Friday, July 31, 2009

Jody Adams Inspires Me (And My Boys) To Eat More Beets

During my interview with Jody Adams, I told her that I had tried her recipe for "Orange Beets", from her cookbook, In the Hands of a Chef. I have often baked beets, but by simmering them with oranges and some spices, they added a new dimension. More importantly, the recipe couldn't have been easier, and, best of all, my 1 1/2 year old son enjoyed them. (My toddler isn't quite there...yet!)Yet, Chef Adams also reminded me that fresh beets (which are available right now at farmer's markets), can be delicious raw. She steered me to chioggia beets, which are a glorious red and white. Grate them and you have a lovely multicolored slaw that needs nothing more than salt, pepper and a bit of olive oil.In terms of the cooked beets, in the cookbook, Chef Adams points out that disposable surgical gloves or an old dish towel are ideal for skinning cooked beets without staining your hands pink (though your children might find this amusing.)

As for the orange beet recipe, she notes that you can make this dish in advance, but you should reheat the beets in oil or butter. I actually ate them cold and thought they were still delicious. I think these would also be a delicious side dish at Thanksgiving due to the use of the warm spices.

Jody Adams' Orange Beets from In the Hands of a Chef, reprinted with permission of Jody Adams

2 Oranges, washed and quartered
1 small onion, chopped into 1/2-inch dice
1 tsp. coriander seeds
4 bay leaves
1 Tbs. fennel seeds
6 medium beets, washed and greens trimmed to an inch
salt and pepper

1. Squeeze the orange quarters to release the juice into a large nonreactive saucepan that will hold the beets in a single layer. Add the rinds, and all the remaining ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add enough water to cover the beets by an inch. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking until the beets are tender. Depending on the size of the beets, they'll take from 45 minutes to an hour to cook. Allow the beets to cool slightly in the cooking liquid.

2. As soon as the beets are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and stems. Cut into slices or quarters, season with salt and serve immediately.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

An Interview with Rachel Klein, Chef at Aura and the Tamo Bar and Mom

If you haven't yet had the chance, meet Chef Rachel Klein. She is the creative force behind the kitchen at Aura Restaurant and the Tamo Bar at the Seaport Hotel in Boston. She is currently running Family Friendly Nights at Aura where parents can eat an excellent meal at Aura while children play in an adjacent play space. Chef Klein also invites new parents to Mommy and Me cooking classes. At these events, Chef Klein shares how to make healthy baby food and then parents get to eat lunch at Aura.

Yet she is also mother to two year old, Ethan. Finally, though she is a good soul whose son inspires her.
In fact, the word "inspire" came up frequently in my interview with Chef Klein. For example, she made it clear that the Family Friendly nights at Aura (on Fridays), the Mommy and Me classes and her cooking in general have evolved in large part as she has tried to figure out the best way to feed her newborn son.

Now, two years later, her home cooking has transformed again as Ethan becomes more comfortable using his own knife and fork and as his preferences have developed. Like many toddlers he doesn't like his foods to touch, yet unlike our picky (but very lovable) 3 year old, Ethan's favorite foods include balsamic vinegar, Indian spices and Rachel's homemade beef and barley soup. He clearly knows good food as his other top dishes include the cooking of Rachel's mother (particularly her sweet and sour meatballs and her braised chicken with raisins and marjoram). He also enjoys Chef Klein's turkey burgers with Indian spices and her homemade chicken soup. Chef Klein also noted that one of his favorite dishes is a tomato salad with soft mozzarella, sweet cherry tomatoes and balsamic vinegar.

Although Ethan isn't her sous-chef (yet!), Rachel has given him his own set of wooden spoons and miniature pots and pans so that he can "cook" by her side at the end of the day. Rachel also shared that he then goes on to "feed" his dinosaurs and miniature animals.
Rachel expressed such joy and pride about the gardening that she and Ethan have done together. As Ethan uses his own shovel, they have planted a range of vegetables and herbs that are now growing in their backyard. While so many of us try to encourage our children to taste food, I was intrigued when Chef Klein noted that she tries to develop Ethan's sense of smell. So, together they pick the fresh lavender or mint and then rub the leaves to smell, and then, taste the herbs. Chef Klein is also growing herbs on the roofgarden at the Seaport. In fact, on August 14th, the Family Friendly meal will include a trip to the garden and the chance for children to plant their own herbs.

Like so many working parents, although Chef Klein would love to consistently feed Ethan meals of organic dishes that she prepares regularly, it is just not realistic at the end of a 12 hour work day. On weekends and vacations, she tries to cook dishes, such as braised chicken and soups that can last for a few days. Yet, like many of us, Chef Klein has worked to make some compromises. For example, she praised the boiled and packaged beets at Trader Joes, as well as their cooked brown rice. She noted that when she reads the packages, she has realized that many Trader Joe's products are minimally processed, but yet she can get home at 6:00 and still sit down with Ethan and her husband, Lee for a good meal.

And, in fact, sitting down together is one of the most important parts of the day for her. Chef Klein noted that even before she had her son, sitting down for dinner with Lee was a core part of her life. As she said, "The family table is where you talk about things-good or bad, screaming or laughing. That is where a family happens. That is really important to me. "

Cooking for her family is also important as both Chef Klein and her son Ethan are allergic to peanuts. So, Chef Klein can't take her son out to most Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese restaurants as peanuts are such an integral part of these cuisines. I mentioned to Chef Klein that Ming Tsai's Lounge at Blue Ginger has a kitchen that is 100% peanut free and she praised Chef Tsai for his genuine commitment and support for people with food allergies. Yet Chef Klein herself, upon winning the recent Chef in Shorts competition, just donated her $1,000 prize money to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). She noted that in a kitchen like Aura's where food is prepared for everything from banquets to 3 meals a day it is difficult to be 100% peanut free. But she also mentioned that if a customer is allergic, she will personally do all she can to create a safe (r) dish, such as cleaning all the utensils and preparing the dish herself. At home, Chef Klein carefully reads labels before bringing products into her home, too.

Chef Klein has clearly enjoyed her more recent ventures into the world of cooking for children. She has teamed up with Isis Maternity to do baby food cooking classes, and is excited that Aura now has an interactive kitchen so that she may be able to expand on her Mommy and Me classes. (In these classes, parents get to watch her prepare organic baby food, and then enjoy a meal with their infants. With parking included, it only costs $25.) She is also humble enough to recognize that when she teaches these classes she is simply sharing her experiences cooking for her son and her opportunities to create more child-friendly fare. Yet she noted that some parents know far more than her about feeding children and acknowledged that she can't always answer all the questions that parents have for her.

Family Friendly nights happen each Friday from 5:30 to 8:00 pm. Two upcoming special events include meeting animals from Zoo New England on Friday, July 31st and a visit to Chef Klein's rooftop garden on Friday, August 14th. Mommy and Me classes take place on the third Wednesday of each month at 11:00 a.m.

For more information, you can check out the main Aura website, the schedule of Mommy and Me classes and the special events at Aura, including the Family Friendly nights.

Aura at the Seaport Hotel, 1 Seaport Lane, 617-385-4300
Tamo Bar at the Seaport Hotel, 1 Seaport Lane, 617-385-4315

Friday, July 24, 2009

An Interview with Jody Adams, Chef and Mother

Chef Jody Adams has been one of the central figures of the Boston cooking scene for over 20 years. She is currently chef and owner of Rialto in Cambridge, which she helped to open in 1994. She wrote the wonderful cookbook, In the Hands of the Chef, with her husband, Ken Rivard in 2002. She is also mother to Oliver, 19 and Roxanne, 13. I recently interviewed Chef Adams. She is simultaneously thoughtful, humorous and engaging. She speaks at a deliberate pace that made me want to lean over and listen. She provided me with valuable advice for finding a balance between supporting my children and helping them to develop their own identities.

From our conversation it was evident that her social justice work with Partners in Health, Share Our Strength and the Greater Boston Food Bank is an extension of who she is. She is not doing it for the accolades, nor for public recognition, nor for her children. Instead, it is clearly from a place of deeply understanding her place in the greater community.

The desire to weave worlds together also was clear as she talked about Guerilla Grilling and her blog. About a year ago, she came up with the idea to take her entire staff to meet with the suppliers and providers of her ingredients. Together, they make a meal and join together. The result-the Guerilla Grilling team. It is another example of how Chef Adams bridges worlds and brings people together. And, in fact, to pull people in is what the table is about for her. A meal is a center of connections. She is an inspiration for all of us.

She is so articulate that I have decided to simply share her words. I couldn’t say anything any better than she said it herself.

FoodieMommy: Do your children [ages 13 and 19] enjoy food?
Chef Jody Adams: Last night we ate dinner at the restaurant [Rialto.] My husband grilled lamb chops and I made potato salad. My daughter said, “What is the cheese tonight?” And she went in the kitchen and she put cheese on plate. This guy out in Western Mass. is providing honeycomb in small frames for chefs to sample. And she added to the plate. So, we are scooping it on the cheese and I thought, “It worked. We are here. They eat everything.” My children rarely will eat junk food. But we weren’t super rigid about that because my feeling was that as long as there was a safety net at home and we weren’t bringing it into the house, we were laying the foundation. The world is going to present itself forever. So if you completely control your child and do not allow them to have “bad food,” then you run the risk of setting up a dynamic that you don’t want.

What advice would you give to parents who want to create good food habits in their children?

I think there are a couple of things to establish: 1) Let the drink of choice is water. There is no reason to drink juice. 2) Do not bring anything into the house that you don’t want kids to eat. And know that you can’t control what they eat outside the home. 3) We cooked what we as parents wanted to eat. What I did means that you have to be willing to wash dishes. Each night we set out a number of options. There was a protein and many different vegetables and grains. The expectation was that my children had to try everything once. They never had to eat everything on their plate. It was really about offering variety and just making the table a safe and comfortable place and having stories to tell about food and where it comes from. I think eating shouldn’t be prescriptive in my mind. It is a time to bring people around the table and where kids learn how to be social, how to be civilized and how to share. If you give a kid broccoli rabe when they are 6, they are not necessarily going to like it. But if it is part of what surrounds them, through their life, by the time they are 19, they will love it with garlic and hot pepper flakes. It took my son long time to get used to it. I think that often what happens is that parents give up. They say, “My kid doesn’t like broccoli rabe.” And they give up. Sometimes I think maybe I was blessed with children with palates that adapt. But I also think it is important to make the investment early, to bring them around the table and they will get used to it.

As you raised your children, did you have a garden? Did you cook for them?

I don’t have a garden. I am terrible at it. I only grow children. I never cooked for them. I felt that it was not a good idea for me to impose on them what takes me away from them. And that is cooking. But by osmosis, they have learned about food and appreciate and know how to cook. My son knows more about cooking them any of his friends. But he doesn’t come home and say, “Mom, let’s cook together.” My husband is a very good cook. It is nice because we eat lots of whole grains and heirloom vegetables.

Have you tried to involve your children with the community service that you do?

They help with the hunger brunch [for the Greater Boston Food Bank.] But again, I am not heavy handed with my children. Both of my kids have full blown identities that they had when they arrived in the world and very strong opinions about who they are and what they are going to do…My feeling is that I live my life in a particular kind of way, with an awareness of social justice issues, with a way of interacting with the world on every level…from what we eat, to what we wear, how much stuff we have, how much we give back, how we treat others…And that is the package for them to carry with them from us, as opposed to me saying, “I want you to spend every Saturday morning at the shelter.”

There is nothing like touching poverty. I think it is so important because poverty is not scary. It is a question of birth. There are levels of poverty, and what we saw [when she and her son traveled to Rwanda] was a family with a child with a bloated belly. And clearly this kid wasn’t getting enough protein. And yet, it was so clear that this was a young couple who adored this child, just as I adore my son and my daughter.

You once said that your mother was an “adventurous cook.” What did she cook for you?

My mother did cook, but she also worked full time, so we would have meatloaf and baked potatoes one night and liver another night…We ate a lot of fish and we ate some spaghetti and chilis and things. But she really worked on a budget…My mother was a very sensible and careful shopper. She cooked and everything was made from scratch. She made bread and yogurt. There was not a lot of processed food. Graham crackers were the treat.

What was your inspiration for Guerilla Grilling and your blog?
I had gone to different farms myself, but I realized that my staff doesn’t know them and we are right here in a building and the kitchen is very stainless steel. It is not like the kitchen is open and has a garden and…I though, just wouldn’t it be great…So we decided to start doing that once a month. It is a great way to actually work with food in the moment, without the barrier of a restaurant…And for cooks and wait staff and runners and managers to be together and the people who work wherever we have gone.

Sometimes the writing is so hard and you have to ask, “Where is the story?” That is what my husband taught me. You have to tell the story of the person because that is what is interesting. And I think that is really what drives me. It is not just about what is the most beautiful plate that I can provide? It is about: what are the relationships? The stories? the experiences? What are our customers doing? Who are the purveyors that surround us? Because we are part of a community, both physically and through the cyber world.


Thank you, Chef Adams, for taking the time to meet with me. For the rest of you, even if you can't make it to Rialto, check out Chef Adam's cookbook, In the Hands of a Chef. Lastly, I highly recommend her blog, In the Hands of a Chef, for the gorgeous photos, the lovely stories and delicious recipes. In one of my favorite posts, Chef Adams describes her son's love of grilled cheese at ages 3 and 17.

Rialto, One Bennett Street, Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA 02138 617.661.5050

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Sweetness of Divvies Products (Especially For People With Food Allergies!)

For many parents, an invitation to a birthday party is reason for excitement. When my son said, “I want to go to a baseball game," I wanted to share in his joy. However, both scenarios are more complicated to us as 3 year old Raphael is allergic to eggs and peanuts. So, each time we go to a party, we need to drag out the mixing bowl, check the refrigerator for sour cream and make a batch of cupcakes. As a full time teacher, it is overwhelming to think about the number of nights we will be up baking as he heads into school this fall. And, as for the baseball game, even if we decide to brave the fear of air-born peanuts, he certainly won’t be eating Cracker Jacks like his best friend, Jonah. We recently accepted (with ambivalence) that we would give our son with M&Ms to teach him potty training. However, we realized that they were made on a line with peanut M&Ms. This meant it was completely impossible for us to bring into the house. Needless to say, we were all thrilled when a huge box of samples arrived from Divvies.Last year I was taken with the story of Divvies cupcakes on the Martha Stewart Show. The founder of Divvies, Lori Sandler, faced a similar situation to ours when her son, Benjamin was diagnosed with a range of allergies. Lori and her husband, Mark soon realized how difficult it is to find delicious treats that are made without risk of cross-contamination from common allergens such as nuts, tree nuts, dairy and eggs. What I loved most about this company, is that the Sandlers set out to make treats that were good enough that even children (and adults) without allergies would want to enjoy them, too. Thus, the name, “Divvies” as in “divvying it up.”

The cupcakes were a highlight for all of us. First, they arrived in a whimsical and useful package, that included 12 cupcakes (wrapped in two sets of 6), a huge tub of frosting and sprinkles. You can flip the box over and use it to hold the cupcakes. You can also freeze the cupcakes for later events. My son not only loved decorating them, but we were all incredibly impressed by the quality. Needless to say they were much, much more moist and delicious than our own! And as a parent, it was such a thrill to watch him gobble them up without having to worry about an allergic reaction.

FoodieDaddy loved the Kettle Corn which was sweet and salty, while I preferred the darkened caramel of the Caramel Corn (my son’s alternative for baseball games when he wants Cracker Jacks.) The cookies, sugar and chocolate chip, were quite good for vegan cookies, and the other sweets, gum-drop like stars and jellybeans were good enough that I would feel comfortable giving them out at Halloween. Finally, the chocolate bars were delicious and they are gluten-free!

Divvies has even more products, such as chocolate chips (the only ones that I am aware of that are allergen free), as well as other cookies and candy. Not only are they safe for people with food allergies but their products are also Kosher. The reality is that we rarely eat sweets, but to know that these are out there for special occasions, makes life just a little bit easier for me and a bit sweeter for our son.

You can get Divvies in two ways. First, a number of their products are now available at Whole Foods. Second, you can order directly from Divvies themselves.

However, here is the good news: Divvies has generously offered a FoodieMommy reader the chance to get a dozen of Divvies delicious, fresh cupcakes delivered to your front door. If you are interested, just e-mail FoodieMommy ( with the following details: Your name, e-mail, phone number and a sentence or two about why you would like to win the cupcakes. If you are the winner, I will contact you for your home address for a delicious delivery. Good luck!

Divvies, 700 Oakridge Common, South Salem, NY 1-914-533-0333

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Bubbling Brook, Westwood

A few weeks ago we headed South to explore Ward's Berry Farm in Sharon and Tangerini's Farm in Millis. However, a FoodieMommy outing means eating at as many places as possible. We easily would have driven past The Bubbling Brook, had it not been for a featured segment on the TV show, Chronicle. We were curious about this place and were well rewarded for seeking it out.
Open since 1951, inside the atmosphere is that of a classic diner-simple and clean. Outside is a ice cream stand and in back are picnic tables and a tiny brook. The ice cream itself is from Puritan and comes in a range of flavors. I also ordered a raspberry lime Ricky, which wasn't the best I have had (it tasted more syrupy then fresh).

However, our meals were good values. We got a hotdog/hamburger combo (with fries) for our boys for $7.45. My husband and I shared an order of fried haddock. It consisted of 3 large pieces, with fries and house-made coleslaw for $11.25. (If these prices seem low, it is because the Bubbling Brook has kept the prices the same for over a year.)

Most importantly, the haddock itself was delicious. I admit to being snobby about my fish and this was so fresh, so crisp and fried perfectly. We loved it, as did my older son who took a bite of fish for the first time in his life!

Eating outside in the sun, watching bunnies, birds and a brook-this place is a great find.
The Bubbling Brook, Route 109, Westwood 781-762-9860

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Basil-Rose Lemonade, Inspired by Rendezvous

Dreaming of the Gulab Sharbat that I had at Rendezvous in Cambridge (top photo), I set out to make a simpler version at home (bottom photo). The key is balancing the sweet and herbal flavors. But when you do this, it is so good and so refreshing.

Basil-Rose Lemonade
Rosewater (available at many Indian stores)
Juice from 1 lemon
Basil-Infused Simple Syrup (see below)
3-4 basil leaves, washed

Muddle the basil leaves at the bottom of the glass. Add the lemon juice, simple syrup, water and ice. Keep tasting it until it meets your taste (I love a more sour lemonade while my husband prefers it to be sweeter.) Add a teaspoon of rosewater (too much and it tastes like you are drinking a corsage!)

Basil-Infused Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
a handful or so of washed basil leaves

Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once the sugar dissolves, take off the heat and let the basil sit for about 15 minutes. Remove the basil. This simple sugar stores well in the refrigerator and can also be used for ice tea.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Rendezvous, Cambridge

Down a lovely street in Cambridge, is the best bed and breakfast I know: my brother and sister-in-law’s home. A spectacular 3 floor townhouse from the turn of the century, it has been a retreat for me twice in the last few months. The first time, I needed a 12 hour vacation from 3 full time jobs: caring for the three males in my life (43, 3 and 16 months), being a middle school teacher and writing this blog. I read a newspaper without having to skim the headlines. I drank coffee without listening to the Wiggles. I ate a dinner of Clear Flour bread and cheese from both Wasik’s and Frommagios. I slept past 6:15 a.m. It was glorious. This time I arrived to complete coursework. Admittedly it was hard to focus when I could write in their sunroom or doze on their porch. But like any mother feeling guilty when she goes to work, I tried to complete the task at hand and read textbooks, articles and take notes from lectures on DVDs. My one respite was an hour of total bliss at Rendezvous in Central Square. My brother and sister-in-law are also foodies and they had raved about this place for so long. After my one visit I understood why they speak so highly of this place. I was deeply impressed by the care given to the service, to the drinks and to the food. For $20.00 (including tip!), I had a fantastic light meal, while still being given the consideration more reflective of a more expensive restaurant.

The atmosphere is lovely. The natural light brightens the restaurant. The clientele was more diverse than I am used to: two older women talking about feminist theology, a young couple and a baby, women in head scarves sitting with an eight year old and a duo of 50-somethings enjoying the food.

I began with a non-alcoholic drink that was, hands down, one of the best I have had. Pictured at the top of the post, it is called a Gulab Sharbat. This Turkish drink was a combination of lemon, pomegranate, rose petals, cardamom and soda water. Neither too sweet or too floral, this gussied up lemonade was as lovely to look at as it was to drink.
My waiter recommended the squid with arroz negro as a light main dish (it is listed as an appetizer.) Combined with the tender bread from Iggy’s it was perfect. The dish itself was fantastic. It consisted of browned garlic, smoked chorizo and pimenton de Vera, squid ink from Valencia, and arroz negro. The squid was so tender that it would make a convert of any non-squid eater.

If this is a taste of what Rendezvous has to offer, I will be back.

Rendezvous, 508 Mass. Ave, Cambridge, 617-576-1900

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Corn and Salsa Verde, Inspired by Craigie on Main

At our Father's Day meal at Craigie on Main, we had a delicious salsa verde. Once home, I happily discovered that Chef Maws had a similar recipe for Ramp Salsa Verde on his blog. However, without ramps sitting around my house, and as my husband is cilantro-averse, I made a few changes. I did, though, have some fresh corn that I had grilled for dinner. I cut off the kernels and mixed them in. Put on top of grilled chicken, it was delicious. I suspect it would also be great on fish.

Adapted from Tony Maws' Ramp Salsa Verde

1 cup of chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped basil
½ diced red or vidalia onion
1 clove garlic, minced finely
1 anchovy
2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
4 Tbs. olive oil
zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper

Mix everything together in a mini-food processor or by hand. Taste it. Add salt and pepper if it needs it. Store in the refrigerator for a day or so.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Marriage of Wine and Cheese, T. W. Food, Cambridge

This time I keep thinking about 4 dishes: the most extraordinary ice cream FoodieDaddy has ever had (and he has had many!), a perfect chocolate budino topped with salt and hazelnuts, the best grilled cheese I have ever had and (forgive me, my non-pork eating husband), pigs trotters. The range of these four dishes capture our recent experience eating at T.W. Food in Cambridge. While I have not done a research project on this, I would also go so far as to say that their Tuesday night 4 course prix-fixe, with paired wine for $49.00, may be one of the best deals around. It is certainly the best value we have found for the range of choices and the quality of the food.T.W. Food has long been on my list of restaurants to try. Owners Tim and Bronwyn Wiechmann opened the restaurant in 2007. Since then, they have created the menu on a day to day basis, using the best ingredients at hand. And, frequently that means using foods that are local. Each Tuesday night they offer a special themed meal that pairs four courses with a wine. You can also, though choose from their Sunday through Thursday 3 course prix fixe for $39.00. We were grateful for the Wiechmann's invitation to attend the American night in which each dish focused on one American cheese and wine. Mark Trumble from Russos was there to introduce customers to each cheese, while manager (and sommelier) Jillian helped us to understand the wine.

T.W. Food seats only 28 people and has a miniature kitchen that is in view of diners. I felt a bit like I was watching the clown car at the circus as so much good food came out of that kitchen. Amazingly, Chef Wiechmann and his sous-chef always looked so calm.

Our dinner began with one of my husband’s favorites-an amuse buche of the most tender, flavorful brisket. Mark Trumble then stopped by to give us a taste of the cheeses that would accompany our meal.We then had a taste of charcuterie. My husband declared (with a grin) the veal and pistachio mortadella to be the best salami he has had. I tried, for the first (and maybe last) time, fromage de tete or head cheese. It almost grew on me with its contrasting chewy and smooth bites…but I couldn’t get the image of a smiling pig out of my head. However, I had no problem devouring the pig trotter (feet!) and mushroom tartine. Oh…this was heavenly. The mushrooms were woodsy, creamy and draped on the meaty mixture.

My husband’s first course was a salad of Verrill farm lettuce, with Vela Dry Jack cheese and a curry-pistachio vinaigrette. This was one of those dishes that could have been too oily, too salty, too simple. Instead, it was perfect. It was paired with an oaky Dreyer Sonoma Chardonnay.

I had the beautifully rosy beet green and red kale gratin with Forume D’Ambert Bleu cheese custard. While it was yummy, it was as rich as it sounded. With a bit of embarrassment I took it home to eat the next night. However, I happily drank one of my favorite wines of the evening: a Zinfandel from Z-52 in Lodi, California.

We both loved the hand-cut tagliatelle with local porcini red-cap mushrooms and Twig Farm Tomme. The Tomme, a raw goat milk cheese was delicious and unique. It had the nutty, creamy taste of a brie, but the subtleness of goat’s milk cheese. The mushrooms were juicy and the walnut crème added another texture. It was served with a Murphy’s Law Red, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot from Columbia Valley in Washington.

My husband would have happily had 2 servings of the grilled hanger steak. It was served with Five Spoke Creamery cow’s milk cheese, local zucchini and new potatoes. The chef kindly cut the steak in 2 pieces so that my half could be cooked medium rare, while he could have his medium. Both sections were cooked perfectly. This was paired with a 2007 Wyatt Cabernet Sauvignon.

We were already smitten with this restaurant when they brought over the sandwich. Yes, the innovative, French-trained Chef Weichmann nearly brought us to tears with his grilled cheese. Served on mini brioche, with a few thin slices of apple, the Pennsylvania Noble Amish cheddar oozed gloriously out from the buttery slices. It was ridiculously good. The light Pinot Noir from Fleur de California complimented the dish.

To state the obvious, we were very full, but yet, somehow we made room for two excellent desserts. I ordered the Valrhona chocolate “budino” with sea salt, olive oil and hazelnuts. The salt enhanced the whole dish, while the hazelnuts added a fine crunch. A delicious Syrah port from Barnard Griffin accompanied the dessert.

But, at the end it was the ice cream that made us such fans of T.W. Food. Jillian mentioned that it was good…but seriously, this stuff is extraordinary. It was so dense and so creamy that we were tempted to order quarts…and we are supposed to both start a diet! We tried one scoop of rhubarb that was perfectly tart and sweet and a scoop of pistachio that rivaled (or beat) the best pistachio gelato we had in Rome. If we could have licked the plates, we would have.

If you are free on Tuesday nights, check out the list of upcoming events (with menus). Tonight will be a celebration in honor of Bastille Day, while next Tuesday the focus will be Germany and Austria. But make a reservation-the food is that good.

T. W. Food, 377 Walden St., Cambridge, 617-864-4745

Monday, July 13, 2009

Kirplink, Kirplank, Blueberry Jam

Last weekend we headed down to Ward's Farm in Sharon to pick strawberries. They were no longer in season, but we had so much fun as we picked blueberries. As we said, "Kirplink, Kirplank, Kirplunk," we had more blueberries to pick than we knew what to do with. They were on the sour side, so my son, a huge fan of Blueberries for Sal and Bread and Jam for Frances came up with the bright idea to transform them into blueberry jam. Despite cooking my whole life, I have never made jam (though my father once tried to make beach plum jam and ended up with sour soup) or canned anything. Canning seemed to be too high maintenance and hard for my 3 year old. So, we just stored it in a glass container. And at the rate that we are eating it, it will be gone soon. Most recipes called for a ratio of 2 cups of sugar for each cup of blueberry. But I try to keep the sugar level low when I cook for the kids, so you will see much less in my recipe. Part of what made this so good is that the blueberries shine through, as opposed to tasting more like blueberry syrup.

Blueberry Jam
3 cups blueberries
1 packet of pectin (available at the supermarket)
3 cups sugar

Heat on medium heat until it boils. Turn to low and simmer for about 5 minutes until it starts to thicken. Take off the heat and let it cool. Pour into a glass pan. It will last for about one week. We ate it with ricotta on bread, on pancakes, and spooned onto yogurt.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

This Week At Verrill Farm, Concord

Last year, I wrote about the incredible scones from Verrill Farm. Then, last fall, the Verrill Farm store burned down. Since then the Verrill family has designed and started building a new Verrill Farm store that will open this September. But until it is opened, there is still a temporary store offering all the amazing goods that they have.This week their own produce includes carrots and beans in many shades, microgreens, salad greens, beets, peas, rhubarb, squash and cucumbers. In addition, they have local blueberries, kohlrabi, potatoes and corn. Outside, on weekends, their chef is offering samples of their prepared foods. Inside, you can buy those delicious scones, cookies, local and organic meat, eggs, cheese and milk. Finally, next weekend you can eat pancakes at their annual Blueberry Pancake Festival.

Verrill Farm, 11 Wheeler Road, Concord 1-978-369-4494

Berries in the Basket at Ward's Berry Farm, Sharon

As the sun finally appeared, the FoodieMommy family was able to do what we love-go to farms, pick fruits and vegetables, see animals, take walks and, of course, eat ice cream.

Our first stop was one of those places that made me wonder why I don't hear about it more often: Ward's Berry Farm in Sharon. At over 150 acres, they have fruits and vegetables to buy at their market or to pick. Right now, for example, you could get radishes, beets, rhubarb, peas, beans and many kinds of berries all grown at the farm. Inside the store they had a range of homemade baked goods (including vegan chocolate muffins), prepared soups, a huge range of sandwiches, and ice cream.

However, we were there to pick our own. Unfortunately, we arrived with few strawberries and peas still on the plants.But lucky for us, it was the last day that we could head into the fields without paying $2.00/person to pick. (Note, though, that paying the picking price comes out in the wash, as you then pay less for each quart/pint of berries.) It was the start of the raspberry and black raspberry season. We will have to return for those as we found a total of 5 (!) that were ripe! However, we had so much fun picking blueberries. My 16 month old, unable to tell unripe from ripe berries was more than content to play in the toy truck filled sandbox and to visit the 4H animals (goats, sheep, chickens-though he referred to them all as, "Quack-Quacks.") My 3 year old, hands stained purple from berries and filled with dirt from trying to dislodge fresh carrots, loved jumping on the huge tires and swinging with his dad.
It was a great way to spend a morning-inexpensive, outdoors and fun. If you can't get there, you can also purchase their produce at the Harvard Square Farmer's Market. Finally, call ahead before you go to check what you can pick, as it depends on the weather.

Ward's Berry Farm 614 South Main Street Sharon, MA (781) 784-3600