Friday, August 26, 2011

North End Feasts - Fisherman's Feast

One of the wonderful summer traditions in Boston comes out of the North End. Every year there are a series of 'Feasts' starting in early June and continuing through August. The Feasts are celebrations of saints and are organized and benefit North End Religious Societies connected to the saints. They typically close a couple streets and have food, religious ceremonies, games, concerts, and parades.

This past weekend the girl and I went to the Fisherman's Feast . The Fisherman's Feast is "based on a tradition goes back to the 16th century in Sciacca Sicily. The Feast is based on the devotion of the fishermen from Sciacca to the Madonna del Soccorso (Our Lady of Help). When the fishermen immigrated to America in the early 1900's, they brought their traditions with them."

It was the first time either of us had been to a Feast so we didn't really know what to expect. We made our way over to the North End and wandered around (following the noise and smell of food) until we found it. There were lots and lots of food stalls serving all kinds of Italian food. There were huge arancini (rice balls), sausage with peppers and onions, pasta of all kinds, fresh filled to order cannoli and Italian cookies and other treats. There were even ice cream cannoli! We wandered through the streets enjoying the smells of the food, looking at the souvenir stalls (lots of t-shirts and other gifts), and listening to the music. We ended up buying some really good almond cantuccini, basically another name for biscotti.

After wandering through the Feast, we headed for some gelato (the hazelnut was amazing!) from the little shop next to the Citizen's Bank on the corner of Hanover and Cross Street. We took it over to the Greenway and did some people watching while the sun was setting, I was amazed at how busy the area was, it's really nice to see!

This weekend, August 26-29, is the St. Anthony's Feast. It is the last of the big Feasts and is usually one of the biggest. Hopefully the hurricane doesn't completely wash it out! If you have a chance to get down there, I would definitely suggest it, it's a nice way to spend a little time outside.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Beer of the Week: Notch Brewing Saison

Notch Brewing Saison
Beer of the Week 7/23/11 to 7/29/11

One of my favorite beer companies right now is Notch Brewing. They are part of the session beer movement in the US, focusing on beers brewed with an ABV of 4.5% or less (this ABV cutoff could be a very long post on it's own, but I will spare you that!). These session beers are styled after English beers where the point is lower alcohol so that you can have multiple over a long session without getting completely drunk or feeling awful the next day.

Notch is brewed by Chris Lohring, formerly of Tremont Brewery. Notch currently has two standard offerings, their session ale, and a session pils. They have also brewed small batch specialty beers for The Haven restaurant (70 Schilling and a heather ale) as well as a special Dark Mild cask for the American Craft Beer Festival.

Notch's current limited release is the Notch Saison. Saisons were originally brewed for farm workers as something to quench their thirst on the fields. As you can imagine, they were brewed at a low alcohol level since drunk field workers aren't very productive!

I first tried Notch's version on cask at the Drink Craft Beer 5th Anniversary party at Stoddard's. I immediately fell in love with it. The saison pours an orange color with a frothy head. The head goes away pretty quickly leaving some lacing on the glass. The smell to me is fruity, some citrus, and yeast. The flavor also has the citrus flavor but there is a wonderful bitterness to it. I really like how it is sour and bitter but I'm not put off by it. The bitterness makes me want to go back for more!

Right now this is only a limited release in 22oz bottles and on draft in select places. I really hope that it becomes a regular beer because it is one of my favorites. I'm going to stock up on some 22 ounce bottles just to be sure!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

German Potato Salad

Potato salad. A New England cookout staple. Chunks of potato, mixed with mayo, maybe some onion or cherry tomatoes, it's a classic summertime side dish. Unfortunately, mayo doesn't keep very well outside in hot temperatures. It has never been my favorite, unless I get the first scoop from the fridge or cooler when I know it hasn't been baking in the sun.

The solution? German potato salad. The vinegar and mustard based dressing on this style of salad keeps it fresh and delicious all cookout long (although it probably won't last very long!).

The recipe we used is from How Stuff Works (the girl also put it in a cookbook of our favorite recipes for our anniversary). This salad goes well with chicken, burgers or Italian sausage. We used some early new potatoes from my CSA and I'm sure we will make it again with our homegrown fingerlings! Give it a try the next time you are tasked with bringing a side dish to a cookout. I'm sure everyone will be happy with the change of pace from classic pasta salad!

Lemon Romano Vinaigrette

In the summer, the girl and I love a simple grilled chicken salad for dinner. Our go-to dressing is usually a basic balsamic and olive oil drizzle. We were flipping through a recent Everyday Food magazine and came across a section full of simple salad dressings. Wanting something different, we decided to try out a lemon Parmesan recipe. We tweaked it slightly (more lemon, Pecorino Romano instead of Parmesan) and lightly dressed our salad with it.

Lemon Pecorino Vinaigrette
Adapted from Everyday Food

1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of sugar
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano

In a small bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and a pinch of sugar.

Slowly add 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, whisking until emulsified. Or shake the ingredients in a jar, or whirl them in a blender. (We put all ingredients in a small jar and shook...worked like a charm!)

*Another easy salad idea that goes well with this dressing: Thinly slice a large fennel bulb (I had one from my CSA) and half a Granny Smith apple. Toss together with lemon dressing (as much as you'd like, but I'd recommend a small amount so as not to over power the fennel and apple flavors). This is a great hot weather side dish. Crisp, bright, and delicious!

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