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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Review: Winchester Country Club

In the big picture of life, I generally think it's the little things that matter, because the big things are beyond your control. With that in mind, I will dedicate this entire blog post to the wonder of Chef Charles Grandon's cooking, because although it may not mean much in the grand scheme of things, it's the least I can do for his generosity and thoughtfulness this weekend.

Back story: For my final project in culinary school, we were tasked with making the "perfect meal," which, for me is an assortment of my favorite Chinese dishes: Peking duck, Red-braised pork belly and egg tarts. The actual menu ended up being a little different because I had a three-hour window to cook everything, I really wanted to try and mix things up a bit, wanted to tell a bit of a story about myself and my cooking and my 'journey' and make inexpensive, delicious food. My final meal ended up Peking duck confit, Red-braised pork back and a de-constructed Portuguese egg tart. The pork was particularly well-received and Chef Grandon asked for the recipe to use at his club.

My fab friend Kevin and I bugged the chef to go to the club until he relented (we totally did too) and we were expecting to go to the club just to taste the dish quietly in the kitchen, but amazingly, we ended up with a fantastic meal. What a great night!

We had to get dressed up because Saturday nights in the dining room require men to wear jackets, so Kevin put on a suit and I wore a white dress and walked into the most old-school, New England, upper-crust club ever. Kevin joked we'd be the only minorities in there, the Asian and her homo... he wasn't kidding. We stuck out a bit, but not so much that it distracted from the food.

We had a quick cocktail in the bar area (G+T for him, whiskey sour for me) and chatted before being escorted into the dining room. Chef popped out to tell us we should do the full menu with wine and feel free to be wined and dined. Clearly, neither of us were going to say no, so we cracked open the menu and saw this:


Is that the nicest thing ever?! Loved that he took the time to make sure that was on the menu... even if it's not a consistent item on the menu, it was very sweet of him to do it for me on the night.

Kevin and I ordered, they poured us some sparkling wine and out came the pork...

It was so good. He had left the skin on the pork so it had that chewy, thick texture that made it even more luxurious. The addition of the risotto cake and stir-fried greens made every bite taste like the perfect Chinese-food bite. A resounding success!

Next was a lovely, crisp salad before we had lamb kidney chops. They were HUGE and looked so good that it completely slipped my mind to take a photo before I had a bite, but you should get the idea:


They were HUGE and delicious and so hard to finish because it was SO much food and we were drinking a LOT of wine (and by we, I mean me, because I'm pretty sure I drank the whole bottle of 2006 Longboard Russian River Pinot Noir - awesome! - by myself).

We had a warm chocolate cake with butter pecan ice cream for dessert, which while delicious, nearly made us explode with food. We ended up chatting with Charles for a while and taking a tour of the club's kitchen and other dining areas. By time we finally left, Kevin and I were drowsy from fullness and booze and so very happy.

The big tragedy of it all was that we'll likely never eat at the club again and Charles is easily the best chef in Boston. There was a refined quality to the food that made sense and wasn't pretenous, the food was perfectly cooked and seasoned but also full of complexity, depth and flavor. It was everything a beautiful dinner should be because Charles and the great staff at the club get it... they were snooty or bitchy like the people at Gary Danko, the food was interesting, fun and delicious international fare like Masa, and, the entire experience and wine pairing was thoughtful like French Laundry.

If you ever have the chance, get a membership to the Winchester Country Club and have dinner there often... and invite me.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Guest blog: Pigs in a blanket

I've been crazy busy lately and feeling a little overwhelmed, so I tasked my other half to do some guest blogging for me this week. I'm happy to say that Jason happily stepped up and stayed true to himself by making things that are quintessentially part of who he is... so first up in his guest blogging: pigs in a blanket.

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I always have enjoyed good old fashioned 'white people' food (Lilly's note: Jason sometimes forgets that he's the ultimate 'white guy'). I found out that Lilly had never had pigs in a blanket after talking about my favorite treats with her. It’s a really simple snack; all you need is pastry dough and processed lil’ wieners.

In order to make 32 pigs in a blanket you will need a 14 oz pack of lil’ wieners and two packs of 13 oz (8ct.) crescent rolls. Yes, each pre-made.

Pre-heat the over to 350F and get out two non-stick 12”x18” baking sheets. No need for oiling the sheets, these should detach once cooler and swiped up with a spatula. Ok fine, spray it, just in case.

Pop open the packs and take out the dough. Unroll the dough from its tubular shape and separate the dough wedges. With a knife cut all of the triangular wedges in half keeping a triangular shape. You’ll be left with a pointy slit on one end and a wider on the backside.

Once finished cutting you can start rolling those pigs in their blankets. Take out one wiener and one wedge, place the lil wiener perpendicular to the wedge at the wide end and roll until the narrow edge is left on top. This should be pretty symmetrical, but be creative. You can’t mess it up. As you finish rolling each, line them up on the pans. They should be uniform with space between each other. They expand about 15% when baking.


Place the sheets into the oven for 12 minutes. At that point check them to see if they’re ready. The kitchen will smell like a pastry and buttery, and the wieners will become golden brown. You may have to leave them be for an extra 3 minutes after checking on them. Also be sure to the inner section against the actual wiener is crispy. Lilly and I had the issue of a doughy inner pasty. Once cooked take out and let cool for 3 minutes.

Remove from the pan and serve with your favorite condiments.