Sunday, January 31, 2010

Spotlight: Lineage


242 Havard St
Brookline, MA 02446
(617) 232-0065

I dined at Lineage for a rehearsal dinner for my best friend's wedding last August.  Talk about hooking it up!  It was easily the best rehearsal dinner I've been to, and I've been in quite a few weddings!  First of all, Lineage offers not only a seasonal menu, but one that changes daily.  The dishes I enjoyed are not available at this time of year, but they are a great example, I think, of the caliber of food offered year round.  On that warm August evening, I was immediately intrigued by the fig and blue cheese appetizer, but since someone else was paying for the meal, and no one else ordered appetizers, I felt it would be greedy of me to be the only one, so I selected my entree and sucked it up.

My entree was great!  I had the seared sea scallops over English pea risotto.  The scallops tasted like Heaven (as scallops usually do to me when they are cooked perfectly) and the risotto was creamy perfection.  The crispy shallots on top added the right amount of texture to the mostly "soft" dish.  I tasted some of my neighbors' dishes as well, the salmon with orzo and pesto and the sea bass over curry broth and veggies, and both were cooked perfectly with really striking, delicious flavor combinations.  Good so far.

Next, we were given dessert menus, and alas, I saw my fantasy fig dish offered not only as an appetizer but also as a dessert!  And as half of the table opted to order desserts, I saw this as a sign from God that I NEEDED to order the figs, since I had passed them up once and was given another opportunity to try them.  Oh. My. God.  Really.  They were sensational.  I will dream of them always.  For real.

My only complaint was that they only passed around bread to our table once and never returned to see if anyone wanted another roll (we each got only one).  I would have loved another roll, but didn't really want to ask, especially since the restaurant was very busy and we were a large party to begin with.  In any case, Lineage was an amazing meal and everything I tried was delicious.  I would love to return here another time and try out dishes available at other times of the year. The current "sample menu" on their website sounds just as appetizing as the one we were offered in August :)

Pan Seared Striped Bass with Confit Potatoes, Littlenecks, Curry, and Lovage $25

Grilled Atlantic Salmon with Market Green Beans, Toasted Orzo, Tomatoes, and Summer Pesto $23

Seared Sea Scallops with English Pea Risotto, Crisp Shallots, and Truffle Vinaigrette $28

Herb Roasted Half Chicken with Summer Squashes, Baby Spinach, Fingerling Potatoes, Herb Broth, and Lemon $20

Prime Steak Burger on Brioche Bun, with Great Hill Blue Cheese, Grilled Onions, and Herb Fries $14

Warm Black Mission Figs with Great Hill Blue Cheese, Honey, and Sherry Vinegar $9

Chocolate Pot de Crème with Chantilly Cream $8

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto


There are some dishes out there that just shouldn't be messed with. Risotto is one of them. It's one of those classic comforting dishes that when done right hits my palate with absolute pleasure, and when done wrong just makes me want to cry. It's also rather decadent because of all the starch in the Arborio rice (which makes it creamy) along with the cheese and the butter that usually finishes it off. People have suggested that I can make it lighter by using barley, but that just seems sacrilegious to me. Good risotto has a perfectly creamy texture and al dente bite that cannot be replicated with any other type of grain or cooking process.

Last weekend I had some osso bucco at a nearby Italian restaurant that I usually enjoy very much. The veal shanks were perfectly fork tender and tasty, but the risotto it was served with was supposed to be a Milanese risotto (or a classic saffron risotto). Instead I got a pile of mushy white wet rice that was posing as risotto. It was not al dente by any means, and was so white that not only was I certain it contained no saffron whatsoever, but I'm convinced they used cream in it in order to get that milky white color. It was just so wrong.

Ever since then, I felt that I had to satisfy that risotto craving since I was pretty much left high and dry with that poor excuse for risotto last weekend. I also happened to have a butternut squash hanging around my house, waiting for its turn to become part of my dinner. It was the perfect plan! I'd make butternut squash risotto, but I'd make it a bit lighter. I used Ina Garten's recipe as a guide, but I changed up a few things and cut WAY down on the fat. I also cut down a bit on the saffron because unlike Ina, I'm not made of money :) Here's what went down...

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
Serves 4 to 6

1 butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup minced onion
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 pinches saffron threads
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with 1 T. of the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, add the remaining 1 T. olive oil and saute onions on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains.

Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock.

Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan. Mix well and serve.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Egg Flippin' Good


Today I successfully flipped fried eggs for the first time. My eggs probably overcooked severely while I worked up the courage to actually attempt my flip, but regardless I managed to flip them successfully on my first try. And then I flipped them back. This requires a LOT of oil to make sure your omelet pan is well lubricated for flipping, and afterward, I'm not gonna lie, I didn't even have the desire to eat my oil drenched eggs. I ate my omelet instead, which I also made and was NOT drenched completely in oil. My group also made French toast today. If you can't tell already, it was egg day in our Fundamentals class. Other groups worked on quiche, fritatta, and souffles. It was eggtastic! I'm a little over eggs for the time being, which is funny considering how much I love eggs. I definitely out-egged myself today though. Funnily enough, my favorite egg of all was not represented today: the ever wonderful poached egg. Perhaps another time.

Our omelet fillings (onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, and white cheddar cheese!)

My omelet before folding
My omelet may look a little ragged, but it tasted good :)

Fried eggs...

Flipped successfully (with my BARE HANDS and unquestionable skillz!)

Eggs I made

French toast!

Very greasy frittata

Quiche Lorraine

Smoked cheddar souffles

Home fries

Kerri made a mess flipping eggs! One of her eggs flew off the pan in right into the stove top, haha!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mystery Baskets


Today was mystery basket day in class. It was also the last day of Nutrition and Sensory Analysis (I got 100 on my final and 100 on the homework project, woot woot!). We had some really interesting lean proteins to work with on our last day! Venison, ostrich, lobster, lamb, and swordfish. These aren't proteins we've worked with in any class so far, so it was pretty cool. I had eaten all of them except for the ostrich before today. I thought it was kind of chewy and a bit tougher than the other meats, but it tasted good otherwise. Venison and lamb are always delicious (when not overcooked) and of course lobster and swordfish have my vote any day of the week. My group ended up with the swordfish along with some other ingredients that all suggested an Asian theme (soba noodles and baby bok choy), so we went with it. We marinated our fish in a mixture of soy sauce, ginger, scallions, sesame oil, sesame seeds, mirin, rice wine vinegar, and some agave syrup. We then seared it and topped it off on the plate with a ginger-hoisin sauce we made. We also made some soba noodles and then sauteed baby bok choy with carrot shavings, garlic and ginger. Here are some pics from the day...

A lobster threesome, haha

My first time holding a lobster!

Mystery baskets...

Swordfish in the marinade

Asian swordfish with soba noodles and a bok choy and carrot stirfry

Lamb noisettes with quinoa

Lobster with Amanda C.'s yummy sauce!

Ostrich with Israeli couscous and broccoli and cauliflower purees

Venison tenderloin with spinach, cauliflower puree, rice, and grilled corn

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Guilt-Free Sweets


These two days in class we've been flip-flopping groups doing their practical exams with others making healthy desserts. Yesterday I had my practical exam where my group made the updated version of our African poached halibut dish with the whole-wheat couscous and steamed sugar snap peas. This time our fish wasn't yellow, and we bumped up the other seasonings. Also, we bumped up the seasonings in the couscous and replaced golden raisins with regular red ones (and increased the quantity), which made the color a lot nicer. See pictures below :)

My practical exam dish and plating design
Today I made some vanilla-almond panna cotta using a mixture of almond milk, half and half, vanilla bean, brown sugar, and gelatin along with some vanilla-mango sauce for serving. Some group members also poached pears in red wine and then reduced the poaching liquid to make a sauce (turned more into a caramel, but we did what we could with it). We served these two desserts together on one plate like a duo. I wasn't liking where our plating was going at first (leaning a pear half on the panna cotta, etc) and suggested we split up and do more than one plating scheme. I didn't want to sacrifice my ideas to please the group like I had in the past (this is the new Victoria after all, haha). I was VERY happy with the result. My plate was gorgeous and everyone in class thought so! A few students even said it was the prettiest plate produced in the whole class! Score! Check it out (along with other dishes from class)...

My gorgeous plate design!

View straight down

Black bean brownies with raspberry coulis... so rich and delicious!

Tres leches cake with caramelized bananas = yum!

Amanda P.'s dish for her practical... braised and seared Indian chicken with brown basmatic rice and broccoli :)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Night I Met Anthony Bourdain...


Last night, I met Anthony Bourain. Yes, it's true. I met the man, the legend, the god. Maybe I should start from the beginning. For Christmas this year my sister and brother-in-law got me a ticket to join them to see Anthony Bourdain "perform" (essentially talk and joke about his experiences and take Q&A from the audience). It was a very generous ticket, and my sister splurged for the VIP tix as they were front and center, right in the action. We were in the second row in fact, pretty impressive. We showed up, eager for our evening with Tony, anxious to hear his stories, excited to be almost close enough to touch him... or so we thought. When we were escorted to our seats we were given a slip of paper informing us of the instructions for the "after party" with Anthony Bourdain. What what? We were going to MEET him after the show? Wait, how did no one tell us this as we procured these VIP tickets? They were so much more valuable now! Not only did we have some of the best seats in the house, but we were going to meet him face to face!

We ran back to the lobby to purchase some last minute books for signing. I opted for hardcover copies of both Kitchen Confidential and Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. We were given slips to write what we would like him to sign in our books. Here's what I decided to go with...

Shortly after I updated my Facebook status with crazed excitement over our "surprise" and added photos of our VIP instructions, mocking my foodie friends, Anthony Bourdain took the stage and started immediately discussing his favorite and least favorite Food Network stars (thumbs down to Rachel Ray--duh--Sandra Lee--double duh--Robert Irvine and Guy Fieri... thumbs up to Ina Garten--love her--Giada de Laurentiis--love her too--Alton Brown and Bobby Flay), his thoughts on other food shows like Top Chef (LOVE IT... he discussed judging on the show, it's all legit, they will not keep people on just because they are loved and have good story lines according to producers, Tom Colicchio makes sure of it), Hell's Kitchen vs. Kitchen Nightmares (KN is more the real Gordan Ramsay... duh), Man vs. Food and that other show with the guy who eats all that crazy stuff... yeah I don't watch, I think it's gross.

Anyway, really funny stories (I won't repeat them all now, sorry) and lots of discussions of his many travels all over the world, his theories on being a good guest and eating whatever you are served, even if it's not something you'd normally eat (I STRONGLY agree), how to travel (eat where the locals eat... where the locals REALLY eat... street food, out of the way places, etc), and also his thoughts of vegetarians and vegans. I'm not gonna go there. I have friends who might hate me if I repeat his thoughts :) I'm a meat lover. I have no qualms with eating dead animals. If it's a religious purpose, fine. But otherwise, I really do think you're missing out. And so does Bourdain. There were some HILARIOUS drunk people in the audience asking questions and trying to meet him (stalk much?) and the whole night was really incredible, which was all topped off with the meet and greet after the show!

Free VIP Food After the Show

Waiting in line, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to say to him. Should I ask him about my career? Should I suggest he go to Armenia on his show? Should I ask him what he thought about the short stint of the TV show "Kitchen Confidential" which was based on his book? Should I just giggle nervously and then forget what we talked about 5 minutes later? I had no idea! Basically, when I went up to him, I told him it was really nice to meet him and told him my name. He said the same and shook my hand. I mentioned where I go to school and that I'm interested in food writing, and I asked what he might suggest to me for accomplishing that in the future. He told me to write. I mentioned that I have a food blog and he said that was great. Pause. SNAP PHOTO. He signed my second book, which was the marriage proposal, added his own funny addition. I giggled and left moments later. It was mostly a blur. I obviously couldn't stand there and chitchat, with a line of folks still waiting. I thought my meeting with the man was surreal, and awesome. I've already looked through and read parts of my new Les Halles Cookbook, and it has me craving duck confit, steak frites, moules, and just about every other fantastic French bistro dish that has ever been created. Yum. I have quite a few French cookbooks, but I'm thrilled to add this (personally autographed) copy to my collection. And I can promise that it will not collect dust :) Thanks for everything, Anthony Bourdain! You truly are a rock star!!

He's actually already married :) I love it, though, haha!


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