Friday, April 29, 2011

Blue-Eyed Crab Grille and Raw Bar

I have fallen in love, and unfortunately for me (but fortunately for my waistline), my love is located in Plymouth. The Blue-eyed Crab Grille was Tom and Charlotte's choice for a birthday dinner in Tom's honor but really, dinner was a gift for all of us. Ok, ok, I will stop with the flowery language, but seriously folks, I was digging the food here!

The Blue-eyed Crab in Plymouth was the second stop in our tour of southeastern Mass that had started earlier in the day at New Bedford.

It's in a pretty small location but luckily for us, there was no wait at around 5:30 p.m. on a warm Sunday (although there was a constant stream of people in and out). The interior was whimsically decorated to resemble being underwater:

While the underwater theme may not be original for a seafood restaurant, the Barbie-lounging-on-adirondack-chair lamps were definitely unique!

We started with an appetizer of crispy calamari with banana peppers, rocket greens and habanero plantain aioli. Everything was really fresh and really good. The aoili didn't stand out as much in flavor as the name would suggest but it still was tasty and a perfect complement to the rest of the ingredients. And we cleaned the plate of any remnants.

Inspired by a taste of Andrew's lobster roll from the Waterfront Grille, I ordered my own for dinner and I wasn't disappointed. It came with nicely crisped fries (which doesn't sound like much but a lot of restaurants seem to have a hard time with this), a delicious homemade sweet pickle spear and good coleslaw, according to Amy, since I don't eat coleslaw:

One picture will suffice for the rest of the table, as Andrew, Amy, Tom and Charlotte all opted for what has to be Blue-eyed Crab's signature (or at least one of their most popular) dishes - the crispy crab burger on a challah roll topped with pickled jalepenos, avocado-casino and greens lemon aioli. I was too into my lobster roll to get a taste from Andrew's sandwich but I can assure, the table was silent as everyone concentrated on savoring each bite of their crab burger other than the occasional exclamation of delight.  Andrew did remark that it was crammed full of fresh crab with little filler and Amy compared it to one of her favorite crab cake sandwiches at the Barking Crab.
We walked out the restaurant feeling full and content and again, I was just impressed by the freshness and the great preparation that allowed just simple good flavor shine through.

Eating at Plymouth's waterfront made me long for warmer summer days filled with more seafood meals - Blue-eyed Crab, I'm coming back for you!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Waterfront Grille

I can't wait for the weekend and the nice weather we're supposed to be having.

One of the last nice weekends we had, Andrew, Amy and I ended up taking a roundabout culinary tour of Southeastern MA.

First stop on our tour was North Dartmouth to pick up my cousin Andrew from school. He was in desperate need of escape from campus food, so we ended up taking him to the Waterfront Grille in New Bedford (based on a recommendation from one of Andrew's coworkers):

We were thrilled to score a table with a nice waterfront view:

With the sunny skies, some shades were definitely in order as Andrew kindly demonstrated:

The service was pretty attentive in the restaurant (almost too attentive) but I found our waiter to be weird. Amy didn't mind him and I don't know if I can explain why the waiter rubbed me the wrong way, but it was almost like he was trying too hard to quirky? Also, we were handed brunch menus when we walked in the door and mixed in with the menus was one for lunch. We didn't think anything about it, so my cousin Andrew and I ended up ending lunch items while Amy and Andrew stuck with the brunch menu.  The waiter took our orders without a problem, and then came back a few minutes later. He asked me if I had ordered the asparagus salad (which I had never heard of, since it wasn't listed on their menus). When I confirmed my meal choice once again, he told me it was on their lunch menu, which I shouldn't have been given. He told me that the Chef was willing to honor my request but he wanted me to know that it wasn't a brunch item and couldn't be ordered again if I came in another weekend for brunch.  I found this irritating as well - I wish the waiter had come back and just told me right away that I had ordered off the lunch menu and to make another selection. I guess I should be thankful that they were honoring my order but I didn't like impression that they were doing such a huge favor for me and I just didn't like all the acting in regards to confirming my menu choice. So again, it wasn't like the service was bad, I just wasn't a big fan of the waiter's personality and manner of handling things.  Anyway, back to the food!

The lunch item that they ended up making for me? A scallop and berry salad which was very artfully arranged. I have never seen these two flavors combined but I found the salad to be very light and refreshing, and the scallops had a nice crust to them:

Andrew went with a lobster roll (which looked tiny to me) and sweet potato fries. Again, everything was fresh and delicious!

Amy also had scallops, in her case, cornmeal crusted scallops with a red pepper aioli that she raved about:

Andrew went with the turkey club sandwich (also ordered off the lunch menu, but he wasn't given grief about it) but as it turns out, it had no bacon at all in it. Which made it essentially a turkey sandwich. We first wondered that maybe they didn't have the bacon since this was again, something ordered off the contraband lunch menu, and then realized, duh, it's brunch. They must have plenty of bacon around. So poor Andrew was stuck with a plain turkey sandwich but we had no complaints about the fries - perfectly cooked and crispy (something I can personally attest to since I kept stealing them off his plate):

On our way out, Andrew (my husband) noticed some very cool looking crab chairs by Waterfront Grille's fire place. Their whole decor theme was very beach/ocean focused (the same could be said for their menu) but it was all done in a very charming way:

Overall, despite the menu snafu and my personal issues with the server, I would highly recommend the restaurant. It was in a great location, tons of ample parking, great food with fresh ingredients and reasonable prices for seafood.

Location number 2 of the day for me, Amy and Andrew was Plymouth to celebrate Tom's birthday. More on that leg of the tour tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Happy Administrative Professionals Day!

Andrew asked me last minute to make something to bring in for the paralegals in his office. One is notoriously finicky and doesn't like nuts or nut flavors.  When checking my larder (I feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder when I use that term) I realized that I had NO chocolate chips. Which is weird for a frequent baker like me. I had two bags of white chocolate chips, one bag of mini chocolate chips, 10 bags of butterscotch chips (thanks to a care package from my mom) but no regular chocolate chips so that ruled out chocolate chip cookies.

I decided to keep it simple and go for a snickerdoodle - after all, who can resist the classic combo of sugar and cinnamon?

I was also excited to make my first recipe from the Rosie's Bakery Chocolate-Packed Jam-Filled Butter-Rich No-Holds-Barred Cookie Book. Please note that traditional snickerdoodle recipes tend to call for cream of tartar and shortening, and end up producing flat cookies.  I have visions of a crisp exterior and a soft interior, and I just like my cookies to be more domed in shape, so I was happy that this recipe seemed to fit the bill!

Baker's Best Snickerdoodles from the Rosie's Baker Chocolate-Packed Jam-Filled Butter-Rich No-Holds-Barred Cookie Book

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tbsp sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper, or grease them lightly with vegetable oil (or use Silpat liners).

2. Sift the flour, baking powder and sal together into a small bowl and set aside.

3. Combine the cinnamon with the 2 Tbsp sugar in a small bowl (I poured these ingredients directly into a sturdy freezer Ziploc bag). Stir together thoroughly, and pour into a plastic bag (or shake thoroughly in the bag).

4. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter, remaining sugar and vanilla together in a medium-sized mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 minute. Stop the mixer once during the process to scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula, and scrape the bowl again at the end.

5.  Add the eggs and beat on medium speed until they are blended, about 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl.

6. Add half of the flour mixture, and mix on low speed for 10 seconds. Scrape the bowl Add the remaining flour mixture and blend on low for 25 seconds, stopping the mixer twice to scrape the bowl.

7.  Measure out generously rounded tablespoons of the dough and roll them into balls with your hands. (I used my medium-sized Oxo cookie scoop and dropped the dough directly into the sugar/cinnamon bag without rolling it first).

8.  Place 2 cookies at a time in the cinnamon/sugar mixture and shake the bag to coat (important - don't add extra cinnamon. I decided to add some turbinado sugar to the bag and added more cinnamon to balance out the sugar. The cinnamon is so fine that it coats the entire surface of the cookie without letting a lot of sugar to stick, so I recommed sticking with the recipe's original amount of cinnamon). Then place the balls 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets and bake until the centers are risen and slightly cracked and the edges are crisp, 16 to 18 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets.

Because I used my cookie scoop and didn't roll the cookies, my cookies had a beautiful crackled pattern on top (similar to the grooves that ice cream has after you've scooped it, if that makes sense).  While I wish a little more sugar had stuck to the surface of the cookies, they still tasted fabulous.

I stacked ten cookies and packaged them in beautiful containers (from the Paula Deen collection at Michael's - I bought them on clearance last year and now I wish I had bought more! As I was in a rush this morning, I forgot to take a picture of the containers but you get the gist of what they looked like.

I hope the cookies looked this good as the paralegals opened their packages - Andrew reported back that the cookies were a hit (even with the picky coworker).  You can't go wrong with a simple, classic cookie with tons of flavor.  Although I do want to try to make the other version of snickerdoodles since the cream of tartar is supposed to give it a distinctive "sour" taste.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter 2011 Recap

In addition to the warm weather on Sunday, there were a lot of things that made my Easter weekend special.

A beautifully decorated table with tons of chocolate treats waiting for us:

Did I mention the chocolate? Traditional bunnies as well as special edition Lindt chocolates, Ferrero Rocher chocolates (including my absolute favorite the coconut version) and Ghiradelli chocolates:

A sneak peek in the kitchen revealed the source of the good smells wafting through Andrew's parents' house - Charlotte's world famous egg casserole (which usually only makes an appearance on Christmas morning) and french toast casserole to provide the "br" in our Easter brunch:

And nothing beats traditional ham to round out the dishes - yum!

Here's a look at the full brunch spread - we enjoyed biscuits, fruit salad, roasted potatoes, sugar snap peas and hot cross buns as well:

As you can see, I didn't skimp on my portion sizes - after all, Easter only comes once a year!

The nice thing about brunch was the blended group of family and friends - Amanda was home for the weekend (before jetting off on a whirlwind trip of Asia), and Amy, her roommate Merissa and my uncle Rich:

The rest of the family was filling their plates - Andrew and his parents:
Then, there were the desserts. Full confession, while I was originally planning on baking something for Easter, we ended up going out to watch the Bruins playoff game on Saturday night.  So what did we end up bringing?

An ice cream cake from Peaceful Meadows, an ice cream shop in Plymouth (fun fact: Amanda used to work at Peaceful Meadows in high school):
Rich brought a beautifully decorated chocolate cake from his favorite bakery in Taunton:

And my favorite dessert, Charlotte's homemade spice cake with Frangelico-infused frosting:
Poor A.J. was relegated to the downstairs family room for most of the meal but was allowed upstairs once we cleared the remnants of our feast away.
I know it's the wrong holiday but this weekend left me feeling thankful once again that Andrew's parents are so generous in opening their hearts and home to a motley crew of family and friends.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Sometimes a rainy, overcast day calls for a dazzling array of colors in a dish to cheer you up! A six pack of peppers from Costco inspired me to try making stuffed bell peppers for the first time.

Since rainy days make me feel lazy as well, you can find the full recipe that I used here. I also added around a cup and a half of short grain, fluffy rice that I had leftover in my rice cooker and it worked really well.

Just look at how awesome the bits of pepper look being sauteed with some scallions (since I didn't have any onions on hand) and garlic:

Even the empty peppers looked fun:

I crammed as much as I could into the peppers and still had around a cup leftover of the hamburger/rice mixture, which I cooked in an extra pan.

A close-up shot so you know what I mean when I say I crammed the filling in! I even carefully molded extra spoonfuls on top so not a drop of the mixture would go to waste.

Topped with an additional can of tomato sauce mixed with half a can of diced tomatoes, the peppers were ready for the oven:

They smelt heavenly while they were in the oven and came out looking wonderfully plump. For safety's sake, I used a food thermometer to check the temperature in the middle so I knew that the hamburger had cooked through completely.

Then, it was time to feast. Six stuffed peppers is enough to feed Andrew and I for two dinners straight, since we polished three off in one sitting.

I love the fresh flavor (and colors) of the peppers, combined with the homey combo of hamburger, tomato and rice - a nice warm, filling meal to have on a rainy night.  I call it colorful comfort food.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cupcake Camp Recap: Cupcakes Take Over The Armory!

First off, I knew it was going to be a special night when we saw where Cupcake Camp Boston was being hosted - tucked into an ordinary looking neighborhood was the incredible and historic Somerville Armory for the Arts - I wish I had taken a picture of it, but well, it was raining and we were carrying eight dozen cupcakes, so I'm giving myself a pass on the picture taking.

Once inside, I made my way over to my assigned table (Table 1) to lay out my cupcake goodies. I was at the same table as Jen from Beantown Baker and Cara from Cara's Cravings, which was a bit intimidating since their offerings looked picture perfect!

Jen's cupcakes were a big hit - chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes (complete with a ball of cookie dough in the middle) and the most popular of all - Frito cupcakes!

Facing our table was one of the professional bakers, Cupcake Mojo. I thought they had some of the most beautifully decorated cupcakes as well as, most importantly, the best tasting. I had one of their Strawberry Margarita cupcakes and loved the fresh strawberry and lime wedge decoration on top!

One of the more interesting flavors I saw in the room happened to be at the table next to mine - his Bananas Foster cupcakes were decorated beautifully and I kept hearing people rave about them over and over:

Those of us who brought cupcakes were able to get early entry into the Armory - this is what it looked like as all the bakers (professional and amateur) set up their tables. Amateurs were on the outside and professional bakers were set up in the interior rectangle of tables.

Andrew and I were able to walk around and check out the other tables - we were excited to see one of our favorites, Party Favors!

I had to give a shout out the "C-Cups" team - I thought they definitely won for most creative cupcake business name, and their cupcakes were delicious to boot:

I didn't stay with my cupcakes for most of the night but I did feel obligated to stay with them for a short period to see if people had questions. Actually, it felt like people felt shyer about grabbing one while I was there so I didn't linger long:

Andrew took this time to take shots of how crowded the Armory became - and yes, that's me in the bottom left hand part of the screen. What I didn't mention is that Andrew's parents Tom and Charlotte made it out for the festivities to show their support and got a kick out of meeting Jen since they were familiar with her Beantown Baker blog from reading mine.

We lasted for two and half hours and waited until all my cupcakes had been taken before we left the armory. It was still really crowded as we left, even though there were a lot of tables that were out of cupcakes at that point. We were surprised to see that there was still a line of people waiting to get into the Armory (standing in the rain) as we walked out the door.

You don't think we walked out of there empty handed, do you? I had the foresight to bring my cupcake carrier, and we filled the top with a variety of different cupcakes with the intent of sharing with my sister Amy (I have to give a shout out the lemon blueberry cupcake you see in the corner, I don't remember which amateur baker made but it was one of my favorites of the night). I also held back a few of my praline cupcakes so Andrew and I could share a few with our coworkers the next day).

All in all, while it was a bit stressful preparing and baking for the event, it was also a lot of fun and I can't wait to participate in next year's Cupcake Camp! I picked up a couple of tips this year on what to do (mainly, make mini cupcakes so people can taste your cupcake without committing to a full one and pick unique flavors and ingredients to tempt people into trying a cupcake) and hope to be better prepared next year.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cupcake Camp Recap: Brown Sugar Praline Cupcakes

As you saw in yesterday's post, while my first batch of cupcakes ended up as a miserable failure, I did successfully end up making eight dozen batches of cupcakes in two flavors.  I had my eye on making praline cupcakes (inspired by the pralines a coworker brought back from New Orleans around Mardi Gras) and I bookmarked this recipe with the intent of making it for Cupcake Camp Boston.  I liked the fact that it was out of the ordinary, included the praline flavor and texture (yum!) and wasn't chocolate.

It was a bit risky to try a new recipe without a test run, but I had faith that it would all work out, and thankfully it did!

Brown Sugar Cupcakes
3 cups cake flour

1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
6 oz. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
4 eggs, at room tempurature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. In mixing bowl sift in cake flour, salt, baking powder, and brown sugars and mix for 30 seconds on low speed to combine. Add in butter and sour cream and mix for about 30 more seconds. In a seperate bowl whisk together milk, eggs, and vanilla and add it to the flour mixture in 2 parts mixing thouroughly and scraping the sides after each addition. Line cupcake pans with paper liners and fill 2/3 way full. Bake for 18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Makes approx. 30 cupcakes

The batter looked nice and thick when I filled the cupcake liners using my handy dandy new cupcake dispenser, a Christmas gift that I busted out for the occasion (highly recommended):

They came out of the oven perfect, slightly domed but flat enough to frost evenly:

I had high expectations for the flavor of the cake but it was pretty neutral, I'm guessing to balance out the sweetness of the praline frosting and topping. It also reminded me more of cornbread in texture, but was sturdy enough to hold up the weight of a heavy topping.

Next step was to make the praline topping. It's a delicate process that requires a candy thermometer because you only have a short window of time to scoop when it hits the perfect soft ball temperature.  From the sugaring you can see in my pralines, I overcooked the pralines but they still looked decent and tasted great! 


1 1/2 cup pecan halves
1 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a 300F oven toast pecan halves on a foil lined cookie sheet for about 8 minutes checking often because they burn easily! Let cool and chop roughly.

In a medium heavy bottomed sauce pan combine brown sugar, sugar, heavy cream, and salt. Cook over medium heat until the sugars dissolve and mixture starts to come to a boil, making sure to stir occasionally.

Continue cooking until mixture reaches 235F-240F on a candy thermometer or soft-ball stage when small amount is placed in water, about another 15-20 minutes. Be very careful with this step, as overcooking will cause a grainy texture!

Remove from heat and add butter, vanilla, and pecans. Stir with a rubber spatula contiuously for approximately 3-4 minutes until mixture thickens enough to be scooped out and not be too runny.I used my Oxo small cookie scoop to quickly create uniform pralines on my Silpat sheets. Let cool (I had them sit out for eight hours before I used them).

Finally, the slightly labor intensive praline frosting.

Brown Sugar Praline Buttercream

4 large egg whites
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1 tsp vanilla
8 pralines chopped finely (from the ones you created above)

In a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water, whisk together egg whites, sugar, and salt. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.

Transfer to the clean bowl of an electric mixer with whisk attatchment. Beat on medium speed until fluffy and cooled, about 15 minutes. This is the part where I say "Presto, Change-o!"

Raise speed to high; beat until stiff peaks form. Switch to paddle attatchment and reduce speed to medium-low; add butter, 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, until fully incorporated. Add in vanilla. Fold in praline pieces with spoon.

This is what the mixture looks like before you start beating it:


Ta - da! After fifteen minutes of beating (props to my Kitchenaid mixer for the hard labor):

To be honest, I'm not sure if I made the frosting correctly because it resulted in a very light and airy, almost foamy-in-texture frosting. Everyone who tasted it enjoyed it, but I was expecting more of a buttercream texture.

So as you know by now, this how the cupcakes looked once they were decorated. In hindsight, I would cut each praline in half and prop them upright on top since a whole praline just kind of sits there and looks meh.
So for inspiration, I'll leave you with The Frosted Cake 'n Cookie's perfect version of the Brown Sugar Praline Cupcake:
Photo credit here