Eversave Boston: 2 Great Deals

Happy Wednesday all!  I have something exciting and delicious to share with you.

The wonderful City Manager of Eversave Boston contacted me about an opportunity to post not one, but two “Saves” on the blog.  These are great deals for restaurants in the Boston area.  If you want to start your Christmas shopping extra early this year, this is the perfect way!

First up, Piccola Venezia.  This North End restaurant has a beautiful Italian menu and an extensive wine list.  Located on Hanover Street, a night out at this home-style restaurant will bring a little piece of Italy into your life.  Head over to Eversave’s website and purchase your $30 voucher for only $15!

Photo courtesy of Eversave.com

Up next is another restaurant, this time located in Watertown, MA.  The Talk restaurant serves everything from perfectly seared steak to fresh seafood and Italian cuisine.  End your dinner with one of their whimsical desserts or a nightcap.  Eversave is offering readers a $40 voucher for $20 right now, so don’t miss this opportunity so start your holiday shopping or pick one up for yourself!

Photo courtesy of Eversave.com

*PS – To save an extra $5 on your purchase, use SPOOKY as your promo code!

Thank you to Eversave Boston for having my post these wonderful Saves!

Boston Brunchers Dine at Local 149

A mere three days after stuffing myself at Lil’ Vin’s and getting a bit jumbled, I headed into South Boston (lovingly known as “Southie”) to meet up with the Boston Brunchers yet again.  This time, brunch was held at the eclectic Local 149 restaurant located on P Street.

I immediately ran into Kathy and Renee , snapped a picture of the place and headed inside where the manager greeted us with open arms.  The indoor decor was welcoming and fun; even an old school Gulf sign hung on the bar, welcoming each and every patron.

Local 149

But it wasn’t just the decor that made me excited to be there; it was the promise of multiple courses, each more glamourous than the next.  And the company wasn’t half bad either.

Look at that awesome Gulf sign

The first course was a lovely spread of toasted bread, blue and monchego cheeses, two different types of ham and a type of homemade duck sausage.  It was served with bowl of fresh fruit.  We cleaned each platter.

I could've eaten an entire block of that Manchego cheese

Next up, a remade classic that I had for the first time at the Biltmore: Chicken and Waffles.  But these were not ordinary chicken and waffles.  Blueberry waffles with a blueberry compote and lightly breaded chicken made for a sweet and savory Southern dish that I couldn’t stop eating.  If you haven’t tried this combo, you’re missing out.

Mmm.. blueberry

Next up…breakfast pizza, complete with teenie tiny quail eggs on the top.  I have never had a thinner crust in my whole life.  I had to refrain from each multiple pieces.

I'll have one large quail egg pizza to go please...

And no brunch would be complete with a version of French Toast.  This is, by far, one of the best french toast dishes I have ever had.  Brioche bread soaked in an expresso martini, covered in Life cereal, garnished with a chocolate cigarette, Grand Marnier whipped cream, a single M&M and a sliced strawberry.  At this point, I was unable to eat more than a few bites but this is what I’m ordering when I go back there.

French Toast...who wouldn't want that?

Thankfully, the next two dishes that came out were served family-style.  First, a plate featuring Yorkshire Pudding with 2 perfectly poached eggs, cinnamon-raisin toast, spiced hash and a popover.  I don’t particularly love Yorkshire Pudding but the popover was divine.

Yorkshire Pudding plate

The other dish held the fanciest Egg McMuffin I’ve ever seen: Lobster in a large, puffed egg cylinder with potatoes on the side.  Unreal.

This thing was as large as my face..

Finally, when it seemed like my stomach could hold no more, dessert arrived.  A small glass full of a malted chocolate shake with a garnish of coconut and a chocolate cigarette.  I can’t think of anything better to end an incredible meal.

Malt-y deliciousness

Oh – did I mention they also gave us free drinks?  Four of them. FOUR.  And not the tiny sample sized ones either.  A house bloody mary (which I gave to Katy), a delicious mimosa, a coconut rum concoction served in a fresh coconut and my favorite – peach sangria.  I didn’t drive home, no worries.

Why yes, I will have a beverage with brunch, thank you.

I would also like a pretty glass, please.

Mmm.. sangria

Overall, I had a wonderful experience at Local 149 and would highly recommend it for a brunch.  Go for something a little different and definitely order a signature drink with your meal!

NOTE:  Brunch was provided to me free of charge by the restaurant but all of these opinions are my own.  Neither the restaurant or the Boston Brunchers asked me to write a review.  This does not portray a typical dining experience.

PS – There is still time to enter my 1st Blogiversary Giveaway!  The contest closes Monday night, 9/12/11, at 11:59pm EST.  Get your entries in ASAP!

1st Blogiversary & 1st Giveaway!

Happy 1st Blogiversary Chocolate & Wine!

Is it rude to wish yourself a Happy Blogiversary?  Maybe… sorry about that.

One year ago today, I was sitting at my desk at work, searching the Internet for something to make for dinner when I decided to start this blog.  At first, it was to document recipes and photos of the food I make.  From there, it spiraled into a cornucopia of food, fitness and fun.  And I thank all of you for helping it (and me) get to where it is now.  I am more than grateful for how much support I have gotten for this blog over the last year.

For my 1st Blogiversary, I also want to do my first ever giveaway!

I love giveaways.  I follow lots of blogs that are lucky enough (and popular enough) to have companies sponsor them and send them gifts to give away to their readers.  I may not be at that point just yet (it’s coming though… any day now!), I still want to host a giveaway all my own.

So what will be included in this fabulous giveaway?  Some of my favorite things that I’m sure you will enjoy!

1) My favorite pastime.  Baking is one of my favorite things to do so I want to bake for YOU! (You see how I even made up that little rhyme? I’m good like that.)  The winner will have a choice of peanut butter blossom cookies, sugar cookies or multi-chip cookies that I will send to them.

2) My favorite peanut butter.  If you haven’t tried Better ‘n Peanut Butter, this is your chance to get a whole jar for yourself.  Warning: If you like said PB and eat the whole jar, I am not responsible. (Note: Allergic to nuts? Enter anyway and we’ll figure out an alternative together!)

3) A Favorite Book.  Let Me Eat Cake by Leslie F. Miller.  A must-read for food lovers!

4) My Favorite Chocolate.  I mean, it’s only fitting to include this.  It’ll be a surprise to the winner which chocolate I choose.

5) My Favorite Wine….Glass.  Apparently it’s frowned upon by the law to mail actual wine.  However, you will receive a pretty cool wine glass that you can pour your own wine in.  And I’ll tell you what my favorite wine is so you can go find it!

There will also be a few surprises in there that I’ll keep secret for the winner.

Who Can Enter?  Anybody!  As long as you enjoy fun, free gifts, I’d love for you to win!

PLEASE REMEMBER to include an e-mail address that you check on a regular basis in all of your comments!  It would be shame to not be able to contact the person who wins!

Ways to Win:

1) Mandatory Entry: Leave a comment telling me what your all-time favorite food and/or pastime is!

Extra Entries:

1) Follow me on Twitter (@ChocoAndWine) and tweet “I want to win @ChocoAndWine ‘s 1st Blogiversary Giveaway!” Then leave a separate comment telling me you did.

2) “Like” my page on Facebook and write me a separate comment telling me you did.

3) Sign up for Chocolate & Wine e-mails using the link on the sidebar “CRAVING MORE CHOCOLATE AND WINE?”.  Leave a separate comment telling me you did!

Good luck to everyone!  Entries can be submitted until Sunday, September 11th, 11:59pm EST. I will select the winner using a random generator and will announce who won on Monday, September 12th!

Weekend Recap

Yes, I know it’s Wednesday.

But after I threw a blogging curveball and had a guest-post-filled Monday, I want to tell you about my amazing weekend, which started last Thursday night.

Earlier last week, boyfriend asked me if I would be interested in going to the Patriots game on Thursday night.  Wait, the opening Pats game at Gillette, aka the start of football season?  Of course I want to go.  Duh.  Oh, and the seats are 24 rows up from the field?  Can I take my best friend too?

Sweet.

When Thursday night rolled around, three of us (myself, boyfriend and Alyse) headed to Foxboro for the game.  After getting beer (our number 1 priority the second we got through security), we found out seats.

Check out those Pats shirts.

Many beers later, the Pats dominated the Jaguars 47-12 and we left the game very happy (and maybe even a little buzzed.)

Check out those seats!

For my first ever Pats game, I would say it was wildly successful.

The next night, Friday night, meant one thing: Cooking.

As my good friend and fellow blogger, Megan, quotes “So you know how some people say they need retail therapy? I often need cooking therapy.”  That pretty much hits the nail on the head.

I knew I wanted to try a recipe I haven’t tackled yet.  I also wanted something I have been craving for a while.  A few months ago, I went to a restaurant in Boston called Cafeteria and ordered their veggie burger.  Ever since then, I have been determined to recreate it.  On Friday night, I got pretty close.

Black Bean Burgers with Goat Cheese, Arugula & Chipolte Mayo

Chipolte Mayo
(Adapted from Bobby Flay)

1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
1 TB adobo sauce (from the can)
Squeeze of lime juice
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth.

Black Bean Burgers
(Adapted from Sandra Lee)

1/2 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/3 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained, divided
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
4-6 hamburger rolls, if desired
4-6 TB goat cheese
Arugula

Heat a skillet on the stove to medium-low.

In a food processor, combine onion, garlic and bell pepper until finely chopped.  Add 1 can of black beans, egg, parsley, basil and red pepper and pulse to combine.  (The mixture will be slightly liquid-y.)

Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl.  Add the remaining can of black beans and the breadcrumbs.  Season with salt and pepper and mix well until thoroughly combined.

Divide into 4-6 portions, depending on how big you want your burgers to be.  Place in the warmed skillet coated with a thin layer of oil and cook about 4-6 minutes per side or until heated through.

Place burger on toasted hamburger half.  Spread chipotle mayo (as much as you like, but be careful – there’s a definite kick to it!) on the top half and place arugula leaves on top.  Spread about a tablespoon of goat cheese directly on the bean burger.  Place mayo/arugula-ed half on cheesy burger and enjoy!

Is it weird to crave veggie burgers? Maybe...

 The next item on the cooking agenda?  Meringue cookies.  Simple, melt-in-your-mouth, I could eat 50 in one sitting, meringue cookies.  They took a little longer than I expected, but were delicious, airy and the perfect thing to bring to my aunt’s drinking party casual get-together later that night.

Meringue Cookies

3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (I accidently put in 3/4 tsp.  They came out good anyway, but I don’t advice doing this.)
3/4 cup gradulated sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat eggs on high speed until you can no longer see the bottom of the bowl, about 6 minutes or until the foam can hold soft peaks.

With the speed still on high, gradually add the sugar until the egg whites hold stiff peaks.  Then, beat in the vanilla extract.

Transfer egg white mixture to a piping back or a plastic storage bag with the tip snipped off.  Pipe swirled kisses on prepared baking sheet and place in oven.  Bake for an hour and ten minutes with the oven door completely shut.  Seriously, don’t open it.  Not even to peek.  Even the slightest change in temperature while baking meringues can cause them to break.  After an hour and ten minutes, the cookies should be slightly browned and dry.  If you pick one up and the middle is still wet, continue to bake in 5 minute intervals until done.

Shiny pillows of sugary goodness

After my cooking and baking excursion on Friday afternoon, I rounded the night off with some quality time at my aunt’s house and drank copious amounts of red wine.  Solid Friday overall.

Saturday marked a very special occasion:  the day the first of my best friends got married.

I met Amy in college and we became close friends while being involved in school musicals together.  On Saturday, in a beautiful Catholic church in Nashua, NH, she said “I Do” to the love of her life in a gorgeous white dress.  The second my friends and I saw her, we all started crying.  It was a beautiful ceremony.

Saying "I Do"

And then, we partied.

College friends at the wedding reception
Maid of Honor, Groom and Bride

 She and her new husband are now honeymooning in the White Mountains and I hope they are having a fabulous time.  Congrats Amy & Alex!

On Sunday morning, after a late night and many glasses of wine, Stephen and I headed back to Massachusetts so he could go to work and I could go to the mall with my parents, during tax-free weekend, to buy my first Mac laptop.  Even though I’m not computer savvy at all, it has rapidly become my favorite new toy.  It needs a name… suggestions?

Sunday night, I cooked again.  I know, I was on a cooking roll this weekend.  And a roll was exactly what I made.  Craving more of my Friday night goat cheese and arugula combo, I sliced a large eggplant, grilled it, spread goat cheese on it, pressed on some arugula leaves, rolled them up and together, my father and I devoured each one. 

Mmm... eggplant

After a wonderful weekend, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.  And then I took a kickass muscle class at the gym and the new season of DanceWorks Boston started on Monday night. 

Win.

How was your weekend?  Are any of your best friends getting married?  And what do you think of veggie burgers?

My Weekend Recap

Stress fractures are no fun.  Especially if they reside in your left foot, aka your turning foot if you’re a dancer. 

My foot had been bothering me for a while.  I know I have tendonitis in the top of my left foot already from years of dance but when a sharp pain developed in my big toe, I started to worry.  It started acting up around Week 5 of my Couch to 5K training but I chalked it up to overuse and moved on.  When I woke up on Friday morning with a painful (and gross looking) broken blood vessel in the same foot and throbbing in my toe, I knew sucking it up might not be best course of action.  Doctor, here I come.

I more or less expected the result.  Minor stress fracture, pain from imflammation, and a broken blood vessel that should go away in a few days.  My doctor gave me a prescription for high dose ibuprofen with the consoling words, “I’d tell you to stay off of it, but I know you won’t.” Smart man my doctor.  I decided to take a few days off since I was in for a busy Saturday anyway and hoped that by Sunday, some of the pain would subside for my dance rehearsal.

 Later that day, I headed down to Hanson with my friend Alyse to celebrate our other friend, Swy’s, 23rd birthday.  I made this cake for her.  Talk about a project and a half.  I am no Duff Goldman, but I think it turned out pretty good.  And it was quite delicious if I do say so myself.  I found it in a Food Network magazine.  (Chocolate cake, vanilla icing, toasted coconut.)

On Saturday morning, Alyse and I enjoyed Mary Lou’s coffee on the way home where I had roughly an hour to get ready for a graduation party with Stephen’s family in New Hampshire.  We had a great time, ate lots of yummy grilled veggies with hummus and I enjoyed a (large) glass of Cabernet.

That night, Stephen and I made a shrimp/veggie stir-fry for dinner.  Nothing fancy, just tossed a bunch of frozen veggies in a wok, made some basmati rice, threw in the shrimp last minute and voila.  It was delicious, especially the quick wheat biscuits I made to go with it.  We also popped open finished a bottle of Asti I bought for him because we were celebrating.  Not only is Stephen graduating from college on Thursday with an x-ray degree, he also has a job already!  (Seriously, he’s out of school 3 seconds and has a job.  I’ve been out of college a year.. where’s mine?!)  Regardless, celebrations were in order.  Just wait til he sees the gift I bought him.  I’d tell you now but he reads this… sneaky.

On Sunday my mom had one thing planned for the morning: My FAFSA.  More like the bane of my existence.  Paying for college is hard enough without tacking on an additional $45,000.  Whatever, BU, you better get me a job when I’m done.

Around 2pm, I headed to Boston for my DanceWorks photoshoot/dress rehearsal.  It’s hard to imagine that the past few months have flown by and our show is a little over a week away but I am more than excited for it.  I danced all through college but we never really had dance shows like this.  It’s like being in recital all over again…something I haven’t experienced since high school.  Needless to say, I’m pumped.

The rehearsal went great.  We each got our photos taken (headshots and full body poses), learned some of the finale routine and ran through each dance in show order.  During the show itself, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that I will be throwing my costumes around backstage between routines and trying not to look like a bright red lobster during the entire show.  Ha. We’ll see.

After rehearsal, we had a mini pizza party in the food court of the Pru.  I made some sugar cookies for the girls.  I think they went over pretty well.

I rounded out Sunday night with Stephen (I swear we aren’t actually attached…)  We made pork and broccoli for dinner and pistachio cupcakes for dessert (sans frosting so I hesitate to call them cupcakes but that’s how Stephen refers to them.)  Overall, besides the stress fracture, it was a very successful weekend.

Coming Up…
–Oklahoma on Friday.  I can’t believe it’s time for Staff Meeting already!

NDA/DanceWorks Packets….

I WANNA KNOW!! What is the fanciest dessert you’ve ever created? How did it turn out?

Weekend Recap & My First Race Week!

As you can see from my previous post, I have lots of RUNNING related things going on this week.  But I don’t want to miss out on recapping my wonderful weekend because it was jam-packed and full of fun.  Makes me wish every day was the weekend.

On Friday night, my friend/co-worker/Work Mama, Tracie, invited me to a wine tasting at a friend’s house.  We drank copious amounts of wine, ate lots of crudites, hummus and oreo truffles (made by me, which everyone loved!) and I met lots of wonderful people.  I took an extensive amount of notes during the tasting, per the English major in me, and learned quite a bit.

The party host, Dawn, from The Traveling Vineyard brought 5 wines for each of us to sample: 2 whites, 2 reds and 1 dessert.  She encouraged us to grab different finger foods to try with each.  The wines included Sauvignion Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignion.  Dawn told us that the proper way to try a wine is to use four categories: color, aroma, taste and legs.  Yes, legs.  The more “legs” a glass of wine has, the more alcoholic it is.  For example, if you swirl a glass of Sauvignion Blanc, the drip lines down the glass will be few, if any, and very thin.  But if you swirl a Cabernet and glance at the legs, they will run thick and numerous.  This is because the alcohol content is much higher in red wines than whites.  It was a great educational experience as well as an excuse to drink lots of wine.  Win-win.  Thanks Tracie!

Saturday was my dad’s 59th birthday.  (Happy Birthday Daddy!)  He took the day off from work to…work.  Around the house.  He likes that sort of thing.  Boyfriend and I went out for a walk along my 5K route in Marblehead around 1 but after a mere mile, it started pouring.  HARD.  We quickly abandoned the walk and headed to the mall to buy gifts for Mother’s Day where we waited in the obnoxious Pandora line for an hour.  Good thing he’s funny.  I would’ve been so bored alone.

On the way home, we picked up additional Mother’s Day gifts (a bottle of Midori for his mom from me and a bottle of red wine to my mom from him), a new bottle of Merlot for us, bought dinner ingredients at Hannaford’s and by the time we got back to his house, we had gotten it into our heads to make homemade wheat bread (a 3-hour process), turkey chili and profiteroles for dessert.  Perfect for a Saturday night at home.

Let me just say – the worst part about breadmaking is the WAIT.  We used this awesome recipe from a blog I found called Hot Mess Cooking.  It is a lengthy process so I’ll let you jump over there for it’s entirety.  The yeast expanded, the dough rose, we punched it, it rose again but it just takes patience…which we all know I don’t have so I proceeded to throw flour around the kitchen and boss Stephen around to pass the time.  He always loves when I do that.

Here’s what the bread looked like. It was so good.

The chili recipe, adapted from Weight Watchers, is easy and requires 1 (maybe 2) pots/pans for the entire cooking time.  We like to throw in a few extra things (mushrooms, turkey kielbasa, a jalapeno, red pepper flakes and hot sauce) but a little heat never hurts.  Just make sure to chaperone the pot if your significant other is heavy-handed with the Sriracha sauce.  That stuff hurts.

Dessert was a classic from 17th century France: profiteroles.  Simply put, these are hollow pastry puffs, light and airy that are split apart making the perfect canvas for ice cream, whipped cream, pastry cream, etc.  We made ours from a basic combination of flour, nutmeg, eggs, butter and water,placed a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream in the middle and then doused the tops in semi-sweet chocolate.  It was hard not to eat all of them.  Warm and dainty, but so light you don’t feel (as) guilty about that extra scoop of ice cream on the side or eating the chocolate sauce out of the bowl.  All-in-all, a good Saturday.

Sunday = Mother’s Day and I got to spend it with the fam at my sister’s college.  After a mid-day dinner at Bertucci’s (I got the special salad: arugala, orange, roasted red peppers, grilled chix with a lemon dressing and balsamic glaze) and a Mocha Light Frappuccino from Starbucks (happy hour, dur), we headed home.

I sat around for 10 minutes and decided to head to the gym.  I figured I’d do a short run (20 minutes or so) and get some strength training in.  I settled myself onto the treadmill with a new playlist and told myself I would run to the end of it.  At the end of it, I replayed a 5:22 song Kanye’s “The New Workout Plan” and decided to finish that.  At that point, I took my sweater down from the tread to see my time and I was at 3.01.  Since I started the run at .33 after a 5-minute walk, I decided to push the end of the 3 miles.  I clocked it at about 32:20 and marked the completion of my Couch to 5K training.  I was so happy, I thought I was going to cry.  I walked to cool down, did some strength and some abs, drained 2 water bottles and left feeling accomplished (and very very sweaty.)

Looking ahead to this week…

So it’s my first race week ever, but since this is no 26.6 mile race, I don’t feel that “tapering” really applies to me yet.  Here’s what I’ve got planned for the week workout-wise…

Monday: Cross trainer, arms, Dance 7-8
Today: Run the 5K route, abs, sides, arms
Wednesday: Cross trainer, thighs, sides, abs, Dance 7-9
Thursday: Run the 5K route, abs, sides, arms, Dance 7-8
Friday: REST!
Saturday: Well.. duh.

Friday Night at The Rustic Kitchen

The last weekend of April is always a blur.  The weather is all over the place (sunshine here, rain there, 40 degrees, 80 degrees), it’s the first in 5 years that I haven’t celebrated Pup Cup (which is a typical “Spring Weekend” at my college, complete with nonstop partying and endless amounts of alcohol) and everyone is looking forward to getting April over with and moving into May.

Normally, I am one of those people but this year, I slowed down the last weekend of April and it was truly something special.  This post is dedicated to an amazing Friday night.

After work on Friday, I raced home to get a quick Jillian Michael’s Shred Workout in with anxious anticipation of the night’s events.  My Aunt Debbie treated me to a one-of-a-kind experience.  She surprised me with tickets to “The Cooking Show” at The Rustic Kitchen in Boston.  The Rustic Kitchen is an eclectic restaurant, simple and sophisticated from the outside, warm and inviting on the inside.  The wine list was extensive and the food, embedded tradition in newly renovated classics.When we arrived, our party (myself, Aunt Deb, my Uncle Gene and friend Janine) settled ourselves at the bar for pre-dinner drinks and apps.  Knowing we would be eating graciously in a short while, we decided on a batch of lightly battered calamari (with a spicy kick) and prosciutto with housemade mozzarella.  I had a glass of red wine, of course, but not my usual Cabernet.  This was 2006 Malbec from Catena, Argentina.  It was deep and bold and I think I might be trying Malbecs more often.  Aunt Deb got a delicious white, Caymus Conundrum via California 2008, and it reminded me of a spicy Asti Spumonti.  Already slightly buzzed and tummy no  longer growling, we moved onto The Cooking Show set.

I found my place setting and bellied up to the table.  In between me and Deb sat a multi-topping pizza as a pre-show snack.  As you read in my other post, I usually don’t eat pizza but in the moment, I had to try the mushroom.  The slices were small but oh so satisfying.  Not greasy, just crispy enough with the perfect amount of cheese.  A glass of the night’s selected wine, Crabalis Vermentino, begged to be tasted.  Despite my general disinterest in white wine, I loved it.

When the taping began, I felt as though I had been transported to an episode of Emeril Live.  The lights flashed, music blared and an announcer welcomed our host, Liz Bramwell, a 26-year old Culinary Institute of America graduate.  A petite woman, you would more likely mistaken Liz as a college student rather than a successful chef, but she would shock you with an extensive resume including head pastry and chef experiences in famed restaurants on Cape Cod and in Vegas.  Liz started the show off by introducing her assistant, Pepe, and offering a toast (I was pleased to see her raise her own wineglass to her intimate audience.)

First, Liz prepared a cold vegetable terrine with roasted vegetables.  Eggplant slices, zucchini, summer squash and asparagus drizzled in olive oil, then baked until soft while she blanched Boston bib lettuce and lined a loaf pan with them.  She placed the roasted veggies in delicately, including a middle layer of herbed goat cheese.  Once assembled, she pressed it down, sealed it with plastic wrap and stuck it in the fridge to set up for “at least 8 hours” but more like 24.

Served with a slice of the loaf was a sundried tomato coulis and a thick balsamic glaze.  After chilling for 24 hours, the flavors of the roasted vegetables deeply complimented each other and the goat cheese provided a salty bite to the overall dish.  It was simple, but decadent and elegant as well.

Next, after several more questions and toasts (and many wine refills thanks to Pepe), Liz moved on to the main course, Seafood en Parchment.  First, she made an herb butter, combining softened unsalted butter with bright basil, thyme, parsley and garlic.  She then cut a large piece of parchment paper into a heart shape and brushed it with melted butter.  She layered chiffoned zucchini, summer squash, leeks, carrots and red baby potatoes on the bottom before stacking 2 jumbo shrimp, a thick 4-ounce seabass fillet and 2 large scallops on top.  2 thick slices of herb butter followed before Liz folded and secured the parchment and popped it into the oven.

When it arrived in front of me, I cut open the top of the parchment to release the steam and was greeted by the delightful scent of perfectly cooked seafood.  The scallops were tender and creamy, the shrimp delicately pink and the sea bass, well, let’s just say I’ll be cooking that more often.  The overall dish was light and flavorful.

After a final toast, Liz closed the show, leaving her audience full of wonderful food and maybe a bit buzzed from bottomless wine.  We realized before the show started that we had been seated next to Liz’s parents, Paula and Whitey.  They were a fun couple, taking the brunt of many jokes when Liz poked fun at them during the show.  You could see instantly that they were a close and loving family. 

Shortly after the taping ended, we continue to chat with Paula and Whitey.  Of course, my blogger cards were out the whole time and after about 10 minutes, Liz came back to the set to chat with her guests.  I think I monopolized her a bit.  My aunt snapped about a million pictures of me behind the set and if I do say so myself, I look good back there.  And the best part of it was that Liz, although incredibly successful for someone so young (she’s even got restaurant openings in the works!), was completely down-to-earth and fun-loving, someone I would hang out with, someone my friends would love.

After thanking her and saying good-bye to her parents, we left Boston around 9:30.  Not ready to end the night just yet, Aunt Deb, Uncle Gene and I head to the Red Rock Bistro in Swampscott for an after-dinner drink (more wine, please!)  Once home, I fell promptly fell asleep on the couch til about 3AM when Giada diLaurentis’ voice woke me up.  I slept like a rock the rest of the night.

Action shot!

I highly recommend The Rustic Kitchen for a special occasion or just to sample their wine list.  Or splurge and go see The Cooking Show.  Either way, don’t forget to make a reservation before hand.  This place is sure to get super popular very fast.  Oh and Food Network, give Liz her own show, ya hear?

Me & Aunt Deb at the end of the night