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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Highland Kitchen in Somerville MA

I was visiting Boston this weekend and found myself in Somerville looking for a place to eat. Luckily for me my friends live just a few buildings away from Highland Kitchen

I really can't say enough about this restaurant. From the outside I would have walked by this place. The building is nothing special on the outside but once you step inside things change.

At this point you should be warned that unless you arrive at the beginning of dinner service you are going to wait. Even if you show up at 10 pm you are going to wait. This place is extremely popular with the locals and is always very busy.

Highland Kitchen serves what I call southern comfort food with a local New England twist. The food is fresh, homemade, seasonal, and delicious. I could honestly go on for a few paragraphs about how much I enjoyed my dinner but I wouldn't want to make you all jealous.

There were five of us dining and we did not order a dish that was not enjoyed. I would strongly suggest the short rib potato gnocchi. These gnocchi rival the best that I have had at any Italian restaurant.

The locals might just appreciate the bar at Highland Kitchen more than the food. The bar is stocked better than many fine dining restaurants and the bar tenders are extremely skilled. They specialize in classic cocktails as well as a nice selection of local beer.

The service is also top notch. The waitstaff was extremely helpful, knowledgeable, and very polite. The best part was the little touches of service that make dining out enjoyable. My water was always full, my waitress was always available, and I was brought all the items I needed before I needed them. Dessert menus were brought after dinner without us having to ask and a manager took time to talk with us and make sure we had had a great time.

I hope anyone in the Somerville area will stop in Highland Kitchen and support a very well run local restaurant.

Monday, April 4, 2011


I was listening to the radio this morning and I heard a commercial for a show that deals with saving money on groceries by clipping coupons. Now I'm all for saving money but here is my issue with coupons: they don't offer coupons for the foods I buy!!! Once the farmer's markets open I generally do most of my shopping there but during the winter when the market's are closed I do hit up the grocery store but I don't buy a lot of packaged food. Coupons are generally only offered for packaged food so I'm out of luck. Sure sometimes there is a price cut on fruits and veggies but for the most part coupons are of no use to me.

As a country we are trying to eat healthier and most people recognize that a diet consisting mainly of processed and packaged foods is not that healthy so why aren't the stores offering store coupons on healthy food to make it more attractive to people? Maybe some stores are but not the ones around me.

Coupons are great and saving money is great but I really wonder if all coupons are doing is leading people to eating less healthy food because it is less expensive or maybe I just don't have my pulse on what coupons are out there. If anyone does know of stores that offer incentives though to buy fresh healthy food I would be interested in knowing.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Silken Tofu and Soup

Anyone who knows me knows that I don't like vegans. I'm sorry but if you are a vegan you have given up your right to have any opinion or talk to me about anything. You have given up the nature of your being if you are a vegan. Now that being said I am trying to cut back on my saturated fat intake and I have a great tip for anyone trying to do the same.

Try using silken tofu in your cream soups in stead of cream. The tofu will give the soup a richer mouth-feel like cream but doesn't bring all of the fat that cream does. Now I don't have a tried and true substitution of tofu for cream so you have to play around.

For a quart of soup I would start with about 4 ounces of silken tofu. Now remember past a certain amount you will start to taste to tofu so think about the flavor profile of your soup. A stronger flavored soup can take a bit more tofu than one with more subtle flavors.

To add the tofu all you need to do is puree it in a blender with some of the liquid. You are going to want to strain the tofu and liquid mixture because no matter how well you blend it there will be little white specks so strain it through a fine mesh sieve or a cheesecloth lined sieve of medium fineness.

So get in the kitchen and experiment this week now that the cold weather has made a brief return. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Sad Truth of Artificial Flavors

Today at work I experienced what artificial flavors have done to the palates of people. We had to use an artificial strawberry flavored fruit paste and nobody seemed to have a problem that the end result tasted nothing like strawberry but instead just like cotton candy. The paste had so little strawberry flavor that all it brought to the party was sweetness. Sitting here writing I still can't believe that nobody had an issue with calling a product strawberry flavored that tasted nothing like strawberry, not even remotely!

I blame the prevalence of artificial flavors for this problem. I also blame the laziness of people who don't want to cook so they buy processed food which is generally inexpensive so it contains inexpensive ingredients such as artificial flavors.

I understand there is a market for products made with artificial flavors but I won't believe we can't make flavors that at least taste a little like the food they are names after. Flavor scientists I am very disappointed in you. I'm also disappointed in anyone who doesn't care enough about their product to use artificial flavors when they don't have to and they are just being cheap. Shame on you. Have some pride in your product and use good quality ingredients and flavors.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Modeling Chocolate Redux

After writing about modeling chocolate the other day I figured I would share a picture of a piece made from modeling chocolate.

This is a modeling chocolate tree made at Desserts International. I made about 45 or so in one day (just the tree part) the leaves were done on a second day. The entire tree is modeling chocolate (leaves have been dredged in edible gold powder) and the base the tree is on is tempered chocolate sprayed with chocolate spray.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Recently WalMart announced what many would call sweeping changes to their policies regarding food stocked in their stores. One of these changes was that they wish to being stocking more locally sourced produce.

I think locally sourcing produce is a wonderful idea because it can lead to lower prices for the consumer and higher quality because the items are seasonal and do not have to travel great distances. Less travel can also theoretically lead to fewer green house gas emissions so obviously this is something wonderful for everybody. Or is it?

My question here is what type of produce will Wal-Mart be sourcing? How will it be grown? Who will own the farms? I do not necessarily believe the produce needs to be certified organic because that can raise the final cost to the consumer and in many cases is just a load of malarkey. Did you know there are still certain products you can spray on certified organic crops? Certifying a crop organic also does not stop it from being mono-cropped or produced by a large company that does not put the money it earns back in the community where the farm is located.

What all of this means is I hope WalMart can work with locally owned farms that practice sustainable and socially conscious farming techniques to supply their stores. Obviously WalMart is a huge company and I can only imagine the volume of produce that goes through one of their stores in a week but I really hope they do what I see as the right thing and partner with locally owned farms not just farms that are local but have absentee owners.

Of course it would also be wonderful if this means the end of Strawberries in December in stores but I doubt it will because too many people are still willing to buy out of season produce.

At least a huge retailer looks to be making some positive changes to their food sourcing policies. We shall have to wait and see how it pans out.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Modeling Chocolate

I was thinking today about how awful fondant is which made me remember how wonderful modeling chocolate is. Modeling chocolate is nothing more than a mixture of liquid sugar, chocolate, and glucose (a syrup very similar to corn syrup).

Modeling chocolate can be used in place of fondant to cover cakes or mixed with equal parts fondant for the same application. Modeling chocolate can also be used to as the name suggests hand model shapes for cakes, showpieces, and any number of other fun pastry applications.

This recipe is lifted directly from Chocolate Paste Cakes by Adrian Westrope and Dan Tabor.

A few notes about modeling chocolate:

1. Make the paste one day before you intend to use it so that it can age.
2. Never refrigerate the modeling chocolate. Instead keep it tightly wrapped and in a cool place.
3. Before using the modeling chocolate you may need to worm it slightly. A great method is to take a wrapped chunk and carry it around in your pants' pocket for a bit. Is that modeling chocolate in your pants or are you just happy to see me?
4. The amount of cocoa butter in your chocolate will have an impact on the modeling chocolate. The more cocoa butter in your chocolate the better the modeling chocolate will be. If the consistency of your modeling chocolate isn't what you want try a different chocolate.
5. Modeling chocolate can be flavored using essential oils mixed in with the liquid sugar. Peppermint and cinnamon are two easy to find oils that work very well.
6. Do not kneed modeling chocolate on a wooden surface because the wood will pull fat out of the modeling chocolate and it will lose its sheen.

This recipe calls for liquid sugar which is 3 parts water and 4 parts granulated sugar that you have boiled together for 3 minutes and then cooled. Liquid sugar can be kept at room temperature in an air tight container almost indefinitely.


500g Chocolate (Semisweet, bittersweet, milk, or white)
150g Glucose
50g liquid sugar


1. Melt the chocolate in the manner of your choosing.
2. Mix together the liquid sugar and glucose and warm slightly (115 F or so is good).
3. Stir the sugar mixture into the melted chocolate and stir until you have a smooth paste.
4. Wrap the paste in plastic wrap.

The best method for melting the chocolate and warming the sugar solution is to use a heatproof bowl over a pot of steaming water.

Once you are ready to use your modeling chocolate warm if needed and then kneed until pliable. Like fondant you do not want to over kneed the modeling chocolate.

Enjoy this great alternative to that absolutely awful rolled fondant.