Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Birthday Weekend!

This past weekend was action-packed with birthday fun and scrumdidly-umptiousness. We kicked off Alyssanne's Thirtieth Birthday Celebration with an amazing dinner at The Elephant Walk in Cambridge. We caught the tail-end of restaurant week, and so all 6 of us ordered the 3 (or 4) course tasting menu. And because we are all food-sharers, everyone got to taste pretty much everything on the entire menu. If I absolutely had to choose a favorite right now, it would either be the mussels in wine sauce with jalepenos and pepers or the goat cheese coquette with pear, grapefruit and a balsamic reduction. My mouth is starting to water just thinking about it. We give The Elephant Walk twelve thumbs up!

Happy Birthday Flowers!

...and Happy Spring Flowers!

After dinner, we walked down to Toad, a tiny bar across from Porter Station that has live music 7 days a week, cheap cocktails and a really fun atmosphere. Lucky for us, there was a really great bluegrass band playing on Friday.

Saturday, we went down to the Boston Athenaeum for an Edward Gorey Exhibit. What a strange, creepy place. It gave off a secret society-vibe. But the exhibit was incredible.

there's a chance I might never come out..

Afterward, we grabbed some greasy pizza for lunch, and a delicious and fairly traded coffee from Equal Exchange. I had a mocha au late and Sanne had a spicy hot chocolate. Mmm. Josh even made some art in my drink!

see the resemblance? 

Then it was on to the North End to figure out what was for dinner. There are some fantastic little shops down on the North End with really fresh ingredients. Last April, my mom and I went on a culinary tour of the nieghborhood and discovered some great places. Definitely one of my favorites is Salumeria. I get their monthly newsletter which tells about new recipes on the website, deals and specials, and tastings. After wandering around the store, drooling for a few minutes, we decided to do an Italian dinner, Italian-style. An herbed focaccia bread with oil & vinegar for dipping, an antipasto platter, and a simple spaghetti and tomato sauce.


fresh bread

By this time, with a dinner plan in mind, we were getting hungry. Last stop (but not least), Cardullo's to find the perfect bottle of wine to go with our dinner. Eileen recommended Tanuta Villa Rosa Chianti (more on the Wine Goddess later).

At home, Alyssanne started the desert while I started the sauce. On the Culinary Tour last year, I learned from Chef Raymond that simple is good when your making tomato sauce. Normally, I would use twice as many ingredients. But this simple sauce was very flavorful and satisfying.

In a heavy saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and saute onions and garlic over medium-high heat for 4 minutes until the onion is translucent.
Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon. Stir.
Add the tomato paste, salt and pepper, and half the basil.
Saute over medium heat for 20-25 minutes.
Turn off heat, and add the remaining olive oil and basil.

For snacking purposes, we brought home an herbed Focaccia bread, some Pecorino, smoked prosciutto, and herbed Mediterranean olives.

my soup & sandwich plates are perfect for this!

from one of my favorite places...
The only thing missing from this night was some girlfriends! So we called up Elizabeth and Jill, and had us a girls night! What is it about Italian food that makes you instantly want to slow down, sip wine and laugh a lot? I don't think there is any other food that does that for me. It is the best way to end a Saturday, and I kind of want to do it every weekend. I think my brain is European.

Eileen's spot-on suggestion

this needs no caption
Please take the time at some point to click on the links above, especially if you are local. There's some good stuff there!

But wait-- there's more!

Sunday morning, Elizabeth and Sabrina joined us for a Big Breakfast of mimosas, sourdough french toast, Strawberry and Avocado Salad with Honey-Lemon Vinaigrette dressing, Jimmy Dean sausage, scrambled eggs and hash browns. Everything was really good... but does anyone have any tips for breakfast potatoes? I haven't quite mastered them.


Big Breakfast means using all 4 burners at once

Seriously, try this.


So, as you can see, we had a pretty great weekend. I can't wait for the next birthday!

What are some of your birthday traditions? Who wants to start an Italian night? Any hidden Boston treasures/secrets you want to share?


  1. Your blog seriously inspires me to cook. Everything you make looks amazing, I wish we were friends so you could cook for me! Haha

  2. What a fun w/e you had!! I wish I was at the north end w/ ya'll and especially at Salumeria! What fun. Oh yeah and I love that soup/salad plate. I just used mine last night. Breakfast potatoes---wouldn't you just cook them in some olive oil w/ onions and peppers till crispy?

  3. Thanks for reading Nicole! And let us know if your ever in Boston, we'll have you over for dinner! I actually didn't realize that we weren't connected. My mom's family are McKenzies, so I figured you were married to a long lost cousin :P

    mom-- I didn't know you had those bowls too?

  4. Great post! They made an Edward Gorey cake on Ace of Cakes once and it was amazing! You should google it. Super cool. Also I remember they show some show intro that he animated and it also was amazing...

  5. Kind of connected, I used to live in the Madeore house and was roommates w/ Carissa so I know Sanne (sort of) :) St. Augustine is the link here...and I'll definitely take you up on your offer if I'm ever up there!