3.30.2012

When One Door Closes...


We sold our condo!

For a while now, we've been wanting to buy a house, something with a little yard for Gunner to run around in, a couple extra bedrooms so we can actually have guests, and a little more space for us and all our stuff. While we haven't found and bought a house yet, we are psyched that we sold our condo and now have the freedom to jump on a house when we do find one.

At the same time, I'm definitely going to miss living in Inman Square. Jeff and I have so many memories not only in the condo but also in our neighborhood. It's where we first met and where we went on our first date. This was the first place we lived together and the place where Jeff proposed to me. I'm sad to leave but excited to see what the future holds!

We spent the weekend moving most of our stuff to storage and some of it to Jeff's parents' house, where we'll be staying temporarily. Things might get a little quiet on the blog as we adjust to our new commute and new living arrangements and spend much of our free time house hunting.

I'm not sure how much cooking I'll be doing since I won't have my own kitchen for a bit, but I do hope to get a few posts up here and there, and I'm sure we'll be checking out some new-to-us restaurants near where we'll be staying that I'll want to share with you.

What's going on in your life?

3.26.2012

Restaurant Week Boston: The Blue Room


Some restaurants know how to do restaurant week, and others, well, let's just say they don't put their best foot forward. Luckily, The Blue Room falls in the former category. When my friend and I were making plans to get together and she suggested we head to The Blue Room, I was in. I really miss The Blue Room. I used to go to the lunch grill almost every week in the summertime when I worked just around the corner, and it had been a while since I'd been back.

We happened to be making our plans during Boston Restaurant Week, and over the years I've learned that restaurant week can be pretty hit or miss. I had a really good feeling about Blue Room though, and it turned out my gut was right.

We were seated right away at a plush booth with a great view of the open kitchen. Our waiter greeted us promptly, asked our choice of water, and offered to answer any questions about the menu.


We looked over the restaurant week options and decided to add on the optional wine pairings. I loved how each dish had a particular wine selected to go with it. After we placed our order, our waiter brought over some fresh bread and butter, which was soon followed by some complimentary marinated olives.


My friend and I are really good at sharing, so we make sure not to order the same thing when we go out together. We decided to split the crispy artichokes with mozzarella di bufala and arugula salad for our first courses.

We were both surprised at the appearance of the artichoke. Whenever I've had fried artichokes, they've been battered or breaded. This was neither. It was simply the artichoke fried on its own. Paired with mozzarella di bufala and lightly salted, the crisp artichoke was a delight. (I only wished there had been more than one, as the menu did say artichokes.) With it we sipped the Malvasia, Pietrantonj, 2010.


The arugula salad featured pecorino, honey, and pistachios. It was lightly dressed and had great sweet and salty contrasts to pair with the peppery greens. The wine selected to go with this dish was the Vermentino di Sardegna, Argiolas, 2010.


For entrees we shared the vermicelli with preserved tomatoes, capers, and garlic and the pork scaloppine with polenta. The vermicelli dish featured thin strands of pasta and richly flavored, sweet tomato sauce and was paired with Cannanau di Sardegna, Vigne Surrau, 2009, a sweet red wine.


The savory, buttery pork scaloppine sat atop a super smooth and creamy wood-fired polenta, circled by flavorful oil, and was paired with a palate-pleasing white: Grillo, Valle dell'Acate, "Zagra," 2010. I was definitely pleased with both dishes, finding them flavorful and just the perfect size.


Unfortunately, we had to cut our evening out short when my friend received a call from her boyfriend. He and a friend were locked out on the back deck and had no way of getting back in the apartment and out to the basketball games they had tickets for that evening.

This was no problem for Blue Room. They simply packed up our desserts to go. We brought them back to my friend's apartment and ate them there. They traveled surprisingly well too (though these photos don't do them justice).

The torta caprese with chocolate sauce and almond crema was rich and nutty and satisfied our chocolate cravings.


But the winning dessert for both of us was the blood orange panna cotta with olive oil caramel sauce. I love panna cotta, but I love it even more when the texture is perfect, as it was here. The olive oil caramel sauce was smooth and sweet, and we chased it around the to-go box with spoonfuls of panna cotta and blood orange, scooping up as much as we could.


We had a lovely evening with great food, interesting wines, and attentive, friendly service. Thank you, Blue Room, for doing restaurant week right.

Did you make any restaurant week reservations?

Blue Room on Urbanspoon

3.23.2012

Restaurant Week Portsmouth & The Seacoast

You probably know that Restaurant Week Boston is happening right now, but do you also know that Restaurant Week Portsmouth & The Seacoast started yesterday and runs through March 31? And do you know how easy it is to get to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, from Boston?

I actually bought my wedding dress in Portsmouth and used the trips up there to try on dresses as an excuse to dine at some Portsmouth restaurants. (You can believe I'll be trying out more when I go back up for fittings! What? Is a girl trying to fit into a wedding dress not supposed to eat?) On one trip my friend Carrie and I ate breakfast sandwiches at Popovers and had lunch at Surf, a seafood restaurant with a modern feel and water views.





On another trip my mom and I savored the tasting menu at Cava, and she and my sister and I checked out Portsmouth Baking Company too.





In the fall I went back with a group of Boston bloggers and had dinner at Black Trumpet Bistro during Portsmouth's fall restaurant week.




Each time I go to Portsmouth, I find something new. It's really a cute little town for wandering around, shopping, and, of course, eating.

The weather lately has been perfect for taking day trips. If you've got an itch to get out of the city for the day, why not spend it in Portsmouth?

You could take a brewery tour at Redhook . . .


. . . grab a snack at Portsmouth Baking Company . . .


. . . stroll around Strawberry Banke . . .

Photo courtesy of Daisy

. . . and have dinner at a participating restaurant (3 courses for $29.95). If I had time to get away for a day (or even just the evening), I'd be making a reservation at Cava. I'm already counting down the days to my fitting in July -- I'm sure I can convince my mom to go back!

Oh, and I don't want to leave out the Seacoast... Robert's Maine Grill in Kittery is participating in restaurant week too. My mom and I go to Robert's at least once a year. I get cravings for their mussels a la Howard, the most wonderful combination of mussels, fennel, sausage, and cream. Some of my favorite days have involved shopping at the Kittery outlets and stopping for lunch or an early dinner at Robert's with my mom.

Have you spent much time in Portsmouth? What are your favorite things to do there?

3.21.2012

Chicken, Broccoli, And Cheese Egg Rolls


With inspiration from my chicken teriyaki egg rolls and half a package of egg roll wrappers leftover, I decided to make another batch of egg rolls -- this time using chicken, broccoli, and cheese to fill the wrappers. I added a little Dijon mustard for a hint of flavor. These were a big hit. The crunchy, fried egg roll wrappers gave way to moist chicken and melty cheese for a quick, easy, satisfying meal.

Chicken, Broccoli, And Cheese Egg Rolls

Ingredients

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in strips
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets, chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 ounces mild cheddar cheese, shredded
10 egg roll wrappers
Vegetable oil, for frying

Preparation

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat butter in large skillet over medium-high heat until melted. Add chicken in single layer and cook about 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Transfer to cutting board.


Cook broccoli in skillet for 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Transfer to bowl.


Cut chicken into bite-size pieces and add to bowl with broccoli. Stir in Dijon mustard and cheddar cheese.


Clean skillet, pour in a shallow layer of oil, about 1/4 inch deep, and heat oil to 350 degrees.

Set out a small bowl of water. Working with one egg roll wrapper at a time, with a corner facing you, place a generous spoonful of filling in center of wrapper.


Fold bottom up over filling. Fold sides in. Then wet finger and wet top edges of egg roll wrapper, fold top over, and press to seal. Repeat with remaining wrappers.

Fry egg rolls three or four at a time, about 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until golden brown.


Transfer to paper towel-lined plate and serve.


These make a complete meal, meat and veggies in one compact package, but you could always serve them with rice or a side salad.


What kind of egg rolls would you make?

3.19.2012

Chicken Teriyaki Egg Rolls


For the most part I enjoy making extravagant, time-intensive meals -- I find it fun, challenging, and the results are usually very rewarding -- but sometimes my energy level is flagging and I just want to get dinner on the table. For those times convenience is key, and if I can make something quickly, nearly effortlessly, and with very few ingredients, I consider that a win. And that's how these chicken teriyaki egg rolls came about.


All I needed to make them were egg roll wrappers, teriyaki sauce, chicken tenderloins, half a red pepper, and some scallions.


The egg rolls came together quickly, and while I prepared them, I threw some white rice in my rice cooker and steamed a little broccoli over the rice to make a complete meal.



Chicken Teriyaki Egg Rolls

Ingredients

10 chicken tenderloins (about 1 pound)
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
1/2 large red pepper, cut in strips, strips cut in thirds
3 scallions, sliced on bias
10 egg roll wrappers
Vegetable oil, for frying

Preparation

Marinate chicken tenderloins in 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce for at least 15 minutes (or according to directions on bottle).

In large skillet cook chicken with sauce over medium-high heat, 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until cooked through.


Transfer to cutting board.

Add pepper strips and two-thirds of the sliced scallions to skillet, and cook just until peppers start to soften, 1 to 2 minutes, adding extra teriyaki sauce as needed. Transfer to plate.


Clean skillet, and pour in a shallow layer of oil for frying, about 1/4-inch deep. Heat oil to 350 degrees.

Slice each chicken tenderloin into about 5 pieces.


Set out a small bowl of water. Working with one egg roll wrapper at a time, with a corner facing you, transfer 5 tenderloin pieces and some peppers and scallions to center of wrapper.


Fold bottom up over filling. Fold sides in.


Then wet finger and wet top edges of egg roll wrapper, fold top over, and press to seal. Repeat with remaining wrappers.


Fry egg rolls three or four at a time, about 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until golden brown.



Transfer to paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle remaining scallions on top of egg rolls and serve.


The egg rolls are definitely best eaten right away, but leftover egg rolls can be reheated in the toaster oven.


What are your go-to 5-ingredient meals?

3.17.2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


I look forward to St. Patrick's Day every year for the excuse to make corned beef. This year I tried a recipe from Cook's Country, and it came out perfectly. The beef had great flavor and was super-tender. The carrots and potatoes cook in the braising liquid from the corned beef picking up some of the seasoning. (And you can also cook cabbage in with the other veggies, but I skipped it because I'd be the only one eating it. If you like cabbage with your corned beef, I recommend sautéing it on the side with onions like my mom does instead of boiling it.)


Do you cook traditional foods on St. Patrick's Day?

3.15.2012

Brunch At Catalyst

Banana bread with dulce de leche

Mimosa

Buttermilk biscuit with barbecued pulled chicken and fried egg

Poached farm egg, tournedo of beef, crab grits (though I didn't find much crab), and hollandaise

Moist banana bread with dulce de leche and bubbly Champagne mimosas were the perfect start to a Sunday brunch at Catalyst where two friends chatted about their lives, namely upcoming wedding plans and house hunting.

They followed the sweet starters with heavier entrees. One tried the barbecued pulled chicken and fried egg sandwiched between fluffy buttermilk biscuit halves; the other, a perfectly poached egg perched atop a tournedo of beef (cooked to a tender medium-rare) and a puddle of creamy grits with a river of hollandaise. Both entrees were filling, flavorful, and well executed. Both friends promised to return.

Have you had any memorable brunches lately?