Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A fine day at 19 Clarendon Street

There are three things that may strike you as being strange in this picture...first of all, what are these girls doing out and about in that strange garb? Secondly, do I spy 'Free shakes'!? And thirdly, is it or is it not December 1st come Thursday!?
Of the first thing, there is really nothing strange about the attire that dominates this picture seeing as the b.good truck sat right outside the Boston Ballet's headquarters at 19 Clarendon Street during Tuesday's lunch hour. In fact, the entire building is teeming with such leotards, skirts and tights all day long.
The free shakes are easily explained as part of a fabulous initiative to provide delicious milkshakes around Boston.  B.good sends out Harvey, their trusted 28-year old ice cream truck to make the mission possible and on this day, he just so happened to respond to the call of the arts!

I can tell you everyone in the building was very excited to hear of Harvey's proximity, marketing were the first on site...shortly followed by me, (of course!) and then various other departments - it is not everyday that you get creamy, frothy, chocolatey goodness handed to you right outside your place of work!

Whereas ballerinas clad in their day to day rehearsal gear and free shakes can only boggle the mind so much, what really gets me is the fact that we are all somehow outside on November 29th, drinking (and very much enjoying) cold shakes, in very light clothing...This is the one thing that leaves me flabbergasted no matter how I look at it.
It may not bode well for the planet...but I can assure you that it certainly made many people's Tuesdays a much more pleasant affair!

Friday, November 25, 2011

A place to seek Refuge in Allston

Thanksgiving has come and gone in a flurry of temperature fluctuations and delicious turkey feasts. I, myself, had a thoroughly great day, spent with friends and..well more friends:) Apples to Apples made an epic comeback and got all of our pre-food coma selves into outrageous debates...I still hold that E.T. is the best match for 'heroic' and that 'Wrecking Balls' are more 'convenient' than the 'invention of the wheel'!
After all of this excitement however, I understand how one might need a little quiet time...a refuge if you will. Lucky for everyone, a vacant space that used to house Allston Cafe is now home to Refuge Cafe. (website coming soon).

 Right on the corner of Harvard Ave and Brighton Ave, this little nook has a lot going for it.  With an interior that is laid back and modern, we find touches of local charm embedded in the graffiti-like art on the walls and in its logo and on the chalkboard menu.

 It has all the amenities of any good, dependable cafe; good coffee, wireless internet, freshly baked goods that are all differently shaped and a good soundtrack.
Refuge Cafe however, has a few things that will come to set it apart from the average run-of-the-mill independent, coffee shop...they have a well-rounded list of loose-leaf teas ranging from caffeinated to caffeine-free, a great menu that boasts items like the Refuge BLT (with A ) and beverages that awaken the kid inside all of us..a cold glass of chocolate milk please? Great sounding vegan and non-vegan ice creams like Peanut Butter mud pie and Twinkie...intrigue anyone waiting to put their order in and their breakfast menu is stocked with the usual staples and sprinkled with delicious sounding pancake specials and is served all day.
As if this weren't enough, as I perused the chalkboards, I also noticed that they offer a selection of locally brewed beer! 
This cafe has everything from kid-friendly items to adult taunts...oh and they can actually make good drinks too! So often have I ordered a tea-misto (half boiling water, half steamed milk), and been met with a quizzical look and an even more disappointing drink.
With this cafe located conveniently on my walk to Physical Therapy, I can see myself adding some serious Refuge time into my schedule:)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Legal Harborside - ready for the winter!

Perhaps you have heard of some of the developments going on around the Seaport area.  From the opening of Flour Bakery's third location in Fort Point, the opening of some great restaurants right on the harbor and fresh installements at the ICA, it has turned from a sluggish waterfront area into a destination for tourists and locals alike.
All restaurants have taken advantage of the beautiful views of Boston Harbor with their huge panoramic windows, prime bar seating and interesting menu concepts.  Without a doubt, the Seaport was the place to be this summer.
But what of winter?  Everyone is asking the same question...what happens when winter comes around and strolls around the harbour are no longer feasible? 
(Photo Credit - Chip Nestor)
 I myself have been wondering these questions and am very happy to say that at least Legal Harborside has some fresh ideas rolled out to keep people coming even in the depths of winter.
This past week, I took a couple of friends over to check out the fall-on-to-winter scene atop the roofdeck.  Any worry was thrown to the winds when I arrived and learned of their updates.
Consistent with the changing weather, the floors are heated as are those patios remaining open for the adventurous romantic. They close off the main patio but the views remain breathtaking...you can now enjoy the gusting winds from the comfort of an indoor sofa...cocktail in hand!
Whereas the roofdeck's summer menu was limited to light snack fare, they are now the first LS location to offer a sushi menu - perfect for a light drink-side snack or as you will bear witness...a full on meal!

(Photo credit - Heath Robbins)
On this particular visit, we were lucky enough to experience a sampling of some of the sushi items and luckier still to have Chef Chris (head chef of the building) walk us through some of the most interesting pieces.
We started with some drinks, ordering our favorite White Sangria, made with St. Germain (go figure!), as well as some of their new, season appropriate additions like their Fall sangria (complete with a crab apple).  
Then the sushi started...
We began with a piece de resistance both Chef Chris and Chef Harrold (their in-house sushi genius) are proud of: the Harborside Tempura Roll.  It comes as shown above, Lobster head and tail included:)  It is a crowd pleaser for sure and with a generous amount of delectable lobster meat, avocado, tobiko, house-made teriyaki sauce and spicy mayonaise...it certainly pleases the appetite as well:)
(Just another angle...couldn't hurt!)
We were then presented with their 'small' boat...which really is no small serving:) It comes with 48 pieces of a variety of sashimi, three hand rolls and other rolls, all of the chef's choosing.
My favorite was the shrimp tempura roll with the same sweet teriyaki sauce, the red dragon, which was a spicy tuna roll topped with more delicious tuna, tempura flakes and wasabi mayo, but even their no frills tuna maki were delicious... (can you tell I like my tuna?).  
Although I pride myself on eating copious amounts of food, this sushi boat defeated me...I tried my best to finish it off, but alas, a couple stray makis were left behind! It would however make for a perfect sampler for a group...hint hint:)

What I can say with no doubt in my mind however, is that Legal Harborside has assured themselves a clear following year round.  Who wouldn't want to experience the thrill of being so close to the water at a time when winds pick up and temperatures drop? The view will indeed become even more amazing once the snow comes in and covers bits of the Harbor.
I myself cannot wait for the next opportunity to return, whether it be to try the other floors....with a casual dining and raw bar on the first floor which sings an ode to the original Legal Seafoods fish market established in Inman Square, or the fine dining by candlelight served on the second floor it becomes impossibly difficult to stay away!
Returns to the Roof deck however are already in full swing.... 
(Keep your eyes and ears open for their New Year's party...it is going to be spectacular! With a rumored ice statue serving as a pseudo raw bar...how could it not be!?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A pop-up with a mission that'll stick

Pop-up restaurants are a concept that have been recently gaining in popularity throughout North America. Following tradition (ahem Food Trucks), Boston has been a little slow on the uptake...
Thankfully though, a crew of young entrepeneurs and food enthusiasts have made an important step towards kickstarting a veritable foodie trend.
About four months ago, the guys behind Dore Creperie thought it was high time that someone popped up in an empty spot at 1 Beacon street.  What better way to make a presence than by being the first ever pop-up crêpe shop in Boston?  The concept is simple enough, pick an idea that people will find both intriguing and familiar, and fill your work place with an open-minded atmosphere where anything feels possible.  
Last Saturday, I was fortunate enough to experience their genius and enthusiasm first hand at one of their Crêpe classes. These were a part of Dore Creperie's mission and purpose - to spread the word on the feasibility of pop-ups and the food business in general.  It doesn't always take a huge sum of money and a team of fancy backers and interior designers to get something like this up and running.

The class started with a brief introduction to crêpes, a food stuff dating back to ancient Roman civilization, and their inspiration behind the pop-up.  I was impressed to see that at no point throughout the lesson was there a crêpe-void...they always had something tasty on the griddle. Above we have a crêpe with raspberry compote, goat cheese and walnuts:)

We were then put into two groups, the class being about 8 people strong.  Four of us started with a lesson in making batter - a simple enough procedure that I (with my fairly basic cooking skills) may even try out at home.

Then we headed to the griddles for the real fun!

There were no intimidating tutorials, it was pretty much grab and go! The toughest decision was whether I wanted to make a sweet or savory creation...
In the end I went with savory ( I figured there would be enough sweet to follow!). I made a delicious concoction (if I do say so myself:) ): a savory crêpe filled with prosciutto di parma, bacon (couldn"t resist), blue cheese, spinach and pesto...it was really a fab combo. 
One of the things I love about these classes is that you inevitably end up meeting some great people who share at least one interest with you. In this class, we decided to share our creations and so I also got to try a buffalo chicken, blue cheese and celery crêpe, as well as a pretty interesting sweet creation from Holly.
I was happy to have picked a savory crêpe to begin with because shortly thereafter, Vilas, one of Dore Creperie's creators, made three communal dessert crêpes - upon my request, we tried the S'mores (pictured above),

The Elvis Presley - peanut butter, bacon and bananas...and why not first sautée the bananas and bacon together!? This is an example of the culinary experiments that go on at Dore Creperie!
And finally their Bananas Foster...with a special treat of real rum! I could not stop myself from eating even though I was so full!
In the end, my limit had been reached and we were all quite happy to sit and chat for a little while longer.
I am so happy I got to squeeze in a crêpe class...because the only downfall to a pop-up, is that they eventually move on.
This does not mean to say that Dore Creperie will leave without one final POP! This coming Saturday the 19th, they will be having a free crêpe day to thank everyone for coming in and supporting the project.  Stop by 1 Beacon Street anytime between 1 and 3 and you will be rewarded!
Let's hope these guys don't take too long before opening up another Pop-up...the sky is the limit, and I think this is what they are all about!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The 9th Flavors of Fall Event

The much anticipated, 9th annual Flavors of Fall will be held this Monday, the 12th at the The Regattabar in the Charles River Hotel.  From 5:30 to 8:30, guests will  have three hours to meander around, listen to great music while sampling top fall creations from some of Cambridge and Somerville's best chefs. Unfortunately, if you did not get your ticket already, the event is sold out.  Here is why! 

The event is hosted by Boston Chefs as a fundraiser for Possible Project, a non-profit organisation that strives to teach and guide young enthusiasts towards running their own businesses.  

Surrounding the space are sample sized, fall inspired dishes from each restaurant. A couple of my favorite dishes from last year came from Harvest, who presented a a delicious pudding topped with vanilla creme fraiche and burnt sugar...as well as a subtle dribble of liqueur. It made for a solid two visits.
As always, Chef Michael Leviton from Area Four always does a fine job, this time offering a delicious Lucky 7 Berkshire farm terrine over crostini with a tart and tangy fall fruit chutney.

The entire event has an elegant feel, contributing to which will be the Rollo Tomasi Quartet, lat year they played two great sets throughout. A brief pause will be taken to address the organizers as well as the immediate goals of Tutoring Plus.  As with all fundraising events, it is so nice to see the connecting efforts from different parties; the guests, the staff from Boston Chefs, Possible Project and of course, the Chefs that all took the hours out of their busy restaurants to show their support.

Throughout the evening,  refreshments are also served and this year they will be provided by Brooklyn Brewery and Dreyfus Ashby and Co. among others.
For those of you lucky enough to have snagged tickets to this event, you will be very happy! And for the rest of you, well..you will just have to wait until next year:)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Flavors of Fall...not gone just yet!

Many of us are starting to dread the end of fall as the forecast sheds light on dropping temperatures and fabulous high 60 days become less and less commonplace...however, this does not mean that some of what makes fall such a great season will disappear as well!
In fact, the very opposite is true with the upcoming, highly anticipated Flavors of Fall event at The Regattabar located at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square.

This event, in its 8th year, is an opportunity for two things. For one, it is a great way to taste and experience what some of the best chefs from Cambridge and Somerville (two of Boston's richest culinary areas) are offering on their late fall menus. Secondly, it is also a chance to support Tutoring Plus, a cambridge based organisation that benefits young adolescents and students in education, personal and social growth.
Not bad for a Monday night eh?

To serve will be widely known and recognized chefs from places the like of Bondir , Catalyst (both have been on my list for way too long!), Area Four (personal fave) and Bergamot.
There will also be beer brewers, cocktial mixers and ice creamers on hand to satiate other parallels of your appetite...oh and did I mention? As per usual at the Regattabar, some grade A jazz will follow throughout....really it will all be happening at the Regattabar this Monday!
Tickets are still available and can be purchased at the following link:
See you there:)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A tribute to Toronto's downtown market

I am now back in Boston from what was a fabulous ten days spent with my family in Toronto.  Although I really did not want to leave, the beautiful weather in TO not helping...I am happy to be back, and the weather here (it was summer again today!) certainly helps!
I thought I would give one last hurrah to my trip in TO. Seeing as farmer's markets are one of my absolute favorite things to visit, espcecially the ones in Boston and New York, I think it is fitting that I do a little tribute to the St. Lawrence Market - Toronto's fabulous indoor market.

The reason I like Farmer's markets so much, is that they are the perfect opportunity to experience first hand, the local flavors, smells, colours and products that are produced locally (or indeed from very foreign markets). At the St. Lawrence Market, you get a refreshing view of what is fresh, in season and also some interesting wares from all over the globe.
Located at the intersection of popular Front Street and Market Street, the Market is mostly indoors  On a beautidayul a like this one however, everything is shown under a better light.  The best way to enjoy both indoors and outdoors, is to proccur your goods and then snag a picnic table on the patio overlooking some of Downtown Toronto. This is exactly what we did!

We had an assortment of rish, creamy cheese, freshly cut and smoked deli meats, hot out of the oven bagels (drooling yet?) and huge juicy figs ( I bet you are now...).
Let's take a closer look at that cheese....just for texture's sake:)
It's been a while since I have seen a Brie so rich and creamy, it was perfectly ripe!

We brought all of this outside, sat and enjoyed it.  This is something so simple, and yet so enjoyable - I would be hard put to find a better way to start any day. Unfortunately, mornings like this are hard to come by, but then again, that's what makes them so special!
I usually remain underwhelmed by Toronto as a city, maybe because I grew up there, or maybe because I usually go when it is freezing and I am exhausted - I usually go after the long Nutcracker run finishes in January...bbbrrrr!  I really must say though, that Toronto exceeded my expectations this visit. Of the whole ten days I was there, it rained once and was cold for only a couple days...the rest of my visit consisted of beautiful sunny skies, quite warm temperatures and gorgeous fall colors.
Toronto gets such bad press for being freezing and bleak come this time of year. When it puts on a show like this... everything in the city regains life and vigour...good thing I took my leave before temperatures really plummet though;)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Super Sweet Deal

Two-in-one deals are always the best. You pay for one thing and get a second thing along with it. Even better than all of this is when the second part of the deal involves shedding some good and hope upon another.  This is exactly the kind of scenario that will be going on between Sweet Cupcakes and the Franklin Park Zoo. The two have teamed up to create a delicious cupcake inspired by Kambiri, one of their baby gorillas.
(photo credit - Robert Klein)

First of all...how cute!? Second of all, it's his first birthday coming up and the new 'Bananas for the Zoo' cupcake, dark chocolate cupcake with banana buttercream frosting and a toasted banana chip (pictured below), was made specifically for this special day.

So what's the first part of the deal? From November 5th through November 11th, 1 dollar from the purchase of any 'Bananas for the Zoo' cupcake will go towards the Zoo New England.
Donating while indulging in a delicious sweet something...seems doubly sweet to me:)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November in Toronto

Three guesses as to where this picture was taken....
Bet you wouldn't guess Toronto on the 1st of November.
It's true, Boston gets snow, and Canada gets beautiful sunshine:) (on the not so bright side, I think my igloo has melted...)

My sister and I decided to head to the Shops at Don Mills, a recently renovated 'urban city' mall, to enjoy the day.

Even though it was beautiful, only a few people were out taking advantage of the weather. Or maybe that was because it was the middle of the day on a Tuesday...my sister and I scored a day like this without the bustle...two for two!
And what better way to celebrate than with a hot tea misto and a good book?  It is so simple, but so plesant, the sun litterally kisses your face. I decided to take a break from my usual Latte from Second Cup (really only to make it that much better the next time I have it:) ). Teopia, a tea shop specialising in rare and premium loose leaf teas makes individual beverages ranging from freshly brewed teas to lattes and smoothies. I decided on a coco caramel tea misto with soy milk. Divinity in a cup!
My sister and I just sat and soaked it all in, I don't think our luck with this weather will last forever.