Boston Chart House / Boston

This past Sunday Funday Findamazingfood-day was a bit more special than others. I was, and still am, in Boston to celebrate my sister’s 20th birthday! Her birthday was actually yesterday the 9th, but since we were raised believing our birthdays are very special and celebrate-able, it’s a week-long celebration.

I’ve been known to brag about my sister’s hobby of consuming quality steak, but no one believes it until they see her in action. For her first “party” we found ourselves some juicy meat.

So after our failed attempt at getting matching tattoos (a very sad story for another time.) we headed over to Long Wharf to visit the Boston Chart House, my sister’s pick for best steakhouse in Boston. We arrived around 5:30pm without a reservation, and were greeted by a 45 minute wait. But since we weren’t necessarily in need of the white table-cloth and candle light atmosphere, and we couldn’t take advantage of the harbor view due to the rain, we opted for sitting in the bar area right next to the TV. It’s football season after all!

Our waiter was very impressed when he brought us water and we quickly spit out our food order .  Two 10 oz prime ribs, Three 8 oz blue cheese Filet Mignon’s; four plates with mashed potatoes, mine with broccoli. Creamed spinach and sizzling mushrooms to share as sides, and to finish we ordered the Chart House signature dessert, Hot Chocolate Lava Cake, with a candle to sing happy birthday.

Since this meal was brought to us courtesy of my sister’s birthday she choose the most memorable part of the meal. She was particularly taken with the creamed spinach despite her Filet Mignon being “perfection”. In her words, “the creamed spinach was tremendously tasty and was uniquely topped with bread crumbs. Delish!”.

I would be lying if I said I would go there to celebrate my birthday next year, but to say the Boston Chart House ended my week perfectly and started my sister’s birthday fantastically would be a serious understatement.

The best thing about wisdom teeth is tomato soup.

I’m one of those people who inexplicably has always wanted their wisdom teeth out. I just didn’t need the procedure until now! Actually it wasn’t “teeth”, it was one pathetic little tooth, which was almost completely out of it’s grave already. The whole process was way too easy and breezy; no laughing gas, no vicodin, barely any ice on the cheeks was necessary. Such a disappointment.

So I milked my one day liquid diet for all it was worth. In my non drug induced state, the tomato soup with chunky croutons and guacamole out of Jamie Oliver’s Cookbook 30-Minute Meals was all I could think about.

When I told my parents we would be having soup for dinner they were disappointed. Like many, they have adopted the belief that soup is not a meal. But! I have to admit, this was the first time I’ve ever changed their minds about anything without even saying a word.

I’m passing on the Tomato Soup with chunky Croutons, Guacamole and sticky Prune sponge Pudding recipe from Jamie Oliver’s amazing cookbook, 30 Minute Meals, the way I wish Jamie would have given me. You can find the original recipe here.

What you’ll need:

  • 1kg (2lb 4oz) ripe cherry tomatoes on the vine, red and yellow
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1 fresh red chilli
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 ciabatta loaf
  • 2 small red onions
  • 4tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • A small bunch of fresh basil
  • A few dollops of créme fraîche, to serve
  • A handful of mixed-colour cherry tomatoes
  • 1-2 fresh red chillies
  • A handful of fresh coriander
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 2 limes
  • ½ bulb of fennel
  • 1 carrot
  • ½ cucumber
  • ½ a 125g pack of grissini or other breadsticks
  • Olive oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper

METHOD

TO START: Get all your ingredients and equipment ready (the ones you actually have). Turn the oven on and put a large saucepan on a low heat. Put the standard blade attachment into the food processor (I used a blender, because I don’t have a food processor yet). 

TOMATO SOUP: Quarter the larger tomatoes, then put all the tomatoes into a roasting tray. Drizzle over a good lug of olive oil and season. Halve and deseed the red chilli and add to the tray. Crush in 4 peeled cloves of garlic. Quickly toss everything, then put on the top shelf of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes. If your tray is in the middle shelf, Bianca, don’t be lazy. Change it to the top. 

CROUTONS: Get another roasting tray and rip the ciabatta loaf into 8 equal chunks (make more croutons than you think you need). Add a good lug of olive oil, a pinch of salt and whack on to the bottom shelf of the oven.

TOMATO SOUP: Peel and roughly chop the onions and put them into the hot saucepan with a lug of olive oil and a good pinch of salt. Turn the heat up to medium and leave to soften, stirring occasionally.

Stir 4tbsp balsamic vinegar into the onions and let it cook away and reduce down. Don’t be scared about the amount and smell of balsamic vinegar, you’ll most likely want to add more later. 

GUACAMOLE: Squeeze Smash a handful of cherry tomatoes on to the biggest board you have, then finely chop up the flesh with 1 to 2 red chillies and a handful of coriander leaves. 

TOMATO SOUP: Take the tray of tomatoes out of the oven and add everything to the pan of onions. 

CROUTONS:  Check them  – if they are crisp and golden turn off the oven, but leave them in there to keep warm. I don’t trust my oven, so I took them out and placed them on the counter. My dad ate half of them before I could actually serve them. 

GUACAMOLE: Halve and stone (stone?) the avocados, then squeeze them over the board so the flesh comes out of the skins. Discard the skins, add a pinch of salt, squeeze over the juice of 2 limes and chop everything together until fine. Taste and adjust the flavours if needed, then use your knife to sweep everything to one side of the board. (It’s okay to go a little crazy with the limes. Remember, it’s all about how you like it!)

We skipped the fennel and carrots and had the guacamole with our leftover croutons. Yum!

TOMATO SOUP: In two batches, carefully pour the vegetables from the saucepan into a liquidiser. Add most of the basil, put the lid on, and whiz to a fairly rustic consistency, pouring the mixture into a large pan or serving bowl as you go. Don’t over think it, just hold the top down and go! 

Once finished, mix well, season to taste and top with a dollop (Dollop: Add a shapeless mass or blob of something casually and without measuring. Dollop.) of sour cream, a few basil leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Take to the table with a stack of soup bowls and the tray of croutons from the oven.

TO SERVE: Put a crouton or two in the bottom of each soup bowl. Ladle the soup on top, then dig in and let everyone help themselves to the guacamole.

Sunday’s at The Florist

Summer is coming to an end. I’m not having such a hard time with this fact because I do love myself a good beanie, and also because I’m going back to Australia October 24th to withstand yet another summer (the torture!).

What I am having a hard time with is being far apart from The Florist Arms in East London. I owe guaranteed fun Sundays this past summer to the one and only, The Florist Arms (nicknamed The Florist).

A group of us, or sometimes just Jack and I, or sometimes just me, would find ourselves in the conveniently centered bar, order a pint of any draft beer and scope out the situation. Getting a spot on one of their comfortable couches, or their wooden tables in the front was key for front row seats to the lovely sound coming from the jazz bands. We always tried sitting near the open windows lining the two front walls of the restaurant, but it gets packed and in the summer, that’s the preferred seating!

The best thing about The Florist is that even though the pizza is absolutely delectable, they offer many incredible deals. The one I loved was: Half Price Evenings Sundays and Mondays from 6pm.

I left London weeks ago and I still feel lucky to have been around to completely devour this deal over Summer. As you can see from the picture above, peperoni pizza was the favorite for everyone. And that wasn’t just that one given Sunday, that was almost every Sunday for 3 months.

So if you visit The Florist Arms order the hot salami, peperoni pizza. It’s thin and crispy, giving you a crackling sounds that resonates in your head. My additional suggestion would be to search for the clear bottle with olive oil and red jalapeños placed on the piano, probably, and dip your slice before biting into it.

For fear of getting hungry and sad, I will stop typing now.

La Brasserie in Sydney, Australia

I’m a phenomenal Scramble with Friends player. I’m not being overly confident or cocky or anything. I just “practice” a lot. The only person who beats me 100% of the time is my boyfriend, Jack. He’s super fast moving his fingers, crazy creative with his words and unafraid of taking risks. He is unbeatable… until May 2th, 2012 that is: The day I finally annihilated him. Well I only beat him by 50 points, but it definitely counts because I still got my prize!

He never thought the day I beat him would come, so he swore to take me to dinner wherever I wanted, no questions asked, if it actually happened.  Needless to say, I’ve been training for a long time. I also hasn’t had a fat, juicy steak in a long time, so it was a coincidence these two happened at the same time. I had found the French restaurant La Brasserie during my time researching Sydney and automatically thought of it when I saw my winning number of 2386.

La Brasserie is a very cool spot in Darlinghurst. Well, I think it’s cool. It’s very dark and romantic as I imagine all French things to be. The waiters had heavy French accents, so much so every time we asked a question about the menu, we got an answer that had nothing to do with what we were asking. Jack even asked for a glass of wine, right after I did. The waiter smiled when he brought mine but Jack’s never came. I still wonder what he thought he heard Jack say.

The meal started with warm toasted bread while we searched the menu. I was dying to try their escargot, but I resisted. I was there for steak and steak would be had! I ordered the Steak Frites: Char grilled Sirloin with French Fries and Jack ordered the Entrecote Frites: Char grilled Scotch Fillet with French Fries, both medium rare.

If there is a meal that feels more celebratory than a steak, I have not had it. The peppery sauce went beautifully with both the french fries and steak. The steak passed the “The Test of S” I just made up: It was soft, savory and succulent. I truly could not stop grinning. I was so satisfied I barely felt full.

I would normally be embarrassed to post before and after pictures of a meal but finishing the steak from La Brasserie in honor of my win was a victory all on its own.

La Brasserie 

118 Crown Street Darlinghurst NSW 2010