Saturday, April 26, 2008

bloc 11 cafe in union square

This morning, Tony took me to this new little cafe in Union Square called Bloc 11 Cafe. Well, at least, we thought it was new but they actually have been open since October. And come to find out that it is owned by the same people that own Diesel Cafe in Davis Square.

Anyway, it is a pretty cool place. It used to be a bank (Somerville National Bank) so there are two huge vaults inside that you can actually sit in to sip your coffee. They have pastries, sandwiches, and all sorts of espresso drinks. We thought it was pretty cool how they had another separate espresso bar towards the back that was built on top of old safety deposit boxes.

And of course, I snapped a few photos. :)

Said by a picky coffee drinker: "I prefer white for breakfast, and black for dinner."

Hope nobody left anything valuable in those things ...

We were talking about how it would be nice to live in the Union Square area if/once they clean it up a bit more. They are planning on extending the green line T out to here so it'll be interesting to see a) how long that will really take, and b) the impact it will have in the neighborhood in terms of traffic and business.

In the meantime, I could see us returning to enjoy coffee on the weekends. It's across the street from Capone Foods where we picked up some gnocchi and pasta sauce. Mmmm, can't wait to try the sweet potato gnocchis!

cambridge school of culinary arts

Last Christmas, Tony gave me a gift certificate to the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts so that I could take any of their cooking classes. I enrolled in their "City of Light" class which features French dishes. There were 18 people enrolled in the class and we had 2 teaching chefs, so it was quite a crowded kitchen!

We made nine dishes total: Mussels in Cream Sauce; French Onion Soup; Chicken Fricassee with Cognac; Individual Beef Wellingtons (with a Mushroom Duxelles stuffing); Asparagus with Tarragon Butter Sauce; Pommes Dauphinoise; Salad de Bleu D'Auvergne; Fraises au Poivre et au Rouge (fresh strawberries with peppercorns and red wine); and Cream Puff Croquembouche.

Some seriously good food, ya'll.

Each of us wore an apron and had our own little station. We went around the room and the two chefs, Peter and Scott, asked if anyone had particular dishes that they wanted to work on. I picked the pastry cream for the puff pastries and got to work with a nice man named Phil who had arrived just as early as I did. He made the choux paste which was then piped out to form the cute little cream puffs.

Before we got started, Peter explained that we should read through the entire recipe to prepare for the various steps by gathering equipment and ingredients. Of course, I didn't realize until my arm wanted to fall off how much whisking I would have to do for the pastry cream! Man! I think my right bicep is much thicker than my left one after last night.

Although it was pretty hectic with that many people, it was fun to be able to watch others prepare the various dishes while I was waiting for the cream to chill in the fridge. Everyone was really friendly and helpful so people would ask if you needed help if they were done with their dish. A couple of people came alone like me, and there was a cute father and daughter team, plus two or three couples so it was a nice mix of people.

Of course, I ended up not being able to eat all of the dishes because they would have one or two ingredients that I'm allergic to. So I kind of planned ahead anticipating this problem and brought some tupperware containers to take my portions home in. Yes, I got a few strange looks, but after I explained my situation everyone understood and some even told me that it was a good idea because we ended up having a ton of food and a bunch leftover. Anyway, I brought them home and let Tony enjoy them. He said they were really delicious! I plan to make a couple of the dishes for us in the future and will just alter the recipes to exclude the things I'm allergic to.

I had a really fun time last night meeting new people and working with them in the kitchen. I'm enrolled in another French class called "Voila!" in May and my friend Stephanie will be with me that night, too. They do a lot of "Couples Cooking" classes on Friday nights, so I want to see if I can get us into a Sushi making one.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

three new discoveries [that suck!]

I've been breaking out on my face constantly over the past couple of weeks so that prompted us to test a couple of foods to see if perhaps I was allergic to something else. Dr. Tony and I have become pretty good at these at-home-skin-prick tests which is kind of a sad thing to say, but hey! They work!

Alas ... the first culprit:


And to think! I bought a one pound bag of these baby carrots a week prior thinking that I need to eat healthier with the upcoming wedding (I could stand to lose about 5 more pounds, I kid you not). And then to find out that eating like a rabbit has made me turn violet! ARGGHHHHH!!!!

But! But my friends! It gets worse!! (As the lovely Liz would then say/scream, "Whaaaaattt???!?!") I was truly, truly heartbroken when the big fat bump came up on my arm for avocado. Man. Total depression for a couple of days, seriously.

Oh man. Still so very sad about that discovery. I mean, I LOVE avocados. Love love love love love them. Ugh. But that explains why even after avoiding spicy tuna rolls (another well loved item by moi) during our latest sushi outings I've still been breaking out and leaving itchy. Crap!

And to end this depressing post on an even more sad note (is that possible?!), I decided to test two things whilst at a friend's house this past weekend. (Note: no, I don't always carry a lighter and sewing pin around with me to conduct these do-it-yourself prick tests.) They were white wine and celery. The good news? White wine. No bump. The bad news? Celery. Whooda thunk? I didn't have my camera with me to take a photo of that fairly large bump, but I did find this out on Wikipedia that was kind of shocking:

Although many people enjoy foods made with celery, a small minority
of people can have severe allergic reactions. For people with celery allergy,
exposure can cause potentially fatal anaphylactic shock.[5] The allergen does
not appear to be destroyed at cooking temperatures. Celery root—commonly eaten
as celeriac, or put into drinks—is known to contain more allergen than the
stalk. Seeds contain the highest levels of allergen content. Celery is amongst a
small group of foods (headed by peanuts) that appear to provoke the most severe
allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). Exercise-induced anaphylaxis may be
exacerbated. An allergic reaction also may be triggered by eating foods that
have been processed with machines that have previously processed celery, making
avoiding such foods difficult. In contrast with peanut allergy being most
prevalent in the U.S., celery allergy is most prevalent in Central Europe.[6] In
the European Union, foods that contain or may contain celery, even in trace
amounts, have to be clearly marked as such.

Eeegads. Scary stuff. So. Three more things I must cross off my list of edibles. Fungoo.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

cambridge 1 + finale

I know it's been a while since I've posted (sorry!) so I'll post a quick one tonight. One of our favorite outings in the Harvard Square area is dinner at Cambridge 1 and then dessert at Finale. First of all, Cambridge 1 has the best potato pizza. Seriously good, folks.

Pair it up with a bibb lettuce, gorgonzola, and grape tomato (yes yes, allergic to them, so we order them on the side for the man to enjoy) and some lovely vino and you're good to go. Then take a walk over to Finale and gobble down a magnanimous molten chocolate cake with oodles of ice cream and pieces of chocolate. Yum!


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