The New Digs

March 1, 2010

That’s right friends, this little blog of mine and I are taking the next step. We’ve found a new place together. It’s a big deal.

Thanks to LiLu, we’ve found our own cozy corner of the interwebs to hang out in. And I’m SO excited!

If you subscribe to my blog, you will have to resubscribe. You can do that on the new site! Please come visit and let me know what you think!

The NEW and IMPROVED No Sincerer Love!

Central Bottle & how2heroes Wine Pairing

March 1, 2010

A few weeks ago Dane and I headed over to Central Bottle in Cambridge for an evening hosted by how2heroes featuring 4 different wines and 4 different desserts. We’d never been to Central Bottle before, but I’ve been a fan of how2heroes for awhile. I saw the invite on Facebook and signed myself right up. Only $10 for all that? Done and done.

classy wine tasters

First of all, Central Bottle and Provisions is a really cool shop. You can find a vast array of wines along with different cheeses and other items to pair with your libations. Every Thursday they host a Wine Bar, pouring a different wine, and you can also find Wine Tasting Classes and other collaborations like the one with how2heroes from time to time.

We headed over and got settled with our first pairing: Chocolate covered strawberries and a sparkling wine, Poema Cava Brut (Spain). I love that the strawberries were covered in red chocolate, made it that much more luscious.

yum and yum

Next up, palmiers with El Maestro Sierra Pedro Ximenez sherry. The sherry was sweet and much heavier, almost syrupy. Great pairing with the light and nutty palmiers. I wanted to eat about 73 of the palmiers. They were so good.

lovely. plus look at those cute napkins.

Third, mini cheesecakes topped with a maraschino cherry paired with a Cossart Gordan Rainwater Madeira. Again, this selection was heavier on the palate and sweet, but great with the light delicious cheesecakes.

wine and cheesecake. also known as AWESOME.

And last (sadly there were but four amazing pairings, which I do realize is actually great but I could have gone on tasting forever), mini chocolate and raspberry cupcakes with Quinta Do Noval Fine Ruby Porto<!–QUINTA DO NOVAL –>. These cupcakes were absolutely amazing. Raspberry is my all time favorite fruit flavor for a dessert. Pair that with chocolate and there’s nothing better. To be totally honest, I remember nothing about the wine, because the cupcakes were just that good.

chocolate ganache and raspberry mousse. ugh, SO good.

I think I’ll have to do some of my own pairings for our next gathering. I can already think of a few things I’d like to try. OK, and then there were these other fantastic little mushroom pate appetizers. The founder of how2heroes urged us to try them, and it was so good. Another great idea for our next dinner party.

We’ll be looking for upcoming events at Central Bottle to attend. Everything was fantastic, thanks to both how2heroes and Central Bottle.

Three Burger Places You Should Probably Visit Immediately

February 26, 2010

I feel like I’ve had an incredibly unhealthy diet lately. My job is been crazy, I’ve worked late every night this week (except for Tuesday, which is conveniently the same night Lost is on), and when I’m home it seems like there’s always something else to do. Because of this I’ve been eating at the grill downstairs from my office, and that’s been a bad idea. The only positive outcome of this is that it made me think about my favorite burger places. And now I’m going to share them with you. It all works out for the best.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

I’d like to personally thanks President Obama for introducing us to this place. I once heard an interview with him and he was asked his favorite fast food, to which he answered Five Guys. About a year ago, we found out there was one in Dedham, so we gave it a try. Good decision.

juicy, delicious, greasy

Every burger is cooked to order and fresh. There are no additional charges for toppings, and they have a ton to choose from. My personal choices are cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles (lots and lots of pickles). The small fries are definitely big enough to share, and they’re also known for their Cajun style fries.

Just a note, they serve peanuts that you can snack on while waiting for your food. Great if you like peanuts, not great if you have a peanut allergy. They also make their fries using peanut oil.

Eagles Deli

Home of the Eagles Challenge, this deli is a well established landmark in Brighton, MA. They were recently closed for renovations and just reopened a few weeks ago with a new look and an expanded menu. We had been to the old Eagles Deli, so we went after the reopening to see what had changed.

The deli looks completely different, much more modern. For me, I go there to get a good burger, so I didn’t care much about the remodel as much as I cared about the burgers staying just as great as they were before. And they were.  I had the Kiddie Burger, a 1/4 lb burger. Dane was extra hungry, so he got the Godzill, which is a 1 lb. burger made with two 1/2 lb. patties. One day I hope to see someone actually attempt the Eagles Challenge while I’m there.

Dane's Godzilla Burger

The Knotty Pine

I’ve written about this place before, but what can I say? I love it. It’s the perfect greasy spoon burger joint. It’s cheap, fast, and delicious. I won’t go on about it, but here’s where I wrote about it.

Knotty Pine Burger

Where else should we try for a great burger?

Oatmeal Craisin Cookies

February 25, 2010

These are my absolute favorite cookies, made even better because Dane always makes them for me. I became a big fan of Craisins about 2 years ago, and much prefer them over raisins at this point. Knowing this, Dane substituted the normal raisin for the vastly superior (in my opinion) Craisin, and it was the perfect change! Gives the cookie a nice tart flavor in every bite, which works nicely with the sweetness of the rest of it.

my happy baker/hubby

Dane got the recipe from an oatmeal container, so there’s no big secret here. Here’s the recipe he uses:

Oatmeal Craisin Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups of Quaker oats
  • 1 cup of Craisins

Start with preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Once it’s creamy, add the eggs and vanilla. Mix that all together, then add in the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix it well.

don't eat it yet.

Next add in the oats and Craisins. And then? You guessed it. Mix it up!

and then it'll look a little something like this.

Spoon the batter using heaping tablespoons onto a baking sheet. This recipe made about 3 dozen cookies, so this might take a few batches depending on how many baking sheets you have handy.

ok, still don't eat them. i know it's tempting.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Let the cookies cool for about 5 minutes before removing them from the baking sheet. When they’re all done, enjoy with a big glass of milk!

now you can eat them!

I brought some to work the next day and they were gone within minutes. Turns out everyone, not just me, really liked them! Thanks Dane, for making my favorite cookies!

Kristen

Top 5: Foods I Want Delivered to my Doorstep

February 23, 2010

A few weeks ago, Dane sent me an Edible Arrangement to work (just because I was having a rough week). Smart man. Really, I can’t think of anything that could have cheered me up quite like chocolate covered strawberries in the middle of a really stressful week. That got me thinking, if you can get chocolate covered fruit delivered, what other things are out there? I obviously had to do some research and found my Top 5 Foods I Want Delivered to my Doorstep.

In no particular order…

Edible Arrangements

I know I just talked about this, but it was so lovely to have this fun arrangement delivered to my office. Not to mention I absolutely love chocolate covered strawberries (as I’m sure you do too), and love how the arrangement was done fresh that day. It’s a fun conversation starter and you can share everything (well, if you want to).

perfect way to brighten any day

Gourmet Cheese of the Month Club

Yes, that’s right, the Cheese of the Month Club. Everyone’s heard of it, maybe heard people make fun of it, but I would love to get a different gourmet cheese every month. It’d be the perfect way to ensure my brand new cheese board gets some use on a regular basis. If anyone is looking for the perfect gift for me, this is it.

Cake Truffles

We saw these on the Phantom Gourmet and I’m hoping we eventually order them (maybe our first anniversary celebration?). Cake truffles. The name alone should have you intrigued. Cake + Truffle = There is no way this could be bad. These tasty little treats combine cake and a variety of truffle fillings, and can be ordered by the dozen and delivered to you. Cake Truffles are made at Delicious Desserts in Falmouth, MA.

cake truffles

Omaha Steaks

Moving into some entrees, Omaha Steaks definitely gets my vote. I had never had anything from Omaha Steaks until Dane’s grandmother bought us a gift package for Christmas. Everything has been absolutely delicious. I was actually surprised (don’t laugh) to see they offer things other than steak. We’ve had potatoes au gratin, hot dogs, and pork chops, along with the steaks that came with the gift package. I’m a big meat and potatoes kind of girl, so Omaha Steaks, you’ve won me over.

grilling up some Omaha sirloins

Beer of the Month Club (Specifically Sam Adams, but any craft beer is acceptable)

When I worked with the Snowball last year, Samuel Adams (well, the parent company, Boston Brewing Co.) donated a Beer of the Month Club for the Silent Auction. We tried to win, but apparently everyone else loves Sam Adams the same way we do. I decided to try to look for it myself and join, and it’s no where to be found. Maybe the club membership donated just featured Sam Adams and wasn’t exclusively Sam Adams beers? I’m not sure, but either way, if anyone finds something like this, let me know. There are plenty Sam varieties for them to do a Beer of the Month Club!

just look at all these options.

This just all feeds into my love of food and drink, and makes it all the better when you don’t even have to leave home!

The Friendly Toast, Cambridge

February 22, 2010

This is a place I kept hearing about, and has one of the cutest names ever. I had to give it a try, and given the name, it seemed like the place go to for brunch. Last weekend, we headed over around 10am on a Sunday.

And it was INSANE. The wait was at least a half hour, and the tiny waiting area was overflowing with people. My immediate reaction was two fold. First, this sucks because I’m really hungry. Second, well they must be doing something right for all these people to wait around just to have brunch here. So we settled in amongst the masses and waited for our name to be called. (FYI, another option would be to eat at the bar, which is first come first serve. We would have done this, except that families kept letting their kids sit in the seats and play on the bar, so there were no open seat and I didn’t want to be the mean lady that made the kids move.)

look at that happy piece of toast

When we finally got a seat, we were greeted by a friendly waitress who handed over these menus. Love the 50’s themed cartoons and kitschy decor. All over the walls there were vintage decorations and signs. And then there was this guy…

ya know, a hamburger head with a mustache and hat. the usual restaurant decor.

packed to the brim

Looking at some of the orders around me, it seemed that the portion sizes were huge. When I decided to go with the french toast, I had to ask about the massive slices of bread I kept seeing. The waitress told me one piece would probably be more than enough, and she was very right. I ordered the Drunkard’s French Toast (or something like that, I can’t remember the exact name and can’t find it on the menu online) with a Grand Marnier and raspberry cream sauce. Dane ordered Omar’s homefries, which was a mix of pototoes, veggies, and cheese.

french toast, some liquer, and raspberry. pretty sure this was made just for me.

a whole bunch of delicious stuff all mixed up. oh and GIANT toast.

Everything was delicious and we managed to polish it off. Service was fast and friendly, and for such a packed house it was a great experience. The staff seemed totally prepared for the rush. We definitely go back, but maybe at an off peak time. When I’m hungry I have to eat! I get cranky in large crowds when my stomach is growling. Can you blame me? Oh, and did I mention the toast is as big as your head?

and that's only half a piece.

Overall, good job Friendly Toast. We shall meet again, I’m sure.
Kristen

Ropa Vieja

February 21, 2010

This is one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had. Dane had ordered Ropa Vieja at a Cuban restaurant we frequent in Jamaica Plain. After taking my friend Heather to the restaurant, she told us her dad makes amazing Ropa Vieja, and graciously volunteered to get us the recipe. All I can say is THANK YOU HEATHER!

Dane tends to be the one who does slow cooker/meat based meals for us. Maybe it’s a man thing, but I’m definitely ok with letting him cook while I relax and do things like write blog posts about him cooking.

Ropa Vieja (which, not to be gross, literally translated means “old clothes”)

Ropa Vieja!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak (You can also use skirt steak or brisket. We actually couldn’t find any of those things, so we used top sirloin.)
  • 3 quarts plus 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 4 teaspoons bouillon granules
  • 1 tablespoon parsley flakes
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced thin
  • 1 red pepper and 1 green pepper, seeded and sliced thin
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
  • Bay leaves
  • Seasoning: salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder

Add the meat, water, and some salt and pepper to a large pot. Bring to a boil. Foam will form on the surface, make sure you skim that off and get rid of it. After 5 minutes or so, add the garlic powder, bouillon, and parsley flakes, and onion powder and reduce the heat. Cover the pot partially and let the meat cook over medium-low heat for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. You want to be able to easily shred the meat once it’s done. Dane cooked ours for about 2 hours and 45 minutes. Your kitchen will smell AMAZING, but try and restrain yourself from eating it just yet. It gets better.

simmering the meat for a loooong time

Remove your meat from the pot and shred with a fork. I had a little too much fun with it and decided to just use my hands to separate it. Put the meat together, cover and set aside for the moment.

shred it up

In a big skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the onions until they start to become translucent. Add the peppers and garlic and continue cooking for a few more minutes. Now add the tomato sauce, stir it all together, and let it begin to bubble. Add the wine, vinegar, some salt and pepper, the garlic and onion powder, and bay leaves. Stir together and add 1/4 cup water. Let it come to a boil, the lower the heat and let is simmer for 5-10 minutes.

saute the veggies

At this point I started making some yellow rice and beans to go with the main dish. This was the only part of the meal I was allowed to help with (which was fine with me). All I did was boil some water, add the rice and seasoning (that was all from the same bag) and follow the directions. Then I drained and rinsed some red beans, and added them to the rice when there was bout 5 minutes left for it to cook, just so the beans would be heated.

red beans and yellow rice. perfect side dish for this meal.

Back to Dane’s part. Add the meat to the pan with your veggies and stir together. Simmer this delicious mix for about 30 minutes, covered.

as if it didn't smell amazing before. you'll want to eat this, but be careful, it's hot!

After a half hour, you’re all done! Time to eat! Serve with or over the yellow rice and beans. And make room, because you’ll probably want more.

this was my first plate, but there was at least one more before i was stuffed.

Salud!

Found! My Dream Cheese Board

February 18, 2010

I’ve been looking for the perfect cheese board for months. I looked at stores everywhere I went, shopped online, and even wrote a post with my most promising finds. But I found it when I wasn’t even looking. That’s always how it works out, isn’t it?

This past weekend we visited a store in Salem while some friends were visiting. The town was quiet and it was cold. Salem is actually a great little place to go visit, even in the “off-season”, which for them is just about any time except for the month of October. While walking around, we found a little boutique with kitchen items, specialty foods, dishware, wine, and craft beer. I had to stop in, and while I was milling around aimlessly falling in love with every item I saw, Dane took the initiative to find a store employee, locate some cheese boards, then found me and told me to pick out whatever one I wanted. I saw it right away.

this is where a light shines down on it and angels sing... or something like that.

The size I wanted, the shape I wanted, the color wood I wanted. AND? Matching cheese accessories (!). We picked up the accessories, and headed to checkout. They wrapped it up in a cute little bag for me and I toted it around town the rest of the day.

We went grocery shopping on our day off on Monday and picked up two different cheeses and some crackers, just to have in the house. You never know when company might be coming over, you have to be prepared with the right cheeses. Am I the only one who does this? Probably.

But, the best part of all this came yesterday evening. I was at a national conference all day and had a presentation at 8:50 in the morning. It was a great conference, but I was exhausted when I got home. What did I walk into?

because Dane is awesome.

Yup. That’s a cheese plate made by Dane that was ready for me and waiting when I got home. Cheddar, Brie, crackers, and prosciutto. All the makings of a very happy Kristen.

in case you were wondering what a happy Kristen looks like, here it is.

(Yes, I do realize that no one should be this obsessed with a cheese board. We all have our weird things, just bear with me on this. If you ever come over, you’ll be happy we have it!)

Welcome to your new home, perfect cheese board!

Kristen

Redbones, Somerville

February 17, 2010

A few months ago Groupon had an awesome deal that got you $30 worth of food at Redbones Barbeque for only $15. We had gone once before, and Dane especially loves barbeque, so I jumped on the offer. Last weekend when deciding where we wanted to eat lunch, I remembered we had the Groupon and we jumped in the car to drive up the Somerville.

redbones barbeque

This is a no-frills, down home, barbeque joint. During busy times, you can expect to be seated about a foot away from the table next to you, and it will be packed. There’s a great selection of beer on tap, so settle in and get ready for a big meal.

We ordered our drinks first and decided to forgo an appetizer to focus on our entrees. Dane got the new Sam Adams Seasonal beer, Noble Pils. I found something that looked interesting to me called a Black Velvet, which was cider with Guinness. Two of my favorite things in one. After my beer and cider mixing adventure at the Harpoon Brewery, I had to try it. Well worth the risk for me. It was great. Not too sweet, but definitely an interesting mix of flavors.

Guinness on top, cider on the bottom

It just so happened that the table next to us (well, it felt like 6 inches away from us) ordered an appetizer of fried pickles and fried jalapenos. Just one look was all it took for us to put in an order for ourselves. So much for focusing on our entrees. I absolutely love fried pickles, and these were great. Different kind of breading than what I was used to, and they were crunchy on the outside and hot on the inside. The dipping sauce was a great compliment.

fried pickles. two words that belong together.

Now that we barely had enough room left for lunch, we got our meals. Pulled pork sandwiches are always my meal of choice when we eat barbecue (which isn’t often, so it’s a nice treat). My eyes were way bigger than my stomach and I ordered the platter, which included a side of beans and potato salad, instead of just the sandwich. Dane decided to go with the Memphis Ribs and Barbecue Chicken combo. Portions are huge here!

gigantic pulled pork sandwich

piled high plate of chicken and ribs

The barbecue is just great here. There aren’t too many places in the Boston area that I can think of specializing in barbecue and Redbones does it right. There was no way we could finish everything, despite our best efforts.

Dane showing off his best efforts

Give Redbones a shot if you’re in the mood for barbeque. Don’t plan on eating again for a while after you’ve consumed the massive portions and filling meals this place has to offer. I know we’ll be back again, as soon as Dane’s in the mood for some ribs again!

Kristen

Taste Testing: Wines Under $5 from Trader Joe’s

February 16, 2010

This is the third in our series called “Taste Testing” for our blog. We’re looking to compare our favorite things to find the best of the best! Send us your suggestions of what we should test out!

______________________________________________________________

After talking with the lovely Marissa and reading the guest post she graciously wrote for this blog, it seemed only natural to do a little wine tasting. I have the new found appreciation for evaluating wine (even if it’s very basic) and wanted to put it to the test. I emailed some friends, and they kindly agreed to join in as my guest judges. I’m sure it was because they’re just amazing friends. Appetizers, a cheese plate, and free wine probably played no part in their decision making process.

Since we’re very new to the whole world of wine, we wanted to start with some very basic (and not so expensive) choices. We decided to go to a place that many people may have heard of, Trader Joe’s. They always have a wide selection of wine in a wide selection of price ranges, and we chose to go with the most accessible price range of $5 and under. Believe it or not, there were plenty of styles to choose from. We went with all red wines because it’s still winter and red wine seems cozier.

The contenders were (left to right): Tres Pinos (California), Aquila D’Oro (Italy), Condesa de Sarabella (Spain), Trader Joe’s Merlot (Chile), and Nero d’Avola (Italy).

all reds, all from TJ's, all under $5

I poured for my four guest judges to they didn’t know which wine they were tasting. Each wine was rated according to Marissa’s four step guide on a scale of 1 through 5 (1 being awful and 5 being spectacular). First was “the part where you swirl your wine around in the glass” focusing on the legs and color of the wine. Next, “the part where you shove your nose in the glass” to rate the nose, or bouquet, or the wine. Third, “the part where you drink” and evaluate the mouthfeel, taste, and finish of the wine. Last, “the part where you finish your glass and think about how much more awesome life is with wine in it” which was the overall rating that was out of a possible 15 points, and was the first three scores added up.

the celebrity judges hard at work.

Here’s how they did

#4 Tie between Aquila D’Oro and Condesa de Sarabella

The tasters felt similarly about these two wine stating for both that there wasn’t much distinct flavor but too much bite in the finish. One taster especially disliked the aroma of the Aquila D’Oro and said “it tastes like $5”. I did some research on both to find out more, and most tasters suggested opening the bottle and letting it sit for a while before drinking the wine. This seems to bring out more of the flavor and pleasant aroma. Maybe something to keep in mind for next time.

#3 Trader Joe’s Private Label

I picked up this wine because I had never seen Trader Joe’s own label of wine and wanted to include a South American wine. Overall, the color and mouthfeel were good to the judges. It was lighter than the previous wines and a bit more fruity.

#2 Nero D’Avola

This wine, named for a grape that’s popular in southern Italy for wine making, was slightly sweeter and more fruity. Some thought it was also dry, but all of the judges seemed to like it. Only three points separated this from the first place wine.

#1 Tres Pinos Tierra Roja

This wine is actually a blend of four different kinds of grapes, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Syrah. This definitely gave the wine a nice fruity flavor and pleasant aroma, although with a touch of acidity (which I’ve learned are the tannins). This is the wine everyone wanted more of after the tasting, and that really is a good indicator for me.

congratulations tres pinos!

It was fun to try some new flavors with friends and to branch out at Trader Joe’s. We’re planning to do this tasting again with white wines in the spring. I think the judges are already looking forward to it!

Kristen


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