Friday, February 20, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Grotto of Redemption

After being accused of pessimism (after all, a move to Iowa can also be seen as an "adventure" of sorts!) I decided to look into the local sites. Did you know that the "Eighth Wonder of the World" is located right in the rural town of West Bend, Iowa? That's right on par with Machu Picchu, The Great Wall of China, and Angkor Wat in Cambodia (locations also claimed as the "8th Wonder" - surely by those who had never been to Iowa!) You certainly don't get this kind of religious devotion in Massachusetts:

The Grotto is a composite of nine separate Grottos, each portraying a scene in the life of Christ. The Grotto includes the largest collection of precious stones and gems found anywhere in one location. The artistry has to be seen to be appreciated, plus the message it gives is beyond words. It is frequently considered as the "Eighth Wonder of the World." The Grotto has been placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 2001. The Iowan Magazine has described the Grotto as a "Miracle in Stone".

My boyfriend wanted to be sure we would not have to go to West Bend to see the infamous "grotto." I assured him that I had no interest...

SUCH a lie. I'm totally checking this place out!


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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Moosehide mukluks

One thing I dread about moving to the midwest is the cold. I don't like cold weather. Despite having grown up in the Boston area, windchill and ice are not my friend. Granted, I did walk half an hour each way to work for at least 4 winters. There was that one winter it got so cold people were told not to leave their homes except for emergencies. Rather than listen to this seemingly sound advice, I donned extra layers of long underwear, wrapped my face with a muffler, and popped open several of those self-warming packets you find at EMS. By the time I got to work, the handwarmers were cold and crunchy.

Those days of bravery are so over. Now, if the weather drops anywhere below freezing I'll gladly stay home with a cup of tea and my computer. There are perks to being in graduate school.

Hunting around the web I managed to find some tips on staying warm in the midwest. However warmth does not equal stylish. This might be a problem. Then again, if it's subzero temps with -80 windchill, maybe I won't care so much about how I look. I actually wouldn't mind a pair of mukluks - they certainly can't be any worse than Ugg boots!


Images lifted from and

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hot Dish Heaven

Faced with the distinct possibility of relocating to Iowa in the very near future, I decided to look into the possibility of a local cuisine:

There is a pork tenderloin sandwich, made of tenderloin, which is pounded flat, breaded and deep fried, then served on a hamburger bun with ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and dill pickle slices - sort of like a schnitzel burger maybe? Supposedly, this dish originated from the large German population, which first populated Iowa. Creamed corn is also a local specialty.


Well, I suppose this is better than those "hot dishes" made with Cambell's soup. Then again, it's not Chicago either.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hungry Mother

Tonight I finally had a chance to try out the Hungry Mother, located in Cambridge, MA. After trekking through arctic winds, I arrived at the small, cozy restaurant and was greeted with a napkin to wipe down my frosted glasses.

We started off with an order of the Allan Brenton's Country Ham served with 'angel' biscuits and pepper jelly. These turned out to be little mini biscuits, light, buttery and perfect for the thinly sliced serano-like ham. They went down easy like wee appetizer poppers.

Next we tried the Shrimp & Grits - little Maine rock shrimp with hm tasso ham, new orleans barbeque, and cornbread croutons. The shrimp tasted fresh and flavorful in the sweet, smokey barbeque sauce. The grits were tasty and not too heavy, and the tiny squares of crispy cornbread added just the right amount of crunch to the dish. I could have licked the bowl.

The French Style Gnocchi with foraged mushrooms, kale, butternut squash broth and sage was possibly my favorite dish. The little perfectly shaped gnocchi were lightly, flavorful and perfectly balanced by the delicious mushrooms, the slightly bitter kale and fantastic broth. I loved every bite.

The Fried Chesapeake Bay Oysters with 'kohlslaw', tobasco and lemon were also fantastic. They arrived hot and crispy, but light and oyster-y on the inside. My only caveat about this dish is that the breading and tobasco may have overpowered the oyster flavor just a little.

We finished it all off with the Lemon Chess Pie with buttermilk ice cream, and earl grey caramel. The pie had a perfect crust - hot, light and buttery with a lemon-curd like filling. The buttermilk ice cream perfectly complemented the slight tartness of the dessert. It was better than I'd expected - and not at all what I'd expected. I would order this again in a heartbeat.

And of course, the Hungry Mother is also known for it's classic cocktails. The no. 43 with old overholt rye, 10 yr ferreira tawny port, maple syrup, and bitters was perfectly balanced and delicious. A bit on the sweet side for rye, but the flavors really pulled out that 'rye' flavor, which I liked. There was just the right amount of maple syrup - enough to flavor the drink, but not overpower it.

Service was attentive and friendly. I think the owner or maître d' even stopped by to ask us how our meal had been. Be sure to reserve ahead - this tiny spot tends to pack up in the evenings. There are seats at the bar, but I've heard these can pack up as well.

I'll be dreaming of that gnocchi tonight...and the pie...and the cocktails...


Image lifted from

The Hungry Mother
233 Cardinal Medeiros Ave
Cambridge, MA 02141
(617) 499-0090

World Nutella Day

Guess what?! Today is WORLD NUTELLA DAY!!!

How to participate?

Make a recipe using Nutella. Eat Nutella with a spoon. A big one. Make art with Nutella. Wax poetic about Nutella. Cuddle with Nutella. Strike a pose with Nutella. Re-live your first experience eating Nutella. Offer Nutella as a sacrifice. Have a Nutella-eating contest or a Nutella party!

Find out what kind of Nutella Lover you are on Ms. Adventures in Italy! (I am probably a Spooner or a Dipper.) If you think you have a Nutella "problem" please see Bleeding Espresso for signs of addiction.

Be sure to check out the many Nutella recipes at risk of being labeled by Ms. Adventures as a Chef Nutella Lover:

The Chef (aka In Denial). This person has a high degree of self-imposed control and prefers not to eat Nutella in its natural form, but cooked or baked into other dishes. Not because they don’t like the taste of Nutella on its own, but because they like it too much and are afraid of themselves in the Spooner or Naturalist forms.

Happy Nutella Day!!!


Image and quote lifted from, and

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

V-Day special: Dom Pérignon

How decadently sweet is this: a Dom Pérignon LOVE gift pack, complete with champagne glasses designed by Swiss artist, Sylvie Fleury, and a bottle of Vintage Rosé 1998.

What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than with a really really expensive bottle of pink champagne? No worries about getting lipstick on your champagne flute - these arrive pre-smudged!


Image lifted from

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Superbowl Alternatives

I'll admit, I'm not too excited about the Superbowl this year. If the Pats aren't playing, I lose interest quickly. So when someone asked what I was up to on Sunday, I completely forgot there was even a game happening!

In any case, I've already made plans for the earlier part of the evening. Calamity Jane and I are going to infuse our favorite blogger friend with some good old fashioned fun. We actually aren't entirely sure what we're getting ourselves into, but I think it will be entertaining. It's a surprise, so I can't give away details just yet!

Here are some hints:

1. It's cheap

2. It does not involve alcohol

3. It will likely involve food (but only one kind)


Cuchi Cuchi

Being such a fan of Dali's, I was really looking forward to trying out its sister restaurant, Cuchi Cuchi. The cute little spot has an excellent selection of delicious-sounding cocktails (I couldn't drink, but my friends all gushed over the Blood Orange Sidecars and the Happiness Cocktails - had I not been on these proton-pump inhibitors, I would have gone NUTS over this extensive drink menu.) The ambience was more spacious and light than at Dali's. I especially loved the beautiful stained glass windows behind the bar (from the 1890's and formally housed in a Chicago.)

The only drawback to this place is that you are not allowed to sit in the restaurant area unless everyone orders an entree - as a result, later in the evening the bar area gets backed and the tables empty out. We patiently waited until a bar table opened up and then planted ourselves for the rest of the evening.

We began with the Caspian Heaven (Russia), with a roasted fingerling potato, crispy, fried oysters, creme fraiche, salmon roe & champagne sauce. This was good. I ate half the plate myself. We also had the classic sizzling garlic shrimp dish, which was very similar to the Dali's version. The shrimp wontons (China) had a mixed following. I loved them - light shrimp filled wonton wrappers, boiled not fried, with a sliver of pickled ginger on top. My friends were not huge fans - the ginger was a little overpowering. The Brie en Croûte, was basically a baked brie in puff pastry with walnuts and bacon. I couldn't really taste the walnuts or the bacon, but the brie was great on the hot rolls that came with our meal. The Duck a l'Orange Crepes (France) were possibly my favorite dish (although I should tell you about dessert) w/citrus & fennel vinaigrette. The duck was moist, flavorful and extremely "meaty" wrapped in a deliciously light crepe with a hint of orange in that citrus sauce. Yum! I avoided the Cuban Cigar, which had beef short ribs wrapped in dough w/black bean salsa. The dish looked unusually phallic and heavy so I stuck with the other dishes instead. My friends were not especially impressed by the flavor of this dish.

Disappointingly, the side dishes, a "middle eastern" Rice Pilaf, and Gratin Dauphinois (France), had very unappealing flavors or lack of flavors. I would not bother with these at all. Stick with the warm bread rolls instead.

For dessert we tried the tiramisu - light and authentic-tasting, but too heavy on the rum. The chocolate cake with liquor-infused cherries was TO DIE FOR. This was possibly the most delicious chocolate cake I have had for as long as I can remember. The cake was warm, moist and chocolately - not too sweet and perfectly complimented by the booze-y cherries. Fabulous. I would go back just for the cake (and the crepes!)


Image lifted from

Cuchi Cuchi
795 Main Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
Tel: 617.864.2929