Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Butcher, The Baker, The Blogger ~ Happy Anniversary, Food Bloggers Network

Today marks the one year anniversary of the Food Bloggers Network; an informal group of food bloggers who connect to network and to share best practices on blogging. The one thing we don't do, ever, is link to our blogs and our posts.

No, the Food Bloggers Network isn't a place to spam others. What began this time last year with an idea (this idea, in fact) has blossomed into a group of 244 members (you can read member blogs here). FBN is a place to ask questions of our food blogging peers and a place to share our knowledge. I've seen bloggers become subject matter experts (like my friend Carla who writes a fantastic photography series on her blog Chocolate Moosey). It's a place where over the last year I have seen friendships develop (such as Jen and Kim who are running a special heart healthy series today) as bloggers advance their skill sets or come together to bring to life a special post.

So today let's do what we food bloggers do best - let's enjoy a decadent treat and celebrate one year of being together.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Heart of the Home

We all know that the kitchen is the heart of the home. The cozy warmth of a boiling kettle on a cold morning; the laughter of friends joking around with one another as a meal comes together; the anticipation of sweet comfort as a cake bakes and my favorite: sitting down to dinner with Thom after a long day.

I, like many of us, have fantasied about my dream kitchen for years. I have a folder of magazine clippings and a board full of pins featuring bright and airy country inspired kitchens.  When we found our house I knew I was still years away from that dream kitchen. Recently renovated this kitchen has updated appliances, cabinets and flooring. It doesn't need anything. But it's not my dream. Instead of bright white and shades of calming blue we have muted shades of brown and beige. Where I envision country touches we have contemporary flourishes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Setting Sail ~ A Lengthy Post About Love in Boston

The last several weeks have been a crazy hot mess a period of intense reflection for me as we prepare to leave our beloved North End apartment and move into a home on the South Shore. Between all of the legal and financial issues with buying a home (hello new bills!), the home improvement projects (yes, there is paint in my hair), and the exhaustion of actually packing up and moving (excuse me while I sit in the corner and cry) there is also the excitement of a new place (with a yard! and a garage! and laundry... actually INSIDE the same building!) as well as the nostalgia of the time spent in the old place.

The steeple of Old North Church seen from the harbor
For those of you who aren't local to Boston the North End is the oldest neighborhood in the city. It was once home to Cotton Mather (famous for his role in the Salem Witch Trials) and Paul Revere. We live down the street from Christ Church, commonly referred to as Old North Church and which schoolchildren know as the "one if by land, two if by sea" church. I love this neighborhood. But there are no yards here, which Thom desperately wants, and anyway we can't afford to buy property in the heart of downtown Boston.

August is always a big month for me so it makes sense that we've moving into our first home now. My birthday is in August; I moved to Italy the August after I graduated from college; Thom's birthday is also in August and so is our anniversary. In fact, our anniversary is today - August 15th.

As Shakespeare wrote, "the course of true love never did run smooth;" and although we have certainly weathered our share of stormy seas Thom and I are at our best near the water. We live three blocks from the city waterfront and have some of our best talks while walking along the harbor. Our vacations together are always to some coastal locale and we were married in a beautiful location north of Boston with a view of the ocean two years ago today.

Photo by M. Lovett; reprinted with permission
Recently I was invited to join the Boston Bloggers group on an Odyssey cruise*. You might think I jumped at the chance because hello - it's the Odyssey! - but it meant so much more to me than that.

Two years prior to the happy photo above I moved out of Massachusetts. At the time I thought I would never return to Boston except as a visitor. Just before leaving Thom took me on a Spirit of Boston Sunset Cruise for my birthday. We didn't know what would happen to our relationship with me moving away (but we both suspected this was the end) so we went all out. Champagne, dancing, enjoying the view from the ship and basking in memories of our time spent together in Boston. And now here was an opportunity to take another cruise as we left Boston once more - this time together.

The cruise exceeded my expectations in every way. I met some wonderful food bloggers including Leah (she was a winner at the Bacon Takedown!) and her husband from the Boston Family Foodie, sisters Brittany and Alicia from Tapped in Boston, and Cristin and her husband Merrick from The Four Seasonings. And really, when you get a bunch of people together who share a common love of their city and food you're bound to have a good time.

Thom and I briefly debated about whether or not to get the Odyssey highball glasses to take home but decided with the impending move to keep things simple. It sounds kind of cheesy, but four years earlier our sunset cruise came with souvenir glasses. Thom kept those glasses for all the time we were apart as a reminder of that night and now I use them as props for food blogging so we thought it would be fun to continue the tradition (next time, right?) Everything comes full circle with us. Down the hatch!
Peach Melba Daiquiri
As much as I love food, service is vastly more important to me when I go out to eat. Some of my favorite places are loved more for the service and atmosphere than for the food. I will never darken the doorstep again of a great restaurant if the service is sub-par. I have worked in the service sector and I know how challenging the average customer is (really, some people should just stay home) so I genuinely appreciate those individuals who go above and beyond to make me feel as welcome as if I were their favorite customer. Our waiter Drew was one such individual. He knew when to be present and when to leave us to enjoy ourselves. He answered our questions and found answers for us when he wasn't sure. If you're about to embark on an Odyssey cruise - ask to sit in Drew's section. Bonus - he knows which wines to pair with the meals.

One of the things Thom and I have in common is our great love of food. The first time he made me dinner he cooked risotto. Since then I know he is feeling full of love whenever he says, "honey? Want me to make you a risotto?" I used to suggest we share things at restaurants so we could try different dishes but I have since learned it is better to just order what you really want (hence the Great Hazelnut Mousse Debate of 2006 - wait - that was in August too! See? Big month). So we both had the Mushroom Braised Short Ribs. I found the food on the Odyssey to be better than what I remember from the Spirit of Boston cruise but somewhat over-seasoned. For someone like Thom, whose blood is part sea salt, it was fine. For me it was a touch on the salty side. Short ribs are ubiquitous in the restaurant world these days for good reason. When done right they are damn tasty. Let's just say I am very happy I didn't have to share my portion of short ribs with my meat and potatoes vacuum of a husband. Mmm... I could go for another plate of them right now.

When not at the table enjoying our new friends Thom and I spent most of our time outside enjoying the view of Boston and the city's historic landmarks such as the Bunker Hill Monument and the USS Constititution, known as Old Ironsides for her ability to withstand canon fire during the War of 1812. Have I mentioned I love this city?

We also spent time reminiscing about our time together living in the heart of Boston and making plans for our little house, fifteen miles to the south. We are older (and look it!) but no less goofy for each other than we were on our first cruise together four years earlier.

Fortunately we came back inside in time for dessert and a spin on the dance floor. I don't think Thom will ever dance again as much as he did on our wedding (which was a special request from me) but he generally obliges for a couple of songs. And really, there was red velvet cake waiting. How can you pass up red velvet cake? C'mon, it was gorgeous - look!

We ended the evening heading home to our little apartment as a light drizzle began to fall. I love Boston and I am sad to leave the city but I have a feeling this won't be the end for us here in downtown. After all, it wasn't the end of our Boston story when I left four years ago. No, I think Thom and I are just getting warmed up.

* I received two complimentary tickets for this event. I was not asked to write a review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Nectarine Clafoutis ~ A Guest Post with Baking and Cooking, A Tale of Two Loves

Today I am really thrilled to have Becky from Baking and Cooking, A Tale of Two Loves guest posting. Becky and I have developed a friendship over the last few months of blogging together in the Love Bloghop and Food Bloggers Network. Becky writes a great blog featuring, as Ted Allen would say, "the food you want to eat." From Lemon Lime Poppy Seed Muffins to an amazing Baked Artichoke Chicken Becky has you covered from breakfast to dinner and today - all the way to dessert with her gorgeous Nectarine Clafoutis!

Hello, I'm Becky from Baking and Cooking, A Tale of two Loves.  Today, I am a guest blogger for Jessica, while she takes time away from her blog. Jessica was a guest blogger for me, when my Dad was ill, so now I am returning the favor  Jessica likes to cook and bake with wonderful dishes, like BLT Pasta, Farmers Market Pizza, Blueberry Lemon Teacake, and Berry Angel Food Baskets. Savory or sweet?  I decided to make a  sweet treat laden with summer fruit, Nectarine Clafoutis  I just can't stop eating all the delicious fresh fruit, available this time of year.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Brodetto di Mare ~ A Guest Post by Healthy Foodie Travels

If you've been reading Oh Cake for a while then you've heard a tale or two from my time spent living in Italy. Today my friend Kiri from Healthy Foodie Travels has a fantastic guest post to share of an Italian shellfish stew called Brodetto di Mare, which literally translates as "little broth of the sea." Isn't that a wonderful image to conjure up? If you enjoy flavorful, healthy food from all cultures around the world then Kiri's blog is the one for you. But I'll let Kiri tell you the rest... 

 Hi! I am Kiri, from Healthy Foodie Travels and I’m thrilled to guest post for Jessica today. She did a wonderful post for me a while back that now has me wanting to visit Boston not only for my beloved Red Sox, but also for its glorious farmer’s market. So let me introduce myself briefly -

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Omi Krauth’s Sugarcake (Zuckerkuchen) ~ A Guest Post by the German Foodie

Today I'm very pleased to welcome Sofie from The German Foodie to Oh Cake. I first met Sofie through Foodbuzz but I really got to know her through the Food Bloggers Network. She has become someone whose work I admire and whose personality I really enjoy. With Thom's Austrian parentage he also reads her blog which is reminiscent of the recipes his mother makes (just say servierttenknödel to watch a man go weak in the knees). I just love anyone who makes things like Strawberry Sour Cream Pie. I am very excited about today's recipe that Sofie is graciously sharing with us: not only does it have sour cream (one of my secret favorite indulgences) but I love Thom's stories about his own "Candy Omi" ~ his grandmother who was so named because she always kept a drawer full of candy for visiting grandchildren. I'll let Sofie tell you about Omi Krauth and her zucherkuchen (sugar cake). And when you're done with this luscious treat be sure to visit Sofie's blog and drool over all the other delicious bites there.

I am an expat German living in Northeast Ohio, and blogging mostly about authentic German food and my own original recipes inspired by German food. Having grown up in the border region with France in a very cosmopolitan city, even for its size, I am also drawn to all sorts of ethnic recipes.
I have been baking ever since I could hold a spoon, and it is my great passion in life. I have somehow always baked. I love to explore and experiment, to create and yes, eat what I have created. I am not just a consummate baker; I like to cook as well, especially seasonally.

Frozen Pumpkin Chocolate Chili Terrine ~ Fire on Ice

As part of the Fire on Ice challenge* this Frozen Pumpkin Chocolate Chili Terrine is the hottest frozen treat you'll ever taste. Although chilies are used in traditional dishes in Asian, Africa and South America I instantly think of Mexico when someone mentions chilies. Classic Mexican cuisine is both deeply spiced and richly nuanced in flavor. Case in point: mole sauce. That luscious dark sauce, slow cooked from recipes handed down over generations is the stuff of which my foodie dreams are made.

A terrine is classically a French country forcemeat or the container in which the forcemeat is made. For this recipe I used a basic loaf pan but you can layer the dessert into any long, narrow mold or baking pan. Line the pan with plastic wrap to ensure you can easily lift out the molded terrine once it is frozen. I had a lot of fun by myself in the kitchen playing these New World flavors (chocolate, pumpkin, chili) off of an Old World method.

Monday, July 30, 2012

BLT Mac and Cheese

If I close my eyes I am eight years old again, curiously watching my mother and grandmother eat a shared BLT on wheat toast. The tomatoes are from Mom's garden; Grammie fried the bacon and toasted the bread while Mom was outside picking them. I was instructed to set the table and to find myself something to eat since I couldn't stomach the thought of a raw tomato. As we sit together around the end of the dining room table I watch, speechless, as they savor the sweet, salty flavors and crunch through crisp lettuce tucked between two slices of caramel colored wheat toast.

Did it really happen that way? Were the tomatoes from Mom's garden? They might have been. She's always grown them (except this year...) and Grammie often did the cooking (even at Mom's house...) and I always dutifully did what I was told... no, wait, scratch that last one. That certainly never rarely happened.