chowdah

if you know me at all, you’re probably aware that i’m not exactly a typical new england girl.

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IMG_0336my parents (and basically my entire family) are all from the west coast, so in spite of spending most of my life living in new england, i’ve never quite fit in here. i don’t like cold, snow, or ice. i don’t do any winter sports…though i’ve been known to join skiers and snowboarders after their days on the mountainside, sharing a few drinks. i don’t even have a boston accent.

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why, yes – i am on instagram. find me as megjoneswall.

most of the year, this doesn’t really matter. after all, i am a diehard new england patriots fan. i love cranberries, cheese, and real maple syrup, especially from vermont. and most of the year, living here is pretty okay. spring in new england is basically mud season, but summer is beautiful, if humid, and autumn is spectacular…but right now it’s january, and all of my real new england friends are constantly complaining about the lack of snow and ice. freaking out that it’s not cold enough and that they can breathe without wheezing. lamenting the fact that the city hasn’t shut down from a nor’easter and that it’s still easy to drive around without skidding over black ice on the way to work. because doesn’t that sound like a blast?

i think you’re all nuts.

in spite of my numerous complaints, there’s one thing that new england has to offer that i absolutely never get tired of – and would miss desperately if i were to move away. (i mean, besides going to foxboro for patriots games. and my friends and family and stuff. whatever.) other regions have their own versions, but they’re just not as good. it’s new england clam chowder, and it’s the best chowder (chowdah!) out there. i’ll just say it. you can complain all you want in the comments, but you’ll never convince me that any other region can do it better.

boston has about a million different places to get chowder, and probably half of them have won awards and accolades that state that their chowder is the best. don’t worry, they’re all wrong. the search is over. mine is the best.

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just kidding. sort of.

IMG_6889i’ve had some great chowders in my day, but my favorites all have the same things in common – thick, rich, creamy broth. big chunks of clam, potato, bacon, and onion. smoky, comforting layers of flavor. and obviously, lots of oyster crackers on the side.

now, i know that you’re going to look at the following recipe and get a bit mad. i’ll just prepare you now: i used canned clams. what??! you wonder. this girl constantly carries on about farmer’s markets and fresh ingredients…and she lives in boston, land of fresh seafood. i should write her a nasty email. please don’t. i was sad IMG_6878too. i went to buy some fresh littleneck clams for my yummy chowder, then realized that they were priced per clam and it was going to cost a small fortune to purchase as many asi would need. it was disappointing, but times are tough and i can’t rationalize spending my entire paycheck on one meal…so i went for the cans. if you can get fresh clams, by all means, do it – fresh is always better. but if you’re a little poor, like me, it’s okay to use cans every once in awhile. i won’t tell anyone.

new england clam chowdah

8 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/4-1/2 inch cubes
16 ounces heavy cream
1/4 pound center cut bacon, finely diced
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 large clove garlic, pressed or diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup white wine
15 ounces canned chopped clams, with about half of the juice
8 ounces bottled clam juice
2 whole bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
approximately 1/2 cup roux

put diced potatoes and heavy cream into slow cooker and turn up to high. allow to heat up while you prepare the other ingredients.

in a large saucepan, cook diced bacon until fat is rendered out and the pieces are crispy – about five minutes. add onions, celery, garlic, and butter, and saute for five more minutes, or until onions are translucent. deglaze pan with white wine, and allow to come to a simmer.

add bacon and vegetable mixture to slow cooker, stirring well to combine. add canned clams, clam juice, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper. add roux to thicken, and stir well. cover and allow to simmer on high in the crock pot for about five hours, stirring occasionally and tasting – i added regular salt as well as smoked salt for extra flavor. you can also set it for low and cook for about ten hours, if it suits your schedule better. garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve with oyster crackers and crusty bread. (or try these yummy-looking bread bowls and send me photos.)

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the first thanksgiving

oh, thanksgiving. that most wonderful of holidays, where all anyone talks about is family, friends, football, and food. four of my favorite things, which makes thanksgiving one of my favorite holidays.

unfortunately, it seems like when a lot of people think about the big turkey day, they just think about stress. cleaning, menu planning, traveling, shopping, and putting out seemingly endless fires of family drama and scandal.

the family. dad, brother, husband, mother, dog, and me.

now, i don’t want to brag. (well, maybe i do. just a little.) but my family is pretty awesome. both my immediate family and my in-law family are wonderful, kind, loving people who are a joy to be around – and to cook for. and my husband, of course, is amazing. so this year, rather than traveling to the rugged wilderness of caribou, maine to see my husband’s family (we’re saving that for christmas!) or driving a few hours to my parent’s house in vermont, i opted to host thanksgiving at our little apartment in somerville.

i think most of my friends thought i was crazy.

and after cleaning every inch of my apartment, pouring over millions of holiday recipes, deciding to make every dish from scratch, making a terrifying shopping list, buying everything, and prepping as much as possible before thursday, i admit that for a minute, i thought i was crazy too. what the hell was i thinking?

sous chef steve, diligently peeling potatoes.

but my mother is calm and wise, and my father, brother, and husband are wonderful sous chefs. even the dog was surprisingly quiet. we had a few epic mishaps – the coffeepot breaking spectacularly and spilling coffee all over everything, the pie crust failing to rise…twice, and burning my hand on some hot oil in the roasting pan – but the meal came out even better than i’d hoped. it just goes to show that even if you’re not martha stewart or rachel ray, you can make a few mistakes on a big family holiday and it doesn’t wreck the entire occasion. and my family was wonderfully tolerant of me stopping everything to take pictures every five minutes. thanks, guys!

in the spirit of the holidays – and with the knowledge that christmas and its accompanying feast is looming – i’d like to share my full menu with you. my family is all a little food-and-wine-obsessed, so in addition to dinner we also had several nights’ worth of appetizers, a spectacular cheese plate, about a dozen wines, and homemade pumpkin pie. some things are more photogenic than others, but all of the recipes are either linked or listed.

the cheese board.

in choosing recipes, i ended up creating a pinterest board with dozens of options. i made my poor family look over these and choose their favorites, which resulted in a menu that everyone was happy with…and about a dozen recipes that i’d never made before. this is not an approach i would recommend. but somehow, magically, every single recipe was delicious and wonderful. i would remake this meal in a heartbeat, and i think that that’s pretty incredible. feel free to steal the entire thing for next year.

the breakfast. i wanted to make something simple, seasonal, and satisfying that i could make ahead and throw into the oven on the big day. i didn’t want people fussing around in the kitchen before i destroyed it to create our meal, and making something filling and comforting seemed like a great answer. it took two pots of coffee spilling all over the kitchen before my dad figured out how to temporarily fix it (and we put a baking sheet with high sides underneath it), but for thanksgiving morning my family enjoyed coffee, fruit, and a pumpkin french toast bake that took about 10 minutes to make the night before. the photos on this wonderful blog are much prettier than this one, so give her lots of kudos for a great recipe and some beautiful images.

the appetizers. my apartment kitchen is surprisingly large, but it doesn’t matter – i like my space when i’m cooking. i don’t like people to hover, and i really, really don’t like people to stick their fingers in my food and taste it while i’m cooking. it bugs me. to encourage the family to munch on other things, we set up a table of appetizers before dinner would be served. it seemed to work pretty well. the highlights – my father’s incredible home-smoked salmon, my mother’s famous tapenade, a garlic and herb seasoned butter that my husband was determined to have on the table (though i made it and it was messy, but addictive),  brie baked in puff pastry with cranberry relish (more on that later), and deviled eggs with basil aioli and fried capers, otherwise known as the greatest deviled eggs of all time.

seriously, i’m not kidding. we were all positively raving over these eggs. don’t finish this post without clicking on the link and reading the recipe, because you might need to make them for yourself before you continue. molly wizenberg is a genius.

the turkey. turkey is not as hard to prepare as it seems, but there’s so much contradictory advice out there that it can feel incredibly overwhelming. i try to keep the turkey as simple as possible, and like to brine with various ingredients – i find that it gives the bird wonderful moisture and tenderness. this year’s turkey was brined with oranges, cloves, and a splash of bourbon. i stick it in the pan to dry out, put it into a roasting pan, slather it with butter, and shove it in the oven. i don’t cover it. i don’t baste it. i don’t do anything but check on it to make sure it’s not getting too dark – and if it does, i put a small piece of folded aluminum foil on top of it. after the appropriate amount of time (my turkey was 15 pounds so i roasted it at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, then 350 degrees for 3 1/2 hours), i take it out and let it rest for a full hour before carving. and it came out delicious.

yes, it’s dark. no, this is not my best turkey photograph. but it seems wrong to not include a shot of the whole bird. and it was so, so delicious.

yeah, my mom carved it.

i’ve used turkeys from the grocery store before, but i think part of the reason that this bird came out so well is that i splurged on a fresh turkey from stonewood farm in vermont, through dave’s fresh pasta. it wasn’t cheap, but i truly think this is the best turkey i’ve ever cooked. it can’t be a complete coincidence.

(and by all means, don’t forget to make stock out of the bones. just throw it all in a pot, cover it with water, add some carrots, celery, and an onion, as well as some basic seasonings, and let it reduce for a few hours. freeze it in small containers and it makes delicious soups and sauces. so much better, and cheaper, than store-bought stock.)

the classic sides. there are certain dishes that you just don’t mess with on thanksgiving, and my family wasn’t afraid to vocalize their preferences. i think my brother and husband would happily live on mashed potatoes forever, and my father is very particular about the dressing. my mother eats better than the rest of us and likes to have several types of veggies on the table. and all of us love my mom’s refrigerator roll recipe, which she’s made at every holiday i can remember – and of course made for thanksgiving at my house.

i don’t really follow a specific recipe for mashed potatoes – i think i make them differently every time. but my potatoes this year were roughly based off this recipe for buttermilk-chive potatoes, though i used whipped cream cheese instead of buttermilk. the dressing was something that i agonized over, because it’s one of my favorite parts of the thanksgiving meal. if you forced me, i might have to say that it’s my favorite. but bad stuffing is just so awful – soggy and mushy, with no texture or flavor to speak of. it’s such a let down. i was determined to make my own, rather than just doctoring a box mix, and finally settled on bon appetit’s “simple is best” dressing. i used sourdough bread as the base and tons of fresh herbs and veggies, and i thought it came out really well. my mom’s rolls are a family recipe, and i’m a little hesitant to post it here for the world to see – but if she okays it, i’ll add it in later. we used whole wheat flour because over the course of the day, we managed to use up both bags of flour that i had on hand. whoops.

the new classic sides. the vegetables and salads that accompany the turkey and classic sides always seem to rotate, and i wanted to try a few new dishes for this year’s feast. green beans or brussels sprouts always make an appearance, but this year i wanted to keep them simple. i chose a roasted brussels sprouts recipe that used a garlic aioli as a garnish, which worked out nicely – we also served the garlic aioli with my dad’s smoked salmon and the amazing deviled eggs. i also wanted a more traditional salad, but one that still had seasonal flavors, so we put together an arugula, pear, and goat cheese salad with pomegranate vinaigrette. it gave a bit of lightness to the meal, and rounded out some of the richer flavors.

i also wanted to redeem a few dishes that don’t get a lot of love in our family holiday meals – sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce. none of us strongly dislike sweet potatoes, but we never seem to find a way to serve them that we all like. they’re either bland or undercooked, and i often find them unappealing. even sweet potato fries aren’t a particular favorite of mine. but smitten kitchen’s sweet potatoes with pecans and goat cheese was a big success, and i think it’s definitely a dish that i’ll bring back next year. i also made a cranberry-orange relish that was a surprise hit. tart and crisp, the relish was delicious stuffed into baked brie, served on top of turkey, and all on its own. and the best part? it wasn’t much more difficult than opening a can.

the dessert. my brother had initially declared that he would be in charge of making a pumpkin pie, and that he was going to make it entirely from scratch. it was an admirable goal, but after reading a little bit more about the process, decided that the end result might not be worth the time and effort necessary. we ended up making a bourbon pumpkin pie with pecan streusel. there were some difficulties with the pie crust (anyone else have trouble rolling out crust on granite countertops?), but it ended up being really yummy – almost like a coffeecake. i’m not much of a pie girl, but even i could get on board with this one. and, of course, we had a big cheese plate with jams, jellies, and a little more tapenade.

overall, i was really pleased with my first thanksgiving effort. and the patriots’ big win certainly gave us something extra to be thankful for. i hope that all of you had a wonderful celebration with your friends and family, and please share your favorite recipes (or disastrous stories!) in the comments.

my centerpiece.

happy holidays!

a more exciting saturday

i admit to not always taking full advantage of my weekends. sometimes, i spend half the day lounging around reading or watching movies. sometimes, brady and i go for a long walk. sometimes, i just take a hot bath and drink wine. dog walking is a fun way to spend the day, but i’m rarely left with enough energy to do anything productive, which seems to overflow into the weekend. fortunately for me, my bosses are two fantastic women who happen to love food and beer just as much as i do. and the other weekend, a big group of us headed to barleycorn’s craft brew in natick to brew our very own beer. having never actually participated in beer brewing before, in spite of studying the process and having multiple friends that brew, i was beyond excited to get started. i know a lot of people are great at full-out home brewing, but for my first attempt i was really glad to have experienced brewers around to answer questions and keep us on the right track. the staff at barleycorn’s was patient and helpful, and we also had a few guys in our group that knew exactly what they were doing – very helpful with a bunch of newbies, especially since we were sipping beer and hard cider through most of the process.

rather than rewriting the beer-making process in my own (probably undereducated) words, i’d rather tell our little story through my photographs. if you want the nitty gritty details, i’ll refer you to this delightful and simple explanation, or this more thorough, scientific version.

you can always bring your own recipes to follow, but barleycorn’s provides a number of recipes to choose from. (thank goodness.)

milling the grains took some teamwork.

steeping the grains…

next, we measured out extracts to provide some extra flavor and speed up the brewing process…

…along with hops and sugar. since we made saison and schwarz beers, we also got to add bitter orange to the mix.

stirring involved giant paddles.

after measuring the estimated alcohol content of our beer, we cooled and strained the wort and then transferred it into fermentation tanks, where yeast was added.

after a few more beers, we left our beer behind to ferment and have been waiting with anticipation ever since. and this upcoming weekend, we’ll all head back to bottle our beers and take them home. i can’t wait to taste the final product – i have a handful of friends that all brew their own beer, and i have a feeling that after tasting beer i helped to make, i’ll want to try it again…and again.

thanks so much to barleycorn’s for letting me wander around with my camera!

edible boston

sometimes, an amazing opportunity comes up that you just have to go for. as a food writer and photographer, getting an original recipe published in a local magazine is an incredible honor – one that i experienced for the first time several weeks ago.

if you don’t already read edible boston (or any of the other edible community magazines), do yourself a big favor and go pick up a copy today. they’re available at farmstands, natural food markets, whole foods stores, and local businesses around town, and feature stories, photographs, and recipes from the greater boston community. i was privileged to hear ilene bezahler and michael piazza speak about their publication at the international conference of food styling and photography last summer, and have long admired the beautiful images, inspiring stories, and authentic representations of our food community here in boston.

when edible boston began promoting a recipe contest on their facebook page, seeking recipes featuring the tomato, i knew that i just had to submit my recipe for tomato, cheddar, and basil summer pie. the simple but incredibly satisfying recipe features layers of heirloom tomatoes, sharp cheddar, basil, vinegar, and oil, all wrapped in light, flaky biscuit crust. it’s easy to make and just oozes late summer, and is a beautiful way to feature those gorgeous tomatoes you grow in your backyard (or, if you’re like me and don’t have a garden, bought at the farmer’s market!).

i was thrilled when my recipe, along with several others, won the honor of being featured in edible boston’s fall 2012 issue. our recipes were prepared by the team and photographed by the talented michael piazza, and i’m so honored to have been chosen among these other delicious-looking recipes. thank you, edible boston!

in other news, things have been busy for me – i recently began working during the day as a dog walker, which i’m absolutely loving. it’s so fun to be outside, working with animals all day, and it gives me great opportunities to snap photos of our incredibly photogenic dog clients. it’s also given me time and inspiration to create a new online photography portfolio, which i’m delighted to debut today.

things are looking up! i made some incredible meatloaf the other day that i promise will make an appearance soon. enjoy these last beautiful days of summer!

 

two years

two years ago, i was working in retail and wondering where my life was heading. i had a great husband and a gorgeous apartment, but my technical theatre dreams weren’t panning out and i wasn’t really sure what i wanted to do as a career. i was feeling incredibly discouraged, confused, and directionless.

two years ago, i knew i loved to cook, but didn’t want to be a chef. i knew that i wanted to learn more about food, but i didn’t want to study food science. and i knew that i loved beautiful images, but i didn’t know how to create them myself.

two years ago, i applied for a master’s degree, dusted off my old point-and-shoot camera, and started this blog. and i haven’t looked back.

not gonna lie, those first food photographs were hardly gorgeous. it took a lot of time and patience (and some handy online tutorials), but eventually i got the hang of it. and now i can create photographs that i’m pretty proud of, with a camera that’s a bit more professional. i’ve graduated with a master’s degree in gastronomy. i’ve landed a job as a food writer and photographer for an online magazine startup. and i feel like i’m finally doing something that i love, something that gives me a purpose, something that makes me incredibly happy.

i have to say a huge, HUGE thank you to my readers and supporters these last two years. my blog has always just been a way for me to express myself through food, and your support and kind words have meant more to me than i can ever say. as a small token of my appreciation, it’s time for me to host my very first giveaway!

what’s the prize? a gorgeous photo puzzle from shutterfly, featuring one of my food photographs. i’ve given these puzzles as gifts before, and they come out absolutely beautiful. this may seem like a bizarre giveaway for a food blog, but i grew up doing puzzles with my grandparents at their cabin on the lake in ontario. the cabin was simple and beautiful, with no tv or other distractions, so we’d play cards and do puzzles, ride the boat across the lake for ice cream, and catch teeny tiny frogs on the shore. puzzles are so nostalgic for me, and they always bring me joy and remind me of spending time with my family.

some of my favorite images are in this post, but the winner can choose whichever photo they want from my blog to be turned into a puzzle. to enter, all you need to do is leave a comment on this post with your favorite recipe from my blog – either one that you’ve made yourself before or one that you want to try. the contest will be open for one week (until the end of july 18th), and the winner will be selected using random.org’s number generator and notified by email.

thanks again for reading, and good luck!

eta: this giveaway is now closed. thanks so much to everyone for participating and spreading the word, and a big congratulations to kimmy from lighter and local!

road trip: europe – nice

this post is part of a series on my last week living in europe, as i share photos and thoughts from a road trip through europe that i took with my husband. to catch up, check out my short video overviewing the trip, as well as previous posts from pragueparis, and lyon

after two nights each in both paris and lyon, i was pretty excited to reach our last french destination – nice. the main reason for this particular stop is the beautiful ironman france bike course that my husband wanted to ride, but once we saw the breathtaking mountains, the colorful old buildings, the rolling hills, and the clear blue sea, i think we both wished for a few more days to explore.

my time in nice was different than other cities, since i primarily wandered around by myself while steve was off riding his bike. and while i would’ve loved to be able to wander freely in any of the cities we visited, i had some wonderful adventures in nice that i couldn’t have replicated anywhere else. i people-watched in the park, visited the huge flower market, and got lost in the tangled streets of vieux nice. the beautiful streets are so complicated to navigate that it’s not even worth trying to find your way – you just walk around and take the in sights, which for me included gorgeous buildings, clean laundry, and an adorable little dog.

i climbed to the top of colline du chateau, a high hill topped with old ruins and an incredible 360-degree view of the city, port, and ocean.

and after months of being virtually landlocked, save a few weekends away, it was delightful to be able to just sit by the sea and watch the waves roll in.

having days to myself meant that i got to eat whatever i wanted, which one day, was simply bread, cheese, and wine. we also had incredible seafood, and gorgeous ham, egg, and cheese crepes.

i was a little disappointed that after my husband got back from what he said were breathtaking views from the bike course, he didn’t bring any photos back. (note to all athletes, especially cyclists – pictures are much more valuable than your descriptions!) but when we eventually left nice, we took the long way out, driving through the amazing houses built into the hills and into monaco on our way to venice

…which will have to wait until my last entry. stay tuned!

gastronomy alumna

during my last semester at boston university, i was privileged to work as the communications graduate assistant, and my primary responsibility was the program blog. the position is now held by the incomparable emily contois, who asked me to share a few of my food experiences in hungary. the post has just been published today, and i invite you to check out the post, the blog, and the program – it’s such a fascinatingly diverse group of foodies, activists, and scientists, all hoping to influence and develop the world of gastronomy.

sweet & savory summer pizza

after months of living in europe, it’s surprisingly refreshing to be back in boston.

(my dog agrees.)

i admit, while i was so excited to be back home, the first few weeks have been weird. reverse culture shock is such a bizarre feeling – it’s so strange to be weirded out by everyone around you actually speaking your language, or to be completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choices in the supermarket.

but now that we’ve been back for a month, i’m finding myself delighted to be back in boston, exploring the city with fresh eyes. boston isn’t a very big city, but by american standards, it’s an old one, and has a lot of character. and having lived here for almost ten years now, it feels like home in a way that even vermont, where i went to high school and parents live, doesn’t quite anymore. after all, massachusetts is the place where i attended undergrad, lived alone for the first time, got my masters degree, got married…in many ways, it’s where i’ve lived for my entire “adult” life. i doubt that steve and i will live here forever, or even for the next ten years, but boston will always have a soft spot in my heart.

don’t get me wrong, sometimes this city drives me bonkers. but when it’s this gorgeous in april and may, when the farmer’s markets are opening for the season, when all the college students go home and the city feels so much more peaceful – in many ways, this is when boston is at its best.

before i start carrying on about how much i love summer (but how my true love is really autumn), allow me to present this pizza that i’ve been obsessing over for the past week. like always, i’m trying to lose weight in time for wedding season, but endless salads and veggies start to get old. and i really love eating veggies, so you know i’m not messing around with this. but while assembling some of my favorite ingredients for a salad the other day, i couldn’t help but fantasize about these yummy things on top of a thin, crispy pizza crust. tangy goat cheese, peppery arugula, crunchy nuts, some sort of balsamic reduction for moisture…and fresh blueberries. maybe even some sauteed chicken for my ironman-training husband. surely this could work, even be potentially delicious. and after an hour of drooling on myself, i decided to go for it and let the recipe-testing commence.

and boy, am i glad i tried this out. because it is seriously yummy, a great way to use those blueberries that’ll start showing up in your csa boxes, and doesn’t include as much of the fat-and-calorie guilt as other pizzas can. i kept the arugula whole because i like the way it looks, but feel free to give this a rough chop for easier eating.

go ahead and use your favorite pizza dough for this – homemade, store-bought, or even those plain crusts ready for topping and baking (i won’t tell) – but i relied on my old standby, a simple dough from charles van over’s the best bread ever that was introduced to me in baking class last summer. it’s got a fantastic texture, great flavor, and takes mere moments to make. and i know this will be delicious on crispy flatbreads – i’m planning on trying this combination next.

(a little disclaimer – all of the following ingredient amounts are approximate. measuring pizza toppings always seems a little too anal-retentive for me…pizza is such a personal thing. it’s a delightful, homey dish, and everybody has their own preferences. use your own judgment and apply ingredients accordingly – you can’t mess this up. the photos show plainly that we like (love!) goat cheese in this house, so i used it liberally. do what you like and enjoy. in addition, everyone has a method for crust. i don’t have a peel or a very large baking stone, so i like to crank my oven up to 500 degrees, build my pizza on unbaked dough, and put the whole thing in the oven for a few minutes so that i have a thin, crispy crust. the following instructions will give you that result, but feel free to do what you like for your preferred crust.)

sweet & savory summer pizza

1 recipe of your favorite pizza dough
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp honey
2/3 cup arugula
1/3 cup toasted, chopped pecans
1/3 cup blueberries
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese 

preheat oven to 500 degrees. in a small saucepan, combine balsamic vinegar and honey over medium heat. keep a close eye on this and allow to reduce for several minutes until a thick syrup is created. 

on a large, floured cookie sheet, use your fingers to evenly spread room temperature pizza dough until it covers the sheet. use a flat spoon to lightly drizzle balsamic honey reduction onto dough. top with arugula, pecans, blueberries, and goat cheese. drizzle more of the reduction over the top. bake pizza for 12 minutes, or until dough is cooked through and crispy.

delicious with a crisp white wine or a summery pale ale.

boston brunchers at common ground

man, being a food blogger is tough. always seeking out and creating new recipes, cooking up food for your (always hungry) friends and family, taking hundreds of photos, writing all the time…it’s a tricky business. and then there are the food blogger events, where you have to meet up with all these other foodies and everybody eats and drinks together, and we all take photos of us eating and drinking…

kidding.

i love being a food blogger. i wish this was my job. (actually, since i’m technically unemployed, this kind of is my job…so i really just wish i was getting paid for it.) being able to talk about, write about, and photograph food is one of my favorite things. and when a bunch of food-obsessed bloggers get together in one room to eat and talk about what we do? things can get a little crazy.

one such group of bloggers is a big one, boston brunchers, and i finally had the opportunity to join them this past sunday at common ground in allston. i was pretty excited at the restaurant choice, since i used to pass this spot all the time and always wanted to check it out. with big open windows, deep wood, a big bar, and lots of space, it’s a great place to kick back and relax with a big group of friends – which is just what we did.

since i’d mostly thought of common ground as a bar and grill, i was pleasantly surprised by their diverse and tasty brunch menu. since we had such a big group, we opted for the sunday morning brunch buffet, with options like corned beef hash, scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, granola, and fruit, all made in-house.

buffets can be tricky. it’s so easy for food to dry out or get overcooked, but common ground did a good job of keeping things fresh and delicious. the eggs were a bit dry for my taste, but the house-cured pork belly was incredible. i also loved the fresh chocolate chip muffins, light in texture but moist, and with a perfectly sweet and crumbly top. i’m not a banana fan, but other brunchers were raving about the bananas foster french toast, and the bloody marys, extra-spicy, were a big hit.

but the best thing about common ground? the service. some restaurants make big parties feel like a real inconvenience, but we felt right at home with our servers – super friendly, attentive (but not overly so), and a lot of fun. we were welcomed in with genuine smiles, introduced to the chef, given tastes of other dishes off the main brunch menu, and even given goody bags before heading out. and the thick, creamy milkshakes were to die for – the daily special was a peach ice cream blended with vodka, but they also brought us a chocolate shake, topped with a kiss. delicious.

a big thanks to boston brunches and common ground for a great meal and a wonderful morning! and don’t forget to check out the other reviews from boston food bloggers.

road trip: europe – lyon

this post is part of a series on my last week living in europe, as i share photos and thoughts from a road trip through europe that i took with my husband. to catch up, check out my short video overviewing the trip, as well as previous posts from prague and paris.

after just one day in paris, we braved the rain to grab one last baguette, loaded up the rental car, and began our drive through the french countryside towards lyon, the “gastronomic capital of france,” and our next destination.

and i’m not going to lie, i was a bit disappointed to leave paris. i’d never been to france, and all of the sudden i was in this huge, beautiful, iconic city. with just one day, i was aching for more time to explore. i wanted a week in paris. a month. a year. i wanted to wander the streets and take hundreds of photos and eat cheese and drink wine and relax. i was a little bit cranky.

but it was time to go.

and i’m so, so, so glad that we did. because lyon is incredibly beautiful, surprisingly relaxing, and filled with amazing restaurants. after the bustling, non-stop crazy that is paris, it was lovely to be somewhere so serene, with locals strolling along the rivers, visiting the markets, and enjoying the beautiful sunsets.

and there’s nothing quite like purchasing olives and roast chicken at the market, sitting on a doorstep, and enjoying your snack while watching people walk by.

among the wonderful restaurants we visited and the many delicious meals we enjoyed, we were so happy to get the opportunity to eat at one of paul bocuse’s nord sud brasseries, l’ouest. great wines, incredible local cheeses, and some of the best fish i had in france.

leaving lyon might’ve been the most difficult of all the cities we visited – except possibly for venice, which i’ll cover soon and we only got to spend a few short hours in. being in lyon just felt so relaxing, so homey, so calm and gorgeous. i can easily imagine renting an apartment and spending a month shopping at the markets and cooking up everything i find.

and if you ever get a craving for a deliciously creamy, aromatic, super-addictive dessert, grab some speculoos biscuits and try to figure out how to make the spiced biscuit tiramisu we had that was probably one of the best, lightest, most incredible desserts i’ve ever tasted. and i don’t even like dessert.

when i figure out how to make this, i’ll let you know.