Monday, January 30, 2012

Early favorites: Boston restaurants

We haven't been in Boston very long - just over six months! - and we're slowly trying new restaurants around the city. Here's a little list of early favorites if you're ever in town and find yourself hungry. Also, come visit me! It's yummy here.

Craigie on Main: A splurge-y spot that makes ordinary things extraordinary (think roast chicken, pate, Brussels sprouts).

Island Creek Oyster Bar: Dinner at the bar is the way to go here. You get an amazing view of the whole place, and have an up-close view of the expert oysters-shuckers and and fancy cocktails-makers.

Paddy's Pub: Perfect Friday night spot for us. Cute decor with inexpensive, superior pub food. The Local used to serve this purpose for us, but we've since moved on. The Local's Parmesan fries remain amazing, though.

Russell House Tavern: A fun spot near Harvard that works equally well for lunch and dinner, groups and a date. Also, excellent opportunities to listen to pretentious Harvard undergrads if you go on a weekend night!

Strip T: The young (very handsome!) chef is a Momofuku Ssam Bar alum, and he came back to Boston to run his Dad's diner about the same time we arrived. The food is truly amazing. But during our dinner there, I couldn't help but compare the crowds from his old establishment to the new. In NYC, ironic huge glasses and lots of vests. In Boston, completely un-ironic huge glasses and vests. Oh Boston!

The Publick House: Fab fish and chips, fancy mac and cheese and many, many beers on tap.

These are all high up on our to-try list: Oleana (thanks to a long-ago recommendation from Ms. Curieuse!), Hungry Mother and Toro. Any suggestions to add to our list?! This is basically my favorite game ever, so please don't hold back!

Thursday, January 26, 2012


We got another dusting of snow last night. I'm not mad because it's going to be in the forties again today and should all disappear. Plus, excuse to wear my snow boots (aka knee high slippers) to work.

Winter vegetables can be boring, but I thought these looked so pretty before I put them in the oven to roast. The pink stuff is radishes. Have you ever cooked those? They lose their peppery zing and really mellow out. Delish.

This little desk was in my room growing up, and we brought it back from my parent's house a few weeks ago. The lamp is a little large in scale for the space, but eh. It's evolving!

And in my final bit of unnecessary news, Peter and I played an epic game of Jenga last night. The box says you are expert if you build it up to 32 stories (double the starting size). Ours was 35 stories high! Don't be shy with the praise, I know you're in awe right now :)

Hope you guys are having a lovely week!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Arctic Char and Gnocchi with Creamed Greens

Idlywood, a cozy, Mediterranean wine bar nestled in an unassuming strip mall, was a favorite of ours when we lived in Northern Virginia. Partly for sentimental reasons, to be sure. It was here, while having a glass of wine at the tiny bar in the back of the restaurant, that we first discussed moving in together. We had been dating for eight months, and I was just twenty-two. It probably have felt quick to our parents, but it didn't feel  scary to me at all!

My favorite dish - an often appearing special, if I remember correctly - was salmon with pesto gnocchi. We haven't been back to Idlywood in years, so I can't vouch for the food now, but this dish has stuck with me. I tried to re-create it last week with more winter-y vegetables, and it was just as good as the original I remember so fondly.

Arctic Char and Gnocchi with Creamed Greens

You will need:

5-6 leaves of kale, washed and torn
1/2 cup cream
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving if you wish
One package potato gnocchi
1 tablespoon olive oil, or a combination of butter and oil
2 small fillets of Arctic Char or salmon
Salt and Pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil, or a combination of butter and oil
Squeeze of lemon

In a sauce pan, add a splash of olive oil and heat at medium high. Add in sliced garlic and cook for one minute. Add torn kale leaves and toss to coat with oil. Cook for one minute more. Reduce heat to medium low and add in cream. Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes, until soft and completely wilted. Remove from heat. Once cool, add kale mixture to a food processor. Give it a few whooshes until it has the consistency of pesto. Return to the sauce pan and stir in grated Parmesan cheese, and more cream if it looks a bit dry.

In a large sauce pan or wok, heat a tablespoon of olive oil (or combination of butter and oil). When melted and hot, add the gnocchi. Toss them around every minute or so, until they are slightly golden and crisp on the outside. Add in the creamed kale, reduce heat to low and cover. The gnocchi will absorb the cream and finish cooking.

Heat a grill pan to medium high. Brush fish with a bit of oil, salt and pepper. Cook four minutes per side if they are an inch thick. These were slightly smaller, so I cooked them four minutes on one side, two on the other.

Plate gnocchi and place fish on top. Generously squeeze with lemon juice and enjoy!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Washing machine, I love you still

(My laundry room!***)

Having a washer and dryer in my basement is one of my favorite things about the new apartment. Six months in, Peter and I will still looking at each other while folding a giant pile of towels and say, "Can you believe we washed these in our house?!" After four years in New York that involved hauling a giant bag of dirty clothes down the street every week, this convenience still feels very lucky and posh (though I realize most of you have been enjoying this modern convenience all along!).

Yesterday, my washer tried to betray me and test my love, like a teenager pushing its boundaries for the first time. Half way through a load, the hose connecting the water to the machine sprung a giant leak, and water sprayed violently all over the basement, covering boxes, artwork and furniture. Peter ran some key belongs upstairs, turned off the water and started mopping everything up (I was at the grocery store. Great timing, me!). For most of the afternoon, we mopped and sloshed through it, while our landlords speedily fixed the leak.

I put a second load in that afternoon, to make sure the fixed hose was in working order (it was!). Washing machine, my love for you still burns strong, even if you tried to betray me! As punishment, you must hang out in a damp basement and think about what you did.

***Not my laundry room at all, you guys. Via Martha Stewart.)

Friday, January 20, 2012

More is on the way

My Christmas poinsettia is still going strong. My aunt told me that she keeps her's going all year long, and just cuts them down so there's only a few inches of stalk left once the first set of flowers die. Then it will grow and bloom again throughout the year! I'm going to try it and report back.

This weekend we are meeting friends for Thai food, going to a museum, and doing a drop off at Goodwill (we  know how to have a good time, ha!). Boston got a lovely dusting of snow last night, and more is on the way for tomorrow! Cheers to the weekend, everybody!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Staying ahead

(Via Lilly)

Last week, in an effort to stay ahead of the winter doldrums, I made a list with everything I could think of that makes me feel happy. Turns out, I'm easy to please. It included things like make a yummy dinner, have flowers in the house, get a hair cut (I seriously love to get my hair cut!), and keep my house clean. 

In a happy turn of events, Peter came home with a bundle of pale pink tulips the exact day I wrote the list (he's so good!), and a humble, thrown together dinner of spaghetti, white beans and Meyer lemon turned into something divine and supremely comforting. My house isn't the cleanest, and I haven't made a hair appointment yet, but the week is young. More happiness is on the way!

This was sort of a silly exercise, but for me, it's always sort of a "duh" moment when I realize how simple, inexpensive things make a huge difference in my outlook, especially this time of year.

Hope you all had a lovely long weekend! 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pretend shopping: Bedroom edition

1. Everyday Percale Bedding 2. Pink glass lamp base 3. Cottage iron bed 4. White and Natural Big Fat Stripes Pillow 5. Cable-knit Euro shams 6. Animal locomotion

I haven't shown you our bedroom yet since it's still a work in progress. I picked up a headboard similar to the one above for a song on craigslist, and have a pair of cute pale pink lamps on the nightstands. But the room still needs a few finishing touches!

I like bedrooms to be very calm and pretty. We have a fantastic down comforter, but I'd like to get a duvet cover for it so it doesn't look so naked :) I love the first one in the top picture, it's called "Tempest" on the website. And those cable knit shams! So cozy looking, right? Not sure how I'll like them come summer, but right now, they are really appealing. 

For artwork, I have our anniversary painting up, and an antique map of Martha's Vineyard, but I think the room might be leaning a little too far into pastel territory. A black and white photo could be a good contrast, though I'm not usually drawn to that sort of thing. 

Something about chilly winter weather makes me want to spruce up the bedroom! Any tips or suggestions for me?

Happy weekend to you all! As a totally random aside, today is my half birthday - Friday, January 13. In six months it will be my real birthday - Friday, July 13. Cool, right? Good think I think Friday the 13th is a very lucky day!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Grace in small things: Winter edition

  • Winter flowers (get yourself a $5 amaryllis bulb from Target or the like and you'll have huge, gorgeous blooms like this for a few weeks!)
  • Planning a sweet gesture for Valentine's Day 
  • Talking about all the rides we definitely want to go on during our upcoming Disney trip
  • Watching the days grow a little bit longer
  • Looking forward to making (and eating!) a fancy pizza for dinner
What little things are you celebrating on this chilly Wednesday? 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Carrot Avocado Salad

 I've been laid up the last ten days or so with an annoying knee injury. Between Drop Dead Diva and a stack of books, I've been doing okay in the battle against boredom. I'm usually a pretty good relaxer, but as soon as you're mandated to stay still, all kinds of absurd things start to sound appealing (Hiking! Dusting the baseboards! Trying on everything in your closet!). 

On Sunday afternoon, I hobbled into the kitchen to try a slightly ambitious salad I've had on my radar screen for a while. I paired it down quite a bit, but it was still one of the best things I've made in a long time. To round this out into a full meal, I think lemon chicken and couscous or quinoa would match up beautifully!

Carrot Avocado Salad

You will need:

4 peeled carrots, cut into 2 inch long pieces, about 1/2 inch thick
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 of a Meyer lemon
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
2 radishes, thinly sliced
1 Haas avocado, cut into 1/2 inch slices
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Fill a medium sauce pan 2 inches high with cold water. Add the carrots and turn to high. Let boil for a five minutes, then drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, a squeeze of the lemon (about 1 teaspoon of juice total), garlic, smoked paprika, cumin and thyme. Toss carrots and the lemon half together with the marinade. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes, until the carrots have a few dark spots. Remove from the oven and let the carrots and lemon come down to room temperature.

In the same bowl used to make the marinade, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the juice from the roasted lemon half, salt and pepper. Plate carrots, radishes and avocado. Toss with the dressing and serve.

P.S. More winter salads!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Paris Planning: The Reading List

I'm going to start a (likely irregular) feature on Paris planning for our upcoming vacation. I hope you'll enjoy it! 

First up is my reading list. I've already read The Paris Wife and From Paris to the Moon, and heartily recommend them both. Beyond guidebooks, which I certainly rely on for planning purposes, I love reading about a place I'm going to visit through fiction and memoir and history books. And there's certainly no shortage of wonderful books set in Paris and France! Any recommendations for me to add?

P.S. Idlewood, a great travel store in NYC, will put together bundles of books in different genres for destinations all over the world. Such a great idea (and a lovely gift!). 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Wedding bathroom baskets

"Wedding bathroom baskets" is one of the most popular searches that lead people to Fresh Basil. I mentioned these a few times when planning my wedding, but never did a post on what I put in it. 

I volunteered to make another one for my sister-in-law's wedding, and snapped a few pictures to share the contents (and hopefully help other brides-to-be who are putting one together!).

In this one, I included:
  • Aspirin
  • Pepto bismol 
  • Tampons
  • Pantyliners
  • Deodorant
  • Hair spray 
  • Bobbi pins
  • Mouth wash
  • Individual disposable tooth brushes
  • Sewing kit
  • Lint roller
  • Tide-To-Go stick
  • Band aids
  • Nail file
The band aids, deodorant and tooth brushes were the most popular items. I've been to a few weddings where the sewing kit had to be used to keep the bride's bustle up once the dancing got going. Luckily that didn't happen this time!

Any suggestions to add? The dozens of three people searching Fresh Basil for this information would love to hear, I'm sure!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Year of Enjoy

Last year, much of our time was spent preparing for our move, packing up and settling into our new apartment, and then adjusting to our surroundings (including new jobs for both Peter and me).

In 2012, I want to just enjoy everything! Here's my loose plan:

Cooking enjoyment: 
Friendship enjoyment: 
  • Continue to build up friendships in our new city, hosting or meeting people out and about at least a few times a month.
  • Join a book club. I desperately miss my NYC book club, and I hope to find one here (or start a new group!). Boston ladies, any takers?! I will come bearing treats and a large supply of wine!
Travel enjoyment:
  • Florida in February.
  • Paris in April.
  • Martha's Vineyard in August. 
  • At least two local-ish weekend trips.
And finally, very adult-like, financial enjoyment: 
  • We've been saving up for a house for over a year, and still have a long way to go. Luckily, I take an absurd amount of pleasure from transferring money into the savings account. I want to keep our momentum going and watch our down payment swell up!
Anyone else trying to embrace a year of pleasure? I'd love some company :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy new year, indeed

On New Years Day, my sister in law got married! (We have a thing for holiday weekend weddings, it seems.)

We spent all morning in a gorgeous suite where the ceremony and reception were being held, drinking coffee, eating chocolate bark and having our hair done.

She hopped into her pretty dress while I was being fluffed. 

Here are all the bouquets in the box. Goodness, I love flowers!

The family veil! Remember?

You'll notice from the non-iPhone quality of these pictures that I received a camera for Christmas, yay!

It was such a wonderful day, celebrating a truly fantastic couple.

I hope you had a lovely Christmas and New Years!
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