Boston Wine Expo – Giveaway

Happy Friday!  Let’s celebrate the arrival of the weekend with some wine.  Or how about a giveaway to taste some wine later?

As we previously mentioned, the Boston Wine Expo is coming to the Seaport Hotel February 15-16.  The Expo consists of a Grand Tasting from 1:00pm – 5:00pm both Saturday and Sunday, plus various seminars to learn more about your favorite wines and demonstrations by local celebrity chefs.  Sound good so far?  You can read more about the event on their blog.

We’ve partnered with the Boston Wine Expo to offer a pair of tickets to give away for the Sunday Grand Tasting event.  To enter our giveaway, leave a comment below including your email address.  You can visit the Expo’s website and tell us which part of the day excites you the most, tell us about your favorite wine, or share anything you’d like about wine!  The contest is open until January 30 at 5:00pm.

The winner will be determined by random draw and will be notified by Friday, January 31.

We can’t all be winners, but we can all get discounted tickets.  Receive 10% off tickets to the Grand Tasting event on either Saturday or Sunday with discount code SOCIAL.  Buy your tickets here!

Good luck!

And the winner is…

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 9.00.07 PM

Jess!  Congratulations, Jess!  We hope you have a wonderful time at the wine expo!

Edited Feb 1: Jess graciously decline her tickets because she had already won a pair of tickets! Congratulations to our new winner, Rene!

Posted in Booze, Boston | Tagged , , | 21 Responses

Steakhouse Dinner at Home

In addition to the root beer float cupcakes I made for my Mr.’s birthday dessert at his parents’ house, I had other food plans.  We spent his actual birthday with all of our parents, but I always prepare a special meal for his birthday and I still wanted to do that.  I gave him two options for a birthday dinner: we could either go out to a steakhouse for dinner, or I would cook at home.  Cooking at home for the win!

The obvious choice was to bring the steakhouse to him.  We were both happy to have dinner at home after an exhausting week.

To start, Caesar salad.  As a vegetarian, I don’t order Caesar salad at restaurants because it’s so common to use anchovies in the dressing.  I took this opportunity to make my own dressing using this recipe here.  Of course, I ran into a problem making the dressing.  I thought I had dijon mustard in the fridge, but when I opened the door I was wrong.  I searched for a substitution for dijon mustard and found a simple recipe using ground mustard, mayo, and white wine vinegar.  I had all of those ingredients so I gave it a shot, and it worked pretty well.


IMG_2350Next up, the main course.


I used Martha Stewart’s creamed spinach recipe; it was absolutely delicious!  It was perfectly creamy, enough to be tasty and filling, but not so much that you forget you’re eating a vegetable.  I followed this recipe exactly.


I stuck with Martha and used her twice baked potato recipe too.  The only change I made to the recipe was using 1/2 cup instead of 1/4 cup of cheese in the mashed potatoes.


My Mr. prepared the steak.  Maybe next year I’ll make it myself!  He makes it seem pretty simple.  He sprinkles both sides of the steak with salt and pepper, sears it in a cast iron skillet for about one minute on each side, then pops the skillet into the oven for about 10 minutes.  I think I could handle it.


For dessert, I had promised to make a cheesecake.  I intended to make a cheesecake last year, but sadly it never happened.  Last year we ate grilled cheese on his birthday.  While it was delicious and special to eat together during the week, I owed it to both of us to take this year up a notch.


Heart shaped Oreo cheesecake elevates any meal.  Complete with sparkler birthday candles.


This was the first time I’ve made a cheesecake, and I was surprised by how long it needs to cool.  You should really plan in advance if you’re making a cheesecake.  But, if you’re really tired and make a cheesecake later in the day than planned and it can only chill for two hours instead of the three plus recommended, it will still taste like cheesecake!  I used this recipe for Oreo cheesecake bars.  It was enough to fill the heart shaped pan plus an 8×8 square brownie pan.


I loved the thick Oreo cookie crust and Oreos throughout the cheesecake.  And the birthday boy liked it too!

What’s your favorite birthday meal?

Posted in Dessert, Recipes | Tagged , , , | 1 Response

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

It’s always a challenge to think of a fun birthday dessert for someone who doesn’t go nuts over desserts the way I do.  What can I create to make him excited about dessert? It has to contain one of his favorite things, and no I don’t mean steak cupcakes.  Although, maybe that’s not a bad idea.

But no, this year for my Mr.’s birthday dessert number 1 I decided to use his favorite soda: root beer.


One of my favorite lazy Sunday morning activities is to search Pinterest for inspiration.  I searched for root beer cupcakes, and found these root beer float cupcakes.  I actually found the same recipe posted in a few different places so I felt confident the cupcakes would taste as delicious as they looked.

Of course, I made a few changes to the recipe.  Some changes were by choice, and some by necessity.  My Mr.’s birthday always seems to fall during a busy work week and this year was no exception.  To have cupcakes ready to share on Friday, I new I had to bake and frost on separate nights.  Due to the busy week, I had one chance to go grocery shopping for ingredients.  The night I went to the store I stood in the baking aisle for a good 15 minutes searching for root beer extract, hoping it would magically appear in front of me next to all of the other extracts if I looked one more time.  That’s about how long it took for me to realize I had root beer Soda Stream syrup at home.  Duhh, it’s his favorite soda! Of course we have it at home!  I also couldn’t find a single serving bottle of root beer in the store, so I decided to use the Soda Stream syrup for the root beet extract, and make some soda to use for the root beer.


Based on our family’s review, I think Soda Stream was a good substitute for root beer extract.  I used about 5x as much as the recipe called for to get the root beer flavor in the frosting, but in the end the frosting used to fill the cupcakes did taste like root beer.  I also added more milk than the recipe called for because it just wasn’t that smooth and since I knew I wouldn’t be serving the cupcakes until the following night I wanted to make sure the frosting wouldn’t harden.  I also used vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract in the frosting.  I just thought it’d be fun to see those vanilla bean specks.


Decorating with a straw felt appropriate for a root beer float cupcake.


If you can bake, frost, and eat these cupcakes all in the same day, I highly recommend them!  They still taste good two days later but the cake is the most moist within 2 days of baking.

Root beer float birthday cupcakes were a success at my family table.  Stay tuned for birthday dessert number 2 later this week!

Do you have any dessert recipes that work well to make ahead?

Posted in Chocolate, Cupcakes, Dessert | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Skiing in the New Year

For the second year in a row, Miss Niss and her Mr. headed to Utah for some powder snow skiing.  Although there were 30 less inches of snow this year, inclement weather in Chicago delayed our return home, and when we finally got home, we were both so sick we spent the following two days drinking lots of fluids, consuming vitamins and cold medicines, and you wouldn’t believe how many tissues we used, I’d say the trip was well worth it.

We went snowmobiling at Snowbird on our "day off" from skiing

We went snowmobiling at Snowbird on our “day off” from skiing

When ordering a drink at Buca di Beppo, we learned it's a law in Utah you have to order food when ordering alcohol. Giant brownie sundae it is!

When ordering a drink at Buca di Beppo, we learned it’s a law in Utah you have to order food when ordering alcohol. Giant brownie sundae it is!

Our wine glasses next to the sundae for reference, we had no problem plowing through the mounds of gelato, brownie, and chocolate sauce. I'll admit I ate most of it!

Our wine glasses next to the sundae for reference, we had no problem plowing through the mounds of gelato, brownie, and chocolate sauce. I’ll admit I ate most of it!

We enjoyed fresh from the oven bread at Hoppers

We enjoyed fresh from the oven bread at Hoppers

I declared Hoppers an Upscale TGI Fridays, and they sure knew how to do nachos, veggie burgers, and fries right.

I declared Hoppers an Upscale TGI Fridays, and they sure knew how to do nachos, veggie burgers, and fries right.



Outside Alf's mountain-side restaurant at our favorite ski resort, Alta. Alf's is home of the best vegetarian chili I've ever tasted.

Outside Alf’s mountain-side restaurant at our favorite ski resort, Alta. Alf’s is home of the best vegetarian chili I’ve ever tasted.

And we love their free refills on hot drinks, plus this bavarian creme donut tasted as good as it looks.

And we love their free refills on hot drinks, plus this bavarian creme donut tasted as good as it looks.

Here’s to a healthy and delicious New Year!

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‘Tis the Season!

Ho ho ho! Welcome to Italian Christmas at the Tooch household.


We want to see all of your holiday and New Years pictures, too! Head over to and share your favorite pics with us. champagne_toast

Posted in Foodie Ramblings, Holiday | Leave a comment

Brown Sugar Eggnog Cake

Somehow, whenever TFAW are in a baking rut the winter season seems to kickstart us back in action. In A-Tooch’s family, Christmas is a multi-day event. Day one came early this year and so did the need for a seasonal recipe.


In the quest to find an easily transportable dessert (yes, I Googled this exact term), I landed on dense bunt cake recipes. I can vouch for the durability of this cake — it flipped over twice on my cab/train commute in a massive snowstorm. The pecan streusel and warm brown buttery sauce really put this ordinary cake over the top. I made the warm sauce topping once I reached my destination. Super simple and extremely decadent.


Brown Sugar Eggnog Cake
adapted from Betty Crocker recipes

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup eggnog

For pecan streusel:
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease bottom and side of bunt pan. In medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In large bowl, beat 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, the granulated sugar and softened butter with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly, thenon medium speed about 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla. Beat in flour mixture alternately with 3/4 cup eggnog on low speed until smooth.

Pour half of the mixture into pan. Combine pecan streusel ingredients in small bowl and sprinkle generously over the first layer of mixture. Fill the pan with the remaining — mixture will not fill to the top and this is OK.

Bake for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool for about 10 minutes before remove from pan to cooling rack.

Before you are ready to serve the cake, prepare the sauce. In a small saucepan, heat sauce ingredients except vanilla to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly; boil and stir 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Posted in Dessert, Holiday, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boston Wine Expo – coming soon!

You probably already know how you’re spending Christmas this year. Maybe you’ve thought about where you’ll be raising your champagne glass on December 31. But, how are you celebrating Presidents’ Day Weekend in February 2014? If you’re the type of person that turns holidays into weekend events, think of this as Valentine’s Day weekend too.

What? You don’t have plans yet? Luckily, the Boston Wine Expo will be in town February 15-16, at the Seaport Hotel. Two days full of wine tasting sounds like a great way to spend a weekend to us. As more exhibitors continue to register, our excitement is building up for the wine expo. In addition to tasting various wines from around the world, the wine expo offers fun learning opportunities. Check out the evolving list of seminars here.

Miss Niss was invited to attend a preview event earlier this fall and the small sample of delicious wines she tasted has her thirsty for the real event. To help with the ticket cost, we are offering a $10 off coupon code for the Grand Tasting on Saturday or Sunday. A ticket to the wine expo could make a perfect last minute stocking stuffer, or a little gift to yourself! Just enter code HOLIDAY13 at checkout. This code is valid until December 24.

Stay tuned for more buzz about the Boston Wine Expo as it gets closer!

Posted in Booze, Boston | Tagged , , | 1 Response

“What’s your favorite…” (Part Two)

In part two, we continue with the “best of”…in our humble opinions. Here are A-Tooch’s NYC favs. Chow on, friends!

Manhattan favs according to A-Tooch:

For Indian food: Bhatti
The food in Curry Hill (aka Murray Hill) tops that of Curry Row (E. 6th St.) and Bhatti is the best. So is their lunch deal. Arrive hungry.

For homestyle Italian: Supper
Skip Little Italy, Carmine’s and anywhere else people direct you. This is as close as you will get to home cooking (at least my Italian home). Prices are reasonable and there’s a wine bar next door for the almost guaranteed wait you will have.

For trendy: Beauty & Essex
Hidden behind a pawn shop, champagne served in the women’s lounge… all the necessary rigamarole. Oh, but the food is actually delicious.

For downtown vibe without the downtown BS (my specialty): ABV
Foie gras fluffernutter. Need I say more? Beer/wine (on tap!) only so don’t show up wanting vodka shots and leave disappointed.

For celeb chef: Any momofuku venue, Per Se, Otto or Babbo
Ok, this one was difficult. David Chang for nouveau, Thomas Keller for classic and Mario Batali for somewhere in between. Right?

For a New York experience: Keen’s Steakhouse
Forget what they tell you about Peter Luger’s or McCormick & Schmick, New York means steakhouse and there’s only one Keen’s.

For the adventurous outer borough trip: Taverna Kyclades
Astoria really isn’t that far away, let’s be serious. This is no fuss Greek. Lamb and caviar dip. Enough to serve an army. Free wine during your wait (and there will most likely be one).

Honorable mentions: Agave, Back Forty, Talde

Posted in Foodie Ramblings, Italian, Latin, Mexican, NYC, Pizza, Reviews | Tagged , , , | 1 Response
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