One of the bi-products of the wine-making biz that keeps us busy on weekends in our vineyard in El Penedés, the wine region of Catalunya, is the proliferation of fresh grape leaves on our vines. (Duh!) In May or June, grape growers undertake the labor-intensive process of “leafing” and “suckering” the vines, which means that you remove all of the stems that have no fruit, and you also snap off big leaves that are casting shadows on the baby grape clusters. The leafing also gives the fruit more air and minimizes the possibility of icky mold growth. (“Sin miedo!” our local helper tells us: Snap off the excess growth WITHOUT FEAR!)
Last year, during our first season with the white grapes that are now slowly fermenting into “cava” (Spanish champagne), we were pretty thoroughly focused on getting all of the steps right. This year, I had the wherewithal, with the help of daughter Stassa, to collect a few of the largest grape leaves and tuck them away in a plastic bag for later use, after we recovered from the very hot and sweaty leafing process!
My motive? DOLMADES! I had read up last year on the quickest and easiest way to stuff your own grape leaves, guided by Martha Stewart and a dozen other on-line cooking websites, many of them Greek-oriented. And then I promptly forgot it. So while the leaves were still mostly green and supple, I consulted the Internet once again, and I went for what seemed like a fool-proof and remarkably rapid method of preparing the grape leaves for stuffing: blanch them for a few seconds in boiling water.
It worked pretty well, and the results were tasty if a bit chewy. The stuffing process itself was less laborious than I’d anticipated, and it helps if you can make it into a fun assembly-line process in the kitchen.
Guest Contributor: Dylan Connor
- Ultimate Value Driven Destinations within a 20 block radius.
- The Transport: By car from Boston; Walking.
The Morgans Hotel – Madison Ave
Located at 237 Madison Ave., the Morgans Hotel is the original jewel in Ian Shrager’s boutique hotel empire. The instinctively modernist interiors are timeless and were created by the emissary of Parisian chic:Andre Putnam. This hotel is full of thoughtful luxury including rainfall showerheads, down duvets and pillows, Malin & Goetz bath amenities and complimentary breakfast, complete with homemade granola and classic New York bagels. It remains a best kept value secret in town with an unbeatable location.
The Meatball Shop -9th & 22nd
The Meatball Shop – 9th and 22nd streets (one of five locations). They’ve got balls and a not so secret weapon in chef Daniel Holzman, who hails from Le Bernadin. He and business partner Michael Chernow have created an irreverent and nostalgic haven of affordable comfort foods with a best in class aura. Locally sourced meats (Heritage Pork, Creekstone Farms Beef and Murray’s Chicken, which they grind themselves) are transformed into an innovative menu that is frugal in its pricing yet high in style and flavor. Dig in to the Meatball Smash – two balls on a Brioche bun with sauce and cheese or a purely simple slider. Wash it down with a Shop Specialty Cocktail: the Fool-Aid Punch ( brandy, rum, citrus and grape sugar) or a Homegrown Classic: Moscow Mule: Brooklyn Republic (vodka, lime and ginger beer). Whiskey lovers should check out the whiskey grid. Have it neat or cleverly disguised in a Whiskey float with Vanilla (citrus liqueur, root beer and vanilla ice cream). And finally, we suggest The Sweet Ending: an ice cream sandwich concocted with house-made ice cream and freshly baked cookies. Our favorite? Chocolate chip with brown sugar ice cream. That’s just the surface of a comprehensive menu that does not disappoint.
Virgil’s BBQ-44th right off Times Square
Located on 44th Street, Virgil’s real barbecue is right off Times Square in the heart of the Theater District. Classic Roadhouse décor sets the tone in an atmosphere that is casual and welcoming. The streamlined service is a fast and friendly group of aspiring actors. Stick with Virgil’s favorites and you can’t miss. Two genuine Southern Pride Smokers churn out the tastiest Carolina Pulled Pork and BBQ Chicken in the North. Split an order of Trainwreck fries or BBQ nachos. (These are not for the faint of heart in portion or calories.) Beer aficionados may rejoice in choosing a flight of “Three of Your Choice,” or indulge in Virgil’s Own Ale, Coney Island Lager or Skrumpies Cider.
THE RAMBLE — Central Park
The Shakespeare Garden
Central Park is 843 acres that were curated by preeminent landscape architect Frederick law Olmsted in 1858. With daily official guided or self-guided tours, we have three scintillating suggestions and they’re free!: Brush up on your Shakespeare! Don’t miss The Shakespeare Garden, named for the famed English poet and playwright and includes four enchanting acres of scattered quotes, flowers and plants all drawn from his illustrious works.
The Chess & Checkers House
For the gamer in all of us- compete in The Chess and Checkers House—BYOC or borrow Chess, Checkers or Backgammon and Dominos.
The Carousel—Legend has it that the original ride was powered by a live mule or horse hidden beneath the carousel platform. Today’s vintage carousel was found in an old trolley terminal on Coney Island. It was crafted in 1908 by the Brooklyn firm Stein & Goldstein and is considered one of the finest and largest examples of American Folk Art in existence. With its 57 majestic horses, it is the fourth to stand in Central Park since 1871.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch- Starring John Cameron Mitchell
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” starring writer/creator John Cameron Mitchell, at the Belasco Theatre. The Tony-winning revival has been updated and revamped from the original Off-Broadway and film versions, which serves the larger-than-life character of Hedwig well. Mitchell is a true manifestation of stage charisma, and the music seamlessly bridges rock’n’roll and musical theater. The Tony-winning lighting design by Kevin Adams rounds out a glamorous, hilarious, and heartfelt experience. Day-of lottery tickets provide great seats for a very low price.
Finding Neverland — with Matthew Morrison and Kelsey Grammer
“Finding Neverland,” starring Matthew Morrison, Laura Michelle Kelly, and Kelsey Grammer, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. Directed by the incomparable Tony-winner Diane Paulus with fantastic music by first-timers Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, it is also a first for Harvey Weinstein as a Broadway producer. It is a surprisingly sympathetic turn from Morrison, complemented with grace by Kelly, and rounded out by Grammer’s panache. The simply designed set perfectly frames Paulus’ elegant staging and the stunning choreography from Mia Michaels of TV’s “So You Think You Can Dance” fame. An overall excellent adaptation of the 2004 film, while still establishing its own style and take on the story of J.M. Barrie and his inspiration for “Peter Pan.” Stand in line a few hours before the box office opens, and experience the spectacle from amazing seats for an incredibly affordable price.
THE SCENE — Broadway. (Nomad, Midtown, Times Square) A theater extravaganza.
THE MUSTS — Ultimate destinations — within 20 walking blocks
THE EATS — DAY ONE: The Parlour at the Nomad- Brunch – Featuring the ‘ne plus ultra’ of chicken sandwiches masterfully crafted by chef/owner Daniel Humm with buttery brioche, fois gras and black truffle. Pair it with a glass of Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Bourgogne blanc from Burgundy France 2011. (One of the many fine wines by the glass sourced from around the world). For dessert: Milk & Honey- a deconstructed sweet with shortbread, brittle and ice cream. Finish with a glass of Sauterne and a white Peony tea. Truly a flawless dining experience. Ask for Rudy – a dedicated artist in customer service.
Aldo Sohm Wine Bar— Dinner: at 51st and 7th (located across the Galleria from Le Bernadin)- This restrained and discreet Wine Bar is the casual love child of star Sommelier Aldo Sohm and renowned Le Bernadin Chef/Owner Eric Ripert. It is a marriage of fine small plates and some of the best sourced wines of the world. Like Le Bernadin, the professional staff hits the right note in service. Unlike Le Bernadin, no reservations are needed. In fact, they are not taken at all. Musts are the Truffle Pasta with aged Parmesan – a decadent delight – both delicate and dynamic, the roasted, spiced carrots and the grilled chorizo manchego Panini. Wines by the glass never tasted better than in their super fine crystal stemware from Zalto (a collaboration with Mr. Sohm). Try the 2013 Vouvray Domaine Huet by Le Mont, and the 2012 Cotes de Nuits-Villages Les Essards by Antoine Lienhardt. Perfection.
DAY TWO: Stumptown Coffee OutPost at The Ace Hotel – a neighborhood favorite. A simple, smooth cup of java. Authentic Doppio Macchiato. Get it to go and be a ‘flaneur’.
Eataly–Lunch:at 23rd and 5th Avenue- Mario Batali’s– Authentic Italian Mecca delivers sensory overload. A Harrods food court for Italian foodies. With a curated Alessi outpost to satisfy the discerning designer. La pizza & la pasta served in an insalata de Finocchio – arugula, fennel, shaved parmigiano with lemon vinaigrette and a chewy/ crispy pizza with prosciutto & mozzarella. Molto bene. Simply satisfying.
THE SHOPPING — MOMA Design Store at 5th AV and 53Rd – get your artistic culture on. This is curated like the Museum with some hi -lo design objects heavy on the functional luxury. Some perennial favorites include the Sky Umbrella and the Yanagi flatwear.
Fishes Eddy—889 BROADWAY, Purveyor of American Sturdy ware. Hotel ware reimagined – Many items with humorous anecdotes. Dare you NOT to leave with a smile
THE SHOWS — “The Audience”: (Matinee) Starring the incomparable Helen Mirren at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre at west 45th St. A transformative tete a tete with the Queen and her successive Prime Ministers. Intelligent, witty and touching glimpse of the royal weekly behind the scenes meetings. This restrained and elegant production is directed by Stephan Daldry (“An Inspector Calls,” “Billy Elliot”) and designed by Bob Crowley (“Once,” “Glass Menagerie”).
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre at West 47th St. A mystery (it’s title is taken from a Sherlock Holmes quote) with brilliant perspective from the eyes of 15-year-old protagonist Christopher Boone—who describes himself as a mathematician with behavioral difficulties (identified as Asperger’s Syndrome). If anything, the play is about being an outsider, about differences. It is based on a novel by Mark Haddon, winner of 17 literary awards. The playwright is Simon Stephens (“A Doll’s House,” “The Cherry Orchard”). Alex Sharp, a 2014 Julliard graduate makes his extraordinary Broadway debut.
Honeymoon in Vegas: (Matinee) Starring Tony Danza at the Nederlander Theater at West 41st St. – Based on a screenplay by Andrew Bergman, with a rousing score by Jason Robert Brown- (a fine story teller like Stephen Sondheim – only funny, with the angst of Woody Allen). This has everything a Broadway musical needs – a splashy opening number with a catchy tune (Betsy), humor, shtick, romance, and flying Elvis’. And, yet, it has a surprising restraint, due in part because of a charming performance by Mr. Danza.
Falling in love is all about fateful timing: being in the right place at the right time.
Like most native New Englanders, I suspect, I’ve always enjoyed visiting Kennebunkport in the summer. (Warm days and fresh lobster on the Maine coast — how can you not swoon?) But as anyone in a relationship can tell you, it’s during life’s little storms – not under its fair skies – when love really reveals itself. Kennebunkport was walloped with a winter storm this Valentine’s Day, while me and my other-half were celebrating with an off-season weekend getaway. It could have been a disaster — but as fate would have it, it was just what we needed: a reason to slow down and soak in the sweet charm of a quintessential New England resort town. The place has a lot of heart.
If you haven’t bothered to visit Kennebunkport in its quieter season, now’s a good time. (In fact, during the weekend of Friday, March 13, the town is hosting a series of “Valentine’s Do-Over” promotions and events. More on that momentarily.) Kennebunkport in the off-season is quiet — very quiet. That’s part of the appeal, of course, though we didn’t expect it would be entering such serious hibernation mode when we checked in to the Kennebunkport Inn on Friday, February 13. As unluckiness would have it, a major winter storm – predicted to dump about two feet of snow amid hurricane-strength winds – was swiftly moving in, scheduled to hit Saturday night. The inn was ready to receive overnight lovebirds: a sparkling red “Valentine’s” tree (more tasteful than it sounds) glowed in the parlor, and a stack of souvenir pins reading “Love KPT” awaited at check-in. But several guests had already cancelled their stay, said the front desk clerk as she processed our arrival; hopefully, she added, we won’t lose power.
The good news was: if there was a place to be snowed in – it was here. The Kennebunkport Inn is part of the Kennebunkport Resort Collection, a portfolio of properties with distinct identities but a common, contemporary sheen that runs throughout. The Kennebunkport Inn is housed in a stately, rambling structure built in the 1890s but recently renovated. Our room – 214, perhaps not coincidentally for a Valentine’s getaway – had a casual elegance, as though Ralph Lauren had signed on board for an HGTV-aired interiors makeover show.
A vibrant palette of reds, white and blues made it a warm and welcoming space to nest after a filling dinner at One Dock, the inn’s restaurant and lounge housed in what feels like an ample living room. We dug in to contemporary American plates of mussels, bourbon-glazed pork belly and red wine-braised short ribs as a fireplace flickered to one side and a pianist tickled ivories to the other. After fighting Friday evening traffic out of Boston, this is just the right way to unwind.
Winter might be overstaying its welcome, but at least that allows for extended opportunity to enjoy some of New England’s snow-filled fun — and the Kennebunkport Inn can help guests make arrangements for everything from snowshoeing to sleigh rides. With a blizzard about to bear down, we weren’t in the position to take advantage. But there’s plenty to do and see even while keeping it low-key, from ducking into adorable art galleries and shops that line Dock Square (check out Minka and Abacus in particular for art, fashion accessories and gifts) to taking a sip from the area’s craft brew scene: upstairs from the Kennebunkport Brewing Company is Federal Jack’s, a casual neighborhood eatery for grabbing topnotch chowder and clam rolls alongside a pint of suds. Afterwards we took a quick drive to neighboring Kennebunk for treatments at The Spa at River’s Edge. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a spa snob, but I indulge often enough to offer strong context — and I was pleasantly surprised to find that my facial was one of the best I’ve had, period, in or outside of Boston’s higher-end Back Bay spots. (And at a predictably lower price point too, even if you add on the extra eye treatment. You should, by the way.)
By the time we slipped out of our robes and back into street clothes, the storm was starting to pick up the pace. So it was back to the Inn for a quick sip of bubbly before our dinner reservations at David’s KPT, the sleek, modern American at sibling property The Boathouse Waterfront Hotel, just across the Dock Square.
The three-minute trudge through swirling snowflakes was just long enough for a laugh before battening down in the window-lined riverside dining room that bustled with cocktailing couples (younger, compared to some of the other restaurants) for the standout meal of the weekend. The New England-inspired fare included a tender filet mignon with a perfect cauliflower-parmesan mash, skewers of citrus- and truffle-inflected shrimp and scallops, and plenty of fresh oysters from the raw bar. Outside the window, inches accumulated on a docked ship; it looked like something phantom Arctic pirates might hijack. But inside we were warm, rosy from wine and five years of Valentine’s Days. We hadn’t been counting on this interfering snowstorm, but in a world of constant digital connection – buzzing phones, rapidly refilling email inboxes – we were suddenly grateful for Mother Nature imposing upon us a moment to stop, slow down, and appreciate what was right in front of us. The timing was just right, and I found myself in love with Kennebunkport in a whole new way.
Visit DestinationKennebunkport.com to check out winter packages and special rates. Try to make it up for the “Valentine’s Do-Over” weekend on March 13-14, which also coincides with Maine Restaurant Week.
THE SCENE The Upper East Side. A luxury streamlined visit.
THE MUSTS: Ultimate destinations – all within 10 blocks.
THE EATS – Day One: Rev your engine with – Ralph’s coffee at the Polo Store 5th & 55th – THE best cup in the city – An exclusive blend of Nicaraguan, Peruvian, and Columbian beans. Pair it with a cured salmon sandwich on country bread with watercress and preserved lemons, and an all American chocolate walnut brownie (A secret recipe from Mr. Lauren’s mother-in-law.)
Day Two: Breakfast- La Viand Coffee Shop at 61st & Madison – real authentic diner for locals – can’t beat the eggs over easy, bacon, rye toast and hash browns – in and out in 20 minutes!
Dinner- Le Bilbouquet at 61st between Madison & Park – chic neighborhood spot –order the signature endive salad with granny apple, candied walnuts and Roquefort and the Branzino –practice your French with the uber charming maître d’s.
THE COCKTAIL – Sirios at the Pierre – sip the “PEAR SE” –grey goose pear, alchemia ginger vodka, pear puree, solerno, lemon juice or the “Bitter Love” – a potion of Greenhook Ginsmith gin, Campari, strawberry puree, lime juice.
THE SHOPPING – Bergdorf’s on 5th Ave for Old world experience, Barney’s on Madison Ave for New world experience, and Ralph Lauren Women’s store on Madison for a combination of the two– The Beaux Art Hotel Particular Style Building is a recent addition to the street – All three are a part of the true luxury retail fabric of New York.
THE SHOW – “The River” – Starring the charismatic Hugh Jackman at the Circle in the Square at 50th –get “hooked” on this darkly romantic tale about a fisherman in a remote cabin and the 2 women he entertains there. 1 hour 25 minutes with no intermission.
An energetic young Dutch couple, Iris Tonies and Arnout Krediet, run an innovative art school called ESTUDIO NOMADA, located on one of the twisting stone streets in the heart of Barcelona’s historic Gothic Quarter.
The “nomad” studio offers workshops for individuals and families who want to spend a week or two exploring Barcelona and environs with creative local types who will show them local art destinations through the eyes of the artist. Drawing and painting classes, as well as a museum visit or two, are included in the workshop in the city. But that’s not all! The school has just opened an artist residency program in a stunning historic macia in the nearby wine country of Penedés. A day in this lovely setting, surrounded by vineyards (lunch and wine tasting included!), can be added to the workshop, which is hand-tailored for the visitor by Iris. There are stops to sketch or paint the enchanting vineyards and olive groves, along with a visit to a fantastic family-run winery. All of Spain’s cava, the champagne of Catalonia, comes from this photogenic region, an hour outside of Barcelona.
The price for this unique experience, all art materials and museum admissions included, is 50 euros per person per day in the city, and an additional 80 euros for the vineyard/art tour.
To see the lovely wine-country location, take a look at the website for Residency Mas Els Igols and be sure to check out the A.I.R. artist-in-residency.
Carrer de la Palma de Sant Just, 7
Arnout Krediet | Founder @ Estudio Nómada
Official Estudio Nómada website
In medieval times, knights fought the battle between good and evil, light and darkness, right and wrong…today, some young, modern-day knights are facing an even tougher battle.
CALLIE THE CONQUEROR
Callie Herschfield is a tiny wisp of a thing, standing less than five feet tall and weighing only 80 pounds. The 14 year old from Scituate has a soft voice and sweet smile, but don’t let this fool you; she is one tough young lady.
“She’s a warrior,” said Donna Green.
Callie’s “warrior” status isn’t because she’s dressed a little bad-ass this day in a black Aerosmith T-shirt, jeans and black boots, or because she’s wearing funky, oversized aviator sunglasses. It isn’t even because she casually strapped on a helmet and climbed on a big — really big — motorcycle with her dad Ken.
Callie is a warrior because she kicked cancer’s butt — at a place called Magical Moon Farm.
Magical Moon is a 160-year-old farm on five acres of land in Marshfield. Quite literally, it is a magical place where wind chimes echo down the stone path to the butterfly garden and fairy figurines peak out from among the flowers. It’s where massive sunflowers tower over the chicken coop and a lone peacock deigns to live among the many hens and roosters there.
Adding to the mystical scene, towards the back of the farm, up a small incline are twelve brightly colored chairs in a semi-circle in front of a fire pit. The wooden chairs have high backs reminiscent of medieval times – sort of a Knights of the Round Table, but through a child’s eyes.
The property was once a sea captain’s home, then a boarding home, before becoming an auction house, but in it’s latest adaptation, the farm, with its organic gardens and whimsical air, is a haven for children facing cancer; a place where they can feel strong, empowered, and not alone. [huge_it_slider id=”5″]
Donna Green, famed illustrator of an edition of the children’s book classic, The Velveteen Rabbit, bought the property 15 years ago. She was looking for a big barn in which to store her books, what she found when she first saw the place was a huge four-story barn and an even bigger vision of what she must do with the property.
“The property had an essence when I first came here,” she said. “I saw it completely done with orchards and gardens, animals and fun things for kids to do. I envisioned children learning about healthy ways to become survivors of life-threatening diseases and conditions.”
Her vision was to bring sick children here and give them something else to focus on: gardening, writing, music, good food, the arts and learning ways to survive.
She would also invite the child to take on a mission, a project to make the world a better place. The project would help the child focus on something other than chemo, radiation and hair loss. The goal: knighthood and finding their inner strength.
ALISON THE AWESOME
Alison was the child of one of Green’s friends, and the first “knight” of Magical Moon Farm. She was 19 years old and battling leukemia.
“She was a beautiful artist,” said Green. “She felt like my own daughter, I felt like my own soul was inside of her.”
Alison was the inspiration for a beautiful butterfly garden on the farm. Her picture stands at the gate, in her memory. Alison the Awesome became an Angel Knight in 2008.
CALLIE THE CONQUEROR?
“I wasn’t really into it, I didn’t care. I was…not really happy.”
Not exactly a magical reaction to the farm, but an honest one on the part of a sick kid. Callie, then 10 years old, was in the midst of chemotherapy, had no hair and was brought to a farm where she didn’t know anyone.
Slowly, she became part of it. She started working with Green on painting the things she loved. She adored sea life and Green sent her to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on Cape Cod to go below with scientists and learn about endangered sea life. Callie got to feed a sea turtle and that was the subject of her first painting. Since that time she’s painted numerous others. She always gravitated to the animals at the farm. “She has a way with animals that is magical,” said Green.
“I would just go there and there would be other people to hang out with, other kids who would make you feel better,” said Callie. “Some of them were sick, some of them were just there. Everyone knows what’s going on but they’re all here to support you.”
Callie’s dad Ken noticed a big transformation in his daughter after she started going to Magical Moon.
“She was young and quiet, (then) I think she got more confident,” he said.
And that is why Callie and her family support Magical Moon Farm, by riding a motorcycle.
On a hot Sunday afternoon, too hot for the end of September, 200 bikers gathered in an Elks Lodge parking lot in Weymouth to take part in a special ride to raise money for the Magical Moon Foundation. Despite 80-degree temperatures, many wore jeans and leather. Black was the popular color and multiple tattoos the norm. On the outside, this looked like one tough crowd, on the inside though, it was all mush. The ride took them past the magical farm they were supporting, where the children waited on the side of the road to cheer them.
Green said the kids at her farm often times feel like misfit toys. “Bikers can be misfit toys too,” said Green. “These big, tough bikers in leather had tears in their eyes.”
Callie the Conqueror rode tall and proud behind her father on that very big bike. She rode to celebrate four years cancer free and also for the other kids at Magical Moon Farm, facing what she faced and hoping to beat it too.
Green has lost some of her knights; you can see the sadness deep in her eyes, but instead of focusing on the sorrow, Green turns it around and teaches her knights-in-training to be strong and to be survivors.
“I focus on the positive, that’s what I tell the children, ‘Focus on the positive, detach from negativity and turn every challenge into an opportunity,’” said Green.
“Yes, it’s difficult, but it’s all about living — it’s not about dying.”
Learn more about The Magical Moon Farm
Last night Jen Royle appeared on ABC prime time television to cook her way onto the hit show The Taste, a kind of “Voice” format where the judges love you or leave you. Jen and Steve Dish It Up on the food combo that got their thumbs up and what it was like to drop everything and head to LA.
The question is…does she make it to the next round?
Now for part 2 of our series on Top Chef alums: Boston’s dining scene has always been a vibrant one. With such easy access to an abundance of farm-raised, season-changing ingredients, our region has always been much more than the “land of bean and cod.” Our corner of the country has always been quietly pushing culinary boundaries. (Thanksgiving? Totally America’s first dinner party.)
Faison placed runner-up on the very first season of “Top Chef,” and earlier this month she scored the number two spot again on the inaugural season of “Top Chef Duels,” a spin-off that pits popular alums in culinary face-offs. (She also competed in a special “Top Chef All Stars” season.) When she’s not in front of the camera, you’ll find her in the kitchen at Sweet Cheeks Q, her popular barbecue restaurant steps from Fenway Park. With its smartly sourced meats, house made sauces and creative, bourbon-drenched cocktails served in mason jars, there’s a slightly elevated touch to her down-home fare.
Pro Tip: Chilly out? Fear not. Sweet Cheeks’ popular beer garden has a retractable roof, so you can still drink outside (sort of) when the cool weather comes.
Mark Gaier & Clark Frasier
This culinary power couple competed together on “Top Chef Masters.” But they first made their mark at Arrows, an Ogunquit icon that introduced locals to “farm to table” dining long before the phrase became ubiquitous. They still operate a slightly more casual restaurant, M.C. Perkins Cove, up in that resort town. But earlier this year they opened their first Boston spot: M.C. Spiedo, at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel, a glitzy option for historic Italian cooking based on the traditions of – what else? – Renaissance-era cuisine.
Pro Tip: How down to detail are the recipes? Check out “Leonardo’s Salad,” is comprised of a list of ingredients found in Da Vinci’s notebooks.
Kish was chef de cuisine at Barbara Lynch’s fine dining destination Menton when she won the 10th season of “Top Chef.” Since then, she’s moved on and parlayed her fame into a number of opportunities: from roving the country for special cooking engagement to scoring an endorsement deal with Rembrandt toothpaste. She hasn’t yet settled into a new permanent home, so keep an eye on her Twitter account (@KristenLKish) to see where she’s cooking next.
Pro Tip: In this case, tip your hat. Kish made “Top Chef” history by being the first contestant to win after being (temporarily eliminated). She made a comeback in the show’s “Last Chance Kitchen” and wound up only the second female winner to date.
He may not have won the inaugural season of “Top Chef Masters,” but the star chef behind Via Matta, Tico, and Alta Strada says he would “absolutely” return to reality TV again. “Although it’s really stressful and demanding, I’m competitive and seek vindication,” says Schlow. “I understand the challenges a little better and hope that given the opportunity I would fair a little better on the show.”
Pro Tip: Traveling? Good news. Schlow recently opened some new restuarants outside the Hub: Cavatina at the Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood, and a Washington, DC brand of Tico.
Another “Top Chef Masters” alum, Sortun is the major talent behind Oleana, a Turkish and Eastern Mediterranean restaurant that earns its recurring recognition as one of the area’s best restaurants. But late last year she also opened Sarma in Somerville, a hip destination for cocktails and small plates. And her Sofra Bakery continues to satisfy sweet teeth, specifically.
Pro Tip: Want to try your hand at the plates that this James Beard-winning chef puts together? Sortun is also the author of a cookbook, “Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean.”
My husband’s very favorite pasta sauce is also one of the world’s simplest. We both fell in love with this Roman specialty, a creamy twirl of fresh pasta, hot with crushed black pepper, during our time in residence at the American Academy in Rome, after a friend introduced us to the charms of the old Jewish Ghetto. There, on the Piazza delle Cinque Scuole, behind an unmarked door at number 30, is one of the smallest trattorias in the city, Sora Margherita.
You need to become a “member” of Sora Margherita because of local licensing, but this essentially means filling in a form. We were introduced in this loud and crowded little watering hole to the simple marvel that is pasta cacio e pepe. The cooks at Sora Margherita serve it over a delectable egg tonnarelli (a variation on long, flat fettucine), but any long pasta will do. The quality of the pasta is as important as the freshness of the few ingredients.
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I’m assuming if you live in Boston you have been to Empire, one of the most delicious Asian and sushi places in the city.
I would go into length about the menu, but it would take me forever to list all the things I love. At Empire there is something for everyone. Don’t like sushi? Not a problem. Order up some pot stickers, lo mein and/or fried rice and you’ll think you’re in Chinatown, minus the disgusting decor and drunk college kids at 3 a.m. The great thing about Empire is it may very well be the only place I can go to eat and drink at the same time, if that makes any sense.(Translation-I can eat and drink just enough to still have the desire to stay and check out the eye candy hanging out at the bar area.) The service is never less than impeccable on any given night at any given time, and to me, that is one of the greatest achievements of this restaurant. The waitresses and bartenders are easy on the eyes but quick and efficient at the same time. In my opinion, it’s hard to hire a full staff of gorgeous human beings who also perform their job well. AND when it comes to cocktails, Empire is not lacking in tasty beverages. I’m in love with the Emperor’s Mule (I’m on a Moscow Mule kick lately) or the Asian Pear, all vodka-based drinks.
The food? Sky’s the limit. The sushi is fresh and beyond creative, but not complicated and confusing. My favorite roll at Empire is the Hamachi Tartar Roll, a citrus (lime) yellow tail tartar with cucumber and avocado and more, and the Red Dragon Roll, which is blue fin tuna with a bit of spice. If you have $24 to spare, order the lobster cupcakes, a deep-fried morsel of goodness you’ll dream about for the rest of your life.
This is legit my go-to spot for “girls night out” because you really can’t go wrong. It can be a singles spot, a place for groups to meet after work, and even a birthday party destination. In fact, I think I’ve been to Empire for all of the above, including New Years Eve two years ago. Yes, with my posse of girls. Some guy at the bar told me my arms were fat. Actually, I think his exact words were, “get your fat arms out of my face.” He was really sweet. Needless to say we did not go home together that night.
The Boston Bruins have been known to drop in at Empire as well, especially when Shawn Thornton was a member of the B’s. I’ve never seen a fight at Empire, my friend made out with a hot guy in the hallway last summer, and I lost my $375 car keys and leather jacket there last fall. I mean…so much can happen at this place.
My only gripe with Empire is it can be somewhat loud past 9pm and the music is funky. If I want to hear loud music past 11pm, there better be some Michael Jackson on the playlist. Unfortunately, you won’t find that at Empire. So if you’re headed for some conversation, pick another spot. One more thing: The cab situation can be tricky as well. With Strega right next door, it can be a nightmare/free-for-all getting home and that is nothing less than a pain in the ass. And frankly, I’m too old to worry about that crap.
Check out styleboston at the Empire opening
Thank you for joining me on my first food-related blog post. I am thrilled to dip my pen, or keyboard, into the culinary arts – and what better way to start my new career than a witty blog post about my second favorite thing in life (next to sports of course)…food.
As many of you already know, I am an avid home cook. To foster this, I am attending culinary school in January (Cambridge School of Culinary Arts) and I recently finished a food-related project in Los Angeles. I also wrote my first cookbook over the summer, “Bullied Into Cooking,” which helps support an anti-bullying campaign in all 134 Boston Public schools. I’m in the process of writing my second book that will be out in early December.
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“Give me juicy, autumnal fruit, ripe and red from the orchard.” -Walt Whitman
The first day of autumn, for me, is like Christmas. I anxiously await the turning of the leaves and that virgin brush of crisp air like a kid waits for Santa Claus. The sight of mums and pumpkins at the grocery store makes me absolutely giddy. This is also my favorite time to cook – the markets are bursting with the bounty of the harvest and the cool evenings make it ok to crank up the oven. That smoky old grill you’ve been using all summer is tired and ain’t got nothin’ on the beautiful roasts and casseroles that fill your home with amazing aromas.
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I have a confession: I owe my first glimpse of the northern lights to my terrible smoking habit. Pacing around in blast-freezer conditions, I was puffing away on my after-dinner cigarette (my face and hands progressing from cold, through stinging, to completely numb) when I happened to glance to the skies. There it was. A faint beam of eerie green light snaked overhead, curling and intensifying, then slowly unfurling into a delicate, shimmering curtain. As I watched, a second swathe of rosy pink light began to materialise. I was mesmerised. Eventually I snapped out of my trance and burst into the restaurant to share the news. A stampede for the door ensued.
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Some of Boston’s best foodies gathered at Davio’s last week to put their taste buds to the test!
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