Tale of Two Boston Bakeries

28 Feb

Here are two bakeries on opposite sides of the Charles River, both offering delicious goodies!

Paris Baguette is inside H Mart in Central Square, so it’s no surprise that there are Asian influences.  It’s like Hong Kong meets Paris – you’ll find red bean-filled donuts alongside baguettes, as well as some truly American concoctions like cream cheese donuts and croissant donuts.

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As it turns out, Paris Baguette is part of an large Korean conglomerate and is expanding its American presence. I’m not a fan of chains, but I can’t deny that these treats satisfied my sweet tooth.

  Inside a green bean bun:DSC00904

Chocolate bread….MMmmmmm!!DSC00907

Info: Paris Baguette, 581 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139 USA

SwissBakers has two locations, one in Allston and one in Reading. I visited the Allston location on Western Avenue near Harvard Business School. It’s a modern, IKEA-like space with big windows. There’s plenty of seating both inside and out on the patio (when it’s warm enough). Another big bonus: a parking lot!

Here’s the box full of Euro-treats I got: almond, chocolate and spinach croissants, a raspberry Berliner, a chocolate chip bun, and a pear and cheese tart. The tart has a shortbread crust and is topped with thinly sliced pears. Somehow, its flavour reminds me of Chinese egg tarts (which are also very yummy).

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Inside a raspberry Berliner:

Swissbakers: BerlinerThe Berliner is slightly crisp on the outside with granulated and powdered sugar, but light and springy inside, with raspberry filling. I like that it’s not too sweet.

 Cheese and spinach croissant, flaky and stuffed with spinach!DSC01915

Both these bakeries deserve return visits!

Info: Swissbakers, 168 Western Avenue, Boston, MA 02134 USA

Swissbäkers on Urbanspoon

 

Warm Up With French Onion Soup

21 Feb

It’s still cold in New England…which means it’s time for soup! I’ve always wanted to make French onion soup, but held back because I don’t own broiler-proof soup crocks. As it turns out, a toaster oven’s broiler will do the trick (another reason why toaster ovens rule!)

DSC01876Because a large part of French onion soup is beef broth, it’s important to use high quality broth, preferably low-sodium (otherwise a bowl of soup might leave you feeling parched). I scoured the grocery stores and found these two lower sodium options:

  • Swanson 50% Less Sodium Beef broth, available in large grocery chains (400 mg sodium per cup broth)
  • More Than Gourmet Beef Culinary Stock, available at Russo’s in Watertown, MA, and online (270 mg per cup broth)

If you can find something like More Than Gourmet, I definitely recommend it – the “Gourmet” really makes a difference. Its ingredients include carrot and celery stocks rather than juices, for example, in addition to veal stock, beef stock, and red wine.

This recipe makes 8-10 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts low sodium beef broth
  • 6 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp white sugar
  • ½ cup cooking sherry
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 baguette
  • 1/2 pound Gruyere or Appenzeller cheese, shredded

Appenzeller cheese is a a fondue cheese like Gruyere and Emmental. It’s a raw cow’s milk cheese from the region of Switzerland. I bought black label (“Extra”) Appenzeller cheese, meaning it’s been aged 6 months or more. It has a strong smell, but its flavour goes really well with onion soup. And it’s easy to cut into with a spoon (no one wants to pull all the cheese off the bread when trying to get a spoonful of French onion soup.)

Directions

  1. Cook onions on medium-high heat in butter until translucent, about 10 minutesDSC01879
  2. Sprinkle in sugar
  3. Reduce heat to medium and cook until onions are caramelized, about 30 minutes
  4. Add garlic and cook 1 additional minute
  5. Stir sherry into the onion mixtureDSC01882
  6. Transfer onion mixture into a slow cooker and pour in beef broth. Stir in thyme and bay leaf. Cover cooker, and cook 4 to 5 hours on HIGH.
    ** Alternatively you can bring the soup to a boil on your stovetop, then reduce to a simmer for 2 hours.
  7. About 10 minutes before serving, preheat the toaster oven’s broiler. Arrange bread slices on a baking sheet.
  8. Broil bread slices until toasted, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
  9. Top each bread slice with cheese and broil until cheese is bubbling, about 3 minutes.
  10. Fill bowls 3/4 full with onion soup and top with bread slices.
  11. Enjoy!

French onion soup

Fancypants Winter S’mores

14 Feb

This is why toaster ovens rule

I love my toaster oven. In the middle of winter, it’s great for making s’mores in only a few minutes. (Try starting a campfire in such little time!)

On aluminum foil, set a piece of chocolate on a graham cracker square (I prefer Nabisco Honey Maid graham crackers). And for something a little more interesting than plain dark chocolate, I like to use a Ghirardelli chocolate square filled with raspberry or caramel. It’s the perfect shape and size for a s’more!

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Place a marshmallow on top of the chocolate and broil in a toaster oven until the marshmallow puffs up and the top is a deep golden brown (about 4 minutes).

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Top with a second graham cracker, smoosh down the marshmallow a little bit, and voila! A decadent s’more, made in just minutes with a toaster oven!

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I’d say this makes a pretty good Valentine’s Day treat, don’t you think?

Trendy and Yummy: Cook, Newton

8 Feb

Newtonville finally has a spot worthy of gastronomes, and it’s called Cook. It’s no wonder this place is packed on weekends, even when it’s bitterly cold outside. It can sometimes take a while to be greeted by a host when you first walk through the door, and then wait times for a table easily exceed half an hour.  But it’s all worth it. After my husband and I first visited Cook, we came back for a second meal within a week!

While waiting for a table, we’ll usually grab drinks at the bar – I love the unique habanero blood orange margarita (which I ask for on the milder side because I’m weak sauce when it comes to spice). Cook’s beer and cider list has many of our favorites – Jack’s Abby’s Hoponius Union, Kentucky Bourbon Ale, and Downeast cider, to name a few.

We always kick off our dinner with a couple shrimp tacos – the best I’ve had in the Boston area. The lightly breaded shrimp are delicate and fresh, with avocado, red onion, and crema on a soft tortilla.

Cook, Newton - shrimp taco

The fried calamari is a large portion, with fried pickle slices and mild peppers. Again, lightly breaded. It’s a solid dish, though it doesn’t particularly stand out against the versions at other good restaurants.Cook - calamari

One appetizer that does really stand out is the French onion soup, where melt-in-your-mouth beef accompanies the Gruyere and bread.

Hubby always orders the Bolognese for his main. Hand cut tagliatelle is tossed with veal, pork, beef, and marscapone. We can’t order Bolognese anywhere else now, because it can’t come close to the version at Cook!

Cook - Bolognese

Every night there is a list of specials. I’ve had haddock with hearty heirloom carrots, a chorizo flatbread with goat cheese and cute fingerling potato chips, as well as this lamb sandwich on pitas that are fluffy on the inside but crispy on the outside. Yum!

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One popular dish which I forgot to nab a photo of is the NFC – three gigantic pieces of delicious fried chicken with a flaky biscuit, fluffy mashed potatoes, and awesome coleslaw. During a recent visit to Cook, 3 out of 4 patrons at the next table all ordered the NFC!

My husband and I usually don’t order dessert at Cook (because we’re stuffed after the appies and mains!) but on one occasion we got the brownie sundae – a big brownie square topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, crunchy chocolate pearls, and a cherry. Definitely large enough to share, though you might not want to.

Servers and bartenders are always attentive each time we’ve dined at Cook .The decor is unpretentious and the atmosphere is warm and lively. My only gripe is that the bench seats at Cook are a bit low and soft, making me feel a bit like a child when I first sit down. All in all, Cook is one of my favourite restaurants in Newton – that ‘s why I keep going back!

Info: Cook, 825 Washington Street, Newton, MA 02460 USA

Cook Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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