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A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

A lifestyle blog with a focus on my food adventures

A while back I was invited to Roche Bros. to learn about their grocery delivery service as well as a new service called The Dinner Daily. The way founder Laurin Mills describes her grocery buying habits just about fits me to a t. We do one big grocery shop – without planning what any of our meals are going to be. Generally I pick the same few proteins and make the same 5 meals until we get sick of me cooking and go out to eat. And that was BEFORE kids. Throw kids into the mix and our grocery shopping trip that took 15 minutes before now takes 45 minutes because we have to get the “car” cart, someone’s pushing someone else, there’s always an “I want” request that involves something I’m definitely not putting in the cart….you get the picture. So we walk out with meat that I end up just throwing in the freezer and tons of snacks that won’t help me at mealtime (read: we should own stock in Goldfish and Stonyfield yogurts).

When Laurin started the company she wanted to have the meals be easy to prepare, they had to be healthy, the price of the meal had to be reasonable, and they had to be kid friendly. So how does the service work? You go on the website and you fill in your preferences: what size family are you trying to feed and where you like to shop. The website bases your weekly menu on your food preferences and what is on sale at your local market. Every week you get a weekly dinner plan with 5 dinner ideas delivered straight to your inbox. You can shop ahead or you can order your groceries online and have them delivered by your local grocery store (if available). Want even more savings? The website also links you to online coupons for the items you are shopping for that week.

You can print out your weekly menu and then print out your shopping list. So this way everything is easy and all in one spot, if you need lemon for 2 of the 5 recipes, it puts lemons on the list just once – can’t get any easier than that. Not cooking all of the recipes you got this week? You have the option to delete the ingredients you don’t need off your shopping list.

If you read my blog, you know I’m not much for cooking. So I headed over to Leah‘s house and we made a recipe together. We made a simple chicken dinner with orzo and a spinach salad. I was completely impressed at really how easy the recipe was to make. The chicken was flavorful and tender – even my kids would probably have eaten it, and the spinach salad and orzo were done in the blink of an eye.

Head over to The Dinner Daily website to get your 14 day free trial and see for yourself how you easy meal planning for the family can be.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary subscription to The Dinner Daily. All opinions are my own.

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I’ve got this thing with cheese. I was excited to go and photograph the 2017 Cheese Festival that took place in Somerville at the Armory. This was the 5th year that the event took place and there over a dozen cheese makers and pairing partners in attendance. The event was sold out and people of all ages attended. The cheese makers were on the first floor and the balcony and there were live demos on the stage and in the lower classrooms. So who were the cheesemakers?

Couët Farm & Fromagerie

Cricket Creek Farm

Dancing Goats Dairy

Foxboro Cheese

Grace Hill Farm

They Grey Barn and Farm

Great Hill Dairy

Mozzarella House

Robinson Farm

Shy Brothers Farm

Smith’s Country Cheese

Westfield Farm

 

Cream of the Crop Farm was a standout favorite of mine, and while they didn’t bring cheese, the drinkable yogurt was outstanding. I’m not generally a drinkable yogurt (or any yogurt for that matter) kind of gal, but this was smooth – really nice consistency with a good flavor. Now mango wouldn’t be my go to flavor to try – but I would actually have this on a regular basis – that’s how good I thought it was.

I really enjoyed Cricket Creek Farm’s cheese as well – not only do they have cute packaging, but they also make delicious cheese. Maggie’s Round is a sharp and bright cheese with citrus notes and the rustic rind adds earthy tones. Maggie’s Reserve is an extra aged version (12-16 months) of Maggie’s Round and has a robust flavor. The Tobasi won the 2016 Yankee Magazine Food Editors Choice Award – it just melts in your mouth. The Berkshire Bloom is a semi soft bloomy rind cheese that is similar to a Camabert.

In addition to the great cheese makers, they had pairing partners in attendance, including: Aaronap Cellars, Dove and Figs, Follow the Honey, our friends Fox Point Pickling Company, Nashoba Brook Bakery, New England Charcuterie, Notch Brewing, Sweet Lydia’s and Westport Rivers Winery.

What can you expect on stage for demos? Mozzarella stretching, butter churning, cheese rolling, a history of early American cheesemaking and an ode to the Mammoth cheese.

If you’re interested in attending next year, make sure to keep your eyes open for when tickets go on sale for next year. See the Massachusetts Cheese Festival website here.

Want more information on how to support local cheesemakers? Check out the MA Cheese Guild website here.

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There are a lot of food events out there, but not a many that let pastry chefs flex their culinary muscles. I had the opportunity earlier this year to attend the Sugar Rush event, but the Donut Rise and Rumble is the only other dessert event I have heard of. This is the fourth year for this event, and I asked myself, ‘why haven’t I heard about this sooner?’ The event took place last month at Post 390 in the Back Bay. The line once you got in was a bit long, and after you got the pairings, there wasn’t a seat to be found, but even scrunched and standing in a corner, we savored every.last.bite.

So for $35, attendees got to sample some delicious donut and ice cream pairings and the ticket price also included access to the brunch buffet and coffee and espresso bar. It was nice to see people of all ages attend this event: groups of girlfriends, families with young children, empty nesters, and people on brunch dates.

So who were the chefs at the event this year?

Team 1: Craig Williams, Williams Family Baking Company & Aaron Cohen, Gracie’s Ice Cream
Team 2: Meg Thompson, SRV & Jacqueline Dole, Parlor Ice Cream Co
Team 3: Ellie Wallock, Puritan & Co. & Tyler Whitehorn, Rancatores Ice Cream
Team 4: Lauren Kroesser, Honeycomb Hamilton & Kristen Hanlon, Honeycomb Creamery
Team 5: Joshua Livsey, Harvest & Ice Cream from Picco
Team 6: Christina Larson, Bar Mezzana & Deena Jalal, FoMu
Team 7: Danica Lockett, Post 390 & Vince Petryk JP Licks
Team 8: Jaime Schick, Johnson and Wales & Valerie Nin, Grill 23 & Bar

What kind of things did we see this year? Honeycomb Creamery and Honeycomb put our a mocha nut crunch pairing: a fried brioche donut dipped in a brown butter honey glaze and sprinkled with sea salt. Topped with a rich chocolate and coffee ice cream and garnished with a wedge of honeycomb candy (ooooh that honeycomb candy was delicious!!!). Harvest had a yeasted doughnut with a cinnamon apple filling and a cranberry glaze (check out the center photo – how cute are those?). Picco had a Tahitian vanilla ice cream with a salted maple syrup sesame swirl. Parlor Ice Cream Co. had a passionfruit ice cream with coconut crunch that I was absolutely in love with. Jaime Davis Schick from Johnson and Whales University and Valerie Inn from Grill 23 put together “The Nutty Professor”, a jalapeño donut with a peanut butter glaze and candied peanuts that was paired with a Thai basil lime ice cream. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about the flavors in this one, but was seriously impressed when I tasted it. Puritan and Company and Rancatore’s paired a sticky toffee pudding donut with a burnt caramel ice cream.

I was really impressed with the quality of the pairings and am eager to go again next year!

So who reigned supreme this year? Best Donut went to Harvest Restaurant, Best Ice Cream went to Honeycomb Creamery and Best Donut and Ice Cream pairing went to The Parlor Ice Cream Co. and SRV Boston.

Disclaimer: I was invited as a guest to sample the donut and ice cream pairings at the Donut Rise and Rumble event. All opinions are my own.

 

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I almost don’t want to tell you about Villatoro, it’s just that good. This cute little diner is located in Marlborough and has about 4 booths and maybe a dozen counter seats. You might miss it if you were just driving along the main road, but it is not to be missed.

We arrived before 8:30 on a Sunday morning and sat in a booth – they have a great coloring placemat for kids and it kept mine occupied until our food came. While space is tight, they do have high chairs and are very family friendly.

My husband decided to go with the egg and cheese sandwich which he really liked – one of the best he has had he said.

The kids split a plate of scrambled eggs, bacon and home fries with toast. Portions were generous and we even had some to take home for later.

It was hard for me to decide if I should go with a sweet or savory breakfast – I was going back and forth between the huevos rancheros and the tres leches pancakes, but ultimately went for the pancakes. I figured that I would be back soon enough and could try the huevos rancheros then. The pancakes were delicious – and not as sweet as I had expected them to be – a pleasant surprise.

Villatoro is open 7 days a week, Monday 7-3, Tuesday – Saturday 7-9 and Sunday 7-5. For lunch and dinner they have something for everyone – make sure to check out their Facebook page and their Instagram to follow the daily specials. One of these days I am going to make it in for Taco Tuesday and the brisket on Thursdays – people are RAVING about the brisket.

Have you been to Villatoro? What’s your favorite dish?

Villatoro

353 Lincoln Street, Marlborough

Check out their Facebook page here.

villatoro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Holidays are about family and traditions. When I was a kid, we spent most of our holidays at my grandparents house in Newton. My grandmother was not a (good) cook, but there were a few special things that we looked forward to (and no, I’m not talking about that try colored jello mold with the fruit inside).

One of the things we loved the most was her chocolate pudding pie. For years as kids we thought that she slaved in the kitchen to make it, only to realize when we got older that it was a store bought graham cracker crust and chocolate pudding. And even though my grandmother has been gone for many years now, we still have her pies at family get-togethers. This year, my oldest brother brought one to the Thanksgiving dinner he was going to and my mother made one (although she swears my grandmother made it with whipped cream on top – but she didn’t….) for the dinner we had. I guess, in a way, it is our way of keeping her (and my grandfather) with us at the holidays.

Wishing you all a very happy holiday season – whatever you may celebrate!

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Every year it is such a fun treat for the family to get to go to the Boston Christmas Festival and judge the gingerbread house competition. This was our second year judging the competition but we have been going to the festival for over a decade now. Nothing says holiday season to me like gingerbread houses – although, mine never turn out like this at home 😉

The houses are made by local chefs and the creations are then sold, with all the proceeds going to benefit Housing Families, a non profit organization dedicated to ending family homelessness.

Check out the amount of detail chef’s put into their houses! This house by Harvest and Grill 23 got the ‘honorable mention’ award.

This was a pretty good replica of Tupper Manor. I had never heard of it before, but it was originally built to be the summer home for the Bryce Allen Family, known for their Canadian shipping company, allan Shipping Lines. The family sold the home to Endicott College and is now used for weddings and special events.

‘Best in Show’ went to Cupcake City. Their shop is located in Reading and if you can’t make it to the shop, try tracking down their mobile cupcake truck!

Just look at the detail of that chimney!

Did you miss the Christmas festival this year? Make sure to keep an eye out for it next year – click here to check out their website.

Check out some of my older posts to see past competitions:20162014, 2013.

Davio’s in Lynnfield earned the title of “Best Decoration”.

High school student Brianna Ficaro picked up the ‘best tasting’ award.

Treat Cupcake Bar picked up the ‘most creative’ award.

The kids choice was the ‘house’ by Ginger Betty’s.

Thanks to all who participated, it was such a fun way to spend the morning. Looking forward to judging again next year!

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The holidays have me thinking about drinking. And not the “ugh the Jones’ are coming over” drinking, more like the festive and fun drinking that happens at holiday get-togethers. A while back I was treated to an evening out at Bar Mezzana to sample Amaro dell’Etna, a traditional Italian liqueur. The herbal liqueur is a perfect after dinner digestif  or could be served as a simple aperitif – over ice with soda and an orange slice.

The event was mainly corporate, but I was able to catch up with a few select blogger friends as well as an old PR friend who now works from MS Walker who hosted the event.

The South End restaurant serves coastal Italian cuisine, so it was the perfect backdrop for the US launch of Amaro dell’Etna. We sampled various charcuterie as well as an impressive raw bar.

There were two featured drinks, the first, the Bocca Nuova, was made with Amaro dell’Etna, citadel gin, lime and mint. Perfectly clean and refreshing. The second drink was the Mountain of Fire, made with Amaro dell’Etna, rye whiskey, contralto americano rosso, salt and grapefruit oil.

Thanks to Amaro dell’Etna and MS Walker for the night out!

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Sponsored Post: I recently partnered with Xfinity and was compensated for this post. As usual, all opinions are my own.

As a busy mom, I barely have time to watch tv, let alone learn about all the things that my cable has to offer. I recently visited the Burlington Xfinity store with some of my favorite blogger buddies to see what new things Xfinity had to offer.

Let’s start with their remote. You just talk to it. If only the family would listen to me as well as the Xfinity remote does 😉 Did I also mention that you can call your phone from your remote (when you are subscribed to Xfinity mobile)? Cause you know that when you’re in a rush (and just need to get everyone out the door) and can’t find your phone because the kids have wedged it in between the couch cushions while you weren’t looking, you need a little help.

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They have this cool feature (app) where you can see who is connected to the wifi and on what device, Xfinity xFi. From there you can set up profiles for each person in the house: mom with the computer and iPhone, dad with the iPad, etc. You can see all the network activity – so how much are the kids using the iPad during the week, when the kids are using the computer when they should be doing homework, or when the kids are watching the most tv. Pretty cool. Even better, you can choose to suspend the wifi in the house – so there’s not arguments when it comes time for dinner (my kids are always saying ‘just 2 more minutes….’), devices off – end of story. With Xfinity xFi, you can even troubleshoot issues – no more of that infamous “just unplug and replug”. xFi is available to Xfinity Internet customers with one of the latest wireless gateways. If you don’t have it, the app tells you and makes it easy for you to get upgraded – either with an easy-to-install kit sent to your house or by scheduling a tech to install it at a time that works for you.

Speaking of kids, they have a really cool Kids Zone feature where all the games are free (and it’s a safe place for them to explore their favorite shows). Did I mention the santa tracker?


Most people are mainly using wifi in their house, we only have one thing that is hardwire connected. In this case, you are probably like us, and have a few dead spots – ours are in the living room and in a far bedroom. Xfinity has these cool new xFi pods (that you can buy in packs of 3 or 6) that you plug right into the wall and it boosts the wifi in that part of the house. Yup, it detects when you’re using wifi in that particular area and pushes a boost to the places that you need it, without sacrificing wifi in another area. Pretty awesome. Right now they are only available in Boston and Denver, but they’ll be coming soon to other markets.

Comcast XFINITY mobile wireless press event product shoot at the Comcast Center on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Jeff Fusco/AP Images for Comcast)

Did you know that Xfinity also offers mobile service? I didn’t. They combine the largest 4G LTE network with 18 million Xfinity wifi hotspots to give you a pretty awesome mobile experience. So what does that mean? The mobile device automatically detects and connects you to an Xfinity wifi hotspot if you are close to one, it takes the guess work out. You can have up to 5 lines on your plan and you can switch month to month (if you want) between unlimited data and paying by the gig. So if mom wants unlimited data, and dad only uses 1 gig to play words with friends, and you want to give your kids only a gig of data to limit usage, you can. Mix and match usage between all the lines on your plan. If you have Xfinity internet, you can sign up for a mobile plan and pay as little as $12 per month (per line) if you choose the “by the gig” option (and unlimited plans will run you $45 per month).

Start the New Year off right (and make your life easier) by upgrading to all of the new Xfinity products out there!

 

Many of you probably recognize Bar Director and partner of Cafe Art Science, Tenzin Samdo. If you don’t, start taking notice (check him out on Instagram). He is known for his creative cocktails and his impressive garnishes. I first met Tenzin when he was working at Trade. He’s very personable and never forgets a face. After leaving Trade he moved on to manage the bar at Tavern Road in Fort Point and most recently joined Cafe Art Science this past summer.

Did you know that in addition to being named one of Boston’s best bartenders, he was part of an award winning mixologist team that helped create a line of bar mixes? He worked with Cocktail Artist and developed the perfect premium lemon juice, perfect for those aspiring home bar masters. Other mixes in the line include simple syrup, lime juice, mint syrup, grenadine, Manhattan mix, Old Fashioned mix, and a mule mix.

Tenzin’s bar menu is based on endangered animals. The titi monkey appeared on the endangered species list in 2012 and the menu gives you a short background if you are like me, and have no idea what a titi monkey is. The drink is made with orange peel, pisco, matcha, sandalwood, egg white and sugar cane ($15).

Not only does the drink taste delicious, but watching it being made is like getting a front row seat to a show. Tenzin definitely elevates your bar/drink experience and will definitely help you up your Instagram game 😉

Lines can be long on the weekends to belly up to the bar, but know that the drinks and the service are definitely worth the wait. If you’re up for it, do a little day drinking – they are open for lunch Monday – Friday from 11:30-2:00pm.

The best drink at Cafe Art Science may not even be on the menu. They have this amazing little robot that holds a really cool vapor machine. You “sip” the vapor through a glass straw – it tastes exactly like Jagermeister (let’s say that’s the flavor of the evening), but it has no calories! It’s a surreal experience, you just have to try it out for yourself!

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When we showed up there was no one else in the dining room. Most of the patrons were sitting in the bar playing keno, so it was nice to have the place to ourselves. China Rose does a big takeout business as well.

Make sure to go to their website to get a 15% off coupon. They also print coupons on the back of the local Stop and Shop receipts.

Lunch specials come in at a good price, all under $10. They’re served daily from 11:30-3:30. You can have your choice of pork fried rice or steamed rice and one choice of the following appetizer: egg roll, spring roll, chicken teriyaki, 6 boneless spareribs, 3 chicken fingers, 3 crab rangoon, chicken wing or a beef teriyaki. I’m usually a General Tso kind of girl, but they have lo mein, beef and broccoli, shrimp and mixed vegetables and sweet and sour chicken to name a few other options.

They have a good variety of sushi on their menu with special rolls like an alligator maki, a red dragon maki, a super spider maki and a volcano maki to name a few. Special rolls will run you about $12-$15. Regular maki rolls will run you anywhere from $5-$10. Pictured above is the shrimp tempura maki.

China Rose also offers dinner specials, similar to the lunch specials but coming in at around $12.95.

Service was friendly and attentive. Parking is available in a private lot out front.

China Rose

15 East Plain Street, Wayland

www.chinarosecuisine.com

China Rose Asian Cuisine and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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