Foodie Photo Essay: Taste of Park Plaza

Last night a dozen restaurants and eateries all around Boston’s “city within a city” welcomed guests and supporters of The Greater Boston Food Bank to its Taste of Park Plaza. Guests strolled from one participating restaurant to another — sipping wine here, indulging in Italian desserts there, sipping specialty brews here, indulging in bacon-wrapped filet mignon there, and on and on for three-and-a-half decadent hours.

Proceeds from the event benefited the Food Bank, but an additional benefit for guests was the opportunity to visit each of the restaurants that rim Park Plaza in one fell swoop and to taste food and drink specialties of each. The photo essay here highlights some of those specialties.

Davio's served Philly cheese steak spring rolls paired with Stella Artois beer.

McCormick & Schmicks served chicken roulade (shown here) and fresh crab rangoon.

Maggiano's served an extensive buffet of pastas, desserts and cocktails including this Ultimate Cosmopolitan.

Seared tenderloin wrapped in bacon and served in a red wine reduction sauce was the specialty of the house at Fleming's.

A Ben & Jerry's ice cream truck scooped up servings of Boston Cream Pie and Cookies & Cream ice creams.

Miniature parfaits made with strawberries, rhubarb and cream -- along with three varieties of dessert wines -- were on offer at Finale Desserterie.

This vibrant raspberry was one of the petit waffle cones offered as a second course at Pairings, to follow their Niman Ranch Baby Back Ribs (pictured below).

Niman Ranch baby back ribs at Pairings.

Smith and Wollensky served up this truffled macaroni and cheese to go alongside their filet au poivre.

Rice Krispie treats (shown here) and fresh strawberries (below) were part of The Melting Pot's chocolate dessert fondue spread.

Fresh strawberries at The Melting Pot.

Ruth Reichl talks food at Berkshire WordFest

Ruth Reichl is a familiar face to WGBH viewers and listeners, from Gourmet’s Adventures with Ruth to Diary of a Foodie. I’ve heard her speak in person on several occasions, most recently at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, California shortly after she heard the news that Gourmet magazine (where she had been editor-in-chief for some ten years) was closing its doors. At the time Reichl seemed shell-shocked, which she undoubtedly was since the news of Condé Nast’s came so suddenly and so, well, shockingly.

What’s clear now is that she’s over it.

On Saturday, Reichl spoke in dialogue with Albany-based WAMC‘s Joe Donahue at the first annual Berkshire WordFest, held at Edith Wharton’s estate in Lenox. Sure, she was asked about Gourmet — but mostly she talked about what she’s doing now and what’s on the horizon. She talked about her craft. She talked about how she does what she does.

Here’s how she does what she does:

  • With imagination. Reichl wrote her very first restaurant review, for New West magazine when she was living in Berkeley, as a short story. The food — the obvious point of a restaurant review — was woven through the story, but Reichl understood that even more than the highlights on the menu, readers want to be told a story. It’s a smart move.
  • With a strong sense of candor. “I think privacy is overrated,” Reichl said on Saturday afternoon. “Scratch the surface and we’re all pretty much the same. It’s comforting to know that.”
  • With the big picture in mind. “Restaurants are theater,” she said. “I’ve never thought they were just about the food. They’re about the experience.”
  • With a consistent voice. Reichl is at work on a novel now but, she said, “even if I think I’m not writing about food, I’m writing about food. I see the world food-first. I just do.”

Cathy Huyghe writes for the WGBH Daily Dish blog. Read new WGBH Daily Dish posts weekdays, where you can explore myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

WGBH Kitchen Crew: Corn and Tomato Tart

Corn and tomato tart, by Judy Mattera.

By Judy Mattera, member of the WGBH Kitchen Crew

This is a perfect summer recipe utilizing local corn and tomatoes. It can be served many ways:

  1. for lunch with a mixed green salad
  2. as a first course for a plated dinner
  3. as an accompaniment with grilled chicken, pork or fish dish for your summer barbecue

Recipe Suggestions for Pie Crust:

Cube butter; place in freezer. I like to use my butter frozen so when you pulse the sifted flour, salt and butter in the food processor it will resemble small pebbles or corn kernels as stated in recipe.

You should rest your dough for 30 minutes before rolling.

You can also make your pie crust a couple of days before making this tart. After rolling and placing in pie or tart pan, cover and place in freezer. This will save you time on day of assembling.

When blind baking crust, remove pie weights or dried beans after 15 minutes. Return to oven and continue to bake for 5 more minutes.

Wine Suggestions:

La Crema Chardonnay is a great match with the corn and creamy filling which will complement the buttery traits and richness of this wine.

Completed corn and tomato tart, by Judy Lebel.

By Judy Lebel, member of the WGBH Kitchen Crew

The seasonality and freshness of the ingredients was the appeal of this recipe.

Who knew that making a pie crust is as easy as putting air in your car tires? I learned how to do both this week and feel quite liberated!

Once committed, I realized there was neither a food processor nor a rolling pin in the kitchen. Fortunately, I do have a blender and, of course, a wine bottle. Zin, to be specific. Both did their jobs beautifully.

There is plenty of time to prep the filling while the crust is baking. And, during 10 minutes of the cooling time, you can have the corn cooked and ready to go. This will keep the total cooking time to a minimum.

The measurements were perfectly balanced, although the extra sharp cheese wasn’t detectible. My tart took an additional 14 minutes to cook and still wasn’t exactly golden brown even though the egg mixture had set.

This is an extremely tasty dish that makes a beautiful summer presentation. The crust was flaky and the fresh sweetness of the corn and tomatoes complemented each other quite nicely.  This is an excellent basic tart recipe that can be modified to showcase vegetables of any season.

Definitely a keeper!

The Daily Drink: Wok Stirred Maitakes with Blood Oranges

Chef Tsai’s team recommends the 2007 Mas de la Dame Rosé as the pairing for this dish. It tastes, they say, of “subtle flavors of fresh berries and fennel with a flowery finish” and has an aroma of “fresh strawberries, peaches and roses,” all of which I love, especially since we’re talking about a rosé that’s likely served chilled on a hot summer evening.

But the added bonus of this particular wine is its label. Mas de la Dame means “Farm of the Woman.” Currently the winery and its olive grove are owned by Anne Poniatowski and Caroline Missoffe, granddaughters of Auguste Fay, a Burgundian wine merchant who founded the property in 1903. The land, and the wines, have a storied history. In 1889 Vincent van Gogh painted the farmhouse, located near the village of Les Baux de Provence in the Apilles Mountains. And Simone de Beauvoir drank the wine on her first trip to the south of France. She arrived at night, she wrote; the wind was blowing hard and lights twinkled in the valley. “A fire was crackling in the grate at the Reine Jeanne, where we were the only guests. We had dinner at a little table close to the fireplace, and drank a wine the name of which, Le Mas de la Dame, I recall to this day.”

If it’s good enough for van Gogh and de Beauvoir, it’s good enough for me.

Summer squash

While many of us are looking for a cool escape from the summer sun, Boston-area CSA offerings are heating up with treats like summer squash finding their way into shares soon. Squash already, you ask? Ben Zoba, grower for The Food Project’s Northshore program in Beverly and Ipswich, explains:

“Summer squash differs from fall and winter squash in that it is harvested before the rind hardens and the fruit matures. It’s one of the most prolific crops we grow, with one plant able to produce dozens of pounds of squash throughout the summer. Here at the farm, we grow three different varieties of summer squash: a green zucchini, a yellow squash commonly called crookneck, and a UFO-shaped squash called pattypan. As its name suggests, summer squash is a true announcer of summer and is one of the steady crops that usually accompanies us until the fall.”

Cathy Huyghe writes for the WGBH Daily Dish blog, where we explore myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

A Fourth of July treat: Yankee Doodle Bread

Laura Carlo

99.5 All Classical host Laura Carlo

Submitted by Laura Carlo, 99.5 All Classical Early Morning Program Host

I’m lucky to have warm memories of July 4th holidays from my childhood. I was born and raised in Boston, so the significance of the holiday as a historic day was drummed in from the start. Add to that an extended family who loved to get together for barbecues and you’ve got the makings of wonderful memories.

The thing is….we only served Italian foods for the meal (barbecued meats in Italian wine marinades with Italian spices, Italian potato or pasta salads with olive oil dressings — no mayonnaise! — that could stand being out in the sun all afternoon, crusty Italian breads — some grilled — layered with grilled vegetables or preserved fig spreads. Then Uncle Historian would recount the numerous Italians who were instrumental to the founding of America: “Why even the name ‘America’ is derived from the explorer Amerigo Vespucci…”

Years later, now that the voices of those family barbecue organizers are just memories, I still make those marinades and salads and taste my past. But now I also add a very American quickbread recipe from The WCRB Horn of Plenty Cookbook, Vol. 1, which I edited back in 1990. It was a fundraiser we undertook to help out Project Bread, the Boston-based non-profit, non-denominational agency devoted to feeding the hungry.

We asked for recipes from our listeners and got them by the crateful. This recipe from listener Lindy Roethlisberger of Needham, MA contains red, white and blue fruits and was titled “Yankee Doodle Bread.” Sometimes it’s already out and ready for my guests as they arrive and sometimes it makes it to the dessert table — but I can assure you there are never any leftovers. Thanks, Lindy!

Ingredients

1/4 cup butter at room temperature
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/3 cup fresh (or frozen, thawed) cranberries, chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a loaf pan and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar; add the eggs, vanilla, and sour cream, and blend to form a smooth batter. In a separate bowl, sift flour again with baking soda, baking powder and salt. Gently fold flour mixture into the batter, alternating with the fruits. Add walnuts last. Pour into the loaf pan and bake 40-50 minutes (oven times vary, so bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean). Serve with butter, preserves, or cream cheese. And be sure to bring a slice over to the 99.5 All Classical broadcast booth at the Esplanade and say hello!

Serve with butter, preserves or cream cheese.  And be sure to bring a slice over to the 99.5 All Classical broadcast booth at the Esplanade and say “hello!” We will be broadcasting the Boston Pops live beginning at 6pm.

Marilynn and Sheila Brass vs. Bobby Flay: Who won?

Sheila Brass, on left, and Marilynn Brass were challenged to a Throwdown with Bobby Flay over their Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

Let me start with full disclosure.

I have never watched an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

I hadn’t ever, that is, until last night, when Marilynn and Sheila Brass were challenged to a Pineapple Upside Down Cake bake-off on Flay’s show. The Brass sisters, award-winning authors of Heirloom Baking and Heirloom Cooking, are Cambridge residents who have made a name for themselves as interpreters and perfecters of historical recipes. (See my article on them from a few years ago in the food section of the Boston Globe.) Sheila Brass is a long-time employee at WGBH, and Marilynn Brass is a two-time alumna of Northeastern University, in whose gorgeous new exhibition kitchen the episode was taped.

Let’s cut to the chase: the judges named the Brass sisters’ cake the winner!

That’s the bottom line, I suppose, but through the course of the episode I was more interested in what makes Throwdown with Bobby Flay good television.

Partly it’s the drama of the competition of course, which is inevitable given the format of the show. It pits “the pro,” Flay, against amateur but very well-regarded cooks and bakers across the country; the playing field is evened somewhat by the specific dish of the competition, which is a specialty of the amateurs while Flay and his co-cooks start their rendition from scratch.

What also makes Throwdown with Bobbly Flay good television is the personality, surprise, and reaction of the cooks who are challenged. Some react by trash-talking with Flay but the Brass sisters, true to their playful yet sincere and well-mannered form, were FUNNY and gracious from start to finish.

That not only makes for good television, it makes for good people, which made it impossible not to root for the Brass sisters’ Pineapple Upside Down Cake. When the judges’ decision was announced, naming the Brass cake the winner, the audience at the Northeastern exhibition kitchen cheered wildly.

So did I.

Cathy Huyghe writes for the WGBH Daily Dish blog. Read new WGBH Daily Dish posts every weekday, where you can explore myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.