Thursday, July 31, 2014

Niles Lab Ladies

The perfect way to spend a Sunday - Penthouse, drinks, good friends and smiles.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Penthouse Articles Club!

My turn to host articles club came up in July, and while it poured outside, us ladies enjoyed quite the spread.  Tea sandwiches, a peach and tomato salad, some lovely cheeses, pavlova, and tea-based cocktails!

Also present was the lovely Sadie to do brows of some of the women in attendance. 

Oksana and Chase, in their last time in the Penthouse before moving to Switzerland!

All smiles!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Boston Eats: Brunch at Paramount

In a sunny corner of Beacon Hill, The Paramount has been serving brunch since 1937! 

In a twist on conventional sit-down restaurants, you order first, and then find a seat.  The pace of ordering does fit perfectly with the pace of sitting, but to be perfectly frank, the restaurant could do with an engineering overhaul to make it a place that doesn't feel stuffed to the gills with people.  This is not a good place for the claustrophobic. 

That said, brunch was delicious!  The banana caramel French toast was a particular favorite, though I did love my home fries. 

On the last leg of my six mile journey of errands that morning...such a beautiful day!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer sights

My current emotional state can be described as stressed out and worked up...about how fast summer is going, the distinct lack of cabin in my life, and how many hours a week I spend at work (too many).  But there are good things in my life.  Food, beautiful skies, friends, the river, and knowing that this too shall pass. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Berry Picking at the Litchfield House

Going berry-picking is always on my summer bucket list, and I finally crossed it off with a trip to a friend's home in Carlisle, MA.  Her family are the stewards of Litchfield House, a home being restored within Great Brook Farms State Park

I feel like someone somewhere should use kale instead of flowers when walking down the curly and pretty!

Their family has about an acre's worth of garden, not even kidding. 

This toad was eight inches long, and jumped over five feet after I took this photo. 

Red good!  I'm making a red currant vodka currently, and once it's all done it will be time to invent a marvelous cocktail. 

Post-picking treat (it was hot outside!)

There is just something so cute and sassy about goats.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Boston Eats: Afternoon Tea at the Boston Harbor Hotel

I feel so lucky to have attended afternoon tea once a month since March!  It's my sort of meal...drawn-out, warm, comforting, and a time to just sit and enjoy a friend's company. 

So happy to be at tea!  

(and can you believe those gorgeous Heidi braids?  Things I wish I could?  That.)

Served every day from 2:30 to 4 pm; reservations recommended (afternoon tea menu here)

Ambiance - The restaurant is right on the deck next to the harbor, making it a bright and open space, even on overcast days.  You do share a space with other diners having a regular meal, but given the 2:30 - 4 pm time frame, there are usually very few people around.   Truly, it's a quiet place to sit and enjoy tea.  It is louder on the weekends, but not so loud that you can't hear your dining companions.

Waitstaff - Our waiter was lovely and attentive. 

Savory - The grilled cheese with ham is surprisingly good served at room temperature.  I love their salmon, and the puff pastry is delicious.

Sweet - Chocolate-covered strawberries are kind of a mess to eat, but otherwise I loved the desserts.  The chocolate pearls, the apricot custard, the key lime pie---all wonderful.

Scones, clotted cream, and jam - While their scones aren't served warm and kept warm, they are quite servicable.  Jam, honey, and marmalade are all offered, as well as a devonshire-style cream. 

Tea quality - The english breakfast is traditional and served loose; the waiter specified to wait a few minutes until we poured our tea, but I would prefer if they actually timed the steeping and came back to serve it to avoid the bitter taste of over-steeped tea...but that said, when you're adding milk and sugar, it doesn't matter quite as much.  (If you're the person that really likes the nuances of teas, L'Espalier is the place for you)

Cost - $39 per person
Overall - This is my favorite place to get tea on Mondays and Tuesdays, and it ties with the Boston Public Library for Wednesday through Friday teas.  It's traditional, quiet, and the setting is just gorgeous.  Bonus points are awarded for the proximity to the water and potential for a gorgeous post-tea walk. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Boston Eats: Late Night Price Fix at Craigie on Main

Eric and I went to Craigie in 2013 for our fancy birthday meal - and when Britt was coming, it seemed like a great idea to take advantage of their Sunday Evening price fix called "Chef's Whim."  At a cost of $57 for six courses, the final bill for the two of us was $180, which is definitely not cheap, but absolutely worth it.

Change of Habit - rhum agricole, sour cherry, aperol, mole bitters

Thrilled with her lobster!

amuse bouche
smoked trout rillette with trout roe

first course
red leaf lettuce, thinly shaved beets, cucumber and carrot with goat cheese and foie gras

second course
roasted lobster with mint, cilantro and jalapeño puree

third course
goat sausage ragu with roasted zucchini and yellow squash with goat feta and harissa

fourth course
beef sirloin with fennel puree, beef tongue, and roasted cauliflower

fifth course
champagne zabaione with champagne grapes and red currants

sixth course
(Britt) vanilla saffron pudding with poached apricots, apricot sorbet, apricot glaze, and sourdough crouton
(me) profiteroles with chocolate ice cream, cherry sorbet, and caramel sauce

When I found out she was wearing black with a chunky silver necklace, I thought hey...I can do that! 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Boston Sights: The Freedom Trail

Every trip to Boston should include walking the Freedom Trail.  Everyone says, "so full of tourists!"  ...I say, try walking through the infinite on a normal day at 9 am, now there's tourists for you.

(Britt totally thought I was joking about MIT being a tourist destination...she was astonished when she realized when waiting for me at 77 Mass Ave one morning, nope, I wasn't kidding.  Tour bus after tour bus dropped off scads of people, following umbrella'd tour guides like ducklings).

Believe it or not, this was the first time I had been in Faneuil Hall!  Every other time I've been on the Freedom Trail it's been closed for an event. 

Why yes, I would like some french fries.

Paul Revere!

A small garden off Old North Church was opened up; another new thing for my trip with Britt! 

Back in the day, Eric and I found a street mysteriously named "Snelling Place" in the North End...strange, given that I'd only ever heard Snelling back in Minnesota.  Sure enough, a bit of research, and I found the connection!

The best idea?  Buying $20 worth of pastries at Modern to bring home for dinner. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Boston Sights: Georges Island

A wonky spring and awkward start to summer meant that Britt came in the sliver of time between strawberry and blueberry season, so the berry-picking and Walden Pond trip was a bust.  However--a trip through the Boston Harbor to George's Island was the perfect substitute. 

The 40 minute ride out and back on the ferry costs only $15, which is a great deal.  The only issue visiting the Harbor Islands (a Massachusetts State Park)--- is that they close at 6pm, so the island essentially shuts down at 4:30 pm.  No more concessions, no more wandering, essentially everyone is waiting in a long line to get back on the ferry.  If Britt hadn't gotten in so late, a morning trip and coming back at 3pm would have been perfect, rather than spending a leisurely hour in the shade waiting for the ferry. 

But even so, what a trip!  It was a gorgeous summer day, and everyone smelled of sunscreen. 

Georges Island is home to a pentagonal fort that used to guard Boston against invaders.  (seriously, look at all those cannons...they were not messing around).

Barnacle Bulbasaur

My city is sparkling!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Britt Visits Boston!

Four amazing days of food, laughter, all the good things.

One must have brunch at Cafe Luna, oh yes. 

Bread, cheese from Central Bottle, green beans, figs, proscuitto, two bottles of wine, and The Tenth Kingdom made for the best night. 


Why yes, world, we did have a sticky bun, a jelly donut, and Boston creme pie for breakfast. 

Clam chowder!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Fourth of July! errr, the Third of July!

Setup went as planned on Monday...

....but thanks to Hurricane Arthur, the fireworks and Boston Pops concert were moved to Thursday night, July 3rd.

I was a total grump about the whole thing...currently my long experiment days are Wednesdays and Thursdays, and I was in lab until 7:30 pm, and I had to be back in lab the next morning for analysis that had to get to my advisor by Friday afternoon - so I couldn't really enjoy the party as much as I would have been able to if it had been on a Friday.  But!  It was a wonderful show, and ended just as front came in - the sky opened up and boy, did it ever pour. 

The sound, the feel, the colors...there's just something about a live fireworks show.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Midsommarfest 2014!

The solstice saw me hosting my fifth annual Midsommarfest.  With 52 guests in attendance, it was a total success!  Friends old and new, food, laughter...there's not a better way to spend a summer night.

36 pounds of pork and beef for meatballs.

Pureed onions and spices for meatballs.

With so many people coming, we had to lose the long table in favor of smaller ones, but hey, everyone fit!

McCormick friends!

Special thanks to Deepak for the fabulous photos of the event, seen below. 

On aquavit duty.

The first real live Swede-from-Sweden in attendance!  And she brought sandwich cake.  A total winner.

One cannot get enough cardamom aquavit.

Ben getting more meatballs after ensuring everyone else was able to have some.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Boston Eats: Brunch at Commonwealth and Area Four

Things I like: brunch. 

Not shown: the wonderful biscuits and gravy.  So, so, so good. 

Eric was also bested by the biscuits, sausage gravy, fried chicken, fried eggs, bacon, and gym membership special.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Boston Eats: Alive and Kicking Lobsters

The best lobster roll I've ever had was up at a gas station in Maine.  It was incredible. 

But here in town, I haven't really explored lobster roll options.  Partially because lobsters are a bit pricy, I only have so much money in my budget for food.  But the other part is that the lobster roll up in Maine was so good that I can't imagine having it anywhere else but up in Maine, on the beach, with a beer.  It just can't be beat. 

But.  For the time when you have a sibling in town and it's gorgeous out and you can't get up to Maine, Alive and Kicking is a very worthwhile choice. 

Across the street from the River Street Whole Foods in Cambridgeport, it's nestled among the three story multi-family homes, with a shed in the back for the lobsters, and a lovely little shaded porch for customers to enjoy their seafood. 

Perfectly weathered tables. 

The soda is worth it. 

Instead of the traditional roll, they serve the lobster on toasted and buttered white bread. 

$18 for a lobster roll, chips, and's a little steep.  But hey, for a once-in-awhile treat, totally worth it.  

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Boston Eats - Chef's Tasting at Menton

Last year, Eric and I went to Craigie on Main to celebrate our birthdays, as well as our love of the experience of good food.  We grew up watching the early days of the Food Network and the original Iron Chef, set in Japan - and while I don't think we'll ever have a chance to eat Morimoto's food, well, the chance to be spoiled by new tastes and combinations is worth the price to us. 

For our second annual fancy birthday dinner, Eric and I went to Menton in Fort Point.  One of Barbara Lynch's restaurants, Menton is located in the same building as Sportello and Drink.

Menton Mai Tai - St Germain, Bully Boy Boston Rum, Citrus, Orgeat

The first amuse bouche: cucumber wrapped in nori with smoked salmon, caviar, and chives.

Instead of a traditional "hey we're just going to bring you lots of food" chef's tasting, Menton centers their meal around a set of flavors and ingredients.  I wish they provided a full menu after the fact, for those who want to really remember combinations and ideas.  While there is no way I would ever be able to make a deep fried Moroccan pastry with snails, there are other ways to adapt formal kitchen dishes to the world of a much less formal home cook.  It's also a very dark restaurant, so the photos you take result in much squinting (besides the fact that frequent camera usage isn't appropriate in this setting). 

Here's our set of ingredients:

royal white sturgeon caviar
pei mussel
escargot (yes, snails)
wild mushroom
grano arso (a burnt flour pasta)
foie gras de canard (duck foie gras)
chili pepper

My least favorite bite was a hibiscus geleé inside a piece of celery.  It look me right back to the world of Minnesotan jello salads...the kind with cottage cheese, apples, marshmallows, and then for some reason, celery.  And even better, they added a cilantro leaf.  Because why not, I guess?

But other than that, the rest of the night was great to extraordinary.  Noteworthy bites:
(my favorite five are bolded)

-Foie gras transformed to have the texture of a chocolate truffle, on top of a savory granola crust. 
-honey sea salt croissant
-escargot and lobster served atop the lobster shell
-earl gray dashi broth with fresh mushrooms (though oddly, my first taste of truffle just did not wow me at all)
-perfectly cooked halibut
-deep fried Middle Eastern pasty (a brik) filled with corn puree, caramelized onions, and chopped escargot
-sorrel and cucumber puree
-mushroom risotto
-seared bluefish
-foie gras plum cake with pickled plums and a bacon rillette-wrapped slice of foie gras
-poached chicken with calamari
-seared foie gras
-lamb tenderloin
-lamb belly (bacon) with poached quail egg
-Olympus tea (a citrus-y chamomile)
-carrot sorbet and ginger soda
-tarragon macaron

-chocolate mousse with balsamic glaze

Happy Birthday to us!

I can hardly wait til next year!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park!

The perfect day dawned....sunny, not too hot, and not too humid.  It was time for baseball!

The Citgo Sign, one side of the river.

Eric has only been to Boston in the dreary days of March, so this year, he thought we'd do something different...and lo and behold, the Twins were playing the week of Midsommar!  Obviously, a trip had to happen.

Green Monstah.

Our seats were awesome. 

Things I did not know before this game:  Joe Mauer now plays first base. 

It only cost $14.50!  (kidding.  More like $9.50....which is still crazy).

delete above here

We were so close...we got a home run!  ...and then so did David Ortiz.  Womp-womp.  We were still happy. 

Walk-off!  We went into extra innings, and then they hit a home run (again) --- so it was over! 

Citgo sign, the other side of the river