Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cafe Rustica in Somerville

Z and I are lucky to live within walking distance from a lot of fantastic places. Some of those include R.F. O’Sullivan’s, Petsi Pies and Café Rustica.

For some odd reason, we’ve only been to Café Rustica a few times since we moved, but the food is always good when we go there, and the service is always friendly. It really is a great neighborhood spot to grab a bite to eat and some coffee. Café Rustica offers simple breakfast food, like bagels and bagel sandwiches, as well as pastries, cookies, lunch sandwiches, coffee and tea.

Over the long weekend, we decided to pay Café Rustica a visit for breakfast. I went with an egg sandwich topped with provolone cheese and tomato slices, sandwiched between a seeded bagel.

To wash my sandwich down, I ordered an iced café mocha, which was the perfect, cold sweet treat for a hot, summer-like day. 

I didn’t take note of the prices, but I can tell you they are reasonable. Café Rustica also offers a few tables for indoor or outdoor seating, although we decided to take our’s to go (the outdoor tables were full, and…well, we live one block away).

If you ever find yourself in Somerville at breakfast, lunch or brunch time, I highly recommend giving Café Rustica a visit.

Cafe Rustica on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Wasabi Egg Salad

When I was younger, I hated bringing egg salad for lunch. I dreaded being “that girl” at the lunch table with the smelly, odd-looking sandwich. But as I’ve “grown up,” I’ve come to appreciate egg salad for what it is: still smelly, yet tasty, full of protein, and surprisingly versatile.

So, when Z and I arrived home from vacation last weekend, we were in the mood for something healthy and satisfying for lunch. We had all of the ingredients to make our own version of egg salad, so I whipped everything together. Within an hour, we had a well-balanced lunch in front of us.

Wasabi Egg Salad
Yields: 4 servings
-5 hard boiled eggs, shells removed
-3 tbsp. Trader Joe's Wasabi Mayonnaise
-1 tbsp. Stonewall Kitchen Wasabi Mustard
-1 tbsp. dried parsley
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-Squirt of lemon juice

1.) Chop eggs into bite-sized pieces. Mix with mayonnaise, mustard, parsley, salt and pepper. Squirt lemon juice (about 1 tsp.) over the mixture.
2.) Store in an airtight container in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Serve with avocado slices.

The warming spice from the mayonnaise and mustard complemented the cold eggs beautifully, while the parsley and lemon juice added a necessary brightness to the sandwich. Served with fresh avocado slices and Cape Cod Potato Chips, this was the perfect summer lunch to enjoy in our backyard.

What’s your favorite summertime lunch?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bagels and Beer in Portland, Maine

After Z and I checked out of the Christmas Farm Inn, we took the gorgeous drive to Portland, Maine (our bartender at the inn the night before recommended this spontaneous trip). 

Portland is a really fun town with some great waterfront views - not to mention a handful of breweries. We had no set plans, since we didn't initially intend to go to Portland, so our mission for the day was to eat, drink and soak up the sunshine.

Our first stop was The Dogfish Bar and Grille. I started my extended vacation with a Shipyard Summer ($4.25) on their rooftop deck. 

For my lunch, I decided to go with the Veggie Burger ($9.99), which was a locally-made black bean burger served with mixed greens, tomato, sprouts and mango mayonnaise on a wheat bulkie roll. I had my choice of either potato chips or potato salad for my side; I went with the salad, which ended up being a good choice. 

This was by far one of the best veggie burgers I've had in a longtime. It was obviously homemade, and the toppings were fresh and plentiful. 

After we ate, we had another leisurely beer on Dogfish's rooftop deck before we decided to check out some of the local breweries. Our first stop: Gritty McDuff's

I ordered a Black Fly Stout, which was creamy, smooth and rich.

After checking out Gritty's, we decided to walk the few blocks over to Sebago Brewing Company. I ordered the Runabout Red Ale, which comes from three different types of caramel malt. 

After Sebago, we decided to check into an affordable hotel nearby (La Quinta). Once we got settled in our hotel room, we took a short cab ride back into downtown and had a few more beers at an amazing place called Novare Res. At this point in the day, I was in no shape mood to take photos, but this place is incredible. If you love good beer (and delish cheese plates), then this is a must-visit in Portland.

For dinner that evening, we had a really incredible vegetarian meal at the Green Elephant. Their menu is all vegetarian, but there are plenty of dishes that omnivores would like, too. Another must-visit destination in Portland!

The next morning, Z and I packed up and made our way home. Before leaving Portland, however, we stopped into Scratch Baking Co. for bagels and coffee/juice. 

Scratch Baking Co. is an adorable bakery/gourmet food store in South Portland. Basically, they have pastries, bagels, coffee, cheese, beer, bread and wine, all in one place. Need I say more?

Have a safe and fun Memorial Day weekend! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What We Ate (and Drank) in New Hampshire

This is what Z and I look like when we're relaxed:

If you know us me, this is a rare sight. 

We look so relaxed because we were at Moat Mountain Smoke House and Brewing Co. on our vacation in New Hampshire. We visited this brewhouse last summer (and I've been several times before that) - it's one of my favorite places to visit when I'm in the North Conway area.

We were even more excited to visit Moat Mountain this time because we were both dying of starvation (OK, I'm being dramatic...but we were very hungry). We had barely eaten since breakfast, and were ready for our first "real" meal of our vacation. So, being the responsible adult that I am, I started with a beer: the Moat Blueberry ($4).

The Moat Blueberry is an American-style wheat ale with a subtle, yet obvious, blueberry flavor. It was really refreshing and light - perfect for a sunny, summer-like day.

For my meal, I went with the Veggie Hummus Wrap ($8.99). The wrap was chocked full of artichoke hearts, red onions, garlic hummus, roasted red peppers, oven-roasted tomatoes and spinach. It was served with well-seasoned Cajun fries and a pickle.

This wrap was definitely not mind-blowing, but it was delicious. The vegetables and hummus were also clearly fresh, and it was the perfect light lunch to pair with a few brews (halfway during my meal, I ordered the Boneshaker Brown Ale, $4). 

For the remainder of our first afternoon in New Hampshire, Z and I wandered around North Conway and soaked up the sunshine (as well as a few outlet stores). I even found my soon-to-be niece this adorable onesie at Gap!

Since we had such a late lunch, Z and I weren't hungry for dinner until about 9 p.m. We stopped into the Mistletoe Pub at the inn and chatted with the bartender about our late-night dinner options. Let's just say, there weren't many (most places up there don't stay open later until after Memorial Day). The staff at the inn were kind enough to call a few places, though, and they eventually suggested Delaney's up the road.

Delaney's "Hole in the Wall" was bustling with younger patrons when we arrived. They only served food until 10 p.m., so we were thankful when we were quickly seated at a table. We ordered a round of beers and a Basket of Cheesy Garlic Bread ($3.99) with homemade marinara while we perused the rest of the menu.

Delaney's is quite the interesting place. In addition to the hometown decor and the obvious devotion to being a local dive, they have a full American-style food menu as well as a lengthy sushi menu. Normally, I'd be skeptical of eating sushi at a local dive bar, but...this just felt trustworthy.

I went with the Vegetable Futo Maki Roll ($6.95), which consisted of six pieces of sushi made with avocado, cucumber, carrot, oshinko, fried tofu and asparagus. Every bite was incredibly fresh and flavorful. 

Delaney's might sound like an odd place, but their food, service and down-home atmosphere definitely delivered. 

After our trip to New Hampshire, we decided to drive over to Portland, Maine and spend one more night away from home. One more vacation recap to come!

Moat Moutain Smoke House & Brewery on Urbanspoon

Delaney's Hole In The Wall on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Christmas Farm Inn in Jackson, N.H.

The purpose of Z and I staying overnight in Jackson, N.H. was to visit the Christmas Farm Inn. I had bought an Eversave deal for a weeknight stay there, so it was the perfect excuse to jet off to the countryside for a few days.

The Christmas Farm Inn, in one word, is adorable. Their motto, scattered throughout the inn, is "There are no strangers, only friends we haven't met." 

The inn has also got quite a bit of history - just take a look at this tidbit of information from the inn's website:

"Part jail, part church, part farm house… Few country inns have as fragmented a history as the Christmas Farm Inn. Sadly, most of the official records of the inn’s early years were destroyed by a fire in the courthouse in 1886, but certain remnants of those roots have been passed down through time."

The room we stayed in was one of the main rooms - the Vixen (yes, most of the inn's rooms are named after reindeer). The entire inn had a Christmas theme, actually, as one would expect (we even enjoyed a drink at the Mistletoe Pub). 

The Vixen's amenities included a jacuzzi and a king-size bed.

Our Eversave deal also included a bottle of red or white wine.

Our room was spotless, comfortable and full of sunlight during the daytime. The jacuzzi wasn't a bad addition, either. 

Our Eversave deal also included breakfast in the morning. Christmas Farm has a short but simple breakfast menu, in addition to a spread of cereals, fruit and yogurt. I started my morning with a hot cup of coffee.

I also helped myself to some fresh fruit - including grapefruit, grapes, strawberries, cantaloupe and honey dew melon - while we waited for our breakfast orders. 

For my main course, I ordered the blueberry pancakes. I never order pancakes when I'm out for breakfast, so this was a nice treat (especially considering Christmas Farm uses their "own special recipe"). Much to my delight, the pancakes were slightly crispy on the outside/fluffy on the inside, loaded with wild blueberries, and wonderfully buttery in flavor. 

My pancakes also came with a side of crispy, semi-underseasoned homefries (I substituted the bacon or sausage for homefries).

Unfortunately, our stay at the Christmas Farm Inn came to a quick end. After we checked out, we made use of the beautiful morning by walking around the inn's property. In addition to the main inn, Christmas Farm has several other cottages people can stay at, as well as a spa and an indoor pool and fitness center (they also have an outdoor pool, which I assume opens this weekend).

This house is said to be the oldest home in Jackson - it's right next to the main inn.

Indoor pool and fitness center. 

More to come on where we went and what else we ate during our time in Jackson!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Back to Reality

Hello! Z and I are back from vacation and feeling very relaxed as we slowly transition back to "real life." We had four days filled with sunshine, good eats and delicious beer - we seriously couldn't have asked for a better mini vacation. We were having such a great time in Jackson, N.H. that we even decided to drive over to Portland, Maine on Friday to extend our getaway. Below are a few snapshots from our trip. Over the next few days, I'll provide you guys with a full recap. Until then....

How did you enjoy the beautiful weather this weekend?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Caramelized Onion and Tomato Relish with Chickpea Fritters

A few weeks ago, the kind folks at Robert Rose Inc. offered to send me a copy of the new "cook" book, "Eat Raw, Eat Well" by Douglas McNish. McNish is a Certified Red Seal Professional Vegan Chef, cooking teacher and raw food consultant.

I'm not a big proponent of the raw food diet - which is a diet made up of raw foods, or food that cannot exceed 118 degrees Fahrenheit, if heated - but I am intrigued by its health benefits. With that being said, I was eager to dive into this book and try a few of its recipes - but by putting my own, non-raw twist on them.  

"Eat Raw, Eat Well"  is chocked full of 400 raw recipes for smoothies, sauces, dips, entrees, desserts and salads, and even has tips on stocking a raw food kitchen. Some noteworthy dishes in the book include Coconut Water Strawberry Jam, Avocado Spinach Dip, Basil and Spinach 'Cream' Sauce, and Creamy Ranch Kale Chips. 

My dinner last night was a variation of the book's Caramelized Onion and Cherry Tomato Relish, as well as the Chickpea and Zucchini Fritters.

Caramelized Onion and Grape Tomato Relish
Yields: About 1 cup
Adapted from Eat Raw, Eat Well
-3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
-1 yellow onion, sliced
-1 tbsp. sugar
-1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced
-2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
-Salt and black pepper, to taste

1.) In a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil on medium heat. Add onions, and cook, stirring often, for about 2 minutes. Add sugar, and stir again; let onions cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent, sticky and caramelized.
2.) In a separate saucepan, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over low to medium heat. Add tomatoes, and let cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Remove from heat, and add to a bowl with the onions.
3.) Add vinegar, salt and pepper; stir. Let sit in fridge for a half hour to meld flavors.

Chickpea Fritters 
Yields: 6 fritters
Adapted from Eat Raw, Eat Well
-1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
-2 tsp. cumin
-1/2 tsp. turmeric
-1/2 tsp. curry powder
-1 tsp. dried parsley
-1/4 tsp. Ajwain seeds (optional)
-2 tbsp. olive oil
Squirt of lemon juice

1.) Place all ingredients above in a food processor and pulse until mostly smooth. Form chickpea mixture into 6 small patties.
2.) In a frying pan, heat olive oil over medium to high heat. Once hot, place chickpea fritters in the oil and cook on each side for about 2 minutes, or until brown and crispy.
3.) Serve with Caramelized Onion and Tomato Relish.

The onion and tomato relish was a fun condiment for me to make, and something I can use on several dishes over the next few days. The spicy chickpea fritters came out a tad bit dry, but with the relish, it was hard to notice. I loved using this cookbook as an inspiration for my meal, prepared in the way I prefer.

The average retail value in the U.S. for "Eat Raw, Eat Well" is $24.95.

Would you ever switch to a raw food diet? Why or why not?

Disclaimer: Although I received a copy of this book for review, free of charge, the opinions expressed in this post are honest and 100 percent my own.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Aroma Joe's: It's Wicked Good

Whenever I visit my older sister, I make a point to stop at Aroma Joe's.

Their motto: "It's Wicked Good." And they ain't lying. 

I normally order a 20 oz. hazelnut iced coffee with milk and one sugar. The coffee is incredibly smooth, the ice plentiful, and the hazelnut flavor is apparent without being overly sweet. I don't know if Aroma Joe's uses flavored syrups or not in their coffee, but it tastes like the flavor lives right inside their original blend of coffee beans. 

In addition to hazelnut, Aroma Joe's offers 30 flavors of coffee, including Peanut Butter, Shortbread, White Chocolate and Brown Sugar Cinnamon. If coffee's not your thing, they also offer a variety of smoothies, Red Bull mixed drinks (non-alcoholic, of course) and iced tea, to name a few. 

Aroma Joe's does also offer some pastries and cookies, but I have never eaten their food. The coffee alone is a treat!

Aroma Joe's has several locations in New Hampshire and Maine, mainly in the Seacoast area. For a full list of locations, click here. If you'll be in that area sometime this summer, I highly recommend finding an Aroma Joe's!

Do you have any vacations planned for this summer? Z and I are leaving for a mini vacation in the White Mountains on Thursday!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Black Trumpet Bistro in Portsmouth, N.H.

On Friday evening, Z and I drove up to Portsmouth, N.H. to meet my older sister and her husband for dinner. My sister’s birthday is tomorrow – and she’s also a Mom (who just so happens to also be 8 months pregnant) – so we offered to treat her to a nice dinner to celebrate. Z and I chose a restaurant none of us had ever been to before, with a menu that had plenty of options for the omnivores, vegetarians and pregnant people: Black Trumpet Bistro

Black Trumpet Bistro’s food mainly comes from local sources in New Hampshire and Maine (the back of their menu boasts the farms they’re currently working with). The menu, as a result, reflects ingredients that are in-season – and the dishes are innovative, original and downright impressive. The restaurant’s intimate décor is also worth mentioning, from the copper tables to the rustic wooden ceiling beams to the old, brick walls. Z and I felt like we were back in Italy, dining at a historic eatery. We ate on the first level, but the second level had a lively yet classy bar scene.

My sister and her husband were running a little late, so Z and I ordered cocktails and a snack while we waited. I sipped on a 29 Ceres Cup ($12), which was made with gin, Pimms, earl grey syrup, fresh citrus and cucumber (Black Trumpet’s cocktails also incorporate seasonal ingredients). It was refreshing and delicious, and the perfect accompaniment to the Fried Almonds, Olives and Garlic ($6).

Soon after our almonds came, my sister and her husband arrived. We ordered the Harbison cheese plate ($11) for the table – the cheese was a raw cow’s milk wrapped in birch bark from Jasper Hill, Vermont, and was served with raisin birch mostarda.

For my entrée, I decided to get a “Medium Dish” of Baked Polenta Stuffed Mission Fig ($13), which was served with sauteed wild mushrooms and asparagus tips and a vincotto drizzle, along with a bowl of the Asparagus Soup ($9), which came with a dollop of vanilla parsnip cream and some crispy Vidalia onion rings.

I washed my meal down with a Moat Mountain Brewing Pale Ale ($6).

The fig and polenta dish was wildly flavorful and full of fresh ingredients. Several bites were a little too salty, but the dish as a whole was successful. The asparagus soup with the sweet vanilla parsnip cream proved to be a fantastic combination, despite how odd it may sound. The salty, crispy onion strings helped to keep this a savory soup.

Although we were all beyond full at this point, we had to make sure my sister's birthday was acknowledged. She chose the Opera Cake ($8) for her dessert, which was coffee soaked almond genoise (an Italian sponge cake), buttercream and chocolate, served with an orange sauce and whipped mascarpone. The waiter brought it over with a lit candle in the center - and didn't charge us a dime for it. Yay for birthdays!

From start to finish, our dinner at Black Trumpet Bistro was elegant, delicious and all-around enjoyable. The waitstaff was also extremely knowledgeable about the menu, not to mention friendly and accommodating. My sister and her husband don't get to get out of the house too often, so I was really happy we were all able to have such a great dining experience.

What was the best meal you ate this weekend?

Black Trumpet on Urbanspoon