Disclaimer: when I started blogging, my goal was to get out and eat on a regular basis, and I tried to hit up any event that would have me. I got into this game to eat, and now, I’m boring and more of a homebody, so I try to only say yes to things that I know in advance that I’ll love. So take this at face value – this isn’t sponsored, but I wittingly got myself into a situation where I acquired free Australian lamb, and then ate said lamb.
A few weeks ago, I headed to an industry event in the South End, at Andy Husbands’ Tremont 647 – a spring campaign for Australian lamb. (This was a total treat. Andy Husbands has been a lynchpin of the food community in Boston for a long time – there aren’t too many restaurants that have been around for two decades under the helm of one person.)
After braving the then Hoth-like roads of the Greater Boston area, I managed to find parking in the South End less than 100 feet from the restaurant (this was at the tail end of the multiple storm situation, and parking was in short supply), and walked into the warm comfort of Tremont 647 on a pajama brunch morning. I was immediately give coffee (praise all that is good), got cozy at a table with Bianca, William, and Dan, and the gingerbread mini muffins, rosemary cornbread muffins, and sticky buns which were put right infront of me.
As Dan tried to tell me about Snapchat, the demo got started. [A brief note, I have now downloaded snapchat. After realizing a bot had taken my moniker that I use on every form of social media, I became deeply distressed, and have not opened it again since. It makes me feel old and crotchety.] For our demo, we watched Master Butcher Doug Piper expertly break down the back half of a lamb. And by expertly, I mean, to a level of skill that made me uncomfortable. His knife was outrageously sharp, but I’m pretty sure with his abilities, he could have done it with a dull blade, and mind control.
While we watched, and discussed the taste, environmental impact, and general topic of Australian lamb, we also got to eat it. Everyone got some lamb pastrami on toast with mustard and sauerkraut made of brussels sprouts (smart!). We each got to choose our meals, and I went with the Tremont 647 classic Huevos Rancheros, while Bianca ordered the lamb sausage breakfast sandwich right across from me.
After filling ourselves to the gills, we were each sent home with a cooler bag of lamb. I’ve been eating lamb all winter with my meat share, and largely been doing the same thing each time: braising it in a jar of Rao’s marinara. It’s truly the best sauce on the market. I buy it in quantity any time I see it on sale at the store. The recipe is another two ingredient deal – lamb and sauce, three if you add garlic. You can gussy it up, of course, sometimes I’ll add beans at the end, or some carrots and potato.
It goes particularly well on a vegetable noodle – I’ve been on a kick lately, as you may have noticed. (As a side note, Inspiralized, the book, just came out, and I’m currently reading through my copy.)
Tomato Braised Lamb
This recipe is how I cook lamb the most often – nestled in a tomato sauce. You can make it with thick braising cuts of lamb, or lamb stew meat, but I most often make it with lamb shanks, which I’ll cook, and then strip off the bone before serving. I reserve the bones and marrow for myself as cooks treat. Like all braises, it tastes best when you let it rest after cooking overnight in the refrigerator, remove the hardened fat once cooled, and reheat it the next day for dinner. I like it plain, served over zucchini noodles, or sometimes I’ll add a can of cannelini beans in the final half hour of cooking.
assorted lamb pieces, 2 – 5 lbs.
1 large jar Rao’s Marinara, or your favorite sauce (32 ounces)
several cloves garlic
salt and pepper
Generously season your lamb with salt and pepper. I like my meat to come to room temperature with the seasoning on it before cooking, but if you are in a hurry, and want to cook right out of the fridge, that’s fine. In a large skillet, pour half of the marinara sauce, and nestle the seasoned lamb into the sauce, pouring the rest around the pieces. Nestle in several cloves of garlic (as many as you’d like). On medium high heat, bring the skillet to simmering, cover, and turn down to just under medium. Cook the lamb for at minimum 45 minutes for small pieces, up to a few hours for large steaks and shanks, until the meat is tender. If I’m cooking shanks, or larger pieces, I’ll flip the pieces a few times during cooking, about every 45 minutes.
Hello from the impending blizzard zone! Yes, more snow. More Snow. Snowwwww. Why do I live here? This week I’ve been braving the weather to try out some new places, head to some food events, and even squish in a few races! Last we left off, I was making a game plan for January: lots of braising, healthy salads, meal planning, and gym going. Lofty goals. I knew it was going to be bad on January 5th, a coworker mentioned that I had been posting a lot on my blog. “That’s not going to last, is it….” ah, votes of confidence. Thanks. Of course he was right – it’s been a long, cold, month, and I didn’t think that anyone would want to hear my complaints about the MBTA. There was a lot of bitterness and salty language. California, I miss you. (You too, California friends.)
This month I’ve done little to drag myself out of the house. It’s been a lot of pathetic pantry meals. A few too many take out meals. And a whole lot of sitting on the couch. So last week after getting some energy back on my trip to Portland, Maine, I decided to get myself out, visit the new super shiny Whole Foods South End (it’s great), run a race, and meet up with some bloggers. Some of my favorite activities!
Of course, life is better caffeinated. With my dwindling coffee supply – both fresh beans from Portland, and my shameful comfort coffee (Trader Joe’s Gingerbread) being done for the season, I decided that I’d try out the new Fleck Coffee right at the Newton Highlands T-stop, because they were giving away free coffee this weekend…. and… free coffee! They brew Counter Culture, and I’m all for local coffee shops! They officially open on Monday, and keep hours of 6am – 4pm daily.
On the fitness front, I decided that I needed to “train” for my upcoming Hyannis Half marathon, so on a whim I signed up for the Super Sunday 5k and 5 miler, and ran it with my friend Matt. How do you dress for a race that has a real feel of around 5? Like a ninja. My super secret trick is to treat myself to hand warmers in my gloves for a cold winter run. I hoard hot hands like I’ll be living in the polar vortex for all time. This race was fun, cold, and flat!
The other reason that I signed up on a whim for a freezing cold race is that I was heading to a Boston Brunchers blogger brunch at Beat Hôtel (Beat Brasserie), and needed to work off some of those calories before eating ALL OF THE FOODS. The fine print: Boston Brunchers events come with free brunch (although generous tip is always provided), and provide me a comfortable space to take as many photos of my food as I want, without any of my dining partners judging me.
Beat Hôtel is in the old Tannery space in Harvard Square, and despite it’s convenient location, I really don’t get out all that much, and hadn’t been there yet. It’s the same team behind the South End’s Beehive, and they have jazz brunch on the weekends. The space is big and airy, and they have large tables for groups of friends. Another thing to note, I was a little out of it after running my race, and after rushing in to say hi to folks, I didn’t actually notice that the music was live until I turned around to look at the glowing purple stage (I mention this because, one, the live band was very good – and two, the acoustics are very well set up for the room – somehow I was sitting directly next to a drum kit and could still hear my dining partners conversation.)
We managed to get a good sampling of their brunch fare – starting off with the Bohemian Platter (hummus, dips, salads, cheese, pickled vegetables, and olives) – the photo in the top right. It was a plentiful platter, but the star for me was this really brilliant pickled radish. Yep, a superlative radish. The absolute winner of brunch was the Buffalo Cauliflower with blue cheese dipping sauce. This being Super Bowl Sunday, one of my dining partners actually took home an extra order, and I regretted not doing the same.
For our meals, we tried quiche, a few Benedicts, and I ordered the Shakshuka with merguez. Now, I do have high standards for Shakshuka, and while this didn’t make my top two of all time (my own, and the Shakshuka from Sofra), it was good! The merguez was neither here nor there, but it came with wobbly eggs served over this wonderfully creamy polenta. Plus, extra points for a beautiful presentation. (Bottom left.)
If you go to Beat Brasserie, please order the Buffalo Cauliflower. I will be returning specifically for this dish.
Before I leave you, here’s my meal plan for the week:
Sunday: lamb shanks with Ranch Gordo beans
Monday: chicken with cauliflower potato curry
Tuesday: deconstructed shepherds pie (Cook Smarts)
Thursday: chicken soba noodles
New Englanders, best of luck tonight in the storm.
We’ve had a long few days of rainy weather, which is starting to seem like a perpetual state around here. It also happened to be raining last Tuesday when I headed over to the Blog & Tweet Boston Blogger Holiday Swap at CambridgeSide Galleria, but I was rewarded with a really great time, and that mall is warm and cozy during the holidays, so I was much less predisposed to complain. Today I’m just cranky. (The carbon monoxide alarm beeping – every 30 seconds from 12:50 in the middle of the night when we had a power outage to 3 in the afternoon on my work from home day – may have something to do with it. I’m only now getting over my headache.)
I’ve been trying to get out more – hanging around the city of Boston before heading home on the days that I can. There’s so much to see and do here, but it’s easy for me to get caught up in the cycle of work/workout/eat/sleep – sometimes you have to actually *see* other people. Most of the time I’m a hermit, but the promise of good food and good fun is always welcome. Also, the promise of a Yankee Swap, the game where you each pick a gift, and then can trade with any of the previous gifts opened, and one person gets to be kind of a jerk and make out like gangbusters at the very end, and choose from whatever gifts they want – well I’m a sucker for those too.
The stores at CambridgeSide Galleria were generous enough to provide some great (non-gag) gifts for the swap, and all we had to do was come ready for the action. During the event, I got to hang out at an excellent table with Elizabeth of On Tap for Today – whose Frenchie, Clark, is another one of my favorite internet pups – and made new friends with:
Alexandra of Alexandra-Elizabeth: A Single Mom’s Journey, Molly of Pop.bop.Shop, and Rebecca of her eponymous blog Rebecca Brianne.
It’s always a little overwhelming for me to meet new people at these events, but I could not have asked for a better table – we had ourselves a *very* good time, made even better by some special paper calendars, and these women made me laugh (the best medicine for social anxiety).
I managed to win a pretty sweet Fitbit Flex, but given that we have all the devices at the RunKeeper office, I ended up switching for a Starbucks tumbler that provides me free coffee every day in January. I have no idea what I was thinking though, because a Flex is a way better gift, and I could have probably purchased three times the amount of coffee for the value of the Flex, and provided one of my friends with an awesome holiday gift. Alas. I blame it on my current caffeine addiction. I’m trying to be good, I’m trying. I also kind of want the Fitbit Charge – which I’m hoping to win from my entry here.
After the swap, we snacked.
These salted caramel pudding cups from CPK were really all the rage – not too sweet. I probably could have eaten five of them.
Instead, I got to spend time with two of my very favorite fitness bloggers – Dani of Weight Off My Shoulders (who is slated to run her 52nd race of the year at Yulefest this weekend!!) and Liana, of Run to Munch (who ran back to back BQ marathons one weekend this fall, and has me lusting after a 2015 50k trail race…) This was my first time meeting Liana in real life, and after listening to me babble for a few minutes about how awesome I thought she was, she proved to be extra awesome by participating in my selfie. Also, I <3 when bloggers are just as nice in real life as you think they’ll be.
Special thanks to CambridgeSide Galleria and Blog & Tweet Boston for putting on a great event. (This was not a sponsored post, but I did get a free Starbucks mug and swag bag by showing up.) All opinions are my own.