Dinner with the Family in PA

While in Pennsylvania with Dane’s family over the holidays (yes, I realize that was a month ago, but things have been hectic), Dane got inspired and decided to make a several course meal inspired by the area of Italy where his family is from. Dane spent some time researching the Campobasso region, and came up with an awesome menu. Pasta e fagioli, lamb, pollenta, bruschetta, asparagus, steamed clams, stuffed peppers. And that didn’t include dessert.

We spent all day cooking the different courses of the meal. Everyone kept commenting on how much work we were doing, and how tired we must be. Not us though. We just love to do it. We tried to prep, cook, and eat in the midst of it all. We learned it’s an fine art to be able to time about 5 courses of food just right so that things stay hot, but we aren’t starting from scratch for every single course. Somehow, we pulled it off.

We started off with pasta e fajioli. This is pronounced pasta (hopefully you can get that one on your own) e (ee) fajioli (fa-jo-li). Usually when you see this on a menu or hear it said, it sounds like “pasta fazool”. Dane slipped and pronounced it wrong at first, but his awesome Uncle Bob quickly corrected us. I will never make the mistake again!

Then some snacks in the form of tomato, fresh mozzarella and prosciutto, along with traditional bruschetta. There’s the  idea that bruschetta refers to the tomato/garlic/basil topping that is often served with bread. Traditionally, bruschetta is actually the toasted bread itself, rubbed with olive oil and garlic. The tomato mixture is just a bonus you can put on top.

I was in charge of a few aspects of the meal, including my stuffed bell peppers.  This is the largest batch I’ve made of them, and they were a bit hit for the third course. And they’re great as leftovers!

Dane got an entire leg of lamb. I’ve never made lamb before, so this was an interesting experience for me. He cut it into steaks that he seasoned and grilled.

And because lamb wasn’t enough on its own, he also did baked cod with capers, olives, and garlic.

And asparagus.

And just when we needed a little extra help in the kitchen, we got a visit from Dane’s nephew, Jesse Oliver. Dane tried teaching him about cooking, but I think he was more interested in eating it.

Last we had steamed clams and linguine. There was so much food to go around! We definitely slept really well that night in our food comas.

Thanks to my hubby for our amazing dinner! I think we need to keep working on our timing for multiple course meals. It’s not something you do often. At least we don’t. Maybe we need to plan some dinner parties soon to keep practicing!

Anyone have tips for us?

Christmas Eve Dinner with the Family

It was great having some time off over the holidays to spend with both mine and Dane’s family. This time of togetherness always means some great gatherings and plenty of food to go around.

One thing my sisters and I haven’t outgrown yet (and probably never will at this point) is being silly at the table. It drives my mom nuts, but it was Christmas Eve and we don’t get to spend nearly enough time together with them being in NY and me in Boston.

I made panko crusted chicken with a pink sauce, along with garlic bread. It’s my mom’s favorite and somehow our fun at the other end of the table seemed to go unnoticed…

Even my cutie pie niece enjoyed her “magetti”. That’s two year-old for spaghetti, for those of you who don’t speak fluent toddler.

We might be getting older, but I’m pretty sure the scene at dinner will always look something like this.

I guess with faces like these, you just can’t stay mad for too long. Even after 20-something years of joking around at the dinner table. Love you Mama Bear!

What’s it like at your dinner table over the holidays? Hope you all had as much fun as we did!

Anniversary Dinner at Sonsie, Boston

Crazy but true, Dane and I just celebrated our one year wedding anniversary! This past year really flew by. Of course we celebrated our anniversary with a delicious dinner.

Dane surprised me and chose a restaurant from our Wish List. I had no idea where we were going, which is half the fun sometimes. We headed into Boston and started walking. We passed so many restaurants, and I kept thinking every one must be where we were headed. Then we finally stopped at Sonsie on Newbury Street and I was so excited.

I loved Sonsie from the second we stepped foot inside. It was warm and cozy with a great lounge feel. Upscale but comfortable at the same time. We first went to the bar and got a drink while our table was prepared. Within 5 minutes it was ready and we made our way to the dining room.

We settled in at our table and were greeted with cava because it was our anniversary. I had never had cava before, but it’s a Spanish sparkling wine which is produced using the same method as champagne. Since the term “champagne” is reserved strictly for sparkling wines made in the Champagne region in France, cava is Spain’s version. Now we had our drinks and cava to enjoy. Off to a great start.

For an appetizer, we decided to give the Olives a try. Best idea ever. I can honestly say this was one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. I’m a HUGE fan of olives. A few varieties of olives (kalamata, green, and black) were served heated in a iron skillet, along with a bean dip and rosemary foccacia bread. I want to go back immediately just for a martini and this appetizer.

We probably could have stopped there and been perfectly content, but we ordered our meals. I went with the grilled sirloin, and Dane ordered the lamb.

And it was all fantastic. I couldn’t finish it all after our appetizer, but it was really hard to finally put down my fork and knife and concede that I was full. Dane managed though, as he usually does.

We couldn’t say no to dessert after looking quickly at the menu. The Cocoa Nib caught both our attention. Pizzeles, rum bananas, caramel and Nutella swirl ice cream. It lived up to all our expectations.

Anyone want to go to Sonsie with me for a cocktail and some olives? That is, if you can get me to share! We highly recommend Sonsie to anyone, especially if you’re looking for a new place for a nice meal, a lounge atmosphere, or a cafe. Sonsie has a little bit of everything for everyone.

Sonsie on Urbanspoon

Meet you there!

The Fireplace, Brookline

I had been wanting to try this place for months. Come on, a restaurant called The Fireplace? It sounds so warm and cozy! During Restaurant Week this summer, Dane and I finally got ourselves there for dinner. And my warm cozy thoughts about The Fireplace were definitely confirmed.

The Fireplace is an upscale restaurant that comes with a slightly upscale price point. But during Restaurant Week The Fireplace offered the 3 course deal for $33, along with many other Boston restaurants. There is no way to beat that. A full meal from appetizer to desert for only $33? Yes, please and thank you.

The restaurant itself has a comfortable atmosphere, complete with – you guessed it – a fireplace. Doesn’t it just look warm? I definitely want to get back here for drinks (and maybe some dessert if I’m feeling sassy) with friends.

The Restaurant Week menu had some great choices, and it definitely took us a bit to make our decisions. I really just wanted one of everything. I also made the mistake of looking through the menu, which made me want to order some cheese and a Humble Offering (a special that is offered Sunday-Thursday for a lower price than the average entree), but I refrained by reminding myself that I had 3 courses on the way.

First up for me was the Summer Vegetable Soup and for Dane the Endive Salad. I could not get enough of my soup. It was fresh and perfect.

For my entree, I barely even read past the first option – Grandma Gladys’ Grilled Flank Steak with Boston Baked Beans and Garlicky Broccoli. It’s like this meal was made specifically for me. I absolutely LOVE flank steak (my dad makes it the best which I’m sure is why I love it so much). Broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables. I can’t get enough garlic. And Boston Baked Beans? Come on Fireplace, it’s like you read my mind. Dane agreed, and we both ended up ordering the same thing.

After all that, I was thoroughly stuffed. But wait – there’s more! For desert, the Apple Pan Dowdy. Doesn’t get much more cozy than that for a desert.

We both had a great experience at The Fireplace. The service was quick, friendly, and knowledgeable. And I think I’ve already said enough about the food – it was delicious. Check out The Fireplace on Twitter for news (including updates on their changing Humble Offerings). Anyone want to meet me there for drinks?

Fireplace on Urbanspoon

Stuffed Bell Peppers

You may remember my sudden love of Stuffed Bell Peppers after I had one at Bottega di Capri a few weeks ago. I found myself really wanting on for dinner one night, and figured I had enough sense to figure out how to make them myself at home. After playing around with my recipe, I created this one which was delicious (in my humble opinion).

Stuffed Bell Peppers

  • 2 large green bell peppers
  • 2-3 sausage links (depending on how much you want)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 of a small onion, diced
  • 2 cups of cooked rice (I used Minute Rice to make my life easier)
  • 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small can of diced tomatoes
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Start out by making a sauce that you’ll use for the filling and for cooking the bell peppers. Heat the olive oil over medium low heat. Add the garlic and diced onion and cook until it starts to become translucent. Add the diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and salt and pepper to your liking. Let simmer while you’re prepping for the filling.

Moving on to the filling now, starting with the sausage. Remove the casing from the sausage links, and break it up. I usually just use a knife to cut it up a bit. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a frying pan and over medium heat. Add the sausage and let it cook. Be sure to keep an eye on it, and break it up into small pieces using a spatula while it’s cooking.

Cook the Minute Rice according to the instructions on the box to make about 2 cups of cooked rice.  Set aside for now.

Once the sausage is cooked, add it to the sauce and stir well. Take about a cup and a half of the sauce and add it to the rice. Add in the grated cheese and stir it all up!

I couldn’t help myself at this point, I had to try some. I could have stopped right here and just eaten this the way it is. But I pressed on.

Cut the top off of two bell peppers and clean out the seeds. Fill both peppers with the rice filling (you may have extra filling depending on how large your peppers are – you might even be able to squeeze a third pepper from it). Add the peppers, standing up, back to the pot of sauce to simmer covered for about 30 minutes. This will cook the peppers through to make them soft.

Serve the peppers with a little more sauce on top and enjoy! I was so happy with this meal and had it for dinner and then lunch again the next day. So good!


American Craft, Brookline

I was really excited to hear about the opening of American Craft a few months ago, and it took me way too long to actually get myself there for a meal. Dane and I finally ended up going one night after work, and it’s safe to say we’ve found a new favorite.

American Craft opened at the site of the former Roadhouse, which closed after 2 years due to complaints from neighbors because of the smell from their smoker and mediocre reviews from diners. American Craft was refashioned in only a week, with a great selection of craft beers, funky decor, and a new menu.

When we arrived around 6pm, the restaurant was empty, but quickly started to fill up within about a half hour. We had heard great things about their chicken wings, and started with those for an appetizer.

One bite in and it was easy to see why we’d heard great things about the chicken wings. They’re roasted, not deep fried, in a honey ale sauce. The sauce is slightly spicy, sweet, and makes you not want to miss a drop. We powered through the wings in no time. Thank goodness I had a great beer to wash it all down with too.

The beer menu has about 40 different beers on draught and the staff is very knowledgeable about each of them. Great if you’re in the mood to try something new, but need a little guidance. We moved along to dinner after we polished off the last of the wings.

My steak was awesome. Perfectly medium, as I ordered, and the fries were a great compliment. The spinach was garlicky and I made sure to have a bit of spinach with each bite of steak. Dane loved his sandwich too. The applewood smoked bacon and cheddar were delicious with the turkey.

After dinner we sat back and enjoyed the atmosphere (and I wished I could get their wallpaper in my own apartment). American Craft will certainly make a cool hang out spot in Brookline with their two bars and patio seating in the warm weather. We were intrigued by the handmade truffles on the dessert menu, but were so full after our meal. We found the perfect solution, and just ordered them to go.

When we got home and had some room in our stomachs, we tried all the truffles.

My favorite was the Bourbon Caramel, Dane’s favorite was the Allagash White. Another cool twist on all the beer varieties at American Craft – using them for dessert too!

Glad we were able to finally get to American Craft and we’ll definitely be going back!
American Craft on Urbanspoon

The Red House, Cambridge

This was a night that happened completely on accident, but ended up being perfect. I had plans with friends to go out for dinner, when I got a call from my colleague at work. I had our corporate card, which she needed for an event that night, meaning I had to drive to Cambridge to meet her and drop off the card. I was so disappointed to be missing this dinner date with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I grumpily headed to Cambridge while Dane tried to keep my spirits up.

We got to Cambridge, found parking (shockingly), and started walking around when we found this little place. The Red House looked really cute and was on a quiet street (well, more of a large path that could accommodate cars, but was really for pedestrians) with outdoor seating. We kept it in mind as we went to meet my co-worker.

After we made the drop, we headed right back over and decided that since we were in the neighborhood anyway, we might as well enjoy a dinner together. We walked straight back to The Red House and opted for seating on the deck outside, which had a great view of all the passersby.

We ordered up some wine, and I was feeling much better about our evening. Then we ordered dinner, and all memory of having been disappointed was all gone.

I went with a seasonal soup that was a special of the day, spinach soup with crab meat, for a starter. For dinner I ordered Fettuccine Bolognese, and Dane ordered the Stuffed Lobster.

My soup was absolutely delicious. The ingredients were fresh and seasonal, and the Rock Crab meat added a nice texture and flavor. The soup actually had a little kick to it, which was a nice surprise. My entree was also great. The meat sauce was hearty and the pasta perfectly al dente.

Dane loved his lobster. I think we might have had a little too much fun with it though.

The lobster was incredibly filling, according to Dane, which is no surprise since it was stuffed with shrimp, scallops, and bread crumbs. Besides tasting great, we obviously had fun with the meal.

Thanks Red House, for an unexpected and much appreciated, great meal!

Red House on Urbanspoon

The News Room, Minneapolis, MN

We ate a lot in Minneapolis. After Jucy Lucy’s and my first Sonic experience, we went into Minneapolis to enjoy dinner at one of Sam and Jason’s frequent dinner picks, The News Room. We unknowingly walked into what would be one of the more eventful dinners any of us had ever had.

First off, the News Room is really cool inside. The walls look like giant newspapers complete with headlines from history making events. It’s funky and comfortable and I was really excited to eat there. We chose to sit outside on the patio right on the Nicollet Mall because it was a beautiful night in the city. We ordered some drinks and started perusing the menus.

We chatted with the friendly and sarcastic waiter (definitely enjoyed his sense of humor) and ordered our meals. I think we were all very happy with our choices. The service was quick, but laid back enough that we could sit for a while and talk while we sipped our drinks without feeling rushed.

Dinner was great, and when we were all finished we ordered another round of drinks and had a little surprise come visit us. As I mentioned, we were outside on the patio. Our table was right next to the glass windows of the restaurant. This was apparently the perfect recipe for this little guy.

Chirpy got a little confused and flew into the glass window, landing right on our table. He looked a little discombobulated and confused, and just sat in this same position for about 20 minutes with us. Our waiter came by and asked “Do you want me to move that?” and we said no. We just wanted him to feel better and he really wasn’t bothering us at all. After about 20 minutes, Jason, being the caring person he is, asked out loud “Do you think he broke his leg?”. As soon as he said it, Chirpy stood up, shook himself off and flew away. I guess he just needed some time to regain himself.

So we continued enjoying our drinks and the company on the News Room patio. A few minutes later the patio got another visitor of the angry yelling kind. A man walked up to the patio and started yelling incoherently at another table of customers. The manager came out to talk with him and asked him to leave. After a few minutes he finally walked away, but then backed up, yelled at us, and continued on his way.

After that, our evening finished up pretty quietly. Dinner was fantastic, the service was great, and the drinks were delicious. If you’re in the area, stop by and enjoy!

Burgers and Summery Strawberry Salad

Last week my wonderful friend Sam came to visit for some quality time together (and to see me model in a fashion show, who says 5’2 girls who loves food can’t be a model?). It was a beautiful weekend in Boston, with temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s which totally put us in the mood for some great summer food.

While shopping Sam mentioned having once had a salad with strawberries in it that a friend made. I had my own salad with strawberries already in mind, and was so glad she had suggested it. We picked up what we needed for a delicious salad, and also got everything we’d need to make our own burgers and some corn on the cob. Perfect makings of a summery meal.

Something to note, when strawberries and corn are in season, they can be so cheap. I know I paid $4-$5 for a container of strawberries in the grocery store over the winter. Now they are about $1.50. Plus they are so yummy because they’re fresh and in season! Just another reason to buy fresh and local.

And we obviously stopped and got Sam Summer on the way home from the store. No summer grilling could be complete without it. There is nothing better than a Sam Summer on a hot day when it finally comes back out for the season.

So here’s two recipes for you. One for burgers and one for that Summery Strawberry Salad.

Burgers (makes four 1/4 lb patties)

  • 1 lb of ground beef (I used 93/7, which is leaner)
  • 2 tbsp minced onion (I used the dry kind, but you can actually chop up fresh onion)
  • Salt and pepper

This is super easy, you just can’t be afraid to get your hands a little dirty (and when I say dirty, I mean covered in raw beef). Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix using your hands (or a utensil if you are completely anti putting your hands in the meat). Don’t overmix everything, it will make the meat tough, just until the onion, pepper and salt are distributed evenly.

Now roll the meat into 4 balls. I just measured using the size of my palm. Each ball should be about 1/4 of a pound if you have a pound of meat (if you are doing more, you can actually weigh the meat or just eyeball it to make sure each patty will be about the same size). Then press each ball to flatten it into about 1/2 inch thickness (or however thick you’d like your burger).

Once they are patties, they are ready to grill! Cook them up the way you like and enjoy.

Summery Strawberry Salad

  • 1 bag of spinach
  • 1 container of strawberries
  • Crumbled goat cheese
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing

While your burgers are cooking you can whip up this salad. Wash and dry the spinach (I use a salad spinner which I LOVE) and add to a large bowl. Cut up 7-10 strawberries into quarters. Add the strawberries and crumbled goat cheese (as much as you’d like) to the spinach. Toss with Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing. Another optional thing to add would be some candied nuts, or just nuts in general. I’ve had this salad with almonds before and it’s very good, I just forgot to buy them at the store.

Now grab your burger (which we finished with cheddar cheese), your salad, and some corn on the cob (which I cooked by just boiling it for about 10 minutes). Cheers to a delicious and fresh summer meal!

Tresca, North End, Boston

Dane and I celebrated our 3 year anniversary of dating about two weeks ago (Yes, I know we’re married now. But 3 years! We had to celebrate). He decided to surprise me and made reservations at Tresca in the North End, which is on our Restaurant Wish List. When we got home from work, we set off and I didn’t know where we were going.

If you’ve ever walked by Tresca in the North End, it’s the one with one table outside on a balcony overlooking Hanover Street. I knew as we were walking up that it’s where we were going once we crossed the street onto Hanover. Unfortunately, it was cold and started raining just as we were getting there so we didn’t get to sit outside. Instead we chose a nice corner table and went out onto the balcony after dinner.

On a Monday night, Tresca was almost empty which was lovely. Our waiter was fantastic and gave us the daily specials (and both of us ended up ordering one) along with some wine suggestions (again, which we ended up ordering). The atmosphere was comfortable, but also sophisticated, which was perfect for our anniversary dinner.

We couldn’t help ourselves and had to start with some calamari. The portion was huge and so delicious.

I ended up ordering ravioli stuffed with sausage, cheese, and broccoli rabe. Not sure what the sauce was but there was definitely garlic and wine in there. Dane ordered the seared wild boar with a blueberry, wine, and balsamic vinegar reduction.

We ate slowly and sipped our red wine together. Everything was absolutely delicious and we loved being able to take our time and enjoy it all together. Afterward dinner, we went out to the balcony where we would have been eating, if not for the rain.

We’ll certainly visit Tresca again. Here’s hoping Dane will try again and surprise me this summer with a reservation at the table outside!

Tresca on Urbanspoon

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