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!





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





World AIDS Day: Cooking for Those in Need

30 11 2008

Monday, is World AIDS Day.  This day represents the 20 year struggle to fight AIDS and to force AIDS to be recognized as the devastating disease that it is.  I remember first hearing about “le SIDA” when I was in 6th grade in France.  I overheard some of the teenagers saying that it was in the swimming pool and we might get it.  I had no idea what AIDS was and didn’t learn anything more about it until years later.

Today, people are more educated about the disease, people are more comfortable in many countries talking about sexuality and the spread and prevention of the spread of the disease because they can talk about sex.  The most recent goal of activists is to provide universal treatment, prevention, care and support for AIDS victims.

One of the best things that you can do for someone who is ill, whether it be a terminal illness, a chronic illness, or a little cold is to bring them a home cooked meal.  I know you just cooked a huge Thanksgiving dinner and you’re thinking you don’t want to buy another huge load of groceries and start cooking again.  I have an easy solution.  These are recipes that you can make for your family and a friend in need.  It takes minimal groceries (you can even substitute left-over turkey for the enchiladas) and about an hour to pull together three menus.

The cookbooks that are saving me this week are Maryana Vollstedt’s The big book of casseroles and I’m using a recipe from Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious.  If you don’t have these books you can get them at the library or just flip through the books you have and choose simple recipes.  The menus I put together are:

  1. Creamy Chicken Enchiladas, Side of Spicy Black Beans, Dessert
  2. Chicken with Olives and Tangy Beer Tomato Sauce,
    Rice, and a Salad
  3. Sloppy Joe’s, Salad, and Ice Cream Sundae

You only need a handful of ingredients.  For a healthier delivery vessel, you can purchase some inexpensive glass food containers at the grocery store or hardware store.  I have even just gone to TJMaxx or HomeGoods to buy a dish (this can be cheaper than buying a less eco friendly plastic container at the grocery store) and told my friends they can keep the dish or use it next time they make a friend a meal.

Then deliver the food, heat up your dinner, curl up on the couch now that all the Thanksgiving guests are gone and put in a great movie.  For World AIDS Day, I recommend the movie Love! Valor! Compassion!.

For more info: If you’re not up for cooking, you can support some people who are:  Community Servings.

If you want more of the recipes just let me know.





What’s For Dinner: Supper Club

21 11 2008

Smells of warm cookies waft down the hall.  Supper is warming in the oven.  Vegetables are steaming on the stovetop.  The home-made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are perched on their cooling rack.  The sweet sound of a cork popping from the bottle of red wine and the clink of wine glasses are heard.  Add a little music in the background and this could be dinner at the ski lodge, college friends gathering for a dinner party, or a romantic dinner for two.  The real background soundtrack?  It’s two four year olds racing through the house like energizer bunnies with car batteries, a couple of two-year olds rumbling by on trucks and declaring “that’s mine” every couple of minutes and three parents trying to keep the kids in check, balance their glass of wine, and set the table at the same time.

The supper club was a weekly thing when I had just had my son, one friend was pregnant with her second, and another friend has also just had her son.  Our other halves were either at work late or had some other function at least once a week so we would gather for an early (for the grown-ups) dinner.  The elder siblings would play, the babies would gurgle and fuss and the parents would chat, bounce between babies and tykes, and set the table.

Daddyless dinner is what my friend Myndi calls it.  In our neighbourhood there is always a variety of schedules.  Some dads are home several days a week.  Some moms travel for work on a regular basis.  It’s a town of academics, professionals, business people and tradespeople.  We all have different schedules and it just so happens that at least several times a month we can get together, let the kids entertain one another, have an early meal together and be home in time for bath and bed.  Even with all the chaos, it’s so much nicer among friends.  The key to making this work is to prepare foods that are easy and quick. The children had chicken nuggets (we like Bell and Evans), rice (steamed from the freezer), steamed frozen peas and broccoli.  The big kids made cookies from the Second Helpings Please cookbook.  Yesterday, I made Braised Beef with Carrots from Patricia Wells’ Vegetable Harvest and I had cabbage from the CSA so I made her grated salad as well with my favourite dressing.  The dressing recipe can be found on my blog (look “along the vine” on the right hand side).  My friend Samantha picked up some fresh pasta on her way here.  I threw a pot of water on the stove, the chicken nuggets into the toaster oven, the braised beef into the oven, zapped the rice, zapped the peas, and sat the broccoli atop an inch of water in the pot to steam it.  By the time the table was set and the children were rounded up dinner was ready.

What I like about the main entree Braised Beef with Carrots is how simple to prepare and inexpensive the ingredients are.  I bought 3 pounds of top round from Whole Foods which was on sale for about $3.99/lb, a 5 lb bag of carrots, two cans of tomato paste, chicken stock in a tetra pak (3 cups), and grabbed the open bottle of red wine from the counter (3 cups for the recipe…at least one for the chef).  Those are the ingredients, plus some salt, pepper, and dried herbs.  You cut up 3 lbs of the carrots into thin round slices, brown the meat on all sides (this can take a while make sure the meat is at room temperature).  Salt and pepper the meat and then add everything into the pot.  Bring the pot to a simmer.  Put the lid on.  Let it cook for 3-4 hours and occasionally turn the meat or spoon the liquid over it.  Once cooked you just slice it and it’s ready.  We had plenty left over to send home for the daddies who are in town and plenty to freeze for another cold winter day.

Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Creamy Lemon Chive DressingBraised Beef with Carrots





Thanksgiving: The Peripheral Meals

20 11 2008

I think the biggest problem with Thanksgiving is when you forget about the peripheral meals.  There are the friends who drop by the day before because they are in town.  There is tea after the New Yorkers come in after their longer than expected drive.  There is lunch on Wednesday for the whoever came in last night and aunt Margaret who just got picked up at the airport.  There is Thanksgiving day breakfast.

Our newest Thanksgiving routine has been to gather in the morning for our Thanksgiving Family Triathlon.  The three legs are stretch, bike, and run.  The children have a short bike ride and run to the end of the block.  The adults (minus a few who take care of the kids and the kitchen) go for a long ride and run down Huron Ave.  We then have a light lunch and finish preparing the Thanksgiving meal which starts early and always ends later than expected.

Our peripheral meals usually involve lunch and a Wednesday night dinner:  this will be our weekly pizza and salad.  Thursday morning breakfast:  this usually involves a trip to Hi Rise and if we get to it homemade sticky buns from Vermont’s Baba a Louis’ Bakery Cookbook on loan from Grandma.  Thursday’s post Triathlon lunch:  soup and bread.

I try to have the usual suspects on hand for the children: things I know they will eat.  I expect that they will also partake in some of the other offerings.  I also try to have a lot of things that are easy to pull out and make a decent spread:  dips, hummus, olives, pita bread, some cheeses, veggies for slicing or crudites, fancy cheese crackers, chips and salsa, nuts, and perhaps one or two prepared foods.  This year I have been eyes some of what Sofra has to offer as well as Petsi Pies and Clear Flour Bakery.  Petsi Pies has a savory Roasted Vegetable Spinach Ricotta open faced pie.

Some great offerings for peripheral meals at Clear Flour would be their Spinach Onion and Gruyere Quiche or Boston Brown Bread (just add some cream cheese topped with smoked salmon, some goat cheese with a sliver of sun-dried tomato or roasted red pepper, or a slice of good cheddar and a slice of tart apple).  For tea or breakfast Clear Flour has Cranberry Orange Almond Tea CakePumpkin Buns, and Grandma B’s Pull Apart Sweet Rolls.

It is not online, but Sofra Bakery has some great offerings also for those peripheral meals.  For tea they offer Nan’s Pumpkin BreadCrunchy Crumbly, Cornmeal-Almond TortaPumpkin Jam Tart (I am addicted to their pumpkin turnover), Fig-Almond SerpentinePear-Almond Umm Ali.  For the lunches and dinners they have oven-ready savory pies:  Cheese Borek, Carrot Kibbeh, Spanakopitta, Farmers Market Tart..  Also perfect to pull out for lunch, dinner, snack are items from their Mezze Bar:  Smokey Eggplant Puree, Bean Plaki, Armenian Bean and Walnut Pate, Skordalia, Moroccan Carrot Salad, Syrian-Style Lentils, Beet Tzatziki, Moroccan Goat Cheese, Labne with Pecans, Green Olive & Walnut Salad, Whipped Feta with Sweet and Hot Peppers. A little of these tasty treats goes a long way.  I think I will probably head over to Sofra for breakfast with my mom and whoever wants to join us and we will pick up a few of these tasty treats to pull out when needed for meals over the days before and after Thanksgiving.

I will be making my shopping list for the main meal in the next day or so and will start hitting the farmer’s markets and shops on Friday and early next week.  Then I have to lay out my game plan, buy what I need for peripheral meals and we’ll be good to go!

Bon appetit.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Clear Flour BreadPetsi Pies,
Sofra BakeryBaba a Louis Bakery





Planning For Thanksgiving: Cook It

16 11 2008

If you’re coming over for Thanksgiving, this is what’s on our menu.

Roast Turkey with Bacon-herb butter and cider gravy (Bon Appetit Nov. 2008)
Roasted Fall Vegetables in Cheddar Crust (Eating Well Dec. 2008)
Herb and Onion Stuffing (Bon Appetit Nov. 2008) or
Rustic Bread Stuffing with Dried Cranberries & Oyster Mushrooms 
(Fine Cooking Nov. 2008)

Green Beans with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette & Parmesan Breadcrumbs
(Fine Cooking Nov. 2008)

Mashed Potatoes (to be determined)
Cranberry Sauce (Classic Canadian Cooking, Elizabeth Baird)
Sugar & Spice Pumpkin Pie with Brandied Ginger Cream
(Fine Cooking Nov. 2008)
Apple Pie a la mode 
(with homemade ice cream -Katie or mom this means you!)

Yes, I’m really into my recipes.  I leaf through magazines and cookbooks while the children play for a quick sensory escape.  I also cook with the kids because meals have to be cooked and it’s a hands on activity they enjoy.  My sous-chefs learn to be safe and participate even if it means giving up one apple, setting Henry up with his own bowl, a peeler and a couple small dishes of random spices.

I used to think that if you could read you could cook, but I realize I do have an advantage because I grew up as a spectator and an assistant in my mother’s very active kitchen.  She’s an improviser, but I’m a by the book kind of cook.  I think maybe now thanks to the Food Network and other cooking programs perhaps you can gain a similar umbrella of kitchen knowledge.

If you plan ahead, do everything you possibly can bit by bit in advance, delegate and share your kitchen, then cooking your entire Thanksgiving is actually approachable.  I enjoy cooking so this is right for me.  If you don’t enjoy cooking then shop well and revel with your Thanksgiving company.  So now that I have my menu, I need to start gathering ingredients and working my way through everything that can be done early.

Where am I getting my ingredients?  A variety of places.  I try to shop locally, but I also want a balance of all that’s good and cost effective.  We’re splurging on a Turkey so we’ll save in other places.

Turkey– Formaggio Kitchen (16 lb Turkey from Vermont)
Alliums– Garlic and Onions from our CSA – Lindentree Farms
Breads-A combination of  Hi Rise, Iggy’s Bread, and Formaggio Kitchen’s assortment of breads. I will need some bread for the stuffing, perhaps rolls for the meal, and other peripheral meals will need bread.
Produce-Most of the produce will be from Russo’s, Whole Foods and/or Wilson’s Farms depending upon where I am around town with the kids that week.
Wine–  I don’t know my wines very well, but my guests do.  I find that I can safely choose any wine from the selection at Formaggio Kitchen or Hi Rise and won’t go wrong.  I used to also go to the Wine and Cheese Cask in Somerville where they guide you well.  If I’m shopping at Whole Foods then I can also stop into Cambridge Wine and Spirits.  Lately, I have found Star Market to be a great place to get wine because you get $5 off when you buy 6 bottles.

Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Cambridge Wine and SpiritsFormaggio KitchenHi RiseIggy’s BreadRusso’sWhole Foods MarketWilson’s Farmepicurious.comFine Cooking,Eating Well