Spring has Sprung Restaurant Style

1 04 2010

Photo by Isabelle Klein age 5 1/2 (taken for her blog borrowed by mommy)

Not only are crocuses popping up here and there, but in Boston and environs some fabulous sounding restaurants have popped up here and there.  Flour Bakery (you know the one near the children’s museum) is working hard to open their third location down by Central Bottle Wine and Provisions in Cambridge, Bergamot has opened in Somerville, and Rafiki Bistro is in the works on Mass. Ave between Harvard and Porter Sq.

Another restaurant that I have been anxiously awaiting is AKA Bistro because it is a hop, skip and a jump from our CSA and sometimes I just don’t have the time or desire to pack a picnic for dinner (although we enjoy many of those a growing season) and pizza next to the gas station is okay every once in a while, but now we have an extraordinary option….and check out this fabulous children’s menu!

There are snails (no puppy dogs tails) and instead of chicken wings how about some frog’s legs.  Wait….don’t start  to guffaw or shake your head.  This food is actually more child friendly than you might think. Read on and then I’ll explain.

Kids Menu

9 Frog legs, broccoli purée & garlic sauce

6 Ham & Cheese Sandwich

5 Grated Carrot Salad

8 Black olive tomato confit tart

9 Steak “hache”  (as in hamburger French style no bun) & french fries

8 French Mac & Cheese

7 Mashed potato and ham

9 Cod fillet, lima beans, cherry tomato confit, chorizo oil

9 *Hawaiian Poke (Marinated tuna cubes) with sweet onions, ginger & pickled mung beans

dz 9 Snails with herbs and garlic butter

For the most picky children there is the gratin of noodles and cheese (and I’m sure if necessary you can get them plain jane.) and a simple grated carrot salad is divine. As for the snails, my daughter loves garlic and butter and bread…that’s what snails are essentially with a snail hidden in there somewhere (don’t judge and your kids won’t either).  Marinated tuna cubes are great little bites of pinkiness.  Who wouldn’t want that?  Nothing fishy there and it’s the perfect finger food (even in a fancy resto).  The steak hâché should be a perfectly cooked patty with a side of fries.  Who needs a bun when the meat is good.  Mashed potato is another kid-friendly dish and who knows maybe they’ll like it with ham and then you can add a little protein in with that starch (and maybe even make your own version at home.)

I expect great things from AKA Bistro in Lincoln.  The quality should be top-notch which means the prices are perfectly fair and dare I say even reasonable.

If you get a chance to go…please share your experiences in the comment section below!

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Valentine’s day with the Kids

29 01 2010

I have never been a fan of Valentine’s day…well, I did always look forward to those little red hot Valetine’s heart candies.  The ones that make your tongue tingle and scream “CINAMMON” in your mouth.  Then there was the year abroad in college in the UK when I discovered they had candy hearts with mean sayings on them.  I had fun taping them to my friends’ doors.  All in love and with the true British sarcastic spirit.

So here we are and Valentine’s day is approaching somewhere between shuttling the children to and from classes and school, and working on projects, I guess I should consider what our plan is.  Do I buy/make cards from the children for family members? just my husband? no one?  I think I’ll do whatever I have time to do and whatever we feel like between now and then.  That’s got to be good enough. Then, if it strikes our fancy, everyone is healthy, we have it in our budget (money or time), perhaps we’ll do something around town.

For places to go and eat with the kids in tow at either breakfast, lunch, or dinner here are a few suggestions.  If it is chocolate that you’re after, either for your loved ones or for yourself, then here’s a full but not absolute list of where you can find everything from Cadbury chocolate to some exquisite hand-made chocolates.

Our slightly less local than it was toy store, Henry Bear’s Park, is having a chocolate lollipop workshop at each of their locations.  I am not sure how hands on the workshop will be, but it is free and when you call to reserve your spot you can get all the details.  Arlington’s workshop is on Saturday February 6th from 11:00 -1:00, Brookline’s is on Wednesday February 3rd from 3:30 to 5:30 and Cambridge’s is Friday February 5th from 4:30 to 6:30.  The recommended age from the Candy Factory Kit is ages 10 and up, but for the workshop (or using the kit with help) younger children will be fascinated as well.

You can’t eat it, but you can definitely cook in it and eat from it, if you made it at Made By Me.  Made By Me has some of the nicest options for pottery pieces to paint.   It turns out, on Monday February 1st you can eat it.  Made By Me is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary with cake and goodies.  There will be surprise specials for all painters (make something for the grandparents for Valentine’s day or plan way ahead for Mother’s day.)  If you can’t make it on Monday, then throughout the month of February, Monday through Friday will be Ten Dollar Days when some of the special, more expensive items will be offered for $10 while supplies last for any given item.  Items will vary throughout the month.

On Valentine’s Day proper, Sunday, February 14, paint with someone you love.  You each buy your item but the painting time will be two for the price of one.  Made by Me will provide the music, ambience, flowers, and even chocolates.  You are on your own for the creativity and affection.  We do enjoy eating our cereal or ice cream out of the hand-painted dishes the children have made at Made by Me.  I expect when they’re in college we’ll appreciate them even more.





Steak Recipe: Penny Wise and Foolish in Love

5 02 2009

Whether the economy is going down the garbage disposal or you are living in a golden age it never hurts to be penny wise.  Here is a great recipe for steak hâché, which in all fairness has nothing to do with steak, but a little French can’t hurt if you’re looking for romance.

As a 6th grade student in Grenoble, France, one day “hamburger Americain” (pronounce with French accent dropping the “h”, rolling the “r”, and scrunch your nose for the “ain”) was served for lunch.  No one ate it.  It was a flat, overcooked patty of beef served on a plate.  Alone.  No wonder the French don’t think much of our food.  Well that was a long time ago and North American food has changed for the better.  Even so, a hamburger needs a bun and some fixin’s to make it a hamburger.  A steak hâché, on the other hand is served alone as a well cooked patty of beef with some seasoning and (if you’re lucky) a beautiful sauce.  I guess, with the hamburger Americain something got lost in translation.

To make your very own penny wise, romantic dinner of steak haché here is what you need.

A pan.  Cast iron is good.

For the steak haché
salt
pepper
olive Oil or butter
ground beef (lean but not too lean)

Form the patties.  Heat the pan and cook the patties until they are done to your liking.  Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper.  Let the steak haché sit on a rimmed plate.

For the sauce
salt
pepper
butter
a small onion or shallot (I prefer shallots)
Dijon mustard
red wine or brandy (if you like)
crême fraîche or sour cream (I prefer the former)

Chop 1/2 the onion or shallot finely.  Sauté the onion or shallot in some butter until nicely golden. Add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard (less or more to your taste).  Splash a little red wine or brandy into the pan and deglaze the pan.  Add a dollop of crême fraîche or sour cream.  Taste and add seasoning as needed.  Pour the juices on the steak haché plate into the sauce and stir.  Then add the meat to the sauce just to re-warm. Serve with a salad, a baguette to mop up the sauce (this is expected and not considered rude), and perhaps a cheese or fruit course.

Set the table with candles.  Put on some nice music.  You have the perfect dinner for 2,4,6,8 on the penny wise side leaving you plenty of time and some money to be foolish in love.

Bon appetit.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Steak haché au poivre vertSteak hache à la sauce Roquefort





Steeling Home: Family Meals That Don’t Break the Bank

27 01 2009

This is a special edition Super Bowl article written for a mom in Arlington looking for something that will score a field goal with the family without breaking the bank.  So in honour of the Pittsburgh Steelers we are steeling (sic) home for some good food at a low price.  

A lot of typical bar food or Super Bowl party food can be a great starting point for fun family meals.  With a few modifications you can make some healthy, tasty, and inexpensive meals that will appeal to the whole family.

Tacos
Tacos are great with kids because if they are old enough they can help prep.  I had my 2 and 4 year olds help.  Yes, we had to throw out a tomato because my son decided that 1/4 cup of salt would be really fun to pour and mix with it, but aside from that all ingredients were spared and delicious.  The other benefit of tacos is they can be personalized (yes salsa, no cheese, extra sour cream).

In our house we have the following little bowls set up:  sour cream, grated cheddar, shredded lettuce, salsa, cubed tomatoes.  We have decided that soft corn tortillas make it a lot easier to eat so we microwave some soft corn tortillas ( you can use blue ones for more fun) and add the meat and toppings to your liking.

For the meat we use a taco seasoning mix (I prefer the ones at Whole Foods or in the “natural” food section of the grocery store).  If I can’t make it to Whole Foods for some organic, hormone free, etc. meat then I buy buffalo meat or organic turkey at the regular grocery store.

This is an inexpensive dish because a little meat goes a long way as do most of the toppings.

Nachos

I know nachos are not typically a meal, but you can add some shredded chicken (from a store bought rotisserie chicken or your own roasted chicken), a side of re-fried beans or home-made bean dip to add to it, add some extra diced tomatoes and guacamole and you might find more protein and vegetables on your child’s plate than usual.  To really make it a whole meal I would serve a dish like this with a salad, or some vegetable crudites (just the kids favourite raw veggies and dip).  This would also pair well with a bowl of tomato soup or black bean soup.

If you buy a store bought chicken it may cost a little more in money but save a lot on time and you can usually stretch it for at least two meals.

Soups and chilis
The secret to soups and chilis for the kids is the “add ons”.  Make a soup or chili (Vegetarian, poultry or red meat) and set up an “add on” bar of sorts.  You can have a little dish of grated cheese, sour cream (that’s my daughter’s favourite), oyster crackers, croutons, or strips of toast.  You can always add a grilled cheese sandwich to this (with Tomato on whole wheat is what we like to make) and you have a very hearty meal.  For soups, know your children well.  My daughter loves miso soup with bean curd.  She used to call the little tofu cubes noodles.  In the beginning that was all she would eat.  Another family favourite is Matzoh ball soup.  Some children will only eat the noodles at first, but eventually they acquire a taste for the broth and veggies too.

Dips and dippers

You can get a pretty decent meal of dips and dippers.  Cut up some raw veggies.  Have some pita (whole wheat or white) on hand.  The children often like the mini pitas.  You can also use baguette rounds, crackers, tortilla chips.  Then for the dips it is easy to make a light white bean dip , some hummus, perhaps a good guacamole, and a warm artichoke dip if you feel like having something warm to dig into.

The thing about dips is that sometimes the children need to participate in the making of it so they know what’s in it.  It can work either way.  My children won’t try something that looks mysterious.  They like to know what they’re getting into.  So we have much more success when they help make the dips.

To round out the meal serve this with a filling smoothie (call it a milk shake and it’s even better) and you have a nice light, healthy, inexpensive dinner.

Pizza
You can use pita bread or english muffins to make quick pizzas.  If you make your own pizza sauce you can add some extra veggies by adding veggie purees into the sauce.  I prefer to take a little extra time and use a fresh pizza dough (store bought) and let each child customize a section of the pizza. You can add slices of ham cut into strips, peppers, fresh tomatoes, or whatever the children are likely to eat.

When you are really out of ideas and just want something quick and easy then you can almost always score a touch down with the children if you make breakfast for dinner.

Finally, a great resource for meals that both you and your children can enjoy I highly recommend checking out Annabel Karmel’s recipes on her website.

Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more inspiration check out these Super Bowl menus: Rachel RayMartha Stewart





Recipe: Braised Monkfish with Bacon and Tomatoes (modified)

5 01 2009

I made this recipe from my Williams Sonoma Fish cookbook, but changed it a bit.

Before you head to the recipe,  here are my modifications.

I used a handful of cherry tomatoes per person.  I used pancetta instead of bacon because that is what I had in the fridge.  You could also try to use proscuitto and crips it in the oil, just allow less time.  Oh and I didn’t have any basil so I just left it out.

Once the dish was done, I left a little of the sauce in the pan after plating our dinner and added





Shop Like a Chef: Fish

4 01 2009

When I shop for fish I have a couple things in mind when I head to the fish counter.  My requirements are:

  1. Must be fresh
  2. Must be local (we live on the coast for goodness sake)
  3. Must be under two digits a pound.
  4. Must be fish I like

Must be fresh

I am not a fan of frozen foods except peas and ice cream.  I really dislike fish that has been frozen.  I know some of it is practically frozen on the boat, my husband watchesDeadliest Catch,  but really deep-freeze frozen or previously frozen fish just doesn’t taste good or feel good on the palate.  Be sure to read the signs carefully, and if you have questions ask!  The fish mongers are usually more than happy to answer.  You can ask to see the piece of fish and go ahead smell it if you like.  Fish that is fresh has a clean scent not a “fishy” smell.

Must be local

When it comes to fish, it’s quite easy for us to be locavores.  We live near the ocean.  Of course, you can decide how far your locavore zone goes.  There was a great story by Mark Bittman about Monkfish in The New York Times last October tracking it’s ridiculous journey from Monkfish to Lotte.  We’re having local monkfish, purchased at Whole Foods Market tonight as well as mussels from Maine.

Must be under two digits a pound

There is a little refrain in our household that states, “We have to start buying cheaper fish.”  This goes back to a time when my husband and I had just started new jobs and the dot com market was dying a rapid death.  My husband wasn’t sure where his company stood.  I had always firmly believed in buying organic food and I refused to buy farmed fish having had several roommates from British Colombia who knew the fish farms quite well.  My husband wasn’t quite on board.  So one day he came home, glanced at the grocery bill and said, “We have to start buying cheaper fish.”  I refused to back down, if you know my family you understand, and pointed out that perhaps the many bicycles he owned and maintained and the cable bill are better things to cut back on than things we put in our body.  In any case, we kept our jobs, we kept the bikes and we do buy cheaper fish, we just don’t buy salmon that often, and we don’t buy farmed fish.

Mussels and baguette with salted butter make up one of my favourite cheap feasts.  You can get mussels from 3.69/ bag.  A baguette is a couple of dollars, and if you’re lucky you have a stick of local butter in the door of your refrigerator.

The monkfish just made it at $9.99 a pound.  I bought a little less than a pound for the two of us because it’s quite a hearty fish.

Must be a fish I like

I like a lot of seafood.  I really don’t like swordfish and I’m not a fan of fish that seem to have more bones than flesh.  I love flounder and any other delicate white fish.  I love trout and other lake fish, but those are hard to find at the store.  My dad used to take my brother and I fishing every summer in the Muskokas.  We would catch and eat Pike and I think rainbow trout as well.  To this day, it is the best fish I have eaten.  I really like salmon but I can live with just having it a couple times a year.  I love scallops and steamers.  I make clams every once in a while with pasta because my husband loves clam sauce.  As you can see, I’m not too picky when it comes to fish.  I even recently bought a whole fish (I think it was flounder) and had the fish monger fillet it for me.  I’m not ready to handle the entire thing alone even though, as I learned at dinner with one of my dad’s students, the cheeks are one of the best parts of the fish.

So if you want to shop for fish like a chef then be sure to have some things on hand at home:  leeks, onions, lemons, and perhaps some tomatoes or peppers, bacon or pancetta is good too.  Head to the store and see which fish looks fresh with the right price.  Ask a few questions if it’s new to you:  What does it taste like? How do I prepare it?  Then bring it home and look through your cookbooks while the kids do their homework or play or look it up online to find an easy preparation.  I’ll post my monkfish recipe soon.

Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Luxury for locavores (Boston Globe), 
Do We Really Need a Few Billion Locavores? (New York Times)





To Meat or Not To Meat That is the Question

29 12 2008

Peta 2 has their vote going on for the 2008 World’s sexiest vegetarians.  Peta has their list of 2008 top 10vegetarian friendly ball parks.  And examiner.com‘sBoston Vegetarian Examiner has a great list of vegetarian prix fixe menus available to ring in 2009.   I’m sure that in the coming days some people are planning to start a vegetarian diet, be better vegetarians, or just choose to eat better in the coming year.

I have been vegetarian and vegan in my life not for ethical reasons, but because I’ve never been a fan of meat and dairy’s never been a fan of me.  At some point, when I learned that I was allergic to dairy and soy I decided that I don’t eat enough beans and lentils to be healthy and decided to cook meat.  My children eat meat, although not much because they prefer other things.  I love fish and hope one day they will learn to eat seafood other than the perfect  Wellfleet clams that my daughter ate off my appetizer plate at Craigie St. Bistrot (now Craigie on Main).  She then asked, “Can we just ask the waiter for some more?” and I had to explain it wasn’t the kind of restaurant or food that we could just ask for some more.

Recently, the Boston Vegetarian Examiner wrote about Veg-friendly options for New Year’s Eve prix fixe dinners.  I wanted to add a couple more restaurants to this list.  They may not have specific New Year’s Eve menus but they do have fabulous vegetarian tasting menus.

Craigie on Main

This is one of neighbourhood gems that is not quite in our neighbourhood anymore.  We went there recently and really enjoyed our meal (more about the Craigie experience in an upcoming article).  It is not well advertised, but Craigie on Main does have a Vegetarian prix fixe meal that is available for $61.  My children’s grandparents have dined with us there and they are both vegetarian and really enjoyed their meal.  Chef Maw’s kitchen is not the kind of place where they just put together a couple sides and take out the meat from a couple dishes to get Vegetarian food.  It is definitely a special night out with amazing food.  Chef Maws uses the best ingredients available.  I used to live not to far from Lyon and I have to say that the food at Craigie is the best French food I’ve had outside of France.

As stated on their website, “Tony Maws is a non-traditional chef – an “idealist with a kitchen” might be a more appropriate job description. His ideology: that local, seasonal and sustainably sourced ingredients are intrinsically better, and that these ingredients form the most significant part of what makes great food great.”.

The non-vegetarian New Year’s Eve menu can be ogled online, and a vegetarian menu will be available but has not yet been set.

Oleana

Oleana is another wonderful restaurant that has a menu to tantalize the palate.  This summer, we dined there again with grandma and grandpa who happen to be vegetarian.  At the time, they had a special vegetarian tasting menu set up to support Verill Farm after their devastating fire.  On their regular menu, they have a special Vegetarian tasting menu that offers so many different ingredients and flavours without overwhelming the diner.  The tasting menu includes five mezze and a dessert and is available for $42.

Elephant Walk

The Elephant Walk is a French-Cambodian restaurant.  It is not a fusion restaurant, but rather has a wonderful French side of the menu and a tempting Cambodian side of the menu.  Elephant Walk has won citysearch’s best of 2008 for their Vegetarian Food.  You can read about what makes their vegetarian options that much better on their blog.   The quality of the ingredients is fabulous and they have just recently lowered their already reasonable prices for such a dining experience.  They have some special menu items for New Year’s Eve and offer a prix fixe menu year-round that has a vegan or vegetarian option for each part of the prix fixe menu.  They also offer a gluten-free menu at each of their locations.

Now you have a great many fabulous restaurants to choose from.  You’re on your own, however, trying to get a reservation for New Year’s eve let alone a babysitter.  Don’t worry though.  These restaurants have great food year-round and offer their vegetarians fine dining choices year-round as well.

Bon appetit et bon année.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Craigie on Main, Elephant Walk,Oleana