meyer lemon–lime bars

I find the fact that so many vibrant citrus fruits are at their peak in the dark, dead of winter quite counterintuitive, and their January market appearance nearly always seems jarring; it takes me by surprise. By February, I start to understand. It just seems so odd to grasp those colorful orbs with black-gloved, tact-less hands. Even if it’s cold and cloud-covered outside, when I make my way home with a bag full of these treasures, I swear they radiate a subtle heat. Granted, it’s just my excitement that keeps me warm; I’m not naïve. Nonetheless, their addition to the fruit bowl is always welcomed. Their almost neon hues turn the whole kitchen a-glow.

With all of this beauty, it’s hard to believe that, when I was young, I actually had a severe aversion to that dimply skin and pulpy flesh. It wasn’t the taste that bothered me, it was the texture, the sticky juice. The intricate segment structure and powerful floral aroma was too complex for me to fathom, and I was put off. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t like an episode of a strange TLC show. They didn’t send me hiding under couches or screaming indoors, but I did try to avoid physical contact with them when possible.

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Truffles, Two Ways

chocolate truffles & tartufi

Ah, Valentine’s Day, the most polarizing holiday on the calendar. I was tempted to evade the topic. While I no longer mark the holiday in my planner with squiggly red hearts and pink balloons like I did as a child, I can’t say I’m a vehement opponent. I see myself as more of a flip flopper; my feelings vis-à-vis V-Day change from one year to another and are typically dictated by my mood.

Love’s got nothing to do with it. I distinctly remember my first year of college, when all was fresh and new and I found it necessary to celebrate every holiday with naïve gusto with new friends in a new environment. I made up bags of candy and wore black and orange on Halloween. I decked my dorm out in lights, ribbons and intricate, handmade construction paper decorations as soon as I returned from Thanksgiving. And Valentine’s Day followed suit. I handed out thoughtful little, 2×3 inch cards to single friends and dug out a red floral shirt from my otherwise monochrome closet. How spirited I was!

My cynicism has climbed exponentially since then. Another year during college, I had so many exams for which to study that I matched my Valentine’s Day outlook to my mood, donning all black to silently castigate any silly holiday that could possibly break my concentration. I was an intellectual, after all! All I needed was a beret on my head and a poetry slam to attend.

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A Night of Simple Indulgence

craigie on main

For many, Craigie on Main is a “once in a while” kind of restaurant. For me, it’s more like a “once in a year” kind of restaurant. Every time I pass the always-busy corner bistro on my way to snag a scoop at Toscanini’s (which is more often than I wish to admit), it takes a few moments of realist banter between me and myself to stop me from stepping inside sans reservation and taking part in the full sensory experience that Tony Maws provides his mesmerized patrons. Luckily for my wallet, I never cross the threshold and, instead, soak in that moment of passing, feel the warmth radiating from smiling diners and drown my sorrows in a cup of ice cream.

Well, last Thursday, my kettle had blown, my time was up and I was ready to suffer the monetary consequences of what is always a delightful meal at Craigie. In a different context, I’ve talked about my penchant for simplicity. Craigie on Main, with its fine-dining reputation, may not scream simplicity; however, I think that the restaurant actually embodies the term in many ways. Maws cares deeply about his product, whether produce or protein, and wants to do anything to enhance it in ways that are inventive and interesting but that protect the integrity of its natural, unfussed flavor. His dishes can be simultaneously epiphany-inducing and familiar, because they gently remind the diner how a food-item tastes when at the peak of freshness.

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