Getting (Sur)Real at the PEM

Posted: July 26th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Salem | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

During a cooking demonstration, Chef Matt O'Neil creates a layer of chive cream for his tuna tartare

The Peabody Essex Museum is throwing several evening parties this summer. We decided to check out Thursday night’s event because one of our favorite North Shore chefs, Matt O’Neil of The Blue Ox, was doing a cooking demonstration.

Army of Broken Toys provided the evening's soundtrack

The night was dedicated to surrealism, with a special exhibit of Man Ray paintings and music by Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys.

O’Neil was serving up tuna tartare with chive cream on a potato crisp. The connection with surrealism is the surprise of combining seafood with cheese (there is mascarpone in the cream under the tuna). Surreal or not, it was an outstanding combination of texture and flavor.

Sushi grade tuna awaits dicing, adding the "special" sauce, the finished tuna tartare

The chef mixed together one part sour cream to two parts mascarpone and added a generous amount of chives. He suggested making the cream a day ahead for more “chive presence.” The cream is piped or spooned onto thick potato chips (potatoes soaked in water for one hour and then fried).

The sushi-grade tuna gets finely diced. O’Neil prefers the very-tender loin over the belly (torro) for this preparation. To the tuna, he adds the green part of the scallion, black sesame seeds, cilantro, diced cucumber, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.

The last step is the addition of his “special sauce,” which includes sriracha, soy, sesame oil, seasoned rice wine vinegar, and honey

The live chess game

Tastebuds satisfied and recipe in hand, we were ready for the final event of the evening: a live chess game, complete with outrageous costumes.

Check out upcoming events at the PEM here. The next summer party is Waterworks on August 25, featuring a cash bar, experiments with water, Andrew Sempere’s Bowl of Oceans sculpture, and Susan Fishman and Elena Kalman’s The Wave, an interactive installation in the Asian Garden.

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Mixing It Up Mayan Style at the PEM

Posted: July 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Salem | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

There was a serious party in our mouths last night as we sampled spicy Mexican hors d’oeuvres, Taza chocolate, and a variety of specialty beers. Another part of our bodies was stimulated, too—our brains.

We had a great time at the Peabody Essex Museum where about 150 people gathered to learn about chocolate’s importance to the Mayan culture and why it was considered the food of the gods. The event, Beer + Chocolate = Food of the Gods, was held in conjunction with the museum’s Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea exhibit, which runs through July 18.

We sampled a variety of treats like flatbreads with cinnamon chile butter, mini beef burritos, vegetable empanadas, and chicken morditas with chipotle crème fraiche. While we sipped the various beers and enjoyed the food, we learned a great deal about Mayan chocolate culture from PEM assistant curator George Schwartz. For example, chocolate’s rarity and association with the maize god and the sea made it so valuable it was sometimes treated as currency.

The other speaker was Taza Chocolate founder Alex Whitmore, who told us an enormous amount about the chocolate-making process, from fermentation to grinding and finishing. We had never tasted Taza’s products and were completely blown away—the cacao nibs are processed in a stone grinder, producing an amazing texture. The chocolate feels grainy for a moment, then melts in the most wonderful way, allowing you to taste all the flavors of the bean. (For those interested in seeing the action, chocolate tours at the company’s new Somerville facility begin in August.)

Seven chocolate-influenced beer samples were delivered during the presentation, with Schwartz describing each one’s origins. There were four chocolate stouts, an American stout, a craft brew from Dogfish Head designed to re-create one of the earliest chocolate beverages in the New World, and a saison that was a favorite with all—a rare beer crafted by Brasserie Fantome in Belgium.

After the presentation, we had the chance to create our own chocolate beverages. Each table was given two plates of chocolate to combine with hot water in a large pitcher. We aerated the mixture using a molinillo (wooden whisk) and added our choice of ingredients like allspice, chili powder, vanilla, and honey. The resulting mixture was incredibly rich and full flavored—about as far from Swiss Miss packets as you can get. The chocolate froth created with a molinillo or by pouring from one ceramic pot to another evokes its original connection to the sea, in the form of foam.

If you’re a chocolate lover, we highly recommend trying Taza chocolate, which is available at Whole Foods and gourmet markets like Shubie’s. We tasted plain, vanilla, cinnamon, chile, yerba mate, and salted almond (my favorite). We also tasted two unusual treats from North Shore chocolatier Turtle Alley: chile bark and a luscious chocolate stout truffle.

We also recommend the PEM’s food-related events. Although not inexpensive, this unique event in the museum’s gorgeous atrium featured a satisfying abundance of beer, chocolate, Mexican treats, camaraderie, and intellectual stimulation.

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Dish Tidbits: Strawberry Festivals, Cooking Classes, New Restaurants, and More

Posted: June 15th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Event, News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

There’s quite a lot going on the next couple of weeks, including strawberry festivals and farmers market openings, plus some new restaurants on the horizon. Without further ado:

Both days this weekend at Russell Orchards in Ipswich there will be strawberry picking, hayrides, strawberry shortcake, facepainting, music, balloons at their annual strawberry festival.

At Connors Farm in Danvers, the festival is on Saturday only and features live music, food from Champions Barbeque, strawberries dipped in chocolate, Homemade strawberry shortcake, costume characters, strawberry picking, pony rides
face painting, and hay rides.

The following weekend, the Swampscott Strawberry Festival is being held on Sunday the 27th from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm on Town Hall lawn.

If you’re looking for a farmers market to visit or more information about your local market, there is information at the Federation of Mass Farmers Markets and a list of Northeast farmer’s markets here. You can find our list of North Shore farmer’s markets is here, with links on several that we’ve reviewed.

Mary Reilly of The Savory Kitchen has a great idea for those pea tendrils in your CSA box. She’s cooking her way through her CSA share each week and sharing her recipes and non-recipe recipes. Mary also teaches cooking classes at the gorgeous Jewett Farms Studio, and there are slots left in the July 23 class on Indian cooking at home (6:00 pm to 9:00 pm), the July 31 canning class (1:00 pm to 4:00 pm), and the August 13 cooking from the farmers’ market class (6:00 pm to 9:00 pm). For descriptions, go here; classes are $90.

If you’ve got a youngster that likes to cook, you may want to take a look at Shubie’s Tweens and Teens summer classes. They’re for ages 11 to 15 with Chef Laura Tyrrell. Pies and tarts is July 6, fresh pasta is July 13, cakes and frostings is July 20, and garlic bread, monkey bread, and bagels is July 27. All classes are $50 and run from 4:30 pm to 7:00 pm. If you sign up for all four classes, you get $30 off. Call (781) 631-0149 for more information.

The PEM is hosting a beer and chocolate tasting in conjunction with its Mayan exhibit on July 8 from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm. Maya inspired cuisine will be served, and attendees will sample seven unique beers and Taza’s stone ground organic chocolate. More information is here, and the cost is $75 for members and $85 for nonmembers.

Euphoria Lifestyle has opened in the 100 building in Cummings Center, Beverly, serving smoothies and wraps and promising Pinkberry-style fro-yo in about two weeks. We’ll check it out and let you know how it is (tough job, but someone’s got to do it). For future reference, it’s right near Danvers Bank and does not have an outside sign.

In Peabody, we’ve spotted a few restaurant happenings. On June 1, Top Steakhouse opened in the former O’Fado space at 72 Walnut St. Since this Brazillian style steakhouse will be competition for the popular Fire Bull, we’re wondering if the area can support two churrascarias just a few blocks from each other.

We also saw a banner up for Maki Sushi Bar, going in next to Peabody Estate Buyers on Main St. They are in the midst of fitting up the interior, no word on when they will open. Also on Main (toward the Salem line), we saw a banner for Peabody Bread and Baking Co. where Rosie’s Bakery was. We’ll stop in the next chance we get.

And last but not least, a recent Guy Fieri trip (he’s a Food Network celebrity chef) included visits to our own Lobster Shanty in Salem, Rino’s Place in East Boston, Greek Corner Restaurant in Cambridge, plus a few Maine locations. Pictures are here. Can’t wait to see the Shanty episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, air date and time still to be determined.

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