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Brookline’s (First and Hopefully Not Last) Winter Marketplace

31 Jan

Outdoor portion of Brookline Winter Marketplace (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)

Saturday’s Brookline Winter Marketplace caught me by surprise. When I arrived early for my 11:00 gym class, I noticed that folks were setting up a few outdoor tables with produce and that one side of the parking lot was barricaded. Faced with the prospect of losing out on getting my butt kicked in cardio boxing (because isn’t that what everyone looks forward to on the weekend?), I didn’t have time to investigate right away, but I definitely intended to do so on my walk home.

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A Happy New Year: 48 Hours of Food and Fun in Portland, Maine

7 Jan

Welcome back to the few but faithful readers who have followed the adventures of Tortefeaster, and welcome to any new readers that 2012 may bring to my door! Besides this constituting the year’s inaugural post, I’m writing on a particularly significant day for me. It is an anniversary of sorts, although not in the typical sense. Three years ago today is the day that I was laid off and the first day in a long process of rediscovering who I am and what I was meant to be “when I grow up.” At the time, believe me, I felt as if my world was crumbling, but after having made some rather  unconventional decisions, I couldn’t be happier with how I have redirected my career. I’m having so much fun now: I am living life, life is not living me.

It was a practially “balmy” 50 degrees in Portland on New Year’s Day (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)

New Year’s has always been a special time for me and my husband. We don’t celebrate Christmas (usually we end up spending a quiet day at the movies and either making dinner as normal, or grabbing some Thai or Chinese food at one of the few open establishments). Maybe for this reason, we love a good New Year’s eve celebration.

This year, we decided to head to Portland, Maine–a city that I had previously only spent a few hours in one night in September when we were staying in Ogunquit and made a brief dinner excursion.

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Experiencing the Meaning of Sofra: A Turkish Table in the Heart of Boston

16 Dec

Tuesday was precisely the kind of day that reaffirmed my decision to redirect my career course and cater to my culinary instincts (as if I ever had any serious doubts). I had registered for “The Flavors of Anatolia,” my second tasting/demonstration event at Boston University’s School of Gastronomy.

I came alone with only the vaguest ideas of what would transpire as part of the night’s event. I knew only that Turkish food and wine, as well as two luminaries in the Cambridge-Boston food scene, were involved, both of which were sufficient incentives to sign up. Whereas the Judith Jones event I previously attended was predominantly a speaking engagement, with a casual smattering of food and wine, Tuesday’s event was a feast. We arrived to white tablecloths with introductory mezes and wine on the table, with more to follow as the evening progressed. (I have to admit that I felt a little under-dressed!)

Shepherd’s Salad (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)

“The Flavors of Anatolia” was part of Boston’s month-and-a-half long celebration of Turkish culture. The annual Turkish festival, now in its sixteenth year, encompassed art exhibits, concerts, lectures, and of course, gastronomic presentations. This year’s theme was “Colors of Anatolia,” a tribute to the “diversity and richness of Turkish culture.” It was clear in catching snippets of conversation that the evening attendees included first timers like me, as well as both perennial attendees, those who have traveled to Turkey for either business or pleasure as well as Turkish-Americans.

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Judith & Julia: Jones Talks Child at Boston University

28 Nov

I don’t know about you, but for me, November has flown by like Hermes, with winged sandals. My kitchen internship with ATK wrapped up last Tuesday, just in time for my holiday cooking preparations. The second half of my 12 weeks I spent on the Cook’s Illustrated team, which really taught me an enormous amount about the two P’s (patience and perseverance) of recipe development (especially when said testing involves grilling on not so warm days!). Suddenly, I understand that phrase, “It’s character building.”  I even got to test and develop my own recipe (on a much shorter time frame of two weeks) and write a Cook’s Illustrated-style article. After this experience, it is safe to say that, although I’ll always love them, I think I might need a break from sweet potatoes!

Sweet Potatoes! (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)

November was also an eventful month for me in terms of culinary literature. If you hadn’t figured out from my blog posts by now, I’ve been drawn more and more to writing about both “food writing” and food in writing (i.e., my previous post on AGG). I recently attended a lecture at Boston University by the famed Judith Jones, author of the wonderful memoir, The Tenth Muse, and of course, the Knopf editor that is most responsible for introducing the world to the twin gifts of Julia Child and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The lecture presented the perfect opportunity for me to quietly celebrate  the contributions of this brilliant fellow Leo (Julia’s birthday is the day before mine) and mid-life career changer.

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Harvard Science & Cooking Lecture: Chef Grant Achatz Sets the Bar High

5 Oct

Last year as I was beginning culinary school in Charlotte, I read enviously about the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences’ inaugural course, “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter.”

Last Year’s Harvard Science & Cooking Lecture Schedule

The only food-related course I took while an undergraduate at the College was an excellent Food and Anthropology class taught by Dr. (now Professor Emeritus) James Watson. Watson is an ethnographer who studied South China for four decades. While he certainly peppered much of this core class offering with lessons from his research in China, I recall covering a range of cultures and issues. We were also able to choose our own topic for our major research paper. I wrote on the history of the bagel/its assimilation into the culinary mainstream of America and consequently spent some fun hours sleuthing in the culinary collection of Schlesinger Library.

But I digress . . . All this is to say that there was certainly no science of cooking curriculum during my college years; nor could I have dreamed of the possibility. When I learned that I would be interning in Boston this fall, I knew that I wanted to take advantage and attend the (free) public lecture series based on the Science and Cooking Harvard College General Education course. Culinary heavy hitters, including some chef deities, come for free every Monday and give us mere mortals a peek into their fantastic brains.

The Monday, October 3 lecture (entitled “Food Texture and Mouth Feel”) featured visionary chef  and author Grant Achatz. The topic of the night was Achatz’s ground-breaking, innovative cocktail bar, The Aviary, which he opened this year in Chicago’s meatpacking district.

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