Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Night of Frights - a Blair Witch style race

3k trail run, in the dark, wearing a headlamp (right?!), with creep factor at full throttle.

Purgatory Party with brew, food and music for racers and specters, I mean spectators Muuaaahhhh .

At Amesbury Sports Park on Saturday, October 27. First heat at 6pm.

$50 to race, $15 to party, $10 if you party in a costume.

Ps get $5 off the race with this code "scaredtodeath". This will be an event to keep you sleeping with the lights on for days.

Vendors welcome - please email for details

Registration and details here:

Salem Beer works yumminess

El paso chicken salad with avocado, red grapes, spicy candied pecans, spring greens, cumin dressing. Big thumbs up

Friday, September 28, 2012

Gloucester Glitterati at Franklin Cape Ann - our monthly American Salon

Gloucester Glitterati at Franklin Cape Ann - our monthly American Salon 

Another delectable dinner with food and wine as luscious as the dialogue, the monthly meeting of the Gloucester Glitterati is the highlight of my culinary and cultural month - and I do spend a lot of time feeding my hunger for these, my life's pursuit of all things delicious and stimulating.This month's dinner was at my personal local "go to" the Franklin Cape Ann.  Having worked here as one of many, many stops along the path in my lifetime of  food and beverage service, the vibe has always felt right for me here, and the relationship I have with Maria Seniti Figurido, the manager-come-owner,  a wife and mother, but once my 25 year old boss regaling me with tales of Boston nightlife as I slid in sideways with the harried look that young mothers never quite shake, I feel like the Franklin and I, Maria, my husband, her siblings, the kids and many of the staff, we've grown up together here over the 13 years the martini glass has hung above their Main Street threshold.  I have an affinity for this place.
Maria couldn't be here, presumably because she has these little people now taking the place of her chic city jaunts, yet her attendance and her attention was felt, with all that tricky cosmopolitan neighborhoody familiarity that makes the Franklin a special kind of regulars place.Chilled Ronin Prosecco, compliments of the house, was waiting for us to arrive.  The most attentive server, Grace spent her evening waiting patiently for the rare pauses in the absolutely electrified current of conversation about projects, honey, Las Vegas, Julia Child, Cambridge, Scrimshaw, craft beer, power tools, potato salad, teenagers, haircuts and Amsterdam. I'd suggest we do this more than once a month, there's always so much to catch up on, but then, that would take away from the time we need for the "doing" of these things.A crisp and light Sepp Mosser Gruener Veltiner accompanied our choice of Lobster dumplings with an Asian dipping sauce, the zucchini matchstick salad with generous slices of Pecorino cheese (I make this one at home weekly) and toasted almond in a sweet balsamic gastrique and the Franklin's tuna tartar with citron blanc , greens and crisp little toasts which left us guessing about just what makes this such a signature dish - is it miso paste? I'll ask, though I'd guess it's not an answer I'll get.
Between courses we caught up on the amazing projects and adventures of our hip little membership.  Melissa is making baskets and endeavoring to make her own scrimshaw  from butcher-bought cow bones. This seems that much less exotic and hard to imagine after a few anecdotes about her life in church, as a hippy Eurotraveler and on a boat.  We all agreed, she can really do anything, and has already lived perhaps twice the adventures of one person's lifetime.Heather gave us the back story on her recent piece on Julia Child, and delighted us with her own personal moments as a favorite server to the unassuming, positively human and real culinary noisemaker.  Julia once introduced Heather, quite casually, to Robert Mondavi, surveying her as to her opinion on how one might  successfully convey quality in the craft of wine making when one is able to produce wine at the volume of house Mondavi.  She waited, with great interest, for Heather's contribution to resolving this small problem.  Just like Julia.
No less dazzling, Laurie is off to a 3 day cooking competition in Las Vegas for a shoot out on her American Caprese Potato Salad for Russer's.  This as not the only event she will compete in, but she asserts, and we believe her, "it's fine".  No biggie, really. In fact, her only jitters, though there's tens of thousands of dollars in the table (pun intended), is a worry over the plating - how will those tomatoes look on a gold plate, and how can our food fighter pack to resolve this nagging food styling nightmare.  Oh, and there's the matter of having to modify her own recipe for the tomato pie cook off on Saturday, as the hosting food producer already owns her recipe, so it's off limits.  Small potatoes.  (Couldn't resist)

The Patz and Hall Pinot Noir we ordered for out entree course arrived just in time for an unexpected intermisso from the house. And it matched up perfectly. Chef Daniel de Olivera treated us to a mushroom risotto that tops the list of "most wonderful things I'll eat this winter" . Coarse black pepper and bright scallions balanced the fresh and the earthy in a way that made every bite a challenge in good table manners. It was hard to resist audibly celebrating this dish with each mouthful.  

For our entree course we chose the tangy , light and delicately crunchy Franklin fish taco and the creamy cod with oyster mushrooms. This is my idea of  the perfect"surf and turf",  the pescavor's alpha entree - fish that eats like steak.  It's a good thing the dish is generous, because despite the multiple selections that preceded this our final course, the forks at the Gloucester Glitterati dinner table made quick work of the cod.  

Full, inspired, and laughed out, we left the Franklin Cape Ann for our homes and families, to share the photos and the tales, to wait for each writer's spin to come out as a digital testament to the power of perspective   Will hand sanding whale bone make it into Heather's post? Or the unfortunate incidence of home hairstyling in pre-teen girls? I guess we'll have to wait and see, and maybe do it at the gym.
l-R Jennifer Goulart Amero, Melissa Abbott, Heather Atwood and Laurie Lufkin

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Craft beer - a celebration of our love of local and homemade

Craft Beer - a celebration of our love of local and homemade

My friend Kelly Fleming Larosa has the coolest job ever.  She is the Director of Craft Beer for Merrimack Valley Distributing, meaning she is the supreme goddess of all things hoppy for the specialty arm of this local beer and booze purveyor.

And with the craft trend blowing up as it is, the absolute epitome of the new American focus on things natural, neighborhoody and handmade, she's in a pretty secure market.  I looked to the Brewers Association website  for some beer geek factoids worth sharing (to make this more, you know, academic)

Craft Brewing Facts 

Craft brewers currently provide an estimated 103,585 jobs in the U.S., including serving staff in brewpubs. 

Growth of the craft brewing industry in 2011 was 13% by volume and 15% by dollars compared to growth in 2010 of 12% by volume and 15% by dollars. 

Craft brewers sold an estimated 11,468,152 barrels* of beer in 2011, up from 10,133,571 in 2010. 

The craft brewing sales share in 2011 was 5.7% by volume and 9.1% by dollars.
Craft brewer retail dollar value in 2011 was an estimated $8.7 billion, up from $7.6 billion in 2010. 

As of March 26, 2012, the Brewers Association is aware of 250 brewery openings in 2011 (174 microbreweries and 76 brewpubs) and 37 brewery closings (12 microbreweries and 25 brewpubs). 

1,940 craft breweries operated for some or all of 2011, comprised of 1,063 brewpubs, 789 microbreweries and 88 regional craft breweries.
Pretty noteworthy, considering that craft beer, like anything made with love and natural ingredients, in small production and BY HAND, can be pretty expensive.  It's also worth mentioning that although the economy IS improving, discretionary dollars are still damn tight and the expansion of craft beer means that people are buying it in restaurants and in liquor stores, meaning higher ticket prices and better tips.  Just one more example of how GOOD beer is for everyone.

One of the coolest things about being Kelly Larosa is putting on beer events.  Beer dinners and tastings are trumping the wine dinner scene over and over and it's not unusual for the pairing recommendations on a restaurant's menu to now include both wine AND beer.  I'd say it's a "his and hers" phenomenon, but the truth is, chicks drink craft.  There are even women-specific craft beer drinking and discussion groups, like MAPintGirlsNightOut, for example.  Hit them up on twitter. I guess we don't have to pretend we are going to book club anymore to get out on a weeknight for drinks with the ladies, because beer is now it's own reason to have a club.

Kelly is an educator and a fireball of an influencer.  She knows her beer and she knows how to get people interested in what she's into - and she's a successful Craftwallah as a result.  I attended her 6th BrewFest this weekend at the Amesbury Sports Park on Saturday, an event that she manages to double on an  annual basis.  This year's event had 175 different kinds of beer from the big dogs at Sam Adams some newcomers like Slumbrew and Blue Hills, and some old boys reinvented - like Henry Weinhard's and Narragansett.  The displays were first class, vivid and fun, complete with Oktoberfest hats and some atypical Okoberfest tarts (the pictures will explain).  And the verdant background of the manicured fields and tubing hill made for gorgeous photos.

The samples, all 175 kinds of them were all over the rainbow for flavor, style, history, infusion, production and flat out creativity.  I drank pumpkin beer out of a pumpkin, drank beer made in a rum barrel (like honey velvet nectar) and even managed to find a Gansett (retro is hip and very American). 
Samples were only $1 a piece and the tickets were $12. Games like Sumo Wrestling (complete with blow up suits) and cornhole (the old fashion bbq game) kept the crowd flowing as vendors sold everything from photographs to henna tattoos. The sun was toasty for September and the soccer turf which typically hosts the north shore's lacrosse, soccer and rugby youth elite was a great place to chill, sip, snack and listen to a fantastic mix of grassrootsy jam bands, local funk and old school rock and roll brought in by Michael Bernier at Evolvement Radio.  I found the pulled pork sandwich paired nicely with the Slumdog Happy Sol, but I think anything would have worked with this personal fave.

It was truly a celebration of beer, and of local goodness and of squeezing one more day out of summer, and one more opportunity to enjoy ice cold brew in the sunshine, before the park returns to being a snow tubing place, and selling more apres ski hot toddies than IPA.  I'm in no hurry for that myself.  I'd prefer a cold beer that tastes like a hot totty. Thank goodness Innis and Gunn has that covered.  Mmmmmm Spiced Rum Ale...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Harbor Walking'

What better way to burn off a Passports lunch (and by that I mean a popover with a side of Nadia's Salad), then with a stroll down the newly installed Harbor Walk?

It's no wonder artists from around the world have flocked to Cape Ann for centuries. The fall light at this 43rd latitude is magical for capturing the ethereal seaside beauty. The flowers along the walk give such color to the salty buildings and the shimmer of September sun on the working waterfront is soul warming.

Too bad it wasn't just a little longer. Or the popover just a little smaller...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Taste of WGBH" Food and Wine Festival - eating and drinking in the name of public radio

What better place to launch the food side of
90 Seconds and Velvet than with a review of the first annual Taste of WGBH Food & Wine Festival? Or, to be truthful, the Saturday 12-3 session of the Artisan Tasting (one small piece of this incredible weekend of eating and drinking in the name of public radio and sustainable food sourcing at the gourmet level.)The tickets were a birthday gift from my husband and a testament to me being the smartest woman in the world for marrying "This Guy". After 14 years together, I finally have him fully trained (just kidding honey) to listen with rapt attention to me every word, and to dote on me with lavish gifts of food and culture.Actually, he just knows me. I am a foodie, and a crunchy one, right down to the UVM alum sweatshirt, the hybrid, an addiction to Trader Joe's that probably funds a few salaried positions, and a bookcase split in equal parts classics, sci fi, travel guides and cookbooks. He even bought them through the radio station on a matching day. So his $100 got us three hours of tasting with the best of Boston's farm-to-table restaurants, enough wine to stun Bacchus himself and double the public radio.  This was the ultimate marital get out of jail free card for "This Guy", good till Christmas.

Parking was included (sweet), and ticket holders and passersby were welcomed into parking lot come allee' Farmer's Market abuzz with shoppers and live, jammy acoustic bluegrass..  A table outside the tasting tent sold WGBH memberships, event tshirts and nifty canvas shopping bags for carrying your loot both inside the event and outside, when you picked up some of the treats you'd tasted under the tent. Whoever rolled this plan out did it with a real eye for the details. 

Unexpectedly, yet truthfully not hard to believe, we ran into some fellow foodie friends at the entrance to the tent - which translates into more patient-because-in-the-company-of-dudes husband time while wives chat and mill. It also meant triple the number of people tasting and running back to exclaim ," you have to try... ".
The WGBH event staff handed out one wine glass per guest, to be rinsed at your will at abundant water stations. The heart of the tent was wine alley, with restaurants and retailers taking the right and left columns.  We established our strategy for maximum enjoyment - pick your food tasting and then go and PAIR it with the help of the wine reps. This not only worked in calling out the volunteers from the someliers,  but it made the whole experience that much more effective - and delicious.

The roll call of participating restaurants filled two pages in the event program, and the main stage offered hourly demonstrations with local celebrity chefs.  We rested our glasses and forks only once, to watch Barbara Lynch of Gruppo prepare a gorgeous, yet simple tomato tart after signing copies of her new book, "Stir".  Jokes were made all around at how little my crew knows of the new Hollywood and how much we know about the chefs we adore.  Cooking stars are my heroes.  Perhaps, someday there should be a Hollywood style star-walk, maybe in Chicago, the New Hollywood of food, I'm told, for the names of the "best in checks".

The wine flowed liberally and the sommeliers and reps spoke excitedly about their vineyards, their grapes, their commitment to green energy (Frog's Leap, in Napa, for example, is completely solar powered but boasts no language referencing their organic commitment on their bottles simply because "we've been doing organic since before organic was trendy". I love REAL environmentalists).

Table after table of friendly vintners, actual wine making family members and volunteers eagerly met our challenge of pairing whatever tasty nosh we'd scooped from the edible offerings with several options, even comparing similar varietals from their own portfolio and sharing, to dispel the concept of wine snobbery at the event, the better value for the buck within their own collection.

The Portuguese wines brought in by the folks at were probably the groups' "favorite collection", both for the unique flavors of this lesser known country in the wine making world, but also for the friendly and knowledgeable, funny rep who indulged us a laugh over the addition of Temranillo to one Portuguese varietal, made by Alete, we then re-named "Inquisition in a Bottle". It's not hard to imagine that this was one of the latter tastings of the day.

Favorites of the day included an amazing Asian inspired free range sirloin with onion relish from Longwood events, a sweet and spicy roasted red pepper bisque from Upstairs on the Square, Pete and Jerry's Heirlooms Egg custard with pear compote - made by the folks at community serving, an organization out of Jamaica Plain that delivers beautifilly presented meals to terminally ill shut ins and their families - giving nourishment and the joy of eating together back to families in crisis.
My personal "go back for seconds and thirds" choice - the "Street Taco" Great Bay Red Fish - with a spot on "tortilla" corn foam. In the wine category, the Silver Oak Vineyard collections wowwed me above all - and I was pretty much on "overwow" at that point.

Three hours of tasting, talking, comparing, listening, watching and supporting public radio later, our tasting was finished.  We had eaten food from around the city and sampled wines from around the world, learned a few things about some inspiring community programs and some innovative environmental initatives, all over free range sirloin and flourless chocolate cake. Giggly and a tad tipsy, we dropped our glasses, grabbed the latest issue of Edible Boston (that gem of a foodie - farmy magazine) and walked out into the sun, the Farmer's Market, the music and into a garage full of Priuses.

Taste of Cape Ann - tomorrow night - and I got the skinny on discount tickets

4th Annual "Taste of Cape Ann"

food and wine gala

Thursday, September 20, 2012
Cruiseport, Gloucester
$40pp - proceeds benefit Cape Ann YMCA Youth Programming

*email for last minute discount tickets.

2012 Participating Vendors:

Alchemy Cafe & Bistro
Cape Ann Brewery & Pub
Cape Ann Olive Oil
Catch 22 Pub
Causeway Restaurant
Classic Cooks
Dog Bar
The Grand Café at The Emerson Inn By The Sea
Giuseppe's Ristorante & Pizzeria
Jalapenos Mexican Restaurant
Latitude 43
Lobstaland Restaurant
Mamie's Kitchen
Ryan & Woods Distillery
Sea Glass at the Castle
Seabreeze Liquors
Seaport Grille
Stones Pub
Sugar Magnolias
Turkey Shore Distilleries
Various Wine Vendors
Virgilio's Bakery

I Like Beer, really good beer

I Like Beer, really good beer

Join me at the 6th Annual Amesbury Sports Park BREWFEST
Saturday, September 22, 2-8pm (beer tent from 2-6)
Music, $1 craft samples, sumo wrestling, great food and fun.
And of course, save some dough for reading this post. 

Check out the breweries that'll be onsite to pour, meet, share and party:

Sam Adams/Twisted Tea/Angry Orchard
Innis & Gunn
Mike’s Hard Lemonade
Heineken/Buckler/New Castle/Dos Equis
Blue Hills
Wood Chuck
Rising Tide
Long Trail/Otter Creek/Wolaver’s
Fatty Bampkins
Arnold Palmer
Luk Cider
Blue Moon/Leinenkugel
Pilsner Urquel/Killians/Peroni
Senor Sangria
Ipswich Rum
Thomas Hooker/Peak Organic/Lobster Ale

Monday, September 17, 2012

Coming Back Around... an introduction to my blog

Welcome life-loving friends to my new (first) blog about all the things that make me happy, things that make me get up and work hard, things I feel I need to share. Food, family, fitness, fun, community, fashion, social media, trends, books, theater, causes, the things that make life rich, like velvety rich, the things that make me happy, you'll find them here.

And speaking of velvet, we have a small matter of, "what's in a name" to answer -  Why "90 Seconds and Velvet"?  It's my little pet-phrase for "joie de vivre", perhaps this the forward from a cookbook I wrote now 7? years ago, will better explain. Funny, actually, that the first page of my cookbook will now be the first page of my blog. I think it still conveys what I'm all about, and also what this blog will be about - read on...What's in a name - the story behind "90 Seconds and Velvet"

The company closed a few years ago when I went back into the mainstream (but STILL in events and food, of course) after 5 solid years of personal chef clients, fabulous healthy dinner parties, bellydance weekends, salsa in the street, al fresco hula hooping, plus hundreds of students who will, hopefully, be followers here.  I hope I taught you something in all those dance, kickboxing, cooking, personal training, kids, nutrition and wellness classe. If you took away one thing then, that one thing I said over and over again, and you'll hear more about it here...