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NiChef – Personal Culinary Experiences in your home

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As most of you know I have a full time job outside of blogging. I try to cook meals for my husband and I at least 4 nights a week but sometimes I just want someone else to cook for me. Is that took much to ask? Not if you ask NiChef!

NiChef is an online global marketplace where you can easily book a personal chef to cook in your kitchen. Niche is bringing communities together through authenticity and experiences while creating new job opportunities in the culinary world. Think of it like airbnb but for chefs.

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Having someone cook in your home, whether it’s a romantic meal for two, dinner party for 4 or 10, it’s such a fun experience and you don’t have to worry about being in the kitchen and not with your significant other/friends/guests. And it won’t break the bank. Contrary to what you are probably thinking, having someone else cook your food doesn’t cost as much as you’d think. In fact, it’s usually cheaper than eating at restaurants, and if you find the right chef like I did, the food tastes better. AND you get to choose exactly what you want to eat and when!

I recently had the chance to experience Nichef. I invited my sister over to share the experience with me. Out chef was Lisseth Conza-Berman. Listen grew up in Peru and all Nichef experiences are Peruvian; centered around the foods she grew up with. Peruvian food is a fusion cuisine, due to its long multicultural history. Lisseth cooked us a delicious meal of Lomo saltado; sautéed beef loin with veggies. Como salted is one of the most emblematic dishes that Peru has to offer. A mix between Chinese cuisine with Peruvian ingredients, makes this dish satisfying and full of flavor. It consists on marinated beef tenderloin stir-fried with onions, tomatoes and served with french fries and white rice.

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The price of the meal is $60 for two people. $30 each for a home cooked meal is a great price and a similar dish in a restaurant would cost you at least $30, if not more when you factor in tip, tax, and beverages/appetizers. 

So how does it work? 

Signing up to use the nichef marketplace is fast and easy. You can sign up with your facebook credentials or your email. After your have confirmed your email, you are ready to go!

To reserve a Chef you will need to sign up and create a Foodie profile. Once you have created and activated your profile, you can then start searching for a memorable experience by type of cuisine, location, and date. It’s recommended that you submit a request at least 1 week before your event date. Once you request a chef, the chef will accept or decline your booking within 24 hours. If you have any dietary restrictions, you can message the chef directly through Nichef’s messaging system.

There are about 40 chefs on the site that you can choose from. Chefs run their own business; choose their own schedules, menus and prices. Every chef has their own ‘niche’ in the culinary market and Nichef allows them to offer you a personal, and delicious, at home dining experience. 

Disclaimer: I received this service free of charge to review for my blog. I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.

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Kitchensurfing: Bringing Personal Chefs into Your Kitchen & Fine Dining In to your Home {and $100 promo code}

My girlfriends and I are always looking for any reason or excuse to get together to eat, drink, and have a good time. Rather than go out I decided to invite a few friends over for Girls Night, and hired a chef through Kitchsensurfing, to make us appetizers and dessert. Screen shot 2014-01-31 at 2.09.05 PM

I love Kitchensurfing, I’ve been using the service for a few months now for private dinners (Valentine’s Day is coming up!) and a cooking lesson (click on the links to read about my other KS experiences). My friends, on the other hand, were newbies, and they were just as excited to try something different, as I was to introduce them to Kitchensurfing.

So what is Kitchensurfing?

Kitchensurfing is a marketplace for chefs of all kinds. It’s a service that allows you to bring chefs into your home to cook you a personal and customized meal. From hobby chefs to Michelin star chefs, you can browse the chefs on the site, view their sample menus, read their reviews, and book any of them. From private cooking lessons in your home, to meal deliveries, to a private dinner party for two or fifty-two, KS allows you to ‘shop’ around based on your own needs, wants, budget, and diet.

How it works:

  • Browse the list of chefs, read their reviews and sample menus, and pick one you’d like to have cook for you. Send them an e-mail and voilà, you’ve got yourself a private chef.

OR

  • Submit a “Match Request”. Fill out a form stating what you’re looking for (party size, budget, date, time, etc.), any dietary restrictions or allergies, preferred cuisines, and anything else you want or don’t want. Your request will be sent to all the chefs matching your criteria. Chefs will then contact you to customize a menu. Once you’ve found a chef and a menu that you are satisfied with you can book your chef!

The booking process is incredibly east and it is ok to say no if you don’t like an idea or menu item. So be specific about your likes and dislikes along with any dietary restrictions.  All the chefs I’ve worked with were great with communicating with me prior to the booking, and customizing the menu to my likes and needs. And remember, the chefs want you to enjoy every last bite, so be upfront and honest!

Keep reading for your $100 code….

Our Girls Night was such a blast! The menu looked amazing, and the food turned out even better than we could have imagined. My friends loved every moment of it and could not stop talking about trying KS on their own.

Chef Stephen Coe created a menu of tapas and dessert. Each course was delicious and beautifully crafted. The freshness and flavors of each dish were impressive; we cannot say one bad thing about any of this food.

Red and yellow beet salad with shaved sheep cheese, candied pistachios, and a blood orange aged balsamic over local greens.IMG_6251

Sashimi Tuna served over seaweed salad with pickled ginger, sesame seeds, and siracha sour cream and rice crackers.IMG_6255 IMG_6252

Grilled Oysters with pancetta, fennel, bee pollen, chives, and grated sheep cheese. IMG_6262

Scallops with artichoke hearts, romaine, olives, basil, tomatoes, and capers.IMG_6263

Warm chocolate soufflé with strawberry tarragon and white balsamic purée.IMG_6261 IMG_6260

The awesome folks over at Kitchensurfing have provided me with a $100 discount code for YOU, my readers! Click here to claim your $100 voucher and discover what Kitchensurfing is all about. The code is valid Monday, February 3, 2014 through Sunday, February 16, 2014. Your meal needs to be booked prior to the 16th, but the date of the actual meal could be after this date.

And you don’t have to live in Boston; some chefs are willing to travel all over the state, even to Maine!

Disclaimer: I was not paid for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Pictures from my previous Kitchensurfing Experiences

Romantic Meal for Two by Chris Hallahan

– Late Season corn soup served hot with a ragout of lobster, bacon, and corn
– Kale salad with a warm bacon vinaigrette
– Blue Fish pan seared with crispy skin, over maple glazed carrots and fall vegetables
– Pumpkin & carrot cake (dairy, gluten free)IMG_4988

Cooking Lesson with Michelle Lahey:

-Middle Eastern Chickpea Burgers with Vegan Tzatziki
-Quinoa with Dried Cranberries and Roasted Butternut Squash
-Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
-Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

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Drop of Plated Meal prepared by Mark Hardin

– Arugula, Carrot & fennel salad with a creamsicle vinaigrette, sunflower seeds & orange slices
– Braised Lamb Shank slowly cooked in tomatoes and garlic. Served with a gravy made from its own juices. Accompanied by Roasted root vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes
– Mini Flourless Chocolate Mousse Cake Garnished with powdered sugar and a fresh raspberriesIMG_5950 IMG_5947

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New Holiday Menu & Gluten Free Options at Au Bon Pain

I was recently invited to attend blogger/media tasting at Au Bon Pain, hosted by Chief Brand Officer, Maria Feicht and Executive Chef/Director of Culinary, Roger Bowles. Unfortunately, I had to work and could not go. But, lucky for me, I was invited to check out the new holiday menu and gluten free options at a later time.

When you think of Au Bon Pain what comes to mind? Bagels? Sandwiches? GLUTEN?

Yes, they do have a gluten-filled menu, but they also have many gluten free options, including; salads, soups, a chicken harvest rice bowl, oatmeal, hot and cold lunch bar items, and other gluten free snack options.

Au Bon Pain strives to create healthier yet flavorful convenient options for everyone. ABP’s website offers nutritional and allergen information for every single menu item.Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 10.50.34 AMAt Au Bon Pain, items are clearly marked if/when they contain allergens. I like the variety of gluten free options available at each location and I am happy that Au Bon Pain is recognizing this opportunity to give their customers more information about their products.

I’ve eaten at Au Bon Pain numerous times but I had no idea that the company was founded over 35 years ago in Boston! Au Bon Pain has over 250 locations world wide, including Thailand, Japan, and Kuwait.

Six times a year, the company introduces new seasonal items to the menu, and sometime they become permanent fixtures. The New Holiday Menu only includes one new gluten free option. It’s disappointing there’s only one GF option, but once you try the GF Thai Coconut Shrimp, you won’t care about the gingerbread cookies or peppermint shortbread!

The Thai Coconut Shrimp is a blend of petite shrimp, red peppers, carrots, bamboo shoots and lemongrass in a coconut and curry broth with a touch of spice and fresh lime. This is not the type of soup I would expect to find at this café, but I am pleasantly pleased that it is on the menu and I hope that it becomes a mainstay! IMG_5937

And, Au Bon Pain now has K-Cups! Awesome right?? I drink coffee, from a Keurig machine, Every. Single. Morning. So this was great news for me!

Au Bon Pain has over a dozen locations in Boston and Cambridge. To find a location near you, click here.

Au Bon Pain on Urbanspoon

 

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Our Gluten Free Cooking Lesson with Kitchensurfing & 25% off code

Kitchensurfing brings a chef into your kitchen for parties, lessons, and so much more.Screen shot 2013-12-03 at 9.34.17 AM

Kitchensurfing (KS) is a marketplace for chefs of all kinds. From hobby chefs to Michelin chefs, you can browse the chefs on the site, view their sample menus, read their reviews, and book any of them. From private cooking lessons in your home, to meal deliveries, to a private dinner party for two or thirty-two, KS allows you to ‘shop’ around based on your own needs, wants, budget, and diet.

Last month Jeremy and I had a wonderful, restaurant-quality, 4-course meal with Chef Chris Hallahan. We were blown away not only by his culinary talents, but also by his passion for food and locally sourced ingredients. He was friendly and engaging, and answered all our questions. You can read all about our first KS experience here.

The whole experience was so wonderful that I decided to use KS again, but this time I wanted a cooking lesson.

After browsing a few profiles and menus to see who would be a good fit for a gluten free, dairy free cooking lesson we chose Michelle Lahey. Michelle is a Boston based personal chef and I love her blog, The Economical Eater, so I was thrilled when she replied to my request for a cooking lesson for my sister and I!

The Menu for our cooking demonstration:

Middle Eastern Chickpea Burgers with Vegan Tzatziki
Quinoa with Dried Cranberries and Roasted Butternut Squash
Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip BarsIMG_5677

Services Included

  • Ingredients
  • Cleaning
  • Transport

Michelle’s food was fantastic. She was engaging, super friendly, and really easy to talk to. She was really knowledgeable about vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free food, such a relief!

Michelle’s menu incorporated fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients.IMG_5652

I really like Brussels sprouts but have never cooked them myself, so I was eager to learn to do this once and for all. And it’s much easier than I thought!

Our previous attempts at making veggie burgers have all failed. Michelle’s recipe for Middle Eastern Chickpea Burgers was easy to follow and can easily be swapped with different types of beans and spices. We loved the Middle Eastern spices and flavor combinations in this burger.IMG_5649The vegan tzatziki was also easy to make and paired perfectly with the burgers. This is something I plan on making again. Since going dairy free I hadn’t eaten tzatziki. I was surprised with the simplicity of the recipe. Michelle used So Delicious almond based yogurt and also recommended coconut yogurt was well. I haven’t been able to find plain coconut yogurt so I just bought the almond yogurt when I made it.IMG_5679The pumpkin chocolate chip dessert bars were to die for.  My sister and I felt like we had died and gone to heave. The secret ingredient— garam masala—gave the bars an unbelievable flavor. They were absolutely incredible. And lucky for us she left us her recipe so we can make them again and again! The recipe is also available on her blog.IMG_5680

Not only did Michelle show us how to prepare the food, each step of the way she explained what we were doing with all the ingredients and how each one contributed to and played a role in the dish.IMG_5659

We enjoyed learning new recipes that we can now add to our repertoire. I like that Michelle focused on healthy, fresh, and seasonal ingredients. We liked everything about this meal and we felt good eating it.IMG_5677

Click here for a 25% off coupon for your next Kitchensurfing booking! This code is valid through Dec. 31 (you don’t have to have your meal prior to the 31, it just has to be booked by that date). This code can be used on any KS service.

Disclaimer: I received this service free of charge to review for my blog.  I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.

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Gluten Free Dinner at Joe’s American Bar & Grill

This week I was invited to attend a Gluten Free Dinner at Joe’s American Bar & Grille with Amanda from Marlo Marketing/Communications and Amanda Humphrey of Gluten Free Hub. I had such a great time with these two ladies, chatting about food, restaurants and just about everything else we like about Boston.

Joe’s menu is about 85% Gluten Free. Almost everything on the menu can be gluten free by making simple adjustments to the dish. Burgers and sandwiches can be served on gluten free rolls, pasta dishes are served with gluten free penne, the ahi tuna served without soy sauce, and so on.

The manager, Tiffany, and chef put together a nice appetizer spread for us, they wanted us to sample their most popular gluten free appetizers, and we did not argue. Frist we had the Seared Ahi Tuna, served sashimi style and pepper-crusted with a side of wasabi and fresh ginger. The ginger-soy dressing was left off, as we all know soy sauce is a gluten free nightmare.  The tuna was delightful! Lightly cooked on the outside and completely raw on the inside, just the way I like it, with much pizzazz from the pepper crust.

Next we had the nachos. I love nachos and it’s pretty hard to mess those up. I couldn’t get over the size of these nachos! Loaded with jack and chedder cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo, jalapeños, salsa, sour cream and a big spoonful of guacamole, it wasn’t anything special but they were delicious.

The Black Skillet Roasted Mussels were served smoking hot in the skillet. These were excellent, lightly salted, juicy and very fresh, not to mention a generous portion size. I highly recommend starting off your meal with these, especially if you go with a group or wanting something to share.

The most popular gluten free dish at Joe’s is their pizza, and I can see why. It’s not every day you find a restaurant that offers gluten free pizza on a delicious crust (that doesn’t taste like cardboard). The pizza crust comes frozen and is baked in the same container it comes packaged in, thus never touching another surface.

The gluten free pizza crust and burger rolls come from Buckwheat’s Gluten Free Bakery in Nashua, NH. Buckwheat’s also makes sandwich bread and baguettes. I always find it funny when a restaurant serves gluten free “dinner rolls” that are the same rolls used for sandwiches. This happens all the time and it makes me laugh.

We also tried the Chicken Club Sandwich, served on a gluten free roll with a side of “fries”, or what they should really be called, potatoes. I liked the potatoes, but it was more a crispy fried baked potato than an actual French fry. The sandwich was huge and, unlike many gluten free breads that are very crumbly, this bread held together pretty well.  If a restaurant can do a simple dish well, then you know that they have taken the time and effort to learn how to cook and prepare gluten free meals. When the basic dishes are good, it’s a good indicator that the other gluten free dishes are going to be great too.

The third dish we sampled was the The Marinara Pasta with gluten free penne and shrimp. Unfortunately the meatballs are not gluten free, I was looking forward to that, but if you want marinara sauce you can sub the meatballs with shrimp, chicken, veal or vegetables. All sauces are made in house and are gluten free.

When I asked about the pasta, Tiffany (the manager) couldn’t remember exactly what it was made of (rice, corn, ect.) so she went to the kitchen and brought out a bag for us to see. Not only did she let us look at the ingredients, she gave me the bag of penne to take home! I really like the brand this brand, bionaturae. The gluten free penne is organic and is made of rice, corn and soy, so if you also have a soy allergy be sure to let them know and stay away from the pasta.

Joe’s offers Red Bridge gluten free beer (I really wish restaurants would start carry gluten free beers other than Red Bridge), and vodka.

There is a separate fryer in the back, away from the regular fryer, used only for gluten free items. They also use separate cutting boards, knives and utensils to limit cross contamination. All kitchen staff and front of house managers are required to go through allergen certification training. Managers and chefs are both involved when there is an allergy present at the table and go to extreme measures ensuring gluten free and allergy safety in their restaurant.

Although serves are not given formal allergy training, many, including ours, are knowledgeable about the menu and allergen process due to the high volume of customers with allergies that they cater to daily. So whether its gluten, dairy or soy, they can accommodate for your allergy.

 

Location:181 Newbury St. Boston. For other locations, click here.

Website: http://www.joesamerican.com

Joe's American Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Review: Gluten Free Menu at Legal Sea Foods

I have eaten at several Legal Sea Foods locations in and around Boston – Copley Place, The Prudential Center, Kendall Square, Legal Test Kitchen, Braintree, Long Warf, Chestnut Hill– and they all get my high praises when it comes to serving guests with food allergies. They offer a gluten free menu, their staff is well trained, they have a separate fryer kept gluten free, and all gluten free dishes are brought out by the manager, never nearing the other entrees and potential gluten.
All locations offer Gillian’s Foods rolls. I love these buns! They have a nice texture with a slight crunch on the outside and nice and soft on the inside, and topped with sesame seeds, poppy seeds and I think a little garlic and onion too. The buns are also yeast and dairy free
Four years ago was the first time I was able to order calamari in a restaurant since going gluten free in 2009. Legal makes theirs with a chick pea flour, which has since been changed to a brown rice flour and cornmeal mixture. You can also order the Shrimp, Scallops and Haddock – on the Wood Grilled Menu – Crispy Fried instead of grilled. This is next on my list to try!
One of my favorite dishes is the Shrimp and Garlic with sautéed tomatoes, scallions and mushrooms served with your choice of jasmine or brown rice. I always ask for light on the garlic and it is perfect!
Cousins dinner at Copley
Another dish I have tried is the Wood Grilled Assortment, which comes with the Chef’s selection of three fish, shrimp and scallops and the choice of two sides. This is a great way to sample a little bit of [almost] everything.
This past winter I tried the Portuguese Fisherman’s Stew (on the lunch menu), served with cornmeal crusted scrod stewed with mussels, clams, and chorizo sausage in a saffron tomato broth. For those ordering on the regular menu it also comes with toasted bread. So make sure to save one – or two! – of the gluten free dinner rolls to dip in the sauce. The Stew is loaded with fish and had great flavors, this is my new favorite dish for the wintertime!
Fisherman’s Stew

Legal Sea Foods-Copley Place on Urbanspoon

A few weeks ago my co-worker and I had lunch at the Kendall Square location to celebrate our birthdays. This time I tried the house salad topped with grilled calamari. You can add chicken, crabmeat, shrimp, salmon or lobster salad to any salad. They do not list grilled calamari on the menu anymore, but you can still get it. Some of the pieces were a bit chewy, I think it could have been grilled a little longer, but overall I enjoyed it. Every time I eat there with Liz she orders this and I had been dying to try it.
The seafood here is so fresh, and I highly recommend ordering oysters or something else off the raw bar menu. They offer a great gluten free menu and can accommodate for other food allergies and dietary restrictions – Garlic, Dairy, and Kosher for example.
Wellfleet Oysters
The gluten free dessert menu is limited with only three options, Belgian Chocolate Mousse Parfait, Sorbet and Seasonal Fruit. I haven’t tried the Mousse, I am usually way too full by the end of my meal, but it sure does sound good!

Locations: 18 locations in Massachusetts

Legal Sea Foods-Kendall Square on Urbanspoon