Operation: Fried Pickles.

Welp, It’s January. Many of us are experiencing the not-so-fun comedown from last year’s Christmahanakwanzikah cheer. But while this month is typically associated with bad feelings, the Hensel-Leto clan has had no shortage of high spirits.

Credit is due to our latest addition, who fits about as perfect as Michael Jackson’s sparkling white glove. Our little guy has all the spunk of his two daddies, as well as our distinct low-tolerance for New England weather. In fact, our native Texan Prince already agrees that the sheer volume of snow fall is unacceptable, and has demanded we fashion him some adorable sweaters immediately (Hillary, we’re lookin’ at you).

Aren't they precious?

Aren’t they precious?

This past week, we helped Hans get acclimated by introducing him to his Auntie Lillian and her band of rogue rascals (Marcel and Guiseppe, pictured to the right):

They got along fine, but when it came to Lillian’s foster pup, MindyMarthaAliceMiranda (she responds to any and all names), we decided that one thing’s for sure: just like his two daddies, Hans is less than impressed by sprightly chillun-folk. Thereby reaffirming that he is indeed perfect.

Here are a few things you need to know about our friend, Ms. Lillian Barrows White.

1) She’s a canine expert. As a long time groomer and lover of adorable mutts, she is our go-to gal for early morning Hans-induced panic attacks. Not only that, but;

2) She loves weird foods. Seriously, there’s nothing this girl won’t put in her mouth.

Which was what lead us to an extensive conversation about where we could get some locally-made frog’s legs. Enter: Keepers in West Boylston, MA. Following an unprompted, dramatic recitation of the ENTIRE menu, and the discovery that they also serve fried pickles (Lillian’s absolute unequivocal favorite), our choice was made.

So post-meet-and-greet, a new adventure commenced. With a high stakes football game as our backdrop, it was primetime for a smörgåsbord! The items:2014-01-19 17.45.56

2014-01-19 17.46.01

  • Finder’s Keeper’s Fried Pickles (3.99)
  • Frogs Legs (7.99)
  • Escargot (5.49)
  • Cordon Bleu Mini Bites (5.99)
  • Side Salad (to maintain our hour-glass figures)
  • New Englad Clam Chowdah (3.59)
  • Lobster Macaroni and Cheese (10.79)
  • Jalapeno Macaroni and Cheese (chicken added) (7.49+)
  • More Salad (because these pants won’t fit into themselves, ya know), and
  • Meatballs in a Bread Bowl

With frog legs on left and snails on right, AJ acquiesced and decided that, while he can appreciate amphibious cuisine, gastropods aren’t really his thing. The rest was shared around the table with rave reviews.

Everything on the table was fair game to anyone. The Patriots fans were huddled around the 16 flat screens and we had ourselves a tailgate party. The bar cleared out and the waitress told us that the hometown boys had lost. The place got quieter, but our games had just begun.

2014-01-19 18.12.29Spencer added grilled chicken to the jalapeno mac-n-cheese and sweated the experience with great joy. In Spencer’s world, spice is most certainly nice. Miss Lillian, the connoisseur of peculiar culinary cravings must’ve had enough of the weird because she chose a staple in American fare, the recently famous lobstah-mac-n-cheese. AJ had the meatballs in a bread bowl and only got half-way through one of them. Alas, just like Brady’s boys in blue, we had lost, too. Our loss was that we couldn’t get our bellies to expand past our belts. Luckily, we left with a consolation prize of two bags of leftovers. The meatball sandwich/bread bowl was excellent and reheated a few days later on a panini press quite well (read: squeezed into a George Foreman). The jalapeno/chicken/mac-n-cheese kept its signature smoky flavor and made an awesome afternoon meal the next day. Our first quarter may have ended in defeat, but boy did we come out swinging when it came to numero dos.

The waitress that we had was AWESOME! Barbara, Thank you! We wish the Patriots had won, if only to keep the energy alive, but the good eats more than made up for it. Keepers is keeping it awesome in an awesomely american pub style. It’s comfort food done in a very fun way. Foods that our Nana’s and Grampa’s enjoyed with some of our generation’s true favorites. Next to Finders, Keepers surely is – a keeper! ;-0

Eat old shool. Eat with friends. Live and Enjoy!

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A day for the history books.

Sunday, January 12, 2014 was a day for the history books.

A day we dreamed about. A day that, even in our elaborate dream-worlds, never seemed like it could be so perfect. One in which a man straight out of the moving pictures triumphantly delivered a little hairy bundle of joy with the fervor and drama of Rafiki from the Lion King. It was like that, only it totally happened! Rafiki (aka Greg) proudly stood before a crowd of entranced onlookers and shouted the name of our tiny prince, which we promptly corrected:

‘Scue me! — That’s Hans Hugo Hensel-Leto.

This ceremony of sorts was courtesy of the lovely folks at Rescue Road Trips, a pet transportation service that sends newly adopted orphans to their forever homes from Deep South Kill Shelters all the way up to New England. Greg is the “Grand Poobah” of the operation. His enthusiasm and heart of gold know no bounds, just hounds. Do you like what we did there?

RRT works directly with a handful of shelters, which was how we learned about them in the first place. Mutts4Rescue, an organization that finds foster and forever homes for dogs, featured an ad for little Hans on Petfinder. It was – how do you say? ah yes – love at first sight.

Anyone in our circle knows how long we’ve been looking. Spencer’s friends probably got sick of the five new dogs he would show them every week, only to find they were taken, temperamental, or just plain too big. AJ was barraged with suggestions, concerns and assurances that having a dog is hard work. Together, we agreed that the right one would come along. One that would be worth the headaches and stair climbs and poop scoops, and could possibly even match our formidable beard growth.

Did we find it? You tell us:

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He’s quite a guy! Early observations: he’s bright, perhaps too much for his own good. He may have a slight Napoleon-complex, or perhaps just a healthy fear of puppies (he and Paige’s Gypsy had a bit of a rough patch, but we think they’re better now). As far as people go, he’s eager to please. He loves dancing on his hind legs and is perfectly aware of the humans he can break with such adorable displays of showmanship. He’s a 14 pounder (Spencer’s target weight) but his personality is a healthy 400. He loves TV, so much so that he kind of ruins it for the rest of us (he’s a stander). He enjoys long walks with handsome men and peeing on street corners that don’t smell like him. Thanks to an enthusiastic instructional demonstration by Spencer in heavy rain, Hans was able to learn how to make doodies outdoors (Don’t worry, Spencer was only “acting”).2014-01-13 10.19.28

So that was the main event, not only for Sunday, but probably for the rest of forever, seeing as Hans intends to outlive all humankind. There were a few other highlights:

We saw a movie! Spike Jonze’s Her, to be exact. It was wonderful, we both highly recommend it. It’s sweet, soulful, intimate, honest, and it’s got Spike’s signature adult-friendly whimsy that makes every one of his movies a marvel to look at. Joaquin Phoenix as a lonely letter writer and Scarlett Johansson as a hyper-intelligent, emotionally supportive OS gave us one of the most unique love stories of our time. It’s fitting that it should be viewed in the same canon as his collaborator Michel Gondry’s 2004 masterpiece Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s every bit as thoughtful and visionary.

We were about two hours early to meet our someone special, so we went for a bite to eat at Someplace Special in Putnam, CT. We weren’t totally excited and anxious and distracted dreaming of our loveable guy. Well, we were at least 95% all of the above. However, our stomachs didn’t take a back seat, at all. We enjoyed a tasty dinner of

  • Chicken Pesto Flat Bread – Grilled and topped with pesto, grilled chicken, tomato, mozzarella & shredded parmesan cheese. 9.00
  • Steak Wrap – Lean shaved steak, sauteed mushrooms, onions and American cheese served on garlic herbed tortilla. 9.50
  • Mushroom & Spinach Wrap – Grilled mushrooms, spinach and mozzarella cheese, served with sour cream on a garlic herbed tortilla. 9.50

Someplace Special lives up to its name. It’s a restaurant that lives up to the restaurants of years ago. With its no-nonsense menu that has an option for most any palate and its beautiful space. It’s surely a regular supper club for locals. The prices are more than reasonable and the food quality was great. I’d return there, for sure!

For six months, we traveled to rescue leagues, kennels and animal societies looking for THE canine cock-of-the-walk. A lovable little guy who would be our properly poised, suitably suave and simply-silly-enough companion for life.

But it was in the least likely of places, tangled among the e-commerce and pornography of the Internets. We found the cutest, most highly-rated longest-tongued tramp in Texas.

Our surrogate child.

Movies. Dinner. Adoption. A trifecta of Joy! We put together into one day three of the things that we love most.

Bon Caldo in Norwood, MA

On New Year’s Eve we did what all the kids do. We went to IKEA, stopped for “early-bird” seating dinner and were home in time for me to have a nap before waking up on the couch at 12:02 to wish Spencer a Happy New Year, give him a kiss and tuck my old body into bed for a good New Year’s kick off sleep.

We sometimes watch Phantom Gourmet on My38 on a Sunday Morning and the Stoughton Area (IKEA’s neighborhood) often has a featured restaurant. We are happy to report: we agree with the Phantom’s sentiment on Bon Caldo. Located at 1381 Boston-Providence Turnpike‎, Norwood, MA 02062, the facility is beautiful. This is a business owned by people who surely care about small details. We arrived about 6pm to a crowded entry way where large parties were congregating. Within a minute we made our way to the host who kindly informed us that he could not seat us in the dining room. (We learned later that the restaurant had more than 350 reservations for the evening.) He did, however, offer us two open seats at the bar. There, the beautiful bartender was waiting with a huge smile, ready as ever to treat her next two guests like princes. She was wonderful.

We chose a light dinner of salads and a shared pizza.

Salads:

  • 2013-12-31 18.48.24barbabietola ∼ ruby red and golden beets – fresh fig infused goat cheese – baby greens – balsamic drizzle
  • caprese ∼ fresh house made mozzarella – hot house tomatoes – basil leaf – aged balsamic drizzle – evoo

2013-12-31 18.49.04The portions were exceptional. Large slices of in-house prepared beet topped with delicious goat cheese and thick tomato and mozzarella slices and a small amount of tender, sweet baby mixed greens to dress the plate. Seriously the opposite of what I’m used to. Usually one gets a big pile of greens accented with the main point of the story. We received big portions of what we wanted: roasted beets, goat cheese, delicious sweet tomatoes and fresh flavorful mozzarella. The balsamic was not sticky or thick. Exceptional culinary talent at Bon Caldo. These photos could never do the flavors and freshness justice. YOU MUST SEE FOR YOURSELF!

Pizza: rustica ∼ artichoke hearts – porcini mushroom – fresh mozzarella – cherry tomato – truffle oil

The pizza was tremendous. Each ingredient was positioned and portioned to evenly mix together. Like the notes, rhythms and thoughtful lyrics of a love song; the pizza and our taste buds met in true love at the first bite.

We cannot wait to return with some friends to enjoy more of the menu. The dining rooms are gorgeous, like Disney imagineered gorgeous, and the large farmhouse tables and rustic Italian options on the menu are still on my mind.

New Year. New Desires. New Experiences. Enjoy!!

5 Reasons It Sucks To Write A Screenplay in 2014

So you saw a few movies and you’re ready to write one of your own. Awesome! Here’s why you might want to rethink that one:

1. People have seen it all.

Not really, of course. As long as there are humans, or David Bowie, there will always be invention. Sure, there are plenty of porn-addicted psychopathic snot-faced delinquents out there that think there’s nothing new under the sun. They’d snort bath salts before they’d paint or pick flowers in a field, and that just ain’t healthy. (Unless you’re allergic to pollen or something, which is frankly just a little bit sad.)

Gonna be honest, this is not a cute look for you.

Gonna be honest, this is not a cute look for you.

This impressed-by-nothing mentality means that when something genuinely beautiful or inspired comes along, people will be too busy shitting on it to realize that they just missed another opportunity to salvage their humanity. That’s why so many movies are loud, graphic, and/or fast. In the Age of Now, there’s no room for subtext (unless the subtext is that everything and everyone is awful or untrustworthy). Which brings me to my next point:

2. Whimsy is out of style.

Remember the Wizard of OzMary PoppinsWilly Wonka? Even Amelie, just a little over a decade ago? These were colorful, quirky movies with a lot of heart and musical numbers and memorable characters. They didn’t rely on shock or nihilism or gore, they were windows into elaborate fantasy worlds, as delicate and otherworldly as they were hopeful and optimistic.

It makes sense that our culture evolved the way it did. Progress has made us more interconnected but less attached, passive viewers of an increasingly complex world. We consume media more frequently and when we revisit the stories that once delighted us, we do so with critical lenses. Trust me, I’ve got examples: 2013’s second look at Mary Poppins, Saving Mr. Banks, revealed its real-life creator to be an uppity control freak whose dad was a self-destructive alcoholic. Sam Raimi’s Oz prequel, Oz: The Great and Powerful, re-imagined The Wicked Witch as a heartbroken harlot who embraced her darkest, most hate-filled ambitions and devolved from a white-washed hottie to a green-faced nottie. Then you have Tim Burton sucking the blood out of classics like it’s his job. Which, yep… it is. Seriously, did this do it for anyone:

Just One Facelift Short of Joan Rivers.

Just one facelift short of Joan Rivers.

Even the world of animation is getting darker by the minute. The brilliant Pixar is a beacon for creativity in contemporary Hollywood, but the plot-lines of Wall-E and Up tread on decidedly sad territory. Meanwhile, Laika’s Coraline and ParaNorman fully embrace the macabre, while adult-geared gems like Mary & Max and Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist  are downright morose. These movies usually end well, but they’re not shy about showing audiences just how effed the world can be. I can’t fault them for their sincerity, but wouldn’t it be great to see a handful of well-crafted movies in 2014 that were just unabashedly naive? For the children?!!

So okay, cheery, smartly crafted stories would be nice. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s remember that:

3. Studios Don’t Want It Unless It’s Familiar. 

Harry Potter, The Avengers, Hunger Games, Man of Steel, Twilight, Dark Knight – these had surefire box office appeal, because every one of them already proved lucrative. So here you are, laboring over your quiet indie with multi-dimensional characters and relatable problems that’s a totally NEW take on the same old shit, but hang tight, what’s the backstory? If it ain’t 3-7 books’ worth of stuff, and hasn’t topped the New York Times’ Best Sellers List, then good luck!

Let’s say you somehow strike gold with an original idea. Chances are, it is not especially innovative or abstract. Some Corporate Lug-Head decided it was close enough to a story he’d already seen, with enough key differences to make it not-an-infringement-of-copyright and you got the green light. Let’s be real: do you think Tyler Perry became a multi-millionaire by having an uncompromising artistic vision? No, he became a household name because it’s scientifically proven that men in dresses are funny. No matter how good or bad they look, no matter how accurate or distant their impression of a woman may be. Whether you’re RuPaul or Wesley Snipes, it’s funny. Always. Perry knew this and went all in.

The face of a man who's got it all figured out.

The face of a man who’s got it all figured out.

The moral of his story: resign yourself to the fact that what fulfills you isn’t necessarily what makes you shit-faced rich, and you’re one step closer to success. But even so:

4. The Odds of Making It Are Way Against You.

Realistically consider the fact that there are maybe tens of thousands of people who pursue this path every year. How many make it? What did it take for them to get to that place?

I’ll give you a hint, raw talent alone didn’t land them the spot. It was writing. Rewriting. Writing. Editing. Rewriting. Networking. Finding Opportunity. Finding Feedback. Writing. Re– You get the picture. It’s a lot of work that demands a lot of time people don’t have. Especially people straight out of college with $100,000+ in debt; forget the disadvantage of not living in LA. Young dreamers such as myself just aren’t statistically in a very good place. Nor are we actually. I guess that’s why modern media is so cynical. Not that I can really knock it. Being perfectly honest, I didn’t watch Breaking Bad for its elaborate song-breaks (though I totally would have if Vince made that a real thing).

I always thought this was a missed opportunity to break into song.

I always thought this was a missed opportunity to segue into a musical number. You can see it in his eyes.

Speaking of Vince and his brand of nothing-goes-right storytelling, let’s get to our 5th and final Reason that it Sucks to Write a Screenplay in 2014:

5. It’s Tough As Balls.

Just like that story you’re writing about the guy or gal who faces insurmountable odds, there’s nothing easy about this career. If you really REALLY want it, you’ll get beaten up and spit on and face a TON of rejection. If you believe in your ideas and you are determined to preserve them, it’s gonna take an even bigger dose of some Queen Bey fierceness. In that case, calling yourself a screenwriter might not be enough. You may have to band together with a group of likeminded merry men and take the reigns yourself as director. Auteurs may be rare, but the good ones are most certainly in fashion – creative giants like Guillermo Del Toro, James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, and Alfonso Cuaron are just a few happy dissenters in a largely uncreative mainstream. They are all visionary, whether it be as storytellers, art directors, or tech-innovators. And above all, they have TREMENDOUS authority over the outcome of their work.

Ok, so maybe whimsy isn't dead.

Ok. So maybe whimsy isn’t dead.

Nobody said success would be a sure thing. But the reward for wholly devoting yourself to your passion must be indescribable. I’m only now making realistic steps toward my greater goal of becoming a successful storyteller, but it pays to remember: you have to start somewhere. Even if I’m only just now in the infant stage.

Here’s to hoping for some big leaps in 2014.

Enjoy it, my lovelies! Now’s the time.

Sharing the Harvest and Cooking with Friends

Happy 2014, Folks!! To ring in the New Year we have a very special guest post from our good friend Michelle Camiel, who took over our kitchen and showed us MAGIC!

Here’s her story:

I love to cook. My favorite thing about cooking is sharing the food I make with people I like. For the past few years I’ve been getting a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share from Shared Harvest, which supplies fresh veggies, fruit, and other locally-made items from several farms and artisans (i.e. dried beans from Baer’s Best). This year I signed up for the 2-month share, which I pick up once in November and once in December. Each share has approximately 40 pounds of fresh produce. Participating in a CSA forces me to cook differently by finding creative ways to use the produce I have. It took me a while to get used to this but now I love it. (I also do a CSA from June-October from Farmer Dave’s in Dracut.)

My friend AJ and I are always talking about food–in particular eating healthier food. When I got my December CSA I asked AJ if we could plan a cook day to make a bunch of recipes together so that I could share my CSA share contents. Of course he complied! I sent him some recipes to get approval. I also provided a shopping list for him to get some supplies for our 4 recipes. We decided on Carrot Miso Soup from Smitten Kitchen, Crunchy Cabbage Icebox Salad from Food and Wine, Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash from Bon Appetit and Root Vegetable and Cauliflower Tagine with Parsley yogurt from Food and Wine.

Recipe#1: Carrot Miso Soup.

2013-12-22 14.26.12If you’re not familiar with Deb Perlman’s blog Smitten Kitchen I highly recommend it. It’s filled with simple, flavorful recipes like this soup. This is a great recipe to use up 2 pounds of carrots. The miso adds a salty umami bomb that sends this soup into flavor heaven. The suggested garnish of scallions and a tiny bit of sesame oil really push it over the top.

Bottom Line: AJ, Spencer and I all agreed this was a keeper.

Recipe #2: Crunchy Cabbage Icebox Salad.

Icrunchycabbagsaladfoodandwinephotowithcredit‘ve had this recipe on my mind for a while because I’m always looking for a good way to use up green cabbage. It’s a nutrition powerhouse as well as super crunchy and cheap. This is one of those layered salad recipes that hangs out in the fridge for a while before you eat it. I almost never make things like this so I was really curious about it and glad it made the cut. The dressing is a mix of greek yogurt, garlic, a bunch of fresh herbs, fresh lime juice, skim milk and cayenne. Kind of like a spicy ranch dressing but completely fat-free. My cayenne alarm went off when I saw that the recipe called for one teaspoon of it. That may not sound like a lot, but usually recipes just call for a pinch. Against my better judgment, I added the whole teaspoon. If I were to make this recipe again, I would definitely cut back on the cayenne or add ground chipotle powder instead. AJ suggested chili powder which I think would work well too. The thing about cayenne is that it adds heat but doesn’t add a lot of flavor. We had two smallish heads of cabbage and I showed AJ how to shred it using his new [used] handed down food processor. He was having fun shredding up the cabbage, radishes and kohlrabi (I substituted the jicama for the kohlrabi because I got kohlrabi in my share and I honestly never know what to do with it).

Bottom Line: This recipe was awesomely delicious. We all agreed that next time double the avocado, double the pumpkin seeds and definitely omit the cayenne or reduce it by a lot. A couple of things that made me really happy about making this salad were that AJ and Spencer had never had watermelon radishes or kohlrabi before, AJ is now a lover of Greek yogurt (say “FA-YEH!”) and the salad was freaking delicious! (Later in the week I grilled some sirloin flap steak from M.F. Dulock butcher in Somerville and had it on top of the salad–yummers!) Warning: this recipe makes a TON of salad!

Recipe #3: Black bean chili with butternut squash.

2013-12-22 14.48.10This recipe is awesome. I have made this many times and it’s delicious and nutritious and totally vegan if that’s what you’re into. The best part for me was that AJ peeled and cut up the butternut squash which is not a task I enjoy. This chili makes a huge amount and it’s great to freeze. Add the usual chili garnishes such as cheese, sour cream (we used greek yogurt), cilantro, avocado and you’ll be glad you did.

Bottom Line: Love it and feel good about eating it!

Recipe #4: Root vegetable and cauliflower tagine with parsley yogurt.

tagineandyogurtThis recipe calls for parsnips, turnips, and sweet potatoes which is why it appealed to me. I’m always looking for ways to use up these delicious root veggies from the share. In addition to these veggies this recipe calls for about 25 other ingredients so take that for what it’s worth. A few adjustments we made to this recipe were: I hate olives so I omitted them; I doubled the currants because I love them (you could totally use raisins instead); we added a few cups of butternut squash because we had it leftover from the chili recipe. If you decide to make this recipe, note that it’s a little soupy when it needs to be more stewy. I found it best to let it reduce down a bit.

Bottom Line: We all liked this recipe’s healthy deliciousness and the floral notes of the saffron, but it was a lot of work and I’m not sure we’d make it again. It had a lot of flavor and was a nutrition powerhouse.

For extra flavor, add couscous.

For extra flavor, add couscous.

The Grand TOTAL!

I highly recommend cooking with friends. Tasting all the food together and packing it up for the freezer and fridge is fun. I love the idea of opening my freezer and knowing there are lots of healthy options that we cooked ourselves. With a little planning and some good company and music you can take a few hours out of your life and make some healthy meals to start the new year off right. You don’t have to do it the CSA-way, but I love supporting local farmers and purveyors and turning friends on to this way of cooking and eating. Thanks AJ and Spencer for letting me take over your kitchen! I had a blast.