February 9, 2012 – We can only imagine, that ever since the high middle ages - when Geoffrey Chaucer first turned the feast of an obscure 3rd century Saint into a celebration of romantic love - that Valentine's Day has had its advocates and its detractors: Lovers - awash with romantic notions - have perhaps always looked forward to Feb 14 with anticipation. And maybe others – loners, independents and skeptics - have long rolled their collective eyes at all the fuss. Well these days, Valentines Day – like so many holidays – comes with no shortage of stuff to buy, themed menus and special events - for every possible demographic. And in the end, can you really argue with a mid-winter excuse to get out of the house on a weeknight? So here are some Valentine's Day ideas for all you lovers – and you loners – out there from our resident insiders, J Squared - Jan Saragoni and Jared Bowen.
Dining El Centro/South End (Shawmut Ave)
Cozy Mexican bistro with a real, live Mexican chef. Chef Alan Rodriguez’s Valentines Day menu features Empanadas Rellenas de Queso con Pollo (cheese empanadas stuffed with chicken and vegetables); Queso Fundido con Rajas de Chile Verde (melted cheese served with roast pepper, marinated pork or vegetables); Salmon Ranchero with asparagus and oven baked potatoes with a medium spicy sauce. Signature deserts: Chocolate Flan and Arroz con Leche (rice pudding). Delicious Sangria. All entrées priced between $10 & $20.
Area Four/Technology Square, Cambridge
“Misery Loves Company” menu. Dates are welcome this Valentine’s Day, but the real fun is for the singles. Groups of any size welcome to enjoy the Bloody Heart Pizza (beef steak tomato hearts, carmelized onions, house-made mozzarella, $15 & $23.50) ) Breakup Banana Split (homemade chocolate & vanilla ice cream, brandied cherries and chocolate, marshmallow and salted caramel sauces, $10 per person). And for those who want to drown their sorrows, cocktails by the pitcher.
Lala Rokh/Beacon Hill
Tucked away in Beacon Hill, Persian-themed Lala Rokh takes its name from an epic romance by the 19th century poet Thomas Moore, which tells the story of a beautiful young princess on a journey of love and discovery. Valentine’s Day features a four-course prix fixe menu ($48/person) of flavorful staples like Borani-e Garch (mushrooms over grilled, yogurt-drizzled cornbread), Baghla Pollo (braised lamb shank in tomato saffron sauce and rice spiced with fresh dill & fava beans) and Khoresht-e Bademjan (slow-cooked beef with roasted baby eggplant and saffron-seared tomatoes). An a la carte menu is also available.
Valentines Night 2012 first- course menu features Maine Lobster Chowder, Fried Wellfleet Oysters & Vermont Veal Tartare. Main course includes Sweet Potato & Ricotta Ravioli, Long Island Duck Breast and Alaskan Black Cod. Desert Rose Champagne Sorbet & Sauterne-poached Dried Apricot Tart. $75 per person, optional $25 wine pairing.
Dumpling Café/Chinatown (Bargain!)
Yummy Chinese classics including General Gau’s Chicken, Chicken with Broccoli and Tofu with Veggies. Any two entrees, dumplings and tean included for $20.95.
540 Atlantic Avenue — Parking is free with validation
Try the Grilled squid and fried tentacles with Borlotti beans and vinegar peppers and the baked rigatoni with spicy lamb ragu and provolone.
472 Shawmut Avenue in the South End
$40 3-course prix fixe menu including a glass of wine
1st Course: Melted Cheese with pepper, pork or vegetables or Cheese Empanadas stuffed with chicken or vegetables
2nd Course: Skirt Steak, 3 Cheese Chicken Breast or Salmon
3rd Course: Chocolate cake, Mexican Caramel Sticks or Rice Pudding
Asana and M Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel
Valentine’s Day Delights
"Experience an evening of indulgence this Valentine’s Day at Four-Star Asana restaurant. Delight in a decadent four-course dinner menu specially created by Asana’s culinary team available from Saturday, February 11, 2012 through Tuesday, February 14, 2012. Menu is USD75 per person and an additional USD55 for champagne and wine pairings. Menu attached. And toast to love at M Bar & Lounge where Executive Pastry Chef Nelson Paz has created an assortment of tantalizing house-made chocolate truffles to enjoy complimentary with the purchase of two glasses of Veuve Clicquot Rose available for USD50."
Events And Music Sex at the Zoo Lecture
Franklin Park Zoo Presents an Evening on the Private Lives of Animals.
With a nod to Valentines Day, the Franklin Park Zoo takes a peek into the private lives of animals – do they find each other attractive? Are their mating rituals between humans and animals similar in any way? What can the techniques that animals use to attract mates teach us about romance? This adults- only affair is presented by Dr. Rory Browne with insights into the pros and con of of being in a relationship vs. staying single in the animal kingdom. Lecture takes place in the Tropical Forest Pavillion, home to gorillas, ring-tailed lemurs and of course a giant anteater. Friday, Feb.10 6:00 –8:30. $20 single ticket, $35 pair. Wines by Greenvale Vineyards.
Boston Camerata – the eminent early music ensemble, performs “The Game of Love” (“Jeu d’Amour”)
Artistic Director Anne Azema is joined by intrumentalist Shira Kammen, Tom Zajac and singers Jane Sheldon and Deborah Moore in a special vocal performance emphasizing the “lighter and lustier” side of the Middle Ages (who knew?) with songs dealing with springtime, youth, erotic intrigue as celebrated in village revels, courtly chambers and pre-Internet trysting places. First Lutheran Church, Berkley Street, Boston, Sunday Feb. 12 at 8:00 p.m.
Rebecca Parris Trio/”In Love with Parris” Valentine’s Concert
Rare Boston performance with her long time trio! A romantic evening of impeccable vocal jazz from a beloved local icon of the genre. One Show Only, Saturday Feb.11, 8 pm, Arlington Regent Theater. Tickets $18 - $28.
A.R.T. Ever After Gala
Monday, February 13, 2012
"Princes and Princesses, proclaim your love for the A.R.T. with the 2nd Annual Valentine's Gala, an enchanted fairytale evening of love potions and Grimm notions. Featuring a unique cabaret performance by Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz, with Jared Bowen of WGBH as emcee, and a special A.R.T. Angel Award to longtime A.R.T. friend and community volunteer Joan Parker. With a darkly romantic fairy tale theme, A.R.T. Ever After promises to be the social event of the winter. The Castle will be transformed into a wooded forest where guests will mingle with story book characters before enjoying a delicious feast."
Tuesday, February 14, 2012, 6:30-9:30 PM
"A Venetian-inspired Valentine at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Enjoy live music and good conversation over artfully-designed small plates, cocktails and dessert. And then explore the Gardner Museum's magnificent new wing and historic galleries, including the restored Tapestry Room and the rarely open Little Salon, with its putti-adorned mirror and courtship tapestries." $225 per couple/$125 per individual; Members: $150/$85
Playing at the Ames Hotel through February 26th
"Straight from its sold-out run in New York City, Company One is proud to present Travis Chamberlain's highly acclaimed site-specific production of Tennessee Williams' GREEN EYES at The Ames Hotel. Written in 1970 but unpublished for almost 40 years, this "lost" erotic thriller graphically reveals the impact of war through the sexual fantasies of a newlywed couple honeymooning in New Orleans. He's a soldier, traumatized by his participation in the war; she's a ravenous woman determined to satisfy the darkest recesses of her most deviant desires. Starring the acclaimed NYC actress Erin Markey"a kittenish vixen whose sexual pliancy hides an iron will" (The New York Times)--GREEN EYES transforms a honeymoon suite into a psychosexual battleground where desire and violence blur and become indistinguishable. With only 25 seats available per show, this is an exclusive theatrical event you do not want to miss!"
Broadway's Rachel York and Brent Barrett in Isn't It Romantic?
Sunday, February 19th, 1pm at Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston
Co-stars in the West End production of "Kiss Me Kate" (familiar to PBS audiences as it was filmed for Great Performances), this dynamic pair re-unite for a concert at Waltham's Reagle Theatre.
Project Dream Dress
Saturday, March 3 at 1010 Harrison Avenue in Boston 10-2
Military brides-to-be can choose from more than 100 designer gowns (at no cost to them) at a Project Dream Dress event held at the Atrium at Morgan Memorial Goodwill.
Lasell College has contributed the couture gowns which were donated by an exclusive and anonymous design house for Lasell's fashion students to study. They're valued at between $1,000-$8,000. Lasell fashion students will serve as stylists and provide free tailoring and Zoots will provide complimentary dry cleaning services. Brides must register in advance at bridesacrossamerica.com
By Susie Middleton | Friday, January 20, 2012
Topped with creamy coleslaw and pickles, this rendition of the classic New Orleans sandwich makes a satisfying dinner.
3 cups coleslaw mix
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbs. cider vinegar
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. celery seed
2 large eggs
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Four 4- to 5-oz. catfish fillets
4 long soft-crust Italian rolls, split
1-3/4 cups canola oil
8 sandwich-style dill pickle slices
Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler on high.
Combine the coleslaw mix, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, and celery seed in a medium bowl; set aside.
Beat the eggs in a wide shallow bowl until well mixed. In another wide shallow bowl, combine the cornmeal, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Season the fish all over with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Dip a fillet in the egg to coat, shake off the excess, and then dredge it in the cornmeal mixture, again shaking off the excess. Repeat with remaining fillets.
Arrange the rolls cut sides up on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown, 30 seconds. Remove from the oven and turn off the broiler.
Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Working in batches if necessary, cook the fillets, turning once, until the coating is golden and crisp and the fish is cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer the fillets to a clean baking sheet lined with paper towels and keep warm in the oven.
To assemble, arrange 2 pickle slices on the bottom half of each roll. Top each with a fillet, a quarter of the coleslaw, and the other half of the roll. Cut the po’ boys in half, and serve.
Serve with Spiced Sweet Potato Fries or toss extra coleslaw mix with a simple olive oil and cider vinegar dressing.
By Susie Middleton | Friday, January 20, 2012
Ground chipotle chiles add a fiery kick to the creamy sauce for these tacos, and you can find it right in the supermarket spice section. Add bowls of fresh shredded lettuce, ripe tomatoes, and buttery avocado and let everyone dress their own tacos.
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp. ground chipotle chile
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
Freshly ground pepper
1 lb. skirt steak (3/4 inch thick)
Eight 6-inch flour or corn tortillas
1/4 small head iceberg lettuce, shredded (2 cups)
2 medium ripe tomatoes (8 oz. each), cored and chopped (2 cups)
1 medium ripe avocado, pitted, peeled, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/3 cup chopped red onion
Prepare a medium-hot charcoal or gas grill fire. Combine the sour cream, chipotle, and 1/4 tsp. salt in a small bowl. Set aside at room temperature to let the flavors meld.
In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, cumin, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Rub this mixture on all sides of the steak. Grill the steak, covered, flipping once, until medium rare, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the steak to a large plate to rest for at least 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, warm the tortillas on the grill for about 30 seconds per side. Slice the steak across the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Fill each tortilla with some of the steak, lettuce, tomato, avocado, and onion. Drizzle with the sauce and serve.
By Susie Middleton | Friday, January 13, 2012
This hands-off dish delivers amazing flavor for very little effort; Roasted in an herb-infused oil, the shrimp turn golden-pink, tender and fragrant in just 10 minutes. If you like, substitute different herb combinations for the rosemary and thyme—try tarragon and chives or lemon verbena and parsley.
6 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
6 fresh thyme sprigs
3 large fresh rosemary sprigs, halved
Freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 lb. extra-large shrimp (26 to 30 per lb.), preferably wild, peeled and deveined
1-1/2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F.
Pour the oil into a 9x13-inch baking dish. Add the thyme, rosemary, and 1 tsp. pepper and bake until the oil mixture is fragrant, about 12 minutes.
Add the shrimp to the dish and toss with tongs until coated. Bake the shrimp until pink and firm, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the vinegar and 1/2 tsp. salt, toss well, and let rest at room temperature until the oil cools slightly, about 5 minutes. Discard the herbs (if you choose) and serve.
Serve the shrimp over white rice or with some crusty bread to sop up the fragrant olive oil. Sautéed Broccoli Raab with Chile, Garlic & Lemon balance out the meal as well.
By Susie Middleton | Thursday, November 10, 2011
Everyone has their favorite stuffing recipe for Thanksgiving, and this is one of mine. It's got not-too-sweet crumbles of cornbread, Italian sausage, and lots of fresh herbs – delicious!
This stuffing is delicious when cooked inside the bird, we like this simple, juicy roast turkey. If you plan to cook the stuffing separately, follow the instructions below, it can be cooked in the same oven or at the same temperature as your turkey.
Tip: For a stuffing with a bit of heat, use hot Italian sausage or even chorizo.
Yields 12 to 14 cups
3/4 lb. sweet Italian sausage (without casings), cut in small chunks
3 to 4 Tbs. rendered bacon fat or butter, if needed
2 cups chopped onion
1-1/2 cups finely chopped celery, including leaves
1-1/2 cups finely chopped bell pepper, preferably a mix of red and green
2 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 recipe Basic Cornbread, crumbled
1 cup chopped scallion
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
Freshly ground black pepper
Turkey stock or homemade or low-salt chicken broth as needed
In a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium heat until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add enough rendered bacon fat or butter to the pan to get about 5 Tbs. total fat. Add the onion, celery, peppers, garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, and salt. Cook briefly until the onion is softened. With a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits in the pan. Combine in a large bowl with the crumbled cornbread, scallions, parsley, chives, and pepper. Toss to combine.
If cooking in a turkey, put the stuffing in the bird just before roasting. Pack the stuffing loosely, leaving enough room to fit your whole extended hand into the bird's cavity. Cook the stuffing in the bird to 160º to 165ºF, checking with an instant-read thermometer. If the bird is done before the stuffing is, take the bird out of the oven, spoon the stuffing into a casserole dish, and continue to bake it while the turkey rests. If baking some or all of the stuffing in a casserole, pour a cup or two of stock over the stuffing to replace the juices the stuffing would have absorbed from the bird. Bake it covered until heated through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. For a crunchy top, uncover it for the last 15 minutes of baking.