Friday, May 31, 2013

New Summer Menu at Bruegger's Bagels

It's probably no secret by now that I love bagels. In middle school, I used to have a bagel for lunch every single day. In high school, I worked at Honey Dew Donuts...and ate a bagel every single day. In college, I got a little smarter and decided I should cut back on my bagel intake - but I still manage to have them, to this day, at least once or twice a week.

It also doesn't help that I live dangerously close to the Bruegger's in Porter Square. I love their hot, fresh bagels and flavorful (not to mention inventive) cream cheeses. So, when Bruegger's PR firm, SPM Communications, reached out to me a few weeks ago to see if I'd like to try out some of Bruegger's new summer menu items, I quickly said yes...especially when they mentioned Sriracha was involved.

The Sriracha Egg Sandwich is one new Bruegger's item that I am most excited about it. It normally comes with egg, sausage, cheddar cheese, red peppers, and Sriracha sauce on a plain bagel, although you can get it on any bagel you wish. I asked for no sausage, and the cashier took the cost of the meat off my bill. Few people do that, so I greatly appreciated the gesture.

The sandwich was delicious. The peppers were obviously fresh, the Sriracha was nice and spicy (although I wish it had been more evenly spread throughout the sandwich), and everything didn't fall apart after one or two bites.

Another new item on Bruegger's summer menu is the Morning Glory bagel.

Apple butter is folded into the batter of these Morning Glory bagels, which are chocked full of shredded carrots, raisins, sunflower seeds, and cinnamon. Bruegger's chef recommends spreading plain cream cheese on this bagel and enjoying it that way - so that's exactly what I did.

This combination tasted almost like carrot cake, without the intense sweetness. I loved how the bagel had some texture to it from the carrots and sunflower seeds, too.

Bruegger's summer menu also includes two new salads:

Blue Apple Salad, made with spring lettuce, chicken, dried cranberries, sliced almonds, diced apples, and blue cheese crumbles, all dressed with Bruegger's new Champagne Vinaigrette dressing.

Chicken Almond Salad, tossed with diced chicken, almonds, cucumber, Asiago cheese, and red bell pepper. This salad is topped with a new Tangy Olive Oil dressing made with olive oil, feta cheese, and red wine.

Which new Bruegger's menu item do you want to try?

Bruegger's Bagels on Urbanspoon

Bruegger's Bagels provided me with coupons to sample their new summer menu items. Despite their generosity, the opinions expressed in this post are honest and 100 percent my own.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Spring Vegetable Tart

A few weeks ago, I catered a small dinner party for eight guests. Like most dinner parties, I wasn't sure if everyone would arrive on time, so I wanted to make a main dish that could sit for a bit if needed. This was also my first time catering by myself, so I wanted the main course (well, all the dishes for that matter) to be a dish that I was comfortable making. And since I am a big fan of all things tarts and quiches - and seasonal veggies - I decided to make a Spring Vegetable Tart with a homemade shortcrust.

Spring Vegetable Tart
Yields: 1 tart (about 6-8 servings; I doubled this recipe to make two tarts)
Adapted from Vegetarian Times
-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-Pinch of salt
-6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
-2 large eggs, divided
-2 tablespoons water
-1 big bunch of trimmed asparagus spears
-1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
-2 cups chopped green onions
-3 large eggs
-1 1/2 cups whole milk
-Salt and black pepper
-1/8 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
-4 ounces herbed goat cheese

1.) To make the Shortcrust: Sift flour and salt into large bowl. Rub in butter with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Beat 1 egg with water in small bowl. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture just until dough comes together, adding 1 tablespoon more water if necessary. Flatten dough into disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill 1 hour, or overnight.
2.) Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out dough to 12-inch circle on floured work surface. Press dough into 9-inch pie pan. Trim edges, and prick bottom all over with fork. Line tart shell with parchment paper or tin foil, and fill with dried beans or rice (or pie weights, if you have them). Bake 25 minutes, or until barely golden. Remove beans and paper/foil. Beat remaining egg, and brush on bottom of crust. Bake 5 minutes more.
3.) To make Filling: Cook asparagus in large pot of boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Drain, and cut into 1 1/4-inch lengths.
4.) Heat oil in skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions, and cook 6 to 8 minutes, or until softened. Remove from heat.
5.) Whisk together eggs and milk in bowl. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg; whisk in seasonings.
6.) Place cooked vegetables in shortcrust; top evenly with goat cheese. Pour egg mixture evenly over the vegetables and cheese, and place pan on baking sheet. Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until tart is set in center, covering edges with foil if they start to get too brown. Let sit for 30 minutes before serving. 

[Print this recipe]

This tart was shockingly easy to put together, and the varying flavors complemented each other extremely well. Every dinner guest cleaned their plate, so I'd say it was a success!

This is also the kind of dish you can cook completely and let sit while you wait for your guests to arrive. The tart is actually easier to slice and eat (read: it's not boiling hot) if you let it rest for 30 minutes after cooking.

What spring vegetables (or fruits) are you loving right now? In addition to asparagus, I can't get enough of rhubarb. The Pioneer Woman's Rhubarb Cobbler is incredible.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Weekly Taco + Beer Deal at Bukowski Tavern

Last week, Z discovered this website, which lists all of the weekly cheap eats deals - by day - in Boston. Pretty cool, right? One we knew we immediately had to try out was the deal at Bukowski Tavern in Cambridge on Tuesday evenings: $4 for a taco and a can of Mexican lager, or $5 for a taco and a margarita.

Over the course of the night, I had three Tecate beers and three veggie tacos. To say I was stuffed would be an understatement, but I only paid $12 to be that full. Worth it.

The picture above does the veggie tacos no justice (Bukowski's also serves chicken, pork, and beef tacos, although their selection can change each week). The tacos were filled with a variety of fresh veggies, black beans, and some addicting chipotle sauce, all wrapped in a warm, slightly crisp soft taco.

This is one great bargain where you really get more than what you pay for. No one at my table tried the margarita, but...what can be bad about a margarita?

*One note: this deal is only valid at Bukowski's Inman Square location.

Also, we have a MorningStar Farms' giveaway winner (I chose the winner using Kelly R.! Congrats, Kelly! 

I hope everyone has a safe and relaxing long weekend! What are your plans?

Bukowski Tavern on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Central Bottle Miscellany Wine Club

There are few things in life better than affordable, good wine. Thankfully, Central Bottle in Cambridge understands that.

Central Bottle Wine + Provisions comes to us from the same folks behind The Blue Room and Belly Wine Bar. Central Bottle is an impressive wine and gourmet food store (located dangerously close to Flour), selling items such as craft beer, cheese, Iggy's bread, and olive oil. They even have a chef on-site - her name is Stacey Daley, and she used to be an organic farmer.

So, why am I telling you all of this? Well, Central Bottle has a monthly promotion that I think you will all be interested in. To sum it up: three bottles, $17ish each, one awesome tote bag.

It's called Central Bottle's Miscellany Wine Club, and I got to try out the one month option as part of my partnership with Eventbrite (Central Bottle also has a three-month option). Each month, for $50, Central Bottle chooses three bottles of wine that they think their customers will enjoy. I signed up for May, and received three 2011 Alois Lageder wines that I probably never would have thought to try on my own: a Muller Thurgau, a Chardonnay, and a Lagrein Rosé. 

So far, I have only tried the Muller Thurgau, which was incredibly crisp and a little bit dry on the palate (in a good way). Each sip also possessed hints of bright citrus flavors, which I really appreciated on the warmer, muggy days. 

I thought the choices Central Bottle made for this month's wine club were ideal for the start of the summer season. I'm excited to break into the next two bottles at cookouts and/or outdoor dinner parties this summer!

Have you ever participated in a wine club before?

This post is part of an ongoing partnership with Eventbrite BostonEventbrite enables people all over the world to plan, promote, and sell out any event. It's also a destination for people to discover awesome events going on in THEIR city! Whatever your desires, hobbies, or interests - from photography workshops and wine classes to food festivals and industry conferences, there's an event on Eventbrite for you to attend! Keep up on the goings-on in Beantown by following Eventbrite Boston on Twitter or liking them on Facebook! Planning an event? Go ahead and create an account to get started

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

MorningStar Farms Giveaway

Memorial Day weekend is almost here. Which means that the summer is almost here. Which means our wedding, my birthday, and Z's birthday are all almost here. There's lots to be excited about this summer!

I don't know about you, but Memorial Day weekend for me is an excuse to barbecue every meal, drink during the day without the guilt, and pretend I'm on vacation for three short days. And almost every single time Z and I cookout on the grill, we include MorningStar Farms' burgers in our meal. We actually enjoy all of their burgers, as we've yet to try one that's not flavorful and extra delicious when cooked over hot coals.

So, when MorningStar Farms reached out to me a few weeks ago asking me if I'd like to try their new Mediterranean Chickpea Burger, I quickly jumped at the chance. I adore chickpeas, so this sounded like a winning combination to me.

It was. The burger is chocked full of chickpeas, Roma tomatoes, spinach, and traditional Greek herbs and spices. I loved how there are whole chickpeas studded throughout each patty, with hints of spice in every bite. I found this burger to be best served on a bun with a thin smear of Greek yogurt, a slice of tomato, and some pepper jack cheese.

For my fellow BBQ-lovin' friends, are you a ready for a fun giveaway?? MorningStar Farms has offered to giveaway the following prize pack to one lucky EE reader - this prize will be the perfect accompaniment to your BBQs this summer!

The prizes:
  • MorningStar Farms coupons
  • Greek-inspired grilling apron
  • Mediterranean hummus cookbook
  • Chickpea tote bag

How to enter: Leave a comment on this post with what your favorite MorningStar Farms' product is. For an extra entry, tweet: "I entered to win veggie burgers from @MorningStrFarms & @MichellePC! #vegetarian #BBQ". Please leave a second comment saying you did so.

I will pick a winner Friday (May 24th) morning. Good luck!

MorningStar Farms sent me the same prize pack pictured above as well as a gift card to purchase their Mediterranean Chickpea Burgers. Despite their generosity, the opinions expressed in this post are honest and 100 percent my own. 

This giveaway is now closed.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Tasty Bite - Quick and Easy Meals

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you probably know by now that I'm not a big fan of packaged foods with weird, illegible ingredients. I also love to cook, so a lot of times, using packaged goods in order to get dinner to the table faster just doesn't appeal to me.

With that being said, however, some nights I just don't have the time to cook, so I make an exception. But I always only use packaged goods that are made of real ingredients.

So, when the nice folks at Tasty Bite reached out to me a few weeks ago asking if I'd like to try their all-natural products, I happily said yes.

Tasty Bite specializes in Pan Asian and Indian cuisine, and their products promise you'll get dinner to the table in 90 seconds (if you use the microwave). All of Tasty Bite's meals are packaged in a pouch that you simply pop in the microwave or stick in a saucepan with boiling water. I used the stovetop method each time, following the directions on the package, and every product I tried came out piping hot and perfectly cooked.

The first products Z and I tried were the Channa Masala and the Madras Lentils.

For an idea of what's in these pouches, check out the short and sweet ingredient list on the Channa Masala:

In addition to the cooking being easy and successful, and the ingredient list being surprisingly legible, the flavors in both of these entrees were also spot-on. Both dishes were well-seasoned and wonderfully aromatic. Z and I simply ate them with some warm garlic naan, which was a satisfying and tasty dinner.

The last dish we tried (so far) was the Ginger Lentil Rice, tossed with brown lentils and red peppers. We served it alongside some grilled veggie burgers and asparagus.

I feel like rice can always be tricky, but Tasty Bite's actually came out great. Although I used the stovetop method, I did nuke the rice in the microwave for an extra 30-45 seconds, but I think I only had to do that because I took it out of the saucepan too soon. Besides that, the rice was bursting with flavors of ginger, and this made a fantastic side dish for our dinner.

Another cool thing about Tasty Bite's products? They have a scanner on the back of each pouch so you can quickly and easily get recipe ideas for that specific product.

Overall, I was very pleased with all of the Tasty Bite products I tried. They really did provide quick and easy dinners, without a bunch of crazy ingredients. The price is also pretty reasonable for 2 servings per pouch - on their website, each entree pouch is only $3.09.

Have you ever tried Tasty Bite's products before? If not, would you?

These products were complimentary, but, as always, the opinions expressed in this post are honest and 100 percent my own.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mystery Meet Dinner at Temple Bar

On Tuesday evening, I hosted Boston's 20th Mystery Meet Dinner at Temple Bar in Porter Square.

I've always been a big fan of Temple Bar (and their patio). Although Temple Bar is not a "vegetarian restaurant," I've always found them to make delicious vegetarian-friendly food (and cocktails).

The price of your Mystery Meet Dinner ticket covers your meal, tax, and gratuity - the only thing you have to pay for separately are drinks, if desired. Never one to pass up a drink, I enjoyed a Pretty Things Baby Tree (or two) over the course of the evening. 

Our meal started with two "on the house" Vegetarian Boards, which consisted of Parmesan-crusted amaranth cakes, romesco, white bean salad, spicy eggplant caviar, pickled mushrooms, and pita chips.

I sampled a little bit of everything on the board, and each element was well-flavored. It was like a charcuterie board for vegetarians - very creative!

While we all enjoyed our drinks and first appetizer, the group mingled. Over the course of the night, there were a lot of laughs, stories shared, and talks about trips to Iceland (several people at the table have trips to Iceland planned - what are the odds of that?). 

A short time passed before we were served our salad course: the Spring Vegetable Salad.

Made with English peas, baby turnips, chickpeas, asparagus, carrots, tomatoes, pea greens, frisse, and Thai basil, served with a carrot-rosemary puree and fig vinaigrette, there was a lot going on in this salad. Somehow, though, it all worked. I loved all of the fresh, seasonal flavors in this dish.

For our entree, we were served the Panko-crusted Lentil Cake

The heavily spiced cake was served with cumin-spiced carrots, sesame-seeded spinach, harissa yogurt, and lemon-tahini sauce. Again, everything worked well together in this dish, and many diners (myself included) appreciated how satiating the protein-packed lentil cake was.

Although it is pretty standard to have at least three courses at a Mystery Meet Dinner, we unfortunately were not served a third course by Temple Bar (the Vegetable Board was complimentary, and wasn't included in the ticket price). Dessert was not included to help make the ticket price more affordable, but I could tell that some of my fellow diners were disappointed that some kind of third course wasn't prepared, especially considering Temple's typical Vegetarian Tasting menu includes three courses, at a lower price.

Thankfully, though, the great conversation, good drinks, and tasty food helped to make this night a successful one. Mystery Meet Dinners provide a great way to meet new people, try different restaurants (they never go to the same restaurant twice), and just enjoy a fun evening out. 

Thanks again to Mystery Meet for giving me the opportunity to host this dinner!

Have you ever been to a Mystery Meet Dinner before?

Temple Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The MeltAway House in Tilton, N.H.

Last week, my Mom and I drove up to North Conway, N.H. to meet with a potential florist for our wedding. On the ride back home, we stopped into visit with another florist in Tilton - which occurred right around lunchtime. By the time we left that meeting, my Mom and I were famished. Thankfully, after a quick Google search, we came across the highly recommended The MeltAway House, which was right up the street from where we were.

The MeltAway House is my ideal setting for a summer lunch. The casual atmosphere is half ice cream parlor, half restaurant, and the dining room tables are adorned with plastic cutlery. The open kitchen smelled of a fryolator, which you expect and appreciate at a place like this.

My Mom and I were greeted almost immediately by the young waitress (the same person who was also responsible for working the ice cream counter). Since we were starving, we didn't take long to make a decision - we both went with the creative Vegetarian wrap ($5.25), and we shared a side of Sweet Potato Fries ($4.50). (Their sandwiches come with chips or fries - we just opted for the "boat" of fries to share instead).

The wrap was full of fresh strawberries, roasted red pepper, Swiss cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a homemade roasted red pepper relish. It might sound like an odd combination, but I adored the addition of strawberries. I'm already eager to create a wrap at home that incorporates the summer fruit!

The fries were also very good - wonderfully crispy and salty on the outside, despite tasting a bit too much like grease for my liking. However, the side of honey mustard helped cover up any sign of that.

For dessert, my Mom and I had to sample the ice cream parlor (obviously). I went with a medium hot fudge sundae, made with Maine Tracks ice cream, which was chocked full of peanut butter cups.

Although The MeltAway doesn't make their own ice cream (I believe they use Gifford's), they know how to make a damn good sundae. 

I should also mention that the cook as well as the owner came over during our meal to check in, and to make sure we were enjoying ourselves. I always appreciate that at any restaurant, but that kind of service at such a laid-back place was even more appreciated.

All in all, we had a fun and productive day in New Hampshire and lunch at The MeltAway ended it on a high note. 

Do you have any vacations planned this summer? We're going to Nantucket Memorial Day weekend, then on our honeymoon in August. ;)

The Meltaway Creamery and Sandwichery on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 13, 2013

Stir-Fried Rice Noodles with Mushrooms and Spinach

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a great weekend. We had a busy but fun weekend, with one of the highlights being dinner at Tryst in Arlington on Saturday night. That place is so darn good, and their bartenders make a mean dirty martini. Just sayin'.

This weekend also included a lot of prepping for a dinner party I am catering this Saturday. Although I've already finalized the menu with the host, I've been trying to expand my horizons in the kitchen more than usual over the last few weeks in order to just practice, practice, practice. I'd love to cook for people (other than Z) on a more professional level more often, so the more cooking I can do, the better. 

So, when Z sent me this recipe last week saying it sounded delicious, I knew I had to recreate a vegetarian version at home. And that's just what I did.

Stir-Fried Rice Noodles with Mushrooms and Spinach
Yields: 4 servings
Inspired by 
-6 ounces uncooked rice noodles
-1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
-1 teaspoon ground ginger
-1 teaspoon ground coriander
-1 cup chopped green onions
-6 ounces sliced portobello mushrooms, very roughly chopped (I kept mine big for more of a "meaty" texture)
-8 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and wrung dry
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-2 tablespoons rice vinegar
-1 tablespoon lime juice
-3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
-2 teaspoons Sriracha
-1 tablespoon peanut oil
-Salt, to taste
-2 teaspoons sesame seeds (I used this Toasted Sesame Ginger Seasoning)

1.) Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and rinse under cold water; drain.
2.) Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add vegetable oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add ginger and coriander, and cook until fragrant (about 15 seconds). Add onions and mushrooms; stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add spinach and garlic; stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes.
3.) In a small bowl, combine rice vinegar and the next 3 ingredients (through Sriracha), stirring with a whisk. Add vinegar mixture to mushroom mixture; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in noodles, peanut oil, and salt; cook for 1 minute or until noodles are thoroughly heated, tossing to combine. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

[Print this recipe]

Spicy Sriracha, fragrant ginger, nutty peanut oil - the flavors in this dish are ridiculously good. I also loved how the meaty mushrooms soaked up every bit of flavor, like a sponge. 

The best part about this dinner was that the leftovers the next day were even better. I recommend eating the leftovers with a fried egg on top...and more Sriracha.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Long Trail Brewing Company

Last Sunday, Z and I had some time to kill before his cousin's wedding. Since we were in Vermont, we immediately looked up what breweries were in the area. We soon discovered that Long Trail Brewing Co. was only 25 minutes away, so we hopped in the car and drove there for lunch. 

The design of Long Trail's Visitor Center was inspired by the Hofbrau House in Munich, Germany. The atmosphere boasts a unique blend of industrial design with casual comfort. Long Trail offers self-guided brewery tours along with their bar/restaurant.

Since we were a bit strapped for time, we decided to skip the tour. Instead, we sat outside at one of Long Trail's many picnic tables on their large deck, which overlooks a river. It was the perfect setting to enjoy a beer and some food on a 70 degree, sunny day.

I started my meal with the Maple Maibock.

The Maple Maibock was wonderfully light for lunchtime on a warm day, but I wished it had possessed more of a maple flavor. The flavor as a whole fell pretty flat. (I'm usually a fan of Long Trail's beers - this one just wasn't for me).

My entree - the Roasted Red Pepper Hummus Wrap ($8.50) - was much more delicious.

Chocked full of flavorful hummus and mixed raw veggies, this was one satiating sandwich - that somehow did not fall apart after one or two bites. The fries on the side were standard bar fries that were very well-salted. The warm, salty fries paired with the cool wrap was a delightful combination.

We were really happy we got to visit Long Trail while we were in Vermont, and we already have plans to go back and do their self-guided brewery tour!

Do you like visiting breweries? If so, what's one of the best ones you've been to?

P.S. Don't forget: I'm hosting this month's Mystery Meet Dinner on Tuesday, May 14th! I hope you all can join me - ticket information can be found here.

Long Trail Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Beer and Local Cheese Pairing at Formaggio Kitchen

Beer and cheese are two of my favorite things. While I've eaten the two together before, I've never stopped to contemplate how they can complement one another. Thankfully, Formaggio Kitchen did the work for me last week at their Beer & Local Cheese Pairing with Smuttynose Brewing Co.

I attended this event as a part of my partnership with Eventbrite, and I have to say - despite a few unorganized details (i.e. no pens for note-taking) - this was one of the most informative pairings I've ever been to.

The pairing was led by Formaggio's domestic cheese buyer, Sarah, as well as Smuttynose's head brewer (he's been their head brewer since 2001). The event was held at Formaggio Kitchen's Classroom Annex, and the classroom setting provided an ideal atmosphere for enjoying six flights of beer with six different kinds of cheeses. Here is the line-up of what we tried:

Flight #1: Opus 42 (cow's milk) from Rockport, ME with Vunderbar Pilsner (Czech-style pilsner)

Flight #2: Cabot (cow's milk) from Greensboro, VT with Finest Kind IPA (American IPA)

Flight #3: Reading (cow's milk) from Reading, VT with Wheat Wine Ale (hybrid beer)

Flight #4: Coupole (goat's milk) from Vermont with Bloom (Belgium-style pale ale)

Flight #5: Bayley Hazen (cow's milk) from Greensboro, VT with Gravitation (quadrupel)

Flight #6: Boston Post Dairy Tres Bonne (goat's milk) from Enosburg Falls, VT with Robust Porter (American porter)

Although I thought all of the pairings worked, my favorite of the evening was #4. Smuttynose's Bloom is a beer they brewed with the chef from Black Trumpet Bistro in Portsmouth, N.H. The head brewer and the chef actually went out and foraged flowers in order to make this brew. The beer had a wonderful, almost earthy smell and flavor, and it paired beautifully with the tangy goat's milk cheese.

All in all, this was a really fun and informative event. I highly recommend attending a Formaggio Kitchen class - especially if you're a cheese fiend like me.

Have you been to any fun food events lately?

This post is part of an ongoing partnership with Eventbrite Boston. Eventbrite enables people all over the world to plan, promote, and sell out any event. It's also a destination for people to discover awesome events going on in THEIR city! Whatever your desires, hobbies, or interests - from photography workshops and wine classes to food festival and industry conferences, there's an event on Eventbrite for you to attend! Keep up on the goings-on in Beantown by following Eventbrite Boston on Twitter or liking them on Facebook! Planning an event? Go ahead and create an account to get started.