Typical Tuesday night at 6pm.  Silently whining about how dark it is already and the fact that I forgot my umbrella…again. Per usual I am stressing out about the million little things I have to do this week as well as spazzing over what I am going to do with my life.

But then I get a text.

My friend had put us on the waitlist for a Cheese and Chocolate Tasting at the reknowned French Boston restuarant, L’Espalier, and he had just received a call that we have been taken off the waitlist.  And…the event starts at 7pm.  Initially I start to text back “no” just because I “think” that I don’t have time.  But then I stop walking and mentally give myself a little slap.  CHEESE? CHOCOLATE?  Who in their right mind would turn down two of God’s greatest gifts to mankind.  Needless to say, 5 minutes later I find myself sprinting up Comm. Ave in my Frye boots and my nerdy, over-sized backpack whipping from side-to-side.  After literally the quickest shower of my life, 2.5 outfit changes, and a little mascara, I run back out into the night to meet my date at the T.  And let out a sigh of relief.

When I finally plopped myself down into the plush chair and saw the menu, I knew I had made an excellent decision.

A menu planned around cheese and chocolate??  HOLLAAAA.

So here’s the deal: L’Espalier provided the cheese.  Hotel Chocolat, a gourmet chocolate shop on Newbury Street, provided the chocolate.  And I kindly agreed to provide the grumbling stomach.

Since my date and I are both under 21, we clearly could not partake in the accompanying wine tasting.  However, we were hooked up with a “house-made juice tasting.”  Our first juice was pineapple-jasmine:

And to accompany this lovely juice, was our first course: white chocolate arancini with fennel and lavender vinagrette.  *swoon*

So how was it?  Di-vine.

Arancini (singular: arancino) are kind of a new concept to me.  Arancini are essentially balls of rice filled with mozzarella and either spinach or ragu, rolled in bread crumbs, and fried or baked until golden.   I stumbled upon a recipe this past summer for arancini and immediately had to have one.  Luckily, I ate an arancino for the first time at the St. Anthony festival in the North End.  That one was served in a styrofoam bowl and was approximately the size of my fist.  Of course I would eat arancini out of a dirty shoe, but it was interesting to see the contrast between the classic “red-sauce Italian” version of arancini and this refined no-larger-than-a-golf ball version.  And it was filled with a white chocolate sauce to boot!

Next up was the second course: “Devils on Horseback” served with 70% dark cocoa powder.

“Devils on Horseback”???  Yes- this one-bite wonder consisted of a juicy date filled with gorgonzola and wrapped in prosciutto.  Also in attendance was a perfectly-ripe fig and an amazing cocoa powder.  This was the dish I was most anticipating simply because it includes a bunch of my favorite foods: dates, figs, and chocolate.  I really loved how the bitterness of the dark chocolate highlighted the saltiness of both the prosciutto and gorgonzola.

This dish was paired with a delicious spiced apple cider.

The third, and technically final, course was a venison stew with goat cheese and foie gras butter and a smoked 90% dark chocolate cake .

Talk about decadent!  I had actually been to L’Espalier a few weeks prior and had ordered venison, which was paired with a piece of bittersweet chocolate cake.  This is an unexpectedly perfect combination.  I adored both the hearty stew as well as the fact that I have found a new favorite flavor pairing.  Venison itself has its own pronounced flavor but the bitterness and depth of the smoked chocolate is powerful enough to keep up.

Cranberry-orange fizz.  What whhhaaatt.

And finally, the pièce de résistance…


1.  Fourmes d’Ambert, cow, from Auvergnes, France with 65% Dark Organic from Alto El Sol Peru

2.  Bonne Bouche, goat, Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery, Websterville, VT with 70% Dark Chocolate with Chili

3.  Heu Blumen, cow, Canton St Gallen, Switzerland with 65% Dark Chocolate, 120 hour conch*, from Saint Lucia

4.  Cremont, goat, cow’s milk and cream, Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery, Websterville, VT with 65% Dark chocolate, 96 hour conch, from Saint Lucia

5.  Gouda, aged five years, cow from Holland with 40% Milk Chocolate

*According to my sources, conching is a process in which roasted cocoa beans are subjected to a rolling process known as conching. The original paddles that performed the rolling looked like conch shells, hence the name.  This helps to eliminate much of the bitterness of the chocolate by incorporating air into the chocolate and thus neutralizing the naturally acidic pH of chocolate.  It also improves the texture of the chocolate by removing any grittiness.  Conching can be done for an extended period of time, anywhere from 4 hours to 120 hours, like one of the chocolates on my plate.

While I obviously adored all five pairings, my favorite was the second, the gooey goat cheese with the 70% dark chocolate with chili.  The fact that this piece of chocolate was in the shape of a PENGUIN didn’t hurt either.

I appreciated the opportunity to taste cheese and chocolate in two ways: in dishes that combined the two with other fabulous ingredients, as well as a more focused taste that allowed me to notice the subtle flavors of both the cheese and the chocolate.  I would take a bite of the cheese and then a bite of the chocolate in order to savor how one entity highlighted the other.

By the end of the night, both my busy mind and hungry stomach had been quelled, thanks to the wonders of cheese & chocolate.

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‘Cause I’m (not) bluffin’ with my muffin.

Muffins are underrated.  They are crazy simple to make and require just a handful of ingredients that almost anyone has on hand on any given day.  The result is an amazing smelling house, a delicious treat to share (or keep for yourself), and a sense of accomplishment.  In honor of one of my favorite summer fruits, blueberries, I decided to make blueberry muffins.

To make these little lovelies, all you need is about an hour of free time,

A few pints of fresh blueberries (preferably organic and from the farmers’ market),

Your great grandmother’s recipe (or just a basic muffin recipe),

A little muscle,

A dash of thyme time,

A handful of self-control,

And a sprinkle of patience to wait for these babies to cool (optional)

Buon appetito!

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Loca for Local.

For me, summer means not only a time to decompress from the madness that is the school year, but also a time to check off a few items on my culinary to-do list.  The past few weeks have been spent doing just that- baking and cooking until my heart is content, visiting my beloved farmers’ market, starting a garden, and exploring farms.  Much of this fascination with close-to-the-source food has been sparked by the book that I am currently reading : Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingslover.  For those of you who have not yet read it, this lovely book is a testimony of a family who spent a year of life planting, growing, nurturing, and harvesting all their own food (including chickens and turkeys).  While it would be a dream of mine to be able to grow every piece of food that passes my lips from scratch, I do not think I would have the patience to plant and tend to all the plants and animals necessary to feed a family of four.  However, Kingslover has inspired me to start my own garden and simply focus more on buying local foods.  Supporting local farmers is not only beneficial to our health and well-being, but the health of the environment and the rest of the world.  I have strived to eat more locally by visiting my local farmers’ market and taking trips to farms.

As my love for food grows, I find myself more and more interested in where it comes from- the Copley Square farmers’ market in Boston is one of my favorite places to get closer to my food.

Siena Farms is one of my favorite sites at the farmers’ market mainly because it is run by the awesome chef, Ana Sortun, owner of Oleana and Sofra.  I have had the pleasure of eating at Oleana but Sofra is still on my never-ending restaurant list.

the goods- baby spinach and two bunches of rainbow swiss chard.

Trinity Church.

The thing that I’m most proud of is the garden that I started Memorial Day weekend.  My family and I own a house of Cape Cod and every summer my Mom would grow a small garden, usually consisting of tomatoes, basil, parsley, and zucchini.  But this year I was inspired to branch out and plant some more “exotic” plants.  Right now in my garden sit both red and yellow pear tomoatoes, rainbow swiss chard, butternut squash, arugula, Genovese basil, thyme, cucumbers, as well as the typical plum tomatoes, zucchini, and basil.  I am excited to grow some of my favorite vegetables in my backyard and can’t wait to see how it turns out!  While I will be in Italy for seven weeks, I am hoping by the time I return home in mid-August, the tomatoes will be ready for the plucking.

Memorial Day in the Garden. woot woot!

Swiss Chard.



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All I Knead.

Recently I’ve discovered a new obsession… HOMEMADE BREAD.

I have a love-hate relationship with bread. While I enjoy a hearty sandwich as much as the next person and I love bread’s ability to give me the carbies I need to do all of the things I love everyday, I am often left feeling dissatisfied with the floppy bread cut into uniform shapes that I often find in my bread drawer.  Also, the use of high fructose corn syrup in most breads just does not sit well with me.

A few months ago I stumbled upon an article on Mark Bittman’s blog, “The Minimalist,” about “No-Knead Bread.” What intrigued me the most was that I could have warm, crusty, FRESH bread in my hands in a matter of hours. While there is a significant amount of down time in this recipe, the active baking time is quick and all you need is a cast iron pot, dutch oven, or any pot that conducts heat well. While my first try did not produce the most visually appealing product, the satisfaction of baking my own bread made up for my blob-shaped loaf.

Just chillin'.

Plop it in.


oh yeeahh.

THEN, a few weeks ago I was perusing the cookbook section of my local library when I stumbled across this:


This book has the same basic message of the original No-Knead-Bread recipe by the Sullivan Street Bakery: with just minutes a day of preparation, along with some time for the dough to rest, you can have fresh bread everyday.  One difference between these recipes and the New York Times recipe is that instead of using a dutch oven to allow for rapid baking and a crunchy crust a screaming hot pizza stone is used.  My pizza stone has definitely been working overtime as I have discovered a new use for it other than making amazing pizza.  In addition, the book prides itself on not requiring any kneading in order to mix the dough or develop its gluten structure-all you need is a large bowl and a wooden spoon.  A major aspect of this No-Knead phenomenon is that you whip up a large batch of whatever dough you desire and it will keep in the fridge for up to ten days.  So whenever you’ve got a hankering for some yummy bread you just cut off a piece of the mother batch and pop it in the oven.  Their claims are true and by simply mixing the dough and allowing it to sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours (I prefer about 24 hours so that the flavors and the gluten structure of the dough can develop), I have been able to create some lovely loaves.

This is the dough after it has rested for a good 24 hours.

Just before baking.

MMM whole wheat bread.

I’m not sure why but the lovely aroma of freshly baked bread is right up there with the smell of sweet apple pie and sugar cookies straight out of the oven.

AND THEN I discovered the second installment of the “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”:


Cue the angelic gospel singing.

This book utilizes the same basic method of no-knead bread baking but with the use of whole grains- um, whole wheat cinnamon raisin bagels, anyone? This time I decided to actually buy the book and I have definitely got my money’s worth!

Usually when people (myself included) think about baking bread, they think of spending hours of being elbow deep in dough kneading and moving the dough to random places at specific temperatures in order to allow it to properly rise.  But these recipes and books have taught me that fresh bread does not require hours of devotion.  And as I try to move towards eating as simply and as close to the source as possible, homemade bread is a great example of how with a handful of ingredients and a little time, one can create a delicious, satisfying loaf of bread that is a million times better than anything you would find in the grocery store.  I HIGHLY recommend baking your own bread- it is rewarding for both the soul and the belly!  Happy baking!

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Taking a chance.

This summer I will be studying abroad in Italy!

A couple of weeks ago, I was accepted to Boston University’s summer study abroad program in Padova, Italy. Initially I was ecstatic, but then one day I heard a few of my peers talking about all of the courses they will be taking in order to get ahead over the summer. My Type A personality immediately reared its ugly head and I found myself in a pool of guilt about the prospect of spending the summer in Italy while I could be taking biochemistry at home. To the normal person, this would be a simple decision- Italy vs. Biochemistry? Um, ITALY. duh.

After racking my brain for a week, debating what to do with my summer, I was on the verge of giving up my dreams of Italy. But with the guidance of some trusted individuals, along with some soul-searching, I have come to the conclusion that Italy is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I should not pass up. According to my confidants, when else will I have seven weeks of my life to just travel to Europe? After college, most likely never.
I have studied my butt off to master the language, spent hours on the application for the program, and developed a profound love for all things Italian- to let it all go would be a mistake. I do not deal well with regret and when I look back, do I want to be able to say that I spent my summer in a classroom learning biochemistry, or traveling around Italy? I have decided on the latter.

I’m trying this new thing called “leaving my comfort zone and taking chances.” While I have been trying to incorporate it into many areas of my life, Italy would be the ultimate test of my commitment to this attitude. I have always played it safe- and I think that it is time to stop living passively and to go out and to forge my own path. Although I’m scared to leave my comfort zone, I am excited to take the leap.

I started this blog to document my adventures with food- where better to explore my passion for food than in the land of Parmigiano Reggiano and gelato?! Andiamo!

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


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Bella Blogger.

I was tagged by the lovely Elizabeth as a beautiful blogger.  Since I was threatened strongly encouraged to write a blog post about it, here goes nothin’.

7  random things about myself:

1.  I am an only child.

Whenever I tell someone this they always ask me :”But don’t you wish you had a brother or sister?”  When I was younger I would have liked a sibling, but that is not how the cards played out for my family.  Now, I actually enjoy being an only child and feel that the guidance and support that I have been given from my parents is amazing and has truly shaped my decisions and who I am today.  Ironically enough, each of my parents have 5 other siblings, so I have been blessed with a large extended family and about 20-something cousins who I am close with.  While I haven’t decided how many children I want in the future, I do know that I want my kid(s) to have as great an upbringing as I have had thus far.

2.  I am a HUGE Britney Spears fan.

I’m not exactly sure how to explain the extent of my obsession but I own all of her CDs, have been to all of her concerts that have come to anywhere in the vicinity of the Northeast (and cried everytime she came out on stage), recorded close to every show that she made an appearance in, attended her performing arts camp, and stood up for her during the whole head-shaving, mental collapse period.  While I am obviously not as big a fan as I was when I was 14, she still holds a special place in my heart and you can bet your booty that when a Britney song comes on I am not ashamed to sing along and recite the lyrics word-for-word.

3.  I have been to Europe three times.

Although this is not a very impressive travel history, I believe that going to Europe and being exposed to an entirely new culture truly changed my outlook on life and more importantly only deepened my love for food.  I traveled to Spain for the first time, during the summer before my Senior year of high school.  I went with a program called Global Works and spent a month performing community service on an organic farm, living with a host family, and hitting all the big cities like Madrid and Barcelona.  

The following summer, as a graduation present, my mom and I returned to Spain.  It was fun to introduce my mother to the culture and the way of life of the Spaniards.  She couldn’t get over how stores just close down in the middle of the day for “siesta” and so people can go home to eat and sleep.  While the cuisine of Spain is synonymous with cured meats and white bread, Spanish food is so much more.  My favorite Spanish dish is Paella, a classic one-pot meal of bomba rice, seafood, and saffron.  Loves it!

Finally, again last summer my mom and I did another eurotrip; this time to ITALIA.  While I will most likely be writing another post devoted to Italy, I will say that the Italian food and culture have such a special place in my heart and that my time spent in Italy further solidified my obsession with simply grown, simply prepared, amazing food.  Plus, gelato is enough to make any person fall in love with the country!

4.  I’m a language girl.

Some people say they have a greater affinity for math and science, while others are English or History people.  Well me, I’m a language girl.  I have always had a knack for picking up languages and they are always the subject that interested me the most in school.  My first exposure was to Italian in 4th grade when I signed up for lessons after school.  I remember loving the sound of beautiful language.  I don’t remember exactly what we did, but I do remember learning how to sing the song “Head, Shoulders,Knees, and Toes” in Italian.  Then in middle school I continued with Italian, but when I went to high school, where they only offered Spanish, French, and Latin, I switched to Spanish.  I think that my early experience with Italian really helped me to pick up Spanish easily.  Also, since they’re both romance languages, many of the words sound and look the same.  When I started the college search, I initially wanted to be an International Relations major just because I loved languages and wanted to learn as many as possible.  Although that did not pan out (I am currently a Dietetics major), I am still able to study Italian.  I am now starting third-semester Italian and hope to be able to study abroad one of these summers.

5.  I am a former Catholic school girl.

“OMG did get to wear the plaid skirt?!” is usually the response I get when people find out.  Yes, I wore a plaid skirt.  But we had to wear uncomfortable tights underneath, not those cute white knee highs.  I attended public school up until high school when my parents decided that it would be best if I went to a Catholic school.  And an all-girls one at that.  While I was obviously reluctant at first, looking back now, I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to receive such a well-rounded education, in an intimate setting where I had all the guidance and help I could ever want.  I made great friendships with girls and formed bonds with teachers that I know will always give me a great recommendation whenever I need it.  

6.  I want to be a chef.

I have always had a love of food.  I’m not exactly sure what sparked my interest, but I like to think that I got the cooking bug from my grandfather.  From what I’ve heard, he was quite the chef and my mom always talks about his amazing beef stew, cherries jubilee, and homemade vanilla ice cream.  Unfortunately he passed away when I was 1 so I barely remember him.  

Right now I am a dietetics major but after college I know that I want to go to culinary school.  I could have gone directly to cooking school from high school but I knew that I wanted a degree in something to fall back on.  I am aware of the competition among chefs and I am hoping that my solid nutrition background will give me an edge.  Besides, my love for nutrition is right up there with cooking and therefore I feel that if I’m going to go to college it should be for something that will ultimately benefit my culinary pursuits.  I’m not sure exactly what I want to do when I grow up, but I do know that I love to cook and I would lovelovelove to someday open a restaurant.  

7.  I love ice cream/frozen yogurt

Molten chocolate lava cake?  No thanks. Apple pie?  I’m all set.  A trip to the ice cream in the dead of winter?  HELL YEAH!  My favorite flavor is Purple Cow- Black Raspberry ice cream with dark and white chocolate chips.  However, since it’s not a very common flavor, any ice cream shop that has purple cow gets a little piece of my heart.  To further emphasize my ice cream love, every year for my birthday I request an ice cream cake.  Funfetti simply won’t do.  It must be a mint chocolate chip ice cream cake.  YUM-O!  Mint chocolate chip is right up there with purple cow.  FINALLY, I have been employed by two ice cream shops, one of them being the infamous Dairy Queen.  Any blizzard fans out there?!

Whew!  Well that was a long one.  If you made it to the end then I hope you learned a little more about me.  

I’ll be trying to post more often now that I’m back at school.

Have a great Friday!

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First Impressions.

Hi I’m Julia. I’m a lover of all things food, travel, health, and italian.

Why the funny blog name? Well the name is simply a testament to my crazy obsession with food and my reputation for carrying random food items in my backpack. Plus, I love butternut squash.

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is to ride my bike to the farmers’ market. However, it is not until after I have bought a pound of heirloom tomatoes, 2 pints of blueberries, 6 ears of corn, 3 zucchini, and a cantaloupe, that I realize all that I have to transport my bounty is my bike, my backpack, and…myself. Nevertheless, I will ride the 30 minutes home in the sweltering heat on my rusty-chained bike, if it means that I can finally make a caprese salad with my fresh heirloom tomatoes or that I can cut into that ridiculously ripe cantaloupe just to get a taste of summer.

Also, it is not uncommon to walk into the kitchen only to see my puzzled mother pulling a butternut squash or some other oddly-shaped root vegetable out of my backpack because apparently my dog has an amazing olfactory system and was sticking her snout in places it should not be…

As you can see, food is always on my mind- or rather, on my back. Therefore, this blog is devoted to my insatiable fascination and outlandish adventures with food.


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