Sunday, December 27, 2015

Parsnip

          I recently tried Parnsip in Harvard Square for a light dinner with a friend. The space is huge and includes a more formal dining room and bar, as well as a lounge upstairs which feels more cozy and casual. The craft cocktail menus are the same in both spaces, but the lounge offers lower priced small plates and apps. We started in the lounge, but moved to the bar in the main dining room so we could try the full dinner menu. While looking over the menu we enjoyed some delicious and creative cocktails; I loved the Sazerac made with whiskey and absinthe.


Sazerac: old overholt rye whiskey, raw sugar, peychaud's bitters, absinthe

          We shared the cauliflower cumin brûlée, which was exactly what it sounded like: a creme brûlée with puréed cauliflower! The texture was perfect- a slightly sweet torched layer on top of an incredibly creamy cauliflower custard. This came with a few pieces of seared cauliflower on the side, as well as some apple and golden raisins. This dish was the main reason we'd wanted to try parsnip, and it definitely lived up to our expectations!
Roast Cauliflower and cumin brulee with apple and golden raisins
          For our main course, we shared the lemon gnocchi which was equally amazing! This was a generous portion of potato gnocchi in a lemon butter sauce with seared Brussels sprouts and hazelnuts. Although I'd shown restraint with the bread before our meal, I couldn't stop myself from using it to scoop up all of the sauce left on the plate!
Lemon gnocchi with brussels sprouts, hazelnuts, and sage

          We finished with another round of cocktails, although the desserts were tempting. I definitely want to come back and try them sometime!

Big City Mule: indigenous fresh pressed apple vodka, fresh lime, ginger beer
          The service at Parnsip was top notch, in addition to the food and atmosphere. It's perfect for a casual night with friends, a romantic date, or a business dinner!

Parsnip Restaurant and Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, December 26, 2015

An Evening with McD's at Fairsted Kitchen

          My first job ever was at McDonald's, where I worked throughout high school. So it seems fitting, like coming full circle, that I recently had the privilege of attending An Evening with McD's - a Top Chef Style Event at Fairsted Kitchen with former contestant and Chef Stephanie Cmar. I went into the even knowing only that it would feature a three course tasting menu, created by Stephanie using only ingredients from McDonald's. I wasn't sure what to expect, and the dishes completely blew me away!


          We started with some pineapple mango mocktails (inspired by the smoothies at McCafe) and fries at the french fry bar.  The fries had an herb seasoning, which is available in some of the international McD's locations.



          The first course was a chicken croquette with cilantro lime sauce, cucumber, peanut salad, and wilted romaine puree. I wondered how a dish like this was possible using only McDonald's ingredients, and our hosts explained that McDonald’s premium salads and McWraps contain fresh vegetables often sourced from local distributors. They use fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, and each salad contains about 3 cups of vegetables and up to 16 varieties of premium greens.





          Next was a french fry gnocchi with sausage and beef bolognese. Stephanie actually took McD's fries and put them through a meat grinder to turn them into the dough for gnocchi! The beef was perfect for a bolognese sauce; it comes flash frozen to seal in flavor and no additives or preservatives.


          For dessert we had doughnuts made from scratch by Stephanie using fresh eggs and whole wheat flour which are all used in McD's baked goods and breakfast items (McD's uses USDA grade A fresh cracked eggs and North American grown whole wheat flour ).


          
          While the food at this event is sadly not available at McDonald's, it was a lot of fun and a chance to learn about some of the more healthy alternatives available. Kids can have apples as a side instead of fries, the salads are made with fresh vegetables (with a few low calorie dressings available), and I enjoy the egg white delight McMuffin as a lower calorie (250) option when I need breakfast on the go! As a fan of Top Chef, it was also fun to be there firsthand for what Stephanie described as a quickfire challenge like experience. I hope to visit Fairsted Kitchen again soon and try some of her other creations.

This post is in collaboration with McDonald's. All photos courtesy of Debbie Grubstein

Fairsted Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

2015 Holiday Gift Guide

          Christmas is almost here, but there's still time to snag some great gifts for the food and wine lovers in your life! Here's a gift guide with my top picks for this holiday season.

Boston Wine Expo Tickets:

Cheers to my favorite annual wine event! The Boston Wine Expo is coming in just a couple of months, and this year will be celebrating the 25th Anniversary. Enjoy 100s of wines, seminars, cooking demos, and more! Get $10 off your tickets during the month of December.


Fresh Herb Salts from Cucina Caterina:

These amazing salts made with fresh herbs are my current obsession, and they've even been featured in the Boston Globe! Produced by Caterina Cataliotti (originally from Florence) using fresh herbs from her garden in Dover, these are guaranteed to make any dish taste great! My personal favorite is the Florence blend, and you can't go wrong with the sampler pack available here.




McCreas Salted Caramels

These salted caramels come in several different flavors, and are made locally in Boston! They're a perfect stocking stuffer or gift for anyone with a sweet tooth. Check them out here.

How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman:

I received this book as a gift years ago, and to this day it's still my favorite. Perfect for a beginner or more experienced cook! You can find it here.


Omega Masticating Juicer:

This juicer is on my personal wish list for it's great reviews and affordable pricing. Most masticating juicers (best for making green juice) are upwards of $400 but this is the perfect balance price and quality. You can find it on Amazon here.


What's on your gift list or wish list this holiday season? Let me know in the comments!

 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Coppersmith

          Coppersmith is one of Southie's newest additions, so I decided to check them out for an early Birthday celebration this weekend. It's a bar and restaurant with food trucks inside, so you can order traditional entrees from the kitchen or tapas style dishes from the food truck menu. The space is big and open, and if you order from the food trucks you can watch your dishes being prepared from the dining room.


          When we sat down, we were greeted immediately with a basket of BBQ popcorn. The flavor was subtle, and I loved the idea!


          We started with a couple of appetizers including the beef carpaccio made with aged ribeye, parmesan vinaigrette, and fried capers and a few of each of the oysters for the evening. Both were excellent, especially the combination of the parmesan and fried capers with the carpaccio.



          I ordered the scallops for my main course, which were presented beautifully and tasted even better with sides of grapefruit, quinoa, and cauliflower puree.


          I stole a few bites of the fiance's roasted chicken with braised onions and kale, and it was also delicious. The skin was perfectly crisp which is exactly how I like it.


          The duck fat potatoes were big enough to be an entree on their own; we barely made a dent in these despite how good they were!


         My favorite part was the dessert menu; almost every choice had chocolate which is always my favorite. I went for the candy bar with chocolate, toasted fluff, dulce de leche, and hazelnuts. It was just as good as it looked, although I enjoyed the fiance's bread pudding with whiskey, caramel, and bacon just as much!



          We didn't try any of the options from the food trucks, so I'll definitely have to make a trip back just for those in the near future!

Coppersmith Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Brunch at Fireplace

          I recently tried the Fireplace in Brookline for brunch with some friends. The place was packed, and after trying the food I definitely understood why! We all ordered some variation of eggs benedict- there are several versions available including traditional with ham, lobster, smoked salmon, and duck confit. I couldn't decide between the duck or the lobster so I went with the lobster and a side of duck sausage.





          Both were delicious, the eggs were cooked perfectly and there was plenty of lobster meat. The duck sausage was so creative, I definitely want to come back and try the confit benedict!

          The one disappointment was that they had run out of donuts, but our server suggested the bread pudding as an alternative. It came with vanilla ice cream and lemon sauce, a perfect ending to a great meal.


          I would definitely return to Fireplace again for brunch, or to try them for dinner. The cozy atmosphere would also make it a great date spot.

Fireplace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, December 4, 2015

Clover Food Lab

          I finally made it into Clover's brick and mortar location in Harvard Square after wanting to try it for a couple of years now. The food was fresh and delicious with tons of interesting flavors.

          I started with the African peanut soup, which had a rich creamy texture and just a hint of spice. It was perfect for a cool fall day.


          Next was the chickpea plate, which came with fried chickpea balls (similar to falafel), made in house hummus, tomato and cucumber salad, pickled veggies, tahini, and more. This was a deconstructed version of the sandwich, it was filling but felt much lighter.


           My friend loved the special sandwich  loaded with fried and pickled veggies.


         Clover is a vegetarian restaurant, although the fresh ingredients and unique flavors will please any palate. They also offer a great selection of craft beers and interesting drinks.

Clover Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Russo's Now Offers Delivery via CartFresh

          I love Russo's in Watertown, but it's not always the most convenient to get to or find parking. I was thrilled to learn that they've recently partnered with CartFresh to offer delivery in the Boston area! Naturally I jumped at the chance to try out the service, and was excited by the selection of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and specialty foods available.


          My order arrived packed with plenty of ice packs in two giant bins, which I emptied and left out for pickup the next day. It was so easy, and everything was fresh and packaged perfectly! The delicious Fomu dairy free ice cream, coconut and honey cake, salami and aged gouda all went within the first couple of days.


          I sauteed the kale with a little bit of olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper for an easy and healthy side with some pulled pork sliders.

  

          I would definitely use CartFresh again to order Russo's for my regular grocery shopping or for when I'm hosting a dinner or other special occasion.  Delivery is $6.99 or $12.99 depending on where you're located, which is comparable with other delivery services. Plus Russo's is so cheap, even with the delivery fee it's a better value than some of the more pricey food stores in the are!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Harvest

          Harvest Restaurant is an iconic restaurant located in Harvard Square, that serves local seasonal cuisine and over the years has been a training ground for several of the Boston's most renowned Chefs including Mary Dumont, Barbara Lynch, Frank McClelland, Sara Moulton, Lydia Shire, Bob Kinkead, and more.

           This year Harvest is turning 40, and the celebration will last all month! From November 1 through November 30, 2015, you are invited to celebrate Harvest’s 40th Anniversary with a series of in-restaurant events including:

A Special Anniversary Tasting Menu
The Anniversary Tasting Menu is inspired by the chefs who have made their mark at Harvest over the past four decades, and their signature dishes during their time at the restaurant.
  • A three-course menu $48; $68 with wine pairing (see menu)
  • A six-course menu $68; $88 with wine pairing (see menu)
Anniversary Month Specials
Guests celebrating their own birthday or anniversary will receive 15% of their total bill (excluding alcohol, tip and gratuity). Just note the celebration when making your reservation and mention to your server.

Anniversary Toast
Throwback specialty cocktails priced at 1970s prices, like the “Harvest Wallbanger” for $2.95

Anniversary Prizes:
Guests who share their past and present Harvest memories and photos on Instagram throughout the month of November using #HarvestThenandNow and @DineatHarvest will earn the chance to win one of three prizes, including:
    •    Brunch for four at Harvest
    •    Dinner for two at Harvest
    •    $50 Gift Card]
    
           I had a chance to preview the six course tasting menu with wine pairings, and it was amazing! Here is what you can expect (although a few of my courses were modified slightly to accommodate lactose intolerance). 

Amuse: Beet salad with walnut puree


Onion Soup Gratinee: 
Albert Bichot, Pinot Noir - Burgundy, France 2012
Inspired by Laura Boehmer, Harvest Chef in the late 70s
Soft Egg Ravioli:
 Ricotta, Arugula Pesto & Foraged Mushrooms
La Grange de Piaugier, Granache Blend - Cotes du Rhone, France 2013
Tyler Kinnett, Harvest Executive Chef
Andouille & Wild American Shrimp Gumbo: 
Hugel, Riesling - Alsace, France 2012
Inspired by Chris Schlesinger, Harvest Chef - late 70s/early 80s
Venison Denver Leg:
Braised Endive & Mustard Sauce
Rock & Vine, Cabernet Sauvignon - North Coast, California 2013
Inspired by Bob Kinkead, Harvest Chef in the 1980s
Apple & Fig Tart Tatin:
Creme Fraiche Sherbet, Long Pepper Caramel & Granola
Chateau Bel Air, Semillon - Bordeaux, France 2012
Brian Mercury, Executive Pastry Chef, Harvest
Queen of Sheba Cake:
Chocolate Almond Cake, Coffee Foam, Dried Apricot Sauce & Almond Butter
Marenco, Pineto, Brachettod d'Acqui - Piedmont, Italy 2013
Brian Mercury, Executive Pastry Chef, Harvest
           All of the dishes were incredible; beautiful flavor, execution and presentation and the wine pairings were perfect. I highly recommend trying one of the tasting menus this month, they are a great value ($88 for six courses including wine pairings is unheard of) and a perfect opportunity to try several dishes and really get a feel for what the restaurant is all about (past and present). 

Harvest Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato