Weekend Truffles

Sunday was spent contentedly eating chocolate truffles thanks to my friends Kate and Steve of Black Dinah Chocolatiers, who down for a quick visit from Maine, brought some of their homemade chocolate goodness with them. Partially because they are artisan chocolate makers who support local agriculture and think pretty much solely outside any box not containing chocolate we are kindred spirits.  I admire their partnership, passion and craftsmanship. 

Inspired by our walk earlier in the day under a canopy of pink flowering dogwoods Kate dressed the table with pink leaves and my antique serveware creating a feeling of spring. After my friends were seated Kate instructed us on the fine art of chocolate making, the distinction between French and Belgian style truffles, and how to observe the taste. With an understanding of what we were sampling we closed our eyes and journeyed from Venezuela (birthplace of cacao) to Aix-en-Provence (fields of lavender). 

0-20 Degrees Latitude  (infused w/ locally roasted organic coffee beans)

0-20 Degrees Latitude (infused w/ locally roasted organic coffee beans)

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Lavender (infused w/ dried organic lavender blossoms)

In honor of Kate and Steve’s visit I baked the Chocolate Caramel Tart from Marlow & Sons featured in the April 2009 issue of  Saveur.

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Andre Baranowski for Saveur

Cultural Direction

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Robert Indiana, HOPE, 2008; collection of Michael McKenzie

The Farnsworth Art Museum (Rockland, ME) will present a major exhibition on renowned American artist Robert Indiana drawn almost exclusively from his extensive holdings at his home and studio on the island of Vinalhaven, ME.  I’ve been told this will be the first time some of his work will be seen publicly in 30 years!

Kudos to the curators at The Portland Museum of Art (Portland, ME) who always put together remarkably clever and interesting exhibitions. I’m thrilled my friend Joyce Tenneson, an extraordinary woman, teacher and photographer, will be featured there this summer in “Joyce Tenneson: Polaroid Portraits”. 

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, MA) is a gorgeous place to spend an afternoon. The intrigue of the great theft, the flower filled courtyard, El Jaleo by John S. Sargent and her collection of letters by historic figures in the Long Gallery compels one to this creative home. 

Ongoing shows at the Museum of Science (Boston, MA) include Bees featuring a glassed-in-beehive, In the Butterfly Garden (visitors can walk among the butterflies!) and Colossal Fossil: Triceratops Cliff a 65 million-year-old fossil.

pictures_generation2The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC) exhibition “Pictures Generation” explores how images shape our perceptions of the world and ourselves.  Focus is on photographic works from 1974 – 1984 by 30 contemporary artists including Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman. Through August 2.  While there check out the Greek and Roman galleries and collection of contemporary furniture.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s (D.C.) iconic collection includes rockets, missiles, Mercury Friendship 7, Apollo 11 command module Columbia, airplanes, educational exhibits on spaceflight and a planetarium.

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(C) Richard T. Nowitz

Lighten Up

The past week of rain and fog has provided me with a reason to lighten up. Thankfully my home has ample windows so I am able to take advantage of day lighting, however as on recent days when I need to flip the switch it puts a smile on my face to think about the shining options we have to illuminate our space.

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Davis Square Lofts, a creative loft community in Somerville, MA, uses galvanized plate, incandescent lamps from Hi-Lite Mfg.Co. The lofts portray an elegant tug of war between industrial cityscape and green landscape so why not use lights that look like they belong on the porch in the dining room?

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The Greenwich Hotel in NYC has redefined what a stylish bathroom should be.  Each of the 80 plus water closets are laid out in Carrara marble or Moroccan tile and illuminated with playful lighting like this example reminiscent of a cake dome.

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Alabama Chanin, a lifestyle company best known for their hand-stitched fashion, also produces home products. This hand-crafted chandelier made from found items that have been recycled and wired to form this one-of-a-kind light was constructed by talented artisans from Florence, Alabama.

The Best Granola

Diana Santospago, owner of The Inn at Isle au Haut, charmed me with her edibles the first time I met her at a dinner party hosted by Linda Greenlaw.

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A lovely woman with great character Diana arrived on the small Maine island a member of a rock band and stayed to marry a local fisherman. She thinks she runs an inn, but her guests all know she really runs the base of an island playground where the everyday is more about discovering nature and the pleasure of taking in a breath of fresh island air. 

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As a guest of the inn my day often begins with a delicious homemade breakfast followed by a day on the trails. After a bike ride to the nearest Acadia National Park trailhead I’ll make my way through the woods and along the shoreline to climb Duck Harbor Mountain. The view from the summit of Penobscot Bay and surrounding islands is exceptional.

One of the best gifts Diana has given me is her granola recipe. I’ve been doing my best to replicate it since my first stay. I enjoy it with goat milk yogurt

Homemade Inn at Isle au Haut Granola

Heat oven to 325.

6c old-fashioned rolled oats

1c crushed pecans

1c crushed walnuts

1/2c hulled pumpkin seeds (I only include these in October/November)

1/2c hulled sunflower seeds

1t cinnamon

1t coarse salt

8T (1 stick) unsalted butter (I prefer Kate’s Butter)

2/3 c honey (THE best is by Day Break Manor available @ Treats in Wiscasset, ME)

1t pure vanilla extract

1c raisins

1c dried cranberries

(Diana notes if you like it really fruity, add 1c dried apple pieces. I add 1c dried apricots.)

In a large bowl stir together oats, pecans, walnuts, seeds, cinnamon & salt. In a saucepan melt butter & honey together over low heat. Stir in vanilla & pour over oat & nut mixture. Toss to combine.  Spread the granola out on two large rimmed baking sheets. Bake, stirring every few minutes until lightly brown & crispy, about 15-20 minutes. Be careful not to overbake. The granola will get crispier as it cools. Cool the granola and stir in fruit.

Diana and I keep our granola in a gallon glass jar tightly covered. It looks pretty and stays fresh.

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Oyster Invitational

The oyster extravaganza B&G Oysters held in the South End of Boston this past weekend to celebrate their 5th patio season was everything a die-hard oyster lover could want. For $45 pp my friend and I enjoyed unlimited oysters, an oyster shucking demo and a chef’s competition for Best Original Raw Presentation.

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How to Shuck an Oyster by the guys at Island Creek Oysters


Salsa Night

When I lived in LA a friend organized “Sundays at Seven.” A weekly ad hoc gathering of friends meant to extend the weekend and divert attention from returning to our challenging work environment the following day. We would enjoy margaritas, food and conversation.

I’ve continued this tradition in Boston where some of my neighbors are also good friends. Last night was our first Sunday at Seven in 2009.  The menu as is custom was by theme not assignment. Bring whatever you want, but think Latin. The tables were filled with mojitos, spicy lemonade, salsas, and fried plantains. A former chef my friend James brought maiz asado (grilled corn with allioli, garlic, and Manchego cheese).

Following is my  recipe for homemade corn, bean salsa.

Corn & Black Bean Salsa

1c cooked black beans (I follow the ingredients on the bag or in Mark Bittman’s instructions and let sit overnight)

1 11 oz. can whole kernel corn, drained

3 or 4 medium tomatoes, chopped (depends on the consistency you want)

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1/3 c. chopped fresh cilantro

3/4 c. diced red onion

1 clove garlic

1/4 c. fresh lime juice (about 2 limes, squeezed)

1 t. salt

Combine all ingredients. Cover and chill for at least one hour. Serve with chips.

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Spring’s Bounty with Chef Michael Salmon

Apprehensive about an upcoming dinner party? A little too familiar with the delivery guy? Maybe you just want to learn some basic cooking techniques that will help you impress your friends and not break the budget.

A hands-on cooking class can be an exciting and fun way to hone your culinary skills.

I love to eat and have a lot to learn about cooking. Luckily I have a few friends who are chefs who over the past couple years have taught me a lot about what to do and not do (trust me I could probably write a blog on my mishaps) in the kitchen.

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One of the first cooking classes I took was with Michael Salmon, Chef/Owner of the Hartstone Inn and its Camden, Maine restaurant. We learned to make pasta! Everything from making the dough, coloring and flavoring different pastas, rolling out and cutting various shapes of pasta, filling pastas such as raviolis and tortellini and cooking pasta. A few weeks later I purchased a pasta maker.

May 16 and 17 Michael will celebrate his commitment to sourcing locally grown and/or produced ingredients with the class “From the Spring Garden.”  Students will work off a menu that reflects the season’s bounty including Seared Sea Scallops with Spring Pea Cream and Smoked Salmon, Grilled Salmon Niçoise with Fiddlehead Ferns and Spring Asparagus, and Spring Rhubarb Crème Brûlée with a Lemon Madeleine.

Afterwards sit your friends around a table to share a meal with what you learned!

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My Organic Kitchen Garden

Several months ago I hosted a dinner party for Eric Ritter, a very talented (and sustainable minded) craftsman from Maine who I will dedicate a post to down the line. He and his wife have transformed a rundown property in Southern Maine into a gorgeous spectacle of architecture and gardening. Eric saw my ample deck space with what I thought was an attractive sitting area and declared it should be repurposed for urban farming. At first my neighbors and I laughed about it, but then it seemed so obvious. How could I live a sustainable life and consider myself a health-conscious foodie without optimizing this space for growing food. Thus I committed my deck space to a shared urban farming venture with my neighbors. With a resident architect and natural green thumb who loves designing and building at the helm we made our shopping list and headed out to Lowe’s for lumber and a local greenhouse for dirt and seedlings to fill our boxes and pots.

During the next several months I will be posting about our foray into vertical agriculture.

Our inspiration.

Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt from Life Magazine.

The Bright Side

Alex Randall (aka Jericho Hands) brings a bit of nature inside with her taxidermy inspired lights. Using a combination of reclaimed items and new technology Alex creates lighting that stands the test of time. Currently she is working on new methods of environmentally friendly lighting with a leading technology company. Her lights are signature pieces that will set a room (or for that matter an entire residence) apart.

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about this blog

About Me Sharon Kitchens and Delicious Musings. Welcome and thank you for visiting my blog. I write about all the things I enjoy - Culture, Food, Photography &Travel. Read more on my about page.

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