Around here…

As I was transferring photos from my camera to my computer, I discovered that I didn’t take a single picture in September. That’s probably an indication that I spent too much time at work in September. Or too much time running. Or possibly both.

A few photos from October…

Berkshires

Hiking in the Berkshires

Head of the Charles

On the eve of The Head of the Charles

maine lighthouse

Portland Head Light

Eventide Portland

Lunch at Eventide in Portland…It was like being back in LA…

Oysters at Eventide Portland

…with the addition of lots of Maine oysters

Boston at night Full moon over Boston.

SoWa + the quest for the best hot dog ever

My husband has been wanting to eat a Super Dog (aka – America’s #1 Hotdog) for quite some time, and I’ve been wanting to check out the SoWa Open Market (also for quite some time), so a few weeks ago, when we were looking for something to do that required “low brain power” per my husband’s request, we knocked two things off our Boston to-do list in one afternoon.

The SoWa Open Market has three sections: a farmers’ market, an arts market, and food trucks.

The farmers’ market looked a bit weak, so we didn’t even check it out. The arts market was okay, but not as big as I expected.

While perusing the art market, I did learn how to tie a bow tie from the nice gentlemen at this stand…

SoWa

…and I loved every piece of art at this stand by Elizabeth Benotti.

Elizabeth Benotti SoWa

I ended up leaving without making a purchase, but she had so much more available at the market than at her etsy store, so I might need to take another trip to SoWa if I decide I’m ready to commit to a piece. At least these great hanging planters are available online in case I don’t make it back.

After my indecision about the planters, we moved on to the food trucks.

The food truck section felt a little bit like being back in Southern California. Food trucks + hipsters everywhere = the closest Boston can get to feeling like LA.

I don’t think any food truck can top Kogi, but the food trucks at SoWa were unique in their own way and had a nice New England feel.

SoWa food truck

SoWa food truck

SoWa food truck

I can’t say that I ever saw a lobster or oyster food truck in LA.

And of course there was the Boston Super Dog truck.

SoWa Super Dog Food Truck

We ordered fried green tomatoes and a Jr Dog (which was the size of a regular hotdog; the regular size was huge). I then proceeded to not take a photo of the hotdog, so you’ll have to take my word for it that we got one. The fried green tomatoes were okay, but nowhere near Sweet Cheeks.

The verdict on the hotdog? “Pretty good, but I don’t know about the best.” According to my husband, who is apparently a connoisseur of hotdogs, as he said it would have been better if he’d gotten the regular size, because the bread to dog ratio was off in the Jr Dog. Who knew such a ratio existed? To me, it was just a hot dog.

My kind of Saturday school

While my husband spent the day over at Harvard Business School, I went to school too. He’s not the only one filling his head with knowledge around here. Thanks to Groupon, I spent the afternoon at Boston Chocolate School learning how to make chocolate truffles. This is clearly just as important as whatever is going on over at HBS.

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The class took place in the basement of the Elephant & Castle Pub and was taught by Dorian McCarron, who is  a retired pastry chef, now full-time tattoo artist, and self-proclaimed chocaholic. He recently won Sweet Genius on the Food Network, so I think it’s safe to say that he still knows what he’s doing, despite being retired (and from the looks of it, a 30-something retiree).

Upon entering the classroom, we were each given a mug of hot chocolate to sip on while we learned about the history and science of chocolate. This was real hot chocolate, not Swiss Miss, and tasted like I was drinking a chocolate bar. Dorian kept the lesson entertaining and we got to sample cocoa nibs, milk chocolate and dark chocolate, as well as rub some cocoa butter on our hands to soften our skin.

Then it was on to the chocolate making. In all actuality, Dorian did all of the chocolate making, we just assembled our chocolates by rolling the ganache into balls and then rolling them in toppings or dipping them into chocolate.

My workspace could probably be labeled “hot mess.” Good thing I didn’t have to actually make the ganache and temper the chocolate.

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The ganache flavors were caramel, raspberry, and milk chocolate. I chose cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and toffee bits for my toppings. There were also cocoa nibs and coconut, but the cocoa nibs were too bitter for me, and as many people know, I have a serious aversion to coconut, thanks to my brother and a traumatic incident involving coconut as a child…

I dipped most of mine into dark chocolate and then drizzled some milk chocolate on top in an attempt to make them look a little nicer and to distract from the oddly shaped chocolates I created.

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I couldn’t believe how many chocolates we were able to make. Here’s my bottom layer.

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And then another layer on top.

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I’m still feeling a little overdosed on chocolate from the hot chocolate and the chocolate samples, so I haven’t tried any of my chocolates yet, but I’m sure they will be delicious. I’m especially excited to try the molded ones that we filled with an earl grey ganache, which just so happens to taste a lot like Froot Loops. Now that’s my kind of chocolate filling.

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24 hours in Portland

Last weekend, we went on a quick trip to Portland, Maine. Just two hours from Boston, it was the perfect, short getaway. Of course, for us, 24 hours in Portland might be more aptly titled, “How much food can we eat in 24 hours.” I think we did a pretty good job on that front.

Life married to a grad student. The drive up to Portland.

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Once we arrived in Portland, our first stop was Duckfat, where much of the food is cooked in, you guessed it, duck fat.

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Duckfat poutine. I’m not a huge poutine fan to begin with, but it was pretty good. Not the best fries ever, but good.

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The tomato soup was amazing. Even better than Roxy’s Grilled Cheese truck here in Boston.

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Next stop was Two Fat Cats Bakery for dessert. This place was after my own heart.

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The pies looked delicious…

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…but I ultimately decided on a whoopie pie, which happens to be the official state treat of Maine. (The signs aren’t kidding when they say Maine is “the way life should be.”)

And it was the best whoopie pie I’ve ever had. The cake was light and fluffy, and not too chocolatey. And the cream was slightly more frosting-like, than cream-like. Just the way I like it.

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In the afternoon we checked into our hotel. The Holiday Inn By the Bay has lovely views.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out at Bard Coffee, where the loose tea selection was amazing and they had hot white chocolate. I hear the coffee is pretty good too, but we’re not coffee drinkers.

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Also wandered around Old Port a bit.

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And then we had dinner at Fore Street, where the food rivaled the best restaurants in LA, but you’ll have to take my word for it, because I didn’t take any pictures. My husband ordered the duck and said it was the best duck he’s ever had in his life.

The next morning we awoke to snow falling.

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We ventured out into the snow for brunch at Schulte & Herr. It was traditional German food. Good, but not great.

Potato Pancakes with lox.

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Something very meat and potatoes style that my husband ordered. I think it was the special of the day.

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We bid farewell to Portland and headed home through the snow. With one short stop at Popovers in Portsmouth for lunch 🙂

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Boston Foodie Tour

After we got settled into our apartment, I decided I needed to start to get to know the city of Boston, beyond our neighborhood in Cambridge. I figured, what better way to do that than to take a food tour? After consulting Yelp, I decided that the Boston Foodie Tour was my best choice, and I was not disappointed.

I went with the Beacon Hill/Back Bay Tour, because it was advertised as two tours in one (you can’t argue with that!), and because those neighborhoods are just across the river from Cambridge. I was a little hesitant to embark on a five hour food tour, but the guide, Audrey, was amazing, and gave us a nice mix of sampling food, perusing food stores, and filling us in on the history of the area as we walked through Beacon Hill and Back Bay. Before I knew it, the sun was setting and the tour was coming to an end.

I ate so much food on this tour that it’s taken me almost two months to sort through my photos. Here’s a sampling of the places we visited on our tour.

The tour started at the beautiful Liberty Hotel, which used to be the Charles Street Jail. Sorry I don’t have a picture, but trust me the interior was breathtaking.

Our first food “sampling” was at Scampo, which is Lydia Shire’s restaurant, located in the Liberty Hotel. We were first treated to a delicious mozzarella salad……and then we got to watch the chef prepare a lobster pizza for us.

Which was both rich and scrumptious (and worth risking a migraine for, but luckily I was able to eat the lobster without any headaches).

All of the food at Scampo was tasty. Even the bread sticks were good.

After our first “sample” we headed onto Charles Street, where we stopped at Savenor’s Market.

Here we perused the shelves of fresh fruits and vegetables, the local handcrafted foods, and of course, the exotic meats (which we did not sample).

I was happy to see that the rattle snake is free range, because I would hate to see those little fellas forced to live in a factory farm.

Then it was time for some J.P. Licks ice cream. I’m not usually a chocolate person, but I decided to go with the Nutella flavor, because I can’t resist that chocolate-hazelnut deliciousness. Had I known that the next stop was a chocolate shop, I probably would have chosen a different flavor, but it was still delicious.

Next stop: Beacon Hill Chocolates

They were so pretty and so tasty!

We continued on through the Boston Public Gardens and on to my favorite stop of the day: Bacco’s Wine and Cheese shop.

Where we sampled a variety of cheeses and other items that would go on a cheese plate.

I picked up some goodies to take home. Delicious.

Next, we were off to Legal Sea Foods for some chowdah. It was okay. I think I just don’t like clam chowder, so you probably shouldn’t make any decisions based on my feelings about it.

Then it was time to hit Georgetown Cupcakes.

We were feeling pretty stuffed, so we got our cupcakes to go. I have been here MANY times since the food tour. They are that good. For me, frosting is the most important factor in making a cupcake delicious. If you are a frosting lover, you will not be disappointed.

Then it was time for some more savory food. We hit up the Grilled Cheese Nation food truck.

We split a brie and apple sandwich. The sandwich had a clever name, but I don’t remember what it was. The crisp apple with the brie cheese was delicious.

We took a stroll through the Copley Square Farmer’s Market, where the colors were beautiful.

We visited some more specialty shops, sampling flavored salts and sugars at Sabatino and Co….

…and delicious olive oils and vinegars at Boston Olive Oil Company. I have not gone back here yet, but I will as soon as my current bottle of olive oil runs out. Which should be soon 🙂

The tour ended with tea and dessert at Brasserie Jo.

I had such a great time and ate SO much delicious food on this tour. I cannot wait to go on another one. If anyone comes to visit me in Boston, I will be happy to accompany you on a Boston Foodie Tour. I especially have my eye on the North End Tour, but I’m sure all of the tours are fantastic!

Taza Chocolate Factory Tour

I’ve been seeing these round discs of Taza Chocolate in stores all over Boston, but I didn’t know what the big deal was. Then someone told me that Taza chocolate is made right here in Boston and that I could go on a factory tour, because it’s located in Somerville (which is right next to Cambridge). So one day last week, I headed on over for a tour.

Upon entering the store, I was immediately greeted by the smell of chocolate in the air. While I waited for the tour to begin, I wandered around the factory store.

There were samples everywhere, so I cheated and tried some Taza chocolate before the official tour (which also included many samples). And it was delicious.

I had been forewarned that Taza chocolate is Mexican stone ground chocolate and that it does not have the smooth texture of chocolate that most of us are used to. Here’s a picture of a stone, like the ones that are used to grind the cocoa beans.

Taza chocolate is meant to be melted and made into hot chocolate, but many people, myself included, enjoy eating it just the way it is. I actually enjoyed the grainy texture of the chocolate and liked the slight crunchiness of the sugar crystals and cocoa beans. The salted almond was my favorite. I LOVED the combination of sweet and salty and just a tiny bit of crunch.

The official tour started with some background on the company. This wall explains the bean to bar process for those who don’t take the tour or for those who just don’t listen to the tour guide.

Our first stop was the Roasting and Winnowing room.

In here we got to see the machines that are used. All of the machines were purchased used when the company opened in 2006, so many of the machines are quite old.

We were lucky, because roasting was in progress and we were even given fresh roasted cocoa beans to peel and taste. It was much too bitter for me, but it was interesting to get to taste a fresh roasted bean before it is turned into chocolate. We then visited the packaging room, which just looked like a room where boxes of chocolate are packed up. I was a little surprised at how small it was, since Taza is sent out to 48 states. I was also surprised to hear that the chocolate bars (not the discs) are packaged by hand!

Next stop-back to the store where there are windows into the factory and we could see the chocolate being made. Here the chocolate is being dropped (from a doughnut machine, also purchased used) into the molds.

This tour was definitely worth five dollars to see how the chocolate is made from start to finish. And for the plenitude of samples. I think I tasted almost every flavor that Taza produces. To be honest, I was feeling a little sick when I left. They don’t force you to eat that much chocolate, I just couldn’t turn down a free taste 🙂

And here’s a gift for my husband. Like how I chose my two favorite flavors to give to him?

Honey on tap? Yes, please!

As I wandered around Harvard Square today, I decided to check out Follow the Honey. As someone who regularly eats honey (and lots of it) straight out of the jar, this is my kind of place.

Follow the Honey is located right on Mass Ave, but a little bit away from the hustle and bustle of Harvard Square itself. This store contains ALL things honey. Honey infused lotions and soaps, cook books, honey filled chocolates, even bike helmets that look like honeycomb…everything! And of course, honey! A huge selection from around the world, I might add.

Books, for people who want to do more than just eat the honey out of the jar.

Ear plugs made out of beeswax ( I could have used those a few weeks ago when our upstairs neighbor decided to have a party into the wee hours of the morning).

They even have Honey Stinger’s!!! These are my go-to energy booster when  I’m attempting to do things like ride my bike across Iowa.

Honey on tap from near…

…and from far.

I wasn’t quite sure where to start, but I knew I wanted a local honey. The shopkeeper, Erin, was kind enough to provide me with some samples from the honey bar.

I ultimately decided to go with the local Summer Light honey that was on tap from Autumn Morning Farm. Although there was a VERY tasty honey from Vermont that was a close second for me. I’ll probably be going back for that.

To buy the honey on tap you can bring your own jar from home. Or if you arrive unprepared like I did, you can choose one of the cute jars from the store, and just fill it up!

And here’s my full jar. Yum!

Eat Boutique Fall Market

Yesterday I convinced my husband to take a break from studying, so we headed down to the Atlantic Wharf and enjoyed some time at the Eat Boutique Fall Market.  Here we were able to meet local food makers and sample their delicious treats. There was something for everyone – fresh mozzarella cheese, whoopie pies, wine, maple syrup, cookies, gluten free brownies, homemade marshmallows, tea, cheesecake, nuts, and more!

These apple cider marshmallows were pure melt-in-my mouth goodness.

This maple syrup was divine. And the maple syrup cream? I don’t even know what maple syrup cream is, but I could have eaten it all right out of the jar. So good.

Words to live by.

I can’t wait for the Holiday Eat Boutique Market! I’ve already got December 9th marked on my calendar!