Cupcake Camp Boston!

For those of you in the Boston area and who have a sweet-tooth, come on by to the first ever Cupcake Camp Boston! It will take place Thursday April 15th at 7:00pm at PA’s Lounge in Somerville, MA. Come by to enjoy cupcakes from well-known bakeries around Boston as well as homemade ones from cupcakes lovers… like me!

Click here for more information and to register. Click here for the main Cupcake Camp site.

What better way to celebrate (or console yourself) on tax day! Hope to see you there!

Jamaica’s Flavor Lynn, MA

I figured it was about time that some of the less publicized places in Lynn get some recognition. One of my favorites is Jamaica’s Flavor on Pleasant Street. Before coming to Jamaica’s Flavor, I had never tried Jamaican food. A co-worker told me they had the best curry chicken, so I had to give it a try. I stopped by on my way home from work and when you step inside, you get hit in the face with the wonderful smells of spices and meat. I came in at around 6:00pm and there wasn’t much food left. Tina, who owns the place with her husband, said that they make their food fresh and usually sell out by the end of the day. I was able to get a medium order of curry chicken with rice and the veggies of the day, and I also picked up one beef and one chicken patty. All of my food came out to less than $10 which is just great. The curry chicken was so moist and juicy and the spices were not too hot but very flavorful. I’m glad that Tina poured some of the curry over the rice because it seemed a bit bland without it. I had also tried the jerk chicken which was more of a dry rub and was definitely very spicy. But by far the best part of my meal was the beef patty. The chicken was ok, but the beef was just phenomenal. The beef is ground and cooked with Jamaican spices. I am so addicted to them that I stop by at least 3 times a week on my way home from work for 2 beef patties. But its best to call ahead to see if they have any since they usually sell out by early evening.

Blue Ox in Lynn, MA

If you’ve never been to Lynn, MA it’s quite an interesting place. Like most urban cities, it has its good sections and its bad, but downtown Lynn seems to be a mix. We are starting to see a change for the better with old factory buildings being converted into large lofts, young professionals moving to the area and the city offering perks for people to start businesses in the city. To that effect a new restaurant has opened up recently called The Blue Ox, located on Oxford Street. The Blue Ox sticks out like a sore thumb in downtown among the hole-in-the-wall eateries that surround it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking these other establishments as some of them are fantastic (see more on Jamaica’s Flavor and Casa Molina in upcoming posts). But if you have ever walked by The Blue Ox, you’ll notice its clean exterior, wood finishes in the entryway and trendy ambiance just from peeking through the window.

Since its opening, I’ve had dinner there twice. On both occasions I had a great meal. My first meal included New England clam chowder, grilled hanger steak with fries, and a chocolate cake for dessert. For my second meal, I had the clam chowder again, the gnocchi bolognese and a few bites of the cheesecake. In addition, I had bites of the filet mignon and the pork tenderloin. The crispy calamari is probably the best I have ever tasted. It is not overly fried, doesn’t taste oily and the batter is has light flavor. The portions were definitely larger than you would see at a similar restaurant in Boston and the prices are comparable. The clam chowder had applewood smoked bacon and touch of tobasco which I thought was a nice variation on a classic. The pork was cooked perfectly and was juicy and soft. I felt that the gnocchi had a bit too much rosemary in it, but I don’t particularly like rosemary so it could have just been me. The cheesecake was delicious and I’m a pretty harsh critic when it comes to dessert. The cocktails and beer are very reasonably priced and the selection is surprisingly diverse.

If you find yourself on the Northshore, check out The Blue Ox. The weekends seem to be busy but if you make a reservation in advance, getting a table is no problem. From time to time the restaurant hold cooking demos for approximately $35 where the chef will show you how to cook a meal and afterward you get to enjoy a three course meal with the demoed meal as the entree. I have yet to attend a demo, but will soon.

Cupcake Tea at the Ritz-Carlton

I read a lot of cupcake related blogs but I hadn’t been keeping up with them over the holidays. So when I got back to them in mid-January I noticed an old post from November about the Ritz-Carlton doing their Cupcake Tea for the holidays. I had never heard of it but since it involved cupcakes I had to investigate. I thought it had ended in December, but it turns out their website shows it as ongoing with the cupcake selections varying. So I immediately made a reservation, which are recommended and sometimes required if it’s a busy time. Cupcake Tea is simply five mini cupcakes served with a variety of tea selections. The cupcake flavors are chosen by the Ritz, so you can’t substitute any if you don’t like the flavor.

It is set in the lobby of the hotel, which seems a little weird at first but the set up is so nice that you feel like you are sitting in a living room. Our table was set up before we arrived with everything minus the tea and cupcakes.

All the utensils were made of silver and made especially for the hotel.

I’ve never seen a lemon squeezer before, but then again it is the Ritz.

My tea was delicious and the pot was on a silver stand with a tea light in it to keep it warm. The only issue was that the tea leaves stayed in the pot, so with each cup the tea got stronger and eventually over-brewed. Fortunately, the tea is unlimited.

The cupcakes were small, but after five of them I was stuffed. They were so delicious. I’m sure they are one-biters but a frosting-on-the-face situation would have occurred if I attempted that. The flavors from left to right: Raspberry Ginger, Apple Pie, Peppermint Patty, Boston Cream, and Eggnog.

I ate them in reverse order starting with the Eggnog which I thought I would like the least next to the Ginger one. Surprisingly it was delicious. The frosting was light and fluffy and had a sprinkle of nutmeg on top. Boston Cream was as expected, same for the Peppermint Patty which I did eat in one bite just to see if I could…

The Apple Pie one was probably my favorite even though it didn’t have any actual frosting on it. The apples on top were like pie filling, so good. The Raspberry Ginger one I think I liked the least probably because I am not a fan of ginger, but the cake was a spice cake and there was a small center of raspberry filling which was a nice surprise.

Needless to say, I did finish them all. I will definitely be going back to try out the other flavors.

Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Nutella Frosting

For the Super Bowl I got a request to make cupcakes with Nutella frosting. I had used Nutella as a quick frosting previously, just gooping it on straight from the jar. This time I decided to take a peanut butter frosting recipe and substitute Nutella instead. The recipe called for combining butter, confectionary sugar and peanut butter (Nutella) in a mixer. This created a more smooth and creamy frosting rather than a spread out of the jar. Since chocolate and peanut butter go together so well, I figured chocolate and Nutella can’t be too far off the mark. And what better form of chocolate cake than devil’s food?

Anita Discovers Easy Mac (with some help)

Peter: What are those?
Salesman: Well that’s a pair of red, flannel feety pajamas.
Peter: Good lord.
Salesman: See, they got a flap that opens up in the back.
Peter: Are you telling me I could be pooping and warm?
Salesman: Exactly.
Peter: No longer will I have to make a choice between the two. Sir, here is a check with my name on it. Write down any number on this piece of paper and I will pay it.

I can have mac and cheese and its done in 3 and a half minutes? I love Kraft Mac and Cheese boxes, and I am ashamed to admit it, but I can polish off a box by myself. I do remember when Easy Mac first came out and I thought to myself… microwavable mac and cheese? That can’t be good at all. So I never gave it a chance. Well, 10 years later I found a friend that is addicted to the stuff. So one day when she made a cup, I shared it with her. It was delicious! It actually tasted like the boxed mac and cheese that you boil. According to wikipedia (yes, I read up on it), an average adult will eat two cups of Easy Mac since I am assuming one cup is meant for a kid. But at 220 calories a cup, its a pretty good afternoon snack. Way better than the 266 calories in a snickers bar.

One thing that does concern me and I need to learn more about is that on the preparation instructions it says “Note: You will see loose white powder in Pasta. This is necessary for proper cooking.” I know that Easy Mac isn’t the healthiest food to begin with, but what could this mysterious white powder be?

Brined Turkey

Everyone was talking about the Trader Joe’s brined turkey and how much better it is than a regular one, so I had to try it for myself. I had a good comparison since I had made a complete Thanksgiving meal just two weeks prior for my friends using the same frozen turkey I make every year. I normally give the turkey a nice salty bath and a deep tissue massage in the kitchen sink before I rinse and stuff it. But with the brined turkey, that part was already done. The Trader Joe’s turkey probably had an advantage from the start since it was already hormone-free and all natural. But I assume it sitting in the salty brine for longer than a few minutes helped.

When I took it out of the oven it looked like something you’d see in an advertisement or on TV or from the previous post :), perfectly golden and juicy. Only now do I regret not taking a picture of it. Slicing it up was super simple too as the meat just slid off the bone. I think I got some complements from the family before the tryptophan kicked in.