First of all, HAPPY HANUKKAH to our friends who are celebrating! May you have a fun and delicious eight nights!
This time of year, we love to give to charity, and this year that includes gifting food tours to various raffles and silent auctions around town. We wanted to put a plug in for one such occasion with the hopes that you'll visit The Cambridge School of Culinary Art's 7th Annual Bake Sale this Saturday, December 16th from 10am until 2pm. The Bake Sale and Raffle is in support of Community Cooks, a neighborhood organization that mobilizes individuals, businesses, civic, educational and faith-based groups to offer home prepared food to vulnerable neighbors seeking assistance from human service agencies, students working to improve their lives in after school programs and families struggling with food insecurity. What a cause!!
Here's more information about the event. See you on Saturday!
I love Harvard Square! I guess it's in my blood because both of my parents lived and worked there, separately and together. My dad used to work at Charette's on Brattle Street in the '70s, and he'd also gone to high school there as well. He'd regale me with stories of grabbing a hot dog at the Tasty, a pastry before class at Nornie B.'s, and perusing Out of Town News.
As a kid, I remember eating at Dolphin Seafood, then walking down towards Harvard Square where we'd see a funny lady in a wedding gown painted white pretending to be a statue, lots of goths and punks in the "Pit" which inspired me to buy green hair extensions, Urban Outfitters which was like a mecca for the best clothes and accessories, and a bead store on Church Street with endless possibilities.
During my undergrad years, I'd stumble off the Senate bus to "stoop sit" on Harvard Yard with cute Harvard co-eds, attend a party at AePi, and indulge in a massive slice of chocolate cake at the Greenhouse which I still miss a lot and wish was still there.
Right out of college, I got a job in economic consulting. with my own office looking out onto the alleyway on Mass. Ave. where Qdoba is now. I commuted from home, so I used to park my car on a rented space on Ellery Street -- most of my paycheck going into the commuting and parking fees. Since they worked me over 80 hours most weeks, I would ask my dad, "Is it safe to walk down the street here at 1am?" Be vigilant, he'd say, but yes - there are people out at all hours and you'll be fine.
Walking home from work, I'd gaze longingly at the apartments left and right until I saved up enough money to take over the rent from a chain-smoking chef on Mass. Ave. and lived there twelve years as the rent more than doubled and my apartment's condition declined.
For years, I walked the cobblestone streets, creating memories. I waited in line for Berryline to finally open. I'd smell the sweet smells of Zinneken's waffles waft over to the line by the new Oberon theater. I'd usher at A.R.T. and meet a date at nearby Bertucci's. A friend and I would giggle as we tried every flavor of froyo at Yogurtland after buying a candy stash at Hidden Sweets. I'd run into Cafe Algiers after a late work event at Harvest. I celebrated Valentine's Day watching Casablanca at the Brattle; I fixed my first record player at Audio Lab in the Garage. Lunch breaks were made up of sandwiches from Darwin's I could hardly afford, cheap eats at Felipe's, and sometimes just a chocolate chip bagel at Finagle. Then there was late night pho from Le's and clandestine meetings at Finale Desserterie, indulgent take-out runs from Spice Thai, free cone days at Ben & Jerry's, and a rendezvous or two at Cafe Pamplona.
Each memory is vivid and alive; Harvard Square's magic truly lives within me, and I am excited to share some of the Square's stories and teach about chocolate as well on our upcoming Harvard Square chocolate tour.
Buy tickets today! Use code "ILOVECHOCOLATE" for $5 off (next ten guests) one of our Harvard Square Chocolate Tours, which starts January 26th, 2018.
Have you ever tried taking a cooking class? Although we do a lot of cooking in our home, it is often fun to refresh our skills and become inspired by learning from an expert!
Yesterday evening, Sam and I were lucky enough to try our hand at Somali Home Cooking through the Nibble Cooking Series with The Somerville Arts Council. We had a lot of fun and greatly enjoyed the menu of pita bread and hummus, salad el swit (Sudanese black salad with smoked yogurt sauce), Maraq caad iyo bariis (White chicken soup & rice), and various chutneys. Definitely check out the series if you have a chance!
Here is a recipe inspired by one of the dishes from last night (be careful when trying at home!):
Charred Eggplant with Smoked Greek Yogurt
Char the Eggplant:
Slice and roast 1 whole eggplant over a stovetop or grill, or in an oven at 500 degrees for 20 minutes until it's blackened. Set aside to cool.
Smoke the Yogurt:
Place 1 cup of greek yogurt (4 or 5% milkfat) into the bottom of a pot with a lid. You can add salt and seasonings such as ground cumin or chopped green onion if you desire.
Chop an onion in half and scoop out the inside layers so only the outside layer remains without skin. Rub olive oil into the onion, about a tablespoon or so (not too much).
Take a small charcoal "puck" that you can purchase at an Asian grocery store or online and heat it over a flame or grill with tongs until smoking hot.
Place the onion skin into the center of the yogurt at the bottom of the pot, drop the charcoal into the onion skin, and quickly close the lid. Smoke will develop, and the aroma is amazing! You can eat the yogurt after 5 minutes or leave it like that in the fridge overnight. You may also be able to create the same effect with liquid smoke more safely at home by adding a few drops to the yogurt.
Assemble the Salad:
You can leave the yogurt as it is or mix it with sesame tahini. Assemble the charred eggplant on top of the smoked yogurt mixture and serve. Great with pita or as a side.
The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts also offers some amazing cooking classes. Sam and I are excited to try their couples cooking events this winter. If you take our food tour, we offer a discount on their classes, so sign up today! Happy Eating.
Often during the holidays, it is hard to practice mindfulness and self-care. We are all busy, distracted, and pulled in many directions. One way that we make time to take care of ourselves is by scheduling a few sessions at our local community acupuncture center. Acupuncture can be a wonderful way to reduce pain, anxiety, and stress.
Sam and I really love Acupuncture Together (2464 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge) and highly recommend it as an alternative and more affordable way to incorporate acupuncture in your life versus scheduling a more expensive private appointment. At this community center, clients relax and recharge together in the same room during their treatment, and the energy there is welcoming and calming. There is an intake appointment that is more in depth about your specific needs. Then, at the beginning of your follow-up appointment, you would detail for one of the fine practitioners what you're looking for that day, and they will customize a session for you.
Then all that's left to do is sink into the comfortable reclining chair, complete with foot warming lamps if you so desire, and listen to the calming music or your own headphones. When you're ready, you press a button and the practitioner will come by and relieve you of the needles, and you'll be on your way. Here's to a relaxing holiday season full of joy!
Thanksgiving is a total foodie holiday - from comfort foods to creative leftovers to Friendsgiving meals, there's so many ways to experiment with food during this holiday.
But if you're not up for cooking, or want some help in the process, here are some of our favorite local catering options -- but hurry up because they want your orders, stat!!!
Fruition Vegan Kitchen, West Medford: This new vegan take-away/delivery/catering shop is already starting to have quite the following, and we are excited about their Thanksgiving menu. From their savory seitan and tofu roast to their fake mac and cheese sides, it ALL looks good!
Rosebud Kitchen, Davis Square: On our Davis Square tour, we often visit Rosebud's incredible diner which is a historical landmark in the Square. And not to mention their award-winning pies -- order today, and we totally can get behind the pumpkin or peanut butter fudge!
Petsi Pies, Somerville and Cambridge: All pies, all the time. We love Petsi Pies, with their southern flair and downright incredible taste, you can't go wrong for Turkey Day!
Formaggio Kitchen, Cambridge: Go totally gourmet this year! Want a Thanksgiving straight out of Martha Stewart? Buy your fresh turkeys and cheese tray here.
Eat out in Harvard Square, Cambridge: We've done it. No clean up = all the smiles. Check out Harvard Square Business Association's round-up here from Parsnip to Beat Brasserie! (Psst...we're launching a brand new Harvard Square food tour in 2018!)
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Off The Beaten Path Food Tours! <3
Boston has a TON of candy and chocolate history.
Did you know that Baker's chocolate was actually named for Dr. James Baker from Dorchester, Massachusetts in the 1700's? He had the perfect last name for this baking products company!
And those little Valentine's Day Sweethearts candies originated from the New England Candy Company (NECCO) that was started in Boston as well.
You may see the Schrafft's building in Charlestown from the highway. Yup, it was a chocolate, candy, and cake company until the 1960's.
All this chocolate manufacturing talk, and Somerville comes to mind -- right? No?? Well Taza Chocolate has grown from a tiny bean to bar operation to a huge globally sold chocolate-making company, and they OFFER TOURS OF THEIR AMAZING CHOCOLATE FACTORY RIGHT IN SOMERVILLE!! Yes!!
Tours run every day from Tuesday - Sunday, and you should definitely register in advance online because they often sell out. Sam and I have been on their tours multiple times and are just *obsessed* with their Stone Ground chocolate, made in the style of Mexican chocolate where they grind cacao beans using hand-carved granite millstones.
Taza also has a brand new cocoa classroom where they do unique tasting panels and offer a host of kid-friendly story-time chocolate events that are sure to intrigue and wow. Check out their tour website for full information.
Insider Tip: Best of all, if you can't make it out to Taza for a tour, try their chocolate on our Off The Beaten Path food tour in Somerville -- we love to give out samples of Taza whenever possible because we believe full-heartedly in their delicious, homegrown stone-ground discs of chocolately goodness, and we will never waiver!