Holy Cannoli at Mike’s Pastry Shop

Heyyyy friends,

I went to Boston for the first time, and completely fell in love with the city. One of my foodie goals while on this trip was to sample the best cannoli a lady can find. Boy, did I ever score big at Mike’s Pastry Shop. My google savy research told me that the two shops to sample were both in the North End. The critics had a long running argument over Modern Pastry vs Mike’s Pastry Shop. After seeing all the little blue and white boxes EVERYWHERE, I decided to see what all the hype was about.

It didn’t matter if we were in East Boston, Harvard Square, or North End – Mike’s was quickly branding Boston. We sat down at a local Pizza joint on Sunday night (Stay tuned for my review on Regina’s) and noticed they had a Mike’s box in hand. We were chatting and asked where we can find this foodie haven and were told “Turn left, Turn left and look for 7,000 people” (Please read with a Boston accent). My Mr. and I looked at each other and said, it’s 9 pm on Sunday evening, that can’t be right.
After a left, and another left we turned a corner and saw the back of the line. Sure, 7,000 people was a bit of a strech. There were however a good 60-80 people in line or waiting for a table.

I should have started by saying I’m not a Cannoli expert, as much as I’d like to be.
I was so excited upon seeing my first cannoli at Quincy Market that I admit, I was suckered. Much to my disappointment, the shell was stale and the ricotta did NOT have the creamy texture that I attribute to this Italian staple. I promised myself I’d wait for the real thing.

Well I asked, and the foodie gods delivered. The first thing you see when you walk into Mike’s are 15 different types of Cannoli printed along the top of the serving wall. I saw my choice instantly – Amaretto Cannoli – NOM.

My Mr. had a tougher choice, not one for lines, he did stick it through. Surprisingly we got through the line in under 20 mins. It might have gone so fast because my head was on a swivel examining the goods. Lobster Claws, trifle & cheescake oh my! This was before I looked in front of me and saw the Cannoli choices. The smell of the shop is almost better then the sights – The freshly baked goods aroma was interlaced with the smell of chocolate, vanilla bean and strawberries.

CHECK “Authentic Italian Cannoli” off my foodie to do list. The chefs had dipped the bottom in rich and decadent milk chocolate. If a Cannoli can be sexy, my ameretto cannoli was sexy as hell. The filling was creamy, smooth and flavorful, no lumpy ricotta here! The ameretto was perfectly balanced, without being overpowering. I tried my Mr’s Chocolate Chip flavor, and it was again – perfection.
It’s both a sin and my salvation that we found this gem on our last night in Boston. My fat pants, in all of their elastic waistband glory would have been out and about every single day had we found it earlier. No doubt about it, this Canadian gal loved every minute of it. I can’t wait to visit Boston again, as Mike’s definitely warrants more then one visit. I’ll be doing an extra few WOD this week, but it was most def worth it.

Cheers!
AJS

Best of Beantown Eats ?

Hi foodie friends,

I’m reaching out to those of you who are from or have visited Boston. My fiance and I visiting for the first time this week and am pumped! We’re looking to check out some of the best eats that Boston has to offer.

Now I’m not looking for the Olive Garden. I’m really looking for the best independent restaurants of Boston who are only using the freshest and most delicious ingredients!

So, in your opinion – who has the best:

Clam Chowder –

Fresh Seafood –

Mexican –

Thai –

Pizza –

Cafe –

Italian –

Entertainment – anyone know a great Comedy Club to check out?

Cheers & Thanks in advance!

AS

Tastes like Fall

Hello friends,

When my fiance is home on weekends, I love to take the time and get creative in the kitchen. One of my goal’s in life is to go back to school and get an education in food. I do have some basic food skillz, I’d just like to take it up a touch.

Usually it’s just me and my fur-piglets, which are always extremely impressed with whatever food bits fall their way. So, when the Mr. comes home, it’s my chance to cook for someone and get an honest opinion. We wanted to go to a local apple orchard, but they wouldn’t accept dogs in the orchard. Even on leash, What’s with that?! Needless to say, we chose to go elsewhere. What’s the point if the entire fam jam can’t go and enjoy the great outdoors together!

Ok enough with the mini-rant. We went for a walk around the area anyway, took in the beautiful fall colors and then made our way back to the house.  A friend at dinner last night said, we are really lucky when we love all the seasons we live through. I thought about it for a moment as I really do love all the things the seasons give us, especially in regards to produce. I find it incredibly inspiring to cook with whatever is in season.

Using seasonal ingredients and finding new ways them that I personally haven’t used before is exciting (yep, I’m a foodie geek!). The Cortland apples I picked up from the market were a great choice for this recipe as I find they bake really well. This simple recipe was one I learned as a kid.

Simple Apple Crumble

Ingredients

5 Cortland Apples

2 tablespoons softened butter

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup brown sugar

1.5 cups Rolled Oats

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup apple cider + mulled spices

Top Crisp

1 cup melted butter

2 cups Rolled Oats

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

Directions

Cut the apples into small wedges after peeling the skins off. Then mix all the first  7 ingredients into a bowl so everything is mixed together. Next put all the top 8 ingredients in the baking pan together.

To make the top crisp, first ensure you have softened butter, then by hand, mix all of the 4 ingredients together to ensure the butter is well mixed in. Coat the top of your apple mixture with approx 1-2 cm of this top layer.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 30 mins.

*I like to serve it with maple whipped cream. Add 2-3 tbsp homemade maple syrup to 1 cup whipping cream and enjoy!

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Yep, starting to smell a lot like fall in here!

Next, my family harvested a new crop, a delicious little veggie called Dumpling Squash. AMAZING.

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It still has that fantastic smooth buttery squash texture and is a whole lot sweeter then it’s more popular cousin (Butternut Squash). It was love at first taste. To soften, just cut them open and remove the seeds as you would any other squash. I usually put mine in the microwave with saran wrap with butter and brown sugar. Believe me, these babies do not need any additional sweetness. I added a bit of olive oil and some sea salt before stowing them in the microwave for 10 mins.

I decided to make Squash soup. It’s SUPER easy.

Ingredients

Meat of 2 dumpling Squash, seeded and softened

1 x tsp olive oil

1 x shallot

1 x tsp garlic

1 x tsp nutmeg

1 cup shredded yukon gold potato

3 cups vegetable broth

pinch of salt and pepper

Directions

Bring all to a boil in a large soup pot, and then simmer for 20 mins. Blend with a hand mixer until smooth and then add 1 cup of skim milk (3/4 cup of heavy cream for those of you who are not counting calories). Enjoy with freshly baked bread, sprinkles of fresh chopped chives and a slice of Havarti!

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(Photo cred: Wineaccess.ca)

As I sit down and enjoy my cup of apple cider (with added mulled spices of course), I’m thinking about all my great leftovers for my work week.

These recipes were extremely easy and very flavorful. Therein lies the difference with cooking with only the freshest, in season produce. All the produce I used was local and easy to find. There’s nothing like picking your own ingredients directly from the earth.

Cheers and enjoy your own fall favorites!

Server vs. Servant

Hello world,
I have been a part time waitress/bartender/server/general servant for the general public at multiple restaurants throughout the last 12 years. I have kept this job, in addition to having a 9-5, for many reason including some of the following:

1. Fast (legal) CASH – nuf said

2. Great way to meet interesting people, especially if you’re new to a city. Some of my best friends are people I’ve met along this path.

3. Time passes quickly when you’re multitasking like crazy.

4. Student loans = Freddy Krueger of my financial reality – GO AWAY ALREADY! (Actually insert any one of these lovelies – http://listverse.com/2007/11/14/top-10-evil-movie-villains/ if Freddy doesn’t float your boat)

5. I am a business woman who believes in great customer service, there are way too many lemons presenting themselves as servers out there.

In combination with my other jobs (which have included Teaching, PR, and Event Coordination), serving has always been there for me. After sitting and stewing on this topic for a while, my moral compass urged me to share some trade secrets that I’ve learned along my way. This is not to be a waiter rant, although I do love me some Steve Dublanica. Instead, my blogs’ intent is to be an education to non-food industry workers. More so, to bridge the uncomfortable conversation for many, “How much do I tip?” or “Why should I tip?”.

Here are some general rules of thumb and a breakdown of tipping 101 (my version):

HUMILITY –  Although I am your barkeep/server for the time being, I am a real person. Please refer to my golden rule: Treat others how you would like to be treated. I believe that Karma is a bitch that can rock your world. Michael J. Neff explains it very well here.

TIPS = COMMUNICATION– I rely on my tips as a  measure of how I perform at my job. It’s a way of communication for all of you who do not like to tell me to my face that a) You hated the American burger that you ordered at a Mexican specialty restaurant. b) You did not like that it took the 20- 30 mins to make your freshly prepared modified meal using real ingredients or c) Hey I was not as awesome as promised, too busy and I didn’t give you the attention you craved. I truly believe if you hated EVERYTHING about your particular restaurant experience, you should not have to tip. (<Period)

There are many reasons that you should tip appropriately at a restaurant (see next point), however I understand that there are some instances that do not deserve that thoughtful 15%. This being said, I know it’s hard to tell me to my face, but PLEASE let me know what you did not like, so I can change it for the next customer. I am not a mind reader.

– Tipping 101: For those of you who believe that waiters/waitresses walk out with mucho dollars, it’s sometimes true. My usual tally is about 10-13% of my net sales, which on some nights can be as low as $30 (Unless I order that amazing pasta that I need at 10 pm = total income $15 – whoa!). This means if something is promo’d, coupon-ed or discounted, I do not make as much money. Therefore, I want you to have the TIME of your life so that you come back (and tip me well!). I do not want you to walk out that door never to be seen or heard of again. You are the reason after all that I am finally getting “Freddy” out of my life. I thought it may be helpful to see the internal workings of a restaurant and to see what happens to the generous tips servers receive. Please note that not all restaurants perform this way, this is only a reference from my personal experience in 5 restaurants.

Here is a breakdown of tipouts that many servers usually have to contribute internally:

Bartender – 1 – 2% Net Sales

Kitchen – 1-2% Net Sales

Management  -1 – 2 % Net Sales

Walk out pool (For all of you dine & dasher’s – we do really hate you) – Set $$ amount, depends on restaurants. This fund usually assists with the customers who leave without paying their bills. This is so your server does NOT get saddled with YOUR tab. I usually refer to this fund as our collateral damage fund.

Busboy – Usually around $10/night. I usually like to tip this gem a little extra depending on sales/return from my customers. I find, if you scratch their back, they scratch yours. A great busboy or girl is worth his/her weight in gold.

This being said, you can see how my precious cashola slips away. If you tip under the above amount, I end up contributing some of my own hard earned cash to tip out others for your meal. 

A great restaurant is a wonderful team, in which everyone wants a piece of the pie (natch’). I’m only as good as the pasta the kitchen sends out, the mojito my barkeep slings and the cleanliness that my busboy assists with – in which everyone wants to get paid. Some people believe that tipping should not be mandatory, in a perfect world the food service industry workers would be paid enough that tipping wouldn’t be a necessity. It is not that way, however, and it’s not going to change. Just be happy you do NOT live in the US (unless you do), where service wage exists. See Dave Jamieson’s insight on the topic that Huffington Post recently published here .

So, my tip to customers is to get an education on tipping etiquette and make yo mamma proud by using those manners she taught you. I’ve done MANY jobs, and serving is probably one of the most physically and emotionally draining positions I’ve done. Many of you may disagree and say, “How difficult can it be to bring me my food and drink order”. I say to you – Step into my shoes and try it, before you slam it. In the smallest of chances you are Crushing it , I’ll buy you a drink 🙂

I’m not boasting that I happen to be the BEST server you will ever have for a million trillion bazillion years. I am a person who thinks the glass is half full, further, I think you should try to be the best in whatever you do. Entitled people are the bane of my existence. Just because you’re entitled to good service does not give you leave to be a douche. Everyone deserves (Yes, YOU who snapped their fingers at me and even YOU, pessimist who yelled at me because your water glass was half empty- real life examples) what Susan A. Friedmann coins the “Ten Commandments of Great Customer Service”. Should your server deliver all this, I believe you should deliver on your end as well.

A smile and friendly demeanor can change the night around for a server who has had a shitty night (see examples of above). This can be also be reversed, for a customer who’s had a shitty day at the office, a friendly smile and prompt service can spark the change in that person’s day.

Go get a yummy drink & tasty treats at your fave local joint and be nice to your server. Remember the bare basics, we ARE real people and we will kindly do the same while delivering you all of the above (If they’re a kick ass server). If you did get a lemon (apologies on behalf of good servers everywhere), let them know where they slipped up & tip what you think is fair.

Cheers friends!