes and sun on your back. And much of it is a horrifying exposé that the best investigative journalism sheds light on.

No where does the book lapse into the hand-wringing exhortations that turn many away from activist organizations who may achieve good ends through questionable tactics. There are no gimmicky theatrics. No dogma. Just a well-researched, well-documented and exceedingly well-written story. Or stories, really, as Estabrook covers and pieces together elegantly years of research; weaving them all into a compelling read.

From the high mountain deserts of South America to modern slave quarters in fetid, repurposed shipping containers, to the greenmarket in New York City where chefs from tony restaurants pickup orders from cranky artisan farmers, Estabrook takes us on the Tomato Trail. He traces its botanical history, its bizarre place in Florida agriculture and introduces us to characters both evil and saintly.

  • Modern plant breeding has tripled yields, but produces fruits with a fraction of the calcium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C, and fourteen tiimes as much sodium as the tomatoes our parents enjoyed.
  • Commercial tomatoes are responsible for more produce-related food-borne illness than any other vegetable. Your supermarket tomatoes even had a nice chlorine bath before landing on your sub sandwich.
  • The tomatoes you get in the supermarket, as well as the workers who pick them, are covered in a toxic soup of hazardous chemicals, like methyl bromide which is toxic to humans, the earth and the ozone layer. Horrendous and extremely rare birth defects were documented among the workers in tomato fields of Ag-Mart Produce.
So these ubiquitous supermarket orbs (whose shape is actually regulated!) are the product of slave labor, chemical warfare, grown in utterly barren soil, in dicey conditions. The only thing they have in common with tomatoes from your farmers' market or backyard are distant genetics. The kicker is that they don't even taste good. All "mature greens" as they are known are gassed with ethylene gas to induce a color change.

A Love Story, Too

Lest you think the book is too depressing to pick up, let me hasten to add that this is one of the most uplifting books I've read in a while.
How can it be after documenting all these travesties? I'm renewed by the stories of the otherwise unknown characters (I mean that in both senses of the word) in this book. The folks who get the work done. This book introduces us otherwise nameless folks; not only the field workers, struggling under inhumane conditions because it's the best opportunity they can see for themselves. It also tells the stories of the many people on the Tomato Trail, from the worker advocates, developing fair housing, fighting for a penny-a-pound wage increase, running child care centers for the workers. It also tells of people who are trying to find a better way, some of them succeeding.

Everything-but-certified Organic farmers, breeders trying to find a market for flavorful tomatoes, farm worker organizers, even attorneys fighting and settling the cases on behalf of the children born with birth defects to farm workers forced to work with unsafe chemicals. These are the people who would otherwise have remained anonymous to us. These are the stories I find uplifting, the sort of stories would seldom hear but for the work of people like Estabrook who is finally getting some recognition for his work, too.

In reflecting on this book and the people whose stories it tells, I kept thinking of Marge Piercy's To be of Use.
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.

Yes, this book is not just about our love for tomatoes, it is about the many hands, and backs, the tears, the blood, the efforts of all who research better ways to grow better tomatoes, those that grow them, that pick them, that pack them. It's a fascinating path tracing how our food systems have corrupted what is our most precious and beloved fruit.

To eat a perfect tomato changes you. To read this book does, too.

 

Empanadas de Cabrito Medianoche - Goat empanadas at Midnight

Midnight at the Goat-asis. Sing your baby to bed. Got shadows painted on faces, traces,

of dinner in our heads.

... with apologies to Maria Muldaur

Late Dinner and New Recipes

You know my husband has a little blood sugar issue. So making him wait for dinner is always a risky proposition. I'm not talking about domestic violence, just serious crankiness. I've been talking about these goat empanadas for ages. Then there was a mixup at the butcher, the order was delayed. I spoke at TECHmunch, deadlines, family stuff, and finally it all came together.

I did a quick review of the recipe -- Bruce Weinstein & Mark Scarbrough's Goat: Meat ✻ Milk ✻ Cheese; Stewart, Tabori & Chang 2011) --

and thought I'd lay out the mise en place and take some photos at various stages. No problem. Just finish the last edits on the allergy piece I'm working on, then get started. Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

Knock, knock, who's there?

The neighbor's painter got locked out, could we help him find the spare key? Oops, where did those last edits go? Crap! Did I save over the edits?

Husband comes home early, with a beautiful side of salmon...and I realize I haven't eaten since breakfast, will I make it to dinner? Will he? I just don't know. In order to keep us going 'til dinner is ready, I decide to toast some pita chips and make some tomatillo-avocado salsa. The tomatillos were a little bigger than I'd wanted, and they turned out to be a little bitter. The avocado was a little past its prime, I fiddled around with it trying to make it tastier. More time passed.

So the way it unfolded, I was starting later than I thought.

Then I read the recipe more carefully - somehow I'd missed the "let the dough rest an hour" part.

In all the empanadas -- with brief pauses to photograph stages -- took about three hours to make. What I should have done was make the do-ahead stuff, ahead. Like the filling which is able to be done up to 3 days ahead. The chimichurri, up to a week. But no, I started the whole thing, at once. Late.

In the end, I didn't let the dough rest quite long enough which may have been why they didn't look so pretty. But tasty they were. At least, I thought so. Him, not so much. It was way past his bedtime by the time they were done. And he just prefers beef.

Medianoche means Midnight

Okay, it wasn't exactly midnight. It was more like 9:30 but for some of us, es lo mismo.

I loved this recipe and highly recommend it. I don't recommend doing it all on a day when you're running on caffeine. Do yourself a favor and do the do-ahead parts, ahead. And enjoy! The cinnamon and allspice are lovely. The sweet vermouth dough is silky. And the cabrito, ay mamĺ, que rrrico!

Empanadas Filling Mise en Place

Simmering filling

 

Filling cools while you make chimichurri and roll dough

Dough mise en place

Dough balls

 

Ready for the oven!

 

Done. Now the hard part is waiting...

 

Ahhh

 

Cut and sauced.

The Book

While I could urge you to eat more goat because it's sustainable. But my first rule is that it has to taste good. And goat does. Sensual, Sensible, Sustainability. It has to taste good. It has to be affordable, and we hope it can be sustainable. Happily cabrito is all three. And this cookbook is fun, it's filled with laugh out loud stories, little sidebars with helpful tips and "more to know" advice. Doc just looked at me and asked why I was laughing reading a cookbook.

The recipes include dishes from around the globe (tandoori, tzatziki, cajeta) and most all are made with ingredients anyone can find, from Paris to Peoria.

So get the book. Laugh at the stories. Learn from the authors of Real Food Has Curves. Enjoy these empanadas. Just don't wait till medianoche to eat.

 

And click the badge to go to La Fuji Mama's blog and peruse all the other goaterie posts:

 

We have Winners - Ancient Grains, Mediterranean Meals

Congratulations to the Winners of our two latest book giveaways!

Our theme for these was cooking with grains, ancient grains, modern recipes, integrating whole grains and Mediterranean style dishes into our diets. These two books are recent additions to this genre.

 

Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck goes to Kristen of Batter Licker

 

and

 

The Oldways Table by K. Dunn Gifford and Sara Baer Sinnott goes to Annapet of The Daily Palette.

 

What's your favorite recipe using grains?

Can't wait to see Kristen and Annapet cook up for us!

Go Here, Eat This - New Shanghai

Where to Go? What to Order?

Looking for a place to eat in Boston? The "must-try" spot for Chinese food? Dumplings? Dim Sum? My favorite burger?Pizza? A Gluten-free joint?

People often ask me where they should eat in Boston and what they should order when they get there. I've been very inconsistent about keeping up my "Noshes & News" page, sometimes posting on food news and food reviews in the Leather District Gourmet page, sometimes there.

Adopting the "no time like the present" motto, I'm going to start now. I'll make best efforts to share quick notes of good spots to eat, noting what is unique about the place, and include some of my favorite dishes. These will be the ones that either house specialities, indicative of the cuisine, or just ones that I really enjoy. I'll also try to note things like whether the place is friendly to those with allergies, or disabilities, etc. Just stuff you oughtta know. Going forward you can search on "where to go" or just look at the "Noshes and News" page. When I add new posts, I'll try to remember to add them there and post on the home page, too.

Where to go:

New Shanghai Restaurant

21 Hudson Street (runs between Kneeland and Beach, just inside Chinatown Gate.)

617.338.668

Unique about this place:

...is that it specializes in Sichuan cuisine, in a Chinatown which is largely Cantonese seafood. This restaurant is the place to try Northern specialties like Cumin Lamb which recall the Norther Silk Road influence. Many dishes have toasted red chilies which you don't eat, simply set them aside or eat around them. Also unique to this region's cuisine is the Sichuan Pepper (which is actually not in the peppercorn family at all, but that's a post for another day). The oil creates a spicy, slightly tingly and numbing sensation on the tongue. It's also floral in its flavor profile and the whole combination is so intriguing you can't help but go back for more. Remember, when you're trying to quench the fire in your mouth water is not your friend! Eat a bite of white rice to dampen the heat. Then go back for more.

Note: several steep and slightly uneven steps lead up to this restaurant. I don't believe there is alternate access. If someone in your party cannot handle these steps, I recommend doing takeout and having a picnic in the Chinatown garden or on the Greenway.

Mandarin is the primary language here, though both English and Cantonese speakers will have no trouble ordering. Menus in English. Separate room available for large parties.

Beer and wine are available, as well as some sakés, but I think tea or beer is the best with this food.

What to eat:

 

Szechuan Wonton with Red Chili Sauce - soft little dumplings in a Sichuan chili sauce that is hot in temperature and spice.

Spicy Cabbage salad - don't eat the red chilis but the rest is great, crunchy, slightly vinegary, perfect counterpoint to many of the spicy dishes.

Scallion pancakes - here come with the addition of sliced cold beef. It's a nice departure from the typical Cantonese style pancake.

Cumin Lamb - very good, a little salty, cumin covered lamb is quite different from the dishes you'll find elsewhere in Chinatown.

Tea-smoked duck - Lapsong Souchong is a very smoky tea which is used both for drinking and for smoking meats. This duck is a great example of the use of this technique.

There's also a dish that doesn't appear on the online menu that is well worth trying. It's a poached or steamed "baby chicken" (I think probably poussin) served cold in the Sichuan chili sauce. So tender and flavorful is the meat, and delightfully tingly is the sauce you'll be thinking about this dish before your next visit.

Moo Shu dishes are excellent here, too. The stir fry of meat and vegetables always has a good amount of the expensive mushrooms other places might skimp on. The crepes are perfectly rendered and more can be ordered. The leftover filling is also great for breakfast!

 

Questions? Comments? Please drop a note if you've eaten here and share any dishes you think are on the "must-try" list!