Tag Archives: lgbt

Tour de Champagne brings diverse crowd of sparkling wine-lovers to Boston

Look for this story in the Feb. 4, 2010 issue of Bay Windows newspaper, New England’s largest LGBT newspaper.

The ballroom of Cambridge’s Charles Hotel is dotted with bright orange napkins from the Veuve Cliquot table on Saturday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. Murmuring, high-heeled conversation fills the room. Tuxedoed men abound, outshone only by haute couture dresses donned by their dates. The Tour de Champagne has arrived, full force, in Boston.

My foremost regret is the fact that my girlfriend has, for the chalice that will belong to her for the duration of the evening, received a champagne flute that we determine is approximately fifty percent larger than the one that has been issued to me. We take no large offense, however, and head for the champagne tasting tables, interspersed with hors d’oeuvres offerings from the finest Boston chefs.

Photo: Tour de Champagne

 

The crowded ballroom leaves little room for navigation, but it can be inferred that the evening’s hosts anticipated this, and therefore, a new champagne station appears seemingly at every turn. While Veuve Cliquot and Taittinger rule the evening, smaller, local restaurants—like Upstairs on the Square, whose Vazart Coquart Reserve Brut Blanc de Blanes Grand Cru from Berkshire Wine, Inc. was my personal favorite—receive the same attention.

During the much-anticipated dessert demonstration, my mind reels with food-based fantasies as former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier denounces the Food Network in his thick French accent, all the while whipping up a light, ephemeral blueberry cake creation—cool, spongy slices of which appear at our table seemingly out of nowhere. The group of people crowding the doors of the small business room in which the demonstration is being held is indicative of how lucky we were to pick this particular room in which to rest our (and by “our” I mean “my”) aching feet.

Former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier. Photo: Tour de Champagne

 

The 52-year-old Mesnier—whose enthusiastic, child-like demeanor belies nothing of his age—begins tossing peppermint patties emblazoned with the presidential seal out into the crowd. The game is fun until the chef’s aim improves, and soon audience members are trying to dodge the gold-wrapped candies.

The pastry demonstration, the never-ending bottles of bubbly, and the thick French accents of the champagne table attendants make the experience seem that much more authentic for those who were lucky enough to attend Boston’s leg of the Tour de Champagne.

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Phoebe’s Favorite (Phavorite?): Asparagus Medley with Cashews

Over the summer when I was staying with my family in Connecticut, my sister and I would always get hungry at the same time every afternoon. The women in my family share uncanny similarities in cravings and body type: for example, each one from my grandmother to my sister (myself included) craves ice-cold water first thing in the morning. Strange how certain things can be passed down.

Anyway, I’d been interested in cooking with asparagus, and decided to try it one July afternoon. Because it wasn’t asparagus season anymore, we added red peppers to counteract the bitterness of the asparagus. The best asparagus is harvested around April. It’s a good idea to stock up on locally grown, pesticide-free asparagus in April and freeze it right away. It will keep, and if you use frozen asparagus, you can snap the spears into pieces and throw them right into the pan; you don’t have to worry about letting them thaw!

May is a great time of year for this dish because it welcomes summer in a great way as a before-dinner snack or a meal’s side dish (try pairing it with chicken or another light meat, and remember, meat should be treated as a side dish rather than the main course.) Of course, during this time of year, there’s no better way to greet an Indian summer!

Recipe after the jump…

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Reconciliation Chocolate Cake

This is the chocolate cake that will fix/solidify/start your relationship (if chocolate has any sway whatsoever over you or your ladyfriend, which is more often than not the case with people who possess a palate and taste buds.) In my experience, the magnitude of the taste and the presumed investment of time in the preparation are enough to bring together two women in love, even if they’ve parted before. When combined with the careful application of tealight candles and the Amelie soundtrack, this is just the right recipe to wow your ex all the way back into your bed.

And (trust me) make-up sex after chocolate this divine is…great.

The school of thought regarding Molten Chocolate Cakes is contentious, at best. A New York City chef claimed to have invented the recipe by accident in 1987 when he removed a chocolate cake from the oven before it had cooked completely and decided to serve it anyway, having found that the center was moist and gooey. A group of French chefs quickly contested, claiming that their country’s culinary elite had invented the recipe years before. Regardless, it’s delicious. And surprisingly easy!

This particular recipe is adapted from one I found on Food & Wine’s website (one of my favorites.)

Also, I recommend using Corningware’s ramekins, which come with an attachable lid. You can bake, store, and reheat while only dirtying one dish! I found mine at a local hardware store, believe it or not.

Buy these:

– 1 stick of unsalted butter (plus a little extra for the ramekins)

– 1/2 tablespoon cake or pastry flour

– 1/4 pound bittersweet chocolate chips (I have to recommend Ghiradelli here–it’s worth the extra pennies!)

– 1/4 cup vegan cane sugar (regular sugar will work as well)

– 2 large whole eggs (look for lovely ones at your local farmer’s market! I found mine in Copley Square on Fridays)

– 2 large egg yolks

– cocoa powder/confectioner’s sugar (optional; for dusting)

Do this:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 16-ounce ramekins.

2. Melt the butter with the chocolate chips (if you happen to have a gas stove like mine, this will happen alarmingly fast. I recommend setting out the other ingredients carefully before this step.)

3. Once melted, whisk the butter and chocolate with a wire whisk or with a fork. Add the sugar, whole eggs, egg yolks, and flour and continue to whisk until well-blended, with only a few small lumps.

4. Pour the mixture into the ramekins and bake (uncovered) for ten to fifteen minutes, or until the edges of the cakes have solidified and become crusty, but the center is still quite near-gelatinous. It must have some sort of stiffness though, or else you run the risk of food-borne illness from the eggs.

5. Allow to cool for at least one minute. This dessert is wonderful to make ahead, refrigerate, and then put back into the oven (at 100 degrees) approximately ten minutes before serving. The cakes can be served in the ramekins, or upside-down with confectioner’s sugar or unsweetened cocoa sprinkled on top (knowing my ex the way I did, I served the cakes with Ben & Jerry’s “sprinkled on top.” And yes, it worked.)

I think it was my grandmother, or another matronly older woman, who told me during my formative years that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. While I don’t know much about the male heart (or stomach for that matter), I do know that chocolate can heal certain things. This isn’t a lesbian relationship cure-all, but it will certainly put you on the path — or at least wow the pants off of your lady.

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Ryan’s Stuffed Peppers

I was in western Mass. this past weekend visiting my ex-girlfriend and a couple very good friends from college. On Friday night, Kristie and I got invited to a small dinner party thrown by my friends Ryan and Caroline at their home. It was a cool evening, so we ate inside. Ryan and Carlo created an amazing spread of spicy Swedish meatballs, homemade tomato sauce, and insalata caprese (complemented by basil from the Mount Holyoke College student garden), to name just a few. Oh yes, and plenty Merlot!

Ryan is one of the most cooking-fluent women I know, and we exchanged our best Julia Child impressions over her now-famous stuffed peppers. I remember asking her where she got the recipe, and she made a reference to some index card or other. I spotted it later in her kitchen while her boyfriend and I were doing dishes (as well as singing a rousing rendition of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ which did not go over very well to those in the living room reading Leonard Cohen poetry aloud)—a stained, damp, wrinkled piece of paper covered in notes and exclamation points (“Cook rice—DO THIS FIRST!!!”), the way I imagine all good recipes start.

This is my version of Ryan’s stuffed peppers. The modifications for this dish are endless. Add white rice, tomato sauce, and chili peppers, and you have a Mexican meal perfect for a summer night. Sub squash and carrots for an early autumn plate. It’s also a great alternative to a stir-fry when you have a ton of random vegetables…anything works, really.

A quick note about heirloom tomatoes (this recipe calls for a Hungarian Oval). Heirlooms have been classically bred and passed down (usually via the family garden) for decades to preserve their rich taste rather than their abilities to withstand harsh pesticides or conform to what we think a tomato “should” look like. Many variations get lost in the folds of time. Become a part of the revival! Ask for them at your grocery store, and keep an eye out for them at your local farmers market. Also, check out the Heirloom Tomato Cookbook for some great ideas. (Recipe after the jump).

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Midnight Alfredo with Broccoli

Okay, okay, it wasn’t midnight. It was around nine, but it felt like midnight.

This recipe produces a very rich alfredo sauce that might be a little more watery than what you’re used to. The flavor is light, but powerful. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the ingredients; trust your nose! Cooking is an organic process and recipes are designed to change—and I’d love to hear about any modifications you do for this one!

Speaking of organic processes, I have to recommend that you try to find the freshest ingredients possible. The closer to your home that they’re grown, the better. And—it’s true—organic isn’t a bad idea either.

I know cost is a concern for many people (it is for me, too). But don’t worry! By buying smart and cooking more of your food at home, you can end up saving money.

Not only that, but 80 cents out of every dollar spent on produce from local farmers markets or produce stands goes directly to the farmer. Only 20 cents ends up in their hands when you purchase your produce at chain grocery stores, including Whole Foods.

Whole Foods’ redeeming quality is that they do feature a lot of locally grown produce (look for the orange or yellow signs). If you can’t find local produce at your grocer, ask. It does make a difference.

Enough about that. Let’s cook. (Recipe after the jump.)

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On Bottled Water

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I have a confession: I love my Brita. It’s not one of those fancy ones that attaches to your sink faucet or anything—it’s just a pitcher that filters my tap water…or so I thought.

The science behind it is actually a little more complicated than that. The activated carbon and ion-exchange resin remove impurities like chlorine, lead, copper, mercury, cadmium, and zinc that can reside in tap water, according to Brita’s website.

What most people don’t know is that drinking tap water can be a healthier and economically wiser choice than bottled. The production of mainstream plastic bottles (Aquafina, Dasani, Evian, Volvic, etc.) requires up to 47 million gallons of oil per year. The multinational journey that many of these products take more or less cancels out the petroleum that’s saved by the fraction of these that are recycled. National Geographic reported on the Earth Policy’s Institute’s 2006 study, revealing that bottled water costs more than gasoline per gallon. (More on water safety after the jump).

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On Aprons

I had a boyfriend once (yes, this was before I found my true calling in the lap of, well, her name wasn’t Luxury, but I thought she was pretty damn close at the time) who liked to use the phrase “dishwasher white” in reference to the bleached aprons his mother and sisters wore while cooking—the aprons, it was insinuated, that I would also one day don in anticipation of a day spent before a stove, anxiously awaiting my husband’s return from work and his subsequent nourishment from the fruits of my feminine labor.

In the midst of the standard confusion I experienced in my pre-Sapphic days, the phrase “dishwasher white” struck a chord, probably because this guy tended to use it in a derogatory way. Women wore aprons in the appealing shade of “dishwasher white” because they were women, irrevocably bound to the kitchen and to the duties of good wife and good mom.

As a kid, I wore aprons to help my mom cook (when the rare occasion arose) and wore the same ones to finger-paint in the driveway, bake rubber Creeper Crawlers with my brother, and for every other ambiguously gendered messy kid activity you can think of. The colors of the aprons varied (they usually ended up covered in paint anyway), but I did have one that was white. It was full length, and covered in lace, a relic from my family’s history—a great-grandmother’s, maybe.

I wore my great-grandmother’s apron again last time I was at my parents’ house, while baking gluten-free cookies for a friend’s birthday. The extra effort and careful checking of ingredients necessitated by this friend’s Celiac disease were acts of love in and of themselves, produced via kitchen. Did I love the way producing something good and real and appreciated with my own two hands made me feel? Yes. Did I love the maternal feelings rising in me with the heat of the oven? Yes. Did I also love the way the apron’s lace brushed my ankles when I moved? You can bet your spatula I did.

Over the years, I’ve grown to love cooking for others (roommates, friends, ex-girlfriends, lovers) while simultaneously resenting the implications of that action: am I a homemaker? A future housewife? An independent, free-thinking feminist lesbian?

The answer to each of those questions is yes, and I’ve come to learn that not all of the above-mentioned labels are a necessarily a bad thing. The subversive act of queer cooking tackles the homegrown sensibility that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. I tend to stay in that particular room until late at night chopping vegetables, listening to olive oil pop and sizzle in the pan, and taking deep breaths with my eyes closed until my feet start to ache. However, I also spend time in the office, at the park, enveloped in throngs of people at a protest, and queerly subverting another act in bed (more about that later). And yes, I have been known to wear an apron or two.

This is my coming out story as a lesbian who loves to cook.

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