Friday, June 28, 2013

Francis Ford Coppola Pinot Grigio

I love just about every kind of wine, but pinot grigio is my favorite (especially in the summertime). At the end of most days, the only thing I want is a bottle glass of this ice cold, crisp white wine. So, when the folks at Francis Ford Coppola Winery asked me if I wanted to try one of their Diamond Collection wines, I immediately asked to sample the Pinot Grigio.

The Francis Coppola Diamond Collection - which includes 11 different wines - began in 1997 as a way to make delicious wines at an affordable price (my kind of vino!). The grapes for these wines are sourced from "approved" (by Francis Coppola) California vineyards, and all of the varietals feature fruit-forward, multi-dimensional flavors and immediate drinkability. 

The chilled Pinot Grigio I sampled was crisp, refreshing, and had just a hint of effervescence in each sip. The flavor was wonderfully dry, with just a hint of sweetness from the fruit flavors it possesses (think peaches and lemons). I enjoyed a glass of this alongside some gazpacho I made the other night (recipe coming soon!), but this wine would also be the perfect beverage for a cookout, or alongside some fresh seafood.

Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Pinot Grigio can be found in stores throughout Boston and Massachusetts (I'd just call your local shop to see if they carry it), but it's also available for purchase online.

What's your favorite type of wine to drink in the summer?

This sample was complimentary, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lincoln Tavern and Restaurant

I hardly ever venture into South Boston, but now that I've discovered Lincoln Tavern and Restaurant, I know I'll be visiting this part of the city more often.

Lincoln is a fairly new addition to South Boston, and the owner, Eric Aulenback, is also the owner of Lucky's Lounge. Lincoln boasts giant windows that are open in the summertime for a patio-dining feel, as well as exposed brick walls, dark wood booths and tables, and a sparkling clean bar featuring unobtrusive flat-screen TVs for those who want to watch the game.

But what really impressed us about Lincoln (besides the food) was the customer service. When we told our host that this was our first time at Lincoln, he walked us through the restaurant, told us its back story, and asked us which type of table we wanted to sit at for our first meal there. We ended up choosing a high-top table in the bar area, which flows with the more "formal" dining area seamlessly. (Side note: Lincoln can sit about 300 people at one time - that's how large this place is).

Our meal started with complimentary bread, which was delightfully fresh. The smooth, creamy butter it came with was also fantastic.

For our "appetizer," Z and I decided to split the Heirloom Tomato Salad ($12), comprised of Maplebrook Farm burrata, arugula, fresh basil, and Katz Chef's Pick olive oil.

Although this salad looks overdressed in the photo, it really wasn't. The fresh flavors of each ingredient really stood out, and it was obvious that only quality ingredients were used. 

As we were finishing our salads, our host came over to see how we were liking our meals so far. When we mentioned we were vegetarians, he gave us a slew of recommendations for what to order. Then, he offered to bring us one of his favorite dishes (which is usually topped with bacon) for us to try: the Butternut Squash Pizza ($12).

Topped with fontina, caramelized onions, pecorino, and rosemary oil, this was one decadent pizza. It was also insanely delicious, and I loved the crispy yet pillowy crust. We both shared a slice before our meals and took the rest home. The leftovers didn't last the night.

For our entrees, Z went with the Artichoke Tortellini ($16) and I had the Caprese Sandwich ($10).

I had one bite of Z's tortellini - which came with pesto, roasted vegetables, and pecorino - and the flavors were just fabulous. My usually simple caprese sandwich was kicked up a few notches thanks to the local tomatoes and basil aioli. The sandwich was also piled as high as any meat sandwich would be, so it was perfectly filling. Lincoln also serves their sandwiches with local Grillo's Pickles

We both washed our meals down with a beer (I had the Sea Dog Blueberry, $6). Lincoln's beer list is OK, but they have an impressive cocktail list that I will be trying on my next visit. 

Overall, I loved the service, atmosphere, and use of local ingredients at Lincoln. I'm already eager to go back to try their brunch!

Have you discovered any great new-to-you restaurants lately?

Lincoln Tavern and Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Homemade Pizza Sauce

Recently, I've been on a quest to make the perfect homemade pizza. I love making my no-yeast pizza dough, but lately I've been working on some yeast-filled recipes...including a crust with rosemary plucked from our backyard. I'm still working on the texture of the crust, but I have thankfully perfected a homemade pizza sauce to accompany said crust - because how can I spend all this time on the crust and then use canned sauce? That's just crazy talk.

I actually made this sauce the day my grandfather passed away, so I totally spaced taking "real" photos of the finished product. But the Instagram photo above does the pizza some justice, at least.

Anyway, this recipe makes a lot more sauce than what's needed for one pizza, but I just stuck our leftovers in the freezer for later use. (This sauce can be stored in the freezer for up to 12 months).

Homemade Pizza Sauce
Yields: About 4 cups (enough for about 4 pizzas)
Adapted from Taste of Home
-1 can (29 ounces) tomato sauce
-2 cans (6 ounces each) tomato paste
-1 teaspoon dried basil
-1 teaspoon dried thyme
-1 tablespoon dried oregano
-1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed
-1 teaspoon garlic powder
-1 clove fresh garlic, minced
-Salt and black pepper, to taste

1.) In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine tomato sauce and paste. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. 
2.) Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly before spreading on pizza crust.

[Print this recipe]

Seriously...this recipe couldn't get any easier. And the difference in taste (homemade versus canned) is incredibly apparent. 

Do you make your own pizza at home? 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Strawberry Harvest Review Dinner

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining a few other bloggers for Harvest's latest The Harvest Review dinner. This month, the tasting dinner focused on strawberries (from Ward's Berry Farm in Sharon), and was appropriately named "Berry Good Time."

How The Harvest Review dinners work is you pay $44 to enjoy four courses, each paired with a different wine (tax and gratuity not included). Executive Chef Mary Dumont, Executive Pastry Chef Brian Mercury, and Wine Director John Mooradian present the dinner before it begins, explaining each dish and why they paired it with each particular wine.

Although The Harvest Review dinners are a set menu - and although Harvest's website says they are "unable to accommodate special requests" - I was definitely taken care of for being a vegetarian. Chef Dumont, when presenting the dishes, even made sure to include the vegetarian course they prepared for me. 

For the first course - while the omnivores enjoyed a Grilled Kurobuta Pork Sausage - I had homemade tortellinis filled with smoked ricotta. Like the sausage, mine also came with pickled green strawberries, toasted brioche, and strawberry black pepper gastrique.

This dish was paired with a crisp white wine (Herdade Do Esporao, Gouveio Blend, Alentejano, Portugal 2011). I don't usually love smoke flavor, but I adored the whipped, smoky ricotta with the tart strawberry gastrique. And the pickled green strawberries? Surprisingly delicious and interesting.

The second course was a Lavender Compressed Strawberry Salad, comprised of lime yogurt, lavender olive oil powder, and Eva's Pea Greens.

Paired with a refreshing rose (Chateau Virgile, Rose, Costieres De Nimes, France 2011), this was one ideal summer salad. I loved the idea of using pea greens, and the innovative lavender powder added a welcome unique flavor throughout the dish.

The third course was a Seared Scottish Salmon, served over a Yukon Gold potato, leek, and smoked bacon hash (I just ate around the bacon). Under the hash was a strawberry, ginger, and rhubarb jam. 

The salmon was paired with one of my favorite red wines, a pinot noir (Sterling Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Carneros, California 2011). The flaky, tender salmon with the soft, well-seasoned potatoes was an incredible combination. The jam was also subtle enough to help add some sweetness and tartness to the dish without being overpowering.

For our fourth and final course, we had Fresh Strawberry Sorbet, which came with strawberry meringue, lovage cream, and oat cracker.

Paired with a sweet moscato (Saracco, Moscato d'Asti, Piedmont, Italy 2011), this was one of the most interesting desserts I've ever had. The sorbet was fresh and full of strawberry flavor, and the silky lovage cream and crunchy meringues and oat crackers added necessary, varying textures to the dish.

While we were eating our dessert, Chef Mercury came out to see how we liked it. While we were talking to him, Harvest's PR rep mentioned that Chef Mercury makes all of his own sea salt. Like, he actually goes out at an ungodly hour in the morning to forage his own. We even had the pleasure of tasting his latest batch, pictured below. He adds his fresh, flaky sea salt to a lot of his desserts at Harvest.

Overall, we had a fabulous, seasonal, and mostly local meal at Harvest for their latest Harvest Review dinner. I highly recommend checking one out!

What's your favorite way to enjoy strawberries this time of year? I just love eating them as is. ;)

This meal was complimentary, but all opinions are my own.

Harvest on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Barnie's CoffeeKitchen Pronto! Brewsticks

I'm one of those weirdos who drinks iced coffee year-round. On rare occasions, I crave a nice, hot cup of coffee, but...that definitely doesn't happen often. I also started drinking coffee (Coffee Coolattas, to be exact) at the age of 12, so I know how I like my iced coffee, 17 years later.

So when the folks at Barnie's CoffeeKitchen - a 30-year-old company based in Florida - asked if I'd like to try their Pronto! single serve coffees, I was skeptical, yet intrigued. I don't like my coffee too strong or too weak, so I was interested to see how their's measured up.

Pronto! is a single serve, cold brewed liquid coffee concentrate made from 100 percent Arabica beans. It also comes in seven fun, unsweetened flavors, including:
  • Barnie's Blend
  • Cool Cafe Blues
  • Creme Brulee
  • French Roast
  • Hawaiian Hazelnut
  • Southern Pecan
  • Santa's White Christmas
So, how the heck does Pronto! work? You simply pour one brewstick into 10 ounces of hot or cold water (depending on whether you want hot or iced coffee) and stir. 

I found that the coffee tasted smoother and stronger with a little less water (about 7 to 8 ounces), but that is also based on your preference.

When it comes to the flavors, I was lucky enough to try all of them, but my favorite was the French Roast. This blend of South and Central American beans has subtle flavors of caramel and deep chocolate, without being too sweet.

As of now, us Boston folk can only get Pronto! online, and the company offers free shipping for orders over $20. Pronto! is sold in a container of six sticks, which costs anywhere from $5.99 to $6.99. I think this product is definitely a great idea for camping trips, and would be really convenient to keep in your desk for caffeine emergencies.

If you're a coffee drinker, how do you prefer your's: hot or iced? 

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

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Pauli's Lobster Roll Giveaway Winner

Good morning! Sorry for not picking a winner for my Pauli's giveaway yesterday. I had my second (and final!) wedding dress fitting in New Hampshire yesterday morning, and just lost all track of time.

The winner of the giveaway is now displayed on the widget at the bottom of this post. Head on over to see if you're the winner!

Have a great Tuesday. :)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Life Lately

I don't think I've given you all a work, wedding, or life update in a while - so, here's what's been going on in my life lately:

#1: Our wedding: This little life event is less than two months away. We've picked our menu, sent out our invitations (which we used a Groupon for), and have finally started planning our honeymoon (more on that below). We still haven't purchased wedding rings or done anything remotely important (half kidding), but planning is coming along.

The design on our invitations.

#2: Our honeymoon: One day after the wedding, we're heading to San Francisco, then Napa Valley. We'll be gone for about two weeks, and I. Can't. Wait. We have our flights booked, and we know we want to visit a lot of breweries and wineries while we're out well as see the Full House house. Does that exist in real life? Because if it does, I want to see it. The only thing we don't have yet is lodging, but...that will happen soon, I'm sure.


#3: Work: Since I told you that I quit my job to pursue a freelance career, a lot has changed - in really, really great ways. I still do freelance copywriting for my old company, but the rest of my gigs are food-related. In all honesty, I work for about seven companies right now, and I've also started working for myself as a private caterer and cook. My most consistent food writing gigs are with Scout Cambridge and Scout Somerville,, and I just started writing for Boston Globe North's Dining Out column. Work has been keeping me really busy, which is an awesome thing. Bonus: I haven't gained 100 pounds since eating and cooking full-time, either. Success!

#4: The homestead: Remember when our house looked like this? Thank god those days are over - although they have really paid off. We love this house. Although there is always something that needs to get done, our next big projects are building a back porch (right now we have a little landing with steps) and getting our basement redone. Right now, our basement floor is made of dirt...and when it rains, that dirt becomes mud. Good times! So, we're going to get French drains put in to help with the flooding, and get a cement floor put in to replace the dirt. When will this be done? Hopefully by 2014...if not sooner. Woo!

Trees we recently had planted in our backyard.

Well, that's pretty much all that's been going on with me lately. I feel like with the wedding, our birthdays (Z's is 7/4, mine's 7/10), work, and just regular summer activities, this is going to be one busy - and awesome - summer. 

What's been going on with you?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lobster Roll from Pauli's + a Giveaway!

The #1 reason I could never give up seafood entirely? Lobsta.

Growing up, we had lobster about once a year, in the summertime. My Dad would boil the crustaceans while my siblings and I shucked ears of corn, waiting eagerly for the lobster to be done. We'd all crack into our lobsters like savages, and dunk each morsel into a bowl of melted, artery-clogging butter. We'd then wash our meals down with cans of Fresca. It was a delightful experience each time.

So, when the kind folks at Pauli's in the North End asked if I'd like to stop in and try one of their Lobsta Rolls ($14.99) - using lobster from Globe Fish Company - I couldn't resist.

Pauli's Lobsta Roll is piled high (and I mean high) with chunks of fresh, meaty lobster that's very lightly dressed in mayonnaise. The grilled, buttery hot dog bun stands up to the mass amounts of lobster incredibly well, too. As you can see above, the Lobsta Roll also comes with a bag of wonderfully salty Utz Potato Chips.

The best part about Pauli's lobster, though? It tasted like it was plucked from the ocean hours before it ended up on my plate. And trust me - I am picky when it comes to my seafood.

The scene at Pauli's at lunchtime is busy, yet the staff behind the counter is efficient and friendly. Chalkboard menus adorn the walls of the small eatery, while a more permanent menu hangs above the counter. In other words, you have lots of choices when it comes to food here.

So, would you like to try Pauli's Lobsta Roll (or their Lobsta Sub, $28.99) for yourself? (Or really, anything off of Pauli's menu?). The nice folks at Pauli's have offered to give one lucky EE reader a $20 gift card to check them out for themselves!

To enter, please see the Rafflecopter widget below. Comments on this blog post will not count as entries.

I will pick a winner Monday (6/17) morning. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Pauli's on Urbanspoon

I received a $20 gift card to Pauli's, which covered the cost of the Lobsta Roll. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Curry Spice Blend

I tend to cook (and bake) a lot of dishes with Indian spices. Curries, burgers, hummus, pumpkin desserts - you name it, I add curry powder, turmeric, and/or garam masala to it. But it wasn't until the other day that I decided to create my own spice blend with some of my favorite Indian spices.

I sprinkled this spice blend on some cubed tofu (with a little bit of olive oil), then let it sit in the fridge for 30 minutes before cooking it in a curry dish with spinach, onions, and chickpeas. If you've ever cooked with tofu, you know it needs some time to "marinate" in flavor before cooking - and this spice blend did the trick. (Side note: I also added extra of each of the spices below to the onions, spinach, and chickpeas while they were cooking).

Curry Spice Blend
Yields: About 1 tablespoon
-1/2 teaspoon turmeric
-1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
-1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
-1/4 teaspoon garam masala
-1/4 teaspoon Balti seasoning (optional)
-Sprinkling of sea salt and black pepper

1.) Mix above ingredients together in a small bowl. Sprinkle over tofu, chicken, or whatever you desire.

[Print this recipe]

As you can see, this spice blend was soooo easy to throw together, but made the dish - and the tofu - that much more flavorful.

Do you cook with Indian spices? If so, which one's your favorite? I live for garam masala.

Also, sorry I didn't pick a winner for my thinkThin giveaway yesterday! I chose a winner today using The winner is: Karen Baldwin!

"I am a fan with anything CHERRY in it. I would share the other flavors, but I would probably keep all the Cherry and Mixed Nuts flavor for my private snack stash. I wonder if this enormous supply would last until next ski season - looks like perfect slope snack."

Congrats, Karen! Please email me within 48 hours to claim your prize.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Savory Polenta with Mushrooms

These last few weeks, my time "cooking" at home has consisted of nothing but watching Z barbecue our dinners in our backyard. This time of year, we live for cooking on the grill. But there was one random chilly night last week that had me craving something more comforting for dinner - and something that could be cooked and enjoyed indoors. We had a ton of cornmeal in our freezer, so I decided to turn some of it into an elegant and comforting dish of polenta.

Savory Polenta with Mushrooms
Yields: 4 servings
Adapted from Food Network
-3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
-1 small yellow onion, diced
-Salt and pepper
-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
-4 cups (1 quart) vegetable stock (or water)
-1 cup ground cornmeal
-8 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced
-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
-Salt and pepper, to taste
-1 teaspoon dried parsley
-2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.) In a large, oven-safe saucepan heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, salt, and pepper and cook until the onions begin to turn translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and saute for about 1 minute, making sure the garlic doesn't burn.
3.) Turn the heat up to high, add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil. Gradually add the cornmeal while continually whisking. Once you have added all of the cornmeal, cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to prevent lumps. 
4.) About 10 minutes before the polenta is done, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the mushrooms, and cook until they begin to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside.
5.) Once the polenta mixture is creamy, remove from the oven and add the butter, salt, pepper, and dried parsley. Once they are incorporated, gradually add the Parmesan.
6.) Spoon the polenta into four bowls and top with an equal amount of mushrooms. Sprinkle a little extra Parmesan over each bowl (optional). 

This ended up being a really satisfying dinner that didn't take forever to prepare. I loved how the original recipe called for finishing the polenta in the oven, too - I had never cooked it this way before, but it turned out great, and very creamy.

Do you mostly barbecue this time of year, too? If so, what's your favorite thing to cook out on the grill?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

thinkThin Crunch Giveaway

Boy, do I have something fun for you guys today!

I think I'll lead with this: thinkThin has offered to giveaway six boxes of their thinkThin Crunch bars - that's 60 bars total!

Each box contains 10 bars, and the winner will receive two boxes (20 bars) of each of these flavors: 

These thinkThin Crunch bars have 8 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, are chocked full of legible ingredients, and only contain 6 to 8 grams of sugar each. These bars are also non-GMO - thinkThin is even partnering with Whole Foods to find and develop readily available sources of non-GMO proteins and connect them with their current suppliers.

thinkThin also sent me six boxes of their Crunch bars to sample, and I have to say, each of these bars is flavorful and satisfying. I typically eat a granola bar with at least 8 grams of protein in it before I go to the gym, and these bars kept me satiated during my entire workout. Each bar is also chocked full of nuts and dried fruit, making them hearty and crunchy without being teeth-shattering. 

So, who wants to win six boxes of these bars?! To enter, simply comment on this post saying which thinkThin Crunch flavor (Blueberry, Cherry, Cranberry Apple) you'd most like to try and why. For an extra entry, you can "like" The Economical Eater on Facebook. Please leave a second comment saying that you did so. (If you're already a fan, your second comment can say just that ;)).

I will pick a winner on Monday (June 10th) morning. Good luck!

*The samples I received were complimentary, but, as always, the opinions expressed in this post are honest and 100 percent my own.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cambridge Brewing Company

My all-time favorite thing about summer is dining al fresco. Especially with a beer in hand. So when the weather was hot yet bearable late last week, Z and I took full advantage and headed to Cambridge Brewing Co. (CBC) for dinner outdoors.

We only had to wait about 40 minutes for a table, and we each sipped on a beer while we waited. I tried the Tripel Threat, a Belgian-style tripel. Fun fact: CBC's Tripel Threat is the oldest Belgian-style ale in the United States (it's 23 years old).

Once we were seated, we decided to split an appetizer since we were both famished. We went for the Mezze Plate ($9), which was a very good idea. 

This vibrant Mezze Plate comes with spicy carrot and chickpea fritters, beet tzatziki, spring herb tabbouleh, and pita. This was a fantastic way to start our meal, as it was surprisingly light, full of flavor, and well-portioned for two people.

Before our entrees came, I ordered another beer (who's surprised?). This time, I got the HefeWeizen.

This beer is exactly what I want a hefeweizen to be. Nicely citrusy, unfiltered yet still not overly heavy, and wonderfully crisp.

My photos of the Spicy Mushroom Burger ($11) I ordered for dinner came out horrendous, but you know what a burger and fries looks like, right? Topped with Swiss cheese and truffle aioli, I actually had to double check to make sure the burger wasn't made with beef. It looked that "real." The mushroom flavor was prominent in this burger, with a hint of spice in each bite. I just wished there was more truffle aioli smeared on the bun.

Overall, we had a great meal (and great beers!) at CBC, and I love their spacious patio - which also happens to provide ideal Kendall Square people watching. Just sayin'.

Which restaurant with outdoor seating do you love to go to?

Cambridge Brewing Company on Urbanspoon