Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Motorized Bar Stool?

The headline says it all: "Ohio man charged with drunken driving on bar stool."

Some people have too much time on their hands.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spaghetti with Pancetta and Green Beans

It's been a pretty crappy day. I decided to tackle my taxes mid-afternoon and spent the next five hours swearing at H&R Block and Turbo Tax.

Needing some comfort, I decided to make pasta for dinner. Andrew has been very patient with my attempts to put together different pasta dishes in the past month. Tonight's attempt was based on a recipe from We are not Martha which I tweaked slightly to meet our tastes:

The end result had pancetta, green beans, spinach, black olives and parmesan cheese - very tasty and with enough left for lunch tomorrow.

Bridal Shower in Plymouth

Saturday ended up being sunny and warm, perfect for a bridal shower on the water. I drove down to the Plymouth Country Club with Amy and my grandma Lillian. We got a little lost on the way to the country club, since GPS was a little off and the turn for the country club wasn't clearly marked. After circling three times with Andrew giving directions on the phone, we finally made it. It was well worth the drive, as the country club was gorgeous and we could see Plymouth Bay from the windows.

None of my pictures came out very well but this is my cousin (of sorts) Julie and her fiance Ken (who showed up near the end after a round of golfing):
Julie's sister Christine did a great job of transforming all the bows from the gifts Julie received into a bouquet to be used at the rehearsal dinner:

Julie was registered at Crate and Barrel and Bed, Bath and Beyond. I chose the Ona Pitcher as Amy's gift:
And got Julie the Lucia Platter as my gift:

After making a wrong turn on the way home and literally, turning around in front of the front gates of the Plymouth prison, I was able to safely navigate to Quincy to drop off my Grandma.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Restaurant Week #4 - Melting Pot

Friday marked the last night of Restaurant Week Boston and I had saved a restaurant that I'd been dying to try for last - Melting Pot. It's part of a chain of fondue restaurants that finally hit Massachusetts a couple of years ago and they have three locations here: Burlington, Framingham and Boston-Back Bay. Jen, Joey, Amy, Pete, Phu, Andrew and I met at the Boston location and proceeded to debate about the menu:

First course was cheese fondue - we went with the waitress' recommendation and chose the Spinach and Artichoke dip (the best!!) and the Cheddar Cheese (the Miller lite base came through too strongly). The items to be dipped on the side included bread, tortilla chips, green apple chunks, celery, carrots, and cauliflower:

Everyone dove right in:

As I saw everyone exclaiming over the cheese, I decided it was time to put my camera down and pick up my fondue fork:

Next course, everyone got one of these plates for an entree with spinach artichoke ravioli, chicken, teriyaki beef and shrimp:

We ordered a pot of the court bullion (basically chicken stock) and paid a little extra for a pot of the Coq Au Vin (red wine sauce) to cook our meat in. Melting Pot also provided mushroom, potatoes and broccoli on the side to cook in the broths. The best part was all the different dipping sauces - six total including a gorgonzola cheese dip, a blue cheese dip, a cocktail sauce that had a strong horseradish kick, a yellow curry sauce, a "goddess" sauce that tasted like sweet and sour sauce with ginger and a teriyaki sauce. Everyone agreed that all the sauces tasted great.

There was a rush to cook our meats and vegetables. I like the fact that while you were eating something, there was always something else cooking on your two skewers:

Everyone had their own color-coded skewers so food didn't get mixed up. The ravioli was the worst at slipping off the fork and floating away:

A big component of eating dinner at Melting Pot was the presentation of the fondues - our waitress made the chocolate and cheese fondues at our table, pouring ingredients from little saucers. The hot broth fondues were brought in using a special holder with a spin top that automatically screwed a lid on top, making them safe to transport:

Finally, the course that everyone was waiting for and seemed to like best - dessert!

We split plates that had strawberries, marshmallows, pound cake, brownies, rice crispie treats and graham crackers to dip in chocolate. In addition, there were little pieces of cheesecake that you could drizzle chocolate over.

We chose the Smores chocolate fondue:

And the Oreo dark chocolate fondue:

Both had 151 that poured on top and lit on fire, to melt the marshmallow - yummy!

This is what was left at the end of the night:

More of that chocolate would've been gone if we hadn't run out of dipping items:

In case anyone was wondering, it is possible to have a meal consisting entirely of fondues and walk out full and satisfied. Jen and I were definitely happy!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Restaurant Week #3 - Elephant Walk

Tonight was my third chance to experience Restaurant Week deals - after experiencing Marliave and Lineage - at a restaurant I've already eaten at and loved, Elephant Walk. Elephant Walk is known for its French and Cambodian cuisine, with an eclectic menu that features fusion dishes as well as choices that are solely one cuisine or the other. I met up with one of my ex-Monster friends, Jen, who I haven't seen since she found out she was pregnant. As Jen's six months along now (and looking lovely with her pregnancy glow and healthy hair), we were long overdue for a meal!

Elephant Walk had a great Restaurant Week menu - tons of choices plus a special twist. They offered four courses instead of the typical three for the same Restaurant Week charge of $33..09, or they gave you the option to have one less course and pay only $29.95. Of course, Jen and I went for the full four course option!

We both chose the rouleaux (Cambodian spring rolls) with tuk trey dipping sauce as our starter course:

Jen had the Salade de Bleu au Poire William - "A medley of greens tossed with Gorgonzola cheese, toasted walnut and balsamic vinaigrette; with pan-roasted pear and Poire William coulis" as her second course:

I went with Croustillants aux Poires et Crevettes Flambées - "Crispy wontons layered with warm Bartlett pear and scallion, topped with natural shrimp flambéed with white wine, leeks and garlic." Everything about this was delicious, especially the white wine sauce:

Third course was our entrees. As Jen went with Saumon à la Crème de Poireaux et Champignons, "Atlantic salmon filet pan-roasted and topped with julienned leeks and Shiitake mushroom in a savory garlic and shallot cream sauce, over steamed potatoes":

My entree was Porc Diplomat Grilled pork tenderloin with a caramelized sauce of coconut milk, black pepper, and garlic; with grilled eggplant and wild lime rice - pretty tasty but I think it was my least favorite dish of the night. Looking back, I think I could've had the other three dishes and been full enough. Don't get me wrong, it tasted good but the sauce was heavier and richer than everything else I had tasted and the eggplant wasn't anything special:

Finally, the dessert course! Jen's choice, Le Péché au Chocolat - "A rich, creamy, chocolate truffle cake perfectly paired with raspberry sauce" which she said tasted like flour-less chocolate cake:

I went for the non-chocolate choice, Mousse aux Fruits de Passion - it was exactly as it was described in the menu - "Refreshingly tart and sweet passion fruit mousse served in an almond lace cup; garnished with fresh pineapple macerated in dark rum, sugar and lemon juice." My favorite Restaurant Week dessert so far, it was full of flavor, had a lot of different components that were delicious in their own right but worked well together, and was light enough that it didn't make me feel gross afterwards:

Two thumbs up for Elephant Walk for serving up another excellent meal.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Roasted Pear and Pecan Salad

I actually made it out of work at 4:30 pm today, for various reasons, which gave me two extra hours in the day I usually don't have. I headed to the gym first, because I needed to burn some calories from all the super rich food I've been eating the past two weeks.

Getting home while the sun was still out was a real energy booster, motivating me to actually cook something (kind of) for dinner. Since I wanted to stay with a healthy meal, I decided to try my hand at replicating a great salad that I had enjoyed at a restaurant in Waltham (the name escapes me at the moment). It included roasted pears so the first thing I did was figure out how to do that.

I followed parts of this recipe to roast the pears.

For the Salad:
3 pears (any variety), peeled and thinly-sliced (I used the three Bartlett pears I had on hand)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (I went with just regular salt)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss pear slices with the tablespoon of olive oil and kosher salt. Spread out in an even layer on a sturdy baking sheet or cast iron roasting pan. Roast 7 minutes. Turn over. Roast another 5 to 7 minutes until soft. Remove from oven to cool.

These were the pears, peeled, sliced, tossed in olive oil and salt, and ready for the oven:

To go with the salad, I wanted to add sugar glazed walnuts. Turns out, I didn't have walnuts so I used pecans instead for this recipe from Allrecipes.com.

2 cups walnut halves (2 cups of pecan pieces)
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
I also added 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Lightly grease a baking sheet. In a 1 quart glass measure, combine walnut halves, sugar, and water - this the pecan mixture before going into the microwave:

Cook in microwave oven on high setting for 8 to 8 1/2 minutes, or until sugar has caramelized. Stir several times during cooking. Keep a close eye on them, as I got lazy the last three minutes of cooking time and didn't stir them. I noticed some of the pecans looked overcooked, but thankfully, not burned. These are how they turned out afterwards:

Pour out onto prepared baking sheet, and separate into pieces. Let cool completely. store in an airtight container. Two words of caution, first: Be careful handling the nuts immediately afterwards, I managed to give myself two tiny second degree burns on the tips of my fingers from trying to pick up a fallen nut from the counter (the sugar mixture gets extremely hot) and second, be sure to pour the nuts onto a sheet right away. I forgot this step and had to hack away at the pecans later because they had solidified into a solid chunk in the bowl.

Finally, I was ready to enjoy my Roasted Pear salad with arugula and mixed greens, goat cheese, the sugar glazed pecans and roasted pears:

Coincidentally, I had just picked up a champagne pear/gorgonzola dressing from Trader Joe's over the weekend, which was perfect with the salad.

Potluck Lunch at Work

Today was a fun day at work since we were celebrating a coworker's 40th birthday.

After embarrassing him greatly by decorating his desk with streamers that were visible from each end of our floor, we surprised him with a potluck lunch:

There were only seven of us that brought in food but it was plenty! The lunch included:
  • Mac and cheese topped with croutons in a crockpot
  • Chorizo (sausage) and peppers in a crockpot with rolls to make sandwiches
  • Buffalo wings and blue cheese dressing
  • Shrimp and cocktail sauce
  • The largest salad ever (not pictured) with feta, roasted peppers, grape leaves, olives, etc
  • Fruit salad with chocolate dipping sauce
  • Homemade apple pie with vanilla bean ice cream
  • And of course, chocolate trifle and oatmeal cranberry cookies from me

It was a nice bonding session amongst our group and we made a pledge to do these lunches on a monthly basis because they really served as a great morale booster!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Restaurant Week #2 - Lineage

As I mentioned in an earlier post, last Monday marked the beginning of Boston's Restaurant Week (which has actually been extended to two weeks). Marliave was the first place I tried and I've got a whopping three more meals this week. Actually, two more as I met up with Jen tonight to have dinner at Lineage in Brookline.

This is the menu they were offering for Restaurant Week. Skimpy compared to Marliave, but as Jen and I agreed, it makes it a lot easier to make up your mind on what to order!

We both started off with fancy drinks - a Pomegranate Kir (pomegranate juice and champagne) for Jen and a Clementine Mojito for me - yummy! Jen graciously agreed to pose with our drinks and put up with my picture taking for the rest of the night:

First course was roasted parsnip soup for Jen and fried shrimp with aioli for me. I'm not usually a shrimp gal but I was swayed by the thought of a good aioli. Sadly, their aioli didn't have much flavor but the shrimp was still pretty good. The part I enjoyed most was actually the simple salad that accompanied the shrimp, which consisted of arugula, red onion and chickpeas. Jen loved the soup and it's slightly sweet undertone, but we both agreed that I should skip trying her meals as she is in the midst of battling a cold:

We both ordered the roasted sirloin steak for an entree, medium rare for Jen and medium for me. This is a shot of Jen's plate since her meal came out looking prettier:

I almost ordered the Vegetable "Pot a Feu" but 1) didn't know what the heck a "Pot a Feu" is and 2) didn't want to squander my dining bucks on a vegetarian dish.

Final course was dessert and Jen went with the Chocolate Pot de Creme and I went with the bread pudding:
Observant readers will observe that I have ordered bread pudding as my dessert for both my Restaurant Week meals so far. It's merely a coincidence, and in Lineage's case, since I tend to avoid really chocolatey desserts, it was the bread pudding by default. I loved the toasted hazelnuts that came with it. Compared to Marliave's version, I would pick Lineage's version as it was lighter but would like it to come topped with ice cream like Marliave's.

Meal number two was definitely another success and I love that I got to visit another new restaurant.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Real Frozen Yogurt

Anyone that knows Amy and I well is aware of our disdain for what is called frozen yogurt here. Sure, it tastes good but it's more like soft serve ice cream than true frozen yogurt. The frozen yogurt that Amy and I grew up eating in Hawaii is more tangy in flavor and tastes more like, well, yogurt and less like vanilla ice cream. That's why Amy told me first thing when she discovered UBerry, U Food Grill's frozen yogurt in the Landmark center - it was the closest thing she found resembling the Yami yogurt we used to enjoy in Ala Moana. Since then, we've also discovered YoTango frozen yogurt at JP Licks. Exciting stuff but what was even cooler was when I walked into Shaw's today and noticed this in the freezer section:

Haagen-Dazs Frozen Yogurt, Tart Natural Flavor

I was running a quick errand and resisted the temptation to grab it, but it's nice to know that I'll be able to run to the supermarket the next time I have a froyo craving.

Plus, I heard there's another new place called Yo! Berry (obviously jumping on the Pinkberry craze) in the Allston/Brighton area, so I'll have to check that out as well.

Update: I haven't been able to find the calorie information for JP Lick's new YoTango frozen yogurt but I did find out that it is kosher, non-fat, it contains millions of probiotic bacteria, has less sugar, no cholesterol and is easily digested by the lactose intolerant. It is a great source of calcium and contains live and active cultures which include lactobacillus bulgaricus, and lactobacillus acidophilus.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

For a long time, I've been meaning to make cinnamon rolls from scratch. They're one of my favorite things to have in the morning and even though the Pillsbury rolls in a can are pretty darn good, I figured it was something I should try making from scratch.

Finding some yeast packets that I had bought late last year and promptly forgot about it, I decided this was the weekend that I would make them. I've been deterred in the past because they take around 2 hours of prep time before you can eat them, and most weekends, Andrew and I are too hungry to wait that long for breakfast! As I had to wake up early on Saturday for a work call (8 am), I figured would have some cereal, start the rolls and have them ready when Andrew woke up.

I found this recipe on Allrecipes.com. As it's called Clone of a Cinnabon, it's obviously supposed to replicate the Cinnabon rolls that always smell so good in malls (I swear they pipe that scent throughout the mall on purpose!)

Clone of a Cinnabon
1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup margarine, melted
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast (I went with one 0.25 oz/7 gram packet of active dry yeast)
Note: This recipe was originally intended for a bread machine, but thanks to comments from other people who had made the recipe, I was still able to make it without one.

Filling (I ended up with too much filling, so I would recommend decreasing the sugar and cinnamon)
1 cup brown sugar, packed (3/4 cup brown sugar)
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon (1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon)
1/3 cup butter, softened

1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened (I threw in a standard 8 0z pkg without thinking but it still tasted good)
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt


  1. (Original bread machine instructions) Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select dough cycle; press Start.
  2. (Without a bread machine) Microwave or boil milk until warm. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large bowl. Mix in the sugar, margarine, salt, and eggs. Add flour and mix well. Knead the dough into a large ball, using your hands dusted lightly with flour. Put in a bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour, or until doubled in size. You can preheat an oven to 200 degrees, then shut off the oven and put the dough and bowl into the oven covered with a moistened paper towel.
  3. After the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
  4. Roll dough into a 16x21 inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  5. Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.
This was the dough after I spent roughly six minutes kneading it and even punching it at times - it was very therapeutic and the yeasty smell of the dough was pleasant:
After realizing I should let the dough rise in the oven, I switched to a glass bowl. Then Andrew and I went to the gym, so it ended up getting three hours to rise:

Next came rolling out the dough (on my Silpat), and the spread of the butter and the cinnamon topping:
Cutting the rolls was a messy process! Then I squished them all onto a regular cookie sheet and let them rest for another 30 minutes to let them rise again:
Warm from the oven and dripping with the frosting, they were great! My fingers were too sticky and I was too impatient to try one, to attempt to take a really good picture of them!
The best part of making them from scratch is having the abilitiy to spread on a ton of icing. I'll have to work on making them more uniform in size and pretty. I think I might try putting four rolls in a round cake pan next time.
I ended up with 12 rolls total. Knowing that Andrew and I would eat them all day if we had them, I packed three up for Amy, Phu and Pete and three for my Uncle Rich and cousin Andrew (and my cousin Andrea at home) since we were meeting them for dinner.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pomegranate - the new "in" flavor

I remember reading a fascinating NY Times article that explained how certain flavors become trendy, and similar to the fashion industry, it's a process that takes years and starts with early adopters (usually a few high level, Michelin-rated chefs), then expands to fancy restaurants, regular restaurants, consumer products found in grocery stores and finally, in a true sign that the flavor has arrived, the flavor gets incorporated into some sort fast food product. I can't remember all the specific flavors that were used as an example of this process, but chipotle was definitely mentioned. As I started thinking about it, I realized that it was true, I had never heard of chipotle in college and now it's a common flavor that you see in most restaurant menus (like chipotle aioli, yum!)

Anyway, I know pomegranate isn't exactly a new flavor. It's been around for years, and become popular at first, I suspect, due to Pom brand juice. But as I was eating breakfast yesterday, I realized that there was a common theme.

As usual, I started with a cup of yogurt. I usually stick with blackberry or raspberry, with an odd apple turnover or strawberry banana thrown in for variety. But my new favorite flavor for the past few weeks has been Light & Fit's Pomegranate Berry:

This was accompanied by two pieces of Apple Pomegranate toast. While at Stop & Shop on Thursday night, I noticed it and another new fruit bread, Orange Cranberry, in the Pepperidge Farm section:

Looking at the Pepperidge Farm website, it looks like there's lot of fun, fruit-flavored breads and bagels to try:

So back to my original point, I'll know that pomegranate will have truly arrived as an officially established flavor when McDonald's starts hawking pomegranate smoothies. I can already get pomegranates in my beer through Michelob Ultra's pomegranate-raspberry beer.

But it looks like it has already hit the grocery stores and I'm glad. It's taken something more exotic and translated into something that most people will get to enjoy. Plus, it's insanely healthy and filled with antioxidants so you can't go wrong. And did I forget to mention delicious?