All posts by leahklein

As far back as I can remember, I would wake up from my nap time to the smell and sounds of something cooking in the kitchen. I would stumble out of my bed and slowly make my way to the kitchen. My mom would be there chopping, stirring, mixing, or washing. I would rub my eyes take a deep breath and eventually be awake enough to either taste something she was chopping or ask to help out.

#SwitchersRemorse: Independence, Nationality and The 4th of July

 

At the finish of the Tour de France with my friend Kim.
 
I didn’t have a say when we picked up our life and moved away.  It wasn’t the first time I’d had to adjust to a big cross-country move.  I came home from my job at a performing arts camp one day and my parents casually told me, “We’re moving to New York.” and then they braced themselves for my epic meltdown.  I never was very good when it came to change.  I think I had a bit of a freak out, but the reaction wasn’t quite as earth-shattering as my parents had expected.  

I have now lived in the United States for longer than I did in my homeland just like my father, who at the time we moved had lived in Canada longer than he had in his homeland.  I still feel Canadian because my roots are Canadian, but I also feel American because it’s where I live and raise my family.  

My dad gave up the life of an academic for the life in the business world.  My mom was ready for a change from our life in a small Canadian university town and this was a great opportunity. I remember the first day he went to work from our house in the United States and I saw him in a button down shirt and dress pants.  It might as well have been a clown costume for as shocking a sight it was for us kids. Lately, though I’ve heard him express a little switcher’s remorse. He is frustrated with things about this country that are so hard to change, politics, prisons, health care, and I hear him mourn the fact that his children and grandchildren are “so American”.  

I don’t have switcher’s remorse.  I, the one who hated change. I, the lone one in the family who is still an alien according to my credentials in this country. I, the one who went back to Canada for college, and hope my children will too.  I don’t have switcher’s remorse. I love my home land, but I wouldn’t trade my American life.  True: I wish that parts of American culture and lifestyle were more European, more socially aware, more “survival of the fittest” and less “survival of the richest”, a greater appreciation for joie de vivre, and respect for the arts.  On the other hand, I think we’re growing.  The United States is still a young country.  It is like a toddler compared to Europe and the ancient cultures of Asia.  You don’t give up your toddler because they eat dirt, throw tantrums, and keep you up at night.  You hold their hand, you wash their face and offer some food in the place of dirt, you teach them to calm themselves down, and you stand by their side as they grow. 

In life, there are things we do that can’t be undone.  When I hear people say “I have no regrets.” my jaw drops because I just can’t even imagine that that is possible.  I have regrets every day.  Luckily for me more often than not they’re little regrets that fade fast.  I’ve learned from my dad, perhaps more than anyone that you can’t waste time dwelling on things that are over or can’t be undone.  So, it’s a bit ironic that he is the one who has this underlying feeling that moving us all to the United States was a mistake.  

Dad, this is for you.  Here are just a few reasons to let go of that switcher’s remorse.  

Dan, my husband, and the father to your grandchildren.  If we had not moved to New York we never would have met.  He loves his family, he works hard in his job, he is handy around the house, and he makes me laugh.

Isabelle, Henry and Max, your grandchildren.  I have to say, I’m a little biased but your grandchildren are pretty awesome.  They have your mathematical mind, your strong will, your artistic sensibilities, your love of music and stories.  They also live in American cities that offer them some wonderful arts opportunites from free performances to creative classes, farmer’s markets, and fabulous restaurants (that didn’t exist when we first moved to this country). 

McGill, my alma mater.  Plain and simple, if we had not moved to the United States I would never have gotten into McGill.  I wouldn’t have traded my year abroad at Lancaster either.  Living closer to your family and having albeit a very different life experience than you had in the UK, was wonderful and made me feel closer to your roots. 

Job opportunities for Jeremy (my brother) and I.  When people heard I was graduating with a philosophy degree, there were plenty of smirks and muffled guffaws.  Neither of your children took direct paths to get to their current careers, and I think those paths would have been much more challenging in any other country.

What I’ve learned from living in Canada, France, England, and the United States, all thanks to you, is that no country is perfect.  I take things from each of the places I’ve lived and visited and they form my life experience and outlook.  I may look and speak like an American, and whether you still have switcher’s remorse or not, regardless of which flag flies over our front door, above all I’m your daughter and about that I have no regrets.

Disclosure: This is a paid post for Verizon’s #SwitchersRemorse campaign. If you switched away from Verizon and are regretting it, don’t worry. They’re making it easy for customers to come back. For more information, head over to your local Verizon store.

Committee: Love at First Bite

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Boston’s Seaport is an eclectic mix of art, cocktails overlooking the water, gathering spots for a cold beer, and construction sites.  I love it over there.  It is a spacious corner of Boston where the vibe is hip and fun, but I feel totally comfortable going out with the family too.  Last night, I got a peek at one of the Seaport Innovations District’s latest spots, Committee.  I had seen a photo of the space on Facebook several weeks ago and fell in love with it. Upon walking into the building I really fell it.

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It’s somewhere I could grab lunch with a girlfriend or head out with the family for an early dinner.  The space is fun and airy. It’s a bit like a fabulous old home that has lots of little nooks for gathering and exploring, yet the whole space is open.

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I’m told that Committee is a Mediterranean restaurant which includes a modern twist on some Greek food as well as flavors from Lebanon, Turkey and North Africa.  I’m not too concerned about the heritage of the food, because after my first bite I experienced love at first bite so whatever they’re doing is okay by me.  The flavors were familiar but new, bold but balanced, and as I write this my mouth is watering at the memory of it all.  The “Mother of Greek Cooking,” renowned Chef Diane Kochilas, is Committee’s Consulting Chef working with Chef de Cuisine Geoff Lukas, who was most recently at Sofra and Zahav in Philadelphia.

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Committee is open for dinner and will be open for lunch beginning July 1st.  The menu is a mezze menu: a menu of small plates with lots of flavour. Weekend brunch will have Greek yoghurt pancakes, with seasonal toppings, baklava oatmeal with rolled oats, toasted walnuts, cinnamon, allspice, clove, Kalamata figs and Greek honey.

DSC_8969The cocktails I sampled were delicious.  There seemed to be a few inconsistencies (remember it’s brand new) with the cocktails with each individual drink being prepared in quite different ways.  The good news is they were all delicious.

DSC_8953 Committee is located at 50 Northern Avenue a stone’s throw from the Institute of Contemporary Art.  Parking is available valet, some nearby meters or at the Fan Pier Garage for $15 in the evening.

Busting Out of Little Kid-ness at Dave & Busters

When the kids were little we went to Chuck E. Cheese’s a handful of times. It was always a special treat because they knew it wasn’t the kind of place I like to go to or take them to. On stormy winter days or sweltering hot summer afternoons, Chuck E. Cheese was a break for me and a big deal for the kids.  At 8 and 10 years old now, it’s still a big treat and I can’t deny that the kids don’t have fun there, but they are slowly outgrowing it.  I had heard there were other places where the teens and tweens go, but I wasn’t really sure what to expect and whether I wanted to take my child there.  I have memories of going to places with video games as a high school student, but the games of my day were few and far between, they were simple, less graphic, with less sophisticated graphics and I was 16 not 8.

On occasion, I bring my children to work events, and usually it is my more sophisticated diner, Isabelle, that joins me because she is a great plus one who is also willing to try new foods.  When I got an invite to check out Dave & Buster’s, however, it had my son’s name in bright lights with sound effects all over it.  He was very excited to go on a work outing with me, so we hopped into the car and took a quick drive up to Dave & Buster’s in Woburn.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I imagined a room filled with games for older kids, and perhaps a small snack bar/restaurant.  Driving up to the building I knew already that what I had pictured in my mind was way off.

Space & Parking

Dave and Buster’s is a huge building with parking underneath the building (perfect for those really hot summer days and really snowy winter ones.  Inside, there is a sports bar with a wrap around bar and a seating area, a restaurant, and several private spaces for birthday parties and larger group meetings. I believe my son mentioned a few times on the tour that he’d like to do his birthday party here next year.

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Energy & Vibe

Dave and Buster’s is loud and full of energy, but even my noise sensitive child somehow managed to handle it all for the sake of playing games.  I was worried that within minutes I would be overwhelmed and done with it all, but because the restaurant spaces are well laid out and spacious, we were able to relax and enjoy dinner and play games without feeling overwhelmed at all.

I also assumed that Dave and Buster’s would be full of teenagers and adult gamers, but in fact there were plenty of families with children from tykes and tweens to teens and grown siblings and colleagues.

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Games

We are a video game free house (well not exactly – we do have iPhone apps and Minecraft) so I’m happy to take my kids out to a place like Dave and Buster’s every once in a while to get their fill of video game action.  I don’t love the “cheerleader” women in the games, and of course there are shooting games as well, but that’s the world we’re living in (like it or not) so I use these opportunities to talk to the kids about it.  I ask them why they think those women are there and if it’s an appropriate depiction or setting.  I ask them about guns and violence and remind them that in the real world guns are not a joke or a game.  Just like fantasy vs. reality in books they understand that these games are not the real world.

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One of the best parts of going to Dave and Buster’s is seeing the child in everyone.  My husband has that 5 year old child sparkle in his eye when he gets behind the wheel of a race car game.  I get a little wild with my air hockey paddle in hand and feel like a 10 year old again battling my brother on the air hockey table at some family event.

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Food

The food at Dave and Buster’s is a little bar food, a little bbq, and a little eclectic served in a fun way (faux cast iron pan), fondue, towering desserts.  I recommend putting your name down on the list and then going to play some games while you wait.  On the other hand, if you want to take advantage of some of the dine and play deals, ask your server about getting a game card when you order.  Everything is explained on the menu.

 

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Elephant Walks Between Two Slices of Bread: New Lunch Options in the South End

The Elephant Walk is known for it’s unique bicultural (yet not fusion) French and Cambodian menus.  Whether you order off the French side of the menu or the Cambodian side, my friends and I each have our favorite Elephant Walk dishes that we order again and again for dinner. I tend to think of it as a popular dinner and takeout spot, vuyt Elephant Walk was a surprising revelation as a lunch option. I was invited to come in and sample some of Elephant Walk’s new lunch menu recently and I cannot wait to go back. I usually go to Elephant Walk in Cambridge, and had not yet been in to Elephant Walk in the South End.  I love how airy and light the South End location is.  
IMG_8930Elephant walk has lunch on Thursdays and Fridays and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays as well as dinner 7 days a week.  On Thursday, when we went in for lunch, I was impressed how popular it was, but after enjoying lunch I understand why.

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We started with an old menu item, that I highly recommend, this soup has a nice citrus tang and delicious mushrooms just slightly undercooked (intentionally) and toothsome giving it a nice texture and freshness.  If I could remember which soup it was I would tell you (I’ll get back to you all on that soon.)  The avocado citrus soup is perfect for summer. 

If I’m craving a sweet pick me up, then I always get a Vietnamese iced tea.  It’s a bit like having dessert first, and isn’t that the advantage of being a grown up…you get to have dessert first. 

Below the iced tea is the crispy catfish sandwich.  My friend and I loved the catfish sandwich for both the freshness and lightness of the battered fish and the fabulous quick pickles that were on the sandwich.  

The hamburger looked like a Vietnamese bahn mi it was on a long Iggy’s ciabatta roll.  The burger was a bit more like a slice of meatloaf, but the best, lightest, most tasty, lemongrassy meatloaf you’ve ever had.

Sandwiches are served with a choice of fries or salad.  The fries were pretty darn good (what I’m saying is- get the fries!)

After sampling both sandwiches, chef brought us a little of the duck on it’s own to taste.  It was so good! It had those classic French flavours, but as a sandwich I think it would remind me of a very North American French Dip sandwich but made with duck.  The sauce is the kind that you want to soak right up into the bread and capture every last drop. 

   
                  

  

Elephant Walk’s new lunch items are:

Le Hamburger a la Citronelle

Half pound of special blend ground beef infused with lemongrass,  grilled; garnished with carrot, cucumber, scallion, cilantro, peanut dressed with Tuk Trey, spicy sriracha mayonnaise; fresh jalapeno optional $11

Avocado Salad

Avocado, cabbage, carrot, tomato, cucumber, baby arugula, red onion, toasted almond; dressed with either Tuk Trey or sesame soy vinaigrette $9 

Braised Duck

Duck braised in soy-ginger tamarind juices with portabella mushroom; garnished with baby arugula, carrot, cucumber, cilantro and scallion dressed with Tuk Trey $9

Crispy Catfish

Crispy Asian catfish with spicy sriracha mayonnaise, baby arugula, Cambodian quick pickles $9

Lemongrass Chicken

Bell and Evans chicken thigh in lemongrass sauce with peanut; garnished with carrot, cucumber, cilantro, and scallion dressed with Tuk Trey, spicy sriracha mayonnaise; fresh jalapeno optional $9 

Add side of fries or salad verte $4

Chain Link: Restaurants Worth Checking Out

In general, I skip a chain restaurant and prefer to go to a small, local independent restaurant whether I’m at home or in traveling to another city.  With social media sources for information such as Yelp, Chowhound, Urbanspoon Zomato, my Facebook feed full of food loving folks, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, I can get a good sense of a local spot without having to live in a particular city so seeking out local gems isn’t that difficult.  Recently, in the South End Barcelona Wine Bar opened and my daughter and I have been thinking about trying it, but then I read that it was part of a group of restaurants; what I would consider a small chain of restaurants.  In the South End there are tons of options for local independent dining so we decided to skip Barcelona Wine Bar.  I had been to Toro, The Butcher Shop, B&G Oysters, among other restaurants located right next to Barcelona Wine Bar, and dream about the food at each of those places, so Barcelona Wine Bar was just going to have to wait.  It was the ever-present food blogger dilemma of too many good bites on this side of town and too few meals in a day (not to mention budget).

The paella was so tasty. It was a tad inconsistent with the rice and some of the seafood being over cooked while other parts of dish (seafood) was perfectly cooked. I'd definitely give it another try though because it was so tasty.
The paella was so tasty. It was a tad inconsistent with the rice and some of the seafood being over cooked while other parts of dish (seafood) was perfectly cooked. I’d definitely give it another try though because it was so tasty.

A year or so ago, the kids and I found ourselves at Chuck E. Cheese’s (an unfortunate situation but as many parents understand its an occasional necessity).  After Chuck E. Cheese’s we usually go to HMart for dinner, but for whatever reason we decided not to and instead we raced across the parking lot in the pouring rain and escaped into try Papa Razzi.  Papa Razzi is another chain that I first saw because I remember always passing this restaurant along Route 2 as we drove to Vermont year after year.  I’d seen the chain here and there and I have to admit I thought it was like a Bertucci’s or a standard pizza joint.

In both these cases, my assumptions were turned on their head.

Custom charcuterie board (choose your own or get the chef's choice) at Barcelona Wine Bar, South End, Boston.
Custom charcuterie board (choose your own or get the chef’s choice) at Barcelona Wine Bar, South End, Boston.

I decided giving Barcelona Wine Bar a chance after a local chef mentioned to me that they actually do a good job finding a chef and give their chef a certain amount of control over the menu.  I made reservations and dined with three fabulous food loving bloggers (A Beautiful Bite, Capability Mom and KimWorld).  Our reservations were for 6:30 and I believe we left at 10:00 our bellies filled with fabulous foods and having had a wonderful time all around. I will still go to Toro and PICCO and Coppa and my favourite local spots, but what I like about Barcelona Wine Bar is convenience, and the price.  Barcelona Wine Bar is a much larger restaurant than many other South End spots so the wait may not always be as long as elsewhre.  Price-wise, because Barcelona Wine Bar is a mid-sized, well-established chain, they have the advantage of business experience and being able to purchase beautiful product for all the restaurants at once which may help with cost.  Most of the dishes we ordered were fabulous.  There were a few little misses.  The Paella wasn’t perfect, but it was still delicious.  The shocker at the end of the evening was the bill (much less than expected).  We actually had to double check it because we were sure some items we had ordered were left off the tally.  I cannot wait to go back again, and I’ll definitely keep it in mind when I’m meeting a group for dinner that can’t be accommodated at some of the smaller restaurants nearby.

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And now for something completely different…  Papa Razzi, which apparently was known for it’s fine dining look and white table cloths is actually nothing like a Bertucci’s or a pizza joint like I asssumed.  My kids and I stopped in for lunch/brunch and we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food and the service we experienced.  It was a meal we all really enjoyed. I was recently invited to Papa Razzi to celebrate the launch of their new “Metro” look and vibe.

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The white table cloths are gone (I’m not missing them but I hear people who have been going to Papa Razzi for years are having a little trouble adjusting) but the food is still excellent.  The more casual environment isn’t reflected in the food, even if you’re popping in for their weekday power lunch.

What I really liked about Papa Razzi was that, once again, it is a larger space and the food is reasonably priced.  I take my children to fine dining, tiny restaurants   I take my daughter to tiny, high end, local restaurants because she dines well there, she appreciates the food and she can handle the setting.  My son on the other hand is not as comfortable in that type of setting.  At a restaurant like Papa Razzi, I can have good food and the children have options they like as well.  I don’t feel like I’m wasting money on poorly microwaved food served on a fancy looking plate.  Instead, I’m getting freshly prepared food and being served by a staff that seems happy to be doing what they do ( you can’t usually fake this stuff and that says a lot about the company to me.)

Creamy polenta with slow cooked oxtail at Papa Razzi Metro in Burlington, MA
Creamy polenta with slow cooked oxtail at Papa Razzi Metro in Burlington, MA

What have I learned?  Don’t judge a book by its cover…or rather don’t judge a restaurant because it is a chain.

Drink for a Cause: Negroni Week in Boston

 Campari is a sunset red liqueur that is perfect for summer.  It is also an essential ingredient for the Negroni.  From June 1st through June 7th over 2,510 bars and restaurants are celebrating Negroni week to raise money for charity.  Charities include the Developing Minds Foundation (Brick & Mortar), Rosie’s Place (BRIX Wine Shop), Greater Boston Food Bank (Craigie On Main, Bistro 5, Hops N Scotch, Lucca Restaurant, Kirkland Tap & Trotter) Lovin’ Spoonfuls (Farmstead Table, La Brasa, Toro), Youth on Fire (Franklin Café), The Wounded Warrior Project (Park Restaurant and Bar, Russell House Tavern, Temple Bar), MSPCA (Pastoral, Vine Brook Tavern), Future Chefs (Straight Law), National MS Foundation (Sycamore), Cure ATRT Now (West Bridge Restaurant), North East Organic Farm Association (Woods Hill Table), Pan Mass Challenge on behalf of the PMC Team Rialto-TRADE (TRADE) and People Helping People Burlington Food Pantry (Papa Razzi Metro) among others.

The bar or restaurant that raises the most money for charity will get an addition $10,000 donated by Campari to the charity they have chosen to support for Negroni Week.

So, this is a great opportuinity to try something new, if you have not yet sipped the tangy, sweet elixhir of summer known as the Negroni, and to support your favorite local charities, bars and restaurants.  If any week calls for a bar or restaurant crawl, I’d say this would be it.

A full list of participating restaurants and bars can be seen here.

A Few New Additions to Your Wine List for Summer: Wines of Tejo Portugal

   

 I have been a fan of Portugal’s most well known fortified wine for a very long time.  Port was really my first introduction to “spirits”  and I didn’t venture beyond it for a long time because I was perfectly content.  When I was in university, I lived in Montreal’s “little Portugal” and became a lover of Portuguese food (and pastries) and I’m sure I had Portuguese wines as recommended by the waitstaff then but I was a student at the time thus had no wine “cellar” to speak of.  This week, I got an introduction to another side of Portugal both regionally and in terms of wine.  Porto is made in Northern Portugal in the Douro Valley.  The wines I was invited to sample and learn about, as a guest of the Comissão Vitivinicola Regional do Tejo (Wines of Tejo), are from further south. Wines of Tejo are from closer to Lisbon and are produced along the Tejo (pronounced Tay zjoo) River.  

There were two white wines that I was especially drawn to as well as two reds. They will each be new additions to my summer wine list. Last year I added the Albariño and this year I’m adding an Alvarinho. (Do you see a pattern here?)

I’m starting at the top with the wine from the Tejo region that I instantly connected with making it my favourite of the bunch. I tasted 8 out of the twelve being presented.  

(1) Fiuza & Bright’s 2014 Alvarinho, VR Tejo was a beautiful buttery yellow colour in the glass.  It is fragrant without being perfumy or heady, which reflects the wine’s taste. There is a nice clean minerality that I’ve learned is something I really appreciate in wines. The minerality gives it a beautiful balance and multiple dimensions.  This is a wine that I would keep very cold. I would serve it both with an apéritif or with dinner.  It is light enough to have with just a few salty bites (olives, salumi, a bit of cheese, and a little quince paste for sweetness).

At first, I found the (2) Quinta do Casal Monteiro’s 2014 Quinta do Casal Monteiro Branco, DOC do Tejo, a bit too light and flat, but then it surprised me when I paired it with food. This is a wine that I would keep as an apéritif because it does have a lightness that could get lost with a meal. The Quinto do Casal Monteiro truly sings when paired with a nice manchego and membrillo.  It would also be great with little chunks of Parmesan and drizzle of honey, or proscuitto and figs.    

I tried two reds: one I liked and one I loved. The best news is that the one I loved is about $2 less expensive.  That never happens to me! (3) Falua’s 2013 Conde de Vimioso Tinto, VR Tejo was the one I liked.  It had a little bit of spice to it and heat ever so slightly in the back of the throat.  It was dry without leaving your tongue feeling parched.  

The red I loved was (4) Casal Branco’s 2014 Terra da Lobos Tinto, VR Tejo. The Quinta do Casal Branco had a peppery, vegetal taste and a soft sweetness that came through in the aroma. I loved that the sweetness stopped at the nose and didn’t carry through to the taste which was more earthy in flavour.  

The other wines I enjoyed are perfect for summer.  For one, in my notes I wrote “drink alone”, which doesn’t mean drink it alone on the front porch, but rather it is really nice without food.  It is a wine to keep chilled and on hand for when a friend comes over to chat and you pour a glass of wine to enjoy together perhaps before dinner or on a summer’s afternoon. (5) Pinhal da Torre’s 2013 Quinta do Alqueve Tradicional Branco, DOC do Tejo reminded me in taste of a Champagne.  It had a slight vanilla taste and a clean, dry, lemony mouth feel. For the other, I wrote “Perfect summer with aperitif”.  (6) Quinta da Ribeirinha’s 2012 Vale de Lobos Reserva Branco, VR Tejo has a very slight smokiness under flavours of apple, grapefruit and my beloved minerality.  

Now for a few technical notes:

(1) Fiuza & Bright‘s 2014 Alvarinho, VR Tejo

This is an Alvarinho (Albariño) that is fermented in stainless steel tanks. If you haven’t tasted an Alvarinho or Albariño I recommend giving it a try this summer. 

 (2) Quinta do Casal Monteiro‘s 2014 Quinta do Casal Monteiro Branco, DOC do Tejo

This is a 50% Fernão Pires, 50% Arinto.  The harvest and crushing are mechanical and the fermentation is in stainless steel.  

(3) Falua‘s 2013 Conde de Vimioso Tinto, VR Tejo

This is an Aragonês, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon.  It is hand-harvested and fermented in stainless steel.  It is then finished with 6 months of oak ageing.  

(4) Casal Branco‘s 2014 Terra da Lobos Tinto, VR Tejo

This is a 60% Castelão, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It is fermented in stainless steel with no oak ageing.  

(5) Pinhal da Torre’s 2013 Quinta do Alqueve Tradicional Branco, DOC do Tejo

This is 100% Fernão Pires.  It is fermented in stainless steel tanks.

 (6) Quinta da Ribeirinha‘s 2012 Vale de Lobos Reserva Branco, VR Tejo

This is a Sauvignon Blanc, Verdelho, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer blend. It is hand-harvested, has a pre-fermentation maceration for 16 hours, fermentation in stainless steel and French oak barrels.

The Trouble With Letting Go

I’m a pretty sensitive person and it’s taken me years to build up the callouses life requires.  It’s odd, in some ways I’m really good at letting things roll off my back. Yet, for many things that I know I should not hold on to I clench in my fist and it takes me a while to even realise that in one hand I have a fist straining to keep closed right.

  
As for the many things I let go of; I let these things slip away creating little shiftable lines like the creases of a sand dune that come and go.  Lately though, I feel like I have been having asking myself to let things go, and another, and another and another…  Looking back, those creases are now becoming deep canyon-like crevices that I’m not sure will so easily fill back up with sand.  

I pride myself on not letting the inconsequentials bother me. I don’t tend to sweat the small stuff. I’m too old for that now. Much much harder is brushing off things that hurt deeply even though you know the stinging sands whipping against your skin is just a consequence of where you stand and that you feel.  It is not the throwing of stones. These are tiny specks of rocks that, on a good day, beneath your feet feel silky and warm, tickle between your toes, and cling to your ankles long after you have left the beach reminding you of your wonderful day as you stand on the porch watching the sun slip into the earth as it sets.

I suppose I just have to have faith that even the deepest crevice will eventually fill back up with as many tiny specks of sand as it needs.  That, and perhaps a walk on the beach soon will be my solution.

Growing Season is Here: Now Just Add Cooking

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Just as the farms are starting to grow some delicious things for us to eat here in New England (or to be fair the greenhouses are doing a lot of the work right now), the kids’ schedules are going crazy.  From end of year events, special meetings, concerts, recitals and ball games, planning for dinner is a bit of a nightmare.  I find myself buying the foods I love, fresh corn from Florida, green beans, local lettuce, and New England springtime treats like ramps and fiddleheads but not having time to figure out what to make with them.

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I tried Just Add Cooking earlier this year, and what I love about them is that they work with local chefs.  Culinary Director of the Grafton Group, Mark Goldberg is working with Just Add Cooking to create summer entrées that are quick and easy to make and take no longer than 30 minutes.  Memorial Day started with a black bean burger with cucumber, avocado and lime.  This week (orders due by today, May 27th) chicken with watermelon, feta and arugula will be a perfect way to taste summer.  Then, seared salmon with summer peach salad is on the menu for the following week (orders placed by noon on Wednesday, June 3)

If you want a little help getting through these last crazy weeks of the school year, then you can enter to win a free trial week of Just Add Cooking here.
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Not a Photographer Nor a Critic

When I chose my degree, based on a careful consideration that a) I might decide to be a lawyer and b) I was in a big school and wanted to be in a small school, I found myself studying Philosophy at McGill.  In retrospect, I think I chose well.  Thinking about life, ethics and meaning was both invigorating and depressing and somehow through it all I learned some excellent skills that I have been able to apply to all of my work. I remember clearly that a professor once taught us early in the degree is that, “You are not philosophers.  You are students of philosophy.”  That resonated so well with me.  What I love most in life is learning and, perhaps to a fault, I consider myself always a student.  I learn from everything I see and do. I learn from the people I cross paths with.  What I don’t consider myself is an expert in anything because in true philosopher form there is always more to learn.  I suppose by now I’ve been doing some things long enough to have reached a certain level of expertise, but ask me to list any of those things and I will likely freeze like a deer in the headlights.  In this age of websites and social media small companies can look big and big companies can behave like small companies.  The clout that you could only get by following a certain path has a new roadmap no road map at all. The term “expert” and lofty titles are slapped on names willy nilly here and there.  It’s almost comedic.

Part I:  I am not a photographer

When I was in elementary school I had my first dark room experience. I continued in college spending time in McGill’s dark room developing photos (hmmm I wonder where those are now). I had a basic knowledge of my camera and a fairly good understanding of the process of developing photos. Since then, the lenses I lugged around Europe in a backpack are sitting in a closet somewhere with my relic of a camera.  Since then, I’ve acquired a new camera with lots of settings and buttons that I am just now beginning to understand and explore.  What has changed is the equipment.  What hasn’t changed is my eye.  I see everything in pictures and snapshots.  Just as I see movement and choreography in music that I hear (less now that I don’t dance as much). I take a lot of photos (as anyone who follows me on Instagram knows all too well). I am a freelance writer so I have flexibility and mobility and I live in an amazing city. I have two busy, active, beautiful (no bias here) children. I have a husband who works his tush off so I can raise our children and pursue other things.  It is the combination of all these things that allows me to play with my camera and capture some pretty cool shots.

Having access to all this doesn’t make me a photographer. Yes, I can snap a great photo. I understand light a little bit. I know what I like or dislike when it comes to composition.  I get a few great shots because I take a lot of photos and play with my settings. What I can’t do, and what differentiates me from a photographer. I cannot strategically and methodically create the setting for the picture that you may want.  I don’t have the equipment or the knowledge to produce a specific photograph on demand.  What does this mean?  It means I continue to take photos and learn. It doesn’t mean I won’t do a job for someone who wants photos for social media.  It means I will take photos for you, but my limitations are your limitations and my fee will always reflect that.  If you are a small business that needs a little help with photos for social media, I can do that.  If you have a budget for a photographer and need photos for a website, print material and more then I will refer you to the many talented photographers in the area.

Theme and Variations dress rehearsal. Boston Ballet. (center) Principals Jeffrey Cirio and Misa Kuranaga.
Theme and Variations dress rehearsal. Boston Ballet. (center) Principals Jeffrey Cirio and Misa Kuranaga.

Part II:  I am not a critic

I have a lot of opinions.  I rarely filter my opinions and those who know me well understand that I am a harsh critic but only for things I care about and love.  My family perhaps knows this best (for better or for worse). On my blog and in my writing, I do not want to be considered a critic of any sort.  That doesn’t mean that I wear rose coloured glasses and sugar coat my writing.  It means I don’t have a salary or budget to visit a single restaurant several times in a row, see a performance several times per program, and order multiple pieces from a particular clothing line’s look book.  In addition to not having the budget, I don’t really want to be known for my reviews or critiques. I write because I enjoy everything more when I can share it with someone.  The joy I get from art, good food, travel, beautiful design, or a great cocktail or glass of wine is so much better when there’s someone there to share the experience with.  Do you the see the smile in Boston Ballet Principal dancer Misa Kuranaga’s face in the photo above?  What I love about this photo is that little smile and glow.  That’s the feeling I get when someone tells me they tried something, went somewhere, did something and enjoyed it as much as I did.

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I write about my positive experiences not only to share them with you, but also to support the artists and artisans who share their work in some way with us all.  I have to have a pretty bad experience to call out a person or place, because my goal is to share what I love and not waste time on failures and faults.

If you want to come along for the ride, the best way to see what I’m up to is to follow me on Instagram or twitter (@ohbabyboston, @bffoodie).  If you prefer to read posts on your commute home or at your desk, you can get Leah’s Life: Pearls & Oysters delivered to your inbox by clicking on the follow button.

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