Boston Brunchers Benedict

What seems like forever ago, I went to a brunch hosted by the Boston Brunchers at Landsdowne Pub. I left in a food coma so maybe that’s what’s taken me so long to post this! Hope this brunch is just in time for the weekend.
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I arrived and was warmly welcomed as other attendees showed up. We had already perused the menu but began by ordering drinks. I had a coffee and a liquid caramel coffee that was delectable.
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Their breakfast menu had a good assortment of traditional brunch items…many of which had an Irish twist. The buttermilk pancakes with strawberries and Bailey’s whipped cream caught my eye. I think it was the booze in the whipped cream that had me at hello.
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I went with the crabcake benedict. It was so good and I was really glad I got something I wouldn’t be making at home.
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The crabcake was flavorful with big crab chunks- not completely filler. I might have liked the hollandaise to be more lemony but it was good, and rich. The eggs were cooked perfectly!
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A few folks at the table got the Lansdowne Pie (Irish Ham, eggs, potatoes, spinach onions and cheddar served w/ home fries). It looked even better than it sounded. It was piled high and stayed together. Yum.
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One of the best moments for me, besides the fun conversations, was that when the food arrived everyone at the table started snapping photos. There were no “pardon-while-I-reach-over-your-food-to-take-a-picture” moments. Everyone snapped away. There were even iphones for additional light. It was ahhhhmazing.
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Our server was a gem. Serving a group is never easy, especially since we ordered drinks every time she came back to check on us. What a trooper.

There was live music and they were ready to serve the crowds. I wouldn’t think of Fenway as an area to head to for brunch, but if you’re in that ‘hood, you should!

Full 3 Bite Rule Disclosure: Brunch was completely complimentary but my thoughts, opinions, and words are entirely my own.

Swappin’ Cookies

I think this is the last of my holiday items to catch you up on. Do you have today off? Great! Make some of these cookies! If you’re working today then just stay tuned this week for a guest blog recipe post and a calzone!

I love all the cookies that come along with the holidays. Growing up I don’t think I realized how lucky I was that Mum made so many cookies, from scratch. I thought everyone was so lucky.

Normally when cookie swaps are mentioned everyone groans and isn’t into consuming more calories this time of year so I think I haven’t been to one since 2008? Wow.
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Ms. L invited me to one at Flour that is also a fundraiser for Cradles to Crayons. I’m so glad I took on the challenge but brining cookies to Flour Bakery? Talk about pressure! Let’s also talk about the recipe I chose considering I don’t bake very often: Apple Oatmeal Toffee Drop Cookies. Go ahead, you can laugh.

I made a sugar cookie base thinking I’d make some more cookies soon afterwards…what was I thinking? During packing, buying the house, and preparing to move all during the holidays, I had no time.

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used granulated brown sugar)
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup quick oats
1 green apple, chopped
1/2 cup toffee bits

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
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Cut in butter and sugars together.  Add egg and vanilla, and mix until well incorporated.
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Add oatmeal and apple and stir by hand until combined.
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Form dough into ping-pong sized balls. Form an indent on the top and fill with toffee bits (see the top row). Cover the toffee with the dough from the sides of the well (see the bottom row).
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Bake for 12-15 minutes or until edges start to turn golden brown. Then transfer to a cooling rack.

I made a double batch since we were asked to bring 2-4 dozen. These suckers had lots of butter, brown sugar, and oatmeal. I mixed in granny smith apples but filled them with toffee bits. I think the apple did a lot to keep them soft and the toffee melts so much faster and might leave these with burn toffee oozes if it isn’t stuck in the middle.

Baking a double batch and filling each cookie was a test of my patience. I tried to just go slow and make them all perfect. They came out awesome but baking cookies is hard work! I had 2 trays going and my apt oven was terribly uneven. Two timers, fifty million cookies, and creative cooling racks I was done and ready for the swap. (Mine are in the middle in the back).
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There were some awesome cookies at the swap. I had to admit there were a few I thought were below par. I’d never bring chocolate chip cookies to a swap unless they were perfectly cooked and the best ever…these weren’t.
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I was hoping Joanne Chang would talk more about baking, about Flour, about holiday cookies, etc. She talked about why they hosted this event again but I would have liked to hear about her cookbook or her favorite goodies. She had made Butter Breton Cakes that she was testing for her next cookbook.  They were reallllly good.
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Mac & Cheeses at a Great ‘Places’

Just before Christmas I was lucky enough to get a seat at a Mac & Cheese Tasting at Church near Fenway. Google Places hosted this exciting opportunity as a reward for folks who wrote reviews for Google Places. I tell ya, Google can take over the world and I’d be a-OK with it.
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I saw the offer as a tweet and I posted a few reviews. I went with places that didn’t already have hundreds of reviews. I love to give my opinion but I don’t like to rehash the same thing everyone else has said.
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The dinner was super fun and I was joined by two lovely ladies who love mac & cheese almost as much as I do. It was doubly exciting since one of Church’s culinary directors is Laura Henry-Zoubir of Regal Beagle and I’ve seen her on Chopped.

We tasted 5 mac & cheeses, family style, and got to select 2 craft beers. Google gave us cute goodies including a google places beer glass, drink stirrer, coozie, bottle opener, and lip chap (as some folks would call it ;) .

I have to admit, when I saw the first skillet I thought it might not be enough for all 20-ish people there! Boy was I mistaken…we had seconds and it just kept coming.
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The first one was mozzarella, Romano, basil and a balsamic tomato relish mac and cheese. It was so good. I loved the roasted tomatoes and that they were mostly whole chunks. I didn’t really taste much balsamic but the basil was flavorful.
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The next was goat cheese, winter squash, Spicy IPA Pepitas, and sage. It was amazing. This was totally my favorite and I’m not always on board with goat cheese. I wish this was a scratch & sniff.
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Then they broke out the truffle oil. Cue a communal swoon. We could smell it coming. This one had truffle oil, mushrooms, and Pale Ale Vermont cheddar cheese.
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Now they brought out the spice. The next was Monterey Jack, poblanos, and chorizo. Ohh boy. This was definitely spicy but I liked it. I think there was a good deal leftover, maybe because we had already had 3 mac and cheeses already.
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The last one had braised beef. I couldn’t eat this one, but I hear it was good. I had already eaten plenty.
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We had a good time and it was a nice crowd. I still can’t believe how much that one (albeit massive) skillet served! Maybe it was wise to not have all 5 flavors on one plate.

Did Ya Miss Me

I’m back from my moving/house-buying hiatus. I’m happy to be back to a normal routine and I have LOTS of catching up to do!

Allow me to introduce my new house’s kitchen! I’m loving it. It’s my favorite part of the house. I wish I had some “before” aka the world’s tiniest & darkest kitchen photos for comparison. I meant to, but it just didn’t happen.

Here’s a wide shot. I could live on that island.
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The backspash is also one of my favorite things about the kitchen. The colors are really nice blues, copper, tan, and cream. It is awesome.
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And here are the sisters. Double sinks are pretty bomb, especially when they’re both this big & deep. I secretly like doing dishes so they’re perfect.
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Check. Out. This. Fridge. Wow. It is so big and shiny!
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We were pleasantly surprised to discover this nifty filtered water spout inside. I hadn’t been able to get used to the taste of the water but this solved the problem.
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The corner cabinets are used really well. Genius! The cabinets are cherry and i just polished them up.
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There are great “pantry” cabinets against the stairs. One has drawers that pull out. I use the term pantry loosely since a pantry is actually a room. My parents have the coolest pantry ever. Maybe sometime I’ll kitchen-snoop there.
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The other was a broom closet and handy Mr. J installed shelves for more storage! We have some organizing to do between the 2 cabinets.
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Here is the stove. I’m getting used to the gas and my new pots & pans. The power burner, as it is called, proved too powerful for yesterday morning’s bacon. It went from uncooked to burnt in a second. Tragedy. (Check out the time! palindromes are my favorite!)
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There’s an awesome wet bar/buffet by the dining table. I love that the quartz counters continued and that baby sink I’m sure will prove handy. Like my wine stock? I realized it is a bit much since Mr. J doesn’t really drink wine. Guess it calls for a party!
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The house is awesome and we’re loving it. Mr. J has found his calling in life as a homeowner and Mr. Fix-It. Our wedding fiestaware makes nightly appearances at dinner as we smile looking around. We actually get to live here! The pup cannot get enough of his yard, or all the windows that look out at it. We still have more unpacking to do but things are looking good so far!

This week I’ll get you caught up on Christmas and a pretty sweet mac & cheese tasting. Stay tuned!

Watch Out Now: Food Truck Critique

If you’re not too fooded out from the holiday, here’s a wordy nugget about a fun fall activity. On a whirlwind weekend I managed to fit in my first ever Food Truck Festival. I’m an avid watcher of the Great Food Truck Raceand I enjoy food trucks whenever I can. I was SUPER excited about this festival. It was $5 to get in and I thought it was totally worth it.foodtruck_sign_590_390
Once inside the Suffolk Downs racetrack we saw a swarm of people because it also was a race day. I wonder if they throngs of people would have been there if there weren’t races? It was a beautiful day and so fun.

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I scoped out all the trucks before deciding. I’m not picky but I wanted my choice to be a good one.

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I ended up enduring the line at Lobsta Love. This food truck is normally near Harvard. I was 100% NOT impressed and wouldn’t do it again.

I expected a line. I didn’t expect to wait 25 minutes AFTER ordering for my food. Literally. I timed it. I ordered the lobster mac & cheese but unfortunately I didn’t realize it was going to be instant mac & cheese (minus the instant).

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It’s my own fault that I cheaped out. The sliders were $6 each and seemed very small. While spending some quality time in line (15 min or so)  I couldn’t see the menu and didn’t realize till afterwards that if I had chosen a slider I could have gotten the bisque shot for $1 which would have helped a tiny slider seem like enough.

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Mr. J waited in a line, got a crazy hot dog, ate it, and waited some more with me.

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While we waited and waited and waited, bisque came out of the truck, sliders, rolls, etc all came out. No mac & cheese. I was pretty disappointed when I saw the Annie’s Mac & Cheese powder go in. Bummer. I could have done that myself.

A bunch of us all waiting for mac & cheese asked if it was really coming or what. The owner said yes, but we were told it would take awhile when we ordered. I said no, I’d ordered from him and didn’t hear that. He’d give us our money back. I said I’d already put in 20 minutes of waiting after my order so I’d stick it out. I definitely gave him some ‘tude but he didn’t seem to care that we were waiting a pretty exorbitant amount of time. Watch out now sir, The Three Bite Rule was here!

I think he really could have thrown a few bisque shots our way, or opened the baggies of cookies they were selling to appease us. I’ve always felt really well taken care of when eating at Clover…not so much at Lobsta no-Love.

When I finally got my mac & cheese I was disappointed. There was about 1 normal fork-full of lobster split into about 3 bites. They dump some bisque on top of instant mac & cheese. Bahh. Sorry Lobsta no-Love, you weren’t impressive. Did I think you were cooking and cracking lobsters to order? Nope. Doubt it. How could it have taken so long? I still can’t figure it out.

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Now I’m going below the belt: why do they have a facebook page and a twitter account if they don’t use them? I get it you’re busy, but don’t have them if you a) don’t know how to use them or b) don’t bother to use them.

Anywho, the festival got a lot more fun when Mr. J and I discovered a FAST moving line for cookie ice cream sandwiches! Check ‘em out! Also, they know all about using their facebook and twitter accounts.

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We chose a gingerbread cookie with pumpkin ice cream. AMAZING! We split it and it was plenty. The cookie was perfect. It was strong enough to hold the ice cream but soft enough to bite into. The ice cream? Woah. So good.

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What a great idea…and more importanly, they know how to move their line though. Follow them on twitter or facebook (they know how to use ‘em).

Bottom line for food trucks: don’t run with the big dogs if you can’t keep up!

Chili Cookoff

Way back when, I mentioned a chili cook-off I entered. I didn’t win but it was a great excuse to make some chili. It also got me thinking about my next birthday cook-off/taste-off…especially after last year’s booming success!

Ms. J from Better Than Butter introduced me to the cookoff. Guess what?! She won!! Woohoo!

I made a chili recipe my friend Ms. A graciously gave to me after I complimented her chili profusely about 5 years ago. It is modeled after Wendy’s Chili and it’s realllly good. I told her I’d share my winnings but I didn’t quite win. I came in a pretty respectable 4th (out of 11 or 12?).
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Here’s the recipe, with a few of my own tweaks, to make a HUGE batch. I recommend cutting in half if you aren’t serving an army or if you don’t want leftovers for weeks. It’s just too easy not to make more often.

Ingredients

3 lbs. ground turkey
1 can tomato sauce (29 oz)
1 can tomatoes with green chilis (10 oz)
1 can kidney beans (29 oz with liquid)
1 can black beans (29 oz with liquid)
1 large onion, diced
1 cup green chili, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 clove of garlic, diced
3 tbs cumin powder
4 tbs chili powder
2 tbs black pepper
3 tbs salt
3 cups water
1 tsp liquid smoke

Directions

Brown the meat and drain.
Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes and onion.
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Add the beans, chilies, celery, and garlic.
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Add the spices.
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Finally add water and bring to a simmer over low heat.
Cook, stirring every 15 minutes, for 3 hours

The chili cook-off was a fundraiser for the Arlington Boys & Girls Club. It was $10 to enter a chili and $1 to sample and vote during a fall event they were having. I thought it was fun and it was great to see the community support.

We served non-stop for 90 minutes. I filled a huge crock pot. Most folks ran out even serving small amounts! It was so busy  that we (the chili cookers) didn’t get to sample everyone else’s chili! We were asked to list the ingredients so the tasters could have that info. I would have liked to see what everyone used.

I didn’t serve any toppings but totally should have. People had tortilla chips, cornbread, cheese, onion, etc! I had a bit leftover so Mr. J and I ate that with cornbread muffin tops once I got home.

Wedding Bliss

I loved our wedding.Is that a weird statement? Who doesn’t love their own wedding?! hahaha. It was just the day of my dreams and I enjoyed every second. I’ll remember how everything felt for the rest of my life. I’m just so happy to be married to Mr. J.I have a few photos to share food related and some details which aren’t make it-or-break it wedding details but things I loved . Here’s the moment I thought of thethreebiterule.com during the wedding and when my amazing friends offered a camera to help me document it. The photo wasn’t quite the best I’ve ever taken, but thankfully Mrs. K captured this happening which I love even more!
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Disclaimer: these fantastic photos are not my own. Our extremely talented photographer, Scott Zuehlke, captured every moment perfectly. We let him do his thing and I’m not sure I ever mentioned I had a food blog but I’m psyched he got such great food shots. He’s pretty awesome and you should check him out.
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The appetizers were delicious and I wish I got to try them all. We served phyllo & asiago wrapped asparagus tips with red pepper aioli, coconut chicken with raspberry sweet & sour sauce, scallops wrapped bacon in a maple balsamic glaze, mongolian pulled pork on a corn cake with carmelized onion, miniature tomato brushetta with balsamic syrup.
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That’s prime group-photo-time and since the ceremony and reception were in the same place, there’s no lag time in-between…which I’m not a fan of when I’m a guest anyway so I just had to deal missing the cocktail hour for photos. To the venue’s defense…they did bring us a few apps.

Though, they also served the bridal party’s champagne to the guests we were trying to get to leave the patio for family & bridal party pictures.
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I wish I had kept a napkin but I thought they were cute and very thematic with the birds we had on our invitations. Mr. J wasn’t as in love with them since the colors were a bit off. They’re super cheap and can be a fun touch especially since we had birds on our invitations & placecards etc.
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The talented Mr. J designed everything so when we talked about menus he was gung-ho. When I attend weddings, I don’t always remember what food I’ve ordered so I thought these would be fun.  We had to get the invitations out before having a tasting at the venue so the choice on the response card was chicken or beef. Boo. I know! I like to know the food details too.
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The salad had the best crumbled goat cheese I’ve ever had. I’m not always a fan but this was great.  I’d love to get the shallot vinaigrette by the bottle. Candied pecans weren’t tough to take either.
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Dinner was a choice of chicken francese or filet mignon and some mysterious vegetarian option. I had the chicken and Mr. J had the beef. It was kind of a lot of food. I liked mine, but obviously it was better when served super hot at the tasting.
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I get catering though…100 meals at the same moment? Yikes. I have trouble with sides and entree at the same time for 2!
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The cake was pretty amazing. I never eat the cake at weddings but I had cake we brought home. I never even noticed the cake being sliced. I was probably in a dance-off with Mr. J (while the room of people watched) while cake was being served. Maybe that didn’t happen at the same exact time, but it definitely happened!

The topper was one of my favorite things ever. Loved it! Mr. J hunted for it and it was perfect. It was actually one of the only details I didn’t share with everyone. Surprise! It was heavy so we had the bakery pre-approve it that he wouldn’t sink into the cake. Our black lab Windsor was well represented that day in the ceremony, my vows, and on the cake!

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Best! Day! Ever!

Pizza Class

Ms. L and I suffer through countless emails a week ALL YEAR until the “Take for 10” comes out. This one week a year is when the Boston Center for Adult Educationoffers select classes for $10…instead of the regular $140 +$75 for materials.Last year we took a great class and were kicking ourselves that we hadn’t signed up for more than one. This year we were ready. There were so many we wanted to take.Well, we missed our chance and the classes we really wanted were full. On the waiting list we went. The next day we decided to try some others. I got a spot in the Pizza & Calzone class. Ms. L got wait-listed. I can’t say she missed much.bcae_lineup_390_590
I went by myself and was psyched my former colleague was there. It was nice to see a familiar face and the group was very friendly as well. I can’t quite say as many good things about the class.

If you read often, you’ve noticed I make pizzas and calzones all the time. I didn’t really learn anything and I wasn’t impressed. It really should have been called Pizza 101 or Intro to Pizza. Notice I didn’t mention calzones in either title option…that’s because we did not once talk about calzones in the class. I did agree with her sauce choice, it was a good one.
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We each got a blob of dough to play with. I felt like a 6-year-old playing while mom made dinner. Our instructor used refrigerated dough, and preshredded cheese. I mean I do too, but this seemed basic for a class.
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She also introduced us to a pizza stone. I love mine, and I’m glad I already knew the correct care instructions since hers seemed a bit incorrect.
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We made a big pizza on a pan and one on the stone to taste the difference.
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I’ll have to be more selective next time when choosing a class. I enjoyed the class I took last year, and I took a Intro to Blogging class and was really impressed. This just wasn’t the right fit for me.

Restaurant Week Luncheon

Boston’s Restaurant Week now happens several times a year, thus making it not-that-special if you miss it. I don’t always love it because I feel like it’s usually a group outing where we’re trying to accommodate everyone in the groups tastes.Some of the menus are really dumb-downed, the waitstaff hates it, and it feels like the B team in the kitchen. Now it is 2 weeks long so it’s not “a cool find”; it’s something you can’t miss. Long gone are the days where the restaurants pulled out all the stops trying to woo new customers. Let me just get off this soap box now…

Maybe it was the restaurant choice (Marliave), maybe because it was at lunch, maybe it was the menu, maybe they just have good waitstaff, I don’t know what it was but they restored my faith in restaurant week!
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My colleagues and I joined our sister-office for a restaurant week lunch outing at Marliave. I couldn’t get over the menu. It has stayed up on the website for awhile so take a peek! Literally something for anyone. I have just a selection of our choices for a glimpse of the meal.

I started with the mac & cheese. I mean, are you surprised? It was probably the best I’ve ever had…and I’ve had a lot. They use house cut ziti which makes all the difference. The black truffle doesn’t hurt either. It is served in a small caraf that couldn’t be cuter.
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Ms. M had the caprese. Seems like a slightly less filling choice. It had aged balsamic and fresh balsamic. She said she could absolutely tell that it was Italian mozzarella. She lived in Italy as a child. She’s also vegetarian so I totally trust her on this.
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The second course was troublesome for me. So many choices! I ended up with fish & chips which is kind of random for me. I wanted the risotto but knew that wouldn’t pair well with the mac & cheese.
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Ms. M got the mushroom risotto. Apparently if you don’t like mushrooms, this dish still won’t turn you to the other side.
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I really wanted the rarebits, but would be on cheese overload. I also had been eyeing the muscles appetizer. I should have just asked if I could have 2 first courses.

Peeking down the table the trout looked lovely and the portabello would have been good too. I suppose nothing could follow the mac & cheese anyway. I also didn’t eat much of it anyway so choosing something that reheated well was probably wise.
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Dessert just made me want to roll on out of there. I was seriously so full and getting antsy that I couldn’t eat dessert. I chose the box of truffles and brought them back to the office. I really enjoyed them the next day.
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Ms. M had the chunky brownie sundae. It was delicious. She graciously offered me a bite. We all had commented on the butterscotch pudding. I tasted it and really couldn’t get over how creamy but light it was. Yum.
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Based on the size portion of the glorious mac & cheese, I wish our server offered to wrap the massive amount remaining. Also, It took way too long for a weekday lunch that close to the financial district. Our reservation was for noon when it wasn’t busy at all and we had to really push to get the check once dessert. Empty plates showed we were done but we still waited quite awhile.

The mac & cheese was worth the $20.11 (plus tip) alone. They won me over and I’ll definitely have to hit up Marliave again…especially when cocktails are appropriate.

Food Swappin’

In an effort to increase my green score I decided to attend a food swap. Just kidding. I’m already considered “fairly green” since I’ve attended other swaps. I had kept my eye, and my twitter, focused on the upcoming food swap dates the Boston Food Swap was hosting. I could finally go in August!
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It’s now September and the next swap is fast approaching all before I’ve even posted the August one! I need to be cut some slack…it’s now into the single digits until my wedding. Eeeeek!

How it works:

Folks sign up and bring whatever swapable items he/she’d like.
Swapable foods have to be home grown, cooked, baked, or foraged.
There are no set quantities or suggested items.
Once arriving and laying out the goodies, everyone mingles and samples.
Bidding occurs by offering your own treats in exchange for somebody else’s.
The trade! The bids are only indications as to who wants your food. Hopefully you want food from others who want yours, thus the trade transaction.

It was really fun and I’m glad I went. I’ll definitely go again. I brought marinated mushrooms mostly because I was thinking what would travel well and what was easy yet interesting to whip up.
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I went with 12 canning jars so I had plenty to trade with. I’d guess there were about 20-25ish people there. I used 2 sizes of jars and was thankful to have some larger and smaller ones. I hadn’t even planned that some small trades would be more even.

It felt a bit like a potluck with strangers. Honestly, I was proud of myself for going by myself. I didn’t know anyone there and met some great people with all sorts of tasty treats! It was wayyy better than a cookie swap.
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I got some lime rice pudding, refrigerator pickles, smoked turkey meatballs, butternut squash ravioli, plum salsa, raspberry preserves, cookie dough apple butter, and assorted baked goods.
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I wasn’t psyched about the baked goods. Although I don’t bake, it felt like nobody wanted them that much. They were good, but 2 very small cookies? Seriously?
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While making my traditional (Italian) marinated mushrooms and balsamic marinated mushrooms I feared ‘what if nobody wants my stuff’. I thought about what it’d feel like to come home with stuff I brought. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and I kept that in mind when bidding since I had so many to offer.
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Mr. J reminded me I wouldn’t be able to trade what I didn’t bring. He’s such a wise one.