Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Two Things

Hey all! I hope everyone is having a great start to the week. My week is a little bonkers - lots of holiday [ugh...already?!] deadlines and new projects picking up, which is all exciting - just a little crazy. With that being said, I just have a quick post for you today about two things I am excited about - and think you guys might be, too.

1.) Vegetarian Food & Wine Pairing at Boston Wine School: Six wines paired with seven courses. I'm doing the cooking, while the folks at Boston Wine School are picking the wines. Updated menu for fall: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos; Pumpkin Mac and Cheese; Orange and Fennel Salad; Roasted Parsnips; and Apple Bread Pudding. Tickets are $100, and I assure you you'll leave happy and full. It's going to be a fun evening! Buy your tickets here.

2.) Warby Parker: Random, but I just ordered glasses through this website and I could not be happier with my experience (and no, this post is not sponsored by Warby Parker in any way. I just had a fantastic experience, and wanted to share it with my fellow four-eyed friends). Here's how it works: you pick out five frames on their website, and they're shipped to you free of charge so you can try them on at-home. Then, you return them all within a few days (return shipping is also free), and then pick out which frames you liked best on their website (I ended up not liking any of mine, but tried the "virtual try-on" and found a pair I liked). From there, they get your prescription information, make your glasses, and send the final product to you - with 30-day free returns, in case you aren't completely satisfied. Oh, and did I mention these prescription glasses were only $95?? Yeah. They also have sunglasses, if that's more up your alley.

What's new with you? Do you have anything exciting going on this week?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Farm to Post Dinner at Post 390

Last week, I was invited to attend Post 390's kick-off Farm to Post dinner featuring produce from Kimball Fruit Farm. Held in a private dining room that was decorated beautifully for the season, this was one impressive meal.

Invited guests mingled before the dinner started, and we were served Smoked Monks cocktails while we chatted. The cocktails consisted of house-smoked bacon-infused (oops) Bulleit Bourbon, brown sugar pink peppercorn syrup, maraschino, Benedictine, and orange bitters. It was strong, smoky, and slightly sweet.

We also enjoyed a Corn Vichyssoise with Jonah Crabmeat (not pictured) and Beer, Tasso, and Cauliflower Fritters, served with an addictive aioli. Post 390 was even considerate enough to make a few batches of the fritters without ham for me.

Once we sat for dinner, our tasting menu for the evening kicked off with Spaghetti Squash & Red Norland Latke, served with arctic char and cortland apple creme fraiche.

Each course was paired with a wine, and this one complemented the 2009 FE Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve, Alsace, France beautifully. All the components in the dish itself worked together very well, and I loved the crispy latke mixed with the perfectly cooked arctic char.

Our second course was the Fried Vermont Chevre BLT (served to me without the "B"). This dish was basically a deconstructed BLT taken up a few notches with a fried green tomato and arugula pesto.

Served with a Francois Chidaine 'Clos Baudoin' Vouvray 2011, this was one successful dish.

Next up, for the omnivores in the group, was the Grilled Kurabuta Pork & Marsala Poached Peach, served with a Berkshire blue-basil mascarpone melt and buttercup squash polenta. Mine was basically the same dish, but Post 390 subbed scallops (from New Bedford) in for the pork.

The scallops were really well cooked, although they were a tad oversalted. The polenta was insanely smooth, and I loved the uniqueness of the marsala poached peach, although it was a little too sweet for my liking. This dish was paired with a 2008 Bibi Graetz Testamatta Soffocone di Vincigliata Toscana, and, per usual, the pairing worked wonderfully.

For dessert, we all enjoyed a massive portion of the Bartlett Pear, Raspberry, and Almond Crisp, served with housemade raspberry ice cream.

Although the portion size was huge, and I was pretty darn full by this point, I managed to eat a few good-sized spoonfuls of this dessert. It was delicious, and I loved it paired with the dry (and not overly sweet) Moscato and Creme de Mure.

All in all, this was one fantastic meal. Chef Eric Brennan really blew us away with his food, and it was lovely meeting the farmers who grew the majority of his ingredients for these dishes. The waiters and chef were also prepared to serve me vegetarian versions of everything, which I really appreciated. It showed that they actually planned ahead, and wanted to make sure everyone was happy with their experience. 

Although these Farm to Post dinners are by invite-only, all of these dishes will be available a la carte on Post 390's menu through the end of the month. Oh, and they also had their first beer dinner last week, and will be doing more moving forward (and they are not by invite-only). I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of their beer menu, and it's really, really impressive. 

What fall produce are you looking forward to most? (Me: butternut squash and pumpkin!)

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

Post 390 on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Rosemary Beer Biscuits

Working from home on Friday afternoons is always dangerous. When 3 p.m. rolls around, I usually still have work to do...but having a beer while finishing the day seems like it would be OK. Thankfully, I've yet to give in to this craving - except for last Friday, when I decided to bake with beer (and finish off the bottle, as I hate wasting).

My idea to bake with beer was inspired by this recipe. Our rosemary plant was also an inspiration, as it is one of the few herbs that actually decided to grow this year (or, that the wild rabbit decided not to eat) - and I seriously can't get enough of the stuff. The smell of rosemary alone is borderline magical.

The beer I used for this was Heavy Seas' Gold, but I highly recommend using a wheat beer if you have one.

Ready to see how easy this recipe is?

Rosemary Beer Biscuits
Yields: 8 biscuits
Adapted from The Beeroness
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon black pepper
-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1 teaspoon sugar
-1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
-1 stick cold butter, cut into small cubes
-1/2 cup beer (preferably wheat beer)
-1 tablespoon shredded white cheddar
-Sea salt and extra black pepper, for sprinkling (I used Soluna Garden Farm's Rosemary Salt)

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.) Put the flour, salt, pepper, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and rosemary in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add butter cubes and process until the butter is evenly distributed, about 1-2 minutes. (I ended up working some of the butter into the mixture with my hands after 1 minute).
3.) Move to a bowl and add the beer and cheese and stir until combined. (You may have to add a little more beer to make the dough stick - add 1 teaspoon at a time until you have the right consistency, if needed).
4.) Dump the dough onto a floured surface. Squish together with your hands to form a ball and then flatten into a rectangle about 6 inches wide and 10 inches long and 2 inches high. Use a sharp knife to cut the biscuits into squares. You can make the biscuits as big or small as you want, but this recipe will make about 8 average-sized biscuits.
5.) Place the biscuits on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Sprinkle the top with a bit of sea salt and pepper.
6.) Bake for 15-18 minutes or until light golden brown.

[Print this recipe]

These biscuits turned out perfectly flaky and buttery, and were so simple to make. Plus, you end up with a few sips of beer to enjoy after baking...and while finishing up work, in my case. ;)

 Have you ever baked with beer before?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Quinoa Burrito Bowls

Somehow, I always forget about quinoa. And as a vegetarian, that's pretty sad. Quinoa is an excellent source of protein, it's versatile, and it's [usually] very affordable (especially at Trader Joe's).

I saw a recipe in Vegetarian Times that inspired this dinner, but really, I mostly just winged it. That's why I'm calling these "Quinoa Burrito Bowls," because burritos can really be filled with whatever ingredients you desire - although beans, salsa, and sour cream should always be involved, am I right?

Basically, I cooked the quinoa according to the package directions (I made enough for four). In a separate pan, I cooked down some chopped onion, then added a can of black beans (drained and rinsed), some chopped pickled jalapenos, and some leftover grilled asparagus for the last few minutes of cooking time. Once the quinoa was done, I added the onion and bean mixture, then seasoned everything with salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and some dried oregano. Then, I added about 1/4 cup of chunky salsa and gave it all a stir.

Serve with fresh avocado slices and sour cream.

Easy, right? And so, so satisfying. The beans and quinoa provided great protein, while the vegetables, seasonings, and salsa added great flavor and spice. Feel free to make this with whatever meat and/or vegetables you want!

Are you a fan of quinoa? If yes, what's your favorite quinoa recipe?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Honeymoon: The Lodging

Airbnb is where it's at, people.

That's the site we used to book our rentals in San Francisco and Napa. Renting an apartment can be more affordable than a hotel, not only due to price per night, but also because you don't have to buy food every single time you're hungry. Another bonus: No housekeepers are knocking on your door at 8 a.m. to start cleaning.

In San Francisco, we stayed in an adorable one-bedroom apartment in Noe Valley. It was bright, clean, and in a safe, quiet neighborhood - yet still within walking distance to all of the action.

In Napa, we rented a gorgeous cottage in Calistoga. The cottage is only a few yards away from the sweet couple who rents it out, but we rarely saw them. Oh, and they also let us use their inground pool. Our four days there were seriously heaven.

Our Napa cottage didn't have a full kitchen, but we made eggs each morning in the microwave. We also bought a styrofoam cooler and ice, and used that as a fridge. 

After four days in Napa, we returned to San Francisco for our last night, since we were flying out of Oakland. We booked a hotel in Union Square - Parc 55 Wyndham - so we'd be within walking distance to AT&T Park, where we had tickets to a baseball game. Well, when we arrived at Parc 55, the woman who checked us in told us we got "upgraded," and to go to floor 32. Um, yeah...I'm not sure why we got upgraded (they had no idea we were on our honeymoon), but this hotel room was larger than our home. It also had spectacular views of San Francisco.

First bathroom.

Second bathroom.

The view from one of many windows.

Which do you prefer: rental or hotel? 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Apothic Wine + Discount on Cooking Classes

The day before my bachelorette party, this arrived on my doorstep:

Coincidence? I think not.

I've been a fan of Apothic Red for quite some time now (I even blogged about it back in 2011). When the folks at Apothic caught wind of my love for their Red, they kindly sent me a bottle - along with a bottle each of their White and Rose. I had never tried the White or Rose, and considering the impending heat wave at the time, I was excited to.

The Apothic White is a blend of chardonnay, riesling, and sweet moscato. Chilled, this wine boasted subtle fruit flavors (think peach and pineapple), and was only slightly sweet, which I love in a white wine. 

The Rose - which is a limited edition wine - blends zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon. The aroma was pretty acidic, but thankfully the flavor was not. This wine punched a refreshing strawberry taste with a not-too-sweet finish. It even had a hint of effervescence, which was welcome on a humid day.

I was a fan of both new-to-me Apothic wines that I tried, and I still love the Red. They're all just very drinkable, not to mention affordable (each bottle costs $14, on average - although I've seen the Red for less at many liquor stores). 

Have you ever tried Apothic Wine before? What's your review?

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

Also: The Herbal Academy of New England in Bedford and Woburn - which offers a ton of health-conscious cooking classes (including vegan-friendly classes) and workshops - is offering EE readers 10% off ALL CLASSES through October 10th! (Online classes are also available). Simply use code FALL10 to get the discount. You can view all of their upcoming classes here.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A4 Pizza Bar in Somerville

I promise our final honeymoon recap will be posted later this week, but for now, get yourselves to A4 Pizza Bar in Somerville.

The latest venture from the folks behind Area Four has brought their signature brick-oven pies to my neck of the woods, and boy am I thankful they did. The smaller, newer restaurant has an also smaller menu, complete with a few non-pizza items, pizzas, a few craft beers on tap, wine, and Maker's Mark (the only liquor they sell). Oh, and did I mention they have old school Sega and Nintendo? You can play at the bar while you eat.

Z and I visited the other night, and started with a round of Slumbrew's My Better Half ($7), an imperial cream ale.

We then shared the Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Greek Salad ($12), which also consisted of cucumber, red onion, feta, kalamata olives, and oregano vinaigrette.

This salad could have been unimpressive, but thanks to A4's dedication to utilizing local and seasonal ingredients, it was actually quite a success. Quality ingredients make all the difference!

A4's pies are a little larger than a "personal pizza," so we decided to get two (and, as a result, we had a few slices to take home with us). I went for the Exotic Mushroom ($17), while Z opted for the Basil-Walnut Pesto ($16.50).

My mushroom pizza was topped with mushroom sauce, gremolata, and Baffoni Farm eggs.

Z's pizza was topped with zucchini, toasted walnuts, olives, feta, and pecorino (please excuse the terrible photo).

Both of our pizzas were good, but mine was definitely the winner. The runny, rich eggs with the earthy mushrooms was a fantastic combination. Unfortunately, both of our crusts were a tad overdone, but I'm sure after being open for a bit longer that won't be an issue. Perhaps they're just getting used to the new oven?

Either way, we had a great meal at A4 Pizza Bar and we are psyched that it's within walking distance to our house. Now, anytime I want to play Mario on Nintendo - while eating pizza and drinking beer - I can. Woot!

Have you checked out any new restaurants lately? 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Honeymoon in Napa: The Wine and Beer

Most of you know this already, but Napa Valley has a lot to offer in the drink department...beer and wine especially. And being a wine and beer lover who just married a beer guy, you can imagine how much fun we had on this leg of the trip.

Our first stop in Napa - before we even got to our rental - was Beringer Vineyards. Before we left, one of my aunts raved about it, so we decided to check it out. I was really surprised at how gorgeous the grounds were, and how good the wine was. We went on a tour followed by a tasting, and the staff there were incredibly friendly and knowledgeable.

During our stint in Napa, we set aside one day to check out some smaller wineries that were recommended to us by a woman at Beringer. Our mode of transportation ended up being a tandem bike that we rented from Calistoga Bikeshop (for a day, it ended up being around $65). Riding a tandem bike = a crap ton of fun, especially when you're riding it through gorgeous vineyards.

We took our tandem bike to a small handful of wineries that day, but these two were our favorites:

Summers Estate Wines: This family-owned winery has an amazing view out back, complete with patio seating. We did a tasting at one of the outdoor tables, while simultaneously playing an intense game of bocce ball...on the winery's very own bocce ball court.

Lava Vine: This was by far the smallest winery we visited, but also one of the best. The owner was pouring some of the wines during our tasting, and he was obviously passionate about every bottle he produces. I ended up buying a Petite Sirah for $54...the most expensive bottle of wine I've ever purchased. That's how good their wines are. (Note: not every bottle is that expensive!).

[FYI: Most tastings we did during our trip cost anywhere from $10-$25 per person].

When it comes to beer, we were able to find quite a bit of locally made brews that were delicious. I mentioned Calistoga Inn & Brewery yesterday (I highly recommend trying their Calistoga Porter), but Downtown Joes in Napa is also fantastic. Downtown Joes is nothing fancy, but that's part of the place's charm - and "Big John" behind the bar will take care of you, if you're friendly. (Example: He let us order our beer through him vs. our waiter so we could get the happy hour prices, even though we were sitting at a table outside). I highly recommend trying the Old Magnolia Oatmeal Stout, if they have it - like most breweries, their beers rotate often.

Next week, I'll share with you guys the places we stayed and sights worth checking out in San Francisco and Napa Valley. I hope you're enjoying these recaps as much as I am enjoying sharing them!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Honeymoon in Napa: The Food

Ohhh, what I would give to go back to Napa.

We stayed at a cottage in Calistoga (more on that later), and every minute of our time there was just blissful. Calistoga is an adorable town that's not overrun with tourists. We were only there for four days, but we were able to eat a few bites of delicious food in that timeframe. Here are some of my top picks from our trip:

Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery: This restaurant and brewery reopened a week before our arrival, after being closed for a year due to a fire. Locals seemed to still know the staff, who they hadn't seen in 12 months. This was a great neighborhood spot that boasts brand new everything, plus their very own beer on tap - and the beer is good. The food is, too - Z and I split the Bruschetta ($13), which came with local heirloom tomatoes, basil, and creamy Burrata. For my entree, I had the Fungi pizza ($15), which was topped with wild mushrooms, fontina, roasted garlic, and truffle oil. Their pizza dough is also made with spent grain and wort reduction from the brewery.

Market, St. Helena: The couple we rented our cottage from recommended Market to us, so after visiting a few wineries in St. Helena, we decided to check it out. Market is a little more upscale, but ideal for a special evening out. Market doesn't have too many vegetarian options, but on this particular evening, they had two vegetarian soup specials (corn and pea) that we took advantage of. We also shared an order of their buttery Cheddar-Jalapeno Cornbread ($6) and Bowtie Vegetable Pasta ($21). The pasta was tossed with asparagus, tomatoes, fennel, peas, pickled cipolinis, mozzarella, and basil pesto butter.

Hydro Bar & Grill: This place is anything but fancy, but it came highly recommended from a few locals, as well as a slew of online review sites. Hydro also has a great beer list, so we decided to check it out one evening. I hadn't had a burger in quite some time at this point, so I went for the Veggie Burger. My burger was clearly homemade, which I always appreciate, and the accompanying sweet potato fries - which came with a bomb dot com aioli - were delightfully salty and crispy without being too greasy.

In addition to eating, we also did quite a bit of wine and beer sampling while in Napa - mostly at "hidden gem"-type places. More on that tomorrow!

Calistoga Inn on Urbanspoon Market on Urbanspoon Hydro Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon