Monday, November 29, 2010

Recap of the Ommegang Beer Dinner at Cambridge Common

Ommegang: Dutch, a common name for medieval pageants celebrated in Belgium and other Western European countries.

A few weeks ago, Z and I attended Brewery Ommegang’s beer dinner at Cambridge Common – America’s contemporary pageant held in East Cambridge celebrating heady beers, scrumptious food, and good people (in Z's words). In this post, I will be providing the reviews of the food, while Z is providing the reviews of the beer (plus the intro and conclusion of this post). Enjoy!

Don Feinberg first opened Brewery Ommegang in 1997 and built his brew house on a re-cultivated hop farm in a building based on a traditional Belgian farmhouse close to Cooperstown, New York. Ommegang prides itself on using solely European ingredients, most notably their hops selection. The only ingredient not from Europe is water! Ommegang – which specializes in Belgian-style ales – has thrived in the States since its inception. And even after being acquired by Duvel in 2003, Ommegang extended its success to Europe by brewing in Belgium, too.

For those of you who are not familiar with Cambridge Common’s brewer’s dinners – there are between 25 to 50 patrons and press members in attendance to indulge in fine craft beers and delectable foods. The events always start with a pre-meal beer and then are followed by a starter, a soup/salad, a choice of an entrĂ©e, and then a dessert. Each course is designed to pair well with one of the brewer’s beers, and even a pre-meal beer is included to get the dinner started. On this particular evening, Cambridge Common even made vegetarian-friendly dishes for the meatless diners in the room. The beer dinners normally cost $50.

Pre-meal brew: Rare Vos, 6.5% ABV (no photo):

Our night started with Rare Vos, which Ommegang labels as Amber Ale.  Rare Vos – named after a famous Brussels' bar – is a honey-colored ale and pours with a frothy and creamy head. The nose is orangey with a spicy floral aroma. The body is distinctly malty and mellow, despite the combined mouth feel of orange notes and light hops. Rare Vos finishes dry and smooth and leaves lace on the edges of the glass as you imbibe. This is definitely not a beer I would drink frequently, but it is surprisingly flavorful and has a richness that is ideal for these autumn months.

Starter - Grilled Shrimp with Gruyere Cheese and Bacon with a side of Hennepin Mustard:

The shrimp was perfectly plump, and the Gruyere added a wonderful creaminess and saltiness to the dish. The side of Hennepin mustard was almost unnecessary, and the bacon? I'd eat a shoe wrapped in bacon.

Veggie - Homemade Black Bean Cakes with Hennepin Mustard:

I actually liked these black bean cakes better than the shrimp. They were well-seasoned and hearty, without being overly filling for a starter. They definitely had more flavor and texture than the shrimp.

Both paired with Hennepin Farmhouse Saison, 7.7% ABV:

Ommegang’s farmhouse pours a golden color with the usual massive white head. Green apples and lemon overwhelm the nose. With a slight spice and a bit of bananas, the body is crisp and works well with the dry hops. Hennepin is quite carbonated and very flavorful, thus the alcohol is imperceptible. It finishes with a slight tanginess with the bubbles dissipating quickly. I love how light this is, yet it maintains a complex tanginess and is quite aromatic. This is a beer that I could drink year-round but would be optimal on a very hot day.

Soup - Cheddar, Asiago and Country Ham:

Creamy, cheesy, and silky smooth. This was definitely a rich, comforting soup - almost a little too rich to start off a heavy meal with, but delicious nonetheless.

Veggie - Apple Squash Cranberry:

This was like eating a bowl of fall flavors. I fell in love with the taste of it instantly. Lighter than the cheese soup, this vegetarian creation was warm and comforting, while also being refreshing on the palate.

Both paired with Witte Ale, 5.1% ABV (no photo):
Witte is a Belgian-white (or witbier) and is a fairly simple adaptation of a classic beer. Witte pours a golden straw color with a big head that quickly dissipates. The nose is wheat all-over and as a result, the body is thin, light, and characterized by lemony wheat. Witte finishes clean and crisp. Witte is a very light beer that is definitely brewed with summer in mind, yet there is no need for any additions. Imagine that – a delightful white ale that doesn’t require a slice of fruit!

Entree - Roasted Pork Medallions with Zuur au Jus, a side of Smashed Potatoes and Green Beans (other entree option was Waterzooi, a Flemish Stew with Chicken, Leeks, Fennel, Carrot and Potato, paired with Belgian Pale Ale, 5.7% abv):

This was one ginormous portion of pork. Thankfully, the meat was cooked to a decent temperature, the au jus was luxurious and well-seasoned, and although the sides of potatoes and green beans were nothing special, they definitely helped to round out this traditional meat-and-potatoes dish. 

Veggie - Tortellini with Mushrooms, Spinach and Tomatoes:

The vegetarian pasta was a little too heavy for me after so many brews and previous dishes (thanks to the cream sauce), but it was still delicious and possessed a great balance of fresh flavors.

Both paired with Zuur (Flanders Oud Bruin), 6.0% abv:

Zuur is, simply put, a sour brown ale. Zuur pours a reddish-brown color with a small head. The aroma is overwhelmingly sour cherries and is complemented by woody malts and a slight vinegar flavor. The body fades too quickly, not giving you enough time to enjoy the tartness. Nevertheless, this is a phenomenal beer that epitomizes sour ales!

Dessert - Cheesecake:

I'm lactose-intolerant, so cheesecake has never really been "my thing." However, CC's version on this night was surprisingly light, yet still creamy and rich like a true cheesecake. 

Paired with Three Philosophers Quadrupel, 9.8% abv:

The last beer of the evening – Three Philosophers – combines an excellent blend of a Belgian strong ale and a cherry Lambic. The beer pours a dark, rich brown color with a tiny head. The aroma is a cherry sweetness and is complemented by vanilla and dark malts. A taste of cherries in the body, but mostly comprised of rich malts, cocoa, and even a touch of raisins. The beer improves as it warms, enabling you to savor every sip. An exceptional beer and a great choice for pairing with chocolate or even by itself!

Ultimately, Ommegang presented us with several amazing beers, which truly represents their claim that their beers aren’t “overhopped or overhyped” – they are “functional art, crafted to make your dining and drinking experience something to behold.”

Disclaimer: The generous former managers of Cambridge Common (who now run the Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont) were nice enough to allow Z and I to enjoy this beer dinner free of charge. Despite their generosity, all opinions expressed in this blog are 100% our own. 

Cambridge Common on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 26, 2010

Food Was an Afterthought on Thanksgiving

I hope you all had a very Happy Thanksgiving! I can honestly say this year's Thanksgiving, for me, was the best I've ever had. It was the first year where I realized the food doesn't even matter - I was just so grateful to be around so many people I love - although, don't get me wrong, the food was definitely a bonus. :) Last year, we didn't know if my Grandpa would make it to another Thanksgiving, but he was here this year, healthier than he was this time last year.

My Grandpa with my nephew, Ryder.
It was also great to have both my niece and nephew at the dinner table.

My niece, Aubrey, with my Aunt Karen.
Ryder with my Mom.
And, after dinner with the 30+ members of my family, Z and I were fortunate enough to have a second (and more intimate) Thanksgiving meal with his family. I wish I had a photo share, but I (unfortunately) failed to bring my camera.

This year, I am so thankful for so many things, and although we were all fortunate enough to indulge in such great food, wine and beer yesterday, it was nice to enjoy Thanksgiving, realizing it's not all about the food. I guess that's part of growing up, and truly taking the time to reflect on how blessed I am in life.

How was your Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Roasted Veggie and Black Bean Burritos

As we all get excited for tomorrow's festivities, I thought this fall twist on a favorite would be a great recipe to share with you all. Z and I made these the other evening, and had plenty of leftovers for lunches this week - and this was one of our favorite recipes we've made to date.

The recipe is for Roasted Veggie and Black Bean Burritos, courtesy of Aggie's Kitchen. Packed with sweet potatoes, black beans and roasted veggies, these unique burritos were incredibly delicious. The sweet potatoes kept some of their crunch which added a nice texture to the otherwise soft interior of the burrito, and the roasting of the vegetables, as always, gave the dish that extra "wow" taste. The only changes we made to Aggie's recipe was we substituted cayenne for chili powder - a fabulous idea if you can handle spicy food - and I used yellow peppers instead of green, just because the yellow peppers looked better at my grocery store than the green peppers.

This meal was easy to make, minus all the chopping, and it was also healthy and very flavorful. I can't wait to make these again!

Coming soon: A full recap of the Ommegang Beer Dinner at Cambridge Common. I'm reviewing the food, Z's reviewing the beer. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Everybody Has Their Bad Days

Sometimes, you can have a bad experience at a good eatery.

A few weeks ago, I stopped in at The Gingerbread Construction Co. in Winchester on my way to work. I was really eager to see what all the hype was about, as numerous people had told me I had to try Gingerbread Construction's muffins, coffee and - well, everything. However, upon immediately walking into the bakery I was greeted with a glare from the young girl behind the counter and nothing else. As I perused the bakery case, filled with glorious-looking, cream-filled muffins, thick gingerbread cookies, and intricately decorated gingerbread houses, another employee asked me what I wanted to order, in a tone that was basically asking me to hurry up. Displeased with the customer service, I only ordered an iced coffee and left sorely disappointed.

I was so disappointed, that I sent an email to The Gingerbread Construction Co., letting them know about the experience I had that morning. Part of me knew this place had to have great food (the coffee was good, too), and I also knew deep down that poor customer service wasn't something their management endorsed. Sure enough, within 24 hours, the General Manager wrote me back, apologized immensely for my bad first experience, and sent me a $10 gift card to give them another chance. 

For me, having a bad experience at a restaurant, bakery, store, etc. can happen to anyone - and not all employees are a reflection of that business. It's really all about how the management handles customer service issues, and The Gingerbread Construction Co. proved they care about their customers.

I went back to the Winchester location this past Saturday morning, and ordered a blueberry muffin and another iced coffee. Despite all the cream-filled muffin options, I'm not big on sweet breakfasts, and the blueberry muffin looked really tempting. I was thankful I did order it, as it was chocked full of fresh, Maine blueberries, and it wasn't overly sweet like some fruit-filled muffins can be.

I also loved how the top of the muffin was slightly crispy from being a little over-baked, in a good way.

In the end, I now see why the excitement exists around The Gingerbread Construction Co. Despite a bad first impression, the company showed me what they truly value: their customers.

Have you ever complained to a business about a bad experience you had? How was it resolved?

Gingerbread Construction Co on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Celebrating an Anniversary with Afghan Fare

On Tuesday evening, Z and I celebrated our two year anniversary by partaking in two activities we both really enjoy: Eating good food and drinking good wine. Z had made reservations at a restaurant while I was away in Orlando last weekend, and he refused to tell me where he made the reservations at. Let's just say I never would have guessed where he was taking me.

Z and I both love Indian food, so he had a feeling I would enjoy dinner at Helmand Restaurant, an Afghan eatery in Cambridge. I had never tried Afghan food before last night, so I was really eager to get inside and start eating.

I didn't snap any photos, as I was "off duty" for this special occasion, but hopefully my words will express just how amazing our meal, the service and the atmosphere was. The restaurant's decor alone was instantly comforting - the walls were painted in warm colors, the tables were well spaced out (and filled on this Tuesday evening), and we were greeted by a welcoming, attentive hostess. Since we had reservations, we were sat at a table within minutes, and our server took our drink orders. We opted for a bottle of 2008 Valiano Chianti Classico ($35), a varietal we both fell in love with while we were in Tuscany.

Our friendly, knowledgeable waiter brought us complimentary Afghan bread with three sauces - a mild yogurt sauce, a slightly spicy cilantro sauce, and a very spicy hot pepper sauce - and we eagerly gobbled it down while perusing the menu. After some intense decision-making, we ordered the Bowlawni special (just over $10), which included three brick oven-baked pastry shells, one filled with leeks and scallions, one filled with spiced potatoes, and the third filled with fresh butternut squash. The plate was garnished with yogurt sauce and mint. All three pastry shells were chocked full of their flavorful, obviously-fresh stuffings, which made the $10+ price tag completely worth every penny. (Note: Helmand has Bowlani on their regular appetizer menu that includes the scallion/leek and potato pastries for $7.50).

For our entrees, I opted for the Showla ($14.95), which was rice, mong beans and black-eyed peas sauteed with onions, tomatoes and garlic, then baked with dill and coriander seeds. This was all served with a stuffed poblano pepper filled with spinach and cheese, and smothered in tomato sauce. The rice with beans was amazingly creamy, and was perfectly seasoned (it takes a lot for me to say that). The pepper also contained a nice level of heat, and complemented the side of rice and beans surprisingly well.

Z ordered the vegetarian special ($14.95) that evening, which included baked pumpkin, pan-fried eggplant, sauteed spinach and okra sauteed in fresh tomatoes, and served with pallow rice. Z's dish was also wonderfully seasoned, and the baked pumpkin alone made my knees weak.

Our waiter offered us dessert menus (with options like Pudeen ($3.95), which is homemade cream caramel, and Sheerberaing ($3.95), rice pudding served with pistachio and cardamom), but Z and I were were too stuffed to even think about dessert. I even had half of my entree to go for lunch the next day.

Overall, our meal at The Helmand Restaurant was an exquisite introduction to Afghan food for me. The food, service and environment made Z and I's special occasion that much more enjoyable. If you're looking to try Afghan food, or are simply looking for a local place to have some traditional Afghan fare, Helmand is your restaurant.

Have you ever had Afghan food? Are you a fan?

Helmand on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lackluster Service and Forgetful Fried Pickles

A few weeks ago, some old co-workers and I met up halfway in Manchester, N.H. for dinner and drinks. I had been to Wild Rover Pub before and loved their bangers and mash, so I suggested we all meet there for dinner.

The small dining room at Wild Rover that Friday night was dimly lit and crowded. The few tables they have were packed with large parties of local diners. While we waited for our party of six to be seated, we sipped cold beers in the bar area and caught up with one another. I ordered a Sam Adams Octoberfest.

The hostess  - who also happened to be our waitress - informed us that the wait would be about 45 minutes. As 45 minutes came and went and tables were emptied, we all got a little impatient as we were starving and now were two cocktails deep each. One of my fellow diners, Jessica, had to literally go up to our waitress and see if we could sit down. Soon after, we were seated for dinner.

Unfortunately, our waitress was nothing short of unfriendly. Not a single smile graced her face the entire evening, and our party was treated more like a nuisance to her than a table full of hungry customers. We also mentioned at the beginning of the meal that we'd be paying with separate checks - and she was sure not to hide her annoyance.

Despite the lackluster service, the food was decent. I ordered a simple Vegetable Quesadilla ($7.99), which was chocked full of broccoli, black beans, onions, peppers and Jack cheese. The quesadilla came with salsa and sour cream on the side.

Now, I know what you're thinking: She ordered a quesadilla at an Irish pub? But Wild Rover's menu isn't very Irish. Besides the Grilled Irish Bangers, Shepherd's Pie and Kinsale Fish and Chips, there are few other traditional Irish entrees offered. Plus, I wanted some affordable "drinking food," and this quesadilla did the trick.

As far as quesadillas are concerned, Wild Rover's was quite impressive. The tortilla was perfectly crispy and refused to become soggy from the melted cheese and copious amounts of vegetables stuffed inside. I also loved the addition of the broccoli - it added more "meat" to the quesadilla, versus the usual tomatoes or jalapenos (although this quesadilla could have used some more heat).

Before the night ended, my former co-workers and I also made a pit stop at Strange Brew. In previous years, both my friend and I (on separatre occasions) got food poisoning from Strange Brew's chili, but I figured the Fried Pickle Chips ($6.50) were safe.

I didn't end up getting sick from their fried pickles, but probably because I only had one or two - the only thing I could taste was stale grease from an under-cleaned fryalator.

Which local restaurant/pub serves your favorite "drinking food?"

Friday, November 12, 2010

Giveaway Winner and a Special Weekend Breakfast

Before I dive into today's post, I must announce the winner of my CSN Stores giveaway. For those that retweeted the giveaway on Twitter, I put their names in the pool twice. So, without further ado, the winner is....

Molly G.!!!

Here's Molly's response to what she would buy off the CSN Stores website with the $30 gift certificate:

What a fantastic giveaway! As a vegetarian I read so many great winter soup recipes, but they all require a food processor, which I don't have! I'd use the CSN gift card to finally make the food processor purchase!

Congrats, Molly! Please email me at to claim your prize!

I'm leaving for Florida in a few hours for a business trip this weekend to the Orlando Food and Wine Fest (I life is hard), so today's post will be rather short. However, I thought this leisurely weekend breakfast Z and I made last weekend may inspire you to also make something a little extra special over the next few days for yourself.

The ingredients? A toasted everything bagel from New York City (thanks to Z), roasted asparagus spears (roasted in the oven on a cookie sheet with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper for about 8 minutes), some Muenster cheese and an egg over easy. In other words, it was a mountain of breakfast goodness.

These open-faced breakfast sandwiches were incredibly simple to make, yet they were unique and special enough to make the weekend morning seem that much more relaxing. The runny egg with the thick, crusty bagel and the spicy, thick asparagus spears resulted in a great mix of flavors and textures. 

What's your favorite leisurely breakfast to have on the weekends?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

7 Days of Chicken for $7

On Sunday, my friend Zack (not to be confused with Z) came over to show me his recipe and method for roasting a whole chicken. Zack also showed me all of the meals one can get from a single roasted chicken - enough meals to last one or two people an entire week.

Meet Zack.

This is how small my kitchen is.

Before we get started on the chicken, let's make one thing clear: The price tag for the chicken alone was a mere $7.33 at Stop and Shop. We also picked up some celery, baby carrots, an onion and a store brand bag of potatoes, so the end total was about $15. For just me, I got about 10 to 12 meals out of this chicken. That's roughly $1.25 per meal.

We started by roasting the chicken. To start, we rinsed out the entire thing, removed the wish bone, and tucked the legs underneath the body of the chicken (I didn't have any twine, but it would have been ideal to also tie the drumsticks together with it).

While Zack patted the bird down with some paper towels (to ensure the skin was dry and could get crispy in the oven), I got down to roughly chopping the onion, celery, and potatoes. I threw them all in a saute pan with some olive oil, and added the baby carrots as well (if you have a rotisserie pan, throw the veggies in the pan and skip this step altogether). I sauteed all of the veggies together for just a few minutes to soften them slightly.

Zack liberally salted the inside and outside of the chicken with salt and pepper, and then we placed the entire bird on top of the slightly sauteed veggies. 

We cooked the chicken and veggies in a 450 degree oven for 1 hour. 

We let the chicken rest for about 10 minutes before Zack carved it, and within no time we each enjoyed our roasted chicken dinner.

The end result was seriously the juiciest chicken I have ever eaten. I could easily cut this chicken with a fork alone, and the skin was perfectly crispy and seasoned, without being chewy and overly fatty. Despite such a crowded pan, the vegetables came out full of chicken flavor, while still possessing their own characteristics and tastes. (Side note: With such a crowded pan, some of the potatoes needed some extra time under the broiler).

After we ate, Zack showed me all of the meat still left on the chicken - an impressive amount, mind you - and walked me through the process of making homemade chicken soup and homemade chicken salad. We removed all of the leftover meat from the chicken itself, and I shredded that with a fork to make the chicken salad. I simply added some mayonnaise, curry powder, leftover chopped celery and dill - a perfect flavorful combination for chicken salad sandwiches. I ended up having enough chicken salad for four sandwiches, plus plenty of leftover vegetables!

Afraid I'd be a little "chickened out" as the week went on, I only used the carcass of the chicken in my chicken soup. To make the broth, I started by finely dicing the leftover onion, carrots, and celery, and sauteed them until soft in a large pot with some olive oil.

For the broth, I simply cooked the leftover chicken carcass with the diced veggies and several quarts of water. I let the broth boil, reduced the heat, then made sure to skim the white, fatty foam as it appeared at the top of the pot. Once the foam stopped coming to the surface, I simmered the broth, covered it and let it sit for about 2 to 3 hours. I then strained the broth, stuck it in the refrigerator, and cooked it with some of the leftover, larger vegetables I still had leftover from Sunday night.

I also added freshly cracked black pepper, some salt and dried thyme to the soup. I let it cook until the potatoes and other veggies were soft.

Although this soup didn't have any chicken chunks in it, the broth was intensely chicken-flavored, and the black pepper added a nice, constant spice to the soup. I usually like my soups a little thicker than this, but the large chunks of potatoes, carrots and celery really helped to add some texture and "weight" to this surprisingly hearty chicken soup.

Overall, I have to say I was amazed at just how much food Zack and I got out of this one chicken. For under $8, I have eaten really well this week. And you don't have to stick with chicken salad and soup - there is so much meat left over after the first meal, that you could make any chicken dish your tastebuds desire.

What's your favorite chicken recipe?

P.S. You only have until midnight tonight to enter my giveaway! I'll be picking a winner tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Raw Food for Everyone

Last Thursday, I was invited to attend a book signing at the Brookline Booksmith featuring Alissa Cohen, author of Raw Food for Everyone: Essential Techniques and 300 Simple-to-Sophisticated Recipes. 

Courtesy of
Going into the event, I knew next to nothing about a raw food diet - except, of course, that raw food means uncooked. After attending Alissa's book signing, however, it became very clear what a raw food diet entails - not to mention how surprisingly approachable such a diet can be.

Alissa talked briefly about her book and answered audience members' questions for a good 45 minutes before sitting down to sign everyone's copy of her cookbook. Some of the most interesting things I learned while listening to Alissa included:

-A raw food diet consists of fruits, vegetables, sprouts and nuts
-Protein does not create protein in our bodies. Amino acids do. So, leafy green vegetables are a much better source of protein for our bodies than nuts, meats, etc.
-Leafy green vegetables also possess a lot more calcium than milk 
-After going raw and figuring out what foods/meals work best for you, it can actually be a very affordable diet to live off of

Raw Food for Everyone even has a helpful list of essential pantry items all raw food dieters should have on hand. A lot of Alissa's recipes are also named after recognizable dishes, although they are made with completely raw ingredients. For instance, her Angel Hair Pasta and Marinara Sauce is made with zucchini cut into angel hair via a spiral slicer with marinara sauce. Alissa even substitutes salmon for papaya in several recipes, and uses nuts in a lot of dishes in place of cheese.

For the book signing, Alissa brought a tray of her Date Nut Torte (featured in her new book) to share, made with raisins, walnuts, dates and lemon juice. Thankfully, there was more than one sample for everybody.

The torte was incredibly chewy (due to the raisins and dates), and surprisingly light, despite the dense texture of the torte. It also tasted like a sweet, decadent dessert, although it was incredibly healthy and nutritious.

I was so intrigued by Alissa's sweet personality and passion for raw food that I decided to make a recipe lout of her cookbook for Z's family's dinner Sunday night. I was in charge of bringing an appetizer, and I knew Alissa's recipe for Curry Spinach Dip would be right up Z's family's alley. The alterations I made to Alissa's recipe are marked below.

Curry Spinach Dip
Yields: 2 cups

-4 cups packed spinach leaves (I only used 3 cups)
-1 large avocado, peeled, pitted, and coarsely chopped
-1/2 tbsp.freshly squeezed lemon juice
-1/2 tsp. Herbamare Organic Herb Seasoning Salt (I just used regular salt)
-1/2 garlic clove
-1/4 tsp. curry powder
-1/8 tsp. freshly grated ginger (I used a dash of ground ginger)
-Dash of cumin

1.) Put all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more seasoning salt, if necessary.
2.) Transfer the dip to a bowl and serve immediately.

I was in a rush, so I never snapped a photo of the spinach dip - but trust me when I tell you, it was green. Z's family loved how flavorful and healthy this dip was, and I served it with multigrain tortilla chips which ended up being a great complement to this dip.

Overall, I was incredibly impressed with Alissa and her cookbook, and was pleasantly surprised at how approachable and realistic a raw food diet can be. She makes it seem so effortless, and she even admitted to "falling off the wagon" for the first seven years of trying a raw food diet. At the end of the day, though, Alissa made it clear that a diet of nothing but raw food yields energy, improved mood, and a downright healthier lifestyle.

Would you ever go raw? Why or why not?

Also: Don't forget to enter my CSN giveaway! $30 to spend on yourself, or someone on your holiday shopping list. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

'Tis the Season - for a Giveaway!

Courtesy of
Happy Monday! Let's start the week with a giveaway, shall we?

The nice folks at CSN Stores are willing to give one lucky Economical Eater reader a $30 gift certificate toward anything on their websites. CSN has everything from bar stools, to dutch ovens, to wine accessories. With the holidays upon us, this is the perfect time to do a little online shopping (for yourself or others), and save some money while doing so. 

Here's how the giveaway works: 

-Check out the CSN site and leave a comment here on the blog about what you would like to buy for yourself/someone on your holiday shopping list and why
-For additional entries, link back to this giveaway via your blog and/or Twitter (1 additional entry each. For Twitter, please tag me - @MichellePC) 

The giveaway will close Thursday, November 11th at midnight EST. I will announce the winner Friday morning.

Good luck!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Curry Turkey Meatloaf

This might sound crazy - but last night, I made turkey meatloaf with curry. The inspiration? Leftover, store-bought tzatziki dip.

It's cold in Boston, and last night, I was craving warm comfort food. I really wanted to use up some of this dip, and my mind immediately went to curry - then mashed potatoes - then meatloaf. So I did what I had to do.

Curry Turkey Meatloaf
Yields: 5-6 servings

-1 package lean ground turkey
-1/2 yellow onion, minced
-1/2 green pepper, chopped
-1 egg
-1 cup plain bread crumbs
-1 tbsp. curry powder
-1/2 tbsp. cumin
-1/2 tbsp. dried cilantro
-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
-1 tsp. minced garlic
-Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

Directions: In a large bowl, mix all ingredients (except for olive oil) together with hands. Make sure everything is well blended; then add olive oil for extra moisture. Spread mixture evenly in a greased loaf pan, and cook in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes, or until center is cooked thoroughly. Let rest for 5 minutes, covered, before slicing.

The end result was a moist, spicy, Indian-flavored meatloaf that knocked my socks off - and will knock your's off, too. The cayenne added a major kick to the dish, while the curry was perfectly spicy and slightly smoky. 

The tzatziki helped to calm down the spice in this dish, too - it added a cool, refreshing touch to the meatloaf. The peppers and onions also worked as great texture contrasts. I could have easily eaten this entire loaf to the face - and to think, the entire meal was inspired by one tub of store-bought tzatziki dip. 

What one ingredient resulted in a great meal in your kitchen recently?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Duck Walk in Wakefield

My new job is located in Wakefield, and despite all the cute restaurants and stores located "downtown," I've already managed to eat at Duck Walk twice. Since I was there both times with colleagues, I didn't snap photos - but I definitely think this place is worth a mention.

The first time I dined at this Thai restaurant, I ordered the Vegetable Curry, which is chocked full of veggies like carrots, mushrooms, sugar snap peas and peppers, coated in a seriously spicy, thick curry sauce. The dish comes with just enough white rice, and if you get the combo meal, you also get two crispy dumplings and mini egg rolls with the dish. This entree was so good, I ordered it the second time I went to Duck Walk. It was good the second time, but some bites of the curry sauce tasted like nothing but butter, which was highly unfortunate.

The service at Duck Walk is also worth mentioning. Service was friendly both times, and very attentive. The waiters made it easy to be in and out of there within an hour, without making me feel rushed.

Overall, both of my visits to Duck Walk so far were good, and I'm excited to go back and try a different dish.

What's your favorite place to get Thai food?

Duck Walk on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 1, 2010

Brunch at Cambridge Common

It's probably clear by now how much I love brunch. Since that's already established, you can probably imagine how excited I was when Z suggested going to brunch at Cambridge Common this past Saturday with some of our friends.

Per usual, I started with the ginormous Bloody Mary ($6.95), which is always extra spicy and full of flavor at Cambridge Common. The jumbo-sized olives and pickled asparagus, string beans and carrots also act as fun, delicious garnishes to the drink.

For a meal, I ordered the Breakfast B.L.T. ($7.95), which included a fried egg, tomato, lettuce, avocado and chipotle mayo between two pieces of multi-grain toast. I asked for no "B," but was charged full price anyway. Meh.

The B.L.T. came with well-seasoned home fries and a fresh fruit cup. 

I've ordered this sandwich for brunch at Cambridge Common before, and it is consistently well made. I guess it can be hard to screw up an egg sandwich, but the freshness of the ingredients used, and the subtle touches of flavor (i.e. chipotle mayo) really make this sandwich extra tasty. It's also really good with the bacon on it - I just wanted something a little lighter this particular Saturday morning. 

Overall, we had another great meal at Cambridge Common - it's one of our favorite local places. The eatery has recently changed management, so I'm eager/anxious to see how things pan out. Z and I will be there again tonight for the Ommegang beer dinner, which I'll be sure to write a recap of later this week.

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Save Money at Starbucks; Blog Update

Courtesy of
Before I jump into the "work stuff," I wanted to share a quick money-saving tip with you guys - for the next time you're at Starbucks. I actually discovered this trick a while ago, and realized this past weekend that I haven't shared it on the blog yet. So, here goes!

Personally, I love the different flavors of coffee Starbucks has. For instance, one of their featured flavors right now is Toffee Mocha - sounds delicious, right? Well, whenever I order their specialty flavored coffees, the end result is syrupy sweet, high in fat and calories, and costs anywhere from $3 to $4 and up (I usually get iced drinks). So, one day I discovered their iced coffee - which is just straight up coffee - that can have flavors, like Toffee Mocha, added to it - without the extra syrups, calories, sugar, etc. And, for a venti iced creation, the price is under $3. 
Now, the work stuff. I started a new job two weeks ago, and absolutely love it. However, this new job is more demanding of my time. In addition to this blog, I do a variety of other "side jobs," like recruiting for my alma mater and other freelance writing gigs. As a result, I've done nothing but work over the last few weeks, and I'm burnt out. I've realized that I want to devote the free time that I have to this blog only, in addition to my full-time job - as well as a few freelance writing gigs that aren't incredibly demanding of my "free time." So, expect to see many more posts in the future - and it won't just be restaurant reviews and recipes anymore. Everything will be food/budget related, just taken up a notch. I hope you enjoy the improvements!

How do you manage to make time for you during the busy work week?