Farmers' Market Finds Weekly Roundup, July 31

Have you heard the great news here in Boston? We're getting a year-round public market! I'll let you read all about it in this Globe article, but just one highlight is that the market will be modeled after the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco and the Reading Terminal Market in Philly. I've never been to San Francisco, but Christine from Fresh Local and Best posted the most gorgeous pictures from her trips to the Ferry Building Marketplace. And I absolutely love the Reading Terminal Market. I'm really looking forward to following the progress of the market's development, and I'm so happy Boston was able to get funding for it.

And one more piece of local news before I get into this week's roundup: Loving Local is promoting a blogathon to celebrate Massachusetts Farmers Market Week that you'll want to be a part of. The blogathon will be hosted by In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens with a little help from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and Mass Farmers Markets.

If you'd like to participate, post anything about locally grown food during the week of August 22-28.

There are lots of ideas as to what you can write about even if you aren't a food blogger: "Gardeners can write about herb or vegetable growing. Architects can write about the design of barns or farm stands. Watchers of the statehouse or even the federal Capitol can discuss the politics of agriculture and/or local food. And so forth."

And you don't even have to live here to participate: "Please think about writing a post that week if you live or work in Massachusetts. Or if you used to live or work in Massachusetts. Or if you once spent a weekend on Cape Cod. Or if you have a particular fondness for New England clam chowder, Hadley asparagus, or Boston baked beans."

"Please make sure your post mentions the blogathon, includes a link to In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens, and encourages readers to donate to Mass Farmers Markets. The organization’s donation link is http://www.massfarmersmarkets.org/FMFM_Main.aspx."

Loving Local is on Facebook, where you can find regular updates about the blogathon.

On a side note: While gathering information about the blogathon to share with you, I stumbled across a new site within the Mass Farmers Markets site called Savor Massachusetts. It's a conglomeration of culinary tours and events in Massachusetts. It looks pretty cool, and I know I'll be visiting that site often.

And onto the roundup...

Michelle from Fun and Fearless in Beantown got some hot, spicy sausages from Stillman's Farm and made a tasty dinner of sausage and peppers.

Joan from Grandma's Recipe Box shared pictures from the farmers' market in Elk Grove, California, and a few shots of what she did with the goods she found there.

Last Saturday evening I went to Allandale Farm and picked up some corn, tomatoes, baby golden beets, and plums.

We had the corn with dinner that same night, and it was tender and crisp -- definitely the best corn I've had so far this season!

I used the tomatoes in salads.

And I made some fried green tomatoes the other night.

This morning I finally made it back to my usual farmers' market in Union Square and loaded up on more corn and heirloom tomatoes.

I found Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes at one of the stands (maybe it was Parker Farm).

Then I got a whole bunch of heirloom tomatoes and some butter and sugar corn at Kimball's.

I wanted to get corn from one other farm in case we were disappointed in the ears I picked up at Kimball's, so I stopped at Drumlin Farm's stand and was delighted to reveal white kernels when I peeled back a corn husk! Silver Queen corn, a white kernel corn, is my favorite. I inquired as to what kind of corn this was and found out that it's called whiteout corn. It's supposed to be delicious raw, so I'm probably going to add some to a salad. Maybe Silver Queen will have some competition.

What did you find at the farmers' market this week?

What do you think of the year-round public market we're getting?

Want to be included in the roundup? Email me.


A Strange Dining Experience

They say you shouldn't just write reviews about the things you liked because readers will get bored with always seeing positive reviews, but I also don't like to be negative, which puts me in a sort of predicament here. I've given a lot of thought to the dinner I attended last week, and I've decided to tell you about it because it was such an odd experience... and there are positives and negatives to point out.

I recently joined MyBlogSpark. I didn't know much about it other than that it promotes General Mills products. I figured that signing up would get me a bunch of cereal and granola bar samples, and I could tell you all about those. Imagine my surprise and delight when shortly after signing up, I was invited to a MyBlogSpark dinner at Myers + Chang.

I love Myers + Chang -- and I'm not just saying that because Joanne Chang signs my paychecks. (Full disclosure: I work at Flour, which she also owns and runs.) I've been to Myers + Chang a handful of times and have always enjoyed the food there, especially Mama Chang's potstickers. I was excited to have dinner at Myers + Chang and to learn more about MyBlogSpark. I was allowed to bring a guest, so I invited Alicia from The Clean Plate Club to dine with me. I thought she might enjoy learning about MyBlogSpark too.

We arrived at the dinner and were greeted at the door by MyBlogSpark and General Mills representatives, who had rented out the entire restaurant for the event. I was handed a $50 gift card for travel expenses. Then we were sat at a two-top near where the chefs prepare the food.

We ordered our drinks and then chatted for a bit and reviewed the menu placed in front of us. We strategically made our selections so we didn't have any repeats.

Soon after we ordered, the food started arriving. This is when both of us started to suspect that something was up. Here we were at a MyBlogSpark dinner but no one was telling us anything about MyBlogSpark. There were no speeches, no handouts, nothing.

Having been to Myers + Chang before, I found our first two courses, which consisted of potstickers, spring rolls, Thai ginger chicken salad, and chilled dan dan noodles, as delicious and well executed as always. Actually, I think the pork dumplings were the best I've ever had there.

The third course presented more dinner choices, and the options were things I wasn't aware Myers + Chang made, and when the dishes came out, it was quite clear they were not Myers + Chang dishes. We sampled our beef and broccoli and shrimp lo mein and thought they were decent but certainly not Myers + Chang caliber. While we were tasting these entrees, we received fortune cookies letting us know that we had just sampled the new Wanchai Ferry frozen entrees. Well, General Mills didn't fool us (though I have no idea what I said on camera, yes, they were taping... I just remember that I was trying to be nice).

The frozen entrees we tried are not bad, and if you're someone who relies on the convenience of frozen meals often or occasionally, then know that the beef and broccoli actually has crisp broccoli -- something you don't find often in a frozen meal. The shrimp lo mein wasn't anything special, and the noodles served with it were like ramen noodles. I enjoy some cheap, quick-to-prepare ramen noodles on occasion, but I really don't want to be served frozen entrees when I'm at a nice restaurant, expecting a restaurant-quality meal.

The whole dinner reminded me of that Pizza Hut commercial where people are eating at a friends' house and exclaiming how delicious the pasta is only to be told it's actually pasta delivered by Pizza Hut. They all express shock like they had no clue in the world that it wasn't homemade. This may have worked because Pizza Hut decided to do this at someone's house. Homemade food isn't usually consistent and doesn't follow a regular menu like restaurant food -- which is where I think General Mills went wrong.

Had they picked some hole-in-the-wall Chinese place with decent food and invited a different type of blogger, this whole event could have been better. I understand the marketing scheme, and while I think it was creative, Myers + Chang was not the place to do it. I know Myers + Chang food, and others who have been there before also know it, and it's nothing like those frozen entrees.

And inviting food bloggers who look for the utmost quality in their restaurant meals and cook from scratch often at home (rarely buying frozen entrees) was a mistake. We are far too critical, and frankly, we're not the right market.

I really would have preferred an evening at Myers + Chang, eating Myers + Chang food, and learning about MyBlogSpark. I had a fun night because I went with Alicia and we chatted and caught up over dinner and drinks not because I ate a frozen entree.

Oh, and you didn't think I was going to end without telling you about dessert, right? Here's where you can totally negate everything I have to say because Myers + Chang desserts are made at Flour, and on this particular night, the tart shells for the coconut cream pie we ordered were all made by me! That coconut cream pie was fabulous. We also had a chocolate terrine with chocolate soil. I remember the first day we made the soil at Flour: I could not stop sampling it! Since then, I've even made it at home. It's so rich and chocolatey with a hint of salt, and I love the way it pairs with the smooth, creamy terrine.

This is in no way a review of Myers + Chang. It is a review of the event hosted there. But if you're wondering, Myers + Chang food, all that I've tried, is flavorful, well prepared, and well presented. And the desserts are phenomenal, if I don't say so myself!

More disclosure: I felt no qualms about going to this dinner even though I am a Flour employee because I thought it was a free dinner hosted by MyBlogSpark to learn about MyBlogSpark. Had I known that the dinner actually had to do with Myers + Chang food versus General Mills food, I would have declined the invite. In addition to the free meal plus one drink each and a $50 gift card, we also received coupons for Wanchai Ferry frozen entrees.

Have you ever been in a situation like this?

Have you ever been to an event or sampled a product that you didn't necesarily think favorably of and still written a review of it? How did you feel about doing this?


Black Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream

Black raspberry swirl ice cream

This post is all about the black raspberry swirl because I already taught you how to make vanilla ice cream. You can make the recipe I posted or make your own favorite recipe. Then when you remove your ice cream from your ice cream maker, simply layer it in a bowl with spoonfuls of the black raspberry mixture.

Black Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream (adapted from The Perfect Scoop)


1 1/2 cups black raspberries (not blackberries)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vodka

Vanilla ice cream custard, ready to be churned


At least 1 hour before churning the vanilla ice cream custard in an ice cream maker, mash the black raspberries with the sugar and vodka.

Chill the mixture and let it macerate until ready to use or at least 1 hour.

Finish preparing the vanilla ice cream by churning the custard in an ice cream maker.

Layer the ice cream in a bowl with the black raspberry swirl mixture.

Serve in your favorite ice cream dishes!

Black raspberry swirl ice cream

Black raspberries are not very easy to find. We've been searching for them for months... just to make black raspberry ice cream. When I finally found some at the Charles Square Farmers' Market a couple of weeks ago, I  immediately snagged two pints. After reviewing some recipes, I realized I had to make black raspberry swirl rather than black raspberry ice cream because I would need 6 cups of black raspberries to make black raspberry ice cream. I loved the swirl ice cream, but Jeff really wanted the fruit integrated with the ice cream, so we put the leftover swirl ice cream in the food processor and turned it into a black raspberry ice cream that was really good but didn't have the strong black raspberry flavor one would want in the ice cream. Just wait 'til I get my hands on 6 cups of these guys!

Have you had black raspberries? How about black raspberry ice cream?


Healthy Habits Kitchen

Last Monday night I was invited to stop by and learn about Healthy Habits Kitchen in Wellesley, Mass. Susan Schochet, the creator of Healthy Habits Kitchen, met me and Jeff at the door and brought us into the lounge area where we soon found ourselves rapt in conversation about trying to eat healthy meals while maintaining a busy lifestyle. Susan, tired of the corporate world and looking to do something she really enjoyed (sound like anyone we know?), started HHK back in 2007. She wanted busy individuals to be able to make healthy meals quickly and easily.

At HHK, restaurant-quality ingredients are prepped and pre-packaged into fresh or frozen meal kits. Clients can check the menu, which changes monthly, and select which meal kits they want to pick up or have delivered. Then all they need to do is cook whatever is in the meal kit by following the included instructions. HHK does everything but the cooking.

But clients can also be involved in the prep work if they choose and can even attend parties where they eat a home-cooked meal after preparing their own take-home meals. It's a great way to socialize with friends while getting ahead on meal prep and planning.

Even kids can make their own meals. I bet it's so satisfying for them to show off a dinner they made themselves (everything but the cooking of course) and to even come up with their own meal ideas. And there are summer cooking camps that kids can attend.

All of the prepackaged meal kits are run by a dietitian who analyzes the nutrition content. HHK makes sure that all of the meals have less than 400 calories and 800 milligrams of salt per serving and have 30% or less fat. The portion sizes are on the smaller side because they are meant to be healthy, so they aren't really what most people are used to. The meals are labeled with how many they serve (e.g., 2 to 3 or 4 to 6). If you want to eat hearty, go with the lower number; if you want to eat healthy, go with the higher number.

Sue gave Jeff and me a a large package of Bloody Mary steak tips with brown rice and a container of Asian slaw to take home and make for ourselves. I saved the Asian slaw to bring to work for my lunch since the steak tips came with the brown rice.

We actually made the steak tips the same night we visited HHK because we arrived home later than we normally would and were pressed for time. It made sense to try out the meal under the conditions it was intended for!

I was amazed that I had a healthy dinner on the table in about 30 minutes. Cooking the rice took the most time -- 20 minutes of simmering and 10 minutes of resting.

Next time I would probably just throw it in my rice cooker, but I wanted to follow the directions on the packages exactly this time.

Because we don't have a grill and I didn't want to turn on the oven, I cooked the steak tips in a grill pan on the stove top.

The directions say to pour off the marinade, bring it to a boil, and serve it on the side for sauce. I never thought to do that with a marinade before and loved having the extra sauce to flavor the brown rice.

While the meal kit is meant to serve 4 to 6 people, we both agreed, at least for our appetites, that it veers more toward 4 servings. We both had enough for dinner that night, and Jeff was able to make the rest last for two meals while I was off at some blogger dinners during the week.

The high-quality steak was tender and well-flavored. Bloody Mary lovers would definitely enjoy the kick from the horseradish and Tabasco. The brown rice complemented the steak and balanced the sauce and was a nice change for us because we usually make white rice. We truly had a tasty, quick, and easy meal.

Since I hadn't planned a lunch to take to work the following day, I was happy to have the Asian slaw. I loved the sweet and tangy flavors in it, and the peppers provided a crunch that contrasted with the soft noodles. It's meant to serve 2 to 3 as a side, but since it was all I had for lunch, I ate the whole thing. I'll work on that portion-control thing one of these days!

I really had a great visit with Sue, enjoyed two fabulous dishes, and highly recommend Healthy Habits Kitchen to anyone looking to eat healthy under time constraints.

Healthy Habits Kitchen is located at 38 Washington Street in Wellesley, Mass. Meal kits can be found there and also at some nearby farmers' markets in Wayland, Natick, and Newton. If you have any questions about Healthy Habits Kitchen, please let me know or check out the website!

These meal kits were complimentary. All opinions are my own.

Have you ever tried prepared meal kits like these?


Steakcation At KO Prime

When Nicole from All Heart PR emailed to ask if I'd like to join her and some other influential bloggers for an evening at KO Prime, I did not hesitate to respond. I love steak! (And I'm a fan of Ken Oringer's restaurants.)

The dinner was held this past Thursday night. Earlier that day, I found out that Michelle from Fun and Fearless in Beantown and Rachel from Fork It Over, Boston! were also attending the dinner, so we all met for a cocktail at Marliave and sat outside there for a bit before heading to KO Prime. I had the tres curieux, which has St.-Germain, my newest obsession, in it.

Marliave is right down the street from the Nine Zero Hotel where KO Prime is located, so it was the perfect meeting spot.

When we got to KO Prime, Nicole greeted us at the top of the stairs and we met some of the other dinner guests. We were soon seated at a long table all together. While we chatted a bit and got to know each other, our waitress suggested that we order a bottle of red and a bottle of white. She selected wines that would pair well with our dinner.

We started with the white, which was a pinot gris and later switched to the red, which was called Parlay "The Bookmaker." I enjoyed both wines with the dinner.

Our courses began arriving soon after we were settled in with our drinks. We thought we were having a five-course dinner, but it turned out to be nine courses! And rather than being course after course of steak, we were actually taking a "steakcation" and trying some of the other fare Executive Chef Josh Buehler creates for the restaurant. I'll tell you about my favorite course when we get to it, but I was surprised that it actually wasn't a steak course. I'm pretty impressed when a restaurant that is known for steak can actually create other successful dishes too. Here's what we had:

Squash Blossom Crab Rangoon with Duck Sauce

This dish was a lightly battered squash blossom stuffed with a crab rangoon-like filling sitting in a shallow pool of duck sauce. The dish had a slight kick to it, and the flavors melded beautifully.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

This was, without a doubt, my favorite dish. The heirloom tomatoes were drizzled with a tomato-basil vinaigrette and paired with crispy manouri cheese (a soft Greek cheese) and peach and apricot aioli. Saffron threads were the final touch.

The tomatoes were so sweet and fresh, and they're locals! Let's take a closer look at them.

Roasted Jalapeno Beef Tartare

A sweet and spicy (but not too hot) roasted jalapeno and corn salsa complemented a simple beef tartare topped with a tiny, lightly crusted quail egg.

The most striking aspect of this dish for me was how perfectly the egg was poached. I've been to plenty of Boston restaurants seeking the perfect poached eggs in my favorite brunch dish Eggs Benedict, only to find hard, solid, overcooked yolks. This teeny, tiny egg was poached to perfection with a slightly runny yolk that I could eat with the tartare, combining the flavors.

Fricassee of Escargot

Escargot, also known as snails, is not something I've ever eaten before. I'd like to say that this experience intrigued me to try them again, but it did not. I don't know what snails are supposed to taste like because this is the only time I've had them, but I found them rather earthy and slightly rubbery. Their texture was similar to that of an oyster mushroom, though not as tender. I really wanted to like them. They came paired with  thumbelina carrots (thumbelina! I love tiny things), mushrooms, salsify, lardons, and brioche. The carrot puree was sweet and balanced, and the brioche broke up the similar textures of the mushrooms and snails. I don't think I'm an escargot convert though.

Seared Striped Bass

The striped bass was served with a summer succotash of okra, corn, fava and wax beans, and pattypan squash mixed with chorizo and tiny cockles. The cockles were sweeter and more tender than clams, and I am huge fan of them after trying them for the first time in this dish. I'm kind of a wimp, so don't go by my opinion alone, but I found this dish incredibly spicy.

Apricot Soda

This apricot soda refreshed my palate after eating that last spicy dish. It was topped with a yuzu-mint creme fraiche foam. I felt like I was on Top Chef. Have you noticed that the chef contenders use a ton of yuzu? It's as popular as sriracha and harissa are in Top Chef dishes. The yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit that enhances flavor differently than lemons or limes would.

Pork and Beef Duet

Ah! Time for steak... and pork. The dry-rubbed pork loin balanced atop a chanterelle polenta cake, and stewed olives and tomatoes. The olives made the dish very salty and the pork was a little dry, so I don't think I'd have the pork again. The grilled flat iron steak, on the other hand, was served on the rare side (just what this red-meat-lovin' girl loves) with pickled ramps and harissa (made me think of Top Chef again). I'd never had harissa before, but others at the table mentioned that it was on the sweet side and is usually spicier. I didn't mind the lack of heat.

Pineapple Sorbet

With all the savory dishes behind us, it was time for another palate cleanser. A quenelle of pineapple sorbet in a passion fruit cream sauce on a tiny dish appeared in front of me, and I dug right in (after snapping pictures, of course). The sweet, light sorbet with fresh pineapple chunks hit the spot. And I love the flavor of passion fruit in any dessert really.

Dark Chocolate Marquise

This dark chocolate marquise cake came with buttery popcorn ice cream, caramel sauce, and caramel popcorn. On its own, the buttery popcorn ice cream reminded me of buttered popcorn Jelly Bellys, and I thought that a salted or burnt caramel ice cream would have been a better choice. But when I took a bite of cake, ice cream, popcorn, and caramel sauce all together, I understood the decision. It just worked. For people like me who love the salt and chocolate combo, it's perfect.

I really had a great time, thoroughly enjoyed the food and company, and would return to KO Prime for another meal. Thank you so much to Nicole for inviting me to this wonderful dinner and to KO Prime for hosting us, feeding us, and treating us.

Before we left, I took a picture with Michelle from Fun and Fearless in Beantown. Michelle and I have been attending a lot of events together lately. She's a great dinner companion and writes an entertaining, informative blog. Check it out when you're looking for creative dinner ideas.

This dinner was complimentary. All opinions are my own.

Where have you had an amazing dinner lately? What did you have?

Have you been to KO Prime? What did you think of it?

KO Prime on Urbanspoon