Sunday, April 28, 2013

Boston Terminal Market

This morning at 5am (briefly after the crack of dawn), I set off to the border of Chelsea and Everett to the Boston Terminal Market. Definitionally, a terminal market is a central point for assembly and trade of commodities. In the case for Boston, this one predominantly deals with fresh produce. Basically it's where truckloads of fresh produce arrives from Mexico, Florida, and other warmer places and where it's cleaned, packed, and shipped off to local supermarkets, north to Canada, and other markets, restaurants, or venues in the immediate and not so immediate areas. Heads up, anyone can come in here and get their food wholesale if they wanted to! 

There, we sat in with a USDA representative who schooled us on market prices and trends for produce. I don't think I've ever met a government worker more passionate about his job. We then had the opportunity to walk through the market, but because it was already 9am, most of the rush already died down. We first visited a tomato business who imports most of their varieties from Florida or south of the border. Once it reaches Boston, they refrigerate them, clean them, sort them by size and color, and box them for delivery.  The celery processing business we visited after was similar, but there's a lot more to be done with celery before you see them the way they do in your assorted veggie dip plates. It's a combination assembly line of mechanical and physical washing, cutting, sorting, and packing. I honestly do not know how these people do it day in and day out and how food can still cost so little (well, I do, but let's not get into it...), so next time you eat a vegetable, just try to reflect upon how many hands have come across it before yours!   

Boston Terminal Market 
34 Market Street 
Everett, MA 02149

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cafe du Monde, New Orleans

Have you ever had a beignet? Beignets are fluffy pillows of fried dough dusted with powdered sugar. It sounds simple, but the soft slightly chewy interior is hard to master and it's only good when eaten hot and fresh out of the fryer. Popularized in Louisiana by French colonists, the beignet is now a staple of Creole cuisine. 

When you visit the French Quarter in New Orleans, you have to visit Cafe du Monde. It's been in the same location since 1862, serving the best beignets and the popularized cafe au lait. In New Orleans, a cafe au lait is much more than just coffee with steamed milk. At Cafe du Monde, they also mix the coffee with chicory, giving it a more bitter taste that is offset with the milk or the sugary fluffy pillows of perfection. There’s no better match. 

After a walk through the French Market, a stop at Cafe du Monde for a beignet and cafe au lait is a must! During the days, the takeout counter can get crowded, so I recommend getting a table (the turnover is quick). It's worth it, and it's the a lively corner to enjoy an afternoon break and to watch the traffic or marching bands on Decatur Street. But even if you have a beignet craving in the middle of the night, no worries! This cafe is opened 24/7. 

Cafe du Monde
1039 Decatur St
New Orleans, LA 70116

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Beachwood Cafe Hollywood California

When I was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, I booked a horseback riding tour in Hollywood, California. The tour was a great 6 mile, 2 hour trail up Griffith Park, all on horseback. Given LA traffic, even though we left two hours earlier, we were still cramped for time because we needed to fit in breakfast before the tour. On our drive up to Hollywood, the area got more and more residential, and we were getting concerned that we would not be finding breakfast anywhere in the vicinity. About a mile away from Sunset Ranch, we saw a sign that said CAFE and thought it was promising enough to stop in. At least they would have coffee and some baked goods, right? 

Well, good thing I saw that sign because this was the cutest cafe I have been in awhile. They have only been opened for about a year, which was apparent by all the clean furnishings and well kept interior. The walls and floors were all modern and comfortable patterns, and the tables and other furniture were a warm wood. Furthermore, it was more than just a cafe. They had a real breakfast menu, which clearly won many points in my book.

Things we ate:
- Beachwood: scrambled eggs, spicy turkey sausage, jack/cheddar, pico de gallo, avocado, sour cream --solid breakfast with the touch of Mexican influence I was hoping to experience in my LA eating. 
- Laurel: two poached eggs over greens braised in moroccan spices, harrisa (no potatoes, under 300 cal) --when they say over greens, they mean over a bed of kale that overpowers the eggs 3:1. But since I love vegetables, it was all good. However, I cannot imagine my dad finishing this at all. 
- Two gama farm eggs: any style with bacon-- nothing special here. My brother is boring. 

All in all, great breakfast before our strenuous horseback ride (hey, it takes a LOT of quad strength to stay on a horse). If you're ever in the area, definitely give this place a try. They even sell mason jar sippy cups, which I was very tempted to grab a few of. Even better, a mile up from there is where Sunset Ranch is and where a lot of people start their Griffith Park hikes, so better to start with a strong breakfast here before a day long trek!


Beachwood breakfast

Sunset Ranch Hollywood
Hollywood sign behind us!

Beachwood Cafe
2695 N Beachwood Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90068

Sunset Ranch Hollywood
3400 N Beachwood Dr
Hollywood, CA 90068

Monday, April 1, 2013

Taza Chocolate Factory Tour, Somerville

Unbeknownst to me, I signed up for a tour of Taza Chocolate on Easter Sunday. Since nothing goes better with Easter than chocolate (who actually enjoys eating peeps?), it was the best coincidence ever. 

You probably recognize Taza's stone ground chocolate by their unique circular discs that can be purchased at any Whole Foods Market and at many stores supporting local production in the Boston area. What is amazing about their story is that they started up in Somerville the same year I did (2007) and have expanded multitudes since. Gone are the days of roasting cacao beans in the founder's kitchen oven, but they are still wrapping all their rectangular barred chocolates by hand! 

Our 45 minutes tour was led by Josh, a very passionate chocolate aficionado, and though it was interesting learning about how cacao is harvested, fermented, and processed, their dealings in direct trade and use of Mexican stone ground methods are definitely what give Taza its edge. The majority of their chocolate is directly exchanged from farm co-ops in the Dominican Republic that provides solely to Taza in Somerville. The beans are then all processed, shaped, wrapped (sometimes by hand), and then shipped out from the very factory I was standing in. 

If you like chocolate, you should give Taza a visit. You get to sample a lot of their chocolates during the tour and in the store, which is obviously the best part. Their unique stone ground treatment of the beans give their chocolate a gritty texture that may be different than the European smoothness that you're used to, and as Josh brilliantly stated, "we're kind of like Willy Wonka's Mexican organic cousin."

Their tours are held in their factory in Somerville for $5 a person and reservations are required online. 

Our tour guide Josh schooling us in how to get from tree to bar
The storage site of all the beans from shipped in from the DR
The machinery to unshell the beans, and our guide in full hair/bear net gear
Cacao nibs, peeled and crumbled cacao beans
Where the wrapping happens
Josh with one of the stone slabs used in grinding 
Samples of the house-made lemon vanilla cold chocolate

Taza Chocolate Factory Store
561 Windsor Street
Somerville, MA 02143