Monday, July 24, 2017

Patio Dining At Parsnip

It was a coolish Friday evening when we recently strolled through Harvard Square on our way to Parsnip for dinner on the patio.  It's been open a few years now and has gained a reputation for an elegant dining spot with extraordinary food overlooking Winthrop Square.  This would be a more casual experience but no less than excellent when it came to the food.

Of course, we started with selected breads and a quality butter as we people-watched, hearing snippets of other languages as the international summer crowd passed by. 

We continued with the house made chips and a glass of rosé.  It IS, after all, summer.  Early evening clouds provided us with the entire patio to ourselves to begin but it would not be long before a few couples joined us then a larger party of what seemed like family members including children.  It's a much different feel sitting out here than it is inside.

Salmon Sliders With Caper Aioli.  Our usual finding with salmon sliders is that they are dry but not in this version.  Perfectly moist and with a hint of fennel.  If you are a fan of salmon or have tried different versions of a salmon patty or slider you will love these.  It's one of if not the best version of this we've ever had, really.

The Charcuterie Board serves up three selections of meats and house pickles at a reasonable $18.00.  Easily shared and with a glass of wine it would be the perfect appetizer on a warm night.

Roasted Bone Marrow With Charred Baby Leek And Truffle Vinaigrette.  So, this was somewhat of a showstopper for patio dining.  I think we are in the majority when we say that most people who have ever even had it are likely to enjoy bone marrow as a special treat.  It is served here with a traditional Tuscan bread for spreading the thick, rich marrow upon.  It was perfectly flavored with the toppings.  Fattening, yes, but also an extremely healthy food.  We loved it.

A gorgeous Gazpacho With Fried Octopus.  That octopus seemed to dance across the plate and provided the perfect contrast of briny and crunchy to the cool cucumber and grape tastes in a créme fraiche base.  A highlight of the meal.  Just beautiful.

We just had to sample the burger, done up here with caramelized balsamic onion, truffle pecorino cheese and crispy fries.  A great burger, moist and meaty.  Great fries, too and you will be surprised and delighted to be reminded what a house made ketchup tastes like, refreshing and sweet.  Again, a gourmet burger and glass of wine for dining alfresco on a relaxing summer night is ideal.

As the sun began to fade we indulged in dessert.  There is a selection of house made ice cream and gelatos.  These were the Vanilla Malt and Earl Grey/Milk Chocolate versions and both were heaven.  Great flavor combinations, both, I especially enjoyed that salty, unique flavor of the malt.  It reminded me of a Brigham's Malted Frappe. 

And to finish out our feast we were served these very Instagrammable Hibiscus Marshmallows.  I didn't know what to expect here.  I thought maybe a crunchy texture not unlike a macaron.  But, no, it was the soft, pillowy marshmallow feeling, a memory of 'smores and summer campgrounds, only pink and with the slightest hint of hibiscus.  Very nice, indeed.

So, if you're looking for a nice treat while the warm weather is here we'd highly suggest the patio dining at Parsnip.  The food and service is impeccable and the summer ambiance is fleeting.

91 Winthrop Street
Cambridge, MA  02138
Telephone:  617.714.3206


We dined as guests of Parsnip restaurant to experience their patio dining without promise of any editorial consideration or coverage.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich

Over the July Fourth holiday weekend we posted a pic on Instagram of the grilled cheese sandwiches we'd made for a pool party.  It got more likes than almost everything we posted that entire week combined.  That made us realize that people take their grilled cheese sandwiches quite seriously. 

We got the idea from a recipe suggestion that came to us with a sample bottle of Moore's Buffalo Wing Sauce.  Pimento cheese has long been a favorite in this house although it is more a Southern specialty.  It's basically grated cheddar cheese mixed with a little mayonnaise and chopped pimento. 

We smeared our fresh bread with the sauce, added a generous layer of the pimento cheese and then a sprinkle of chopped green onion.

Whenever we make a grilled cheese sandwich we always use ghee (clarified butter) and spread it evenly on the bread with a pastry brush.


Using the ghee just seems to make for the optimal golden color and slight crunch. 

So, yeah, it turned out to be the perfect poolside snack.  The slight heat of the Buffalo Sauce added an unexpected zip.  And, it's so easy.  Happy summering, everyone!

The Moore's Buffalo Sauce was provided to us as a sample without promise of any mention or editorial consideration.  We just liked the stuff!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Lunch At Mamma Maria With Zucchi Olive Oil

As mentioned in our last post we recently enjoyed lunch at Mamma Maria in the North End following our Zucchi Olive Oil Blending Experience.  We began with the very fresh bread and pesto pictured above.  We had just a small morsel as we knew there would be multiple courses to follow. 

Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella (flown in from Campagna, Italy) with sautéed, vine-ripened tomatoes.  I have always loved the simplicity of Italian fare.  Quality ingredients simply prepared will always win with me.

Classic Carpaccio, you can't beat the original as created by Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy.

Imported Artisinal Salumi Sampler With Local, Roasted Vegetables.

Homemade Mushroom Ravioli.  Hand-foraged, wild mushrooms are used in this very flavorful dish.

English Pea Risotto.  You don't often see a pea risotto on an Italian table so this was a refreshing change served with sautéed ramps, pea tendrils and a spiced tarragon pesto.

Wild Maryland Striped Bass.  Grilled and served with a warm salad of white beans and Maine kale.  The Sweet And Fruity Extra Virgin Olive Oil (my favorite) was used in this dish.

Fresh Favas.  Served with a pecorino Toscano and wrapped in a crispy parmesan tuile this was a great savory finish.

And the finale, Torta Di Polenta.  We all thought this would be more pudding-like.  Surprise, it was much more like a dense cornbread.  And delicious.

Mamma Maria
3 North Square
Boston, MA  02113
Telephone:  617.523.0077

This luncheon was provided by the restaurant as part of the olive oil blending experience without regard to any editorial content or consideration.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Oil Blending Experience With Zucchi

The North End.  A little touristy?  In some spots, sure.  Still filled with some residents who are colorful characters?  Yes.  Still a place to go to find Italian-American culture.  No question.  So, when we were recently invited there to attend an olive oil blending class by Zucchi we could not resist. 

We had certainly sampled olive oils at events before and compared tasting notes and discussed flavor.  This was a little more in-depth, however.

The brand brought along several of their master olive oil tasters, people who sometimes taste hundreds of oils each week to ascertain quality and flavor for their blends.  They use primarily Spanish and Italian Oils. 

We were guided through a tasting of four selected oils and talked a lot about flavor and how it actually takes place on the tongue.  When one participant said that she thought an oil tasted acidic we all learned something new from the experts:  one cannot actually taste acidity.  We can detect bitter or sour tastes either of which we often describe as acidic. 

After all of the oils were tasted we were given a scientific beaker to mix our own unique blends together and bottle them.  I noticed that my blend was quite the opposite of what most went with.  I strayed away from the bolder, more peppery tasting notes and went with a much more subtle blend with a distinct fruitiness I felt just tasted more fresh.  Leaving out the bolder oils meant that my bottle would not be full all the way.  I didn't care.

We were even given labels to place on our blends which is pretty cool when friends stop by and notice it in your kitchen.

After the blending class we all enjoyed lunch at Mama Maria's, our host restaurant, and socializing but more on that in our next post.  This was an absolutely great experience and very informative.  Olive oil is a pantry product found in virtually every one of our kitchens so it was great to learn more about this cooking staple.

This event was an informational media event provided courtesy of Zucchi Olive Oils with no editorial promise or consideration.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Lunch At Ma Maison With Chef Jacky Robert

As noted in our previous post, we recently had an invite from Chef Jacky Robert of Ma Maison in Beacon Hill for a fun-filled cooking lesson.  Well, that was followed by, of course, a great lunch.  The table was set elegantly in what is a small restaurant that feels so authentically French.  It's so refreshing when you walk into a place that isn't plastered with flat screen TVs and the music so loud that it prevents conversation.  What is dining out without the laughs and conversation, anyway?  Boring.

It was three simple courses but executed so beautifully that it was hard to find fault with anything.  I began with the Lobster Bisque, one of my favorite dishes.  I can honestly say that this was, hands down, the best lobster bisque I have ever had.  The typical complaint is the scant amount of lobster.  Not here.  There were large chunks of claw meat throughout and the delicate lobster flavor was not drowned in a buttery rich liquid.  You could taste the hint of the sea in every spoonful.  Seriously, THE best.  I will be back, likely more than once, just for this dish.  Fantastic.

Next, I chose the Pan Seared Sea Scallops, Crabmeat and Sautéed Spinach.  Just look at how perfectly done those scallops are, a beautiful golden, barely crisp caramel out the outside and opaque, almost creamy, inside.  The flavors and seasonings were delicious and the presentation just gorgeous.  Another hit.

Peach Crème Brulee.  Top quality ingredients well-executed once again.  The peach flavor was surprisingly bolder than I expected and the brulee was obviously in the hands of a true professional.  Again, flawless.

All of this was washed down with an impressive rosé Domaine Pey Blanc, a French import, which I have never tried before.  I recommend you check it out this summer.

The stretch of Cambridge Street across from MGH is often thought of as a culinary dead zone with a few shining stars and not much else really worthy.  Ma Maison is worth a visit and a stellar idea for a weekend lunch where, in true French fashion, food is a work of art.

Ma Maison
272 Cambridge Street
Boston, MA  02114
Telephone:  617.725.8855


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Cooking At Ma Maison

We were recently invited to a cooking class at Ma Maison, the beautiful, classic little French restaurant in the Back Bay helmed by Chef Jacky Robert.  I've been a fan of his for years.  Robert's dedication to simple, delicious food and classic technique is legendary.  The fact that he has no interest at all in celebrity chef status is both refreshing and admirable.

We settled in and were immediately served fresh croissants and champagne.  Today we'd be making a chocolate soufflé.  Chef Robert often hosts these cooking classes, after which one is served lunch, to raise money for his favorite cause:  On Board For Kids.  The association organizes fundraising events to help children in need around the world.  We are happy to help spread the word.

For now, however, it's time to get to work.  Most of the attendees, including the food writers like myself, have never actually made a soufflé before.  I was both curious and concerned about the odds that mine would be a flop.

Blogger Elissa Garza of StyleWire was a few seats away and taking directions quite seriously.  Chef had us whipping and folding like pros. 

Once the mix was ready we buttered and sugar coated our ramekins, ready to be filled and baked.


While we enjoyed lunch (more on that in our next post) the soufflés baked and were then presented.  I felt like I was a guest on a French version of The Great British Baking Show. 

And while I did not take home the top prize I did quite a respectable job.  At least my soufflé did not collapse. 

On Board For Kids will be holding a sunset cruise on Saturday, September 23, which will be here before you know it.  There will be gourmet food, glorious views and lots of fun while you support a cause that can truly change the lives of young children.  You can learn more and purchase tickets here.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Chefs In Shorts 2017 Finale

Well, here is our last installment of the celebration pics from Chefs In Shorts 2017.  As previously mentioned, all chefs and restaurants should feel free to share the photos as a thanks for their efforts to Future Chefs.  This was the 20th anniversary of the event and we look forward to 20 more!  Thanks to the Seaport Hotel for hosting, all the chefs and restaurants for participating, the volunteers and all who attended.