Hurricane Irene Reflections

>>  Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Irene Cambridge MA
Sky darkens quickly as Irene approaches

It's been an odd couple of weeks.

I feel the earth move . . .
First there was that weird earthquake in Virginia that could be felt all the way here in Boston. I was sitting in my chair staring intently at my computer when all of a sudden I started to get dizzy.

I hastily took massive gulps of ice cold water, thinking "there's gotta be something wrong with my head." (I'm a hypochondriac in that way)

After about 5 seconds, the dizziness stopped. Moments later, loud utterances of the word "5.8 earthquake!" erupted in the hallway, all of a sudden clarifying everything.
Copper River Salmon Sockeye
Then there was Irene
Less than a week later, a new natural disaster decided to pay us a visit. First the governor declared a state of emergency. Then the MBTA, our public transportation system, decided to close completely on Sunday. Even church services were canceled.

So what did we do this weekend?

We had family time.

Really, really nice family time.

I invited my mom (who's in town to help my sister with the new baby), my sister, my brother-in-law, and (of course), their new baby, along with a few friends to enjoy a crazy ambitious home-cooked Italian feast.

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"The Best Guacamole Ever"

>>  Thursday, August 25, 2011


That's probably an understatement of how I have felt the last few weeks. We have been waiting for furniture to arrive, which means more waiting before we can unpack everything else. We're still living out of boxes, finding stuff only when we really need it.

For example, my elusive cappuccino frother still refuses to surface, which means I've been drinking straight espresso for the last two weeks.

It has also been really hard to cook without a kitchen that's completely set up. It's even harder to blog about cooking, which may very well explain the dearth of cooking posts lately.
Yet I feel like I'm running out of time.

The growing season here in Massachusetts is pretty short and August is one of the best months in which to get fresh produce. Typically, I love perusing farmers markets this time of year.

What? It's almost September??! Where did the summer go?


So even though I'm not fully unpacked; even though I'm not sure where all my jars, cans, and other random foodstuff will eventually go; I resolutely decided that I would use the kitchen tonight and try a new recipe that involved lots of vegetables.

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>>  Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The suburbs in Boston are mostly a mystery to me.

I live in Cambridge, work in Cambridge, and more often than not, eat out in Cambridge. I am very familiar with the restaurants within a 5 mile radius of me. However, if you ask me where to eat out in the burbs, I very well may just give you a blank stare.

A couple weeks ago, we suddenly found ourselves hanging out in the suburbs A LOT.


Virtually all of the furniture stores in Boston have staked out a spot in the Natick/Framingham area. This area (about 15 miles west of Boston) is really a mecca for furniture shopping.  Since we had several rooms to fill with furniture, we drove out west repeatedly many a summer night.

One day, as we hemmed and hawed about which bed to buy (Crate & Barrel? Jordan's Furniture?), we concluded that perhaps some calories would be most helpful in clearing our minds for this important decision.

After a little bit of research on our phones, we settled on Oga, a pretty well-known Japanese restaurant just 1-2 miles away from all the furniture stores.

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>>  Friday, August 19, 2011

Shanghai World Expo
I value memories . . . a lot.

I'm a sentimental sucker who can't let go of anything. With this move, I've gotten all sad about bidding farewell to my old condo, a place filled with so many memories. After all, this was the first home that Bryan and I ever shared together. We have so many memories of good times with friends, family, and each other.

 Similarly, I have a hard time throwing away trinkets and mementos from trips, weddings, and other experiences in my life. While helping me pack for this move, one of my good, practical-minded friends admonished me every time I tried to keep some piece of junk for "memory's sake."

"Take a picture of it and throw it away!"
Forbidden City China
Sigh - I do love photography, but does a picture always replace the physical memento?

Well, I haven't quite gotten to that level of detachment from all my things. However, the ability to take photos and make scrapbooks has helped ease that pain. Now I tend to put ticket stubs, museum pamphlets, and foreign coins into dedicated scrapbooks for each trip.

But how does that work in the digital age? Does a picture of a ticket stub really replace the actual ticket?

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>>  Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Our summers here in Boston are so short, I am always on the lookout for great outdoor dining options during these precious few months. Ideally, the outdoor space would be away from loud cars & buses; the restaurant would be conveniently close by; and (of course!) the food would be excellent.

It's a slight bummer that I did not really discover Daedalus until I moved to the other side of Harvard Square. The rooftop patio, great vibe, and good food clearly demonstrate why this place won Best of Boston - Neighborhood Restaurant in 2010.

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Ten Tables (Cambridge) Bar Menu

>>  Friday, August 12, 2011

Nuts, Olives, and Pickles

I'm still a long way away from being completely unpacked. Thankfully, my new place is starting to look like a real home, not just a storage facility for boxes.

It's surprisingly different living here.

Our old place faced a major road. We had completely gotten used to the background roar of subways, constant hum of city buses, and occasional shouts from the slightly inebriated spilling out of nearby bars.  It gave the neighborhood character; in some ways, we never felt alone.

Our new place is on a leafy residential street which is super quiet.  I couldn't get over the eerie silence that first night. It felt like I was camping in the woods, even though I was less than a 10-minute walk away from Harvard Square.

Another difference? We have less restaurants close by. Whereas before we could walk just one minute to our favorite local haunt, now we have no restaurants on our residential street.  Help! What to do?

Why hello, Ten Tables!  I didn't see you tucked inside that residential complex right on Craigie Street.

I'm so glad you decided just recently to add a bar and also a bar menu. The timing could not be more perfect for our move into the neighborhood.

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Boston Restaurant Week (and the mushroom kit winner!)

>>  Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Restaurant Week entree at Erbaluce

Boston Restaurant Week
It's here again. Boston Restaurant Week this year is August 14-19 and August 21-26.  Two-course lunches are $15.99; three-course lunches are $20.11; and three-course dinners are $30.11. Check out the full list of restaurants at the official site here.

I've had mixed experiences during Restaurant Week, with more negative ones than positive ones. However, sometimes I'm surprised, so you never know.

I would definitely avoid Restaurant Week on busy nights, such as Fridays and Saturdays, because more likely than not, the restaurant will be overwhelmed, the staff will be stressed out, and service and quality will suffer.

Here are links to my past Restaurant Week experiences:

Henrietta's Table
KO Prime
Uni Sashimi Bar

Salmon pastrami
house smoked salmon pastrami from Henrietta's Table restaurant week menu

Below is the full list of participating restaurants that I've reviewed. The ones with asterisks describe an actual Restaurant Week dining experience. For a full list of restaurants I've reviewed (including non-Restaurant Week options) click here.

Beacon Hill Bistro
Bina Osteria
Blue Room 
Capital Grille
EVOO Restaurant
Grafton Street Pub & Grill
Henrietta's Table**
KO Prime**
Legal Sea Foods (only Park Square & Copley are participating)
Lucca Back Bay
Mamma Maria
Market by Jean-Georges
No. 9 Park
Oceanaire Seafood Room
Oishii Boston
Russell House Tavern
Sandrine's Bistros
Sel de la Terre (Natick)
Sel de la Terre (Back Bay)
Smith & Wollensky at Boston's Castle
Tango Restaurant
Tapeo Restaurant & Tapas Bar
Trattoria di Monica
Uni Sashimi Bar**
UpStairs on the Square

Back to the Roots Oyster Mushroom

Congratulations to "Digital Printing" who won the Giveaway! Digital Printing said,

"Wow mushrooms are always delicious. You can have a lot of simple recipes out of it yet flavorful. I have also a homegrown mushrooms and I already made several recipes. One of the reasons why I also love eating mushrooms is that,it's helpful in losing weight!"

Please e-mail me and let me know your address so we can send you your kit! Thanks everyone else for playing. :)

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The Worst Pictures You'll See on this Blog

>>  Monday, August 08, 2011

Moving Boxes
Moving is hard work!

I apologize for the lack of activity on this blog this past week. It has been nothing short of absolute craziness. I spent about 2 weeks packing up 10 years worth of built-up stuff, and then proceeded to spend the entire weekend trying to unpack to a level that was at least livable.

Please excuse the graininess of these photos! My computer is still not unpacked yet. We finally just got internet this past weekend. You'll just have to live with iPhone pics for now. :)

On top of all that craziness, my sister had her baby last night!

Talk about a crazy week!

Anyway, I promise I will pick a winner for the giveaway very soon. Meanwhile, please enjoy a few snapshots of my new slightly-larger-than-before (though I actually think I have less storage space) tiny urban kitchen.
Kitchen appliances
The sous vide machine, espresso machine, and soda stream, hanging out on the counter (along with some egg creatures).
Jen's stove
Gas stoves! I've never cooked with gas in my life! I'm a bit afraid of the flame, but people who have gas swear by it and tell me I won't ever go back to electric.

Only time will tell . . .


Bonus! Can you find the Totoro in the first pic?

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Sauteed "Homegrown" Oyster Mushrooms + Giveaway

>>  Wednesday, August 03, 2011

It's been virtually a decade since I've moved.

Moving back when I was in college (or even post-college) was easy. You would pack up your stuff into crates and then just drag them to the nicer dorm room down the hall (or up the elevator). No furniture, no kitchen equipment - just clothing, books, and maybe a computer or other knick knacks. Even post-college, my move hardly involved furniture or kitchen stuff. Instead, I just sold my furniture to the next roommate moving in.

Man, let me tell you, it's so much harder to pack up 10 years worth of accumulated stuff.

I've been packing for over a week, and I feel like the end is nowhere in sight. Alas, sadly that means I've done very little creative cooking. This past week I've been raiding the freezer and the refrigerator, scraping together random meals in a vain effort to clear out my fridge before I have to move it.

Meanwhile, during all this frantic packing, I have been quietly growing mushrooms in my living room.

Mushrooms? Indoor tiny urban garden? really?

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you can contact me at: jen[at]tinyurbankitchen[dot]com
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