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





Celebrating Not Just Surviving New Year’s Eve With Young Children

26 12 2008

Staying up for midnight on New Year’s Eve was never a problem for me.  We celebrated at parties with friends.  We went out to First Night in Boston, and Stamford, CT.  We stayed in for a fabulous home cooked dinner with friends in Maine.  We had large celebrations and small parties.

Then, I married an early bird.  Okay, so night owl and early bird doesn’t always work, but we would just have parties that ended very close to midnight or duck out early and watch the ball drop in NYC on television in our jammies.  Then came children…

Now by the time we’ve done all our Chanukah, Christmas, and Boxing Day celebrations, I’ve had a good many nights of exceptionally bad sleep.  The children sleep poorly at home and much worse away from home.  I unpack our bags, get the wonderful new toys put away and donate the toys the children no longer use, open the rest of the Christmas cards, read through the holiday newsletters, sit down ready to collapse, turn on the Food Network and see chefs whipping up delicious appetizers and meals for New Year’s Eve.

I look at the calendar and see that we have two days before New Year’s Eve.  I have no plans.  I’m not exactly a party girl, but I love to throw a good party and have participated in a good many as well.  Most of my friends with young children have vague plans if any.  So what do we baggy-eyed parents with children still unwinding from the sleepless, sugar-full state of the holidays do?  We celebrate New Year’s Eve in Paris.

Last year, we celebrated New Year’s Eve in Paris, with many of our French friends who are living in the US.  We don’t celebrate New Year’s Eve in Paris because we have many French friends.  I would celebrate it if we had no connection to France at all.  However, we celebrate New Year’s Eve in Paris because it is midnight six hours earlier there.

New Year’s in Paris is a perfect solution for families with young children.  If you happen to be a francophile, even better.  You can play French music.  We had some great French wine, Champagne and cheeses.  I’m not for overdoing a theme, but you really can’t go wrong by having French food for a New Year’s Eve party.

So, if you have no plans this year, send out an evite.  Have a New Year’s in Paris celebration and ring in the New Year at 6 p.m. Eastern Standard time.   Have a selection of good French wines and real Champagne.  You can head over to Formaggio Kitchen for some great French cheeses and some French-style baguette from the wide range of bakeries in the Boston/Cambridge area (see the information box).  Everyone will be home just in time for dinner.  If you’re lucky you might even be able to find some good gourmandises, such as les papillottes, from Cardullo’s for a special treat.  Keep the menu simple, olives, cheese bread, perhaps some warm appetizers.  My daughter and I love to make crepes and they can be filled with savory or sweet filling.  A frozen sheet of puff pastry, some good gruyere and mustard can also go a long way.  I made this savory palmier recipe for a Solstice party and it was a huge hit.  They are also very simple to prepare.

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

For more info: Hi Rise BakeryIggy’s Bread of the World,Clear Flour BreadSel de la TerreB & R Bread





Hearth ‘n Kettle Celebrates the Holidays in Traditional New England Style

23 12 2008

While we were on Cape Cod for the weekend, we had the pleasure of good, simple, family meals.  TheHearth ‘n Kettle is a local Cape Cod chain of restaurants that I had known only in name until recently.

I’m not a snob, but I’ve definitely been spoiled when it comes to food.  I grew up in Canada where we got a great deal of our food at the nearby, primarily Mennonite, farmer’s market.  My mom made almost everything from scratch, and she shopped to get the best quality ingredients.  I don’t mean that she shopped at little foodie boutiques and high end stores, but she got the best quality for the best prices she could find.  We often drove out to get our meat from a farm’s meat coop.  We went to the health food store for a lot of our bulk flour and other ingredients.  We went to one grocery store for produce and another for meat.  I have also lived in France, when I was 7 and when I was 12 as well as travelled throughout Europe during my junior year abroad.  So I have eaten well in many a place.  I live in Cambridge now and continue to be spoiled.  Though I am definitely a foodie, I am not a food snob because I can appreciate a good grilled cheese sandwich with Kraft singles (my parents are rolling their eyes at this I know).  I enjoy a drippy, assembly line Burger King burger every once in a while.  I’ll even admit I like theChik-fil-A salad, hold the chicken, when I’m shopping at the Mall.

So, when we went to Cape Cod for the weekend, I’ll have to be honest I didn’t expect much.  When I think of the Cape, I think of ice cream stands that sell friend food, I think of sandwiches on white soft bread.  I think I’m miles away from my culinary home of Cambridge with my crusty Iggy’s bread and my Hi Rise sandwiches.  I know there are some fabulous restaurants sprinkled across the Cape.  Portuguesebakeries and other hidden jewels have built a name for themselves.  Most of the restaurants are on the “high end” side and tend to be not particularly family friendly.  With our kids, we love going to the Wicked Oyster in Wellfleet and when they were babies we even dined outside at Winslow Tavern.  I wouldn’t want to try to take the kids to some of the other gems of the Cape like Black-Eyed Susan’s on Nantucket where the wait with a reservation can be a while and the restaurant is a bit too intimate for young kids. The other thing that you have to remember is that during late fall and many restaurants are seasonal and I know that.  During our weekend of family time on the Cape, we had our meals at the Hearth ‘n Kettle(H’nK). I was pleasantly surprised.  The menu had a a wide variety of choices.  I always like to get whatever “makes sense” for where I am. If I’m by the water I’m going to get some fish. The seafood was cooked well as was the prime rib my husband ordered.   The best dishes to get are New England classics:  Cape Scrod, Fisherman’s Platter, Traditional roast turkey dinner.  You aren’t going to get the updated gourmet version of these.  You’re going to get the classic rendition.  I can get “modern, nouvelle, updated, fusion” food at home in the city.  When I eat somewhere like the H’nK I want simple, classic and comfort and that’s what they serve.

As I was flipping through the menu, I noticed that they had started to include organic ingredients.  This was more than I expected from such a restaurant, but it just goes to show the influence that huge grocery chains such as Whole Foods Market have had on the food we eat and are served.

When I met with Debra Catania, VP of the Catania Hospitality Group, we talked about how important our family is to each of us.  Love, tradition, and family are at the core of both our our lives, mine as a stay at home mother of two little ones, hers as a working mother of grown children.  This is something that you feel at the restaurant.  It is a well run restaurant, not a well-run money-making machine.  The staff are extremely nice and genuine.  The quality of the food is very good, they go the extra step to make the dining experience a good one and the portions are more than generous.  They had local high school students caroling while we dined.  This brought me back in time to where I grew up, before I lived in New York and Boston.  It was nice to have the small town experience.  Live music doesn’t have to be the Boston Symphony Orchestra, I had wanted to take my daughter to hear Elgar but couldn’t coordinate schedules, any live music is an experience for them.  Both kids appreciated a few simple carols sung by the students.  They asked questions about the pitch pipe, their outfits and about the singers.  They got so excited when a familiar song was sung.

So if you are lucky enough to escape and carve out some family time this winter, I definitely recommend a weekend on the Cape and you can rely on the Hearth ‘n Kettle for a friendly, family feel with good, classic New England style cooking.

Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For More Information:  Classic New England Recipes(Yankee Magazine), Hearth ‘n Kettle





2008 Year in Review: A Year of Seasonal Produce in New England

23 12 2008

It’s no secret that our growing season in the northeast is a short one.  New England has its last frost some time around the end of April by the coast and early June in the mountains and first frost can be any time from early September to the end of October.  This year many crops were hurt by some early ice storms.  Other crops did very well with the many days of rain early on in the season.

Here is a look at what a year’s worth of New England climate can give us for seasonal produce.  You will eat better and more “budget-friendly” if you eat seasonally.  Don’t let that stop you from an occasional indulgence in strawberries mid-winter.  We have a couple jars of freezer jam in the fridge from our fabulous crop of strawberries that grew early this summer.

I have linked some of the produce below to recipes for your enjoyment.

Spring

Vegetables: asparagus , beets , broccoli , cabbage , cauliflower , fiddleheads , garlic greens , greens , arugula , beet , bok choy , chard , collard , cress , dandelion , kale , mizuna , mustard greens , sorrel (the French make a great sorrel soup), tat soi , turnip , lettuce , mushrooms , parsnips , peas – snap and snow (the other favourite spring treat especially English peas) , radishes , rhubarb (one of my favourite spring treats) , spinach ,  sprouts

Fruit: apples , strawberries

Herbs: chives , cilantro , dill , marjoram , mint, oregano , parsley , sage , thyme

Summer

Vegetables: beets (Patricia Wells has a fabulous raw beet salad), broccoli , cabbage , carrots , cauliflower , celery , cucumbers , eggplant endive , fennel , garlic , green beans , kohlrabi (early in the season), lettuce , mushrooms , okra, onions – red and yellow , peppers – hot and sweet , potatoes – new , radicchio , scallions, sprouts , summer squash , sweet corn , tomatoes,tomatillos

Fruit: apricots (delish on puff pastry for a tart) ,blackberries , blueberries , cherries , currants , elderberries , gooseberries (great for jam), melons , nectarines , peaches , plums (also great for a puff pastry tart), raspberries

Herbs: basil , cilantro (also known as coriander), dill , marjoram , mint , parsley , rosemary , savory , tarragon

Fall

Vegetables: beets , broccoli , brussels sprouts , burdock (gobo) , cabbage , carrots* , cauliflower , celeriac , daikon*, fennel , garlic*, greens : arugula , bok choy , chard , collard , kale , mustard greens , mizuna, tat soi , and turnip , horseradish*, kohlrabi , leeks , lettuce , mushrooms , onions – red and yellow*, parsley , parsnips , potatoes*, pumpkins , radishes , rutabaga , scallions ., shallots*, sprouts , sweet potatoes ,  turnips , winter squash*

*This is the peak season for vegetables and fruit marked with a *, however they can be stored fairly long term in the proper conditions to be eaten throughout the seasons.

Fruit: apples* , apple cider*, Asian pears , cranberries , grapes , pears*, quince , raspberries

Seasonings: Hopefully you dried herbs from the spring and summer harvest to use for winter and fall.  You can also keep some herbs growing in a sunny window inside for a good part of the fall and winter.

Winter

Vegetables: beets, burdock (gobo), cabbage, carrots, celeriac, daikon1, garlic, horseradish, Jerusalem artichoke,, Early in the season:  kale, kohlrabi, and leeks, mushrooms, onions – red and yellow, parsnips, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas, shallots, sprouts, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash

Fruit: apples*, apple cider*

Seasonings: Hopefully you dried herbs from the spring and summer harvest to use for winter and fall.  You can also keep some herbs growing in a sunny window inside for a good part of the fall and winter.

Recipes:  grilled seasonal vegetable pizzaoven roasted ratatouillealmond apricot tart,strawberry freezer jamrhubarb crisppotato gratin

For more info: The Northeast Regional Food Guide,Eating Seasonally





Weekly Holiday Bump: Cupcakes, Latkes, Giving, and Santa Claus

16 12 2008

Kickass Cupcakes is holding a cupcake cocktail tastings all week.
COCKTAIL CUPCAKE HAPPY HOURS!
December 15th, 16th & 17th from 5pm-7pm
Free tastings of mini cupcakes with cocktail inspired flavors

On Sunday December 21st from 1pm-5pm they will host a Kids holiday cupcake decorating day.  The cost is $5 and includes 2 plain cupcakes and all the frosting, sprinkles and sugars one could possibly dream of.   They even offer a child-friendly “nickname” for themselves by suggestingj, “You can tell your wee ones we’re kick stars cupcakes!”

The Blue Room in Kendall Square will be hosting it’s 5th Annual Lynn Shelter Lunch on Thursday, December 18th from 12 – 2 p.m.  100% of the $35 donation goes to help the children at the shelter have a warm bed, a good meal and a present under the tree on Christmas morning!.

Latkes. The Second Annual Everyone Loves Latkes Party is Saturday, December 20th from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m..  There will be Latke donations and cooking demonstrations provided by some of the restaurants in Harvard Square.  There will also be storytelling and music for the whole family.  The party will be in Winthrop Park (corner of JFK and Mt. Auburn Street.)

Breakfast with Santa.   From 11:00am to 12:00pm Santa Claus will lead everyone on a Holiday Parade, which will arrive at the Harvard Square Welcome Tent in the center of Harvard Square.

Breakfast is at the Atrium Living Room at the Inn at Harvard and is additionally priced at $14.95 for adults and $8.95 for children.

Breakfast with Santa Menu:

Seasonal Sliced Fruit & Berries, French Toast & Waffles, Scrambled Eggs, Bacon & Sausage, Breakfast Potatoes, Homemade Muffins, Danish, Pastries, Breads & Croissants, Bagels with Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese Spread, Vine Ripened Tomatoes, Onions & Capers.  Omelet Station (Made to Order with only the Freshest Ingredients to Include: Sautéed Mushroom, Fresh Herbs, Cheese, and Julienne of Ham, Red & Green Peppers, Diced Tomatoes, Spinach and Onions). Holiday Cookies Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice & Grapefruit Juice, Coffee, Decaffeinated Coffee, and Tea

Wilson’s Farm.  Just in case you were wondering, Wilson’s farm has some great gift baskets and prepared foods for the holidays.  They are open on Tuesdays this month.

For more info: Kickass CupcakesThe Blue Room Lynne Shelter LunchEveryone Loves Latkes Party, Sparklefest in Harvard Square





Christmas in Carver: From Carving Turkey To Carving Out Family Time

14 12 2008

What does a family of New York (once or twice removed) Jews do when Chanukah falls right around Christmas?  We carve out some family time.  You can’t have a Chanukah party two weeks before Chanukah starts because waiting for the first night will be an eternity for the kids.  It is bad enough that they couldn’t wait so they filled their Chanukiah‘s with candles already even though the first candle won’t be lit for another week.  So, we were invited to the Cape to check out the John Carver Inn and Edaville, USA. and scheduled a weekend together just the four of us.  Family time is hard to come by these days.  Even though, I am a stay at home mom and my husband works in town, we are usually just ships passing in the day and night. We are lucky if we can break bread together as a family once or twice a week.

As a child growing up, I always knew how important it was to sit together and have a family meal.  My brother and I both had busy schedules, and I know we didn’t have dinner together every night, but we always had meals together on weekends and on as many nights as possible.  As a parent, I feel that what I know to be best for my family has to be attained in a modified way.  So we drove a couple of hours to get away, relax, play, and break bread as a family.

The problem with some vacations is that you spend almost as long planning, and packing and traveling as you do “vacationing”.  The great thing about a mini-vacation on the Cape is that it doesn’t take that long (in the Winter) to get to your destination.  I am not a fan of crowds so the Cape in the winter is idyllic.  The John Carver Inn & Spa had everything we needed.  A great pool for the kids to play in, a spa for me to relax in, and a several nearby activities, and attractions for us to enjoy as a family.

Edaville‘s Christmas Festival of Lights is a sight to see.  I don’t think I could drive there just for Edaville, but it’s definitely an experience to be had in New England at least once.  We got there a bit early so we drove around and were fascinated with the deep red fields that were cranberry bogs.  Edaville USA has that old New England, “back in the day”, kind of feel.  The entry ticket includes a train ride through the night in a heated narrow gauge train.  The landscape has more than seven million holiday lights both still and animated sprinkled over the landscape of the two mile round trip.  The entry fee includes all the classic, “old school”, carnival rides, but the games are three dollars each.  There is the scent of fried dough and popcorn in the air.  Nothing tempted us.  A few people were inside grabbing a bite to eat, but I think they really just wanted to get out of the bitter cold air.  Only in New England with the wind whipping at our faces do you see families out in the freezing night bundled up with pink cheeks nestled on scarves zooming by on the tilt-a-whirl or gliding up and down on the ferris wheel.  This is a night when you appreciate hot chocolate.  The children loved all the lights and the trains.

As a Jew growing up in a mostly Christian environment, I definitely felt like I was back in my home town twenty years ago.  There was one menorah in the lit up landscape.  It was nice, but I really didn’t feel it was necessary.  The children know about Christmas, they celebrate it at Grandma’s but they don’t live the whole Santa and elves fantasy.  It didn’t matter though.  They loved all the lights and decorations.  They’re magical to the children and their reactions bring back the magic to us as adults.  This is a side of Christmas that anyone could enjoy.    Even though we celebrate Chanukah I still remember as a child being certain that I heard Santa and his sleigh fly over our house on Christmas or around Christmas time anyway.

After a couple of hours, it was nice to hop into the wind-free car and head over the to the hotel and the Hearth ‘N Kettle for dinner and a quiet evening by the fire.  And what I mean by quiet evening by the fire is that the gas was light in the fire place and the kids had quieted from jumping on the beds to giggling and making a tent with the sheets by crawling under them and kicking their feet in the air.  Eventually the excitement from the trip to Edaville, having a night in a hotel, and hearing carolers at dinner dissipated and all was quiet until morning where a new adventure awaited.

The morning included a generous breakfast at the Hearth ‘n Kettle, a spa treatment (one of the best massages I have had – Thanks Chandra), playtime in the Mayflower themed pool and water play area for daddy and the children, and a short trip down to Hyannis for our next night of holiday enchantment at the Cape Codder.   As part of our package, we stayed at both the Cape Codder and the John Carver Inn and had our meals at the Hearth ‘n Kettle.

For more on the classic New England Christmas experience, look for upcoming articles on the Hearth ‘n Kettle Restaurant and a night at The Cape Codder.

Bonne vacances. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Edaville Christmas Festival of Lights, Hearth ‘n KettleCranberry BogsJohn Carver Inn & Spa,Festival of Lights PackageFamily Vacation PackageSpa Packages





Girls’ Night In…the Kitchen

7 12 2008

We have yet to set one up, but to me girls’ night in involves some cocktails a few appetizers and chocolate of some sort.  Kicking back with our feet up, the children elsewhere, and a non-family related activity:  a movie, an art project, music, shopping from home, a book, or just a good chat.  Cooking doesn’t usually come to mind because, although I love to cook, it is also usually a family chore.  There is something different about cooking with friends though.

Slow Food Boston has their final pasta class this Wednesday, December 10th at 6:00 pm.  The class is filling up quickly so if you are interested, I would register now.  It is all about Tortellini.  Apparently, stuffed pasta, especially this one is for the brave at heart and nimble of hand.  The class is held at Dave’s Fresh Pasta.  81 Holland St in Davis Square, Somerville.

If you can’t make the class, then head over to Capone Foods and get some OO pasta flour.  Do some surfing on the food channels on TV or online and make your own straight pasta:  linguine, fettuccine, etc.

If you can’t make the pasta, buy it ready made, and grab a sauce from the freezer.  Get some local hydroponic lettuce from Whole Foods, some garlic, some of Kate’s butter from Maine or Highlawn Farmbutter from Lee, MA.   Get together, make some dinner:  pasta with sauce, salad and garlic bread.  Kick your feet up and enjoy the company of friends.

Bon appetit.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info:
Register for the classCapone FoodsSlow Food Boston,Local Events Blog-Friends of Slow FoodSlow Food USA