I’m not usually one to put the fate of my dinner in the hands of Rachel Ray, but as we made our way back down to the hotel lobby after dropping off our bags in our room, Cate said, “Let’s ask the concierge where to go. That’s what Rach always says to do.”
And, well. Given that I’ve been reading her blog every day without fail since before I even had one of my own and thus trust her implicitly with, not only my time but also what goes on my dinner table (the two most precious things in my life). I agreed.
Plus it was late. We were tired. And sure, we could have headed into Boston or Cambridge, but local sounded good.
The concierge, a Middle Eastern-looking man who was quite incongruously named “Ike”, smiled at us agreeably and suggested, first, that we head to Union Square (Somerville, MA, not NYC) where I knew from personal experience that there were a few good places to eat, and then that there was a “great seafood place just a five minute walk away” (his words, not mine) and that he would gladly give us instructions on how to get there.
Being the diehard Eat.Live.Be-ers that we are, Cate, Patsy and I thought “walk=exercise” and so we decided to go with the latter.
Plus, seafood in Boston…you can’t really go wrong there. Right?
So we walked.
It was a bit of an epic journey. There were hills. A group of 40 year old bachelors who Cate was ready and willing to offer up my hand in marriage to, if need be. Dark corners and abandoned alleyways.
But eventually, we made it. Mount Vernon Restaurant.
As soon as we entered, we should have known that something was up. First of all, the place was half empty. Second of all, both the hostess/owner and our waitress looked like they were straight out of one of those diners you see in movies about the old west. Townies who had really meant to make it to the big city, but had just gotten stuck in one of these places in a small town off the highway. Lifers.
Except, we were in Somerville, MA. (Which, granted, is not Boston or even Cambridge. But is approximately ten minutes away from either of those places and should resemble a suburb and not middle-of-nowhere America.)
Anyway. We suspended our doubts and disbelief long enough to allow the hostess to seat us, peruse a menu, and order.
After ostensibly delivering our order to the “chef” (I wouldn’t call him that if my life depended on it), the waitress returned and asked us if we’d like popovers or Italian bread for the table. And, well. Given that there’s no way that Boston Italian bread can compare to the stuff you can get in NYC, we went with the “popovers”.
Although. That’s not really the right word for them. Tasteless cardboard seems more appropriate. Burnt tasteless cardboard.
Now. I am no expert bread baker. Nor had I ever had a popover in my life. But I’ve made enough to know that it’s really hard to mess it up to the point that it’s completely inedible. And yet…
Let’s just say that this was an inauspicious start to a disaster of a “meal”. (Again…I wouldn’t call it that since what we were served was not food in any sense of the word.)
I’ll spare you the majority of the details, but let’s put it this way. The best part of my lobster mac and cheese was the ritz topping. Patsy tried exactly one of her baked stuffed shrimp before gagging uncontrollably. And Cate was served a baked potato whose insides were the same shade of brown as its skin. We left without eating any of it. (And without paying for two of the meals.)
And, of course, being the big-mouthed New Yorker that I am (and seeing as how I do, even after years of fighting against it, take after my father who has never once held his tongue upon being served bad food). I let the hostess have a little piece of my mind. It had nothing to do with her, and she was actually quite nice, but everyone in that kitchen needed to be guillotined on the spot. And I let her know it.
Now you see why three food bloggers went to Boston and ended up eating granola bars for dinner.
The thing that gets to me most, though…is that cooking edible food isn’t rocket science. It doesn’t need to be that hard. All you need is a few good recipes. Perhaps a copy of Irma Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking (who is the woman on Gourmet’s list of gamechangers that we are celebrating this week), which is the one tome you will ever really need in the kitchen. And you’re set. In fact, I have two copies and I might donate one to our good friends over at Mount Vernon. It will be my gift to the people of Somerville.
And perhaps I’ll send over a batch of these popovers as well. Which, though they’re made from WHOLE GRAINS, are light and fluffy and have a certain air-like quality to them. Not reminiscent of cardboard at all. Exactly as good popovers should be.
Taryn – Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan – The Spice Garden
Claudia – A Seasonal Cook in Turkey
Heather – girlichef
Miranda – Mangoes and Chutney
Jeanette – Healthy Living
April – Abby Sweets
Katie – Making Michael Pollan Proud
Mary – One Perfect Bite
Kathleen –Bake Away with Me
Viola – The Life is Good Kitchen
Sue – The View from Great Island
Whole Grain Popovers
Makes 20, adapted from Good to the Grain
For the multigrain flour mix:
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup oat flour
- 1 cup barley flour
- 1/2 cup millet flour
- 1/2 cup rye flour
For the popovers:
- 6 eggs
- 2 1/2 cups milk (I used almond milk)
- 1 cup multigrain flour mix (recipe above)
- 1 cup AP flour
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- To make the multigrain flour mix, whisk together all of the flours in a large bowl. Store in an airtight container.
- Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450. Place the muffin tins in the oven to heat up.
- Measure the eggs, milk, flours, and salt into a bowl. Measure half of the melted butter (1/4 cup) over the ingredients in the bowl and pour the other 1/4 cup into a small bowl.
- Using a hand mixer, mix the popover batter until combined, about 20 seconds. Remove the muffin tins from the oven and brush every other cup liberally with butter. Working quickly, fill each of the buttered cups 3/4 full. **Note – if using muffin tins and not popover tins, then use only the holes around the edges, NOT those in the middle.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Then, rotate the tins and lower teh oven temperature to 350. Bake for 10 minutes more.
- Take the tins from the oven, slide a sharp knife around the popovers to remove, and eat immediately.
Serves 4-6, adapted from The Joy of Cooking
- 2 lb seedless grapes
- 1 cucumber, preferably seedless
- 4 scallions, finely chopped
- 2 1/2 cups milk or half and half (I used almond milk)
- 1 1/4 cups plain yogurt (I used non-fat greek yogurt)
- 2 oz cream cheese
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup dill
- salt and black pepper, to taste
- Combine ingredients in a large pot or blender. Then, using an immersion blender or the regular blender, blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Put in the refrigerator to chill.