Mise En Place

6 Feb

Brother Arnold weeding the corn field

This weeks Mise En Place is from the opposite end of the culinary spectrum than what I’ve put up recently. When you shop locally for the food you bring to your table, it comes from places where people are dedicated, hard working, and passionate about what they do, small local farms.  If you look closer, and have the chance, you have the opportunity, like I did a number of years ago to see an even tighter food circle … where those that are doing the farming are actually providing for themselves.

The United Society of Believers, commonly called the Shakers, was founded in 1747, in Manchester, England, and later came to America in search of freedom of religion.  The Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community, in New Gloucester, Maine was founded in 1783, and is the only surviving active Shaker community in the world.   A number of years ago I had the chance to spend a bit of time with the six remaining (at that point) Shakers, and these few photos are from that wonderful experience.  Today Sabbathday Lake is the only active Shaker Community, and they still strive to live a life of work and worship, fulfilling the motto of the Shaker founder, Mother Ann, to “put our hands to work and hearts to God.”

Sister Frances in the community kitchen

Brother Arnold, right, and Brother Wayne moving a ewe from the barn

Sister Francis, in the above photo, passed away a number of years ago at the age of 81, and Brother Wayne, on the left above, has left the Shakers, after 26 years with the society. You can read about that story in the Boston Globe.

Thanks for taking a look.

Remember, Food is Love!




Madeleines for Madeline

3 Feb

This week I had the chance to work with a friend I’ve known for a few years now, and she is in the final stages of her first pregnancy.  It is an exciting time for her and in the course of our time together we talked about possible names for the brand new little one.   They know it will be a girl and among other names they have in mind, Madeline is a front runner.

Lemon zest really flavors the madeleines

In honor of their little one on the way, and the fact that Marina grew up reading the Madeline series by Ludwig Bemelmans, it is my clear hope that they name her Madeline.  Marina and I decided to make some Madeleines today.   We chose a traditional recipe from Epicurious.  We doubled the amount of lemon zest in the second batch, after trying a sample or two, and that really brought the flavor to where we wanted it.

Marina adding the flour to the mix

Adding the batter to the tins ... we only had mini tins

We also had to adjust the amount of batter we put into the tins – our fist batch we used too much batter, but over all it worked out fine and we loved them.

Madeleines and a cup of tea make for a perfect afternoon

Remember, Food is Love!



Mise En Place

2 Feb

Glasses of wine on display at Menton prior to opening

A Cocktail being poured in Providence, RI at Hemmingways

I missed my Mise En Place on Monday, so here are two photos for your viewing pleasure.

Remember, Food is Love!





31 Jan

Cochon 555

Chef Matt Jennings and his wife Kate of Farmstead in Providence, RI are heading to the Grand Cochon spectacular at the  Food & Wine Classic in Aspen this coming June after taking first place in the Cochon 555 event in Boston held at the Fairmont Copley Hotel.   Jennings and his team have won the Boston leg of Cochon 555 three years running.  This year he was competing against some of Boston’s best chefs, including Chef Lydia Shire of ScampoLocke-Ober and Towne Stove and Spirits, Chef Barry Maiden of Hungry Mother in Cambridge, Chef Mary Dumont of Harvest in Cambridge, and Chef Will Gilson of Garden at the Cellar, also in Cambridge.

Stage lighting being tested prior to the event

Bacon, bacon and more bacon!

Part of Chef Will Gilson's set up

Founder Brady Lowe greeting VIP's

Cochon 555 is a one-of-a-kind traveling culinary competition and tasting event that celebrates and promotes sustainable farming of heritage breed pigs.  It brings together  five local chefs, five locally sourced pigs and five wine makers and gives everyone in attendance a chance to sample more pork then they can imagine.  The brain child of Brady Lowe, Founder of Cochon 555 and President & Creative Director of Taste Network, it is his passion for increasing awareness of the sources that support a more natural, sustainable food system that brings it all together.

Brady Lowe speaking to the judges table

Will Gilson's mise en place coming together

Chef Barry Maiden of Hungry Mother checks his prep sheet

Chef Jennings drawing up his signage

Chef Lydia Shire of Scampo shows a student from Johnson & Wales the ropes

Fairmont Copley Executive Sous Chef William Lukas takes bacon out of an oven

In addition to the friendly competition between the five chefs, various local industry heavy weights were on hand to make the evening complete. Island Creek Oysters, Formaggio Kitchen – the South End branch, and Smuttynose Brewery out of New Hampshire showcased the local flavor of the evening, and provided samples and insight to their products on hand.

C.J. of Island Creek Oysters giving an impromptu shucking class

Kurt Gurdal, left, of Formaggio Kitchen explains some cheese

St. Germain was on hand with sparkling wine and strawberries

Wine tastings from West Sonoma Coast Vintners featured several different lovely wines

The evening also featured a butchering competition between Tom Daly of Savenor’s Boston and Rick Lemay of Lemay & Sons Beef in New Hampshire. The event intrigued the curious, inspired the casual and proved bountiful for The Food Project, a local non-profit that has built a national model of engaging young people in personal and social change through sustainable agriculture since 1991.  Raffle tickets were sold through out the evening, and everything from the butchered hogs, heads included, was awarded to individual winners, and the cash from the ticket sales was donated to The Food Project.

Pigs heads on the table

Rick Lemay explaining gives a tutorial on meatloaf

The main reason for the evening was a celebration of all things swine and the head to head competition between the five local chefs.   Each chef received a 150-175 pound heritage breed hog, and the task at hand was to use it from head to toe and wow the judges, and some 400 plus guests, with succulent morsels to delight their taste buds.

Chef Lydia Shire was presented first to the judges

Blood sausage, or Boudin Noir, was on her menu

Chef Mary Dumont of Harvest had a Large Black Pig, a heritage breed, as her swine

Mary explaining her offerings to the judges table

Chef Will Gilson of Garden at the Cellar presented complete in pig head

Judging was a serious affair

Chef Barry Maiden of Hungry Mother presented Rocky Mountain Oysters to the judges

Chef Matt Jennings was last to present, his team putting the final touches on his plate

Chef Jennings explaining his method of working with locally sourced products

Chef Jennings pièce de résistance was a pigs head and a bottle of maple syurp

In honor of his canadian heritage

Judges Kurt Gurdal, of Formaggio Kitchen, left, and Michael Scelfo, of Russell House Tavern

Although judging was complete and ballots were being counted, the eating didn’t stop there.  In the main ballroom, Chef Robert Grant of The Butcher Shop prepared Porcelet de lait from St. Canut Farms & D’Artagnanr., and the piglets were wheeled onto the main floor for everyone to share “Family Meal” style.

Chef Grant with the Porcelet de lait

Chef Tiffani Faison, of Top Chef season one fame, kisses the piglet

As the crowd slowly slipped into a porcine coma, the Chefs mingled and shared their experiences and wisdom with the gathered swine aficionados.

Chef Mary Dumont with Bacon Cotton Candy

Chef Lydia Shire sharing some wisdom with students from Johnson & Wales

Pig Bling was everywhere

For some, these Johnson & Wales student volunteers, the eating continued

In the end, judges votes counted, and the five chefs assembled on stage with cochon555 founder Brady Lowe and were toasted by the crowd for their passion and love of the hog.

Brady Lowe, left, toasting the chefs

And for the third year in a row, Chef Matt Jennings of Farmstead came out as Top Hog, though I think there were winners everywhere you looked.

Brady Lowe, left, announcing the three-pete winner, Chef Matt Jennings

Chef Jennings gives a shout out to his team

And walked away with the hardware and a date in Aspen

Cochon 555 moves on from Boston to Seattle, and Chef Jennings will be back at Farmstead serving up brand of goodness until a date in Aspen rolls around.

Remember, Food is Love!




28 Jan

Last night our family celebrated a Christmas present by catching PSY at the Majestic Theatre.   PSY is an amazing show by a performance troupe from Montreal, Québec.  We figured since we would be downtown already, that we would get dinner prior to the show.  We are eating at The Butcher Shop next week, so we picked Sportello in the Fort Point Channel part of Boston, and as always, it was wonderful.

Kuri squash soup with pork belly

We started by sharing two appetizers, a kuri squash soup with pork belly and lamb tartare with artichoke.   The sweetness of the squash was balanced by the savory flavor that the pork belly brought to the dish, and the pumpkin seed oil added just the right amount of unctuous luxury.

Lamb tartare with artichoke

The tartare was slightly saltier than I expected, but the fresh lamb and artichoke was delicious spread on the croutons.  For our entrees Marina, our daughter, chose braised lamb colletto in jus, which was tender and came with the most wonderful carrot puree. Susan had day boat scallops with brussel sprouts and pancetta, and I chose trenette with braised rabbit and picholine olives and rosemary.

Braised lamb colletto

Day boat scallops with brussel sprouts and pancetta

Braised rabbit with trenette pasta

Dinner was amazing, and we all enjoyed our entrees.  The carrot puree that came with the braised lamb was sweet and wonderful, and the lamb was so tender that no knife was needed. My braised rabbit and pasta was perfect for a cold evening and the olives together with the rabbit and a touch of rosemary brought an earthy flavor to the dish that I love.   On top was shaved parmesan, which brought everything together.  Susan’s scallops were seared to perfection with a crisp crust on the outside that gave way to an inside that melted in your mouth.

Buttermilk tart, maple custard and roasted bananas

We ordered three desserts, but I only had a chance to photograph one before they were gone!  I had the buttermilk tart with maple custard, roasted bananas and cashews, shown above, but what wasn’t photographed was the orange mascarpone gelato sandwich and a banana cake and nutella frosting cupcake.  Needless to say, they were all amazing.

Dinner was great and our service the same.   As we were leaving we ran into Chef Barbara** and had a chance to chat with her.  It was great to see her and for her to see how much Marina has grown.

When you have a chance take a stroll down to the Fort Point Channel area and sit at the counter at Sportello and enjoy a great night.   After dinner head downstairs to Drink for a nightcap to top off your evening.

Remember, Food is Love!



** Full disclosure – I work for Barbara Lynch Gruppo as a freelance photographer, but that doesn’t change how good her food is!

Fly Away with An Aviation Cocktail

27 Jan

The Aviation was first documented in 1916

Working with the Barbara Lynch Gruppo in the past few years, I’ve been exposed to a lot of different food items that I never imaged before now. I’ve also had my palate exposed to numerous new drink combinations from none other than John Gertsen, the great bartender  who is the “man behind the woman,” and manager at Drink. One of the creations that I’ve recently become fond of, is the Aviation, a traditional gin cocktail from the early 1900’s.

All the basic ingredients minus one

The original Aviation is attributed to Hugo Ensslin, head bartender at the Hotel Wallick, located  on the South East corner of Broadway and 43rd Street, New York.  The first published recipe appeared in Ensslin’s 1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks, and called for El Bart gin, lemon juice, maraschino, and crème de violette, a violet liqueur which gives the cocktail a pale sky-blue color.

Créme de Violette

Many places today don’t include the Creme de Violette in the drink, but Adam a bartender at The Russell House Tavern in Harvard Square turned me on to that aspect of the drink, and I think it is a critical part of making a correct Aviation.

Fresh Lemon juice is critical ... stay away from the plastic lemons!

As I’ve said in the past, one of the most important elements in anything you do is to use real ingredients.  You can get lemon juice in a bottle or in a plastic lemon, but take the extra time to simply get the juice from an actual lemon and you’ll be happy you did it.  The last element that puts this drink over the top is the inclusion of Luxardo Maraschino cherries.  These cherries, The Original, are not your regular, neon red ones you get at most bars. I got my jar of them at The Boston Shaker in Somerville, and they are well worth the trip to Davis Square.

Luxardo Cherries from The Boston Shaker

For my Aviation I use 2 oz of Gin, 1/2 oz of lemon juice, 1/2 oz of maraschino and a 1/4  oz of Créme de Violette.   Add the all of the ingredients to a shaker half full with ice, and shake for 30 seconds or so, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Finally add one of the Luxardo Cherries and enjoy!

Bottoms Up

So next time you are out and frequenting some place like Drink, Eastern Standard or The Russell House Tavern, ask for an Aviation and let this classic cocktail take you away.

Remember, Food is Love!



Box 5555 – The Greater Boston Food Bank

26 Jan
Fire Alarm Operations had an “All Meat” chili

What an amazing night of food, fun and good will!  I had the chance to spend this evening at the Four Seasons in downtown Boston, at the 1st Annual Boston Fire Department Chili Cook Off to benefit the Greater Boston Food Bank.  There were some amazing culinary skills on display this evening, but more importantly the feeling of community combined with a casual competitive atmosphere provided a delightful night for all who attended.

Catherine D'Amato, President and CEO of GBFB

Catherine D’Amato, President and CEO of the Greater Boston Food Bank was on hand to thank all in attendance and to remind them of the importance of their individual contributions, and to acknowledge the daily contribution that members of the Boston Fire Department make to the city every day.  The Food Bank is the largest hunger-relief organization in New England and one of the largest food banks in the country, distributing more than 34 million pounds of food and grocery products annually to a network of nearly 600 member hunger-relief agencies.

An enthusiastic supporter of the GBFB and the BFD

All Out Chili from E52 & L29

Among the 13 different companies that were competing for this First Annual Prize, the recipes were varied and elaborate.  Many chose to include not only chili but condiments including onions, scallions, cheese and Engine 29, Ladder 11 & District 11 even supplied a nice crisp cracker to go with their chili.

Ralph Dowling of Fire Alarm Operations coming out of the kitchen

Turn Out Gear 'cause the Chili was HOT

The night was interrupted on occasion, in traditional firehouse fashion, by a clanging bell and a special signal from local funny man Lenny Clarke, as various items were auctioned off to benefit the GBFB.  Through out there was a silent auction that quietly carried on.  After sampling 13 different chili’s and the wonderful passed hors d’œuvres provided by the folks at the Four Seasons, under the direction of Executive Chef Brooke Vosika, clear winners appeared.

Multiple alarms were struck for this chili

Engine 53 wanted to make sure you remembered them

In the end, Engine 24 and Ladder 23 from Grove Hall in Dorchester were awarded the coveted trophy, which included a Hormel can and a plastic firefighters helmet.  In the near future I hope to stop by Grove Hall and get the recipe for this awarding winning dish, and because I used to work in the neighborhood I know exactly where the house can be found.

Winner, Winner, Chili Dinner! Chef Brooke of the 4 Seasons with Dennis Carr on the left and Tom Quinn on the right, bot are from Ladder 23

Winner, Winner, Chili Dinner! Dennis Carr of ladder 23, Billy Costa, Lenny Clarke and Tom Quinn also on Ladder 23 celebrate the victory for Grove Hall.

I want to thank BFD’s Public Information Officer Steve MacDonald for his never ending support, and especially thank all the great fire fighters from the city of Boston who I’ve friended over the years.  I’ve had the privilege of sharing many meals in a number of different firehouses through out the city, and they remain some of the best meals I’ve ever had.

Thanks so much to Billy Noonan, Boston Fire Department Photographer and District Chief  William Meyer for their help and friendship.  Congrats Chief Meyers on your retirement!

Last but not least, thanks to Treat Cupcake Bar for sharing the love on the way out.  Nothing like a great cupcake to sooth the taste buds after multiple alarm chili all night.

Remember, Food is Love!