Pretty Things

yogurt + rhubarb

Rhubarb Panna Cotta

No. 9 Park, Boston, MA. Why go to that Barbara Lynch restaurant when you (and by you, I don’t mean me—unless I start a collection fund) can experience the tasting menu at newer, more daring Menton? But I assure you this old special-occasion standby is still turning out perfectly executed plates. Although the food is inspired by classics, each dish is still inventive—its fresh flavors shocking in their clarity. Each bite somehow manages to be simultaneously delicate and packed with flavor.


One of my favorite recipes on this blog is last year’s Honey-Cardamom Panna Cotta with Roasted Rhubarb. The tangy, fragrant yogurt panna cotta is a beautiful bed for tart, almost floral roasted rhubarb, a condiment I make and use until those long, ruby-pink stalks disappear.

Great minds think alike, methinks. OK, I know, I know. I should never utter my name in the same sentence as No. 9 Park’s Pastry Chef, who was nominated in 2012 for Food and Wine’s “Best New Pastry Chef.” So I guess the real point is simply that yogurt panna cotta and rhubarb taste damn good together. Jamie’s version:

Panna Cotta
squares of goat’s milk yogurt panna cotta set in agave syrup, accompanied by rhubarb sorbet, dehydrated goat’s milk tuile, lilac angel food cake, diced rhubarb, rhubarb gelée, candied lilac petals.

And because the plates were so damn pretty, there are some others below.

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persian new year & tabrizi bakery

Although I already posted a rambling, springtime soliloquy last week, the first day of Spring holds a little more meaning. The vernal equinox marks the Persian New Year, Nowruz, which translates to “the new day.” There’s something very beautiful about that, no? I’m very much accustomed to our calendar and will always associate the official new year — you know, the changing of the date — with January 1st. But I love the idea that every year, out of the frost and out of the dark comes a rebirth of sorts. After winter winds have adequately cleansed the earth (ok, maybe not so much this year), a new year, and more importantly, a new life can begin.

Nowruz is celebrated with fanfare and all of its traditions revolve around food, family, and a little abstract mythology as well. I’m especially fond of Persian families’ emphasis on cleaning in the days preceding Spring. The compulsion to start fresh, to start with a clean slate, to start on the right foot is universal. We all want that, we all need that sometimes. It’s that mentality that contributed to the pure optimism of my last post.

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The Expected and the Unexpected


I have always admired those who can successfully sell simplicity. In the food world, being simple isn’t easy. Frills can cover a multitude of sins. When complicated concoctions are stripped of their bells and whistles, they often fall flat due to less-than-perfect execution. Simplicity is also easy to ignore. Take the typical potluck dessert table. A beautiful tarte fine will almost always end the night missing only a few polite slivers, while that mammoth ganache-covered, dragée-encrusted, white chocolate curl-adorned, mini chocolate chip-packed chocolate cheesecake with a name like “chocolate explosion” will always be the first to go, no matter how it tastes.

Well, Cutty’s sandwich shop is an example of simplicity that cannot be ignored. When I work in Brookline Village, I’m there once a week, and that’s a lot for someone who nearly always packs a lunch. For a long time, I have hesitated writing a review of my go-to lunch spot. For one, it’s very well-known now, and I don’t need the line to be any longer or the specials to sell out any faster. Although it warrants it — of course, it warrants it — it seemed like writing a review of Cutty’s would be like writing a design piece on the furnishings of a neighbor’s home or a “hot or not” assessment of a best friend’s fashion choice.

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On Pigs and Figs

With my dad hailing from the holy land of the fig (the Middle East), it was my ancestral duty to finally make it to the new bakery/café right on Highland Ave in Somerville that has the sweet fruit in its name. As you might guess, 3 Little Figs is all in the family. From the name and locale to the size, decor and staff, this place is cute as a button. If I owned a bakery it would be nearly identical to 3 Little Figs: the space is small but airy and bright, the decor is shabby-chic without an emphasis on one over the other, production is done on a small scale, the menu is modest but complete. There are even hanging lighting fixtures made of what look like old Hobart mixer whisk attachments. How cute is that?

I spent last Saturday Christmas shopping and wanted to quell my afternoon hunger with something that screamed “holiday.” I couldn’t think of anything, but I knew that 3 Little Figs uses local and seasonal ingredients, so I could find something savory and sweet that at least screamed “winter.” 3 Little Figs delivered. I felt fantastically festive and frightfully full after leaving, and that’s all I wanted.

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Happiness is a Room Full of Cookbooks

It’s true that this blog is relatively young, but sometimes I feel a little disconnected from the Boston food blogging community for a very good reason: I don’t actually live in Boston. I commute to Boston for work. I went to school in Boston. My friends are in Boston. I’m a walking catalogue of where to eat in Boston. I feel like Boston is my true home, and sometimes I have to remind myself that I can’t just hop the T to get to my house at night or that I can’t just go out to dinner with a friend without advance planning.

That’s why I was thrilled when I snagged a spot to my first Boston Brunchers event this past Sunday. I always refer to myself as a “cookbook hoarder.” In recent years, I’ve changed that to “good cookbook hoarder,” as I’m awfully discerning about the sources from which I use recipes. Nonetheless, I pour over cookbooks in my spare time, treasure pulling from different cookbooks to make a cohesive menu and, quite honestly, would choose to read one over a really good novel. So a slightly unconventional Sunday brunch chez Harvard Common Press was right up my alley.

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Portland Part II: The Knick Knacks

Portland, ME is a Pajama Jean kind of town. It’s a Pajama Jean town, because it’s a bakery town, a specialty food town, a fine dining town, a fresh produce town and a bagel town. You get the idea. It’s a place where you wonder who makes you more angry: that guy who just got the last Sicilian slab at Micucci Grocery or the sadistic jerk who decided to fasten pants with buttons and zippers. Either way, a weekend in Portland is always bound to be a delicious journey. Although my mom and I planned our girls’ weekend around our Fore Street reservation, some of our most memorable bites were enjoyed in-between meals.

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A Day in Amherst

The Western Massachusetts college town of Amherst is lovely but is by no means a hop, skip and a jump away from my family’s home in Central Mass. Actually, the Pioneer Valley as a whole is beautiful and definitely worth a trip by urbanites looking to see Fall in New England in all of its splendor. During my orchard crawl, I was looking forward to visiting Atkins Farms. It was going to be a trek, but I’m willing go anywhere for apples. Plus, Western MA was near peak foliage, and the drive provided for some much-needed leaf peeping. While Atkins turned out to be a dud, my day was saved thanks to the good folks at Boston Magazine (let’s just ignore the fact that they praised the Atkins cider donuts).

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In Pursuit of a True Fall

I’ve always been enamored by apple orchards. An orchard outing serves as one last chance to be somewhat outdoorsy before the snow falls and I’m confined to a chair next to the radiator for five months. I missed out on autumnal activities last year; this year was going to be different. I craved a bite of a crisp, freshly picked apple (plain or enrobed in chewy caramel and nuts), I wanted to walk the open landscapes that put turning leaves proudly on display, since those leaves seem to come and die in the blink of an eye around here.

I was determined to find my ideal orchard. And of course, for me, the perfect orchard is not just the most picturesque, but the one with the best treats. And the most iconic treat of the New England orchard is the cider donut. Going into this, a little part of me knew that orchards could not keep up with the demand and used mixes for their confections, but the other part of me pictured little old ladies in hairnets making cake donuts and adding glugs of the farm’s pressed cider. The purist in me was disappointed when some snooping found the former to be true in most cases. Since all orchards are run by extremely passionate and hard-working growers, I knew that my favorite farm would probably be the one that sold a scratch-made donut.

Here’s a comprehensive account of my Orchard Crawl.

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A Liddabit for the Sweet Tooth

Now that I’ve been writing for this blog for over a month, it’s probably time that I get this out in the open. I guess I’m kind of an ingredient snob. Ok, I don’t like the word “snob.” I’m just very conscious of the ingredients present in the foods I buy and make. I grew up eating very fresh food. We skimped on other “less important” things in order to make meals that were, well, real.

When home cooked meals were swapped for dining hall duds (thank God that’s over), I really started paying attention to the quality of all things edible. I’m really not radical or preachy (although, my friends might beg to differ). Sure, I pass on preservative-packed supermarket slices of bread and cheese, but I also haven’t started substituting agave for corn syrup in the few dessert recipes that call for it. By subscribing to this philosophy, I feel like every bite I take is worthwhile and, frankly, more tasty.

For years, my candy consumption was limited to a few delicious goodies: Fran’s sea salt caramels, Green and Black bars, and anything homemade, of course. And when Halloween came around, I rarely indulged in those fun-sized artificial nuggets that I passed out. Then, I heard about Liddabit Sweets, a company, or should I say, a two-woman operation, working out of Brooklyn and selling creative confections and offering new takes on classic candies. Everything is scratch-made by pastry chefs Jen and Liz (along with a VERY small staff), and ingredients are organic when possible. I checked out their website and fell into a sugar comma before even having purchased and tasted anything.

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Sunday Afternoon at SoWa

(photo: SoWa Open Market)

Those around me have probably had enough of my incessant whining about summer’s tragic departure (one day left!). Despite my complaining and the fact that I’m internally and eternally cold, I do fall hard for fall. I would happily trade the humid New England air, which creates the frizz in my hair and the grease on my brow, for the cool, crisp breeze that is famous in these parts, but which gives way to winter far too quickly. During the heat of the summer, I passed on spending a Sunday at the SoWa Open Market. I’m a compulsive weather-checker, and it seemed that each Sunday that passed was either too humid, too cloudy, or too rainy for my liking. Last Sunday, though, was perfect. Mostly sunny, dry, with a high of 70, the perfect in-between season temperature and the best for browsing.

SoWA is a great venue for all of our local artisans out there. I highly respect and admire each and every one, no matter his or her craft. If I weren’t cash-strapped, I gladly would have purchased that understated necklace with the beautiful amber stone I spotted or a set of hand-painted wall-hangings. But what should come as no surprise, is that I do go to SoWa particularly to peruse the farmer’s market and to get a nice lunch.

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