Saturday, December 5, 2009

Oboe + Bass = Great Chamber Music

What do you get when you pair an oboe with a sting bass? Not much usually, unless you are Carrie Vecchione and Rolf Erdahl. I was lucky enough to attend one of their concerts a couple of months ago on a short weekend trip to Cincinnati, Ohio. Dan and I were headed to a friend's wedding that was happening a few hours away in central Indiana. We planned to stay with Dan's brother in Cincinnati, so I contacted my teacher at Cincinnati Conservatory, Dr. Mark Ostoich, to let him know that I would be in town. I was hoping to see him and get caught up.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ten Bagatelles by Donald Wheelock

Donald Wheelock is celebrating his final semester of teaching at Smith College in a few weeks. He has held the position since 1974. As a composer, he has been awarded grants by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, and his output includes music for string quartet, voice, mixed instrumental ensemble, and solo sonatas. He has an impressive list of premiere performances with some of New England's top chamber ensembles and his music has been recorded on several labels. In fact, one recording was just released by the Walden Chamber Players offering a retrospective of his works.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

John Folse and Bittersweet Plantation Dairy

About a year ago, on a trip home to see my folks in Louisiana, I had the great privilege to visit John Folse's headquarters in Gonzales, Louisiana. For those of you who don't know, John Folse is the head of a sort of a culinary empire based in Southern Louisiana. He gives a lot back to the community and is responsible for some pretty "big deal" things in the land of national chain restaurants. On top of that, he's a genuinely nice guy who made me and my family feel really special on our visit to his commissary and dairy.

Our Trip to Seattle, or CQ's Big Foodie Vacation

Last June, Dan and I took a little trip to visit some friends of ours in Seattle. Jill and André, now married, had just become engaged. It was a great time to escape a very busy time at work for a week and I also wanted to meet this new man that had swept my dear friend, Jill, off of her feet. After some chat on Facebook, Jill and I had set the whole thing up about eight months ahead. She agreed to let us stay with them, so how could I refuse. I bought plane tickets with my tax refund in late January and anxiously awaited our departure day.

The Challenge: Share Your Top Three Travel Secrets

Boy, this blogging thing is really addictive! Even my mom is in on the act. You can check out her blog called "Weekday Rambler" by following this link there. I have been challenged by mom to share my top three travel secrets online. I'm not as well-traveled as mom, but in the past few years, I've managed to learn how to make travel a little easier. So without much further ado, here they are:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

This Week at The Majestic: Fall is here!

What a fun day of cooking I've had today! The iPhone was playing a particularly fabulous mix of Jason Mraz, Kings of Leon, Rufus Wainright, Radio Head, and The Killers while I roasted, pureed, seared, chopped, shredded, and stirred. My shopping trip to the grocery was a complete success. I was able to take advantage of the after Thanksgiving specials on things like turkey, prepared organic stocks, fall vegetables, and fresh herbs. All in, I spent around $40 and I was able to create the following menu: rosemary and garlic roasted turkey legs, fall-spiced butternut squash soup, baba ghanouj, chicken and dumplings, pesto with angel hair pasta and Dubliner cheese, roasted red pepper and garlic chicken sausages, curried cauliflower, and meatballs in tomato sauce. Total preparation and cooking time was a new record low: a little under 3 hours!

In an attempt to broaden my culinary horizons a bit, I worked on a couple of firsts today . Sadly, my immersion blender has been broken for a long time, so I have been shying away from pureed soups, but recently I was leafing through some old cookbooks and I came across what I'll call the "strainer" method. Essentially, you simmer everything until it's really tender in a broth and then press it through a colander. The results are just as silky as what I used to get with the immersion blender with a little more man power, so the result is delicious soup and I get to bulk up my already huge python-like arms. J/K!

Chicken and Dumplings... Quest for the Holy Grail

Growing up in the South has its benefits. The most important and formative one for me was being raised in a family of great cooks. One of the highlights of my childhood was the comfort food classic, chicken and dumplings. We always assumed that making this dish was an all day affair for my grandmother because of the way she disappeared for hours and the way the finished product was doled out over steamed white rice to stretch it further. It's probably more that she enjoyed time away from everyone in the haven of her kitchen, where she was undisputed master of her domain, because you'll notice quite a few shortcuts in the recipe below. If you were lucky you got a second helping. If she really liked you, she would even make chicken and dumplings especially for you on the occasion of a visit. I was very often a lucky recipient of this cherished and coveted special dish, and I'm happy to gloat about it now!

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Making of a Restaurant Playlist

I am so lucky to have the charge of choosing the music for my workplace. The music sets the mood for the diners in a restaurant and plays a huge part in the making of ambiance. The process of finding just the right tracks has been an exciting chance for me to use the knowledge that I gained in my formal education, but the most fun part about it has been discovering all sorts of new pieces and composers that I didn't know much if anything about before. I, of course, have included some expected things like Chopin's Nocturnes, Schubert's Impromptus, and Mendelssohn's "Songs Without Words," but the following is a list of some of the more unusual and interesting albums that I think deserve a listen outside of the "behind the potted palm" setting.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Weekly Menus at The Majestic

We're in lean times... or so they keep saying. Being a bit more budget conscious in the past several months and learning to stretch a dollar has been a real learning experience and has resulted in a lot of fun for me when it comes to eating well. I've figured out that it doesn't really take $40 to buy groceries to make dinner for two, even at Whole Foods, and that creating weekly menus for Dan and myself is a fun and interesting challenge. I give myself a budget of $80 to do my weekly shopping. For that I try to get six meals for two, and surprisingly enough I usually come out under budget and with leftover food.

Lunch at Blunch

Blunch is the kind of little neighborhood gem that I'm always so excited to find amongst the many eateries in Boston. The thing that I like most about it is that everything is made from scratch and with lots of love and care. This is evident from walking through the door when you'll most likely be greeted with a big smile by the proprietor, Nikki. She is one of those rare people who is truly concerned about the well-being of every customer that walks through her door and on the off chance that something goes wrong, she takes every step that she can to make it right.