Colorful capsule meals

Much love to this new area startup (dad-up)  that offers weekly delivery of chopped and colorful meals for kids. They gifted me a free trial and I ordered these for the six and four-year-old, but of course the toddler was the most delighted to take part! Each capsule contains a perfectly chopped fresh fruit, vegetable, and protein. They work as lunches (likely supplemented with a cheeses stick and a fun sweet), an after school playground snack, or quick dinners for those nights when you have a babysitter and just want to sit down with them for a few minutes while your kids eat.

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Like all of the prepared meals services (Blue Apron, Plated, Purple Carrot), the packaging is the primary issue I wrestle with. It’s all technically recyclable, but it remains more than I would create with a trip to the grocery and a cutting board at home. I like that Nomsly offers you the change to accrue four of their refrigerated liners and ship them back to them for reuse.

Their online ordering system is delightfully simple and straight forward. It’s very easy to pause certain weeks, and schedule other ones–no minimum demanded–which is fantastic. They offer enough options for each week to make it easy to avoid items you know your kids won’t love. I was particularly impressed that they included unconventional raw veggies like kohlrabi, edamame, and jicama.

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Annnd a referral code for anyone in Boston, Eastern Massachusetts or New Hampshire who would like to try it: 3FREE4EWD for three free meals, at Nomsly.com.

January 2, milk street

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This week I listened to vintage Diane Rehm episodes. She has already retired from her daily radio show, but before she did, she replayed old favorite episodes. In one, an interview with her best friend, they confess that they’ve spoken to each other every morning at 7am for over thirty years. ADULT. GOALS.

(Thank you to reader Julia for suggesting these wireless headphones for nap time listening/doing, right when I needed something to ask for Christmas! Thanks mom.)

But I began by listening to her interview with Fred Rogers, a show which sounded like a pillow and a blanket had curled up to talk to each other and recorded it for radio. Quiet and deeply soothing. I listened to the whole thing on the couch and nearly teared up it was so encouraging.

After the episode finished I immediately hunted down the current best-method to watch Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, which is: all seven seasons streaming on Amazon, free to prime members. What a gift to modern parents! The girls have both watched Daniel Tiger, the cartoon iteration produced by PBS that carries many of the same sensibilities (and the background-ambient feeling that this is all just a rouse to make better parents out of us), but I see a big difference between the shows. On the Neighborhood adults are running into each other all day and interacting: well mannered and thoughtful. You see adults shaking hands, asking after each other’s health, thanking each other, and bidding good day. You see Mr. Rogers make a point to greet his local shoe salesman, his grocer, his milkman. Watching this social courtesy modeled in slow-motion on television is really quite something.

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Another wonderful thing from last week: I had the great pleasure of visiting 177 Milk Street, Christopher Kimball’s (founder of Cook’s Illustrated) new endeavor in downtown Boston. Like Cook’s Illustrated, Milk Street has a TV and radio show and a bimonthly magazine. However, unlike Cook’s Illustrated, they have designed their kitchen to host monthly classes and talks. It is a wide open space with fabulous big windows, located right in the heart of downtown. They are offering free cooking classes to Boston teenagers, which is so cool.

I went with a gaggle of wonderful-cook girlfriends to see Julia Turshen. Julia was a wee bit shorter in person than I expected after seeing many photographs of her fabulous hair. She was soft spoken yet an amazing public speaker. She made several simple recipes for us but even in their simplicity we were all able to pick up a few professional tricks. For example, before mincing garlic, she always crushes the cloves under her knife to flatten them. Genius. When adding garlic to a pan of olive oil, she tips the pan for a minute so the garlic can merrily slosh around and very-nearly fry. She said she roasts pretty much everything at 425–easy to remember!

There’s something reassuring about watching a professional do things you do in your kitchen every day.

So we began with glasses of wine, potato chips, and scoops of her scallion chip dip. Then we sat and watched her cook (luxury!), then we got to taste everything and get our copies of Small Victories signed. It was really fun and I highly recommend it for your next outing.

The photo above is from when I made her turkey and ricotta meatballs along with her very easy to doctor-up can-of-tomato sauce. The next morning I turned the leftovers into shakshuka, where you poach eggs in the simmering sauce (takes about ten minutes, just dump them in and put a lid on the pan) and then serve with a crumble of goat cheese.

Juliet, Union Square, Somerville

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Juliet is tucked into the old Sherman Cafe space in Union Square, neighbors with the ultra cool Loyal Supply Co. Sherman’s space never had the right vibe layout-wise, but on the weekends they did make toothsome english muffins, and Joe and I used to go there back when I lived up the street and he was in graduate school for architecture.

They’ve remodeled the space so it feels full of light, white, and wood. You can go for a prix fixe lunch at the counter, meaning they decide the menu for you. Or you can come in and just get a lovely coffee and sandwich and sit at one of the tables. In the evening for dinner, the roles are reversed–à la carte at the counter, or prix fixe at the tables.

I love the idea of a luxurious lunch where you commit to sitting through dessert from the very beginning. My friend Lisa and I ubered over together from Boston last week. It was so relaxing and I loved sitting at the counter watching the cooks prep hundreds of vegetables for their dinner and lunch tomorrow (realizing I could really learn a thing or two, or six, about how to cut mushrooms well). Lisa went off the menu, something they usually can’t offer at the counter but were able to because it was quiet, to order a kale salad and a lobster roll.

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The prix fixe comes with a house made soda (it was rooibos when we were there, delicious!) and of course dessert (one slice light lemon tart, perfectly homemade).

However since you are in Union Square already, and it’s not every day that you’re there, I think walking over to Union Square Donuts for one more sweet bite is worth it. If that somehow doesn’t appeal, Gracie’s Ice Cream (home of the cone with toasted fluff) is right there as well.

Tea at the Boston Public Library

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Joe’s parents came to town last weekend and then my mom came shortly after. It was so wonderful to have all that love for the girls around! Plus, Joe and I enjoy planning these short visits and filling them with all the good things as best we can manage. For Joe’s family we spent a morning at the Museum of Fine Arts to see the amazing Megacities show (I picked up a library pass beforehand to offset the cost a bit). From the museum we drove to the greenway and went to the Public Market and picked up a few bags of the amazing roasted nuts from Q’s nuts for snacking, plus some very ripe, very cheap fruit from the outside Haymarket weekend vendors. The girls played on the greenway benches and grass till dinner time when we ordered lobster rolls from Pauli’s to eat outside. The next day Joe and I took his brother Ross for an evening at the wonderfully funky Hojoko, followed by shakes outside at Tasty Burger. And on Sunday after Alma’s baptism, we spent the morning in the Public Garden with Swan Boats, finally seeking drinks and hot chocolates in the Bristol Lounge at the Four Seasons when we got too cold.

My mom comes to visit more frequently, so I often use that grandmotherly babysitting time to do things like get a haircut, go to a pediatrician appointment with just one child, return clothes and try on clothes in the actual store, get lunch with a friend, or go out to dinner with girlfriends. What I just typed up is basically my complete personal hit list of wonder!

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My mom and I started a tradition of going out to tea and this time I remembered to make a reservation at the BPL Courtyard Restaurant. I thought the food was delicious, really, and the staff was very accommodating and kind with the girls. Alma fell asleep in the stroller right before we went in, which always feels like such a lucky break!

It runs $35 each, we ordered three teas total, and made it our lunch-dinner for the day.

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The girls know all about sugar cubes because I like them in my afternoon coffee, so this jar provided immediate distraction when we sat down. They do offer high chairs or booster seats, but the girls preferred the wide armchairs.

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When the food came Joan made a point to inspect everything on the trays and pick out her favorites–which turned out to be one of nearly everything. Actually it’s a little silly that I order these grand teas–I’m really obsessed with scones and that’s all I eat, especially with the devonshire cream and jam.

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The tea is served in the BPL Courtyard restaurant Wednesday-Saturday, a spot that feels hidden and quiet from chaotic Copley Square. If anyone gets overtired or overwhelmed, you can always step back out into the sunlit courtyard. And absolutely you should head upstairs to the children’s library after your meal! We got there just in time for a story hour and craft.

tea_skeptics^^This was before they saw those tea trays. And the sugar jar.

 

Books and Lunch

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My favorite day this weekend was when it was a breezy 70 degrees instead of our lately-so-typical-90 and we drove to Concord. Since we decided not to travel for the holiday weekend, I announced that we could all treat ourselves to new books. Last time we were at the Concord Bookshop we were buying books as a gift for a young friend of ours, and I had rushed them out murmuring “maybe next time.” So now was next time.

If you go, you can always get a very nice drink at the lovely Haute Coffee next door. If it had been just a touch more Autumn-feeling we would have wandered the graveyard across the street as well; the faded type and nearly toppled slate markers always make for great conversation with the girls.

Or you can hop back in your car and drive the odd ten minutes over to West Concord to Nashoba Bakery. You may have seen their breads around Boston, they sell to over 200 wholesale accounts. They have a cafe attached to this, their original bakery location, tucked back in an odd, barely-marked parking lot. Delicious sandwiches and cookies, fill your-own-coffee, and on weekends before 1pm: slow rise waffles with toppings. Perhaps the real attraction is the picnic tables that line the back porch and yard, overlooking merry Nashoba Creek. A lovely bridge spans the dwindling water, leading to a parking lot, safe and enclosed so the girls could run back and forth across.

Inman on Friday

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Joe and I slipped out for a date on Friday night to Inman Square in Cambridge. That place is just full of good restaurants, but I rarely make it over there because it’s an awkwardly long walk from the T. Ever-so fortuitously, Blacklane offered us the chance to try a ride with one of their chauffeur cars. (Blacklane is an international company that offers black car service in Boston and all over the world.) I scheduled it several days before, alongside our sleep sitter, so all we had to do walk outside when they texted me that the driver had arrived, and be whisked away in a rather glamorous ride. What a treat! We met first at City Girl Cafe, which was the coziest. A place to order a big bowl of freshly made pasta and share a bottle of wine. I particularly loved that they only had three bottles of red wine on the menu. No endless deliberation needed and you knew each one was going to be delicious.

I also noticed several diners eating alone at City Girl, which to me is a sign of the reassuring and relaxed hospitality of the place.

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Then we walked down to Puritan & Co. The ladies of our foursome split a berry tart with vanilla flecked whipped cream and the men ordered matching whiskey cocktails (unplanned, supposedly). Because of the spacing of the tables you could tell that even when busy, the restaurant would allow for conversation and elbow room, two things that are getting harder to come by at newer spots in Boston.

I am rescheduling all our play date plans this week because it’s supposed to be HOT. One last foray into the sweaty 80s, and just before all the city pools close. Lucky us.

The Orangette Reading

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photo from this morning. The lilacs in the city are in bloom!

It’s easy to add up the ways Molly has influenced my life because all of them are tangible and concrete. I make the oatcake recipe she borrowed from 3191 Miles Apart for many play dates, always to accolades. Her writing introduced me to The Breakfast Book, the now-most bespattered cookbook on my shelf, the foundation of many cozy mornings. Her blog introduced me to my now-internet friend Andrea of Book-Scout, the blonde bookworm of Portland.

I was so happy to be in a basement in Wellesley last night, listening to Molly talk about her life. Happy to have a new book in my hands, full of stories of food and experimenting and taking risks for dreams. Happy to leave with my friends and walk next door to share crusty bread and pink cocktails and split a butterscotch budino at the end.

At the reading I spotted Jess Fechtor of Sweet Amandine, a food blog she writes from Cambridge. I’ve liked Jess’s writing for a long time, and it was treat to meet her in person. She was towing along her littlest newborn daughter and accompanied by her friend Andrew Janjigian (on twitter here), associate editor of Cook’s Illustrated and pizza-dough-expert. It just so happened that I’ve had several concerns the last few times I made pizza, namely: 1/ does parchment paper placed on top of my pizza stone negate the crisping power of the stone? 2/ Is the new baking steel now more legit than the long-favored baking stone? These questions jumped to the front of my mind when Andrew mentioned he occasionally teaches pizza-making classes out of his apartment! I was delighted he allowed me to corner him for a few minutes with pedestrian-sometimes-baker concerns. Please forgive me for finishing up this long tangent, but for those of you who also love homemade pizza: Andrew recommended getting a super peel to solve the depended-on-parchment problem, and verified that the baking steel was the real deal, not just a trend.

Anyway, there we were, waiting for Molly to sign our books, surrounded by more books, lined up next to people who were just as curious about the next food-book event in Wellesley: a book signing with Jeni from Jeni’s Ice Cream, talking about dough, and good writing. It was my ComicCon moment: the happy glory of these are my people and we are happy here. 

These days

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I enjoyed my friend Melissa’s post about eating her purse for dinner (spending more than she planned, saving the money on her grocery bill for a week). I thought of it because I did a similar act this week, though it was still in the name of sustenance. Rummaging in the pantry in the evening to make do without a trip to the store, so we could eat outside the kitchen as much as possible. I took the girls the greenway to judge how dead the grass is (quite dead) and ordered hot squishy squares of pizza for $3.30 from galleria umberto, served up by two old men who tie the box tightly with baker’s twine when you ask for it to go. Joan gave the pizza a cursory nibble before she switched to the grass. This made me very satisfied, “Here we are, all eating the same thing, what a happy family.”

Chocolate croissant, a brioche roll, “and some coffee for Mama” from The Thinking Cup, eaten slowly walking back home through the Common. It’s our usual, to the extent that Lux orders the croissant for herself. Do I have a spoiled city child? Potentially. Ice cream sandwiches and a movie with Joe, followed by belgians and sweet roasted nuts in the depths of State Park (“And one pickled egg please” ordered Joe. The waitress didn’t bat an eye and it arrived, bright pink, on a plate moments later). For a celebratory Friday night, Pad Thai takeout that came with a paper bag for Joan to chew on.

All in all it was quite well spent, and now I’m ready to restock the freezer with butternut squash cubes and blueberries and feel again that the house is well supplied with good and plenty. Good and plenty is a very brief feeling that I have for 48 hours after my weekly grocery trip, it dissipates at the same rate as the greek yogurt.

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Things have felt a little crazy, but the kitchen has looked lovely which just goes to show you can judge a book by its cover in this day in age, but you can’t judge how someone is feeling by the the looks of their instagram account. The sunlight has been magnificent.

It feels as if everything is falling into place, even the earth and the moon, for a moment. There will be a lunar eclipse. You’ll have to get up at 3:08am in the morning to see it, but whatever it takes, right?

I’m feeling really really good about life these days.

The lunar eclipse is Tuesday morning–one of only two days this week, Holy Week, that does not have a church service at the end of it. A near week of church services, many of them in the dark or lit by candles with breathtaking music in movements of mourning and celebration.

However, it’s also my birthday week! So Joe and I will go out for to a long anticipated meal at O Ya instead of going to the Good Friday service. This amazing Japanese place has been on my list for a long time, several people have told me they had the best meal of their Boston lives there. We will not order any alcohol, the whole budget will be put toward tasting delicious things and watching delicious things be prepared.

How are you feeling these days?

Photos of Rishi Green Chai tea (my super favorite lately) and bread from a Deborah Madison recipe. I’m going to start linking to the foursquare of restaurants I mention. It disrupts the reading a bit, but it is worth it for those collecting places to try in Boston.

 

Soon Spoon

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Last week, alongside six bloggers and a rather hip Twitter up n comer, I attended a Popup dinner for the launch of Soon Spoon. A new startup, they discover last-minute reservations at fine dining restaurants in Boston and tweet, email or text them to you. These are restaurants which would often need at least a week’s notice to get you a table. A super helpful service to locals, and for tourists who only have a few days to eat at Boston’s best spots.

People who book frequently with Soon Spoon are rewarded with invitations to popup dinners catered by local chefs. A twist on your typical promotion, it’s a communal local foodie idea that I love.

Our dinner was six courses, with wine pairings. Hello. Lucky ducks we were.

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Soon Spoon introduced us to our chefs for the night: two guys getting PhDs in Immunology from Harvard Medical School start a side catering project. PhaDe Food Labs. They can only cook like this two or three times a month, but when they do, they brainstorm the menu for days, tweak endlessly, and throw in a few last minute dishes based on what they saw at the grocer the day before. It was my first real encounter with what I think of as “Modernist Cuisine” style cooking–foams, dried powders, and using the sous-vide method to cook one of the meats. It was fantastic. Everything was just a little bit quirky but delicious and satisfying.

And they were game to discuss their technique on just about anything, going into tangents about chemicals and taste, and explaining the tools they used. So, basically my dream come true in a cook: knowledgable nerds who love food and discussion.

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The dinner was held at a lovely and warm South End brownstone. Each dish was paired with an equally spectacular wine, all of them selected by Jonathan Fenelon from Clio. Based on what we drank, evidently Clio’s wine list is dynamite.

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I loved this “dish”–a puree made from the first fava beans of the season, underscored with pickled ramps from last seasons, finished with a salty crunch and a pretty flower. Fresh, tart and green–it tasted simply like Spring.

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But, this dish was my favorite! Nantucket bay scallops wrapped in black pasta, a smear of uni, and what they termed “sea and sand”: froth made from clam broth (see the foam?) enriched with a little kombu for an extra seaweed kick, and brown butter powder which had the slightest sand texture to it. Yup, brown butter powder as the sand. It was delicious, and clever to boot.

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⌃⌃Here are the cooks leaning out of the tiny apartment kitchen, mid-pro-con delicious debate.⌃⌃

At the very least I recommend that you follow Soon Spoon on Twitter to keep up (+ they retweet a lot of food Boston news). You can book PHaDe for a private event in your home using Kitchensurfing right here, and follow them on Twitter. Soon Spoon, call me again, anytime.

Alden & Harlow

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It’s a treat to visit a place you’ve been watching from afar. I saw Alden & Harlow, a new restaurant in Harvard Square next to Brattle Theatre, photographed on a thought for food, and then thoroughly written up on tiny urban kitchen. Between the two of them, and this Boston Magazine post about AH’s cocktail menu, I was positively desperate to check it out. Fortunately Natalie and Anna are always game to visit new spots and we got a date on the calendar quickly.

What is really fun about the menu is the fact that everything is a small plate, but very shareable and priced well. Three of our favorites–the kale salad, the butternut squash salad, and charred broccoli (with squash hummus!)–were priced at $9 and completely divisible by three. In all, we shared eight plates, including dessert. It was so nice to get to try so many flavors–especially when each plate was packed with different textures and tastes–nuts, seeds, oils, yogurt, seasonings of all varieties. The flavor medleys matched our conversation as we found ourselves talking almost exclusively about travel–past trips and future dreaming. Natalie, just back from Thailand, is planning trips to Turkey and Argentina. And Anna has a nearly perfect West Coast trip just a month away.

The service style is spot on–no rush to continue ordering, we were encouraged to just enjoy and relish, and order more as we wished. The cocktails are wild–local, extremely seasonal, and unlike anything I’d seen. I hesitate to recommend a specific one for you, but I will tell you not to miss the house bitter with your dessert.

One last thing–I couldn’t believe how good the chips and dip where. You’ll hear from everyone all about their salads and amazing veggies, but I love a good chip & dip snack and this three-onion-dip was delicious and the chips were so crunchy and fresh. Best chips, best dip, respect for that.

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