Come find the Leather District Gourmet in her new home-

•November 21, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Same blog, new home.

Potato Leek Soup, Fun with Joomla (the new website update), S/O/L/E Food Tuesday

•November 19, 2008 • 1 Comment

Okay – first let me thank everyone for their patience waiting for the new site. It’s looking great but we’re just *this close* (that’s painfully close) to being ready to launch. Solving a few lost-in-translation issues, then we’re good to go. I have come to believe “Joomla” is Dutch for “Hidden Spellcheck” but that’s a story for another day…maybe it’s Swahili for “Every draft WordPress autosaved is new again.” But really, let’s not get me started here.

In the meantime, you will see (someday, I have confidence) that I’ve been posting in two places so that the transition will be seamless and so that you continue to have fresh content here, while I post there. So you will be gracious and pretend not to notice the new and improved bags under my eyes, dear friends. This is a sacrifice I made for you. (Those of you who know my developer will be kind to her, too! She’s been cheerful with each new challenge, and doing a beautiful job.)

Fish Updates

I’ve got the Teach a Man to Fish Round Up all ready to go! It’s done! And, just in time we have Mark Bittman and Michael Ruhlman both opening up their fora to discussions on sustainable seafood and the “shoulds” we need to pay attention to.

With your help, I compiled a great resource list which includes articles, websites, pocket guides, a movie clip, a visit with Alton Brown in Alaska, and more. That’s ready, too. This year, participation in TAMTF was WAY up. The information I gathered was so voluminous that I have decided to post the resources in a separate page. Okay, soon. Promise.

Turning our attention now to Vegetables

Leeks are in the markets now and they’re just gorgeous. You can buy tender baby ones or large ones, they will be reduced to smithereens in this soup, so either size is fine. Trim the frazzled ends, but as you trim the dark green from the pale green and white, keep the dark green tops for making vegetable stock. Just pop them into a zip top bag and into the freezer. I do this with good onion peels and parsley stems, too. All three will lend flavor and vitamins to your next broth or stock and once they’ve given you their all, then you can remove them from the stock and discard them. Remember, food waste accounts for a huge amount of our greenhouse gas emissions. Reduce food waste.


I have a quick, seasonal soup and a pre-Thanksgiving recipe to share. You do know it’s next week, don‘t you? I’ve also asked the Tofurky people for a product sample to review for you. Fingers crossed on that one (not saying which way). Talk about sacrifices, between Joomla and Tofurky, I’m approaching sainthood here…just sayin’.


Soup’s On and it’s S/O/L/E fully good

The easiest soup in the world is vichyssoise, or potato-leek soup. It can be enjoyed hot or cold and can be extremely simple to prepare and simply elegant in its presentation. One can gussy it up a bit, too. If you have an immersion blender or stick blender, use a deeper pot so you can blend right in the pot. Otherwise, you’ll be pureeing in batches in the blender.

I’m breaking this w a y down for the new cooks out there (Yes, M., that’s you). Really, this is a three-step soup. Boil potatoes, sweat leeks, combine and blend. That’s it.

  1. Peel potatoes (about two per person for a dinner size portion of the soup, including seconds.)
  2. Slice leeks in half lengthwise, remove sand and grit with several running water rinses and a good long soak. Then another rinse. Leeks grow in such a way that there is always accumulated dirt in the leaves.

Here’s the truth. You can make this soup with nothing more that these two items, water and S&P. Literally.
Or, you can add a bit of this or that. Here’s what I do:

  1. Peel potatoes, cube them, and put them on to boil. Water is fine, but I do like chicken broth as well. Sorry Ruhlman. Add a bay leaf or two.
  2. Sauté your beautiful un-sandy leeks in some butter. Sweating them over medium heat is actully more accurate, you don’t want them to brown. A bit of shallot is nice, too.
  3. The potatoes are done when you can test them with a paring knife, it should slide into the potato with no resistance. Deglaze the leeks with some white wine or Vya Vermouth. Pour the winey-leeky goodness into the potatoes.
  4. Hit it with generous white pepper and salt.
  5. Remove the bay leaf and use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Or blend in blender. (Careful with hot stuff in blender, M. Put folded towel on top and hold with your hand or you’ll be wearing rather than eating this lovely soup.)
  6. Taste, adjust S&P.
  7. Add cream, milk, creme fraîche to taste.
  8. Fresh herbs that work nicely include either chervil or chives or tarragon.

You could garnish with tiny little crisp bacon or pancetta if you were to serve in a non-vegetarian meal, or with croutons. Any of these would add a textural element.

We had this on a night when the temperature dropped and had no accompaniment, no dairy in the soup, other than bread and butter. Totally satisfying simple supper. Did I remember to take a photo? Non.

Do try this and enjoy the simple flavors in the velvety warming bowl of comfort.

Beginning Thanksgiving Preparations

  • I’m also now writing for and we’re all contributing to a huge holiday slideshow. You can click on this badgeexaminer-badge-1 to go to my column there. I’ve posted my buttermilk sourdough biscuits there and a couple of sweet potato recipes.

Here is another Thanksgiving staple:

The Leather District Gourmet’s Cranberry Sauce

  • Wash and stem two bags of whole fresh cranberries. (You can buy them now and throw them in the freezer.)
  • Sauté 2 TBSP shallots in butter.
  • Add cranberries, cook on medium heat with ~1 C sugar.
  • While stirring and listening for popping berries, zest orange. Juice it and add to cranberries.
  • Stir in ~ 1 TBSP Dijon mustard.
  • At end, add Cointreau, Grand Marnier or brandy to taste.
  • Chill.

Can be made 2 days in advance.

Best Pizza in Boston is in Cambridge

•November 15, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Best of Boston is in Cambridge

This was our conclusion tonight eating a hot sausage, carmelized onion and kalamata olive pie at Emma’s. The number 12, I think it was. Enjoy an IBC or a seasonal beer or good ol’ Red Stripe. Watch the guys in the kitchen in their constant ballet of pizza prep. Celtics cap on left, head down, prepping. BoSox cap on right, head down, prepping.Tall red bandana in the middle working the peel: slipping pies in, slipping pies out. Occasionally punctuated by a salad brought to the pass from some unseen cold station, off stage left. (Salads are wonderful here too, not an afterthought.)

Best of Boston awards in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004 and Phantom Gourmet 2004.

Their motto is: “Eat here and you’ll be happy. We’ll shim your wobbly tables for free.” Gotta love it.

Art is a-peeling here too. With painted, decoupaged and otherwise tarted up pizza peels adorning the walls.

Why would people line up on rainy night to wait for a table? Because it’s that good. A small take out window and counter serve as a waiting area. Happily, there are benches outside, too. The wait on this Friday night around 7:30 was estimated at 20-25 minutes and we were seated promptly at that time.


40 Hampshire Street * Kendall Square * Cambridge MA 02139
Phone (617) 864-8534
Open Monday – Friday  11:30-10, Saturday 4-10

Other Boston Pizza to Try

  • Cambridge 1 in Harvard Square consistently produce excellent thin crust pizza. Lucky for Bostonian’s this side of the river, a second location has opened in Fenway. Try it on a non-game day for a great relaxed lunch. Robert Nadeau’s witty review concludes the guys behind Cambridge 1 have “it”.

I can’t even tell you what ” it ” is, but they have more of it than anyone. Cambridge 1 is beyond demographics. It is hot, cool, hep, hip, mod, kewl, and pomo all at once.

Haven’t been to the Cambridge (original) location but the Fenway spot was a welcome find when an errand took us to that forlorn stretch of Boylston Street between Fenway Park and Star Market.

  • Picco in the South End is actually in Boston. It’s also very good. Without wood fire, it still has an incredibly hot, custom oven and bakers who know the value of a good crust. Read about it here (Pizza, that’s Amore! article includes links to Picco, to Slice and other resources.)

We’re Number 1!!

•November 14, 2008 • 1 Comment

The ugliest building in the world? Boston City Hall! We’re number 1. We’re number 1!

Jewels and Cocktails

•November 13, 2008 • Leave a Comment

When was the last time your martini showed up with bling? Okay maybe you were dining at Scott’s and got this Blue Curaçao Blinged out drink

Scott's Blinged out Martini

But what if you missed that one?

Want to make someone very happy, feed hungry families and do it in a fun, just slightly public way?

Buy yourself or your sweetie this special cocktail at Capital Grille beginning November 24 and 100% of the proceeds go to Share Our Strength which is the American Express-supported charity that aims to end childhood hunger.

Made with Ketel One Citroen Vodka, Cointreau, lime and cranberry juice, this one-of-a-kind martini is garnished with a White Topaz and Diamond Caviar™ Rope Bracelet from acclaimed designer Steven Lagos.

luxurymartini Capital Grill Lagos Luxe Martini

French say Fromage; Spanish say Queso; I just say Yes!

•November 12, 2008 • 1 Comment

We are so fortunate in Boston to have cheese expert Ihsan Gurdal and his knowledgeable staff at Formaggio Kitchen and South End Formaggio. Recently, Gurdal was awarded the Chevalier du Mèrite Agricol, which is comparable to the French Legion of Honor titles. They’re awarded in three levels in a secret process, bestowing respect and honor on the recipients recognized for their “significant contributions to the development and progress of agriculture in France.” So he’s really a big cheese, even the French say so!

ventas1I wrote about Ihsan Gurdal’s honor recently on Suite101 Cheese Expert Ihsan Gurdal Awarded French Honor. This time of year it’s good to recall shops like Formaggio Kitchen and South End Formaggio whether you’re building a perfect cheese platter and need a little help, dusting off the fondue set, or starting holiday shopping.

Certainly the Chevalier du Merite Agricole medal is an honor for Ihsan Gurdal. I hope it brings the respect and customers he deserves. We’re really lucky to have our own world-renowned expert right here in Boston.

While the award is from France, Gurdal has expertise globally. And, we have additional fromagiers. Two of the most exciting cheese finds of late hail from Spain. After Caleb introduced me to Las Ventas he brought home this Ahumado de Pria Spanish cheese. I knew from the name it would be smoky. But just slightly so.

I sampled more at Las Ventas (See Is Korean now the NBT Next Big Thing from Bi Bim Bap to Soccorat and Paella). Let me say again, Las Ventas is a place you must explore. Groceries for any foodie on your list, fresh made sandwiches, coffee, paella pans. Jamon.


Ahumado de Pareao

I cannot even find this Spanish cheese on Murray’s site. Not in his book and not online. One Spanish-language site did mention it. Here is their Spanish and Google’s English translation.

• El Queso ahumado de PRÍA esta elaborado a partir de leche pasteurizada de vaca agregando nata procedente de leche de oveja . • The smoking of PRIA this cheese produced from pasteurized milk cow adding cream from sheep’s milk. [ed.note: this is Google’s translation, not mine]

Se trata de un queso de forma cilíndrica que se presenta en tres formatos: 0,5 Kg, 1 Kg. It is a cylindrical shape of cheese that comes in three formats: 0.5 Kg 1 Kg. Y 3 Kg . And 3 Kg. Su corteza es lisa de color pardo claro con un ligero brillo y aroma ahumado.

Its bark is smooth brown clear with a slight gloss and smoky aroma.Smoked cheese of PRIA

En su interior la pasta es compacta de corte cerrado con pocos ojos irregularmente repartidos de tono blanco-amarillento. Its interior is compact pasta cut with few eyes closed irregularly distributed yellowish-white tone.

Posee un sabor suave con un ligero retrogusto ahumado.

It has a mild flavor with a slight smoky aftertaste. Una vez degustado su bouquet se mantiene algún tiempo en el paladar.

Once tasted its bouquet is maintained for some time on the palate.

Es ideal para el tapeo y como aperitivo cortado en tacos. It is ideal for tapas as a starter and cut into blocks. Se acompaña bien de vinos aromáticos y graduación alcohólica media, también con sidra natural fresca.

It is accompanied by good wines and aromatic alcohol half, also with natural fresh cider.

Se puede emplear rallado en platos de cocina o gratinado ya que les confiere un excelente sabor.

Can be used grated in gratin dishes or because they confer an excellent flavor.

Okay, so you got the picture. It’s not common, but it is magnifico! And they sell it at Las Ventas. He may be the sole shop carrying it.

Murcia al vino – This goat cheese has a wine-stained rind, an amazing tangy, but creamy texture, and a definite wine finish. It’s fantastic. It would be beautiful on a cheese platter.

And while we’re on the subject of cheese: allow me to make a gift suggestion? How about the Murray’s Cheese Handbook paired with a cheese knife or a hunk of good cheese?

dscn25082That’s a hostess or holiday gift anyone would love. Murray’s is a New York institution and when their story begins like so:

Murray Greenberg (never met him; he died before I got here) was a Jewish Spanish civil war veteran and communist who opened a wholesale butter and egg shop a few doors up Cornelia street in 1940…

You know it’s going to be good. And it is.

Listen to how they lovingly describe Murcia al vino (a cheese which I could barely find any info about anywhere on the web):

D.O.: Maybe it was another one of those farmhouse accidents: a little too much vino, a wheel of cheese rolls off the table into barrel, two days later somebody finds themselves decanting the first wheel of Cabra al Vino! Literally meaning “goat with wine,” this semi-firm pasteurized goat from Spain’s Mediterranean coast is cured for 48-72 hours in Doble Pasta red wine. The paste remains nearly pure white and the rind absorbs a lovely violet hue. The paste is sweet and smooth, delicately grapey, with a gentle, pliable texture and mild fruity flavor.

So all you cheeselovers, break out and try something new. World class expertise is in your backyard and at your fingertips.

The Other Side, the Raw Food Trend, Fakin’ Bacon

•November 11, 2008 • 5 Comments

Another meat-free S/O/L/E Food Tuesday

To eat a raw food diet takes some effort. It might seem counter-intuitive, because there’s no cooking involved. But think about vegan recipes or any recipes you know of, vegetarian, vegan, or “regular”; don’t they generally include heating food to some extent?

Raw food is a trend that has been popularized by celebrities like Donna Karan, Woody Harrelson, Demi Moore. Adherents swear the diet gives them better energy, more vitality, clearer thinking. Those are just some of the claims.

There’s a saying in Japanese: The reverse side also has a reverse side.

I thought of that, as I stepped through the smoking, drinking, inked-up kids outside the Other Side. What was I in for? Had I come before they were open? Seemed to be a mix of patrons, regulars and staffers out there. I wondered: can vegans drink beer? Isn’t yeast a living thing (no, fungus)? I guess cigarettes are not eaten so burning them is not the same as cooking? Who knows what the logic is.

Ah, but this is our first epiphany. The Other Side Cafe is not just about serving vegans or even vegetarians. So anyone is likely to find a happy meal here. Not the evil happy meal, I mean a good meal. Something like 17 sandwiches available, at least seven for omnivores.

But, I had been invited to come sample the menu by the owner of The Other Side and was delighted to enjoy a cool walk across town. In between Back Bay and the Fens, The Other Side is situated across Mass. Ave. from Newbury Street.


Crowd: Serving a mix of locals, students with an occasional guest my age thrown in.

Vibe: The music skews young and loud (Billy Corrigan with your vegan lunch, perhaps?) but the table tent warns you that this is how they and most of their patrons like it.

Fakin’ it  or not

Menu: An observation from a meat-centered perspective: vegetarians often try to “fool” you with a meat substitute and recreate a meat-centered meal, minus the meat. Sham ham, fakin’ bacon, phoney baloney. My view is that this is an error if you’re trying to win over carnivores and omnivores. But that may not be the goal of all vegans or vegetarians to do so, but why not just serve something yummy without calling my attention to the fact that it’s not something, just let it be something.

Happily, the Other Side the menu is geared towards all eaters. (Even gluten-free). You’re out of luck if you’re a vegetarian or vegan with nut allergies, but that’s a story for another day. These are extensive menus for a place that barely has a kitchen! At least eleven menu items at first scan are flagged as vegan or raw. They helpfully explain the reasons behind some vegans eschewing some beers and wines which are clarified with gelatin based products, for example. Even offering a website for more info, see

Since vegans focus on cruelty-free foods

A vegan is someone who doesn’t eat animal products: meat, fish, milk products, eggs, or honey. Many vegans also avoid fur, leather, and wool as these products generally result in the confinement, abuse, or slaughter of animals.

I asked for the most popular items on the vegan and raw menu, since this was going to be a learning lunch. The “BLT” which of course is devoid of one of my favorite foods the “B” comes with “Fakin’ Bacon.” This gets me to my point about converts. No one will ever be fooled by Fakin’ Bacon. It doesn’t mean the sandwich was bad, it was actually quite good.


I began with the raw foodists Chips and Dip. “the chips are slices of beet and carrot; the dip is a blend of macadamia and cashew with garlic, lemon, braggs.” (The Braggs is a soy based sauce that lends umami without the salt of soy. But I believe it’s brewed so it wouldn’t be purely kosher.) The chips were beautiful and tasty. The dip was great, but when I hear chips and dip I’m thinking deep fried potato chips and sour cream based dip.


The reverse side also has a reverse side.

The statement is an acknowledgment of the holistic view of life. There is no light without dark, good without evil. Chips without dip. Okay, I made the last one up. Of course you could have chips without dip, but why?

Here’s the Other Side dip (which is really a spread):

3/4 c. raw Macadamia nuts
1 1/4 c. raw Cashews
1/2 c. filtered water
1 Tbsp. Braggs Liquid Aminos
Juice of 1 lemon
1 small garlic clove
1/2 Tbsp. Herbes de Provençe
10 Basil leaves, minced
1 scallion, minced

Blend all ingredients except basil and green onion until smooth. Mix in basil and green onion by hand. For best flavor, let it sit for at least an hour. Serve with carrot and beet “chips” or veggie sticks.

When my sandwich arrived with potato chips on the side, I laughed at my own reaction. How bland and wan they looked next to the gorgeous crimson and orange of the beets. And, after eating the vegetables, the potato chips just tasted of salt.

Other items:

Nachos, breakfast scrambles, grilled and pressed sandwiches, savory pies. Desserts are always good on vegetarian and vegan menus. The Other Side is no exception: the chocolate mint cake was very good even without butter in the butter cream.

The 7 @ 7 menu offers a nightly entree for only $7.00 one meat, one vegetarian.

Enjoy a meal from the Other Side and bring your friends: carnivores, omnivores, vegans, raw foodists, everyone can find something to enjoy on the menu. Even Wimpy could find a nice roast beef sandwich here.


Now, about that music…

Blind tasting – oof da.

•November 11, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Serious Eats has another braille wine label find. The “cool Christmas gift” comment reminds me of the distancing effect when someone finds your “other-ness” a novelty. Like when someone said they couldn’t wait to introduce me to their friend to whom they’d described me as “a real Jap.” Knowing their friend would think Jewish American Princess, see, made it funny, see, because I’m actually Japanese…

…oof da.

I’ve written about the labels that included braille: the “in addition to” labels I found. For a really interesting read see Clotilde’s interview of a blind cook. And the dark dining experience is one I wrote about some time ago.

All these things are good to talk about, I only hope people will try to tread lightly when they feel themselves ready to trot out another person’s difference as a novelty. I don’t mind being a catalyst for some enlightening discussions, but don’t objectify me in the process please.

Thanks, now here’s to you!


Do you have a “white thumb?”

•November 10, 2008 • 4 Comments

Thanks to Dana McCauley for this tip. You know how much I’ve been loving my rediscovery of baking. This is just too funny. Especially since I discovered some rogue sourdough sponge on the elbow of my favorite Woodman’s hoodie. The sponge for tomorrow’s pancakes is done and the starter has been fed. No matter how much I may have enjoyed the Pullman loaf of election night, the request was made in no uncertain terms this evening that the next loaf be “Regular Sourdough.” (capital R, capital S, thank you.)

I haven’t baked a cake lately (and not one that looked like that!) but pies are definitely part of the Orphans’, Refugees’, Procrastinators’ Thanksgiving plan.

Here’s my latest pumpkin.


Speaking of Thanksgiving – check out my new column on (Boston’s Food Culture Examiner, here!) We’re going to be running a Thanksgiving/Holiday series so the recipes, tips, and advice will be flowing!

Matt, Kitty – does this count as “fleshing out?”

•November 9, 2008 • Leave a Comment