Wednesday, December 11, 2013

But Now I Only Have Two Meats...

S&S Restaurant – Cambridge, MA

3 cuties
Griffin told me about S&S a long time ago when I asked him what his favorite brunch places were. After reviewing the menus of all the places he named, this one topped my list of places I wanted to go for brunch. It was my destination of choice after my weigh in for HOCR. After Meagan’s race, Karl, Kevin, Meagan and I drove up to S&S in Inman Square. Finally. This place is huge! When you walk in, there is an enormous bakery counter with everything and anything I’d ever want to eat. Then they have at least 4 huge rooms with tons of seating. It was packed and there were a ton of families and old people. I know it’s weird to say, but it was kind of refreshing. I feel like I live in an area with a ton of younger people, so it’s nice to see old couples out to brunch on a Saturday.
Parisian French toast and Corned beef hash
Anyway, their menu is absolutely outrageous. Every dish seems so intricately designed. Like the sushi of the brunch world. Their egg dishes sounded so good with things like salmon, cucumber, and canadian bacon, but I had my heart set on their stuffed French toasts. I finally went with the Parisian French toast. Oh my goodness. This was thick cut bread stuffed with warm, gooey brie and fig preserves, and sprinkled with a little powdered sugar. The subtly of the soft brie and the super flavorful and sweet fig preserves was amazing. The combination of the different textures was fabulous too. Crispy edges on the French toast, the gooey cheese, and the soft bread. At first I wished there was more, but once I started eating it, I knew it was going to be plenty because it was all so rich. The little fruit salad it was served with was the perfect way to cleanse the palette.

I kept seeing multiple people being served this bowl looking thing that was overflowing with some meaty concoction and knew I needed it. Turns out it was their corned beef hash and it was superb. I love corned beef, and I had truthfully never really corned beef hash in my life…at least I don’t think I had. I'm sure it had 4 years worth of fat in it, but it was so worth it.

Chocolate Lava Divine

I was so pleased with everything. THEN we had to go and get the Chocolate Lava Divine that I eyed on the way in. Had to. Such a great choice. It was a chocolate cake filled with dark chocolate truffle lava and topped with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. The warm gooey chocolate lava that poured in when you cut into it. Definitely not the first time I’ve had it, but it was incredible and gone in seconds.

The Neighborhood Restaurant – Somerville, MA

Eggs, homefries, grilled banana and linguica
When Jim and Audrey were in town, they raved about this one place they went to called the Neighborhood Restaurant up in Somerville. I had heard about this place before and they supposedly served up some great Portuguese food, including blood sausage. That was my goal. I wanted the blood sausage. The morning after the Charles party (I think) Jimmy, Meagan and I decided to check it out. It’s a very simple place. They have a nice open outdoor seating area, but it was too cold so we just sat inside. It was very small inside, the tables were simple, the chairs plastic, and the “art” hung on the walls was pretty standard for a rural hometown diner run my grandma and grandpa. It didn’t really look Portuguese, and only a few items on the menu looked Portuguese. Unfortunately they didn’t have any blood sausage that day. Apparently it’s one of those secret-not-on-the-menu things. I was real bummed. Guess I’ll have to go back. Anyway… I got the #15 which came with 3 eggs, half of a big grilled banana, awesome homefries, and a couple slices of this really good Portuguese sausage called Linguica. It was way different than any standard sausage we’re used to. It was very coarsely ground. You could see all the different hunks of things (the meat, fat, and who knows what else). Either way, it had a great almost smoky flavor. They also served a small fruit salad, a plate with toast and corn bread and a glass of OJ with your meal, which was an added bonus. Generosity. I like it.

Quebrada Bakery – Arlington, MA

Bran muffin
So there’s this bakery in Arlington that Nina loves. She has brought in banana bread, cookies, croissants, and other pastries from this place and they have all been exceptional. I decided to get a birthday cake from there in my final days at Bluetrain, and it was a standard chocolate cake with vanilla frosting. It had these awesome fudgy layers in between each layer of cake and the frosting was a sweet buttercream. BUT… I’m not here to talk about the cake. I’m here to talk about the miniature bran muffin I got for myself while I was there. I absolutely couldn’t walk away without something. I love bran muffins. I love that I feel like I’m eating Earth and that it’s semi-healthy. This muffin was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. Perfect lightweight size. I loved how coarse the bran pieces were and the raisins inside were plump. Sometimes bakeries really screw up bran muffins and they’re too dry, but not Quebrada.

Spanish Chickpea Salad – My Kitchen, Cambridge, MA

So one of our recent SSC meetings had a Spanish theme, so I stuck with my own personal theme of making the salad for the evening. I found this awesome authentic Spanish salad recipe on the Spanish food section of that was delicious, refreshing, and a great way to finish off the meal after some of Nonna’s fabulous paella. This salad was very simple. Cucumbers, pomegranate seeds, chic peas, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper. I cut everything up pretty small so that it was uniform in shape. It was super crunchy and so refreshing. I already said that… but it was. Totally something you could make on the weekend and eat all week.

Spanish Chickpea Salad

2 pomegranates
2 large cucumbers
1 1/2 - 2 cans (15 oz each) of garbanzo beans
2 Large cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
Red wine vinegar for dressing
Extra virgin  olive oil for dressing

1) Peel the cucumbers and cut into small pieces. Remove the seeds from the pomegranate. 
Nonna's Paella
2) Drain the garbanzo beans and add to the bowl. 
3) Peel and finely chop the two cloves of garlic and place in bowl with vegetables. Remove stems from basil leaves and chop basil. Add to the bowl of vegetables and mix.
4) Sprinkle red wine vinegar over the chopped vegetables. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil. Mix thoroughly. Generally, use 1 part vinegar to 2 parts oil. Taste and adjust vinegar and oil.

Blueberry Flan Pie – My Kitchen, Cambridge, MA

In addition to my chickpea salad, Meagan and I collaborated on a blueberry flan pie for SSC - Spanish edition. I was pretty excited to find this recipe on this random website called Amazing Mexican Recipes. Even though the picture looks kind of funky, it turned out pretty good. It was a little sweet for me and I doubt I’d make it again, but everyone loved it. I’d say the insides were kind of a mesh between a custard and a blueberry pie.

Blueberry Flan Pie

5 cups blueberries (use fresh if possible, frozen if not)
1 tbsp lemon zest
Juice of 2 lemons
1 ½ cups plain yogurt
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup sugar
1 pie crust (premade or your own recipe)

1) Mix the blueberries with lemon juice and sugar in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher until about ½ of the blueberries are mashed. In another bowl, beat the eggs, and then beat in the condensed milk, lemon zest, and yogurt, followed by the mashed blueberries.
2) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees while you get your crust ready and in your pie pan. Pour in the flan mixture and bake for about an hour and fifteen minutes or until the flan is set and the crust is crisp and golden brown – you can check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the pie. Allow the pie to cool and chill for a few hours. Serve cold.

Parmesan and Prosciutto Asparagus – My Kitchen, Cambridge, MA

I’m a super big fan of this cheesy asparagus dish I made for our Italian themed dinner. I struggled to
find an interesting Italian salad, so I took a base recipe I discovered on the Food and Wine website and tweaked it a little to make it my own. The original recipe called for raw, ribboned asparagus tossed in zesty sauce made with coarsely shredded parmesan cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. I made a similar cheese sauce except I used finely grated parmesan romano cheese, half of the olive oil, and omitted the salt. I felt as though the cheese provided enough salt. Also, using a vegetable peeler to turn 2 pounds of asparagus into a ton of ribbons was WAY too labor intensive for my tastes. These asparagus went through multiple phases. First I tried shredding them. Then I decided I didn’t want them raw, so I steamed them whole. Then I thought that with all the other things that I was going to add, eating a whole asparagus could be difficult, so I chopped them up into smaller pieces. Some weren’t fully cooked enough, so I had to sort through them and re-steam some. It sure was a process. ANYWAY… I definitely recommend cutting them up into 1-2 inch long pieces and then steaming them.

At this point, I threw together the cheese sauce, cut up some dried apricots, and threw in some smaller pieces of thinly sliced procioutto. The combination of all these things was incredible. Woah. The cheese sauce had a zesty, lemony flavor, the apricots provided a burst of sweetness, and the procioutto added some saltyness. Great flavors all around.

The second big dilemma of the evening was whether to serve it hot or cold. It sure was delicious warm, but the original recipe said cold. Meagan and I decided to go cold, and it was a great choice because it served as a refreshing veggie dish after Jimmy’s hot soup. Good contrast. Very proud of that whole thing.

Parmesan and Prosciutto Asparagus

2 pounds large asparagus
1 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (3 ounces)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons warm water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1) Cut up/cook asparagus however you wish. Whole, raw, shredded, chopped, whatever. 
2) In a small bowl, mix the Parmigiano-Reggiano with the lemon juice, water and olive oil. Add to the asparagus and toss to coat. Season the salad with salt and pepper and serve at once.

Cinnamon Roll Waffles – Mary’s Kitchen, Cambridge, MA

There’s a photo floating around Pinterest that I’m sure everyone and their mother has pinned. Cinnamon Roll waffles. It’s simple. Open up a can of the premade cinnamon rolls, stick them in a waffle maker, cook as you would a normal waffle, drizzle icing on top and enjoy. Mary and decided to make these one day after a Saturday workout and it was one of the best choices of my life. We used the Immaculate brand of cinnamon rolls from Whole Foods. It was interesting because they didn’t really taste like cinnamon rolls, but they didn’t taste like waffles. It was a beautiful beautiful blend of the two. The outside was slightly crisp and the inside was soft and moist. We tried them with syrup, but they were best with the icing.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies – My Kitchen, Cambridge, MA

I had a period of time a while back where I went a little nuts with all the Pinterest recipes. I wanted
to try making these cookies I found on Averie Cooks that had very few ingredients: peanut butter, brown sugar, an egg, vanilla, baking soda and chocolate chips. I didn’t realize it at the time, but they’re a gluten free recipe. I was so skeptical because they had NO flour or butter. That’s basically not even a cookie. However, they were absolutely exceptional! They split and formed cracks kind of like a cheesecake or those chocolate crinkle cookies. Fresh from the oven, the chocolate was perfectly melty and the cookie itself had a hard time staying together. I was fine with that. Meagan was fine with that. We had an epiphany. Since we couldn’t hold them and dunk them in milk, we put parts of them onto a spoon and dipped them in milk. I must say… we thought we were geniuses.

Once they cooled they were just as delicious, but in a different way. I felt as though I got more of the peanut butter flavor when they were cool, and more chocolate when they were warm. Either way, they were just superb. I totally recommend trying to make them if you’re interested in gluten free recipes or just a different kind of cookie.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies 

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 ounces semi-sweet, dark, or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips may be substituted)

Peanut butter cookie overloaded with chocolate chips

1) Combine peanut butter, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until well-combined and the sugar is fully incorporated. Add the baking soda and beat to incorporate. Add the chocolate and beat slightly to mix. 
2) Form two-tablespoon mounds of dough, place on a large plate or cookie sheet, flatten slightly and refridgerate at least 2 hours. If chocolate is falling out of dough since there is an abundance, roll ball between palms to encourage it to stay in the dough.
3) Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray. Place mounds on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges are set and tops are barely set, even if slightly underbaked in the center. Do not bake them longer than 10 minutes, as the cookies firm up as they cool.
4) Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 to 10 minutes before removing and transferring to a rack to finish cooling. 

Pumpkin Granola - My Kitchen, Cambridge, MA

Pumpkin granola
Yea... another Pinterest recipe. I had been meaning to make some granola for a while, and since it was fall, pumpkin granola sounded like a real winner. Normally I try to avoid things like oil and extra sugar in granola, and as a result, it has never turned out all that great. But this time I just wanted to follow a recipe almost exactly. I did not care about calorie content. I found this recipe for pumpkin granola on a blog called Foodess and was so so so pleased. This granola had achieved both the crispness, the chunkiness and the sweetness that I have been striving for in my last couple batches of granola. It was perfect, and you could really taste the pumpkin in it. Not to mention, it made the apartment smell delectable. I'm going to share her recipe, but I halved the recipe and it worked out fine. I get too scared of screwing up and I don't want to have a million trays of wasted granola. As far as the nuts/seeds/berries go, I used cashews, cranberries, and chocolate chips. 

Pumpkin Granola 

1 cup pumpkin puree
1½ tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger (I didn't use this because I couldn't find mine)
⅓ cup vegetable oil
½ cup brown sugar
⅓ cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
5 cups old fashioned large flake oats
2 cups raw cashews
3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 cups dried cranberries

1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2) In a mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, oil, brown sugar, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Stir in the oats and cashews.
3) Divide mixture between two large baking sheets and bake 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally and checking frequently, until the cashews are golden and toasty and the granola is dry.
4) Let cool completely on baking sheets if larger clumps are preferred. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in cranberries and chocolate chips. Transfer to airtight containers.

Fedora Café – Lawrenceville, NJ

I HAVE to write about Fedora Café. Princeton never ceases to impress, with PJ’s Pancakes, Hoagie Haven and now Fedora Café. Leigh recommended we go to Fedora Café for dinner on Saturday after our erg piece at Speed Order. THANK YOU LEIGH! Fedora Café is this cute little café. I’d say it’s my ideal café. Everything about it is unique. The art, the furniture, the tapestries hanging on the wall, and the dishes. No two things were the same. Leigh originally brought us because they offer an endless pasta bowl. You pick your noodle, sauce, and any toppings you want. If you finish your first bowl, they’ll refill it for free. It was so … much… pasta. I could’ve done it, but my shrunken stomach knew that I’d regret it, especially with a race the next day. I refrained, but OH MAN. It was some of the best pasta I’ve ever had at a restaurant. I got bow ties, blush sauce (a mix of marinara and a cream sauce I believe), portobella mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, peas, broccoli, spinach, artichoke hearts, peppers, and onions. The deal sealer was the sun dried tomatoes. The flavor of sun dried tomatoes is so powerful. I love it. The mushrooms were key in this dish too. They were big and thickly sliced. I loved how the broccoli soaked up a bunch of the sauce in the bushy part of each piece. There was just so much going on. So many delicious things. The sauce brought it all together in sweet harmony.  

The Ginger Exchange – Cambridge, MA
Prettiest little crab rangoons

I swear we’ve been talking about sushi for months. And I mean months and months and months. We’ll do it after trials! We’ll do it after the Charles! We’ll do it after Speed Order! Yea… whatever. So finally… we did it. After some pretty intense research, Mary, Meagan, Brandon and I headed to The Ginger Exchange up in Inman Square. I love going to Inman Square because there are so many interesting places there that I want to eat. It’s like traveling to another country. I had spotted crab rangoons on the menu during our research… and well… you can’t just not get crab rangoons. They were amazing. They came piping hot to our table like pretty little flowers arranged around the dipping sauce. The cream cheese and crab mix inside wasn’t too crabby or overly airy. Sometimes I think they whip up the mix that they put inside and it’s all airy, like whipped cream cheese you buy at the store. Know what I mean? Well… it wasn’t like that. It was much better. It was warm and creamy and smooth and had this great sweet dipping sauce (that Mary and I hoarded to dip other things in later in the evening).

Bo Bos
Mary also wanted to get the Bo Bo’s. Yea, I had never heard of them before, but they were described as some sort of dumpling stuffed with hunks of meat. We chose the beef. Three of them came to the table looking like tacos (as Meldrim put it) but I thought they looked like clams. A big puffy white dumpling was split in half and filled with the shredded beef. The flavor of the beef was amazing. It was kind of like an asian version of bbq if I had to guess. With hints of ginger and soy. So great. These came with French fries which, at the time, were like god’s gift to humanity. First fried food I had eaten in FOREVER and it was incredible. I mean… the fries were good, but I’m guessing they wouldn’t be super exceptional to the average person. Mary and I just thought they were like cake.

I was so happy with our choice in rolls. The Christmas was delicious. My optimal choice. It had shrimp tempura, tempura flakes, tuna, avocado, spicy mayo and eel sauce. We also chose the Mt. Fuji (spicy scallop, tobiko, crab stick, avocado, cucumber), Spider (soft shell crab tempura, avocado, cucumber, tobiko, eel sauce), Serendipity (seared scallops, tempura flakes, crab stick, spicy mayo, secret sauce, seared homachi, black tobiko) and the Farmer's Market (avocado, cucumber, yamagobo, sweet tofu, dried seaweed). The Mt. Fuji came piled 
high with this delicious shredded crab on top in some sort of mildly spicy sauce. The dried seaweed draped over top of the Farmer's Market was something new for me but I really liked it. The seared homachi (a type of fish) on top of the Serendipity had a really unique smoky flavor that I surprisingly liked. They all had something unique about them and that was really cool. 

Christina’s – Cambridge, MA

Peanut butter cup and cookie dough ice cream
As we polished off our last couple pieces of sushi at The Ginger Exchange, I asked if we wanted to order more. We all made the great decision that instead of ordering more, we would go get ice cream instead. We had passed Christina’s on the way in, and we had all heard at one point that it was apparently as good as Toscanini’s. We had to test it out. I’ll say, they had a decent number of flavors, but they weren’t as unique as Toscanini’s Browned Butter Pumpkin Sage or the B cubed. However, Christina’s had some incredible ice cream. Woah, so I got the peanut butter cup (duh) and the cookie dough. I love cookie dough. This was probably the best cookie dough I’ve ever had because not only were there delicious hunks of dough in the ice cream, but the ice cream itself tasted like cookie dough. Somehow they had infused the cookie dough flavor into the creamy part and ohhhh was it creamy. The peanut butter cup was delicious too. Sometimes peanut butter ice creams can have too much peanut butter, and it can be overwhelming, but this was far from. It was the perfect creamy balance of chocolate and peanut butter bliss. This is tough. Real tough. I’d still say Toscanini’s has the #1 spot, but Christina’s is definitely a close second.

Tatté – Cambridge, MA

Beautiful Hazelnut Rose
After an unsuccessful attempt to sell clothing at Garment District, Meagan and I decided to slip into Tatté across the street. I had never seen this little café before, but I definitely loved the feel inside. It was very rustic feeling. It was very small and there was one long, battered, antique wooden table running through the middle. People sat munching on the most delicious looking breakfast sandwiches bursting with fresh greens. They had a BEAUTIFUL assortment of pastries and tarts. I opted for the Hazelnut Rose, which was sort of like a cinnamon roll with a great hazelnut flavor. It was tall, wrapped in paper, and split into two rolls at the top. Each one displayed on the platter was unique and had risen and grown in the oven in their own different direction. It was a bit more dry than your standard cinnamon roll (which was ok), and the cinnamon-y substance wrapped between each layer had what I think may have been ground up hazelnuts along with hunks of hazelnuts. It  was delicious. I ate it in the car, but I can only imagine how amazing it would be fresh from the oven. 

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