Thursday, August 22, 2013

That little trip to Maine: Part 2

As promised, I have another Maine restaurant to share with you!

Unlike the months of planning that went behind our trip to Salt Water Farm, the trip to this one happened completely by accident.

After gorging ourselves at dinner the night before (and again at the Whitehall Inn's breakfast) we decided that we were going to head back down the coast of Maine stopping and shopping around in the little towns until we made it back to Boston that night.  That plan came to a halt about 15 minutes after jumping in the car as we came upon our first winery, Cellardoor Winery.  After our eighth tasting of their delicious wine (my favorites were the Petite Sirah and the Prince Valiant) we realized we weren't heading back to Boston, we were going on a wine tour!

As we were heading to the next winery, a sign popped up on my right further solidifying our choice not to head back to Boston.  That sign was for Primo.  Distant memories of an Anthony Bourdain episode came at me like a ton of bricks and I suddenly realized what we had just discovered.

We immediately called while crossing our fingers and hoping that we could get in that night.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that downstairs is for reservation only but upstairs is a free for all.  So we moved along to our next winery with far bigger smiles on our faces.

As we arrived for dinner the upstairs host told us there was a 30 minute wait but that we should grab a drink and head out back for a stroll around the farm.  And that we did.

We aren't talking an herb garden out back.  We are talking a FARM.  Complete with every vegetable, edible flower, and fruit you can imagine as well as pigs, chickens, and ducks.

After a long day of wine tours and not a lot of food, we decided appetizers were much needed to go along with our deliciously crafted cocktails.  We ordered a cheese board that included an incredibly pungent and delicious blue cheese served with honeycomb, fruit, and nut and fruit crackers.  We also ordered a Mediterranean plate with beet hummus, olives, flatbread, and several other bowls of goodness.

The entrees are below captured by some horribly lit iPhone pictures that obviously do not do the dishes a bit of justice.  Just read the captions.  And drool.

Our second night in Maine proved to be just as wonderful as the first.  Incredibly fresh and delicious food, beautiful and rustic decor, and of course great company.

Within the next couple of days I'll be posting a recipe for something that has been on my bucket list for quite a long time now...Fresh Maine Lobsters!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

That little trip to Maine: Part 1

Oh my goodness.

I'm finally coming out of the food/drink/fun induced coma that I slipped into as soon as sweet Momma Bell jumped off of the plane.

It was a go big or go home kind of week.  We did everything, ate everything, and saw everything that we possibly could in that short little week.  Fortunately, most of it revolved around food.  And that means that it's going to take multiple posts to share the highlights with you.

But we're going to start at the beginning.  With our little trip to Maine.

Throughout mom's visits to Boston over the last couple of years, we have always made it a point to take a couple of days to venture outside the city whether it be to the Cape, NYC, or a quick trip to the casino, we love showing her the ins and outs of New England.  It's one thing that I'll miss about New England.  There are so many wonderful spots that are just a couple hours drive (and typically a beautiful one) away from Boston.

Out of all of those little trips we never made it to the great state of Maine.  So, it became the destination for this visit without second thought.  I think we were just saving the best for last.  Maine has always felt like a little bit of Missouri.  The scenery is breathtaking and the people are warm and incredibly welcoming.  A drive through Maine is town after town of adorable little shops and quaint restaurants and the perfect amount of people that sits snugly between a ghost town and a mob of tourists.

Oh.  And did I mention the food?

Other than just the utter fact that Momma Bell needed to experience Maine, Salt Water Farm also played a huge part in shaping our trip.  At this point I'm not even sure how I discovered Salt Water Farm, but somehow several years ago I heard about it and began looking it up.  At that point in time it was just a farm that hosted cooking classes.  Amazing, wonderful, delicious sounding cooking classes.  I often browsed the website and told myself I was going to splurge and just go do it.

Unfortunately, I never pulled the trigger.  Which, I have to say will go down as one of the things I will regret not doing while I was here.  (But let's be honest...I'm coming back to visit...And I'll probably make a special trip for that.)

Luckily, Salt Water Farm decided to open up a restaurant three months ago.  The excitement couldn't be contained the moment that I realized my chances of experiencing SWF had not been lost.

So what do you think?  Do you think it met my expectations?

Of course it did.

Above and beyond actually.  As soon as we walked in I knew.  The smells.  The open kitchen.  The baskets of local vegetables for sale.  The beautiful wooden tables.  The unbelievable view of the bay. Sights.  Sounds.  Smells.  It had it all.  And this was all within the first thirty seconds.

Naturally my love for the place grew larger by the second.  The meal itself was a special menu prepared for an event SWF was hosting with Dogfish Head Brewery.  Each dish below was paired with a special brew from Dogfish Head that had been crafted from wine grapes.  I, being the sober driver of the evening, stuck with a glass of wine and let everyone else enjoy the incredibly generous pours.  However, both the wine and beers were phenomenal.

But the food was better.  Every dish was simple yet so perfect.  Not one of the dishes lacked in flavor or creativity.  Nor were they pretentious and over the top.  Picking favorites seems unfair, but the trompette mushrooms were out of this world.  And graciously prepared for me instead of the duck.

To top off the evening we were able to speak with nearly every person involved with the dinner including the founder of SWF, the founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, the chefs, and of course our wonderful waiters and waitresses.  Every single one of them had a passion for what they were doing and it was radiating out of that restaurant.

If you can't already tell from the amount of time that my fingers just flew across the keyboard in an attempt to somehow get you to SWF...I love this place.

Tomorrow I'll be back with yet another culinary adventure from Maine!  Until then...check out Salt Water Farm!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cooking Superstar

Before I head to the airport to grab Momma Bell so we can begin our fun filled food and drink tour of Boston, I have something exciting to share with you!

Cut Out + Keep has featured me as this week's Cooking Superstar!  Cut Out + Keep is an online community of step-by-step "craft" tutorials including needlework, cooking, paper crafts, sewing, home DIY and all sorts of other goodies.  There are so many great projects and great people on the site and I'm so excited to be a part of it!

Throughout the week they will continue to feature my recipes so make sure to check it out and don't forget to read the interview to learn a little more about how I operate in the kitchen.  It's full of all sorts of juicy secrets...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Meal Plan Monday: The Last Meals of Boston

It's that special time of the month again.

Sweet Momma Bell is coming to Boston tomorrow! 

As this will be her final visit to Boston before the big move, we've already planned on doing everything we possibly can.  Including eating and drinking ourselves silly.

And I'm so excited.

I've been sitting on this Boston to-do list of mine for quite some time.  I occasionally cross things off but not near enough to make a dent in the massive list.  So, as the time here in Boston is coming to a close I've started realizing that there is only so much time to actually get to some of these places.  And I wouldn't rather do it with anyone other than my precious mother.

As you can imagine I probably won't be blogging much this week due to a premeditated food and drink induced coma.  However, I'll periodically post pictures of our adventures so you can be jealous of our exorbitant consumption.

Make sure to check all of these places out (especially Salt Water Farm!!!) so you can drool over the deliciousness we're about to experience.

Oh and don't forget to have a great week and eat some great food!

Photo via Veg Boston

Photo via Thrillist

Photo via The Boston Globe

American Provisions
Photo via Dig Boston

Formaggio Kitchen
Photo via Slash Food

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Homemade Bagels

I'm going to go ahead and admit that I've never really been an avid bagel fan.  I grew up in a household full of weirdos that didn't eat a lot of bread.  We never had buns with our burgers or hotdogs.  Rolls were never a side dish unless it was a holiday.  Sandwich insides were typically thrown on a bed of lettuce.  It had nothing to do with watching our carb intake.  Just something we did.

I still don't eat a ton of bread but interestingly enough, I find homemade bread to be one of the best and most fascinating things to bake.  Dough is so incredibly temperamental.  Everything has to be just right in terms of ingredients and temperatures.  And by making homemade doughs time and time again, you begin to learn all of the little secrets and start to be less reliant on recipes and more reliant on your senses.  It's such a captivating process.  And you end up feeling like a rocket scientist.

So even though my childhood would not deem me as a "bagel" person, I may have become one the moment I walked into my kitchen to see my "mother dough/sponge" almost overflowing out of the bowl and bubbling like crazy.  I ran around the house and made everyone watch the bubbling bread bowl.  However, no one was nearly as excited as I was.

Granted, they've seen a bread sponge before...but so have I...many, many times.  And it's still just as thrilling as the first time.

As you can imagine after my excitement over just the sponge, the whole process of forming the bagels, proofing them, doing a float test, boiling them, and then baking them was almost more than I could handle.  Especially the boiling part.  Boiling bread dough is just not something you do of course it was a highlight.

Unfortunately I can't give you a big comparison between these bagels and all of the other bagels I've had (but Smitten Kitchen can!).  But from all of the oooh's and aaah's and other expletives that rang in my ears while the herd was devouring the bagels straight off the hot pans, I'm going to go ahead and tell you that these are some of the best bagels ever.  They are the perfect combination of chewy on the outside and soft on the inside with neither being too much.  Needless to say...they blow store bought bagels out of the water.  But that was to be expected.

I know they take a while.  But oh goodness.  They're worth it.

Adapted from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice via Smitten Kitchen

Makes: 12 standard or 24 miniature bagels
Prep Time: 3 hours 30 minutes + overnight refrigeration
Cook/Bake Time: 40 minutes (boiling + baking)
Total Time: 4 hours 10 minutes + overnight refrigeration

{Printable Recipe}

for the sponge-
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups unbleached bread flour
2 1/2 cups water, at room temperature

for the dough-
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 3/4 cups unbleached bread flour
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons malt powder OR 1 tablespoon dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar

to finish-
1 tablespoon baking soda
cornmeal for dusting
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
toppings (I did a combination of asiago, everything, and plain bagels.  For the everything bagels I used 2 teaspoons each of minced garlic, dehydrated onion, salt, mustard seeds, and sesame seeds.)

  1. Day one: To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the water, stirring until it forms a smooth, sticky batter.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly.  It should almost double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the counter top.
  2. To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl, add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir.  Then add 3 cups of the bread flour, the salt, and malt powder (OR syrup, honey, or brown sugar).  Stir until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup bread flour to stiffen the dough.
  3. If working by hand, transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes.  If using an electric mixer, knead for about 6 minutes.  The dough should be firm but still pliable and smooth.  There should be no raw flour and all of the ingredients should be hydrated.  The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 71-77 degrees F.  If the dough seems too dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading.  If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the required stiffness.
  4. Immediately divide the dough into 4.5 ounce pieces for standard bagels or 2.25 ounce pieces for miniature bagels.  Weigh the pieces if possible to ensure even baking in the oven.  Form the pieces into rolls and place on a baking sheet.  Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.
  5. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and mist lightly with spray oil.  
  6. With your finger poke a hole in the very center of the ball.  Gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2 1/2 inches in diameter.  Be careful to keep the dough as evenly stretched as possible.
  7. Place each of the shaped pieces an inch apart on the pans and mist very lightly with the spray oil.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for another 20 minutes.
  8. After 20 minutes check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the "float test".  Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water and gently drop a bagel in the bowl.  If the bagel floats within 10 seconds of being dropped into the bowl immediately return the bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight.  If the bagel does not float return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10-20 minutes until a tester floats.
  9. Day two- preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven.  In a small bowl whisk 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water for the egg wash and set aside.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and then add the baking soda.  Have a slotted spoon or skimmer near by.
  10. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit in the pot.  After 1-2 minutes (I did 1:30 but wouldn't have minded 2 minutes) flip the bagels over and boil for the same amount of time.  While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal. 
  11. As the bagels come out of the boiling water place them back on the cornmeal dusted baking sheets and brush with the egg wash before adding any additional toppings (like asiago or the "everything" mixture).
  12. When all the bagels have been boiled and properly "topped" place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven and bake for approximately 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180 degree rotation.  After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450 degrees F and continue baking 8-10 minutes or until the bagels turn light golden brown.
  13. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Orange Saffron Bread

I've decided it's time to start working on my horrible recipe A.D.D.

I'll make something, make the effort to take photos, upload them to my computer, even put them into their own file...and then all of a sudden I find myself browsing through entirely new and delicious recipes.  My attention quickly moves to making something new and the "old" recipe goes out the door.  Then, as you can imagine, the process repeats itself.  It's an unbelievably vicious cycle.

Besides the fact that these recipes deserve to make it out of their little files on my computer, I decided that now is the ideal time to start pulling things from the vault.  With a cross country move (we'll talk more about this later) only three weeks away my little apartment is taking a beating.  There are boxes starting to pile up due to some preliminary packing as well as all of the contents of my closet now being distributed throughout the apartment.

**MINOR RANT-My wonderful landlord decided to make the only closet in the apartment into a bathroom for the neighboring unit with one day's notice.  Such a sweetheart.**

Needless to say, cooking and photographing in this little apartment has just gotten that much harder.

But the silver lining is of course there.  Now these sweet little recipes get to present themselves to you! 

As I found this one I wanted to kick myself for not sharing before.  These delicious loaves of bread came from a cookbook that was given to me by the amazing woman that I work for after her and her husband's visit to Rancho La Puerta.  I salivated at first sight and have been making things from it on a regular basis ever since.  It's an unbelievable healthy and seasonal book that you wouldn't regret having on your shelves.

Ramble.  Ramble.  Ramble.

This bread is amazingly rich in flavor.  The orange and saffron are wonderful together and something I never would have thrown together on my own.  You need a piece of this.  Warm.  And slathered with butter.

So get to baking!

Adapted from the Rancho La Puerta Cookbook

Makes: 2 loaves
Prep Time: 20 minutes + 2 hours 40 minutes rise time
Bake Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 4 hours

{Printable Recipe}

1 teaspoon Spanish saffron threads
4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 cup agave syrup or maple syrup
zest of 2 oranges
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sea salt
4 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup toasted pine nuts
4-5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

  1. Soak the saffron threads in 1/2 cup of the water for 30 minutes.
  2. Combine the remaining 3 1/2 cups of water and the yeast.  Let stand until frothy, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir the syrup, orange zest, saffron, melted butter, and salt into the yeast until thoroughly combined.  Add the wheat flour and mix until smooth.
  4. Stir in the pine nuts and most of the all-purpose flour, reserving 1 cup.  The dough will be a little sticky.  Flour the countertop with some of the remaining flour and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, adding flour to the surface as needed to make the dough more manageable.  You may not use all the flour, or you may need a little more. The final dough should feel moist and a little tacky, but not sticky or wet.
  5. Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl.  Turn over once to coat and cover with a barely damp tea towel.  Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until it has doubled in size, about 2 hours.
  6. Punch down the dough.  Divide into 2 equal portions.  Spread or roll each portion into a rectangle and pinch the edges together.
  7. Place each loaf in an oiled loaf pan.  Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-frea place until the loaves have doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
  8. Bake in a preheated 375° oven for 1 hour, or until the tops are browned and the loaves sound hollow when tapped.  Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

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