Sunday, October 24, 2010

DIY Happy Hour: Pumpkin & Spice-Infused Vodka and Pumpkin Pie Martinis

Posted by Katie

These pumpkin pie martinis are one of my favorite drinks that I've ever made. Once you get the pumpkin & spice-infused vodka out of the way, they're super simple to make. And they taste amazing—like pumpkin pie with whipped cream in a glass.

We were on our way to a costume party, hence the Halloween theme, but these martinis would be great for any girls' night held in October or November.

Pumpkin & Spice-Infused Vodka

I looked at number of recipes before attempting to make this infusion. Some used fresh raw pumpkin or cooked fresh pumpkin while others used canned pumpkin.

I'm lazy, so I decided to use canned pumpkin. It actually turned out to be more work in the end, but that's okay. Here's the recipe:

What You'll Need:
- Canned pumpkin (I used Libby's)
- Cinnamon sticks
- Nutmeg
- Glass jar/container of some sort

Step 1: Put canned pumpkin in glass jar and fill jar with vodka.
Leave at least a 1/2 inch of space on the top.

Step 3: Keep jar in fridge for at least a week, shaking jar once a day. 

Step 4: Three or four days before you plan to strain the vodka, add 3 sticks of cinnamon and a good couple pinches of nutmeg. Continue shaking regiment.

Step 5: Strain the vodka. 
This part would have been a lot easier if I hadn't used pumpkin puree...

Place drink strainer over glass, pour vodka/puree mixture into strainer, use muddler or similar tool to squeeze out liquid.

Step 5: Pour infusion back into washed-out glass jar and keep in the freezer until you're ready to drink it.

Pumpkin Pie Martinis

 What You'll Need:
- Pumpkin & spice-infused vodka (recipe above)
- Half & Half
- Brown sugar
- Ground cinnamon
- Ground nutmeg
- Cane sugar
(Pumpkin Spice liquor pictured, but not need for this recipe)

Step 1: Make brown sugar simple syrup.

Stir 1 cup of brown sugar and 1 cup of water over medium heat until it just starts to boil. Turn off heat and let cool.

Step 2: Combine 1 part pumpkin & spice-infused vodka, 1 part half & half, and 1 part simple syrup over ice in shaker. Add a pinch of cinnamon and some nutmeg.

Step 3: Shake.

Step 4: Cinnamon-sugar the martini rims.
Rub the rim with a lemon rind. I forgot to buy lemon so I poured some Pumpkin Spice liquor into a dish and used that.

Combine cinnamon and sugar in a dish.

Run rims through cinnamon and sugar mixture until coated.

Step 5: Pour mixture into rimmed glass and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon.


P.S. I bought that Pumpkin Spice liquor because I was worried my infusion wouldn't have enough flavor and I wanted a back up. The liquor actually tasted more like spice than pumpkin and had a chemical aftertaste. I tried using it in the recipe above with regular vodka as a substitute for my vodka infusion and the consensus was that those martinis were nowhere near as good as the other ones. So I recommend just going the extra mile and making your own infusion. Trust me, it's worth it. 

Boston Restaurant: Brunch at The Fireplace

What: The Fireplace
Where: 1634 Beacon Street, Washington Square, Brookline
Honeys Heart: Dinner and dessert

Another day, another brunch...

Lauren is a Groupon fanatic, so she was all over The Fireplace groupon that offered $10 for $20 worth of brunch or lunch food.

There were so many things that looked good on the menu that we had a bit of a hard time figuring out what to order. We eventually decided that we should share "New England-y" things since that's what The Fireplace is known for.

We started out with the breakfast part of our brunch, Crispy Cornmeal Waffles with fresh fruit, blueberry whipped cream & Vermont maple syrup ($12).

Our lunch portion consisted of the New England Cobb Salad ($12) with grilled chicken breast, avocado & Massachusetts blue cheese.

Both were tasty, though I did enjoy the salad more than I did the waffle. (It's hard for anything to top something made with avocado in my book.) There was just nothing outstanding about either dish.

I've had dinner and dessert at The Fireplace before and I was much more impressed with those meals. So, while I don't think I'll return for brunch, I'd definitely still reccomend this spot for a special dinner or drinks and desserts at the bar.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Boston Restaurant: Brunch at Masa

Posted by Katie

What: Masa
Where: 439 Tremont Street, South End
Honeys Heart: $7.95 2-course brunch

For some reason, UP gave us a week off in October. Over my four years in college, it became tradition for me to visit Lauren at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo during that week-long break. Unfortunately, Emerson does not follow the same schedule as UP, so last October came and went without a visit to SLO.

This year, I didn't get to go to SLO either, but Lauren's visit two weekends ago made up for it!

I'd been working on a freelance article about the best brunches in Boston, so I dragged Lauren along on my research. Luckily, I don't think she minded.

First order of business: decide where to go!

Masa had made my short list, but I was skeptical about its ability to hold its own against Boston brunch institutions like Centre Street Cafe and The Paramount. So Lauren and I decided to try it out...and I'm so glad we did.

Upon being seated, we were surprised to find that Masa offers a Fiesta Brunch special from 10am-3pm on Saturdays and 10am-11pm on Sundays. The Fiesta Brunch includes two courses and unlimited coffee and tea for only $7.95. (What it says about my research skills that I didn't know about this until the menu was placed in front of me will be addressed at a later date...)

Lauren is a bit of a coffee fiend so she was quite content with the unlimited coffee deal and I enjoyed Masa's choice of orange something tea.

For our first course, Lauren ordered the bowl of fruit while I chose the Caramelized Plantain Empanada.

We ended up sharing which was fine by me because, while the empanada was very good, it was also incredibly sweet. Not sure I could have finished the whole thing on my own. (Lo was pretty sure she could have.)

For our second course, Lauren got the Eggs Benedict.

Hollandaise sauce has always sort of grossed me out but I was happy to find that Masa's Hollandaise was very light and had a hint of lime. I also enjoyed the homefries. They were meaty on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside with the perfect amount of seasoning. Delish!

For my second course, I ordered the Huevos Rancheros.

Masa serves its Huevos Rancheros as eggs over easy on top of a thin and crunchy quesadilla surrounded by black beans. Very filling and quite enjoyable.

Along with our two courses, we were also served a basket of blue corn and yellow corn cornbread with three sauces: chipotle cranberry, apricot jalapeno and maple butter.

Pretty sure we didn't eat again until dinner, we were that full. And for only $8!

We didn't get any drinks besides our complimentary coffee and tea, but Masa offers some pretty tasty-sounding brunch cocktails like the Latin Bellini ($8.50) with champagne and guava and mango puree. If you're a fan of Bloody Marys, be forewarned that Masa uses jalepenos in their recipe so theirs are nice and spicy!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Portland Happy Hour: Paragon Restaurant

Posted by Kelly

What: Paragon Restaurant
Where: 1309 NW Hoyt at 13th
When: 4:00 - 6:00 PM, Monday - Friday
Honeys Heart: Infused vodka!

In my new position as an events manager at The Sparks Group I get the pleasure of meeting with a variety of wonderful people in the Portland event industry. Last night I enjoyed an incredibly delicious happy hour at Paragon with Hailey Bernstein of Zest, a fantastic floral and event design company.

Paragon's Portland location is in the heart of the pearl on the corner of NW 13th and Hoyt. Their happy hour menu is not extensive, but it has a handful of scrumptious items that will surely leave you satisfied. We started our evening with a couple drinks (typical). I ordered the house raspberry infused vodka drop ($6) off the happy hour menu and Hailey went for a house raspberry infused vodka and soda.

After the first raspberry drop I switched to the house infused blackberry vodka drop ($6), which was also great, while Hailey stuck with her tasty and refreshing raspberry vodka and soda.

Once we decided on a cocktail we were able to focus on food. Paragon is one of Hailey's favorites and she recommended the Mini Ahi Tuna Tacos ($12) with avacado wasabi in mini taro tacos. I am so glad we ventured off the happy hour menu because these were awesome!

Off the happy hour menu we enjoyed the Herb Risotto Fritters with smoked mozzarella and romesco sauce ($5) and the Turkey Rueben Sliders with housemade bbq chips ($5). When I return to Paragon for happy hour I would be happy to have either of these again! The fritters had a deliciously cheesy gooey center with a crispy fried outside and the rueben sliders were perfect on white bread rolls.

Overall Paragon's happy hour menu isn't extremely well priced, but $6 drops isn't bad and for good quality food, atmosphere, and company I'm willing to pay a little extra every now and then. Definitely worth a visit!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Portland Restaurant: Pok Pok

Posted by Kelly

What: Pok Pok
Where: 3226 SE Division

My family and I went to Pok Pok for my birthday dinner (in June) and it was freaking delicious. Unfortunately it took me so long to post this that I don't know the name of any dish or drink that we had. My recommendation --- ask your waiter/waitress what to order. That's basically what we did and we were pleased with all of it!

Of course we started with drinks. All three were flavorful, fresh, and unique. I haven't had a drink like them before or since. I definitely recommend branching out from beer, wine or your usual cocktail to try one of their concotions.

Now for the food. I don't know the actual name for any of these dishes, but they were basically all amazing. These were chicken wings with kind of a crunchy outside that was sweet with ginger and garlic. Mmmmmm.

Below is a curry type noodle dish and I absolutely LOVE curry. I wasn't dissappointed and would be happy to order this again!

This dish had catfish in it, and I wasn't sure that I was going to like it, but (like everything else) I did.

These prawns were good, but not the best thing we ordered and not as flavorful as I had hoped. Plus it was too much work to peal off all the shells. Or maybe I'm just lazy...

This might have been my favorite pasta/shrimp/meat item we ordered. The sauce was a little sticky, but it had such a unique flavor. I probably could have eaten the whole thing by myself!

Chicken. Tender. Sauces. Not especially interesting, but very good. 

Ribs. Good. Not my favorite item, but like I said, you really can't go wrong.

Now that I have finally posted these pictures and been reminded of the superb food at this favorite SE spot I think it might be time to return!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

DIY Happy Hour: Recent Purchases

Posted by Katie

1) Absinthe spoon from The Boston Shaker.

2) Burnett's Pink Lemonade Vodka in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

3) A new mason jar to replace the one I clumsily dropped. (Actually a gift from Peg. Thanks, Peg!)

DIYs with above products to follow shortly...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Just Opened! Portland Restaurant: Little Big Burger

Posted by Kelly

What: Little Big Burger
Where: 122 NW 10th Ave
When: 11am - close, 7 days a week
Honey's Heart: Truffle salted fries!

You may have already heard of Micah Camden, an eastside restauranteur that essentially owns the corner of NE 30th and Killingsworth, and if you haven't it seems like you probably should! Owner of Yakuza, Beast, D.O.C. and Fats, Micah recently expanded his empire to the westside with the recent opening of Little Big Burger in the Pearl.

The restaurant is based on the economical model of a fast food joint, but offers substantially better quality. With a simple menu similar to that of IN-N-OUT and an attempt at novelty like that of White Castle or Pop Burger, LBB seems to be doing well so far.

Though they had a couple hiccups opening day including a smoke filled restaurant and undercooked burgers, people gave rave reviews (read them on Yelp). Their simple menu includes burgers, burgers with cheese, veggie burger, truffle salted fries, rootbeer floats, canned sodas and canned beers.  The ingredients are top quality with Cascade Natural Beef and cheese options including cheddar, swiss, chevre, or blue cheese...YUM.

My take---the burger was delicous, the fries were awesome, and my rootbeer hit the spot, but Adam and I both got a cheeseburger, fries, and a drink and our total was $16. Though it all tasted good, the loud music, open kitchen (I would like the people working to be more interesting to watch/listen to), 1/4 pound burgers, and fast food type vibe made me feel like it should be a little more affordable. I definitely plan on going back and seeing how it improves...I've heard rumer of a late night adult happy meal. Yes please!

Happy Hour Guidebook Author Spotted at Amalfi's!

Adam and I joined my grandparents for dinner at Amalfi's on NE Fremont the other night and saw Cindy Anderson, Happy Hour Guidebook author, taking photos.... I wonder what they'll be used for... Perhaps her next book?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Boston Restaurant: Tasty Burger

Posted by Katie

What: Tasty Burger
Where: 1301 Boylston street behind Fenway Park
Honeys Heart: The decor??

Nick flew out to visit me as a belated birthday gift and because we both enjoy a good burger, I thought he would be the perfect person to join me in trying Boston's newest burger joint, Tasty Burger.

Tasty Burger is located in a refurbished gas station that boasts two big garage doors that can be opened to let the fresh air in on nice, warm days. (Which won't happen again until sometime next May...if we're lucky.)

The restaurant's decor pays homage to what is apparently a famous scene from Pulp Fiction. I've never seen the movie, but I liked Tasty Burger's vibe. Laid back and fun. Perfect for a burger joint.

Nick is a huge fan of blue cheese, so he ordered the Gorgonzola Burger ($5.50).

Lots of blue cheese, just like he likes it. 

I have been having a bit of a love affair with caramelized onions, so I chose the Onion Burger ($5.50) with "cheese" and "carmelized & crisply fried" onions.

Anything topped with cheese and caramelized onions is hard to mess up in my book, and my burger did not disappoint on that front. However, the patty itself was nothing too exciting. While it was thick and juicy, most of the flavor of the burger seemed to come from the cheese and onions. When I order a burger, I want to taste that meat too. I guess next time I might just have to go with simpler toppings so the patty comes through more. Or ask for less cheese and onions. But that would be silly.

Nick and I also split the 50/50 Fries and Rings ($4) which was more than enough for the two of us.

The fries were decent and the onion strings were enjoyably crispy. Neither were especially outstanding though. 

To keep us hydrated, Nick tried the Raspberry-Rickey Slushie ($4) and I went with the Lime-Mint Slushie ($4). 

Both were quite flavorful, but as the ice melted a bit, Nick and I became distracted by the large pieces of lime pulp that we kept slurping up through our straws. Perhaps this is also some sort of reference to Tasty Burger's namesake? It was quite an unpleasant one though, and Nick and I barely finished half of our slushies before we were forced to abandon them. 

And so, while the atmosphere was fun (free pool tables in the back!) and the service fast (our burgers came out in under 10 minutes), overall, Tasty Burger was a bit of a disappointment. 

However, from their Yelp reviews, it seems that the kitchen is actively working to improve their food based on the feedback they receive from customers. I like that, so I'll probably return in a month or two to give Tasty Burger a second chance. Also, I really want to try one of their shakes. Those suckers have 4 scoops of ice cream in them. Sounds promising...

Also on the Menu
In addition to burgers, the Tasty Burger menu also features "shafts" (hotdogs), salads and chicken nuggets, and the bar serves beer and wine ($13 for a pitcher of Bud- yikes!).

$10 Student Special
Students can take advantage of the almost-not-worth it "Student Special" which features a hamburger or cheeseburger, fries and a Bud or Budlight for $10. That's a saving of  75 cents if you get the hamburger or $1.25 if you get the cheeseburger. So go with the cheese...?