Category Archives: Food & Drink

A Cookbook Club

Anyone who knows me knows that I am obsessed with cookbooks. I have previously wrote about my borrowed cookbook library. I have been wanting to make my own cookbook club for years, but between medical school and residency I just never got around to it. What’s the solution? Join an already existing one!

For those who are not familiar, a cookbook club is a group of people who meet to discuss a specific cookbook and enjoy each other’s company over food and libations made from recipes in the cookbook of choice for that meeting. It is a great way to meet new people who are also cookbook bibliophiles as well as a way to sample a large number of different recipes from a single author. I recently joined the Boston Area Cookbook Club on Meetup and yesterday I attended my first meeting!

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The book comes with a cute gingham bookmark attached too!

The featured cookbook was “The Picnic” by Marnie Hanel, who is a founder and member of the Portland Picnic Society. The cookbook focuses on outdoor entertaining which is transportable and fuss free, but still delicious. The recipes aren’t very innovative or “chef” quality, but provides simple food and menus to enjoy al fresco. There are no photographs of the recipes but rather beautiful illustrations instead. If you like to know what your food should look like before you cook it or like many others get inspired by appetizing photos of food, then this book is probably not for you.

I chose to make the “Shocking-Pink Beet Hummus” (page 58) served with za’atar spiced pita chips (page 40) and “Classy Crudites” (page 40) packaged up in a mason jar. The hummus is basically your ordinary hummus with a roasted beet thrown in for good measure. It makes the dip a beautiful (and shocking!) color and also sneaks in a vegetable. As you can see in the images below, the color is less red than illustrated in the book and much more magenta in real life. It was delectable and makes me wonder what other foods I can throw a beet into?

Illustration from book (left) and real life photo (right)

The food was somewhat surprisingly delicious. Many agreed it exceeded expectations. The fare was not only good for a picnic, but probably good for weekday lunches as well.

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A sample of the feast (clockwise): Green tea shortbread, tea brined fried chicken, farro tricolore, salmon tartare, little leek and Lancashire quiches, Lyonnaise potato salad, roasted wax beans, and spicy salted olive oil brownies.

The event was so much fun. I met a lot of people I otherwise would have probably never encountered and tried many recipes from an unexpectedly great cookbook I never even heard of before. I cannot wait to go to the next meeting!

Have you ever participated in a cookbook club? Any suggestions on cookbooks to feature? I’m hoping to host my own meeting soon.

-Lisa

 

 

 

 

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Eater 38 Challenge: #11 Highland Kitchen

After weeks of apartment hunting, Ryan and I finally decided on a place and we are moving to Coolidge Corner come June! We are going to miss our fair city of Cambridge, and we are going to try to hit all the fantastic places to dine in Cambridge and Somerville before the move. We went for Sunday brunch at Highland Kitchen with one of Ryan’s friends from undergrad who recently moved into the area.

Tip: Get in line early for Sunday Brunch- like 10:30 AM early!

We arrived at 11AM (when service starts), and there was a long line out the street. The people at the front of the line were seated right away. However, if you are at the tail end (like we were), you have to wait for that entire first group to finish their meals, which means you’re waiting at least an hour. The hostess told us the wait was going to be 45 minutes, but we waited closer to 1.5 hours. The place was so crowded, it was difficult even getting to the bar (where there is a full brunch service as well) to grab a drink while you wait. There was live folk music in the corner though, so that and good company helps to pass the time.

I sipped on the classic Hemenway Daquiri, which was phenomenally prepared. For my meal, I ordered the special omelette, which was very St. Patrick’s Day inspired and stuffed with corned beef, cabbage, and cheddar cheese. The best part of the plate were the home fries- crispy and salty potato, but meaty on the inside. The watermelon garnish left me wondering where they get their ingredients from.

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Overall, I was quite satisfied with my meal, but I’m not sure it was worth the extremely long wait. I am excited to return for dinner service another day to try their ever popular goat curry.

What do you order at your weekend brunch? Are you a sweet or savory bruncher? I always go for the savory despite my enormous sweet tooth!

-Lisa

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Weekend Cocktail: Morgenthaler’s Chinese Five Spice Dark ‘N’ Stormy

One month ago, I posted about Lisa’s favorite cocktail—at least it was when I met her—the Dark ‘N’ Stormy. As mentioned before, home bartending has become my hobby ever since we built our own bar cart. As I’ve read more about the art of tending bar, I learned who some of the major players and innovators of the industry were and came across Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s book “The Bar Book” at our fair city‘s local library (I’m going to miss you Cambridge Main).

As one of very few books devoted entirely to bar techniques, with a handful of recipes that utilize them, it’s a great starter book for anyone with an interest in bartending. When I came across Jeff’s recipe for ginger beer and then later his Gosling’s Chinese Five Spice Rum, I knew I found a winning combo. But enough from me, I couldn’t possibly describe it better than he does below.

.I love it too Jeff! A satisfying highball it most certainly is!

Enjoy it Responsibly!

-Ryan

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Upstate NY Weekend Getaway

Last weekend, Ryan and I went to his hometown of Vestal, NY for a little weekend getaway. I was born and raised in NYC, so I have to admit that when I envision upstate NY, I picture cold weather, snow, and not much excitement. Both of my brothers went to SUNY Binghamton for undergrad and I’ve visited Ryan’s childhood home several times now, so I have a decent idea of what to do when you are a Downstate New Yorker finding yourself in Upstate New York. Here are the highlights of our very short trip last weekend.

1. Corning Museum of Glass: The museum was celebrating the opening of a new contemporary art wing, so admission was free all weekend. Free things are just more fun in my opinion. I was blown away by how wonderful this museum was. There were live demonstrations. We got to see Italian glass artist Lino Tagliapietra make some breathtaking pieces.

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Lino Tagliapietra at work (right) and his piece Endeavor (left)

Tagliapietra’s piece Endeavor is an installation of 35 glass boats inspired by the gondolas in his hometown of Venice. His work took me back to college when I studied abroad and traveled all over Europe.

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Linda and our friend Stephen on a gondola ride in Venice back in 2008 (left) and Burano, Italy (right)

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The piece above was my favorite in the entire museum. From far away, the piece looked like three trees, but as you got closer you could see that they were made of individual recycled glasses. Ryan and I have been searching for a coupe, and I wanted to snag one so badly they were so beautiful!

2. Wine tasting in the Finger Lakes

We had limited time, so we drove up and down Seneca Lake. The Finger Lakes have the best Rieslings in the country, and quite possibly in the world. My favorite vineyard we visited was Herman J. Weimer. I definitely want to return in the summertime to see the grapes growing!

We ate at FLX Wienery. The house-made sausages and hot dogs were spectacular. This was Ryan’s first time having poutine!

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FLX Wienery Before and After: As Ryan put it, “we did some serious damage to the napkins.”

The rest of the weekend involved lots of driving, trips to Wegmans, and watching House Hunters while eating cold pizza =). It was perfect.

Have you been to upstate NY? Any recommendations on things to do? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

-Lisa

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Eater 38 Challenge: #10 West Bridge

My twin sister Linda and her boyfriend Joe came to visit last weekend. Linda and Joe are fantastic cooks and love their food and drink. They are always up-to-date on the local food scene. Linda made reservations at West Bridge, which makes number 10 out of 38 in our Eater 38 Boston Challenge!

First we stopped by Cambridge Brewing Company for a beer. It goes without saying that Linda and Joe really love their beer. Since I moved to Cambridge, the only place Linda knows how to get to without having to use google maps is CBC =). We had the Vienna Secession (a Vienna lager) and Joe got the Tall Tale Pale Ale on cask. I personally liked the Vienna lager more.

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At West Bridge, we started with some cocktails, which were spot on!

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Conspiracy Theory (left) and Love and Fear (right)

The menu encourages family style eating, but you could certainly order things individually if you prefer that. We ordered two “smalls”, one side, and three “shares”. All of the dishes were beautifully presented. By far, the stars of the meal were the small dishes and sides. Unfortunately, the larger dishes fell flat. In fact, the pork and calamari dish was so unpalatable that we didn’t even finish it! It was served cold and was under-seasoned.

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Lamb Belly with Spaetzle (left) and Egg in Jar (right)

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Sunchoke (left) and Duck (right)

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Pork and Calamari (left) and Short Ribs (right)


In summary, go here for cocktails and the small plates and sides (especially the egg in a jar). I would definitely skip the large plates, and go somewhere else if you are still hungry!

Happy Dining!

-Lisa

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DIY: Ginger Beer

With the first week of March complete, the doldrums of winter nearly over (fingers-crossed), and a historic Pi Day approaching at week’s end, it’s time for a project post! This time it’s about making our new favorite cocktail variation on a longtime favorite, the Morganthaler Dark ‘N’ Stormy, an ideal springtime libation with a spicy kick in the pants!

Recently Lisa and I sent out invitations for a party we decided to host in honor of this year’s once-in-a-lifetime Pi Day (3/14/15). While our party may not be the grandest celebration in our fair city, (see MIT’s admissions letters going out here), we will have fun! We’re asking our guests to bring sweet or savory pies (think apple, key lime, shepherd’s, even pizza) and I plan to make a batch of my new favorite variation of our favored drink for our guests.

What follows is my guide to making Morgenthaler’s ginger beer recipe with champagne yeast. Then in a few days, I’ll post his pain-free Chinese Five Spice Rum recipe, which frankly could not possibly be easier. This will be my fourth batch of the ginger beer and through my own experimentation I’ve found one hack that yields greater consistency when using yeast than Morgenthaler’s original recipe on his blog or in his book.

My contribution to his recipe is a volumetric measure of yeast. Morgenthaler’s suggestion of the “tip of a paring knife” or “roughly 25 granules of yeast” (who’s really going to count granules?) didn’t satisfy me, through trial and error I found the volume—one pinch (1/16 tsp.) that produced the best result for my tastes (see below).

Experiments!

Science!

In the following ratios you’ll need (per 16 oz. bottle):

  • 1 oz. fresh ginger juice
  • 2 oz. finely strained fresh lemon juice
  • 3 oz. simple syrup
  • 10 oz. water
  • 1/16 tsp. (one pinch) Red Star champagne yeast

Or (if using 12-oz. bottles) adjust to:

  • .75 oz. fresh ginger juice
  • 1.5 oz. finely strained lemon juice
  • 2.25 oz. simple syrup
  • 7.5 oz. water
  • 1/16 tsp. (one pinch) Red Star champagne yeast (yes, I realize this is the same as a 16 oz. bottle, but I until I find a means of measuring 1.75/32 tsp. it’ll do)

Making the ginger beer:

As Morgenthaler suggests, there is one piece of equipment you need if you plan to make ginger beer more than once, and that is a juice extractor (we use this breville juicer, better one’s exist, but it works sufficiently well). Alternatively, I’ve seen people use a blender/food processor in concert with an orange squeezer and cheesecloth. I find that even with the juice extractor the ginger pulp is still moist enough that I now use this second method to increase the yield. One last word, I peel the ginger root before juicing it, but I’ve seen others not peel—your choice (I imagine the skins would give a woodier taste).

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Notice how moist the pulp still appears.

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I recommend squeezing the pulp out with an orange press (make sure you wrap it first in cheesecloth).

Next, you’re going to need your freshly squeezed and filtered lemon juice. While one could certainly use the breville juicer for this step, lemons are so soft and easily juiced that it can more easily be done by hand. In this case, I used a citrus hand press, which can be found on amazon for less than $10 here, or comparably priced in any restaurant supply store—we bought ours at China Fair in Porter Square. Just pay attention to the ratios above.

Now for the simple syrup. You have options here, depending on how much you need, you could make it on a stovetop, or even in a microwave. Just remember that “simple” syrup is a 1:1 mixture of sugar and water. Again, pay attention to the ratios.

Finally, mix your ingredients together with water and fill your bottles using a funnel. For consistency, make sure to measure out either 12 ounces or 16 ounces, depending on the size of bottles you’re using, with a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Add your yeast, cap, and store under the kitchen sink for 48 hours.

Mix and pour into your bottles.

Mix and pour into your bottles.

IN 48 hours your delicious goodness will be ready!

In 48 hours your delicious goodness will be ready!

Enjoy!

-Ryan

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Wine Tasting: Identifying Sweetness, Acidity, Oak, and Carbonation

Ryan and I watched the documentary Somm on a date night one evening. We have not viewed wine the same ever since. There are only 135 Master Sommeliers in North America. Of those 135, only 19 are women. Come on ladies, we need to commence with our wine drinking to bridge this gap! Anyway, Ryan jokes around that we should become master sommeiliers one day, but deep down I know he’s not joking at all! So to get us started, we decided to host a wine tasting with some friends.

With the help of “Wine: A Tasting Course” by Marnie Old, we organized three tastings that evening. We asked our guests to bring a bottle of wine, but we tried to be as specific as possible as to the style and country of origin so that it would fit with our tasting plan. We encouraged our guests to follow the tasting suggestions in the order presented. Below are the details on the tastings, with the specific wines we chose in parentheses:

A) Identifying Sweetness and Acidity

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1. French Sauvignon Blanc (Petit Bourgeois, 2013): Very dry, Tart Acidity

2. California Chardonnay (Sutter Home): Dry, Crisp Acidity

3. Washington Riesling (Kung Fu Girl, 2013): Off-Dry, Tart Acidity


B) Identifying Oak

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1. Unoaked French Chardonnay (Champy Macon-Villages, 2011): Low fruit, Low oak

2. Barrel Fermented California Chardonnay (Heron 2012): Medium fruit, Medium Oak


C) Identifying Carbonation

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1. Italian Prosecco (Mionetto): High carbonation

2. Portuguese Vinho Verde (Santola): Medium Carbonation


Hosting a wine tasting is an affordable way to try a bunch of different wines. Ryan and I made some hors-d’oeuvres and we had friends bring cheese, crackers, and chocolates. We had so much fun with good food, wine, and even better company. We are already planning our next!

Do you have any tips on hosting a wine tasting? Any suggestions of wines I need to try?

-Lisa

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DIY: Limoncello, Part 2: Bottling

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Limoncello is an italian lemon liqueur that is traditionally served after a meal in Italy, as a digestif (or digestivo, in Italian). The genesis of my interests in mixology along with Lisa’s recent borrowing of Eugenia Bone’s cookbook “The Kitchen Ecosystem” collided in late December when flipping through Bone’s book I discovered her limoncello recipe. As I was still in the Christmas giving mindset I thought what a wonderful gift idea! It’s a DIY gift, so the giftee will know it came from the heart, took both time and forethought, and it will last for months—so it’s a perfect gift! Only problem, it takes 2 months to make.

As promised in our original post, here’s the final product (the recipe, is here).

5. Filter the limoncello, first through cheesecloth, then through a coffee filter. Bottle it and store it in your freezer (it’s best served cold). It will keep forever.

Filter first through a cheesecloth.

Filter first through a cheesecloth.

Close up.

Close up.

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Then through a coffee filter.

Notice the color change.

Notice the color change.

Enjoy!

-Ryan

PS- In case you’re wondering, Lisa gave it her approval. I’ll second that! Not too sweet, not too strong. Perfect.

Remember that Limoncello, like gazpacho, is best served cold.

Remember that Limoncello, like gazpacho, is best served cold.

PPS- Team white and gold!

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Weekend Cocktail: Dark ‘N’ Stormy

The summer Lisa and I met, we were both interns at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Strong Children’s Research Center program. Our romantic chemistry came to fruition one night at The Bug Jar—a well reviewed bar in Rochester, NY. That night was memorable for several reasons: aside from getting dumped by my former flame via an email, it was the first time Lisa, myself, and our peers went out for drinks and engaged in a friendly billiards competition. This might have been the first time Lisa saw my competitive side (As the youngest of three boys, I’ve grown to hate losing).

I remember during one intermission, Lisa ordered her favorite cocktail, the Dark ‘N’ Stormy. I’m not sure how a young man like myself could not fall for a smart, beautiful, Ivy-league grad, future doctor once she ordered that! I had never tasted a Dark ‘N’ Stormy before, but once she let me try her’s… well, the rest was history. Game over.

Ever since, this drink has had a special place in my heart because it reminds me of a moment when the thought first popped into my head that she might be the one for me.

Here’s the basic recipe:

  • Fill a collins glass with ice
  • Add 2 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal Rum (or try Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s spiced version)
  • Add 5 oz. ginger beer (Bundaberg’s or Barritt’s are the most traditional in style, or make it yourself!)

Happy Weekend!

-Ryan

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Eater 38 Challenge: #9 Cafe Sushi

Valentine’s Day was a perfect day to make some progress on our Eater 38 challenge.  February 14th is notoriously a bad day for trying out a new restaurant. Expert opinions warn diners to stay home, but we didn’t listen and went out anyway! We dined at Cafe Sushi for a Valentine’s Day lunch, which was perfect timing because it was right before yet another blizzard in New England. To make things even more of a flurry, Ryan accidentally thought he had made the reservations for 1:30PM, but he actually made them for noon. Coincidentally, there happened to be a guy named “Ryan Butter” with a reservation at 2PM. The hostess thought that he was Ryan Butter and seated us right as we got there. Luckily, service died down by 2PM and Ryan Butter also got a table without any problems.

Cafe Sushi is a very casual place. Although sushi is always a treat to eat, probably not the best place to score some points on romance if you are trying to impress your boo. Read: No intimate, warm fuzzy, candle light decor here. Service as predicted was on the slow side. The server (as predicted) seemed unhappy. Such is life when one is working on a holiday meant to be spent with loved ones, but instead you are serving others. I am a resident, so I empathize with this dilemma. I am going to give the server the benefit of the doubt and bet that he would smile more and be more pleasant on another day.

We ordered the Chef’s Sushi Lunch, the Sashimi lunch, and the Sake 101 flight. The sake flight was probably the best part of the meal. It was fun to do a tasting of something that we are not very familiar with. Sake has such complexity! This was a great introduction to sake for us, and I have a feeling that sake may become one of our next obsessions/vices.

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Sake flight: Dewatsuru Kimoto, Minato, and Fukucho (from top to bottom, although they all look the same!)

Our meals came with a side of salad and miso soup, which were both well executed. The salad was so beautifully presented and perfectly seasoned. The soup was wonderfully balanced and was a soothing retreat from the New England cold.

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Side Salad

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Sashimi Lunch (left) and Chef’s Sushi Lunch (right)

The main courses though left something to be desired. They were both beautifully presented. The issue was I didn’t really know what I was eating because there was no description on the menu. I know what was tuna and salmon, and I think one was swordfish, but I’m not sure what the other proteins were! The rice was under-seasoned for my taste. I thought the chef’s sushi lunch was going to be a creative selection, but the fare was pretty standard and not too exciting. While it was affordable sushi, I am not sure if it was the best sushi in Boston as many claim it to be. I don’t have much experience with sushi in Boston, so I guess I’ll have to eat more and get back to you on that!

Another gripe of mine was that the restroom was in the back hallway of the restaurant, and I might as well have gone outside in the blizzard to do my business because that’s how cold the restroom was!

Decor: 2/5

Service: 2/5

Food: 3/5

Total rating: 2.33/5

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day! What did you do with your friends and/or partners?

-Lisa

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