Affording Luxury

A few weeks ago I came across an article written by  the New York Times called  ‘The Unaffordable Luxury of Food.”

Talking about how food and fine dining is becoming more and more of a luxury rather than just ‘going out for dinner’ – a gastronomic experience more than just filling your stomach. Also, how this mindset isn’t just for  a successful businessmen anymore… more and more young people are choosing to spend their money on fine meals over other options. Carving out chunks of their  paltry  incomes to dine out at sophisticated restaurants,  go to food festivals and wine tastings.  There are people in the world who eat to live, and those who live to eat. For me personally, I live to eat. Going out to new and interesting restaurants, food festivals and cooking  with my friends is what makes me happy.

This past week alone I have gone out to dinner four times and spent an inordinate amount of money on expensive chocolates and tea at the Chocolate Festival that took place in Harvard Square last Sunday… normal things for a college student to be spending their money on? I though no, but apparently that stigma is changing. Dining out at nice restaurants is not just about the food, it’s the experience. It’s about taking the time out of your hectic life to enjoy something simple. It’s a time to leave your phone in your purse and enjoy a good conversation over great food. We live in a fast-paced world where sitting down to a meal is a rare occurrence and when we do get the chance, to make it a memorable one.

OTTO- New York City. Taken by Olivia Hesslein

The last AMAZING meal I had, was at  Otto Enoteca Pizzera this past December while I was still living in New York City. OTTO is one of Chef Mario Batali‘s creations. Specializing in rustic pizzas and  pasta, unique cocktails and the most sinfully delicious gelato I’ve ever had without having traveled to Italy. What made this meal so special besides the incredible food was that I was there with my family. Laughing and talking until our waitress has to tell us the restaurant was closing for the night. A great meal can bring people together and remind you to enjoy the simple things.

The mindset surrounding food for young people is changing:  “I don’t think about what anything costs,” Emily Gerard, a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a publishing assistant making the requisite salary, told me recently. “I’ll drop $60 once a week at the Greenmarket, which I would never do at a grocery store; I like supporting local farmers.”

I think this change is telling of our generation. It shows passion, intelligence and awareness. Were becoming more aware of  what we eat, where it comes from and how it gets to our plates. But more than that, its teaching our generation to make time for simple happiness, when we are entering a world where that can easily be swept to the wayside.

Cooking with Chef Alarcon

Chef Pedro Alarcon

Photo: Chef Alarcon at Northeastern University, taken by Olivia Hesslein

There’s no better way to break up a stressful day of classes then by going to a cooking demonstration!

Here at Northeastern we are lucky  to have an on campus kitchen, Exhibition Kitchen – used to host cooking classes, demonstrations and other food related events for students. This past week the university brought in local chef, Pedro Alarcon owner and executive chef of  La Casa de Pedro in Watertown, Mass.

Chef Alarcon is a native of Venezuela and has brought his love for his country and knowledge of local cuisine right here to Boston. Watching Chef Alarcon cook you could see his passion come through, talking about how when “I came to this country I didn’t even know how to fry an egg.” and how far he has come. Chef Alarcon decided to make a classic Venezuelan dish and favorite from his restaurant’s menu: Arroz con Pollo (chicken with rice) with fried plantains.

Here is a link to Food Gawker, a website I personally use to find recipes. I like it because other foodies from all over can post their much-loved recipes here to share.   There are a myriad of different Arroz con Pollo recipes to suit your fancy!

Alarcon described this dish as one that is a classic favorite for large families and one that is relatively inexpensive to make. Which was a perfect dish for the crowd of college students he was cooking for – that they could easily replicate on their own.

While watching Chef Alarcon, I was live tweeting the event. – linking to photos and the event homepage through Northeastern’s website. The only thing that could have made live-tweeting this better is if Twitter was able to come up with a way to tweet smells- because the food smelled heavenly… Live-tweeting an event is a beneficial form of ‘reporting’ because you are broadcasting details in real time. From cooking events  such as this to something like the Presidential Inauguration, readers and tweeters alike appreciate the immediacy of learning about something while it is still in the midst of unfolding.

Restaurants opening in 2013

This week I found many  new and exciting things happening on the Boston culinary scene just by digging around on Twitter.

I have made a list on my personal Twitter account of other food bloggers, local chefs, restaurants and others like Open Table Boston that I like to follow.

After professing my love for Zagat in my earlier post, here is a link to an article I LOVE that I found through their Twitter : ‘2013 preview-  10 Boston Restaurants and events we can’t wait for’

A list of all the up- and-coming events in Boston including restaurants that are preparing to open and different food festivals. Here are a few to point out from Zagat’s list:

-Chef Ming Tsai who is as well, a restaurateur and a television host of ‘SIMPLY MING’  is set to open a new restaurant in the city in early 2013. Ming already has a restaurant in Wellesley, Mass. called Blue Ginger.  He is now set to open, Blue Dragon Boston- an Asia gastropub in the Four Point Channel neighborhood of the city.

-Local chef, Christopher Coombs and his partner Brian Piccini’s newest undertaking is Boston Chops, an urban steak bistro set to open in the South End in mid-January. Coombs has also worked at dbar in Dorchester and Deuxave in the city. Boston Chops is said to be more relaxed, serving delicious steaks along with an endless pile of fries. Coombs was named on Zagat’s ‘30 under 30‘ list as one of Boston’s best up and coming chefs- having become dbar’s executive chef at just the ripe age of 23.

– Rivaling Chef Coombs is local chef Tim Maslow, who is also opening a new restaurant, Ribelle in Brookline, Mass. Maslow is the current chef at Strip T’s in Watertown,Mass. Ribelle is set to serve-up  modern-American fare.

I can’t wait to get out and give these a try once they’re open for business!

Four ‘foodie-approved’ websites

Eat Here Now!

I would like to share some websites I frequent when I’m looking for the latest in culinary news. From restaurant reviews, articles on the next big trend to profiles on chefs and more.

1) The New York Times: Dining and Wine – The New York Times is known for its gutsy restaurant reviews. Personally, I enjoy reading the Diners Journal section. An overview of great restaurants and what they’re serving that makes them so great. They are restaurants in the New York city area, but restaurants that can make it in the big apple can survive anywhere. Whats happening here gives the restaurant world a scope of whats popular and whats not.

2) The Boston Globe: Food and Dining – It is everything food and everything Boston-  trending right in your neighborhood. If you’re looking to find a new restaurant to venture to the coming weekend, reading the front page of this section will certainly steer your taste buds in the right direction.

3) Open Table: A personal favorite of mine. Open Table is a great site where you can make reservations online from your smart phone or online. Open Table has a reputation for  appealing to high quality restaurants -All the reviews are written by other Open Table members and foodies alike so you can trust that the reviews your reading are accurate and thoughtful. You can search for restaurants in any city as well as Open Table writers compile features like ‘ Best restaurants in Boston for Valentine’s Day’  and other ways to make your dining experience more worthwhile.

4) Zagat Boston Blog : Zagat is well-known in the culinary world and ‘anyone who is anyone’ on the restaurant scene wants to be placed on their yearly ‘Best of’ lists. This blog compiles local restaurant reviews, food trends, funny articles on chef and must-try places. Absolutely a hidden gem of local culinary know-how.

Photo: CC Chuy’s restaurant By JD Hancock and republished under a Creative Commons License. Some Rights Reserved.

We could all learn something from Rachel

Last week  my class had the pleasure  of a Q&A with a recent NU graduate and aspiring online journalist, Rachel Kossman.

Rachel left Northeastern with a job offer, to a job she didn’t love but it was a job none the less- it was a stepping stone into her future as ‘a real adult’.

After a year at her undesired job, she decided to do something that would make all parents or recent graduates cringe..quit.

She quit her job, went to South America and began a travel blog.

Rachel traveled all throughout South America for 3 weeks. Came home and then immediately returned for 3 1/2 months. She fell in love with the countries she visited while posting, tweeting and instagram’ing it all along the way.

Some people may see Rachel’s decision as brazen and  a panicked response to being stuck in a rut. But what Rachel has done for herself is she created an online presence that would attract others. At first, friends and family but gradually other like-minded people and professionals potentially seeking employees. She was writing, creating and stimulating  her journalistic profile.

Personally, what I think Rachel has done is incredibly brave. She is pioneering a path for herself instead of taking one that already exists.

A career in journalism is not clear-cut. It is forever changing and certainly not for the faint of heart. You have to be willing to travel, constantly learn new skills, quit your job. You have to expose yourself to the elements of the world and the uncertainties that come along with it.

 

What I gained from hearing Rachel’s story is not to give up on my hopes for my future. And that if there isn’t a ‘way’, to make one.

Our lives are not meant to be put together seamlessly and perfectly like a puzzle.

As a journalist your ingenuity, perseverance and creativity are your greatest assets.

 

 

 

Do you KNOW what you’re eating?

The beginning of any gastronomical experience starts with where the food you’re eating comes from. Your local Stop ‘n’ Shop or Shaws imports (some, not all) ingredients from all over the world. The peppers on your salad could be from Chile and the strawberries on your cereal in the morning could be all the way from California.  A foodie recognizes the importance of eating local because is it healthier for you and has fewer preservatives -it also helps stimulates local business.

Another thought to this affect:  Do strawberries that have been picked at an unknown time then shipped 3,000 miles in a refrigerated car sound appetizing?

Eating local can be challenging, but Boston and all throughout Massachusetts there are farmers markets open everyday. You can find one near your home or near your office that is convenient for you.  Here is a link to the Massachusetts Farmers Market Association.

Innovators in the great city of Boston have been coming up with even more ways to make local, fresh produce easier to obtain … by starting, The Fresh Truck!

Coming sometime this year, Josh Trautwein and Daniel Clarke, co-founders of The Fresh Truck have created a mobile farmers market out of a retrofitted school bus. Bringing local produce to the greater Boston community, regardless of neighborhood or income.

The ‘Truck’ trend of food-on-the-go has boomed within the last few years as well as the allegiance to local farmers markets is happily growing. The Food Truck combines these two popular fads into something that will hopefully stick around for a long tome to come! Farmers markets are really making an effort to reach new communities and educate. For instance there is a weekly farmers market open year-round at Northeastern University supplying fresh produce to students. This is a fantastic idea because it is teaching students who are just beginning an independent lifestyle about the importance of buying local and eating healthy and provides this service right at their doorstep. 

Food Snobbery 101

To introduce this blog, I feel it would only be appropriate to define (in my terms) a ‘Foodie’.

A foodie is someone who is interested in what goes into his or her bodies. They have a genuine love for all food- healthy and otherwise.  Foodies have a curiosity for different cuisines, unique pairings of ingredients, where they get their ingredients from, how they are grown and raised. Foodies have a flair for different cooking techniques and a thirst to continue to learn more.  They are the people you see spending hours in restaurant warehouse stores drooling over stainless steel knives and La Creuset pots. They are the people with more then one kind of salt in their pantries; grey sea salt and Himalayan pink.  They look at each meal of the day as a new opportunity to explore, create and enjoy. Spending hours scouring the Dining section of the New York Times reading the latest reviews.  Foodies look at the gastronomical experience as another way to enjoy life…to slow down and savor the moment.

For those not as acquainted with the culinary world; or for those who would like a good laugh, here is a link to an excerpt from ’The Food Snob’s Dictionary: A Lexicon of Gastronomical Knowledge’ written by David Kamp and Marion Rosenfeld and illustrated by Ross Macdonald.

This is a dictionary that literally defines different techniques, terms, types of food; bios of chefs, menu terminology and even more.  All that is defined would be an essential part of a ‘foodie’ repertoire.

For anyone who is looking to expand their food knowledge or merely wants to understand the menu at a 4 or 5 star restaurant, this would be a great read for you.