Monday, January 31, 2011

A Scavenger Hunt for Egypt!

As planned, I managed to scoop a couple of friends into fulfilling the chocolate scavenger hunt at the Chocolate Festival in Harvard Square on Saturday.  It was a great day for it, partly sunny, not too cold...except for the fact that there were support demonstrations for the Egyptian political unrest going on at the exact same time, in the exact same square. Mind you, in all honesty, if I was the leader of a protest, I can't thinkof a better place to hold it then right in the middle of a chocolate sampling festival, it really draws in the crowds!

Before we set off on our journey of chocolate and Harvard Square trivia, we were lucky enough to snag a cup of El Diablo hot chocolate from J. P. Licks (a spicy mexican hot warmed you right up!)  and a brownie from OM.

After a bit of confusion as to the lay out of the map... 

 we were off to each different location on the map which had either a monument or a plaque:

or a sign which held the answer to each question.  We learned some very ineteresting facts.  For instance, did you know that the first city to open up a chocolate shop was London? Or that Switzerland is the world's largest consumer of chocolate?

We passed by Burdick's, one of Harvards chocolate gems and luckily, we made it in just before this line of crazies...and got a few pieces of dark chocolate samples to keep up our strength!
About an hour after we initially began, we had successfully answered every question which left us with the phrase, 'Food of the Gods'...amen to that!

Don't they look cheery!?
Oh and the scavenger hunt would not have been half as satisfying if it didn't finish with a fabulous, double chocolate fudge cookie from Finale, fresh and warm out of the oven!
Oh and you can actually see my partially frozen fingers in this picture...the things I do for chocolate...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

On the flip side

I know I have been dedicating my recent and upcoming posts to all things chocolate, however, I have been closely following the very exciting opening of a new restaurant in Boston. The restaurant, some of you may know, is called 5 Napkin Burger and is quoted as being the only upscale restaurant to truly devote and base its entire being on the art of the burger.
Sound interesting?
I think so! 5 Napkin Burger is projected to open in early March and their location is right on Huntington Ave right underneath the Pru. They have been preparing themselves and anyone who is tuned in to their opening by launching a burger contest, officially begining on February 1st, the winner of which will be awarded with 1000 dollars in 5 Napkin Burger bucks and a feature on the opening night menu. I got an early admittance for my idea...the prize is too good to miss and when do you ever really get the chance to promote your idea of the perfect burger to the public?
Here is their website:
And here is the webiste for the contest, where you will find all the information you need to enter and start building your burger:
Oh and in case you are interested, here is the link to my very own burger, unfortunately, I didn't have a picture to put up beside it, so you won't be getting a visual... (Like it!)
And now, I am off to the Harvard Square Chocolate Festival!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chocolate festival in Harvard Square!

With Valentine's day quickly approaching, Harvard Square helps get you out of the post New Year's dolldrums and into the romantic spirit.  Everyone knows chocolate is an aphrodisiac, thanks to its relatively high content of both Phenylethylamin and Seratonin.  These two substances, when released into the nervous system, reciprocate the same feelings humans experience when in love.
For three days this coming weekend, Friday 28th- Sunday 30th, a chocolate extravanganza made up of tastings, chocolate featured drink and food specials as well as a scavenger hunt will be held throughout Harvard Square.
The full schedule of events can be found at the organiser's website:!.aspx
I most likely will not be particiapting in the 'dining in the dark series', as tantalizing as they seem, I am looking forward to the treasure hunt as well as the sampling event, both happening on Saturday the 29th.  On Sunday there will be a Chocolate Walking tour which also sounds appetizing...and educational:)
Restaurants acoss the square will be offering special chocolate devotions so really, once you get yourself to Harvard Square, you are sure to come upon some passionate treat.
I know some people find Valentine's day a bit depressing, especially when most of society is geared towards couples and significant others on this day, but I personally find that regardless as to whether or not I have a special someone, a large part of my heart will always belong to chocolate - and that's something you can truly depend on!

Monday, January 24, 2011

The frugal foodista strikes again!

In the past I have done a few posts concerning the Paradise Bakery Café and their scrumptious cookies.  Located in the Prudential Center, this bakery is home to what I believe to be some of the best cookies I have tried. Unfortunately, it happens all too often that at the end of the day, Paradise Bakery has a considerable amount of cookies leftover.  They do not have a 'day old' policy in effect either and so, as sacriligious as this sounds, whatever doesn't get taken home, gets thrown away... 
I witness this one day and could hardly bear it. So, I put myself to the task of bulding a relationship with them that would allow them to donate the cookies they have at the end of the night to the Boston Ballet.  Thus, the 'Paradise Project' was born!
Now there is no way I can do this as often as I would like and I would hate for this treat to become a mundane reality of everyday life, so I limit myself to a trip once a month.
It is really incredible how many poor little cookies would not fulfill their life's purpose, and although there are still far too many that still don't, at least I know I am doing what is within my power, as a frugal foodista to get them into a few more grateful tummies!
I for one know that my Monday morning would become much better when greated with this pyramid of cookies! (and this was only half of the shipment, the other two bags full went to subsequent departments throughout the building!)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What awaits in the not too distant foodista future...

As January draws to a close, the harsh reality of our climate begins to sink in as we realise that the novelty of Christmas and New Year's is over and we don't have much to look forward to until the end of March...if we are lucky!

However, the end of January also means that a special day some people devote to significant others is on its way.  Although there are many special people in my life who I take pleasure in doting upon on such occasions, I will be frank and admit that the real reason I so look forward to Valentine's Day, is the fact that it revolves around chocolate. For some particular reason, probably dating back to the Aztecs and their infatuation with the cacoa bean and its capacity to incite passion and warmth upon consumation, we associate this holiday with all things chocolate.

I thought it would be fair to give you all a fair warning that throughout the next couple of weeks, I will be focusing on what Boston has to offer us in terms of chocolate inspired adventures, specials and promotions.
If you are not one for chocolate, perhaps it would be best if you turned a blind eye for the next couple of weeks, because my one continual love affair is with chocolate and I will fully indulge in the weeks to come!
Hopefully most of you share my passion...because this is going to be fun!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Picco - a well balanced evening.

In the restaurant business it can be very difficult to excel in all courses of a meal. Many are known for one particular element on their menu and it is sometimes harder than you would think to find a place that consistently delivers quality, tasty and affordable across the board. 
Picco restaurant on Tremont Street is one such restaurant.  From the start of the meal to the sweet finnish, you will be presented with plate after plate of excellent food and drink.
Last night my friends and I went out to Picco for some good food and conversation.  The atmosphere in Picco is conducive to conversation while keeping things groovy and smooth, the jazz-y music fills the corners while the smells of pizza dough tempt the senses.
The first point where Picco delivers with great satisfaction is their wine list.  I ordered the Torrentes, a drier white wine with hints of stone fruit, it had a faint elderflower aroma and was excellent with the meal.  My friends each ordered a red wine which they also were happy with.
It took us no time to order, when we go to Picco, we always order one of their brick oven pizzas and this time was no different. We chose their Chicken Confit special, with gruyère, caramelized onions and brocoli. Always specify that you would like your pizza lightly cooked, otherwise it tends to come out a bit too crispy and their dough is so great you want to enjoy it.

The pizza arrived and payed tribute to their consistent,  award winning forté.  It was perfectly balanced, a thin dough-y crust topped with just the right amount of toppings, and not so much cheese that you choke on every other bite.  The chicken confit was incredibly tasty and the cauliflower made for  an interesting surprise every now and then.
Although Picco's pizza will comfortably fill you up (I consider it a lighter pizza), there is always room for a sweet ending.  Ice cream is Picco's other claim to faim.  They home make their ice cream and every week or so there is a rotation of flavors.  Some of my personnal favorites are their dark chocolate, their PB and J and their caramel swirl oh - and their whipped cream and hot fudge sauce are also to die for.
I ordered their caramel swirl and peanut butter swirl, two vanilla based ice creams with healthy swirls of the good stuff.
All in all, the meal was excellent from start to finish and cost under 20 dollars tip included.  That is a successful outing in my book and what makes it even more so is the fact that Picco will deliver this high level of satisfaction time and time again!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Myers and Chang take on the South End

I am sure many of you have heard of Flour bakery on Washington Street, one of the South End's claims to fame and best bakeries.  What many people are not aware of however, is that the owners of this joint are also the owners and creators of Myers and Chang, the only American-Chinese cuisine in the South End (especially now that Ginger Park has regrettably closed its doors). 
Located on the corner of Washington and East Berkeley, this restaurant is a fun, up beat dining destination with an interesting menu featuring small plates, or dim sum and larger, entrée sized plates of chinese/taiwanese dishes.
Although Myers and Chang has been around for a while and has held a steady flow of business, and although I am a huge fan of their bakery, I have always been slightly skecptical.  Perhaps its because when I think of chinese food, I think of Chinatown where you can get heaping amounts of food for nothing and dim sum restaurants with rolling carts of various dumplings.  Or maybe it's because I have heard mixed reviews, some positive and some rather negative.  Either way, I finally decided that heresay was not a good enough reason not to form my own opinion of the place. 
And so, a few nights ago, my friend and I took the leap and tried it out. I am glad we did, because the place is not trying to be a typical chinese restaurant, it holds its own atmosphere and offers a higher end style of dining and inspired dishes.
We started with the fresh rolls as an appetizer, your typical rice paper rolls stuffed with vermicelli noodles, shrimp or tofu, some greens and mint.  I was indifferent towards this dish, it was what you would expect: fresh tasting and light, but nothing special.  The peanut sauce is always what does it for me and theirs I would give a passing grade. 

Luckily, the following dishes we ordered surpassed my expectations.  I ordered the triple pork mushu stir fry which was a very interesting concoction of pork loin, bacon and chinese pork sausage with shiitake mushrooms and spring onions. It came with tortillas and sweet steamed buns to roll the stir fry in.  I loved the dish, anything with bacon is fine by me. My only criticism would be that the sauce was a little too salty. When you have all that naturally salty food, you can go easy on the sauce, a little less coating would have made the different kinds of pork flavors stand out on their own.

My friend ordered the Beef and Brocoli Chow Fun made with coulotte steek and rice noodles.  This dish was very tasty with crispy onions and tender beef. The sauce was a little lighter which I appreciated. The noodles were also cooked to a perfect degree of tenderness.

Myers and Chang does not offer an extensive dessert menu, however they add a really nice touch at the end of the meal by bringing out some complimentary pieces from Flour Bakery.  We were given some coconut meringues and gingersnap cookies.  I love how they tie the two together, even though they are completely different places, it really shows the range of expertise of Christopher Myers and Joanne Chang.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

An extra visual aid

Following the post on the art of Hot Chocolate making during a snow bomb, I received a request to post a picture of the final product. I must admit, I was very much obliged to make another delicious chocolatey treat with all the necessary condiments! And so, without any further ado, here is the beauty:

Isn't it a phenomenon? I used Christmas marshmallows and added a bit of contrast to the sweet by putting a hint of cinnamon in my whipped crème de la crème. And if I do say so myself, my whipped cream has such a fabulous texture and is like a firm cloud atop a pool of chocolate...divine!

And yes, at the time this picture was taken (about ten minutes ago) my apartment wasat a toasty 60 degrees F (aka freezing), so the santa blanket and fifty layers were incredibly necessary!

Also of note: a friend of mine apparently attempted to make a hot chocolate while snowed in and didn't have the proper ingredients...suffice it to say that it did not turn out well - some things just don't mix. My final note of advice would be that although I absolutely support creativity in all things sweet, there is a foundation that you must first secure before you can start deviating :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Another snow storm comes our way...

No matter how many snow storms or blizzards we have, there is always a degree of hysteria that builds up city-wide when another one is said to be on the way.  Apparently we are due to be hit by quite a blizzard starting at midnight tonight (11th) with an estimated accumulation of around 12 inches.
Indeed this is quite a lot of snow, but nothing we haven't managed before and yet you still see people preparing for hybernation in the grocery stores.  Then again, maybe they will be laughing at me by tomorrow when I am snowed in and hungry...
I do have one thing ready to go though and it is one thing I would dread to be snowed in without.  I am referring to a good cup of Hot Chocolate. I love the thought of curling up on my couch with the blizzard going full force outside while I am quite content with a steamy cup of hot cocoa.
Here is how I like mine:

First I pick out my mug:
Then I choose which kind of Hot Chocolate I want to use. I love a good Peppermint Hot Chocolate from Williams Sonoma...but as you know by now, my heart truly lies with Second Cup...which I have dutifully brought along with me from my latest trip to Toronto.

Once my drink has been fixed, (always use milk instead of water and try to us at least 2% - Homogenized being ideal, as it makes the drink creamier and complements the chocolatey deliciousness) I then get my whipped cream maker out of the cupboard, fill it halfway with whipping cream and a touch of vanilla extract..shake, shake, shake and I have the best whipped cream in town. (Yes I am that serious!)

And last but definately not least, I add a handful or two of marshmallows. Now these can go on instead of the whipped cream, or on top of it. I generally opt for both, so I have a nice layer of melted marshmallows floating in my hot chocolate and then I have a few more sprinkled on top of the whipped cream.
You have just made the pefect hot chocolate, now all you have to do is sit somewhere near a window so that you can look out onto the white wonderland and feel sorry for those struggling in the gusty winds who, unlike you, cannot love the blizzard from afar.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The toughest latte on the block

 There is one thing I can always count on when I go home to Toronto...and that is a perfect latte.  It may sound like something relatively easy to come by and yet, time and time again, I find myself disappointed by coffee shops and their respective attempts. 
Ok, so maybe I am being a little predujiced here, there are a few places in Boston where you can get a great latte, The South End Buttery for one, has great espresso and thus, a great latte, and the Berkeley Perk Cafe also does a good job.  However, these places also have a special resonance because they are unique, singular locations. 
In Canada, we have a fabulous coffee chain called Second Cup.  Although it does not look like much from the outside, what is brewed within, is really what makes it so much better than...well Starbucks.

Although Starbucks are just as omnipresent here as they are in the States, we also have just about as many Second Cup franchises.  Now I know you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I think it is entirely acceptable to judge a coffee shop by its latte.  Somehow, Second Cup has mastered the latte technique and consistently presents its costumers with beautifully well-bodied, strong and creamy lattes.  Starbucks on the other hand, seem to have a major weakness in this respect.  Their lattes are weak, watery specimens that I just cannot bring myself to consume.  Granted, Starbucks has some great numbers, however when it comes to Lattes, and this is my drink of choice during the cold winter months, the comfort of having a great latte on every other street corner is worth a whole lot. 
Certainly, they are expensive, but again, I would rather pay a little bit more for a drink that will do the trick.  I will be sad to leave Toronto on Monday morning and have to say goodbye to my daily extra-hot serving of creamy delicious-ness...Oh Canada!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Magic on Charles Street

Paramount restaurant is most renowned for its breakfast. Having experienced and reviewed it in November I have since been looking for an opportunity to experience its dinner.
Oddly enough, last week's snow storm presented me with a perfect opportunity to try Paramount out for dinner with my mother and my aunt, visiting from England. 
Charles street was deserted and blanketed in white, it's a beautiful street on any day and it was as though we were the only girls in the world, frolicking around in the empty snow-ladden street. (and yes, it was so pretty I had to depict it in somewhat poetic terms!)
We waltzed right into the best window booth of the restaurant; the weather meant few people were venturing out of their cute Beacon Hill homes. Without much of a wait we were greeted by a friendly waitress and some delicious focacia with pesto spread. Just what we needed to warm ourselves up after our stint outside.
We decided to try three different items and share them all. I had been forever intrigued by their black bean burger, which I ordered accompanied by their fabulous-o sweet potato fries.  The burger was, well, mashed black beans so it was tasty, had a smooth texture, but left me feeling a tad-sorry for vegetarians who believe this can be a substitute for a real hamburger.

My aunt decided to get the greek salad, which was traditional enough, with the usual ornaments; olives, onions, feta. The pita bread it came with was a little too toasted..but that wasn't exactly the main focus of the plate...incidentaly, I don't believe there was a main focus in this salad...

My mother chose the steak frites.  Now, I am not a huge fan of steak frites, mainly because it is so difficult to find a good piece of meat.  The Paramount's steak frite was quite good, nothing to write home about though. I think a bit more of their marinade would have been a good idea as the 'frites' were really crispy and would have been even better soaked.

My mother was happy with this dish though, so perhaps I set my sights too high.  In actual fact, I think I may have set my sights too high for Paramount's dinner...Don't get me wrong, it was a very satisfying meal, just not what I had built it up to in my mind.
I will say though, that there is something about this place that will have me coming back for more. It is just a really nice nook in a fabulous neighborhood.  Next time I will probably just go for their real burger!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!!!!

I hope you all had a fabulous New Year's Eve, followed by an even better New Year's day! Here's to hoping 2011 will be a year full of fun, friends and food! I know the year will be bringing new restaurants to the area and I have decided to include extended culinary adventure to my list of resolutions! (along with the usual resolutions of course, notably to keep my apt clean, do at least one selfless deed a day (do those even exist?) etc. etc.)

I hope you all set reasonnable goals:)