Tag Archives: austen

The new Cafe G at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

12 Mar
Grilled Comte Sandwich with Roasted Grapes and Frisee

Grilled Comté Sandwich with Roasted Grapes and Frisée

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has reopened with a new wing and updated restaurant.  Cafe G doesn’t serve afternoon tea, but it offers tea, small dishes, and desserts.  It was also the perfect venue for our book club get-together because we were reading The Family Fortune by Laurie Horowitz, and the protagonist’s fictional ancestor was a rival of Isabella Stewart Gardner, Boston patroness of art.

*Hannahbells Cheese with Pear Mostarda

Hannahbells Cheese with Pear Mostarda

I have only one quibble with Cafe G, and that would be the tiny portions.  The “small plates” were truly just that, and some of the main dishes didn’t look filling either.

Trout with Blood Oranges and Mache

Trout with Blood Oranges and Mache

The trout with blood oranges and mache Rebecca ordered might have left me hungry.  That said, everything I tasted was wonderful, service was prompt and polite, and the restaurant looked modern but still comfortably casual and had lots of natural light.

*Sweet Maine Shrimp with Potato Gnocchi and Pistachio

Sweet Maine Shrimp with Potato Gnocchi and Pistachio

I ordered the Hannahbell Cheese and Shrimp with Potato Gnocchi off the small plates menu.  I considered a third plate, but thought they couldn’t possibly be that small.  Wrong.  The cheese was good, but Marianne and I were laughing about the “three thimbles” we were each given.  I’m not sure what the crisp/chip on the plate was, but I wish the plate included crackers and I ended up using the delicious, crusty bread on the table.  The pear mostarda was slightly sweet and like a jam, and might have been the best thing on that slab plate. The shrimp were good but I was nervous about just how much butter or cream must have gone into the sauce. The gnocchi were creamy and light, and I wanted a lot more.

*Teapot

English Breakfast tea

The English breakfast tea was standard, but to its credit brewed loose leaf.  I’m not usually a fan of metal teapots, but the small size and shape made it forgivably cute.  Everyone else’s dishes looked beautiful and there were no complaints about the food.

*Chicken Sausage with Spaghetti Squash

Chicken Sausage with Maple Spaghetti Squash

*Braised Beef Masala Sandwich

Braised Beef Masala Sandwich with Goat Cheese ~ Carrot and Golden Raisin Salad

Grilled comté sandwiches, braised beef sandwiches, chicken sausage with spaghetti squash, and ham terrine were among the other dishes ordered.

Warm Doughnuts with Champagne Crème Anglaise

Warm Doughnuts with Champagne Crème Anglaise

My dessert was impossibly good.  Gardner served Champagne and doughnuts at the museum opening in 1903, so this dish was a tribute to that history.  These were not like the heavier doughnuts you might find at Dunkin’.  They were airier and served warm with a slightly sweet Champagne crème anglaise.  My runner-up choice was the banana bread pudding that Kirk ordered.

*Hazelnut Meringue with Caramelized Blood Orange

Hazelnut Meringue with Caramelized Blood Orange

I was surprised to see the meringues that Rebecca and Isabelle chose looked creamy, expecting the hard, dry things sold in plastic tubs at supermarkets.

*Glasses

Cocktails and fancy water bottles, but we think it was just tap water

The total of food, drink, tax, and tip ranged from $25 to $50 per person.  Some of us had multiple cocktails, but I’m not naming names!  Prices were fair and quality was good, though I maintain portions were too small.

*

Amaryllis (I think) and rosemary on the tables

When you’re done tasting, check out the new greenhouse with gorgeous orchids and amaryllis (it feels like there’s not much more to the new wing than offices), the famed courtyard with exotic plants blooming in the midst of winter, the John Singer Sargents, and all three floors of paintings, tapestries, letters, furniture, and those famous canvases sitting empty from the famed art heist .  It’s a uniquely Boston experience.

“Austen” Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

30 Sep
Cuke sandwiches

I have not been able to get these sandwiches out of my head!  Rebecca from our Austen in Boston book club makes some awesome sandwiches, but these are my favorite, hands down.  Rebecca calls them “Austen in Boston” English Cucumber Tea Sandwiches.  We enjoyed them at our last picnic, and they are so good with a cup of tea — with cream and sugar, of course.

Cucumber sandwiches

Cucumber sandwiches are simple, but these get some complexity from herbs and good-quality bread.  Rebecca uses Ezekiel Bran for Life bread, but my store didn’t have any so I went with Nature’s Pride Nutty Oat (strangely, the packaging says it has a nutty flavor but no nuts, and it’s 100% natural).  Even Joe loved the nutty oat, and he isn’t always keen on the 12-grain-type breads I bring home.  Plus I think ordinary white bread is too bland for something as mild as cucumber.

Slicing cucumber
Using a mandoline gives you uniform slices
Cucumber ribbons
The slices are paper-thin

Rebecca also uses organic cream cheese, nothing artificial.  I went with neufchatel cheese, which tastes just like cream cheese but has a third less fat.  Philadelphia makes one.  I went with the English seedless cucumber she recommended — it has less water and seeds than regular cucumber — as well as the dill.  Rebecca recommends dried chives as an alternative and says they’re better than fresh.  I used both dill and fresh chives, since I have chives growing in my garden and personally love them fresh.

Bread slices
Slathering cream cheese on half of the bread
Layering cucumber
Slightly overlap layers of cucumber, then repeat once

These few ingredients make up a sandwich both delicate for tea and snacking, but hearty enough to fill you up, to my surprise.  Now, I once made cucumber sandwiches on this blog way back when, but in retrospect I didn’t have a great formula.  You need the right ratio of cucumber slices to cream cheese to bread, and this recipe has it.  I foresee many chilly afternoons with these babies and a hot pot of tea.

Sandwich profile
This post also appears at What About Second Breakfast?

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