Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Happy Birthday, Julia!

If Julia Child was still with us she'd be 105 years old today and in many ways she is more present than ever.  I never had the pleasure of meeting this food icon but I have had the good luck to meet many of her proteges.  I've spent many hours over great meals listening to stories about her.  She was truly a fascinating woman. Did you know, for instance, that she was a former spy?  It's true.  

I've read all the biographies written about her, watched her shows endlessly and thought Meryl Streep did an excellent job portraying her on film.  As many know, Boston is one of the few cities in the world where many of the top chefs are women.  I credit this to Julia Child after hearing many stories of how she would visit restaurants here as the chefs sweat it out waiting for the verdict.  She was typically quite happy with the food but then she'd ask to visit the kitchen and admonished all of the men that they needed to have more women chefs in the kitchen, too.  

She is the most famous chef in America, maybe the world, a pioneer in television, a bestselling author and still an inspiration to cooks and chefs everywhere.  

Happy Birthday Julia Child!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Patio Dining At Parish Cafe

Parish Café on Boylston Street has been a stalwart of comfort food and fine drinks for quite a while now.  In fact, it's been twenty-five years!  To celebrate the anniversary we stopped by on an absolutely beautiful evening recently to revisit and enjoy the patio dining.

We began with a pitcher of White Sangria, a super refreshing sip on a warm summer's day.  It looked so good that we actually inspired several other tables to go with the sangria, too.

As part of the anniversary fun the Café is bringing back some of the classic sandwiches created by local chefs over the years.  What you're looking at above is known to regulars as The Lydia, as in Lydia Shire.  More than just a lobster roll, this is a full lobster sandwich on a country white bread and loaded with lobster meat. 


Then, of course, there are the famous beer-battered onion rings known as the Bowl-O-Rings.  They are served with this house-made chipotle aioli.  They are surprisingly light and a perennial favorite with diners.


The Vegetarian Corn Cakes are pan-seared then baked then served with pico de gallo and sliced avocado and topped with a scallion-mustard remoulade. 

I opted for Sean's Meatball Club sandwich created by Sean Simmons the Chef and owner.  A thick slab of stick-to-your ribs meatloaf sits atop a layer of applewood smoked bacon, again on a country white.  It's served up with garlic mashed potatoes and gravy.  What could be more comfort food than that?

Sean's Simple Chicken is a take on chicken piccata and the most popular dish on the menu.  A breaded cutlet sautéed in chicken stock, olive oil and fresh lemon juice with capers.  Another comfort food classic, it's no wonder that it's become the most-requested.

Dessert, as if we needed it, was the White Chocolate Bread Pudding.  Brioche bread joins a fresh custard with whipped cream and a chocolate drizzle.

As we've been saying for the past month this is the time to fully enjoy patio dining and this summer has provided many cooler nights just made for alfresco dinners.  Don't let the season pass you by.  For comfort classics that have been bringing people back for twenty-five years you just can't go wrong at Parish Café.

Parish Café
361 Boylston Street
Boston, MA  02116
Telephone:  617.247.4777

IG @parishcafe
T    @parishcafe1


Our dinner was provided by the restaurant without promise of any editorial coverage.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Sumiao Hunan Kitchen Opens In Cambridge

This portrait hangs, like a ghost, over diners at the newly opened Sumiao Hunan Kitchen in Kendall Square, part of a collection of original art works that grace the eatery.

We were recently invited to the preview reception for the opening of Sumiao Hunan Kitchen, the latest dining venue in Cambridge offering Chinese fare and craft cocktails.  While it certainly was not a full dining experience it was enough to get a taste of what's to come.

It was no surprise at all that the place has a bright, airy, sleek modern design but there are four distinct dining areas each with their own ambiance and all centered around what I predict will be a lively bar scene.

We tried a cocktail and a number of dishes.  The drink was called the "Ice Cold Fusion" and featured Baijiu (a traditional Chinese white grain alcohol rarely used in the States), Cognac, Triple Sec and Lemon.  It had a strong yet not overpowering flavor, best in small sips.

Chefs Changchun Ji and Xinke Tan bring a wealth of experience (Nobu New York, anyone?) to the kitchen.  The restaurant is a venture of Chen Sumiao, a well-known figure in both the local scientific and restaurant communities.  The goal is to bring a more authentic Hunan cuisine experience to the Kendall Square area, something not being offered now.  The cuisine is spicier and features more fermented foods than the current Americanized offerings. 

We asked other diners what they thought of the food.  Did it really taste any different than the typical local Chinese fare?  The opinions offered matched ours.  The food seemed cleaner, less drenched in oil , lighter and the heavy hand with sweet sauces and loads of salt was gone, too. 

All in all a great experience.  We'll be back for more. 

Sumiao Hunan Kitchen
270 Third Street
Kendall Square
Cambridge, MA 
Telephone:  617.945.0907


Monday, July 24, 2017

Patio Dining At Parsnip

It was a coolish Friday evening when we recently strolled through Harvard Square on our way to Parsnip for dinner on the patio.  It's been open a few years now and has gained a reputation for an elegant dining spot with extraordinary food overlooking Winthrop Square.  This would be a more casual experience but no less than excellent when it came to the food.

Of course, we started with selected breads and a quality butter as we people-watched, hearing snippets of other languages as the international summer crowd passed by. 

We continued with the house made chips and a glass of rosé.  It IS, after all, summer.  Early evening clouds provided us with the entire patio to ourselves to begin but it would not be long before a few couples joined us then a larger party of what seemed like family members including children.  It's a much different feel sitting out here than it is inside.

Salmon Sliders With Caper Aioli.  Our usual finding with salmon sliders is that they are dry but not in this version.  Perfectly moist and with a hint of fennel.  If you are a fan of salmon or have tried different versions of a salmon patty or slider you will love these.  It's one of if not the best version of this we've ever had, really.

The Charcuterie Board serves up three selections of meats and house pickles at a reasonable $18.00.  Easily shared and with a glass of wine it would be the perfect appetizer on a warm night.

Roasted Bone Marrow With Charred Baby Leek And Truffle Vinaigrette.  So, this was somewhat of a showstopper for patio dining.  I think we are in the majority when we say that most people who have ever even had it are likely to enjoy bone marrow as a special treat.  It is served here with a traditional Tuscan bread for spreading the thick, rich marrow upon.  It was perfectly flavored with the toppings.  Fattening, yes, but also an extremely healthy food.  We loved it.

A gorgeous Gazpacho With Fried Octopus.  That octopus seemed to dance across the plate and provided the perfect contrast of briny and crunchy to the cool cucumber and grape tastes in a créme fraiche base.  A highlight of the meal.  Just beautiful.

We just had to sample the burger, done up here with caramelized balsamic onion, truffle pecorino cheese and crispy fries.  A great burger, moist and meaty.  Great fries, too and you will be surprised and delighted to be reminded what a house made ketchup tastes like, refreshing and sweet.  Again, a gourmet burger and glass of wine for dining alfresco on a relaxing summer night is ideal.

As the sun began to fade we indulged in dessert.  There is a selection of house made ice cream and gelatos.  These were the Vanilla Malt and Earl Grey/Milk Chocolate versions and both were heaven.  Great flavor combinations, both, I especially enjoyed that salty, unique flavor of the malt.  It reminded me of a Brigham's Malted Frappe. 

And to finish out our feast we were served these very Instagrammable Hibiscus Marshmallows.  I didn't know what to expect here.  I thought maybe a crunchy texture not unlike a macaron.  But, no, it was the soft, pillowy marshmallow feeling, a memory of 'smores and summer campgrounds, only pink and with the slightest hint of hibiscus.  Very nice, indeed.

So, if you're looking for a nice treat while the warm weather is here we'd highly suggest the patio dining at Parsnip.  The food and service is impeccable and the summer ambiance is fleeting.

91 Winthrop Street
Cambridge, MA  02138
Telephone:  617.714.3206


We dined as guests of Parsnip restaurant to experience their patio dining without promise of any editorial consideration or coverage.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich

Over the July Fourth holiday weekend we posted a pic on Instagram of the grilled cheese sandwiches we'd made for a pool party.  It got more likes than almost everything we posted that entire week combined.  That made us realize that people take their grilled cheese sandwiches quite seriously. 

We got the idea from a recipe suggestion that came to us with a sample bottle of Moore's Buffalo Wing Sauce.  Pimento cheese has long been a favorite in this house although it is more a Southern specialty.  It's basically grated cheddar cheese mixed with a little mayonnaise and chopped pimento. 

We smeared our fresh bread with the sauce, added a generous layer of the pimento cheese and then a sprinkle of chopped green onion.

Whenever we make a grilled cheese sandwich we always use ghee (clarified butter) and spread it evenly on the bread with a pastry brush.


Using the ghee just seems to make for the optimal golden color and slight crunch. 

So, yeah, it turned out to be the perfect poolside snack.  The slight heat of the Buffalo Sauce added an unexpected zip.  And, it's so easy.  Happy summering, everyone!

The Moore's Buffalo Sauce was provided to us as a sample without promise of any mention or editorial consideration.  We just liked the stuff!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Lunch At Mamma Maria With Zucchi Olive Oil

As mentioned in our last post we recently enjoyed lunch at Mamma Maria in the North End following our Zucchi Olive Oil Blending Experience.  We began with the very fresh bread and pesto pictured above.  We had just a small morsel as we knew there would be multiple courses to follow. 

Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella (flown in from Campagna, Italy) with sautéed, vine-ripened tomatoes.  I have always loved the simplicity of Italian fare.  Quality ingredients simply prepared will always win with me.

Classic Carpaccio, you can't beat the original as created by Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy.

Imported Artisinal Salumi Sampler With Local, Roasted Vegetables.

Homemade Mushroom Ravioli.  Hand-foraged, wild mushrooms are used in this very flavorful dish.

English Pea Risotto.  You don't often see a pea risotto on an Italian table so this was a refreshing change served with sautéed ramps, pea tendrils and a spiced tarragon pesto.

Wild Maryland Striped Bass.  Grilled and served with a warm salad of white beans and Maine kale.  The Sweet And Fruity Extra Virgin Olive Oil (my favorite) was used in this dish.

Fresh Favas.  Served with a pecorino Toscano and wrapped in a crispy parmesan tuile this was a great savory finish.

And the finale, Torta Di Polenta.  We all thought this would be more pudding-like.  Surprise, it was much more like a dense cornbread.  And delicious.

Mamma Maria
3 North Square
Boston, MA  02113
Telephone:  617.523.0077

This luncheon was provided by the restaurant as part of the olive oil blending experience without regard to any editorial content or consideration.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Oil Blending Experience With Zucchi

The North End.  A little touristy?  In some spots, sure.  Still filled with some residents who are colorful characters?  Yes.  Still a place to go to find Italian-American culture.  No question.  So, when we were recently invited there to attend an olive oil blending class by Zucchi we could not resist. 

We had certainly sampled olive oils at events before and compared tasting notes and discussed flavor.  This was a little more in-depth, however.

The brand brought along several of their master olive oil tasters, people who sometimes taste hundreds of oils each week to ascertain quality and flavor for their blends.  They use primarily Spanish and Italian Oils. 

We were guided through a tasting of four selected oils and talked a lot about flavor and how it actually takes place on the tongue.  When one participant said that she thought an oil tasted acidic we all learned something new from the experts:  one cannot actually taste acidity.  We can detect bitter or sour tastes either of which we often describe as acidic. 

After all of the oils were tasted we were given a scientific beaker to mix our own unique blends together and bottle them.  I noticed that my blend was quite the opposite of what most went with.  I strayed away from the bolder, more peppery tasting notes and went with a much more subtle blend with a distinct fruitiness I felt just tasted more fresh.  Leaving out the bolder oils meant that my bottle would not be full all the way.  I didn't care.

We were even given labels to place on our blends which is pretty cool when friends stop by and notice it in your kitchen.

After the blending class we all enjoyed lunch at Mama Maria's, our host restaurant, and socializing but more on that in our next post.  This was an absolutely great experience and very informative.  Olive oil is a pantry product found in virtually every one of our kitchens so it was great to learn more about this cooking staple.

This event was an informational media event provided courtesy of Zucchi Olive Oils with no editorial promise or consideration.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Lunch At Ma Maison With Chef Jacky Robert

As noted in our previous post, we recently had an invite from Chef Jacky Robert of Ma Maison in Beacon Hill for a fun-filled cooking lesson.  Well, that was followed by, of course, a great lunch.  The table was set elegantly in what is a small restaurant that feels so authentically French.  It's so refreshing when you walk into a place that isn't plastered with flat screen TVs and the music so loud that it prevents conversation.  What is dining out without the laughs and conversation, anyway?  Boring.

It was three simple courses but executed so beautifully that it was hard to find fault with anything.  I began with the Lobster Bisque, one of my favorite dishes.  I can honestly say that this was, hands down, the best lobster bisque I have ever had.  The typical complaint is the scant amount of lobster.  Not here.  There were large chunks of claw meat throughout and the delicate lobster flavor was not drowned in a buttery rich liquid.  You could taste the hint of the sea in every spoonful.  Seriously, THE best.  I will be back, likely more than once, just for this dish.  Fantastic.

Next, I chose the Pan Seared Sea Scallops, Crabmeat and Sautéed Spinach.  Just look at how perfectly done those scallops are, a beautiful golden, barely crisp caramel out the outside and opaque, almost creamy, inside.  The flavors and seasonings were delicious and the presentation just gorgeous.  Another hit.

Peach Crème Brulee.  Top quality ingredients well-executed once again.  The peach flavor was surprisingly bolder than I expected and the brulee was obviously in the hands of a true professional.  Again, flawless.

All of this was washed down with an impressive rosé Domaine Pey Blanc, a French import, which I have never tried before.  I recommend you check it out this summer.

The stretch of Cambridge Street across from MGH is often thought of as a culinary dead zone with a few shining stars and not much else really worthy.  Ma Maison is worth a visit and a stellar idea for a weekend lunch where, in true French fashion, food is a work of art.

Ma Maison
272 Cambridge Street
Boston, MA  02114
Telephone:  617.725.8855