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This past Sunday evening, the who’s who of Boston chefs, producers, and food and wine lovers gathered at Sam’s at Louis for the annual Lovin’ Spoonfuls Ultimate Tailgate.

Lovin' Spoonfuls Ultimate Tailgate

Lovin’ Spoonfuls addresses the issue of food waste, which, in addition to being a detriment to people in need, is also an environmental issue.

Lovin' Spoonfuls Ultimate Tailgate Event

Ashley Stanley, founder of Lovin’ Spoonfuls, created the organization to bridge the gap between abundance and need. In the short time Lovin’ Spoonfuls has been hard at work, they have rescued 2 million pounds of fresh, wholesome food that would have otherwise been thrown away. They are able to feed 10,000 people per week, and with one in five Bostonians food insecure, the work they are doing is crucial. I was excited to find out this year that the Ultimate Tailgate raised $135,000, which will allow Lovin’ Spoonfuls to rescue even more food in the coming year. While the work they do is difficult, the concept behind it seems so simple; there’s food out there and people who need it, so let’s match them up!

Massachusetts hunger We attended our first Ultimate Tailgate in 2011 on a beautiful November evening, and this year was just the same. Sam’s at Louis was once again a beautiful location for the event, with the VIP hour inside the restaurant and the main event outside in a huge tent. Outside, the Boston Harbor and skyline sparkled, while Boston’s best chefs and an amazing organization shone inside.

This year, Boston favorites Joanne Chang and Christopher Myers were recipients of the first ever Thomas M. Menino Award for their support of Lovin’ Spoonfuls and the other charitable work they do throughout the city. There were definitely some tears in the room as we remembered our late mayor and reflected on the good works being honored.

Chang & Myers

The VIP hour offered quite the spread of food on its own, which included a huge charcuterie spread from New England Charcuterie and made-to-order cheese plates from Wasik’s Cheese Shop.

New England Charcuterie Wasik's Cheese Shop Once the VIP hour was over, everyone moved outside to the tent on the waterfront. One thing I love about this event is that, while there were 300 guests, it never felt crowded. The flow between inside Sam’s into the tent as well as some outdoor seating space makes it feel like there’s plenty of space, and since it’s a tasting event FULL of food, we appreciated having space to step aside and eat.

Lovin' Spoonfuls Ultimate Tailgate

Once inside the tent, we did a quick lap for photos and then started eating, pretty much not stopping until we left.

Dishes like Beet Tartare from Fairsted Kitchen were laid out with beautiful presentation by proud chefs and culinary teams, all clearly really excited to be at this event.

photo 2

Red Sox and Patriots DJ TJ Connelly kept us moving through the night and even had some people (ahem, maybe me) dancing a little bit with great tunes.

Sweet Cheeks Shrimp Boil

Tiffani Faison and her Sweet Cheeks team had a beautiful shrimp boil waiting for us on arrival at their table, along with big smiles. How cute are they? I think Boston has a collective crush on Chef Tiffani, for both her food and her magnetic presence.

Tiffani Faison

Myers + Chang, one of the loves of my life and makers of the common cold curing Hot and Sour Soup,  had a veggie dish, Roasted Squash and Curried Cauliflower with Cashews, a hearty but healthier bite in a sea of deliciously meaty cuisine.

Myers + Chang

And their friendly cat was there to welcome us; visitors to the table, as well as the people behind it, were all smiles.

Myers + Chang cat

Christine and Carla Pallotta, the sisters behind the deliciousness at Nebo had meal-size samples in these Italian Sausage, Broccoli Rabe Pine Nut Pesto, and Provolone Sandwiches, tailgate food brought up to the standard of their beautiful Boston waterfront restaurant. Swoon.

Nebo

Thai pork ribs from Commonwealth Cambridge

One of my favorite meat dishes of the night was from Commonwealth, Thai Pork Ribs with Cashew Butter, Lime, and Chili. The meat fell off the bone, and it was perfectly spiced with a nice, rich sauce.

Frito pie

Mei Mei

Best presentation, and possibly my ultimate Ultimate Tailgate favorite was the Kung Pao Curry Frito Pie from Mei Mei. Crunchy, salty Fritos in the bag, topped with a chili-like topping and sour cream made for a major pop of flavor and texture, a comfort food I would love to curl up with after a bad day.

Frito pie in a Frito bag

My husband’s favorite dish of the night was without a doubt the meatballs from Merrill & Co. They were some of the best meatballs we have ever had, and he definitely made more than one trip for this hearty bite. We’re obsessed with Merrill; if you are looking to go out with a group who will try everything, definitely add it to the top of your list.

Merrill & Co

In between every couple of tables, we ducked outside to eat and enjoy the scene. Sam’s has the best views, and we were seriously blessed with a warm fall evening. We have a lot of talk about moving to California, but then there are nights like these that make me love Boston so much I can’t imagine ever leaving. . .

Boston skyline

Excellent food was accompanied by delicious drinks. MS Walker donated the liquor for the night, and we enjoyed Ward 8 cocktails and some really spectacular Cremant sparkling wine. The drinks were flowing, and the atmosphere was festive with many thanks to the generous donations of food and drinks for all. Lovin' Spoonfuls Ultimate Tailgate

An event honoring Joanne Chang just wouldn’t be complete without something from Flour Bakery, and these Apple Raisin Hand Pies were sweet, cozy bites to finish off the night. They reminded me SO much of my nana’s apple strudel that I got a little emotional. That connection with food and memory is one of the reasons I started this blog, and it’s always fun to revisit delicious memories.

Flour Bakery Flour apple raisin hand pies

In addition to eating, drinking, dancing (and tweeting), we also did some bidding on the silent auction that was open for most of the night. We ended up winning dinner for 10 at Pastoral, with wine provided by Hope Family Wines, which I love. The prize also comes with a magnum of wine. This package was made for us and our friends.

So many of the city’s great chefs were represented at the tailgate. Below I have included a lineup from the event website for your information. Definitely keep an eye out next November; hopefully the annual Ultimate Tailgate will continue, and we, as a food-loving city, can continue to get together for events that make a difference like this one does.

 

Food was from Lovin’ Spoonfuls culinary board members Jamie Bissonnette (Coppa and Toro), Joanne Chang (Myers + Chang and Flour Bakery), and newest culinary board member Michael Scelfo (Alden & Harlow), as well as Karen Akunowicz (Myers + Chang), Asia Mei (Sam’s at Louis Boston), Colin Lynch (Menton, No. 9 Park),  Louis DiBiccari (Tavern Road), Matthew Gaudet (West Bridge), Will Gilson (Puritan & Co.), Tiffani Faison (Sweet Cheeks), Daniel Bojorquez (La Brasa), Jason Cheek (Merrill & Co.), Steve Postal (Commonwealth), Christine & Carla Pallotta (Nebo), Jason Albus (Fairsted Kitchen), the team from Mei Mei Street Kitchen, and Keith Pooler (Bergamot).

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Tags: auctions, Boston, charity, Chef events, community, events, Food, food events, Lovin' Spoonfuls, Sam's at Louis, tailgate, tastings

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, you might be feeling the frenzy of the holiday season starting to creep in. While I try to not let joyous occasions stress me out, I am definitely noticing that the calendar is full through January and I am trying to juggle work and life accordingly.

Since we will be traveling throughout the holiday season, including another Thanksgiving in Ireland, we wanted to take time out to get local family together before the madness sets in.

I love a late afternoon Saturday party. It’s a combination of lunch/dinner, and lighting a fire as the sun sets makes for a warm and convivial atmosphere. When entertaining, I try as much as possible to choose foods that I can prep ahead of time.

our living room

We had a ton of work to get the house ready, so easy-to-prep food was even more important. We bought our house almost a year ago, but after being scammed by a shady plumber, we have had to put off a lot of the things we have wanted to do with the house. It’s still cozy and we love it, but decorating has taken a backseat to important things like heat!

beach decor

Ultimately I would like to have a beachy/nautical house, so I have been incorporating little touches like sand dollars on a window sill, serving platters with crabs and seashells on them, nautical towels, and little lobster bowls.

table setup

lavender You won’t be seeing our house in Town & Country anytime soon,   but it makes us happy!

lobster bowls

Now for the food! I set up the table for the first hour of the party with the following:

Cucumbers topped with herb cream cheese and tomatoes – I think the red and green would be fun for a Christmas party, and it’s nice to have something light on hand when the rest of the meal is so heavy.

A cheese plate – two hard cheeses and one spreadable cheese, crackers, and bread

White Bean Truffle Dip

cucumbers with herb cream cheese

Guests trickled in, and we waited until just about everyone had arrived to put out the main course:

Bacon-Wrapped Sausage with Brown Sugar – I forgot to take a pic, but you can find one in this post. This is the easiest, most decadent party food ever.

Mixed Greens with Butternut Squash, Red Onions, Dried Cranberries, Pecans, and a Cider Vinaigrette – I roasted the butternut squash with cinnamon prior to adding it to the salad, and it was a delicious touch. The dressing was a super easy blend of apple cider, shallots, and olive oil.

butternut squash salad

Guinness Beef Stew – This stew is SO easy. Once the early prep was done, I left it on low all day. The beef was falling apart by the time it was served.

Guinness Beef Stew

Chicken Pot Pie – Another super easy dish that seems daunting, this one started with sweet onions cooked in butter, followed by chopped up chicken thighs, chicken stock, herbs, chopped red potatoes (which I par-cooked prior), and torn spinach. I simmered it on low until about a half an hour before serving, then added a bit of milk, put it in an aluminum tray, topped with store-bought crust, and baked for about 30 minutes. Sadly some of the gravy overflowed onto the crust, but it was still tasty!

Chicken Pot Pie

Pumpkin Pie Dip – addictive. This is a mix of pumpkin pie filling, cream cheese, and sour cream, served with gingersnaps and Nilla cookies. It was so easy and so good! Our guests also brought cake and cupcakes, so I didn’t make the Caramel Apple Dip I planned on.

Pumpkin Pie Dip

And finally, if you know me you may have guessed there was bubbly. We had two options of bubbles, one from Graham Beck and another from Mumm Napa, as well as Brooklyn Brewery beer and some amazing beers our guests brought, including my husband’s cousin’s homebrew which is out of this world.

I used to get so stressed about entertaining, but I feel like I am starting to get in the groove a little more. The cooking is definitely my favorite part; I wouldn’t mind leaving the cleaning to someone else!

Now I am in Thanksgiving-planning mode. Do you know what you are cooking yet this holiday season? If you need any Thanksgiving recipe ideas, check out some posts from the past!

Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup (including Cranberry Cheddar Biscuits, Cornbread Sausage Stuffing, and Sriracha Maple Brussels Sprouts, a great Thanksgiving side dish!)

Brussels Sprouts and Apple Salad

Thanksgiving wine pairings and recipes

Turkey Soup (for the day after Thanksgiving!)

Pumpkin Spice Brownies

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Tags: entertaining ideas, fall foods, fall recipes, falll cooking, family, Food, lifestyle, Lunch, nautical, recipes, relaxing, Saturday, Thanksgiving menu, Thanksgiving recipes

The calendar definitely says it’s fall, but the forecast feels a little bit summery here, doesn’t it? I am loving the warm days, being able to have the windows open, and like last night eating dinner outside. We even spent Saturday night, into the wee hours, hanging out around an outdoor fire. It’s a great time to be outside!

When we do have a cold spell, I am all about the comfort food, and since I have gained more weight than I would like in the last few months, I am trying to find some balance in health and comfort. I am also joining a gym tomorrow. Hold me to it.

This dish kind of randomly came together. It’s a whole wheat penne bake with a béchamel sauce, hearty mushrooms and Brussels sprouts, and a little bit of cheese to make it just that little bit decadent. I love pasta dishes that involve white sauces (like this must-try butternut squash white bean lasagna), and this one is made flavorful with a zesty Dijon mustard.

pasta ingredients

As always, this recipe was something that I eyeballed. It ended up making enough for dinner and a few lunches, the perfect Sunday supper, in my eyes. I started by bringing water to a boil for the whole wheat penne and adding plenty of salt. I think that it would be really good if the pasta was cooked in chicken stock just for a little added flavor.

While the pasta was cooking, I started my white sauce. I always start with a roux of Kerrygold butter and whole wheat flour and then slowly add in whole milk once the flour is browned and smelling nutty. I stir the sauce until it’s thick and then add some freshly ground nutmeg. Nutmeg always brings out a great flavor in a white sauce. This sauce is made extra flavorful with a big scoop of Dijon mustard.

While the pasta boiled and that white sauce thickened, I was caramelizing shallots and mixing in shredded Brussels sprouts and chopped mushrooms. The veggies alone would have been a delicious side; a little bit of butter and the combination of flavors was amazing. Rather than doing that, waited until the vegetables were slightly softened, and then I got started building my pasta dish.

caramelized shallots

I drained the pasta and layered pasta and vegetables into a casserole dish, pouring over the white sauce and then finally topping it with dollops of ricotta cheese and a fine sprinkling of mozzarella.

pasta bake

Since everything was already hot, I just cooked this for about 10 minutes and then hit it with a medium broiler until the cheese on top started to brown. Digging in was a treat, the dish hot and bubbly with a nice hint of creamy and tangy and vegetables in every bite. You could add meat to this, but we didn’t need to. It was definitely delicious and filling all on its own! I love red sauce with pasta, but my stomach is not always a fan, so dishes like this will be making repeat appearances this winter!

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Tags: comfort food, dinner, fall recipes, pasta, pasta recipe, recipe, vegetables, Vegetarian

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