Cider on Down(east)

It should come as no surprise that I am a lover of all things local and all things fall. I also love a good event and a good drink…or three. What better way to combine them than checking out Downeast Cider Harvest Fest? I have had the cider quite a few times, but had never made the short trek to my old Charlestown neighborhood to the brewery until a couple of weekends ago.

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So you’re not surprised, it’s located under the Tobin and you may think, “am I going to be murdered…?” for a brief minute on the drive in because it doesn’t look like anything good would be back there. However, there definitely is something good back there and it’s not shady once you arrive.

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Check in ran smoothly and you were handed a clean, empty beer can with no top as your “glass” and two tickets– one for a drink and one for the tacos. Additional food and drinks were pay as you go and they accepted cash and cards. Inside, you’re legitimately partying in their operational brewery! The bar was off to the left, Pineapple Jam was setting up next to cornhole to the right, and outside had a makeshift beer garden. After enjoying some ciders (pumpkin was an outstanding fall offering, cranberry is incredible, and the sample of the winter blend was the crowd favorite in my group), we took our chances– and our warmth from the buzz– into the seasonal-yet-cooler-than-it-had-been beer garden to queue up for some totally delicious tacos from Causeway BBQ. Everyone got two– a pork and a chicken– with a side of rice and beans, then you could add any toppings you wanted.

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I’m glad we got there early because it was starting to get busier as the day went on, but I think it was a great value for the price and very well run! Downeast hosts events on a regular basis and I would definitely recommend checking one out. Follow them on social media or look them up on Eventbrite. There’s not much parking and it’s not near a T stop, so an Uber/cab is probably your best bet (unless you can convince your roommate to drop you off which is what I did).

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Funniest cousins I know!

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BASICally, we’re adorable.

Steak Me Out

With our hectic schedules, and family/friend commitments, it can be difficult for A and I to find solo time. With that in mind, we try to experience new things together to make the most of the time we do have! So a couple of months back, I saw a Gilt City for Taste Buds Kitchen’s BYOB cooking classes and immediately jumped on it. While I’m far from a culinary genius, I can cook, but there’s certainly room for improvement. While all of the workshops sounded incredibly yummy, the Steakhouse course took the (beef)cake. What is it that seems so daunting about cooking a steak well? Is that just me?

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Once I received the voucher, I emailed TBK and an actual human(!) nicely responded right away with instructions on registering. You know how sometimes places can be snooty if you have a voucher? Not here! With our uber busy fall, the first Steakhouse workshop we could attend was last week, but they have plenty of different events and workshops happening so I imagine it would have been fairly simple to have gone sooner as well.

Last Thursday night, we finally headed out to North Andover for our class! TBK was easy to find and there was ample street parking out front. When you walk in, the space manages to look both inviting and extremely clean. Andrea, Lisa and Gigi warmly greeted us, told us to wash our hands and to pick a station. We signed a waiver form, put on an apron and nametag and waited for the others to arrive (…I’m always early). There was pita bread and dipping oil to snack on and once everyone was in place, we opened our bottles of wine (why hello, Kim Crawford Pinot Noir); stemless wine glasses and water are provided!

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Next we got down to work, first watching Andrea do each step, then going back to our station and working (in two groups of 5) to mimic what she had demonstrated. I feel like it was informational, but also laidback. No one seemed stressed about it and all the couples were having fun together. And man, what I wouldn’t give to have everyone do all the measuring for me on a nightly basis. I’d definitely be making more meals at home! We put together wedge salads with homemade blue cheese dressing, red bliss mashed potatoes with truffle oil (on the side, used to taste) and pan seared flank steak. The potatoes were boiled for us after we cut them up, but we seared the steaks in groups ourselves. I have grilled and broiled steaks before, but never done them in a pan. It was easy! You just need to know what temp and what indicators to look for in doing so. Next we made a red wine reduction for the steak, something I have never even dreamed of doing. Again, it was just a matter of understanding what to do at what point, but overall fairly simple. The three instructors were always available for guidance, but also weren’t micromanaging our every move, so it was perfect.

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After everything was ready, we all sat down in place to enjoy the meal we had prepared together. Being a social person, I thought it was fun how the class brought everyone together and we all enjoyed the absolutely delicious food as well as each other’s company. We were able to pack up any leftovers and there were pamphlets with the recipes available to take home for reference.

In case this isn’t already clear, I thought it was an amazing experience from start to finish and I’m so glad we did it! Next time, I really want to try their brunch workshop with the girls. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone, whether you go as a couple or with your lady friends, it was something different to do that also boosted my cooking confidence. Plus, how could you hate on anything BYOB?! Give it a go!

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p.s., if you have little ones, they do children’s workshops during the day. If you live outside of the greater Boston area, there are TBK locations in a few other states as well.