Death by Chocolate

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We had just finished working out at the Tennis and Racquet club, and I had just stated my intention to drown myself in chocolate, while both Dominick and Armand looked at me slightly aghast. I must admit in the past I have tried to drown my sorrows in decadence but this time, “I was not on the brink of a meltdown,” I assured them. This month’s tea, at Casey’s request I might add, had been switched in favor of dessert. Given the amount of dessert she was planning to have, she was trying to drown something. I, on the other hand, was sane enough to be watching what I eat in preparation for it. My favorite word today was going to be, binge.

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It sounds crazy but I had spent the last two days nibbling like an anorexic supermodel in preparation for an afternoon filled with dessert at Café Fleuri (located at The Langham Hotel) and I planned to be completely inhibited in my chocolate bliss.

“Do I need to be jealous?” Domnick asked.

“Not in a million years.” I said. My love affair with chocolate only strengthened my other relationships.

I had always loved the Langham. It was on its second life but this only added to its charm. The property was built originally as the Federal Reserve Bank in 1922 in Renaissance Revival style making it a national architectural landmark. The bank was re-born in 1981 as the opulent Langham Hotel, located in the heart of Boston overlooking Post Office Square and sporting one of the best dessert buffets in the city.

I arrived at chocolate heaven wearing a white short sleeved sweater over fitted jeans and a chunky necklace, the girls were waiting for me. Casey was dressed was elegant but casual a cashmere over sized sweater in heather grey, while Mel was wearing a three quarter leg sweater in a rich burgundy that fitted snugly and flared out at the hips over a shiny silk camisole. Rukhsana auntie was in a dusty lavender designer suit.  Of course the first thing Rukhsana auntie did when we all arrived was order tea. I had to agree. I always found tea to be a nice light accompaniment to dessert. We started on the chocolate bar. Some of the delights included:

Dense Chocolate Cake with Raspberries

Black Forrest Varrine

Mango, White Chocolate and Chili Parfait

Creme Fraiche & Bitter Chocolate Trifle

Manjari Chocolate and Gruyere Tart

Spiced Chocolate Shot

Mandarin Cremeax with Mousse

Milk Chocolate with Blackberry Cremeax

Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart

White Chocolate Mousse with Caramelized Pineapple

Image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We were like kids on in a candy store licking our fingers and nibbling on each other’s food. I took a taste of Mel’s mousse which was divine, and she couldn’t help but take a nibble from my raspberry petite four. Since, I was wearing white, I was desperately hoping I would be able to keep dessert off my clothes, but even if I didn’t would be well worth it to consume a milk chocolate and caramel tart. I got a text from Dominick.

“Having fun?”

“Chocolate infested euphoria,” I replied.

Next Post: May 15

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It’s a Racquet

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It had been a couple weeks and so it was about time I expected a visit from Grams. I woke-up to see her sitting at my bedside. She was wearing a soft gray cashmere sweater and charcoal slacks. She looked just as I remembered.

“What are you doing here Grams?” I asked groggily.

“Who else can you count on to wake you up at 6am?”

“I have my alarm.”

“There’s work to be done. I was never idle a day in my life.”

“I’m not idle Grams; I just haven’t found the right career for me. I was thinking professional organizer. All my stuff is super efficiently organized,” and I began to ramble on until I heard a loud blaring noise.

I jumped… it was my alarm and I was alone in my room, but I could still feel Grams presence in the air.

There was a reason I was up so early. I had been working out constantly for two days straight. I even joined Domnick and Armand at the Tennis & Racquet Club where Armand had just become a member, and I’m horrible at squash and probably all racquet games but I loved historic Boston.

Image courtesy of phanlop88 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of phanlop88 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Tennis and Racquet Club was built in 1902 in the ornate style representative of the turn of the century. It is the oldest athletic and social club in the city. Armand had become enamored of squash a long time ago and loved the club’s old world charm. They also have three international and three North American squash courts, although I still preferred to hang out in the fitness center. Let’s just say I could not hit a beach ball with an air mattress, much less a tiny squash or tennis ball. My one consolation is that my attempt at trying, provide Dominick and Armand with enough amusement that they let me hang out.
“Everybody needs a little comedy relief,” said Dominick when I asked why they invited me. “By the way, what are you getting so fit, are you training for a marathon?”

“Better, I’m getting ready for by death by chocolate.”

Next Post: April 15

Laughter is Brightest Where Food is Best

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In my life, love and food go hand in hand. I was at Erbaluce with someone I loved spending time with. Why wouldn’t I be happy? I was eating some of the best Italian food I’d ever had.

Erbaluce’s chef, Charles Draghi, earned his stripes in Boston’s North End, the hub of Boston’s Italian cuisine and has created a menu that pairs home cooking with classical French culinary cuisine. The menu at Erbaluce  changes nightly. Tonight we were lucky enough to start with a treviso and chickory salad (with a spicy anchovy dressing and spiced croutons)….come to mamma.  I was licking my lips, and going for the much anticipated first bite. “Are you going to eat that salad or marry it?” said Dominick. He had a big grin on his face. He knew how much I loved my food. I wiped some saliva off my chin and stopped chewing long enough to stick my chicory infested tongue out at him.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Not only do I want to marry it, I want to take it to Bali,” I said which made him crack-up. Unabashed laughter is something I love in people. I much prefer it to a self conscious chuckle.

That’s when it hit me, for the first time I had a dinner companion that distracted me from my fling with food – but in a good way.  Other sweethearts look longingly into each other’s eyes but Dominick and I are always laughing hysterically.  I now understand how someone can die laughing while having a great meal. I hadn’t stopped smiling since I sat down. I was happy and I know Grams would be happy if she could see my like this.

“Cut it out,” I said. “I can’t laugh like this and mooch off your lobster broth and leeks (with black kale, lobster tortellini, and black trumpet mushrooms).

Yum…the only thing better than your food is someone else’s. Not that what I had ordered was chopped liver. I was feasting pansoti (filled with sauteed greens and ricotta, and a walnut, lemon, thyme pesto) of which Dominic had already eaten half.

Lately I had felt Grams eyes following me, as I lazily schlepped about my apartment. Grams (when she had been alive) had always been an industrious soul and I sensed her frowning at my idleness.  I had to agree.  I was at the point in my life where I decided I would like to do more than live off my trust fund. In a past life in Paris I was an art buyer but now that I was settled in provincial little Boston I thought I would like to re-invent myself – a new profession that was wholly me.

I decided to pick Dominick’s brain on some of my ideas.

“What do you think of fashion therapist?” I asked.

“What exactly is that?”

“I would say it’s a fusion of stylist with life coach and add a little bit of therapy and feung shui”

“Hmmm,” he said chewing on a slow roasted leg of lamb (with an abuzzese egg and pecorino sauce).

I grabbed a bite of lamb with my fork…to die for.

“It’s not just picking out clothes. It’s looking at how you got where you are and where you want to be and then investing in a wardrobe or home décor to remind you of this every day.”

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“I’ll have to think about this. Help for the rich and bored.” He said in a way that made me wonder if he found my idea to be a little too flimsy.

“More like a mantra for how you want to live your life.”

“Sounds like something every trust funder should have,” he said giving me a wink. I was a this close to  giving him my evil eye. Fortunately by then our desert had arrived caramelized orange and chocolate tart (with orange whipped cream and candied orange zest) and I forgot to be annoyed.

Next Post: March 15

The Fountain of Youth

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Admittedly, I was walking on a cloud; my grin spanned from ear to ear, my footsteps were as light as a feather and my gait could only be described as jaunty.  It’s a wonder that I wasn’t in fact skipping. In my euphoria I was convinced that I was Tinkerbelle – that is if Tinkerbelle was dark hair, dark eyed fashionista with a great tan and a designer purse…but I digress.

My dinner date with a secret admirer had left me in a state of bliss even three days later, I knew it would wear off, but that I was hanging on to it tooth and nail. Dominick had turned out to be way more charming than I had ever anticipated and our great dinner had lingered until Casey and Colin had said their goodbyes and the staff at Mistral had kicked us out. After a long midnight walk I ended up home in the wee hours of the morning.

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was also a little elated by the prospect of  having dinner at Fugakyu my favorite Japanese Restaurant and catching up with Mel. Melanie had been in New York for the week and had missed my latest escapade. I was also dying to hear what was going on in the Big Apple.  Fugakyu is located in the heart of Brookline.  The restaurant’s interior is composed of features Koi pond, stone fixtures and bamboo décor. We were seated in a booth with a sliding door composed of translucent paper over a frame of wood or shoji. Mel had come back from New York looking better than ever – in fact trimmer than ever, no small feat for someone like Mel and I was dying to find out how, but first appetizers.   My stomach growled at the thought of sushi. We started with the grilled Chilean sea bass marinated with miso and some soft shell crab tempura.  Even though she lived in Boston, there was something about Mel that was so New York – it didn’t hurt that she was there every other month.

Mel was convinced that she had found the fountain of youth and it was at the Isabelle Bellis Salon.  It takes six months to get a facial with skin care specialist, Isabelle Bellis, a protégée of cult Parisian facialist Joëlle Ciocco.

“It was the most divine experience,” said Mel. “It started with an hour of relaxation and calming techniques, including a vigorous lymphatic drainage massage all over the body.”

Over the course of great sushi – spicy hotategai (chopped scallop, tobikko, spicy mayo, & scallion),  Binnaga (seared albacore tuna), Ikura (salmon roe), spicy salmon maki, jalapeno tuna maki, salmon skin mai, catterpillar maki, lobster maki and spider maki – she told me about the treatment.

My former life as a Parisian had me on the cutting edge of such beauty treatments.  Lymphatic massage and lymphatic drainage detoxifies your skin.  In fact, a couple sessions a week is enough to go down a dress side.

Listening to Mel’s experience made wonder if I need to add a little Paris back in to my life, but right now from where I was sitting (and thinking of Dominick) Boston was looking pretty good.

Next Post: Feb.15

You Again…

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I had a secret admirer…that much was evident. The reason I say ‘admirer’ and not ‘stalker’ is because of the little gifts he left for me. It had been happening for the last couple of days. First I received a small bouquet of flowers, then a box of chocolates, after that a silk hanky and finally an invitation…I decided to accept.

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Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How do you know it’s not some nutcase?” Casey asked.

Truth was, I was hoping against hope that it was Javier, my irresistible neighbor but I would settle for any number of charming attractive men. My mind reeled to everyone I had met over the last couple parties…art exhibits…gallery openings.

I arrived at Mistral restaurant in Boston’s South end ready to meet my mystery man. The entire restaurant exudes class and sophistication. The décor is reminiscent of Provence with hand-picked French pottery, high ceilings and arched floor to ceiling windows.  I was however, careful not to arrive alone.  Casey and her friend Colin had arrived twenty minutes before me and were discreetly seated at a corner table.  Colin gave me a surreptitious wink as the waitress seated me at my table.

Casey had asked me to send her a text when I saw him coming.  I looked over at their table. They had started on appetizers, tuna tartare with crispy wontons, my stomach growled… I was still thinking about tuna tartar when he walked in…

It took a little while for me to recognize him. His close cropped blonde hair now hung just past his ear and his steel grey eyes had softened somewhat and his attire was more relaxed not so much military boot camp. His generous smile though remained the same…I always remember a nice smile.

Dominick gave me a mischievous wink as he approached my table. At the same time I got an “OMG” text from Casey, who had her mouth full of tuna.  I texted back, “enjoy your dinner, he’s a friend of mine and Armand.”

The last time I had seen Dominick, we were at the L.A. Sports Club and Armand was trying to get me into shape.

“Hi” he said sitting down. “I hope you don’t mind the subterfuge but I wanted to make-up for my boring first impression.”

“No, I’m thrilled. I haven’t had something this romantic happen to me in ages…and I never thought you were boring.”

My mind went back to the last time I saw him. Was Armand trying to set us up? I was going to have to give Armand a call. In fact, I thought Dominick had made a good first impression but as dinner progressed it turned out he made an even better second one. We started with steamed black mussels (with smoked tomato mariniere) and semolina toast and grilled Portobello mushroom “carpaccio” (with roasted pepper agrodolce and arugula).   As it turned out Dominick was into extreme sports and for most of the dinner I was left gaping at his death defying antics, that is when I wasn’t savoring my pan roasted halibut (with main lobster and spring white asparagus risotto, lobster nage) –could he pick a restaurant?

Image courtesy of zirconicusso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of zirconicusso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The last test for the best mystery date was what came after dinner. For us it was the warm strawberry rhubarb croustade with buttermilk ice cream (although admittedly, I ate most of it).

But before the evening ended, I looked over to Casey and Colin and they were busy making goo, goo eyes at each other…some much for backup.

 

Next Post: Jan. 15

Sitting …in the lap of luxury

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I had gotten up early, chugged some grapefruit juice and went off for a power run and now it was time for my reward. I was sipping on great coffee and wolfing down a baked frittata served over warm ciabatta bread and some fresh fruit at Caffe Nero.

Image courtesy of marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Across from me sat an old school chum from my days in New York. Babs stared back at me looking gorgeous, with her hair in shambles, an oversize sweater over denim shorts and sunglasses. Her dark hair fell down her face in sharp angles setting off her high cheek bones, all she needed was a cigarette dangling from her mouth – she had quit three months ago. In school, Babs had perfected the messy look to such an extent that everyone had started calling her Shaggy. However, over the last ten years Babs had graduated from messy to messy chic – the nick name shaggy had remained. Babs had been in New York meeting clients and doing some independent research and had arrived in Boston late last night. When I asked if she would like to check out the night life here, she told me she was still getting over New York, “after a grueling week I’d no sooner sleep in,” she said. It was then that I had the perfect idea.

It involved reclining in super plush seats, great food, a dedicated waiter and Rumi. Babs was relieved and slightly elated that I has suggested going to a movie. The three of us decided to check out the super lux experience in Chestnut Hill Cinema. Rumi was thrilled to have Babs in town. In fact, Babs and Rumi may as well have been separated at birth. Both prescribed to the same casual grungy look and both liked the same time of music and films and for that reason alone my idea was brilliant.

The super lux took cinema to a new level, I snuggled into my cushy leather seat drink in hand. As the lights dimmed the waiter brought over my entree. The lobster Campanelle (with delicate “bellflower” pasta tossed with fresh lobster, asparagus, sherry and a touch of cream) reminded me of how much I love to eat. Savoring the taste of creamy pasta I settled in prepared to be propelled into the ultimate movie experience.

Next Post: Dec. 15

A Walk in the Clouds – The Arnold Arboretum

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Having spent almost an eternity at Harvard, Casey had just discovered the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain. On an early weekend morning it was Casey that pulled us up by the scruffs or our necks to visit a seven mile network of parks and parkways, that is a key link in the Emerald necklace.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was waiting in the lobby when I spotted a fire engine red convertible pull-up. Casey sat in the driver’s seat looking like tres vintage Hollywood, wearing designer sunglasses and a scarf around her hair. It was still early when we reached the main entrance. Casey got out of a car she was wearing an airy white Philip Lim maxi dress with a scoop neck and gathered at the waist, sandals and looking like the embodiment of summer. Armand was waiting for us at the entrance. He had that classic prep look wearing a polo shirt over khaki shorts, flip-flops and designer sunglasses looking like he had just taken a break from sailing for a walk in the park. The Arboretum’s living collection of trees, shrubs, and woody vines is recognized as one of the most comprehensive and best documented of its kind in the world and occupies 281 acres of land.

I felt the warm summer breeze caress my skin as we stepped inside. The wide path stemming from the main entrance reminded me of the yellow brick road and at any time you could venture off to one of the side paths taking you deeper into the forest area, armed with comfortable shoes I felt ready to fall off the main road – a metaphor for life. We were rewarded by finding mini-gardens, gazebos and little ponds that gave us time to rest, rehydrate and snack before moving on. By the time noon hit Casey was carrying her sandals in her hands and looking like she wanted to limp back to the car. I was glad for my comfortable lacy Merrels. I have not always appreciated practical shoes but today I was glad I had been nice to my feet. My phoned pinged…it was a message from Mel, “dancing till dawn tonight?

Hopefully they would forgive me when I traded them in for some seriously dangerous heels.

Next Post: Nov. 15

The Joy of Mud

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As a scrappy little kid I enjoyed splashing in muddy puddles out in the rain. The joy of mud took on a whole new meaning as I eased into adulthood. It became synonymous with luxury, decadence and being pampered. It had been a while since I enjoyed such goo. It was time the girls and I went on a much needed spa day.

Image courtesy of winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Newbury Street is the home of much decadence in Boston and G2O is one of Boston’s best spas. The spa located in two historic buildings on Newbury Street with shimmering glass tiles, white lacquered finishes and sparkling chrome accents including the salt-air-infused Brine relaxation room, a plush penthouse suite, and a sun-drenched roof deck.

After a day of shopping we arrived sweaty and disheveled. We checked in and Casey proceeded directly to the steam room and then a much needed deep tissue massage while Mel signed up for a haircut and manicure and pedicure. I on the other hand had booked a full body exfoliation. I chose an exfoliante infused with the scent of lavender. I lay on my stomach in a room as dark and quiet as any underwater cave listening to the trickling sound of water as my body is scrubbed free of dead skin. I am reminded of what it must be like in the calm sanctuary of a Buddhist temple as I am engulfed in a sea of quietness and reflection.

Later I rinse in a Swiss shower with literally twelve adjustable shower heads massaging me at once. As my troubles are scrubbed and rinsed away, I am calmer and more centered than I have been in months ready to face water ever storms life may throw my way.

Next Post: Oct. 15

Life is but a dream…pass the naan

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There are few sensations that can match the feeling of flying. Yet here I was flying and underwater at that. Suddenly, what was down had become up. I was immersed in a city riding alongside killer whales and tropical fish within a bottomless ocean. The water was all around me and yet I had no need of air. I watched enchanted. If only it were a dream but it was something better, for my mind was sound and my feet firmly on the ground staring at the dome shaped screen before me.

Image courtesy of khunaspix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of khunaspix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

No sooner had the movie finished than I longed go back to the Mugar Omni Theater. I became hooked a long time ago to these surreal voyages when Grams started taking as a gangly youth to the Museum of Science. Today it was not Grams, but my brother Rumi who was leading me around the Mos. He was like a kid in a candy store. In fact the Museum of Science was a huge playground for kids of all ages. Today in his scruffy jeans, trendy shirt and too long hair he reminded me of a kid more than ever and of course he picked the grossest exhibits. Geek that he was we checked out GROSSOLOGY: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body, Beyond the X-Ray which lets you Explore some of the many non-invasive ways doctors look into the human body and of course my favorite the butterfly garden. I could sit here for hours in this tropical solarium with butterflies flying all around me.

We ended our day right around the corner with dinner at Helmand. Rumi friend Philip was planning on joining us. When we got there a small colorfully dressed kid whose friends had nicknamed Prince was waiting for us. Prince was wearing a fuchsia shirt and tight jeans with suede shoes. Prince was a theater major that Rumi had met in his creative writing class and they had hit it off. It was Prince that recommended the Helmand and someone with great taste in food is always welcome at my table.

Image courtesy of zole4 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of zole4 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We started with some appetizers, Aushak (Afghan ravioli filled with leeks and scallions, served on yogurt-mint topped with ground beef sauce) and Banjan (Pan-fried eggplant seasoned with spices, then baked with fresh tomatoes, served on yogurt garlic mint sauce), which I can only describe as an amalgam of delicate spices. Prince turned out to have a great sense of humor and I nearly snorted couscous up my nose, while munching on my entrée, the Morgh Salsata (boneless breast of chicken, marinated then grilled, served on mixed green salad with grilled vegetables and vinaigrette dressing). We finished dinner with some, oh so sweet baklava, after which I said goodbye to Rumi and Prince as they headed out for a night on the town and I went back to my apartment.

As I went back to my apartment I couldn’t help stare at the door across the hall. The comings and goings of my hot neighbor Javier had become noticeably scarce. I listened hard, my ear pressed against his door and I considered knocking and saying “hi’ if only to share an extra piece of baklava but the coldness of the metal only made be retreat into my own warmly lit kitchen.

Next Post: Sept. 15

The Town – Goes Moroccan

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I was visiting a Boston neighborhood with deep roots Charlestown. Settled in 1624 and home to many Boston landmarks Charlestown went through a tough streak in the 1960s, as emphasized in the Ben Afflick’s movie The Town. However, the 1980s was a time of massive gentrification opening up the neighborhood to fine restaurants, art galleries, and yoga studios. Today it’s not unusual to see tourists, nannies pushing strollers, and dog walkers on its once mean streets.

Image courtesy of franky242 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of franky242 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was enjoying the softer side of Charlestown at one if its finest restaurants, Tangierino with one of my favorite artists. The cuisine at Tangierinos is a fusion of North African (Moroccan) spices and techniques with French, American and Mediterranean styles. Inside you will find a collection of cozy dining rooms with walls painted a rich reds or rust, cozy arm chairs, Middle Eastern art and décor and exposed brick walls and mood lighting.

Laila was one of my most enchanting friends. I had studied art at Sorbonne and not only loved art but artists. Laila was an artist who specialized in a Persian miniature style of painting. She was currently showing at the MFA and I was thrilled she had looked me up when she came to town. I met her at the entrance of the restaurant. She waived and then gave me a kiss hello. She looked exactly as I expected with long straight hair worn loose. Her tunic that was a blend of rich desert colors with cascading sleeves. Her smile was always generous and perhaps a little mischievous and her eyes never ceased to draw you in during a conversation.

Digging into our tapas Laila began telling me about her exhibitions and in between mouthfuls of, roasted eggplant with pita bread and potato crab cakes with harissa-aioli and the four layer tuna tartar. I enlightened Laila about my latest move to Boston and no sooner than we had started conversing than our entrée arrived. Mine was a braised lamb shank, in honey and rosemary, spiced merguez, with a medley of s even vegetable couscous while Laila had ordered the roasted salmon, in harissa, with baby carrots, bell peppers, olives, and charmoula.

Laila like a free spirit was constantly traveling from place to place and from love affair to love affair, with people like Laila the world would always be an interesting place.

Next Post: Aug. 15