Birthdays & Kitchen Bombs

No, I really didn’t set off any bombs in the kitchen this week but pretty much everything I made was a fail.  No wait, there was a small explosion when I made chicken parmesian.  I’m not crazy about a plain, meatless spaghetti sauce but didn’t have any hamburg or sausage to make my usual.  I did however have bacon!  And as Bam recently mentioned on her latest post – everything’s better with bacon.  I baked a pile of bacon then drained off some of the bacon fat into the sauce pot to saute my garlic.  Wow – bacon fat must get HOT because when I dumped in the ground peeled tomatoes, that pile of sauce just bubbled up like Mount Vesuvius and blew up all over me and the stove. I now have an idea of what those people in Pompeii felt like when that one blew.

Angry Volcano -

Then there was the roast pork that would have been fabulous except for the timing.  My husband was supposed to make ONE stop on the way home but 3 phone calls later to tell me that he was in yet another store looking for soap called “Kiss My Face” (really, he’s got that rash back again & that’s what the dermatologist recommended and yes, I think he got smacked in the face a few time asking clerks if they had it).

I did redeem myself with last night’s meal thanks to ChgoJohn’s absolutely sensational Spaghetti alla Carbonara – do check it out along with his incredible story of his Aunt Zia’s visit with the Pope.

So there will be no recipes of mine in this week’s post.  Instead let’s talk about more memorable meals such as the Sunday brunch for John’s something-something birthday at J’s Restaurant, Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton, MA.  We’ve had many fine dinners there but never tried the breakfast buffet which was truly outstanding for it’s variety and quality.  I’m not usually a breakfast buffet fan since most are just warmed up scrambled eggs and greasy bacon but this place does it right – perfect breakfast food, soups, stews, sushi and the best steak tips with mashed potatoes that I’ve ever had. A great dining experience in a cozy converted farmhouse overlooking the hills and their vineyards.  (p.s. Thank you Niki for the treat).  The nice thing is that after stuffing yourself, their winery is downhill so you can just roll on down there to sample and buy their wine and beer – my personal favorite is strawberry-rhubarb which is actually very crisp.  So this year was a very relaxed and sedate birthday for John unlike his something-five birthday party that we threw for him in the North End, Boston.

Boston’s North End is Italian.  It’s got lots of charm and quite a history.  My friend’s aunt used to live there many years ago in a house with a tunnel that connected to other houses throughout the neighborhood.  Second story lookouts were posted and when the Feds showed up they usually found empty rooms with a Nona making bread.  But even in ‘the old days’ it was always a safe neighborhood to have a great meal.  They did their own policing, not wanting to draw unnecessary attention to their neighborhood and dead bodies would get dumped across the river in Charlestown.

Now, Hanover Street is the trendy, hot spot for those who love waiting outside in long lines to get squished elbow to elbow with people you don’t know.  Almost every place has good food but if you want to enjoy your meal with people you do know and would like to socialize with, there’s a great place a few blocks off Hanover called Piccolo Nido owned by Pino Irano.  Now Pino is an very interesting guy and he loves his Boston sports teams – they also love him so you could be dining with Robert Kraft of the Patriots, John Henry, owner of the Red Sox, or Bruins management.  When the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup, they brought it personally to his restaurant.  Pino greets everyone at the door and in our case often sits down with my husband to ‘discuss’ the teams…sometimes he gets a little worked up (do not ask him what happened to the Sox this year!).  Since it’s his restaurant and he treats it as his home with you as his guests, you can have a terrific, authentic meal and take all the time in the world to eat, drink, and chat without being pushed out the door.  Unless you piss him off…DO NOT piss off Pino.  And what might piss of Pino?  Well it could be anything from acting snooty, to complaining about the service, or as this table of SIX found out – complaining about the $45 bill for Cokes after taking up a table for 3 hours without ordering anything other than Cokes.

A couple years ago, we were enjoying a great dinner with another couple just before Christmas  when Pino stood in the middle of the restaurant & called for everyone’s attention.  The place went quiet as Pino worked up to a classic Pino moment.  “Attention my friends…I would like to ask you…what you think I should say to these people – these people who sit at MY table for 3 hours and order Coke then say I rob them because they think I charge too much for Coke!  They no order my food, they no drink my wine, they drink Coke for 3 hours and no like the bill.  Pino’s is fine dining establishment…(at this point the waitress is hastily helping this group put their coats on as some are running for the door).  How you people find me?  Never mind, I don’t care as long as you never find me again.  Maybe you go back to Cambridge (a little N. End dig about the Cambridge elite) and sit in coffee shop with you snooty no manners attitude.  You! you dare ruin Pino’s Christmas?  My Christmas gift to you is you get free Cokes – once – and you get out forever!”

Okay, so like I say, don’t piss off Pino.  I understand they weren’t the first people he’s tossed but it was the only time I had a front row seat and it was really kind of entertaining.  You just don’t get that everyplace.  And because we love Pino and his restaurant that’s how we ended up there for John’s something-5 birthday party.  We closed the place down and as you can see, when Pino loves you and you mind your manners, he’ll make sure you have a great time. (note the guy, probably from Cambridge, who goes racing out about 1/2 way through the clip when we get a little loud).

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24 thoughts on “Birthdays & Kitchen Bombs

  1. That Carbonara dish looks amazing. I”ve always wanted to try making that. I think I need to get the good parm cheese for this one. I’ve always wanted to try the Nashoba restaurant… We will have to do that now. Thank you. Piccolo does have very good food.

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    • I used to make a different version of it but this one is awesome & YES YES you must get the good parm. I mixed a good parm & romano combination, hand grated right before. Mixing it in with the eggs is the way to go. Judy, it’s really easy to do & you can’t believe how good this is. Oh, also I didn’t have bacon which is what I usually use, but I had left over ham & diced that up – perfect.
      We’ve always liked Nashoba but definitely make reservations. I thought the brunch was reasonable although their dinner menu is a little pricey. What I really like is the menu changes often & the flavors they come up with are terrific. They usually have a nice sampler where they give you food & wine pairings that are interesting. Unique.

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    • And that’s how you can tell if you’re in an authentic North End Italian place – you’re like a guest in their home & you’d better mind your manners. Plus they usually have ‘other income’ coming in so if they lose a few customers, it’s okay with them.

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    • I would think Pino would be okay w/dogs who mind their manners but I don’t know for sure. I know he’s thrown people out for trying to use his bathroom if they’re not a customer so I’d say you either have to buy something or use the sidewalk.

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  2. Dear Diane, thanks for the shout out and I am sorry however Pompeii went off in your kitchen. Some days are just like this… Always happens to me when I try to do more than 4 things at a time. It is the 5th thing that sends me over the edge…A big Happy Birthday to John, love the video! Take care, BAM

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    • I’ll tell ya, it was like one of those high school experiments gone bad. Did you ever watch something & it was as if it was in slow motion, and you know you should run but you’re kind of frozen? I’m still find tomato sauce on the bottom of the cabinets. But this week was just one of those where we should have done take out & tonight is Bertucci’s pizza (just to be safe).
      We did have fun that night & the people off to the side enjoyed it too.

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  3. Oh, Diane! How I can sympathize! Some days/weeks it’s just better to dine out or order in. The first time I made ketchup, I set it on high to bring it to a simmer and left the kitchen to take out the trash. The splatter screen was right there, on the counter. On my way back to the house, I saw a neighbor and we had a nice chat. When I finally remembered the ketchup, my stove, wall, surrounding cabinets, and floor were coated. Even so, experiencing your very own Mount Vesuvius on your stove top trumps splattered ketchup. Lucky you! 🙂
    That Pino sounds like the old-time restaurant owners of my Dad’s time. He was in the restaurant business and I cannot tell you how many places he took us with a “Pino” as the owner. I’d go to his place just for the nostalgia.
    Thanks, Diane, for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the Carbonara. Considering the week you had, it was probably a good idea to switch to something sans tomatoes. 🙂

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    • Home made ketchup – WoW! I have to admit to being the walk away kind of cook (I’d say it’s age, but I’ve been doing it for too long) and I too will be chatting away w/a neighbor until she says “is that your smoke alarm going off?” Oh, right…be back soon.
      I have no doubt that you would enjoy Pino and he would welcome you warmly. My guess is that you understand the manners thing too. Let’s take a ‘hypothetical’. Lets say you arrive early, before the rush, & there is just one other couple in the restaurant. As you’re sipping your wine, a black Lincoln Town car, with RI plates pulls up to the curb, idling as the fellow in the shotgun seat gets out to open the rear door for a well dressed gentleman who is welcomed at the door by Pino with hugs and kisses while the other fellow stands at the door. As Pino and the gentlemen sit in a quiet corner having a discussion, do you think that it is appropriate to:
      a) Continue sipping your wine while looking out the window, or
      b) Yell across the room at Pino with “Hey, can you get us some water over here?”
      I think you would guess the correct answer to that one 😉

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  4. So funny!! I loved the story of Pino!! What a character! My brother went to school in Cambridge, but as a college student, he wasn’t part of the elite, but the dig is funny!! Happy birthday to John and hope he found Kiss My Face 🙂

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    • I think you understand the Cambridge comment then. And you have to admit Pino is a colorful guy. But seriously, this place doesn’t even have a bar, just tables so would you sit for 3 hrs. and just order Cokes? I think Pino would have been ok with it until one of them complained about the bill. Whoaaa…
      John did find Kiss His Face (finally) although there’s probably a couple of stores where he won’t be able to show his face for a while.

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  5. Carbonara is one of our favorites, but I am always concerned about the uncooked eggs. Do you use those pasteurized ones?
    And that dinner sounded amazing. Is Bolton west of Boston off 495?

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    • I know what you mean about the uncooked eggs & I do use pasteurized but I think the eggs do cook up a bit as you pour the mixture in because you have to be careful to not end up w/scrambled eggs, so I think they’re cooking enough since it would be just shy of scrambled eggs. Yes, Bolton is off 495, heading west on the Rt. 117 exit & the winery is just off the center of town. A really fun place.

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    • Seriously it’s good to laugh. I’ve had so many disasters & not just in the kitchen that if I didn’t laugh, my husband would be talking me down off the roof of the house every night. I’m glad I can make others smile – it’s good for your health.

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