Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Crispin' at Local 149

For those of you who have read my blog post on the Boston Brunchers' event hosted by Local 149 earlier this month, you will know something about the amazing eats that are served througout the day at this restaurant. You will also know of my subsequent enthusiasm for this hot, new (ish) spot and my immediate delight in being invited to join a friend for the 5 Course Cider Dinner hosted at Local 149 this past Monday.
This event was being to promote Crispin Cider: a fabulous line of delicious ciders, ranging from sweet to dry. The New England distributor, Kayla, had met with Chef Lisa Dubois, to decide which ciders to feature and pair with innovative dishes, which were all gluten free.

Up first we had their Classic English Dry cider, served conveniently in a can and paired with delicious tuna tartar served atop a salty potato chip with wasabi aioli. A nice start that greeted us right as we sat down.

The next course (not pictured above) was a serving of braised lamd shoulder with pickled currants and soft-ripened cheese. This dish was paired with the 'Joan of Arc'; a sauvignon blanc inspired cider -limited release. I loved this cider as it hinted at the sweet, light taste of a good Sauvignon Blanc, one of my favorite wines.
Above, we have a picture of the third course; a seared sea scallop with sherry vinegar roasted endive and foie butter. I have really been enjoying some great scallops lately, notably from Lineage and Troquet.  These little guys were right on par and the foie butter was a sinful delight.
The Honey Crisp cider that came along with this course was also my favorite - seeing as it mirrored the tart sweetness of my favorite apple...the Honey Crisp:)

Getting better and better with each dish, we had a sweet potato and marshmallow gratin with a smoked duck drum stick. I love all three things and put them together...I am in heaven. The Saint - an unfiltered Belgian cider complemented the sweetness of the gratin nicely.

To finish (the 5 course dinner that is), we were served vanilla ice-cream with caramel (made with the boiled down version of the dry cider) and crystallized walnuts. The Landsdowne came along with this and was thick and dark because of its organic molasses component.
It was a great way to round out a well-balanced and masterfully orchestrated dinner. (I hardly even noticed the absence of bread!)

Of course, with so much delicious food and a menu of even more options, I could not help but to order another dessert. I had originally wanted to try their fried FlutterNutter, but it was the only dessert they were not making that night! Instead, I ordered their Chocolate cigars which comes with caramel ice cream, 'boozy' whipped cream and more delicious candied walnuts.
Needless to say that even on top of the 5 course dinner, this plate was licked clean!
There are not many restaurants in Boston that I would go back to multiple times and be as satisfied as I have been with Local 149.
This restaurant has atmosphere, great friendly staff, ground breaking food - oh- and did I mention that it partners with The Level Up? With the 15 dollars credit waiting for really can't go what are you waiting for!?

*A special thank you to Kayla from Crispin Cider for putting the event together and putting up with my antics all throughout the meal:)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Phan-tastic Phestival!

I don't really know how best to describe my luck in attending two blow out food festivals in two weekends...Last week's Dessert Showcase had me on a sugar high for at least a couple hours (or until I got to unloading my take home goodies, half of which actually made it into the fridge...) and this Saturday I spent a good part of the day eating my way through the Phantom Gourmet Food Festival, stretching from Landsowne to Ipswich.
My stomach is certainly getting better at this as I somehow managed to continuously eat my way through Bacon cheddar dogs from Spike's junkyard dogs, grilled cheese and ham sandwiches from Cheese Boy and wings from Kowloon Restaurant
What else can you find at the Phantom Gourmet festival? Other than a whole lot of might find:
Tubs full of butter....

Cauldrons full of chili...
Ice cream filled cupcakes aka Shot Cakes....genius...pure genius...
For a break from all the madness, you can head into the air conditioned House of Blues to witness some  National League of Competitive Eating contests.
This year we had three woman against one man in the attack of the Edible Arrangements...the big guy in blue one...
Even better was the meatball eating contest that pitted three dudes against little 109 lbs Sonya the Black Widow.  Wait for it..Sonya totalled 48 meatballs in ten minutes and the three guys combined....39. Talk about inspiration!
With your newfound appetite, it's time to head back onto the battle ground, the guys behind Dore Creperie were hard at work with banana, nutella milkshakes and delectable brie, apple, ham and honey crepes ...

Unfortunately, their pop-up location at 1 Beacon street will only be going for a month or two more...fortunately however, they are going to start another pop-up...stay tuned:)
After all of this...and of course much more (Sunset Grill and Tap had the best creme brulee or pumpkin ale ice cream), my friends and I put down our forks and headed for the exits.
Yet another Phab Phood event down for the books and I am already waiting for next year's:)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Level Up to save a buck:)

I would say that by now, most people are aware of at least one or two 'group coupon' companies that offer subscription-based coupons on a daily basis.  Groupon and Living Social are of course some of the more popular ones however these days, there seem to be more and more popping up weekly.
Although they all claim to be different, they are pretty much the same.  This is what makes the concept behind The Level Up so great. It started off just like the others, but just recently, it relaunched its premise and has in fact become a really convenient (and cheap!) way to get you trying new places.

With The Level Up, you simply sign up and they will issue you a personal 'scan code'.  This code can be used on your smartphone, or, for people who are not all fancy and don't have a said phone (aka for people like me:)), they will send you a card with your scan code on it.
This little code is your gateway to many different places and venus - a list which gets bigger and better every day.
The Level Up team partners up with these places and gives you a small incentive to try them out.  For instance, this past Sunday, I was walking around Harvard Square when I noticed a 'Pay with Level Up' adverstisement in Cardullo's front window.
I don't usually go in here, but figured, if I have 5 dollars credit waiting for me...why not?
In I went, and out I came with a bag full of!
Of course, it would have been easy to spend more than 5 dollars and this is the incentive for restaurants and shops.  If you do spend more, The Level Up is tied to an account you set up and bills it accordingly.  The best part about The Levep Up, is that you don't have to worry about buying any deal or coupon in advance and credit does not expire.
  It ends up being a win win situation...not to mention that you feel really cool with your little swipey code:)
If you decide to enroll in The Level Up, enter this promo code to receive 5 level Up bucks automatically:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Falling into sweet sensations

As many of you may have been aware, this Saturday was the host of the annual New England Dessert Showcase.  For one day only, the Sheraton hotel in the Back Bay was home to over 20 sweet exhibitors peddling their delicacies. This was my second time attending the event, and not only did the whole thing go down a treat, but I was amazed at how much smoother the whole operation was.
With my media pass, I got in a little ahead of the public - so I got to get some good pictures of the set up before the crowds arrived.  The location at The Sheraton, which moved from last year's conference hall at The Marriott, was much better suited to display and disperse the various well as the World's Largest Cannoli.

My friend and I got right to business, starting with the beautiful display by the team behind O'sugar Cakery.  They were really on top of things and had trays of samples ranging from their delicious pecan pie tartlets, to their cake pops, fudge cake and chocolate sixlets.
Whereas last year they ran out of samples within the first 15 minutes, this year they made it through the entire day...Kudos ladies:)

One of our favorite desserts however came as a bit of a surprise. Kueh, a little bakery specializing in Southeast-Asian treats, had a fabulous array of pastries and the like.  My favorite thing was their black bean pudding served with coconut milk. It made me feel like I was back in Singapore! I remember them well from the Hungry Tiger Festival held earlier this summer in Union Square.

Back for a second year in a row was the Chart House with their signature chocolate brownie, served warm and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and heath bar bites.  Needless to say, this number's hot and cold contrast made it down in no time.

A bit of a break in the sugar consumption was welcomed with a presentation by Nicole Coady, executive chef of Finale Desserterie.  She was demonstrating how to make these amazing Pad Thai truffles...which, somehow, managed to be sweet and savory simultaneously;)

Along the real candy, we had eye candy.  Above we have a picture of the World's largest Cannoli.  Unfortunately, due to the extreme drop in temperature (not ok!), the outer shell collapsed, so we could not partake in a filling ceremony...the mini samples they gave out were just as good though!
It is also worth giving a shout out to Batch Ice Cream for their delicious and all-natural ice cream, and The Cake Spot for the most delicious cupcakes I have ever tasted.

It was also great to see some familiar foodie faces, Elizabeth from Free, Food Boston had a great little food guessing game going and the ladies from Just Add Cheese are always a pleasure to chat with.
I somehow made it through all the desserts without going into too much of a sugar high...sure my head was pounding and my vision may have been slightly blurred by 12:30, but I figure that once a year...I can handle it:)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hit or Miss at The Cottage

Being part of a group is a wonderful thing. You get to meet people who share a particular interest, you get to convene around that particular interest and when that particular interest happens to be food...well anytime your group gets together is likely to be a fabulous experience.
I have been very fortunate these past few weeks to have been a part of numerous brunch get togethers with the Boston Brunchers - a fabulous group of bloggers who all enjoy food:)
A couple of weeks ago I had the best meal of my life at Local 149 in South Boston and I understand this would be hard to beat.  Just this past weekend, I joined for another escapade, this time at The Cottage in Chestnut Hill.

I had never even heard of the place! I was very excited as it sounded like a perfect spot for brunch and a quick look at their brunch menu had me all in a dither.
As with all Brunches with Boston Brunchers, The Cottage hosted the brunch and we only had to take care of tax and tip. However, I always take care to note the prices, because I want to be able to judge whether I would come back and pay the full price.
I always have a wonderful time with my fellow bloggers, however my opinion of The Cottage is mixed. I found it delivered one hundred percent on some things and then failed in others.
The first thing I did not love, was the d├ęcor.  Although I think some people really liked it, I found it felt a bit like eating in a Pottery Barn. Everything was smooth and reflective white or light-light blue, it did not emit a 'cottage feel' which is what I was hoping for.
On the other hand, when Chef Todd and the Owner, John came out for a welcome note and chat, I was impressed. That was a hit:)

Another hit were the truffle oil tatter tots that were served out for everyone to sample. These were light and crisp, with a decadent creamy center.
When it came time to order, I was having my usual decisive can you decide when so many items look so great? In the end I went with their Lobster Cobb salad, but not without ordering their Stuffed French Toast for the table first!
This dish was a major hit, no doubt about it! The filling, which can often be neglected was just right, although I would have liked a tad more mascarpone.
My Lobster Cobb salad was quite good; there were big chunks of lobster meat along with all the usual accoutrements; hard boiled egg, greens, avocado and bacon. However, I thought that for 20 dollars, this dish should was missing something....I think I would have either wanted more of everything or a lower price point.
So far things are not looking too bad. However, I am afraid to say that the egg dishes were a major miss. A few of my fellow brunchers ordered the amazing sounding 'mashed potato omelet'.  It came with much less fanfar than the truffle oil tatter tots...this much is certain. It was accompanied by a side of fruit salad that was definitely disappointing, and the omelette itself, which my neighbour, Sean, let me try a bite of, left much to be desired. Their Tuscan omelette, ordered by Lindsey of Beantown Eats, came out to much the same effect with bland homefries and bland fire-grilled chicken.
For a place that calls itself 'The Cottage' and boasts a superb brunch menu, you cannot skimp out on the egg dishes- they are a brunch staple.
Although most things were good, a few things were off...perhaps it is because this is their newest of three locations and they are just ironing some things out...

Monday, September 12, 2011

The start of a week with great potential

A five day week is never easy...especially when it comes after a four day week that somehow lasted forever...
Luckily, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  First of all, Monday is over and second of all, Saturday brings a showcase of sweet treats with the annual New England Dessert Showcase.  Deemed the 'premier dessert experience on the East Coast', this event will not disappoint. How can I be so sure? Well, check out my review from last year:

Kicking off Friday evening with a party for VIP ticket holders, the NE Dessert Showcase stretches all throughout Saturday at the Sheraton Boston Hotel.  After last year's mass attendance, Anthem, the event hosts, have revamped their strategy and will now have the public sessions split into two; a morning session from 11-2 and an afternoon session from 3-6.  This way the exhibitors will have time to reset and more restock:)
Tickets are 30 dollars for a session and 40 for the whole day.  I can assure you that no one is leaving this expo without a slight sugar high... last year, I think my heart was beating at the rate of a humingbird's maybe I went a little over board with at Finale's station:) 

Of course, this may have you feeling a little guilty, but fear not! On Sunday, you can redeem yourself (and your diet) at the Harvard Square Business Association's 3rd Annual Urban Agricultural Food Fair.  From 11 to 5 between Mt. Auburn and JFK St, you can peruse through locally grown produce ranging from fruits and vegetables to flowers, condiments and baked goods.  Certainly, there will be more sweet renditions, however, your tolerance may still be maxed out...
The vendors will be accompanied by live music from Club Passim artists all day long.
So hang in there, the next few days will just add to the anticipation and subsequent satisfaction that awaits this weekend!
Hope to see you at both events:)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Labors of love...aka Bottomless Brunch

This past Labor Day weekend, I was fortunate enough to join eleven other bloggers at Local 149 for a Boston Bruncher's culinary escapade.  I have attended a couple of these events and by now know that whenever one arises, an empty stomach is the only way upon which to arrive.  This brunch was no different as we were treated to the nines and consequently dined:)

Local 149 is located on P street in South Boston, an area I have apparently neglected in my usual wanderings.  I took the #9 bus from the South End and ended up bumping into Amanda and Megan, two fellow foodies also headed to the brunch. 
Upon arrival, our group quickly congregated around our designated table which was already adorned with two beautiful famer's platters, complete with house made condiments, five different cheeses and various meats.

It was difficult enough not to dig in right away as we were waiting for the rest of the group to arrive.  Once the waitresses began bringing out young coconuts filled with the most tantalizing sounding cocktail however, the anticipation had built to such an exorbitant level that no missing blogger could keep us from settling into the first course. Little did we know what we were in for...
After the first course was cleared away - to which was added some fabulous oysters with homemade raspberry mignonette and pepper smoked sausage - we were given samples of their chicken and waffles.  This dish was such a strong start, it was also my first go at this infamous combination and boy did it deliver.  The sweet blueberry waffles were perfectly fluffy with juicy berries, just enough maple syrup and the crispy, salty chicken made for a rock star marriage.  This dish ended up being one of my favorites and I couldn't help picking the last remnant off of my neighbor, Marie's, plate as it was being cleared away.

I believe the breakfast pizza was next.  Made with 'everything' dough, this baby was cooked to a satisfying crispness and topped with thick bacon, their four cheese blend, arugula and...quail eggs. Another first for me, I found the quail eggs to be a bit less yolk-y than regular eggs, but with a bit of a richer taste. Needless to say, it went down a treat.

Up next we had another sweet dish: life cereal-encrusted french toast drenched in espresso martini and topped with Grand Marnier whipped cream, a chocolate stick and in my case, mangalista bacon.
I was very good with this dish and resisted eating the whole thing- don't worry though, I got mine (and Marie's) leftovers to go;)

At some point in between this dish and the next, we were served mimosas.  The robust colour and great pulp made me think of sunsets - this drink will do well in the summer or winter.
Also at this point, my stomach was really starting to feel a little less say the least. The next two dishes however, somehow made it in.
Their Yorkshire Pudding and Lobster scramble sandwich were the final pieces and the staff mercifully only brought out a couple for us all to share family-style.  I am sorry to say that even between all of us, we couldn't finish it all.  (Not a bad thing though... it just meant for more leftovers:))
The Yorkshire pudding came with two perfectly over-easy eggs, house made cinnamon-walnut raisin toast, spicy sausage and fabulous gravy.  This dish was definately the most well-rounded meal.
The lobster scramble was a tower and perhaps a bit difficult to get at with any elegance. However, taste and qaulity of ingredients far outshone any qualms I had about the mess that ensued once I attempted my first bite: either way it is a delicious experience.
To top the whole shebang off, we were given samples of their Malted Chocolate shake and a quick shaking of hands with Leah Dubois, the head chef and genius behind Local 149.
Everything was delicious, nothing was overdone and no shortcuts were taken. I would make the trip out to South Boston anyday to order any one (or all) of the items mentioned above and am quite confident that every other menu item is just as strong.
Need I say it? Local 149 is five dancers strong...without a hint of a doubt.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Food for thought and something for the soul too:)

I like to say that I love anything and everything to do with food, however most of the time, my blog posts all have something to do with me consuming it. I am very happy to say however, that here is something a little different, but just as compelling and enriching...presenting, 'What I Eat Around the World', a photo exhibit currently on display at the Museum of Science in Boston.
I had heard about this exhibit through a savvy friend and was immediately interested.  It consists of a project run by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Alouiso, a photographer and author who compiled and compared the daily diets of 80 different people from 30 different countries. 
This is an incredible way to catch a glimpse into the wide range of food from culture to culture and lifestyle to lifestyle, while also bringing to mind important questions concerning the very importance of food within different people's daily lives and particularly the relatively recent obsession with counting calories. 
The exhibit, which only displays 25 of these diets, ranges from the lowest amount of caloric intake in one day, to the highest.  At 800 calories, we have Noolkisaruni Tarakuai, a Maasai Herdenr from Kenya.  For this mother of seven, politics and increasingly ruthless weather conditions make the procurement of food a constant struggle.  One cup of milk from her herd of cows is the norm and most if not all of it goes to her herdsman and children.  Meat is even more rare.  
Her daily diet consists of cornmeal porridge, a banana, black tea with whole milk and sugar and water. 
This diet is in stark contrast to Jill Mctighe, the so-called 'Snacker Mom' from Great Britain who would consume a total of 12 300 calories in a day, the highest amount recorded in the project.
During a period of struggling with drug abuse, Jill would go binge eat through about five sandwiches, chicken with gravy, pork sausages, french fries, potatoes, eggs, cookies, multiple candy bars and chips.
Thankfully, Jill has since undergone some intensive counseling, dropped her substance abuse and maintained a much healthier, balanced and binge-free diet.
After making your way through such an exhibit, you begin to wonder what your caloric intake for a day would be and how it might compare to some of the diets elsewhere in the world. 
What most interested me however was the relation between what people eat and the lifestyles they lead, without a doubt, the famous saying 'you are what you eat' takes on a very literal meaning in this exhibit.
Of course, it is also difficult to come out of the exhibit without an appetite. Luckily, the Museum of Science is quite close to Cambridge - a mecca of delicious dining destinations. My friends and I headed straight for AREA IV - where I have been trying to get since it opened earlier this spring.
It is interesting to come upon a menu after such an experience and go about your usual ordering.  You can't help but wonder what it might look like if it were to be compiled into a photo with you alongside it. 
I will admit however, that this philosophical state did not last too long and as dishes like their mac and cheese with bacon bits, bluefin and scallion salad and fennel sausage with banana pepper pizza came out, I quickly lost the analytical edge.
Everything was delicious - everything was fresh and I would have been proud to show everything we got as a tenet of my daily diet...unfortunately, I couldn't say that all my days look like this...but I suppose you can always dream.
Especially when a homemade Crimson Berry soft serve sundae is involved...
I would go back to both the exhibit and Area IV, simultaneously or independently - they are both incredible acts of culinary genius, one that displays, throws into perspective and questions, while the other satisfies, amuses and surprises.
Who knew food could be so enlightening;)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Snack time at the ballet:)

I have always said that the worst place to be is in between a dancer and their food...especially after a performance! But what of a regular rehearsal day? How do dancers keep up their strength for up to 7 and a half hours of gruelling physical activity?
Like most people, we have an hour for lunch in the middle of our day, but we need way more than this and little snacks here and there really do the trick.
I have compiled a small sample of some types of snacks that take us from one rehearsal to the next.

Here we have some 'Power of Fruit Bars'.  They are like popsicles, made with nothing but real, frozen fruit.  All-natural, these little guys are perfect for a quick and refreshing burst of energy in between rehearsals. 

We were very happy to get a few different flavors to try out courtesy of Power of Fruit...and they really did not last long! My personal favorite was their ,Orange Tango'...yum!

Dancers usually have some kind of crunchy snack on the go, whether its chips, pretzels or trail mix.  One type of chip that has been gaining in popularity since last season is Popchips - a light, popped take on a potato chip that comes in many flavors..
Above we have Sarah, a member of the Corps de Ballet showing some distinct dancer/food rigor...luckily we received a generous shipment with more than enough for everyone to share:)

Oh and you can tell Brittany needs her popchips - for more than eating! Physical therapy is an integral part of our days and although massage sounds nice...Heather has a way of getting right into the deep of you muscle belly...ouch!

Finally, Nutrition bars are a great way of getting calories and energy quickly.  They are convenient and usually packed with good stuff.  These days, the amount of all -natural energy bars out there is quite impressive.  Luna Bars and Clif Bars are some of my favorite, recently however, two dancers from Pittsburg Ballet decided to come up with their own product, designed for dancers, enjoyed by everyone. 'Barres', are fun for us because they have some clever packaging and wording.  For instance, their Cinnamon Crunch flavor is called the 'Pirouette', and they have a 'Black Swan' coming out soon:)
I only tried the cinnamon flavor, and found it a little dry, I would love to try some other flavors to compare.  There is definitely a lot of potential behind this project!
At the end of the day, we need our snacks - these are just a few examples of some popular ones we enjoy at the studios.  I would never get in the way of a dancer and their sustenance, nor would I leave any food unattended...look away and you may just loose a bite or two...