Category Archives: travels

springtime sampler

We finally had some decent weather this past weekend and I was absolutely desperate to get out of the house. We’d never been to New Bedford, a town hailed for being one of the most important whaling ports in the 19th Century, so we made the one hour drive down from Boston and checked out some sites that Joseph had picked out.

The highlight was definitely Margaret’s (actually across the river in Fairhaven), a small, unpretentious seafood restaurant that we picked based on strong Yelp reviews. It was packed but turnover was fast enough that it seemed that no one ever had to wait. They had yummy focaccia at the table waiting for us before we even sat down which is both delightful and dangerous for someone who loves bread as much as I do. We both got seafood plates that had slightly different content, but pretty much the same sauce. The food – especially the huge, sweet, and plump mussels – was delicious and the prices were friendly on the wallet. Simple food done well, amazing prices, awesome service. If you’re ever in the area, I definitely recommend stopping by.

We also stopped by Lydia’s, a Portuguese Bakery, for some somewhat unmemorable pastries.  We knew nothing about Portuguese pastries and had no idea what to get, so that may have been the problem.  Next we headed to Sid Wainer & Son, a specialty food wholesaler with a retail store open to the public where you can get a $300 jar of winter truffles and enough free food samples to constitute a small lunch. Make sure to bring a jacket if you want to peruse their well-stocked cheese room.

Next was Travessia Winery, an urban winery that sources most of their grapes from a vineyard in Massachusetts. The Pinot Grigio and the Chardonnay are well worth skipping, while the Vidal Blanc and especially the red blend Jester, whose grapes are sourced from California, are tastier. Mostly I was just glad that you saved $2 off the tasting by opting out of getting the “free” glass.  Anyone want any winery wine glasses?  We have enough to stock a small restaurant.

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a weekend of food love

Taza Chocolates

One of things that I really love about Joseph is that we both really enjoy and value food.  It’s not enough just to like food, to like to eat it.  Who doesn’t like to eat?  To be the man that I’ll spend the rest of my life with, he has to really appreciate what went into a dish to make it what it is, he has to celebrate the flavors and the way they work together, and he has to have a curiosity and genuine interest in what makes a dish so special.  It doesn’t hurt to also be an amazing cook who also does a heck of a job washing dishes.  Joseph is all of that, and more.

Valentine's at Taza Chocolate

We spent the weekend before Valentine’s exploring local food treasures including the Danish Pastry House (absolutely incredible pastries), Fastachi (nuts, chocolate, and more), Penzeys Spices, John Dewar & Co. Butchers, and the Spirited Gourmet for a sake tasting.  Then we had a fabulous dinner at Hungry Mother, one of my favorite restaurants in the Boston area, where the highlights were the braised beef tongue appetizer, the french gnocchi (I always have to order their gnocchi), and the outstanding bourbon upside-down cake with butter pecan ice cream.  I can’t stop thinking about that sweet, salty, rich, nutty caramel goodness.  And that was just Saturday.

cacao pod

Sunday, we trooped off to Taza Chocolate for a tour at the factory.  If you aren’t familiar with Taza Chocolate, they’re located in Somerville, MA, just outside Boston and they are the only direct trade, organic, stone ground, bean-to-bar chocolate maker in the country.  You’ll find plenty of chocolatiers in the States, but finding one that buys the cacao beans and does everything else from roasting the beans, to tempering, to making the bars, wrapping them (by hand no less!), and selling them is much more rare.  I knew it was a really cool company, but being there and actually seeing and hearing more about it, well, I’m completely smitten.

Taza Chocolates

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macaron colorwheel

Ok, I’ve been terrible about posting.  It’s been such a busy summer with nearly every weekend out of town and I admit, I’ve totally slacked off on the blogging.  The good thing about all the traveling (besides seeing friends and family!) was getting to try more macarons!  If you’ve been following pixelated crumb at all, you know that I’ve been searching (here and here) for the best stateside macaron.

While we were in DC a week and a half ago to celebrate my dad’s birthday, we went to Praline in Bethesda, MD.  The chef who instructed my pastry class at L’Academie de Cuisine about 4 years ago told us that Praline had the only decent brioche in the DC area, so it seemed like a good bet that they would have good macarons. Continue reading


rhode island calamari

Calamari is one of those foods that garners all kinds of reactions from people.  Some people are appalled by the mere idea of it (“it’s squid!!”), some people are only ok with it if it’s deep fried, some people are only ok when it’s cut into rings and they do no want to see the tentacles, and some people love it in all its forms.  I used to be of the second persuasion: only ok with it as long as it was deep fried.  It just seemed safer and more unrecognizable in that form.  I mean, it’s breaded and deep fried.  Of course it’s good!

My very first date with Joseph was at a tapas restaurant and as we were selecting dishes to share, he suggested a sauteed calamari dish.  I was faced with a dilemma.  Do I present myself as a picky eater who’s somehow willing to eat (and enjoy) fried calamari on our first date, or just suck it up and eat something that sounds, frankly, kind of disgusting.  I went with option number one and openly admitted that I was a little nervous, but of course I would try it.  I loved it.  After one bite I didn’t want to share the rest with him. Continue reading


macaron expédition

Remember my search for a macaron that rivaled the one I got in France?  Well, I hadn’t given up the search, but until this past weekend, the only other macarons I had tried were the ones from the River St. Whole Foods in Cambridge.  They were good, fine, whatever, but not worthy of their own post.  Luckily my sister-in-law, Jordan, tipped me off that Joyce Bakeshop in Brooklyn has amazing French macarons.  Now, a tiny disclaimer here that Jordan and her husband Mark are actually good friends of Joyce and her husband.  That said, this place is awesome, all family connections aside. In addition to the great vibe and friendly, helpful staff (definite bonuses, but let’s not kid ourselves about the most important component of a bakeshop!), the goods here are are more than good.  The shop has shelf after shelf of delectable treats of all kinds (chocolate cakes, fruit tarts, and puff pastry, oh my!) that I just can’t decide between.

joyce bakeshop

I could go on and on, but it would make me too hungry and not to mention depressed because I live 4 hours away.  But we were in New York this weekend visiting Mark and Jordan (and little almost 2-year-old Amelia!) and for a wedding luncheon and frankly, there was no way I was leaving the state without going to Joyce’s and getting a macaron.  We went Saturday night but alas, it was too late in the day and they were out of macarons.  So we tried again the next afternoon on our way out of town.  Success! The second that I saw that they had macarons I ran and  told the guy at the counter that I needed one of every flavor.  I was in such a rush that I forgot to ask what flavors they were, so it’s kind of a guess… but I think we got coffee, vanilla, and salted caramel.

Yum, yum, yum.  These are definitely the best stateside macarons we’ve had!  They had the perfect balance of a delicate crunch of the outer meringue and ooey gooey middle.  The vanilla was quite tasty, but not my favorite of the three (but vanilla rarely – ok, never – is).  The coffee flavor was very subtle and super delicious.  The caramel macaron was also quite good, but what I really loved was the salt.  I wonder what kind of salt it was?  The big flaky grains had a really sharp flavor and I wish I had some in my cupboard.  I don’t know, maybe it was kosher salt after all and the yummy macaron just heightened the flavor experience.  All in all, I strongly suggest you begin planning your next trip to Brooklyn right now and make sure you get to Joyce’s early enough to get yourself a macaron (or 10).


Blueberry pickin’

blueberries

When we came to West Branch Pond as kids, my sister and the kids of our close family friends often went blueberry picking. It always made me think of Blueberries for Sal, one of my favorite books, and I was always on the lookout for a mama bear and her cubs. We never saw them, but I don’t think I will ever be able to go blueberry picking in Maine without thinking I’ll also see a bear.

This trip was no different than past trips (you know, other than the fact that we were now much older and picking berries with our husbands) and we didn’t see any bears. But we did end up with a bunch of berries to bring back to the kitchen at WBPC. The next morning there was no question about what we were going to pick for breakfast. I only wish we’d gone picking earlier (and frequently!) so we could have had berry pancakes every morning! Alas, these blueberry pancakes were our last breakfast before heading back to Boston to return to the daily grind of real life. It was pretty sweet while it lasted.

blueberry pancakes


mmmm s’mores

s'mores ingredients

The West Branch Pond staff didn’t cook all our meals on our Maine vacation. Oh no.  We made our own s’mores thank you very much.  And since I haven’t shared a recipe in a while (because they really did cook everything for us), I’m sharing the s’mores recipe with you :).

s'mores fire

I was so busy toasting the marshmallows to a perfect honey brown that I didn’t have time to take photos, so Joseph kindly stepped in and took photos while I got my sugar fix.  I did make him one, though (I’m not completely terrible).  We just couldn’t get a great photo of the final product given the low lighting and the simple fact that it’s very difficult to hold a freshly made s’more without gobbling it up promptly, so this is the best shot we got.

s'more

S’mores

  • bunch of marshmallows
  • graham crackers (my father, who is the least picky eater I know and would happily eat PB&J and cereal for the rest of his life, will only eat Honey Maid graham crackers and the man knows his graham crackers because that was his go to snack when he came home from work every single day.  Like I said, repetition does not phase him.)
  • chocolate (I’m normally not a huge Hershey’s fan because there are so many better brands of chocolate, but if you’re ever going to use it, s’mores making is the time)

Roast marshmallows over an open flame to taste.  Some prefer charred and some like them barely cooked, but I like slow roasting them until honey brown all over.

If using a wood burning stove as we did, I suggest using my sister’s technique of resting a graham cracker with a row of chocolate on top to bring the chocolate to a more melty state.

When your marshmallow is cooked to your liking, sandwich the marshmallow between 2 squares of graham crackers with at least one row of chocolate.

If you are out on a camping trip (or at home using your gas stove), and don’t have internet access to get this recipe and you can’t remember my precise directions for this difficult recipe, never fear, the marshmallow bag has a recipe printed on it!

If you are making s’mores in your kitchen over your gas stove and you’re using a fork instead of the traditional stick, DO NOT lick the fork when you take the marshmallow off.  You will probably still forget each time and do it anyway, but I’m warning you to try to remember not to lick it.  You will thank me.


West Branch Pond

 

west branch pond row boats

moose

So the real reason for our trip to Maine was not the blueberry beer, but to go to West Branch Pond Camps to hang out for 3 1/2 heavenly, relaxing days with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law. This is the kind of place where the most difficult decisions you’ll be faced with are whether you want pancakes or french toast for breakfast and whether you want to go for a hike or go canoeing and take a dip in the pond.  It is a hard life!

dining

 

All meals at WBPC are prepared by the owners at the lodge which was only 100 feet or so from the log cabin we stayed in.  While not all of the food was quite 100% up to my standards (canned green beans?), the rest of the food more than makes up for it.  Really.  It more than makes up for the canned green beans.  Fresh baked bread with every lunch and dinner.  Fresh baked dessert with every lunch and dinner. And just damn good home cooking for the rest of it.  Macaroni and cheese with huge chunks of croutons.  Beautiful roasted cornish hen.  Turkey dinner with the most amazing, rich, creamy mashed potatoes and killer stuffing. And the ribs!  Having been vegetarian for many years, I had never actually had ribs.  The meat practically came off the bone just by looking at it and was smothered in a tangy barbecue sauce.  I was in love.  And while some of the veggies may have come from a can, many of them also come straight out of their garden.  So really, the rest of the food more than made up for the occasional canned veggie. By a long shot.

cornish hen

cream puff

lemon square

Oh, and of course we brought our own wine.  Lots of it.

Sharp Rock

Sharp Rock Synergy


Fisherman’s Catch

We may have just gotten back from our trip to Europe, but we decided it was time for another vacation (if only life could always be like this).  We started our trip to Maine right after work on Thursday and worked our way up to Greenville where we were staying the night before heading to West Branch Pond early the next morning.  We were eager to start the Maine experience and followed glowing Yelp reviews to Fisherman’s Catch in Wells, ME on the way up.  There was a 70 minute wait, but we figured it would be worth it, in part because people people kept telling us just that as they exited the restaurant patting their bellies. A Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale with wild Maine blueberries bobbing about made the wait easy.  The beer itself is tasty, but the berries, which explode with fresh blueberry sweetness and the the subtly fruity ale they’d been soaking in, were the real highlight.

blueberry ale

The meal itself was less satisfying.  So many of the Yelp reviewers raved about the fried clams and the menu alerts readers to the fact that the clams make it into the book 1001 Things to do Before You Die.  Or so I thought…. I found out later that it actually said 1001 Things to do Before You Diet.  I find this considerably less exciting because the first is not limited to food. Regardless, when we ordered the Captains Platter for 2, which was loaded with fried scallops, clams, shrimp, and haddock on top of french fries and hey, why not throw in some rolls because there’s not enough white/yellow food, we found that it pretty much all tasted the same.  Maybe it’s because we don’t eat much fried food?  I don’t know.  It really all just tasted like the batter, which I would say was only so-so.  But maybe it’s just Joseph and me, because everyone else just loved it.  Next time I think I’ll just stick to the lobster.

mountain of fried seafood


Travel highlights

People who know me well have asked what our favorite food finds were on our trip to Budapest, Prague, and Vilnius.  Some people go to museums, we go to restaurants.  I think Joseph and I agree that the best thing we had on the entire trip was probably the Parmentier de lapin a la moutarde (rabbit with mustard sauce) he ordered at Le Florimond in Paris during our layover to Budapest. We were pretty excited when we asked for sparking wine and the waiter responded with gusto, “Only  Champagne!”  Yes, please!  And of course the chocolate croissant that I got in Paris was also pretty fantastic in way that only pure butter and chocolate can be.

rabbit stew

Other highlights (from our main destinations!) included chicken paprika in Budapest; some amazing red cabbage (made with beets), a hunk of pork (I think it was the whole leg…) that Joseph ordered and (my personal favorite!) beef Goulash served in a bread bowl in Prague; and chilled beet soup with a shocking pink color and an amazing chocolate mousse in Lithuania.

duck and red cabbage (Prague) pork leg (Prague) beet soup chocolate mousse

goulash

The beer in all the cities was amazing, and always cheaper than water.  One of my favorite finds was a beer cellar, Bambalyne, in Old Town Vilnius. We bought 3 different varieties and enjoyed them in a nearby park with some yummy, garlicky cheese.

beer cellar

beer in the park