Back Bay Social Club's Eat Local. Be Social. Event

On Monday night, Back Bay Social Club held its Eat Local. Be Social. event. I had written a post promoting the event on my Examiner page and was later offered two complimentary tickets. I eagerly accepted the tickets because the event sounded great to me: a menu featuring local foods paired with wines from Landmark Vineyards.

I invited Alicia to come along and, after a miserable wait for the T on Monday after work, I met up with her at Copley, and we strolled down Boylston to the restaurant. There's a cute, spacious patio area out front that I plan to keep in mind for some warm weather, outdoor dining.

On this particular chilly evening, I was happy we were headed to the event space downstairs though. We were immediately greeted by those running the event and got to chat with Damaris Colhoun, the representative from Landmark Vineyards, for a few minutes. Then we were told we could choose our seats and help ourselves to a glass of wine at the bar.

We stopped at the bar first, under the impression that wine was included, but it turned out to actually be a cash bar. We each got a glass of wine anyways. I asked for Shiraz. Unfortunately, the wine tasted as though it had turned. I brought it back to the bartender, and he quickly poured me a glass of Malbec instead. Crisis averted, Alicia and I settled in at a small table with somewhat decent lighting -- food bloggers are always thinking about how the pictures will come out.

Soon the rest of the guests had filled in, and the wait staff brought around some appetizers. We started with apple tarts with frisee and arugula. The tart was sweet and buttery with just a hint of salt and nicely browned cheese.

Then we tried the famous meat candy. I had read about this all over some of my favorite blogs last week. It's roasted kielbasa with pineapple. Cloves and worcestershire sauce give it a hint of spice and a little kick. I loved the sweet, juicy pineapple paired with the smoky kielbasa. (This picture does not do it justice.)

While we snacked on the appetizers, Damaris introduced herself and talked a little about the winery, which her grandmother started in 1974. Her grandmother's great great grandfather just happened to be John Deere -- yes, that John Deere. Many of the wines are named for him. Today Damaris' parents run the vineyard in California while she lives in New York and runs the sales and marketing.

We went back to the food, tasting some of Back Bay Social Club's signature garlic bread. It isn't your run-of-the-mill garlic bread. I'm not sure what they call it, but I'd call it lemon-pepper garlic bread because of the strong lemon and pepper flavors present. I had to have two pieces!

The wait staff came around and poured the first wine and served the first course: roasted native pumpkin soup with 2008 Chardonnay "Overlook." As we ate the soup, Damaris told us about the Chardonnay. The vineyard considers it a reserve wine for a non-reserve price. It's a cooler climate Chardonnay, has great acidity, and tastes of fruit like green apples. It wasn't smoky at all, and it's one of few Chardonnays I actually enjoyed.

The pumpkin soup was incredible. It came with a pool of creme fraiche, a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil, and a sprinkling of toasted pepitas. Oh, and I can't forget to mention the crunchy, fried sage.

I had never tried pumpkin seed oil before, so I took a little of it on my spoon and took a taste. It was incredibly nutty, and I'm already thinking of picking some up. Tasting out of the way, I began scooping up all of the components together. I loved the soup. I tend to like all pumpkin soups, but this one was so savory. There was no overwhelming flavor of pumpkin pie spices and nutmeg. I much prefer the natural pumpkin flavor with the savory elements of sage and pumpkin seed oil.

I could have left at this point and been perfectly happy (and perfectly stuffed), but there were two more courses to get through!

The next wine was the 2008 Pinot Noir "Grand Detour." Damaris explained that it pairs well with earthy dishes and has a spicy, smoky deliciousness to it. It would complement either of the options for the next course: braised Berkshire pork shanks and fall root hash or housemade fettuccini with mushroom ragu.

Alicia and I both went with the pork shank, but in retrospect we could have gotten different dishes and shared. I don't think either of us expected such a hearty serving of pork. We joked that it was the size of the Brontosaurus ribs Fred Flintstone always ordered.

I only made it about halfway through. The flavor was unexpectedly more like ham than pork -- maybe I need to learn more about the different parts of a pig.

The shank was set in applesauce and accompanied by the fall root hash -- baby potatoes, parsnips, roasted apples, and smoked onions. This was one of those dishes I would definitely crave on a chilly fall night.

With the last course, we had the 2008 Syrah "Steel Plow." Syrah is one of my favorite wines. This particular one goes especially well with cheese, so it was only right that our last course was an artisanal cheese plate. Damaris told us the wine had a stinky funkiness, and believe me, as soon as I brought the glass near my nose, I got a whiff of that funk. The wine had an interesting flavor and some subtle bubbles.

We enjoyed it with Morbier cheese, topped with apples, oregano, and dried cranberries. The Morbier was much milder than I expected.

Alongside the cheese was a spicy, chunky apple butter, and some thin slices of toast drizzled with honey. The dessert had enough sweet to finish the meal but enough savory to make it interesting. The oregano really stood out to me.

We both really enjoyed the dinner, which was locally sourced from Ward's Farm, Sugar Mountain, Kimball Farms, and Carlson Orchards, and we learned a lot about wines from Landmark Vineyards.

Have you been to Back Bay Social Club, or have you eaten a locally sourced meal out at a restaurant?

Back Bay Social Club on Urbanspoon


Foundry On Elm Grand Opening Party

Foundry on Elm, located in Davis Square in Somerville, Mass., held its grand opening party last Wednesday night. We live close enough to Foundry to easily go there for dinner any night of the week, so I convinced Jeff to come along with me to check out the food and the atmosphere.

We walked in and found ourselves in an upscale sports bar. Toward the back of the restaurant were more tables and more of a dining room feel. I liked this immediately. It's nice to have a place to go where you can sit at the bar and catch a Boston sports game but also feel equally comfortable sitting at a table and having dinner too.

Shortly after we arrived, we ran into Melissa of Foodies at Work and joined her at a table. Will from The Boston Foodie, Justin of Justin Can Cook, and Robin of Doves and Figs were also at the table. And Scott, better known as One Food Guy, sat with us later in the evening.

The centrally located table enabled me to check out the whole place from my seat, not to mention the spread that was set up just a few feet away.

Waiters came by with food throughout the night, and after a slow start (at least to our table), drinks were served regularly as well.

Flatbread pizza with bacon, thin slices of new potatoes, and gorgonzola
Duck rillette with mustard seeds
I think this was venison pate with cranberry relish
Mini Croque Monsieur with Nueske's ham and Gruyere
Kabocha squash soup with creme fraiche and pickled cranberry -- my favorite of the night
Fried mac and cheese balls with ham -- Jeff's favorite
Flatbread pizza with sundried tomatoes, goat cheese, pine nuts, and balsamic reduction
I forget what this one was called, but it was very lemony and refreshing
Elm St. Punch (Sailor Jerry’s Rum, fresh squeezed juice, and mint)
A sampling of desserts: brownie, chocolate chip cookie, and pumpkin walnut cookie
We had a great evening and enjoyed the food, drinks, and atmosphere. Jeff and I agreed we would be back for dinner soon.

I was invited by AllHeartPR, and drinks and food were complimentary.

Have you been to Foundry yet? What did you think?

Foundry on Elm on Urbanspoon


Easy, Homemade Granola

Granola is so versatile. It can be made with butter or oil, honey or molasses, or brown sugar or even maple syrup or maple sugar. You can choose what nuts or fruits you want to add or even toss in sesame seeds. You can amp up the health factor with wheat germ and flax. The possibilities are absolutely endless.

For a long time, I was hooked on the granola recipe from Henrietta's Table, but it has a ton of ingredients and makes way more granola than I could ever finish, even when I cut the recipe by one-third. I'm happiest just ordering it when I go there for breakfast, especially because it comes with a honeycomb on top!

I will always have a soft spot for Flour's granola. While I worked there, the smell of the granola baking away in the oven was one of my favorite smells. And turning six trays' worth of granola every 10 to 15 minutes was actually very therapeutic. It's chock-full of nuts, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds and is incredibly delicious.

But, while I love the above two recipes, I now have a new recipe to include among my favorites: Easy, Homemade Granola from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. I altered the recipe just slightly to include only what I wanted (and you can do the same). Below is my version and my new go-to granola when I'm short on time and ingredients.

Easy, Homemade Granola (adapted from Baked)
(Print this recipe)


2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup whole almonds
1 cup dried cherries
2 to 4 tablespoons mini chocolate chips (depending how much chocolate you like)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment.

In a large bowl toss oats with cinnamon and salt.

In medium bowl stir together oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla until combined.

Pour honey mixture over oat mixture, and stir together. The use your hands to finish mixing and break up any clumps.

Spread the mixture evenly onto the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven, and lift and flip granola with a metal spatula. At Flour I was taught to pull all the granola toward the center of the sheet pan and then to re-spread it out. This method works really well.

Sprinkle the almonds over the granola, and bake for 5 minutes. Again, lift and flip the granola.

Return the pan to the oven, and bake the granola for another 10 minutes.

Remove from oven, and let cool completely.

Transfer the granola to an airtight container, breaking up any large clumps as you do (unless you like the large clumps!).

Sprinkle cherries and mini chocolate chips on top, and mix them into the granola with your hands.

The granola will keep for 1 week.

I took the granola to work and ate it with yogurt and a banana or just by itself. It's sweet, but not overly so, and has that great chewy and crunchy texture.

I absolutely love the cherries, chocolate, and almonds together, but feel free to use the nuts and fruits you like best and to choose whether you want chocolate in your version.

Do you make your own granola? What's your favorite recipe? And what must you put in your granola?


Jeff's Birthday Cake And Cupcakes

October 21st was a BIG birthday for my boyfriend, so I knew I had to go all out. I have a friend (we met working at Flour together) who makes incredible cakes -- I mean... he's done a takeout food box complete with steamed dumplings, a Hello Kitty purse, an army tank, wedding cakes, and more.  I bet someday he could have a show like Cake Boss or Ace of Cakes!

In the months leading up to the big day, I gave him all sorts of ideas of what kind of cake would be good for Jeff. I tossed out things like his favorite beer (Fat Tire), his favorite sports teams (the Bruins, the Red Sox, and the Patriots), his favorite character (Bugs Bunny), and the most important thing in his life: Gunner.

We left it that he would choose one of these things or a combination and make an amazing cake for Jeff.

While my friend had never done any dog cakes before, he decided to push beyond his comfort zone and give it a try. I thought the cake was so incredible that I wanted to share it with all of you.

It was so cute, I felt bad having all those candles in it!

And it didn't just look amazing -- it tasted great too. The cake was super moist! And the filling was buttery and delicious.

I made some simple vanilla cupcakes to go along with the cake -- you know, in case there wasn't enough. (Am I crazy?!)

The cupcake recipe is from Martha Stewart and the frosting recipe is from Ad Hoc at Home. Jeff really likes this frosting because it's not overly sweet, and he likes yellow cake best so vanilla-vanilla cupcakes were a good bet for him. You can go on the Martha Stewart Web site for the cupcake recipe, and I've included the frosting recipe below. I found that I had to paddle the frosting for much longer than the recipe said. My times are included below.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (adapted from Ad Hoc at Home)


1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup egg whites (from about 6 large eggs)
3 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla


Select a pot that the bowl of your electric stand mixer can sit in and not touch the bottom. Fill the pot with 1 to 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Combine sugar and egg whites in bowl of stand mixer, set the bowl over the simmering water, and whisk constantly until sugar has dissolved completely and mixture is hot to the touch.

Remove the bowl from the heat, and place it on stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whip on high speed until whites are thick and hold stiff peaks and the bowl and whites feel cool to the touch, anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.

Switch to the paddle attachment. Add butter a few pieces at a time while beating on medium speed. Make sure butter is incorporated before adding more. Continue until all the butter has been added.

Once the butter has been added, check the consistency. If the frosting is too thin to pipe, continue beating it until it has thickened. The recipe says a few more minutes, but for me it was more like 15 minutes.

Turn the mixer to low speed and add the vanilla.

Pipe frosting on top of cupcakes, and top with sprinkles if desired.

Happy Birthday, Jeff!

What was your favorite birthday cake or birthday memory?