Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Paradise Found

 It was to be a fun filled and exciting time in Boston this past weekend, but I had other plans for myself:)
Along with a group of friends, I headed out to Stowe, Vermont for a couple days of repose, birthday celebrations (for my friend) and a breath of fresh air.
I had never been and once I arrived, I immediately saw it as a place that would require some revisiting.  Stepping out of the bustling weekend city and into a beautiful, quiet and serene landscape was literally like finding a hidden paradise. I spent the entire time relaxed and care free, with gorgeous, lush views, friends and tasty treats:)
 (Photo credit: Thomas Oboe Lee)
Although I was not planning on doing any exerting hikes, we did go a on a little nature ramble on Saturday morning after breakfast and some deliciously strong coffee.
 Off we went, into the woods behind our house and up, around and between the rich environment.  I saw so many different things, including a 'punk' caterpillar, a little toad, a snake and perhaps one too many pesky bugs:)
 (photo credit:  Thomas Oboe Lee)
 After the walk though, we all got back and felt as though we had accomplished enough for the weekend in physical activity.  The rest was spent relaxing outside by the pond and the hot tub..not too shabby eh?

 To celebrate our friend's birthday, we went to a tiny, but now well-known restaurant in Waterbury, Hen of the Woods. What once used to be a big Mill, has since been converted into a delicious haven of New England cuisine. You walk inside and it's like walking into a friend's cottage with interesting details like refurbished mill grinders as balconies and twigs assembled in rustic chandeliers. 
(photo credit: Bob Klinkowstein)
The menu emphasizes all local farmers and on the 25th, we were lucky to get a fresh selection of Rabbit, tender Pork Loin, and Skate.

(photo credit: Thomas Oboe Lee)
A couple dishes I particularly enjoyed were the Crispy Head Cheese aka, pig's head...

and the Hen of the Woods Mushroom Toast with a thick slab of bacon and a beautifully poached egg. The mushrooms were meaty and hearty, the egg oozed over the whole thing for a perfect softening of the crispy toast and the bacon...well, enough said:)

(Photo credit: Bryant)
To finish off our delicious evening, a clear, starry night the likes of which you never see in the city awaited us back at the house. It was so magical to watch the Moon sink lower behind the trees and I was even lucky enough to catch a glimpse at a shooting star...

The next day, another beautiful one, was spent at the Farmer's Market in town.  I love a good farmer's market and this one met my usual expectations; beautiful fresh produce stands, delightful jewelers, wood works and the smells of a variety of different cuisines cooking. 
My favorite thing though, was a stand selling Maple Ginger-ale. 

It was such a hot day that this drink, a refreshing blend made with a shot of pure Vermont Maple Syrup (duh!), kitchen made Ginger root puree and on the spot seltzer water was heaven.
I can only imagine how this would taste with a bit of rum....:)

As always, all good things must come to an end and I was so sad to leave this beautiful paradise I had found for the weekend. Luckily, a Lake Champlain Chocolate store was waiting for us en route to Boston, so I managed to tear myself away;)
It is really amazing how much good a spurt away from the city can do.  Even though I could already feel the pressures of everyday life resurfacing on the ride back, I still felt that I had recharged my batteries, both mental and physical before beginning a new week.
A special thank you to all my friends and their generosity, and to my fellow photographers...this blog post could not have been made without you:)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Cliff diving and other adrenaline rushes at the Seaport

I am off to Stowe, Vermont this week. It will be my first time:) As much as I am looking forward to a weekend out of the city, the fresh air and the quality time spent with friends, I am a bit upset to be missing one of my favorite events in Boston, the Red Bull Cliff Diving.  
Last year was Boston's first hosting of this monumental event that brings together the world's best and most daring divers to leap from heights three times that of a regular Olympic 10 m. diving board. 
Having stopped at four locations already, the divers will descend on Boston's Seaport area this coming Saturday (25th) from 4- 6:30 p.m.

I was fortunate enough to watch the entire debut last year and it is something I will remember for the rest of my life. Each diver stands on the tips of their toes at the top of the ICA, some 27 meters above the surface of the water...everyone is silent.  A huge bend of the knees and the diver propels themself forward and in a series of twists and flips, juts into the water. 

This is the water they dive into, the Fan Pier, looks calm and nonthreatening doesn't it? In fact, because of the height of their jumping point, spotters are located in the water and as the diver jumps, they flutter kick near the area of entry so as to break it up a bit, otherwise it would be like jumping onto a very hard surface..Given the risky nature of these stunts, no one can make a sound until the diver resurfaces.
Clearly, this is an event NOT to be missed! I would suggest getting there early so as to scope out a good spot, last year it was really packed and people got nasty about their 'personal space'. :)
If, like me, you will be out of town this weekend, don't worry, on the 15th of September, another exciting event will be held at the Seaport; the 4th annual PAL Grand Prix.  The Boston Police Athletic League will host a day full of high speed, European-style Kart racing, right on the Seaport Boulevard. Even better? It is all for a fundraiser, so racing teams will raise considerable amounts of money to donate to the Youth Programs of the PAL.
So summer is almost over, but that clearly does not mean that the Seaport is slowing down at all:) Oh and the best part in all of this? What better excuse to go an enjoy one of the restaurants in the area for a drink or meal? Your nerves will most certainly be on end after both of these events:)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A South End Sunday

Since I first arrived in Boston 6 years ago (!!!), I have always lived in the South End.  Certainly, I have moved from apartment to apartment far more than my fair share, but I have somehow managed to stay in the proximity of the Ballet and between the boundaries of Appleton and Washington street.
This past summer, I had the end of yet another lease looming ahead of me and with the rental market in this area being what it is (impossible!), I was worried I may have to leave the neighborhood!
Luckily, I have found a perfect spot right in the middle of the South End and I can continue to enjoy what the area has to offer.
As a little example of just how great the SE can be, here is a recap of my Sunday:)

After spending the day at the SoWa Market and visiting both Clover and Bon Me Food trucks, there was an Evening of Music in Union Park.
From 5-7 pm, the members of the UPNA (Union Park Neighborhood Association), hosted a wondrous gathering of neighbors and friends, spread around the beautiful park running through the middle of Union Park, my favorite street in Boston.
Most people brought their picnics to enjoy each others' company, the sound of a string trio and the trickling of the fountain. 
My friend and I had dinner plans waiting for us at the South End Buttery, so we hung around a bit and then (when the sprinklers all turned on as if on key), we made our way to the restaurant cafe.

The Buttery is another one of the places I would really miss if I were to leave the South End.  Funnily enough however, for all the times I have eaten here and gotten my caffeine fix, I have never experienced their dinner service!
My friend and I thus decided to get a few different things and share them.  We started with their Boston Lettuce salad which came with deliciously thick slabs of bacon and roasted radish. 

Another appetizer we went for was their trio of cheese toasts with rosemary.  For this evening we had a strong and creamy blue, a ricotta and a goat cheese.  Sweet and savory truffle honey as well as grapes zapped in the oven made for interesting and unusual accoutrements.

Although it was a nice summer evening in August, the wild mushroom mac' and cheese really called to me.  I was a bit surprised actually by the winter-centric menu, with items like 'spiced root vegetables' and meat hearty menu options abounding. 
Regardless, the mac' and cheese turned out to be light and the mushrooms robust and filled with texture and taste, so I was happy:)
We also shared their Mussels Provencal which came with a side of fries.  Plump and juicy PEI mussels were in a fantastic broth of sweet and tasty tomatoes and braised fennel.  Unfortunately, I did not manage to get a good picture of these.
It was a delightful dinner, the end  to a delightful day in the South End. The dining space at the Buttery is really special and the service was refreshing and honest.  Looks like the Buttery's dinner service is another thing to add to the South End roster.
If I were to have to give up the convenience of such great novelties, I would be in despair...lucky for me, looks like I have solidified another year in this fabulous neighborhood:)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A tasty collaboration

Hidden in the heart of Somerville is a delicious and unique chocolate experience at the Taza Chocolate Factory. For those of you are not familiar with this company, they are devoted to bringing the art of authentic Mexican chocolate to Boston.  Not only do they procure their product from the horse's mouth, but they apply traditional stone-rinding techniques which produce a rustic and delicious presentation of chocolate in a variety of flavors. 

In the past few years, this company has really taken off and you can find their products for sale in grocery and specialty stores all over the place, as well as in restaurants, which prefer to use this high quality chocolate for cooking and baking.  The best experience however, is to be had at their factory, where you are hit with a rich and decadent cocoa smell the moment you walk in.  Chocolate Factory Tours are also offered for five dollars - so you can really get up close and personal to the amazing process that goes into every bite.
A company that is very much invested in the Local Boston Food scene, Taza often partners up with other local food businesses to offer special edition flavors of ice creams and other chocolate enhanced goods.
Today, from 1-4 pm at the Taza factory, FoMu ice cream, a locally made, small batch non-dairy ice cream company was the featured partner.

 On the sampling table were two different flavors which showcase the delicious work not only of FoMu, but of Taza as well.  I of course tried both the Banana's Foster and the spicy Mexican Taza Brownie.
Together, they made for a perfect treat:)
 With my two little scoops in hand, I went into the Taza store where other samples of their different chocolate flavors are on display.  My personal favorite is the Vanilla chocolate, made with real vanilla bean ground right in with the cocoa.  
It is always a treat to venture out to their factory and when they host combined mini-pop ups, it is even more exciting.
It is worth keeping an eye on their Facebook page for upcoming events...or just stop in for a sniff and taste..and perhaps a tour of the factory:)

Monday, August 13, 2012

What a Whirlwind in London!

 Four days in London is not enough by any stretch of the imagination...and when you are there to watch your younger sister compete at the Olympic Games, well, the time seems to fly even faster! It also just so happened that this was the first time in perhaps...well ever, that so many of my family members had been in the same place at the same time.  So on top of everything, a family reunion of sorts was also underway. Suffice it to say that my usual foodie adventures were kept to a minimum, but here are some of the highlights of my trip!
 On the first day, my older sister and I met up at the Heathrow Airport and after a relatively smooth trip on the Underground (aka the Tube), we made it to my friend's place in Notting Hill. Talk about a quintessential English neighborhood - the cobble stone streets and tiny, hidden alleys (once you got over being completely lost), are so poetic!
  Our first stop after having met up with some of our immediate family, was the Canada House, located in Trafalgar Square (full of history!) at the Canadian Consulate.

 As a family member of an Olympian (saying that will never get old), we were given official Olympic IDs that gave us access to this area.  It was basically a way of bringing the Canadian families and support teams together. I really loved the idea, not to mention the unlimited snacks, drinks and other goodies they had for us there:)
 I of course managed to stop off at least once a day for some treat.  We were so lucky with the weather that Gelato from Gelato Mio was generally a must have.

 Thursday was the first day of Rosie's competition.  They were competing at the Wembley Arena.  We had a great group of Canadians there to support the girls which is such an important part of the experience for them.  My three other sisters and I were a powerful cheering contingent, even if the giant Canadian flag we were waving turned into a tug of war at one point...in true Cossar sibling style:)
 The arena itself was huge and completely sold out. It must have been wild to walk out onto that carpet!
During the first routine, 5 balls, I was a nervous wreck in the audience, but by Friday, I had managed to pull myself together and the girls had a fantastic second and final routine (Rosie is the one in the front to the right).

 On Saturday, after the two days of overwhelming competing and cheering, my dad took us to Covent Garden to walk around the market and explore more cute little side streets.

 I also managed to go into about 5 different sweet shops. In England, these are filled with great, old-school sweets like Lemon Drops and various Toffee balls.
 I may or may not have had a little moment and dragged my family past the Royal Opera House, home to the Royal Ballet Company. The building was closed to the public while we were there, so we did not get to go inside, which was a pity.
I am now safely back in Boston, and thinking back, it was truly a whirlwind of a trip. I don't think I have ever had so much go on in so few days. It was incredible to be a part of and I will remember it for the rest of my life. I can't even begin to imagine what my sister is feeling right now...lucky for her, she is still in London, enjoying a much needed break!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Cheering on my sister at the Olympics:)

 The highlight of this summer for many people is the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
I, like many people, get very excited about watching the world's best compete and prove themselves as the leading athletes in various sports. It is a beautiful way to watch sportsmanship, determination and superhuman talent come to fruition. 
This year is particularly special for me.  My younger sister, Rosie Cossar, is a part of the Canadian Rhythmic Gymnastics team competing in London this week. 
That's right, my little skin and blister is representing Canada at the 2012 Olympics! There are no words really to describe how proud this makes my family and I feel. It has been a long time in the making and it is so crazy to think that I leave tonight to watch Rosie take on the performance of a lifetime!

 For those of you who do not know, before I channeled my energies towards Ballet dancing, I was a serious Rhythmic Gymnast.  In my final year, I retired as the 3rd ranked Rhythmic Gymnast on the Canadian National team, having represented my country in many competitions worldwide. 
Rosie and I thus lived similar lifestyles growing up, mostly at the gym with our coaches and travel abroad from competition to competition. While I turned my efforts towards a career with the Boston Ballet, Rosie joined the Canadian Group and dedicated the next four years to qualifying for the Olympics.
And together with her team of five other girls, they did it!

So tonight, I am off to London, to support Rosie as her and her teammates compete among the best of the best.  Her events are on Thursday and Friday at noon, London time. I am not yet sure if they will be showing much of it here in the States, however once I hear of a link to an online source, I will post it on my Facebook.

So here's to Rosie and her group, going out and reaching their goal.  It has been a long road, but the summit is well worth it!
(I am also secretly hoping that because we look so similar, I may be able to sneak into the Athlete's Village...:)
Go Canada! Go!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sur le Pain D'Avignon

One of the things I love most about Farmer's Markets is that they allow for personal relations to be built between between the sellers and buyers while offering you an array of goodies that would otherwise be impossible to find on your lunch break...or at least without a considerable amount of motivation to travel out to their farms and brick and mortar locations.

Pain D'Avignon, est. in 1992 is located in Hyannis, Cape Cod.  That's not the easiest place to get to when you live in the South End and don't have a car...luckily, at the Farmers Market at Boston's City Hall on Mondays, this European bakery makes a regular and anticipated appearance. 

 This past Monday, a break in rehearsals during the day made a quick trip possible and I was taken on a beautiful, mini-tour of their stand.  Not being the only bread-featuring bakery at the Market, Pain D'Avignon is careful to distinguish themselves and as Priscilla and her daughter showed me, they do this easily with the array of products they offer:

 Sliced loaves ranging from pumpernickel-rye to sourdough are available, but so are individual, rustic rolls, brioche rolls, and multi-grain squares, all perfect for grabbing and enjoying with a salad for the business lunch crowd.
Pain D'Avignon is particularly proud of its raisin pecan bread, which it offers in loaves, rolls and baked, bread crisps.

 Something entirely different and special is their biscotti, which comes in five different flavors; fig, cranberry almond, chocolate, lemon and anise. This bakery is committed to providing for a variety of needs, you can purchase biscotti individually, or in packets of four...or in little containers of assorted biscotti bites:)
No bakery could call itself European without a patisserie selection.  Priscilla proudly pointed out their daily selection of delectable treats: butter, almond, ham and cheese and chocolate croissants and sugared brioche.  
For those not into the sweet stuff, ready made sandwiches are also offered at their stand, by the time I got there though, they were all but sold out - for obvious reasons, market go-ers have made it a point to get here early and grab their loot:)

 My absolute favorite was their raspberry streusel croissant - an amazing basket filled with little knobs of crescent roll dough, infused with cinnamon and topped with homemade raspberry jam, crumble and icing.  The one I made away with did not last longer than the bus I caught back to the studios...
Despite its brick and mortar location in Hyannis, Pain D'Avignon has built itself an impressive following all over Massachusetts, selling to grocers and restaurants and offering a mail order delivery to individuals.  Pain D'Avignon also has a 'Bread of the Month Club', where you sign up and get a different, seasonal loaf every month.  (For more info on this project, call: 508-778-8588.)
For those of us here in Boston, we can now get an immediate fix at the Pain D'Avignon stand every Monday at Boston City Hall...and perhaps we can even hope for a more permanent presence in the not too distant future?