Saturday, October 31, 2020

Kitshy Halloween Dinner

Here's a fun Halloween treat that kids of all ages will love.  Surprise them with Stuffed Pepper Jack O' Lanterns.  Easy to assemble and make and a nice surprise.  Maybe they'll even eat a vegetable!

Draw out the face of your design on the pepper then carefully cut out with a sharp knife.

Get a can of good old school Beefaroni.

Drain a bit of the sauce out.  Otherwise it's going to leak out all over the place.  Then mix it with some shredded mozzarella.

Stuff the peppers and bake at 350 for 30 mins.  Let cool a bit and serve to your ghouls.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Contests, Contests, Contests


One of the things we've recently heard from lots of different friends is that since this whole pandemic began they've entered a lot of online contests.  And some of them are winning!

I have to say that we at TBF are in the same camp.  We enter pretty much any contest that doesn't require one to jump through too many hoops because who needs them.  We've won some small swag items, a few gift cards to restaurants and stores and even a cash prize.

Have you been entering contests?  Have you won anything?  Let us know and we'll share the results here and through our other social media outlets.  Thanks!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Athletic Brewing Oktoberfest


Well, since we have not been attending all those incredible social events and openings this Autumn we've been focusing on new products and cooking at home quite a bit.  As a result we've been tasting a whole slew of products some of them with a Fall theme although we truly abhor all things with event a remote sniff of pumpkin spice.  Don't even bother.

We did, however, manage to sample Oktoberfest from Athletic Brewing, a "non-alcoholic Festbier."  As an experiment, we tried an ice cold can in between sips of another brand of alcoholic beer just to see if it could stand up.  And you know what?  It did, complete with the slight pumpkin flavor and all.  In fact we loved it.  It wasn't dull, flat or overly sweetened or flavored at all.  So, it gets the rare TBF thumbs up.  As we've said before, a full eighty per cent of the product samples we get are trashed after the first sip or bite.  Yes, they are that bad.

So, look for Athletic Brewing Oktoberfest at your local liquor warehouse as we walk beside you to look for other products by them to sample.  You won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Foodie Films: A Chef's Voyage

Everyone who has read this blog at least a few times over the 13 years that I've been writing it knows that I am a big fan of film.  I've been to hundreds of premieres and previews and thoroughly enjoy films where food is a central character, documentaries or not.  I've seen them all.  Of course, I'm also a student of all things food and food-related as well as travel, art, culture and history.  I've sat through hours of lectures at Harvard University on Science And Cooking at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences where I met such luminaries as Ferran Adria and Harold McGee as we explored the molecular chemistry of sugar and eggs.

So, when I was invited to media preview A CHEF'S VOYAGE I was, of course, game.  It's the story of Chef David Kinch of Manresa, the Michelin 3 star restaurant in Silicon Valley.  I had never heard of Mr. Kinch nor his restaurant.  It's the story of his trip to France, along with his entire staff.  They will visit 3 other restaurants, among them the legendary haute cuisine palais of Taillevent.  They will share their menus with these establishments and their staffs, observe and learn from them and enjoy together their mutual love for the very highest levels of cuisine and service attainable.  As is stated in the film - it is not just about the food but the entire experience of dining.  The quest to improve never ends.

Knowing all that let me just come right to the point:  the film is stunning.  Not only beautiful to look at as your eyes drink in the breathtaking scenery but also as your mouth waters seeing food as carefully and beautifully set as the crown jewels.  And it is more than that.  So much more.  There are so many levels going on that it's almost Shakespearean as these rock stars and maestros all come together to create these magical, impressive meals.  The lessons of dedication, joy, teamwork, obsession, beauty, wisdom, youth and experience are played out on a stage so authentically French that it's like being there.  It's also not always a pretty picture.  The exhaustion, burnout and oftentimes loneliness of the lifestyle is also subtly but earnestly introduced.

I loved this film.  It's by far the best documentary about the restaurant and hospitality business that I have yet seen.  The other thing I liked was that it completely took me away from all these pandemic concerns we are having for 90 minutes of pure bliss, meeting new people, seeing new things, salivating over those dishes and going places that I had no idea could be so staggeringly extraordinary.  The film opens virtually on September 18 and you can stream it by going here.  I absolutely guarantee you will enjoy it and it will be the best $10 you have spent in the past 6 months.  Enjoy!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Walkabout Boston

Strolling about the city on these brisk cool days and evenings is such a joy even if masked and the crowds are thin.  The "new normal" of social distancing, masks and virtual everything is going to be here for a while, I'm afraid.

Yet I'm encouraging everyone to get out there and do it.  There are so many little corners of the city to discover like this little section in and around Province Street near Old City Hall where we recently dined al fresco.  

It was really like a little bit of Europe right here.  Just make sure that if you do plan to dine out that you try to make reservations unless you're planning to dine early.

 There may not be many tourists wandering about town these days so why not be a tourist yourself, look at things from a new angle or stroll through somewhere you haven't been in years.  The city if well-worth rediscovering and now is the time to do it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Dining At Mast

Paccheri Alla Genovese at MAST' Boston

We recently enjoyed an al fresco dinner at a beautiful hidden gem in Boston, MAST' restaurant.  We've dined here before but this time sat outside on the patio in this glorious weather.  The place is tucked into a little corner of the city where, if I were to drop you there right now, you would swear that I had transported you to some unknown European haunt that I was keeping a secret.  It could be Italy, Belgium, maybe France but one would never guess Boston.

We actually started with the antipasto plate Cartoccio Napoletano. Included was Arancini, Fried Polenta, Potato Coquette and Zeppole.  Everything was great but my favorite was the Arancini, the rice balls typically filled with meat, a bit of cheese and peas.  This was as perfectly done as I've ever had it.

Next up was the Paccheri Alla Genovese, short ribs slowly braised in chianti wine and onion served with the wide ribbons of fresh paccheri pasta and marinara dusted with a finely grated cheese.  Even my dining companion, not a fan of pork, had to agree that this was heavenly.  

Of course, what many come here for is a refreshing glass of sangria and their famous Neapolitan Pizza.  The Chef and owner is, after all, from Naples.  So, you can rely upon that famous chewy and  crispy crust with the highest level of beautifully sourced ingredients.  Just like Italy. I love when not only is the food on par with that served to us on trips to Italy but the atmosphere, ambiance and service actually make you feel as though you are there.  We tried both the white and red sangria.  You can't go wrong either way.

 This has been a horrible time for restaurants as well as those of us who truly enjoy dining out.  It many cases, even at our favorite places, the experience has just not been the same.  Yet here it was even better.  It may have been the gorgeous weather or the continental level of service, the delight and surprise of the extraordinary food or the surroundings.  In any case, and it often is elusive as to what exactly makes an evening dining out perfect, we can easily promise that you would love it just as much.

45 Province Street
Boston, MA  
Telephone:  617.936.3800


Sunday, August 30, 2020

Flax 4 Life


Flax.  I would never just eat a bowl of it despite my nature to eat healthy and well.  Believe me, I've tried.  It's a great source of fiber and nutritional value, though, so when the people at Flax 4 Life offered to send along some samples I was game, sweeping any skepticism aside.  

I loved the products especially the muffins and brownies which come in a variety of flavors.  So, yes, now I can have my flax and enjoy it, too.  A big TBF two thumbs up, a rare rating to bestow.  The products are also gluten-free.  Look for them in your supermarket or online.  They're terrific.  

#flax  #flax4life  



Friday, August 21, 2020

Dining Alfresco At Real Italian Gusto


This strangest of summers is waning and all we wanted was one night of normalcy, the way things used to be, a simple dinner out in a nice place.  We got it.

We snagged a balcony table, only one of two, at Real Italian Gusto, a small, off-the-beaten-path spot just around the corner from us in Medford.  We sipped an icy rosé whilst relaxing and enjoying the view on a warm, breezy night at sunset.

I began with the Arancini, served elegantly and simply with a tiny pool of delicate red sauce, sweet and savory and just that leaf of fresh basil likely grown on the same spot.  Delicious.  

I have always said that what gives rise to a memorable meal is not just the food but also the conversation, the view, the service, the plates and table, the entire experience.  Tonight I was joined by a great neighbor.  For years we have promised to celebrate our mutual summer birthdays.

Artichokes Wrapped In Prosciutto.  I don't know about you but I just always have the time to prepare a dish like this at home, making it all the more special.  Chewy and salty and textured and unforgettable.

We both chose the same main, this Pappardelle Bolognese.  Fresh ribbons of house-made pasta with a sauce rich in bubbles of beef.  Again, fantastic.  I scoffed down the generous bowl like a starving maniac for once not even staining my white shirt.  This is living.

Tiramisu.  The goal is not to serve it soggy and this was was perfect.  One could taste the coffee soaking the bottom layer.  I felt like I was back in Venice, tucking in with the view of the gondolas and the hushed Italian chatter and laughter all around me, backdrop to a memory. 

And then my Pistachio Gelato With Chocolate Swirl.  Covered with a layer of caramelized, real pistachio nuts, roasted, not some cheap substitute.  It was served in a tall glass with the proper ice cream spoon so I could dig out every drop like I was a child again.  

In this frenzy of unknown dining out, things falling apart daily, an uncertain future measured against a reliable past I have to say that this will be among the best dining nights and a very, very hopeful memory that I will savor for years to come.

Real Italian Gusto

24 High Street 

Medford, Ma 02155 


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Broma Organic

I liked the name Broma right away.  I mean, I sort of like anything that has the word "bro" in it.  Call me stupid.  Anyway, this spread we were sent to try was one of the best products we've been sent recently.  It's great on toast, English Muffins or a fresh croissant for breakfast but also went well smeared on a cracker with iced tea on a sultry afternoon.  It's also vegan and gluten-free.  And all of the bros in the office loved it.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Bug Out Bars

Product samples.  The number one product sample that we consistently receive here at TBF International Headquarters are protein bars.  It seems like everyone thinks that they have created the ultimate bar.  Yet, it's not the easiest thing to do.

The problem seems to be the balance between flavor, texture and the amount of protein one can pack into a small space.  I, for one, typically eat a high protein/low carb diet as I am always on the go and I keep long hours.  I need the energy but don't want to compromise on the flavor.  That's typically the challenge with these things.

Enter the Bug Out Bar.  Strange name, eh?  Or maybe not so.  Go with your first guess and you will be correct.  Yes, it contains bugs and in this particular case the bug is crickets which are very high in protein and, God knows, sustainable.  

It's not like we have never tasted a snack bar with crickets before.  We have.  They never really quite seemed to be a fit for us.  This one is high in protein, yes, but we just could not get used to the texture or flavor.  This doesn't mean that it won't be a fit for everyone.  Lots of people in training or those with a heavy workout schedule who need massive amounts of protein may likely find it very convenient.  For them, check out the link and the pricing.


Thursday, July 23, 2020

New Product Fun

It's summer during a pandemic.  The VIP events, restaurant openings and other very social things are on hold or collapsing before our eyes.  We are crossing off annual events on the calendar more than adding.  Yet, there are signs that the economy is coming back - in the form of a spate of new product samples to try.

So, over the next few weeks we'll be featuring new stuff that you might like, or not.  We are never giving up hope that the fancy soirees will someday return or that dining out will someday be what it once was (despite a decimated landscape).

First up are these Wellness Drops from Pure Inventions.  These antioxidant extract formulations come in a small bottle with a dropper system to add the flavors to the beverage of your choice.  In most cases at this time of year that would be ice cold water.  The flavors were good - and mixable.  You can make the flavor you like and for those who fancy they might have a mixologist streak it's fun to add a few drops to your cocktail concoctions.  

In other words, these are a sort of fun summer project and they taste good.  You can get thirty servings for about $20.00, making it cheaper and a LOT healthier than that can of soda or an iced tea mix loaded with sugar.  Yes, we liked it!


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Economics And Food

Mini Lobster Rolls

Less is more.  We have all heard that one before whether it is in regard to food or decoration or, well, basically anything.  I've often said that the more ingredients one starts adding to a meal dilutes all of the other flavors.  Many young chefs I have worked with proudly present the dish they have created with sixteen different spices.  And decorated with edible flowers.  I'm not a fan of edible flowers.  It's like eating perfume.

So, does the less-is-more rule apply to dining or eating in general?  Well, interesting question especially since the most famous, well-reviewed, successful and awarded restaurants in the entire world seem to employ the strategy.  The rule is known in the study of economics as the Law Of Diminishing Returns.  

At first glance it seems about as complicated as the first reading of an explanation of the law of Qualified Immunity, something many of us have likely been researching lately.  It's not, however.  It's basically less-is-more.

Imagine that it's been years, for instance, that you've had your favorite candy bar.  Luckily someone hands you one to enjoy one day and you get at it.  Well, of course the flavor and experience is absolutely incredible, releasing a torrent of emotions and memories.  Then they offer you another one and you greedily accept and this one is good, too, but not quite as memorable or satisfying as the first.  The third even less.  The sixth is starting to make you queasy.  By the tenth you never want to see this damn candy bar again in your life.  Less is more.

The very top echelons of dining, and by that I mean the French Laundry or El Bulli level, employ this economic principle.  El Bulli is, of course, gone now but neither served large dishes or heaping plates of anything and no entity at this strata ever will.  What they all serve is a timed succession of very small tastes packed with flavor and often in unexpected and even playful forms.  

During this pandemic we've all been often stuck at home and thinking of food.  A lot.  In fact, many of us have gained what is being called the Covid-19 fifteen, those pounds that have a direct relation between working at home and the proximity to one's kitchen and fridge.  Wouldn't just a scoop of pistachio ice cream hit the spot after that boring, dreadful zoom meeting?  

But here's the thing and I often get asked how in the name of God I, as a food writer and prodigious food product sampler, can manage to remain thin.  You actually can have one spoonful of pistachio ice cream instead of an entire bowl.  Or pint.  And you can enjoy it.  Because, really, the less you eat, the better it tastes.  

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Our First Pandemic Dining Experience At 75 On Liberty Wharf

Well, we finally enjoyed our first dining out venture since this whole pandemic nightmare began so we thought we'd share the story of that whole experience.  It was a beautiful, warm night at 75 On Liberty Wharf, our chosen spot and we could not have looked forward to it more.  

Signs are posted at the entrance of most restaurants regarding safe spacing, hand sanitizing, etc.  We can'stress enough that advanced reservations are required.  You can't walk up and get a table and we saw dozens of people attempting to do so turned away, many of them not even wearing face coverings of any kind.  So, one really has to play by the rules for the safety and welfare of all and it was encouraging to see that those rules are being enforced and taken seriously.  We've waited a long time (well over 100 days) to be able to do something we love (dining out) and we really don't want to see this all called off a month or two from now.  If that should happen it will likely be far longer than three months before we get to this point again.

All staff that we saw we were wearing masks at all times.  A good sign.  All tables were well-spaced and full at all times.  Most diners enjoyed a dinner experience of about 90 minutes or so like we had.  We did not feel rushed.  There didn't seem to be a great push to turn over the tables quickly and there was never a line of people waiting for their table.  So the timing appeared to be well-handled.  Almost everyone that we saw arrived and left wearing a mask.  There were one or two exceptions when we witnessed people, who should know better, leaving without donning a mask again.  So, overall we felt completely safe and at ease.

As you can see, the spacing was good, the place was full and without crowds or lines of people lingering about.

Everybody seemed to be enjoying the opportunity to get out and really enjoy a night on the town again and we were no exception.

We began with a very refreshing, signature drink at 75 On Liberty Wharf, the White Sangria.  

Next up was this Crispy Fried Bay Calamari.  Lightly breaded, not at all heavy (considering the fact that we all have mostly put on a few pounds over the months) and quite good, served with a couple of good sauces.

I went with the Steamed PEI Mussels.  It includes a Spanish Chorizo and tomatoes in an herbed broth that was not overly garlicky, as is sometimes the case.  The toasted slices of French Bread were smeared with a Chipotle Aioli.  It was as good as any we have had.

My dining companion went with Beer Batter Fish And Chips.  The fish is cod, the fries were crispy and very good and the coleslaw very fresh.  

Again, the overall experience was impressive and well-handled and the "magic hour" setting could not have been better.  We had no problems with cleanliness, sanitation or restrictions.  Great job.

We do have to say that walking the few blocks on our way back to the car we did notice a Seaport bar that appeared to be quite crowded and people were clearly NOT following the social distancing guidelines.  We shook our heads.  Really, let's not screw this one up, people.  We realize that there will always be those few who push things beyond the limits and everyone is anxious to get back to the comfort of normalcy.  Establishments need to be vigilant.  There has been a great loss of business in the hospitality field and many of our favorite, even legendary, spots will never return.  Let's ALL do our part to NOT do anything that might increase that number.

75 On Liberty Wharf
220 Northern Avenue
Boston, MA  02210
Telephone:  617.227.0754



Friday, June 19, 2020

Buying Hotel Bonds

It's not often, in fact if ever, that we give out investment advice in this blog but this is a cool and unusual deal that's worthy of taking advantage of.  You may remember that about a year ago we stayed at the absolutely beautiful Portland Harbor Hotel.  Well, now here's a chance to stay there and make fifty percent on your travel investment.  The Harbor Hotel Collection is offering a Pay Now Stay Later program where you can buy a "hotel bond".  Full details are in the link but basically for every one hundred dollar bond that you buy it will be valued at one hundred and fifty dollars when you stay at any one of their hotels.  

Portland is a great foodie city with lots to discover and lots of fun people.  Check it out today!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Pandemic Cooking III

Our last installment of pandemic finds and cooking features this incredible Lemon Scone from Petsi Pies in Cambridge.  Believe me, we have tried them all and theirs are truly the best.

Last but not least is a year round favorite:  Salmon Fillet.  A small Capellini And Asiago pasta salad and steamed green beans was the perfect accompaniment.  

Happy cooking, everyone!