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Finding the Light

candle

It is a season of darkness, this time of year. This week I haven’t seen daylight much at all, what with the late sunrise and early sunset and dark, rainy afternoons. It affects me deeply, and I am counting the days until we are seeing more daylight each day. At the end of the day, a dark sky isn’t much of anything; I have so much to be grateful for, so much comfort and joy.

This time of year is full of festivity and gifts and food and loved ones, yet it can be such a hard and lonely time for so many people, for so many reasons. Perhaps it’s seasonal blues, the loss of a job or a relationship or a loved one that has one feeling alone. Or maybe it’s a general loneliness, being away from home or not having a home at all; the joy we’re surrounded by often magnifies the pain and creates confusion on how we are supposed to feel.

Even in my own excitement about the season, grief creeps in. The smell of sap as we decorated our tree instantly brought me back to being a kid and longing for that feeling of having a whole family around me. And forget about the Night Before Christmas; my father read that every Christmas Eve until the year he died, and I cant even be in the room to hear  it now.

When Santa reads it this Sunday at our Breakfast with Santa event for work, I’ll be biting my lip hard to keep the tears back. I love this time of year, but it can be so very hard and I know that my own hard, compared to that of others, is so very easy.

With all that said, finding the light is something I vow to do during these dark days. I am helped by the ability to help others, to donate to charities or to check in with those I know who are feeling blue. I know I find more joy in buying gifts for children in a shelter than I do receiving things for myself.

I’m inspired by movements like 26 Acts of Kindness, which for the 26 days leading up to the anniversary of that horrifying, dark  day in Newtown, features one of the people who were killed that day and simply asks followers to perform an act of kindness in memory of each person. Little beacons of light all gathered together can make a light as bright as the sun, I know it’s true.

Simple pleasures like cups of tea, the light of a candle, a little bit of yoga, or a favorite song help to help light those candles in our hearts. . . The season isn’t about piles of gifts or who can cook the most food, but more about love and appreciation and reaching out to those who need it most, whether they ask for it or not.

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Tags: charity, giving, holidays, lifestyle, light

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

One of the things I love about Boston is how, at any second, there is something really good happening. This city is full of incredible, generous, and innovative people seeking ways to help one another.

I receive a LOT of press releases and I don’t often share the contents, but every now and then I feel inspired to help a cause, and the email I received about Hearth Shares was one of those moments.  Like many of you, I am heartbroken over the loss of Mayor Menino, a friend to all Bostonians, and his memory makes me want to do more good.

Hearth Shares

This November & December, Hearth Shares will offer restaurant goers the opportunity to add a voluntary donation of $1 or more to their bill at over 25 participating Boston area restaurants. Supported by the Citizens Bank Foundation, 100% of proceeds from Hearth Shares will benefit Hearth, Friends of Boston’s Homeless and a select group of other nonprofits working to house the homeless in Massachusetts.

Since so many of us are planning on dining out during the next couple of months, Hearth Shares makes it easy to enjoy yourself and to give a little at the same time. I so believe that this is one of the ways we can build stronger communities and help those in need on a regular basis.

To find out which Boston area restaurants are participating, please visit the Hearth Shares Restaurants page.

In other “doing amazing things” news, Lovin’ Spoonfuls is having their annual tailgate this weekend. You may remember a few years ago when I attended the  tailgate at Sam’s at Louis and it was a blast.  I love the work that Lovin’ Spoonfuls does, rescuing unwanted food for people who need it most. If you are free on Sunday definitely check out the tailgate and help them continue doing the work they are doing!

Do you have any favorite charity events coming up?

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Tags: Boston, charity, events, Food, homelessness, hunger

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