A Workbar party with Popchips & KitchenSurfing

Last week I had an great opportunity to check out another Boston Blog and Tweet event. This time I crossed the bridge (with a very beautiful sunset I might add) into Cambridge for a friendly cooking competition with KitchenSurfing, Popchips at Workbar.

KitchenSurfing needs no great introduction on my blog since I did a review with them a few months ago, but in case you missed that here’s the deal. Its an online service where you pick a chef who will come to your home and cook, or teach you to cook a meal. Aside from the amazing food I’ve experienced, my second favorite part is that they do all the cleaning. Think of it as another option to those $$$$ restaurants, or a great way to cater an event. Every cuisine you can think of is available at various price options.

Popchips are a chip that’s “popped” versus the standard fried options. I think the process is similar to rice cakes (but don’t quote me on it). Regardless of how it’s made, it has lower calories then your standard chip and is so amazing. Little tip, Costco has great pricing on the family size bag!

Workbar offers communal workspaces where freelancers, start-ups, and remote employees of larger enterprises can enjoy high quality office amenities at an affordable price.  The provide an extraordinary workplace for their members; meeting rooms to meet with clients and give presentations; event space; and a wide variety of social and educational programming including happy hours, lunch seminars, workshops, and networking events.

Now that you know all the key players, let’s get to the competition, because you know at the end of the day, I’m there for some food, and maybe some chatting, One of my talents is talking and eating at the same time (even if my mother disapproved).

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First up are the boys of Aprons off Catering,  Mark O’Leary and Justin Hackett serving up loads of delicious Vietnamese Bahn Mi Sandwich with Popchips cured pork, salt & vinegar Popchip mayo, Katy Perry’s Popchip pate, and a Vietnamese style baguette made with pulverized Popchips! I have to say that my favorite part of it all were their bread rolls! I even shamelessly came back for seconds! Check them out on KitchenSurfing and order up some tasty meals!

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Next up for my stomach was Jitti Chaithiraphant of Food Is Love! He prepared a corn and cheddar Popchips soup. I have the recipe and it was so good, that I might have to try it out myself with it’s rich cheddar flavor with Popchips as a base and a crunchy Popchips garnish. Maybe not the most healthiest soup, but absolutely satisfying!

KitchenSurfingComp3And finally last but not least, chef Jen Rogers of Perfect Bite who is absolutely hilarious, was serving up a party! She created a Popchips Chicken and Waffle app using Katy’s Kettle Corn Popchips for the “waffle” and Popchips breaded chicken, with a delicious Honey-Hot BBQ sauce. But wait, to make this chicken and waffle combo complete, she added in a Bloody Mary shooter!

As you can see from the description of the chefs, we were absolutely spoiled rotten! Add in a wonderful bartender mixing up some cranberry infused vodka with seltzer drinks and I got nothing to complain about.

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We were asked to pick a favorite and it’s a tough choice but I guess we can’t always all be winners besides my stomach. I would have to pick Jitti Chaithiraphant of Food Is Love and his cheddar Popchips soup. The ingredients just went so naturally together. Now if I could grab one of Mark and Justin’s rolls to have with it, I think it would have been a killer combo!

After the awesome event we all got to walk away with some Popchips for a chance to compete in a Popchips competition of our own to win a KitchenSurfing giftcard. So you bet that I’ll be entering and I’ll post the recipe later tomorrow! Stay tuned, because you’ll love it! (I hope so you can vote for me!)

In the mean time if you want to learn more about all the parties involved in organizing this awesome event, here are some links.

Popchips – Facebook – @Popchips
Workbar – Facebook – @WorkBar
KitchenSurfing – Facebook – @Kitchensurfing & @KS_Boston
BlogAndTweetBoston – Facebook– @BlogAndTweetBos

QOTD

Have you ever tried Popchips? As I mentioned before, I go through Costco sized bags!

Have you ever cooked anything with chips? No, but it was fun playing around!

Bringing Fine Dining In with KitchenSurfing

I always had this dream that when I grow up, and have my own house with the big kitchen, I’d cook more with dinners worthy of Top Chef competition. Then reality sets in, with work, travel and general laziness of I worked all day, took the awful train home and now too tired to do anything but grumble, I tend to cook less and less. However, I still have a taste for fine dining and I’m lucky enough that I have the means and supply (Boston restaurants are quite awesome) to dine out quite well and often. But what if I can take my taste for eating well, general laziness and not even have to leave my dining room?

That’s where KitchenSurfing comes in. KitchenSurfing matches customers who want restaurant-quality food made in their home (or office, or whatever), and some thousands of chefs. The chefs range from your top acclaimed professional to your local self-taught foodie with a skill for creating magic in the kitchen.

So how does it work? There are two ways to book:

  • Browse the list of chefs, read their reviews and sample menus, and pick one you’d like to have cook for you. Send them a message and see what they can offer.

OR

  • Submit a “Match Request”. Fill out a form stating what you’re looking for (party size, budget, date, time, etc.), any dietary restrictions or allergies, preferred cuisines, and anything else you want or don’t want. Your request will be sent to all the chefs matching your criteria. Chefs will then contact you to customize a menu and make you an offer. Once you’ve found a chef and a menu that you are satisfied with you can book your chef!

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We recently tried it out and had an amazing time with Chef Christopher Borges.  At 5:30 on the dot, he came over our house with sous chef José and all the supplies they would need. It seemed like in addition to the two hours of prepping in our kitchen, they already put in a lot of work before coming over.

Both chefs were incredibly friendly and easy-going. I was also surprised to learn that Chris is a triathlete and runs marathons so of course there was some chatting about that. But enough about running, this a post about eating so let’s get to the food.

First I needed some guests. I can eat a lot, but I suppose I’ll share. That’s where Tony, his sister Grace and our roommate Adrienne came in. Chef Christopher and Sous Chef José took over the kitchen, prepped for about 2 hours, set up our dining room with the best of the dishes, utensils and wine glasses our kitchen has while the menu and the decorative gourds were supplied by them (but we happily got to keep.).

Side-note: We’re stripping wallpaper, fixing walls, and repainting (and by we, I mean we’re paying contractors to do it), so our dining room isn’t as a romantic of setting as I would have hoped to display due to my own scheduling failure of double-booking chefs and painters in the same week).

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As we looked over our multi-course menu, we weren’t sure what to expect but you could see the excitement.

We started with three crostini

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Gorgonzola, pear & walnut, amazing!

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Beets, ricotta & lemon – I also learned that beets and citrus go really well together. Good to know, because being Russian and all, I love beets!

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Eggplant Sott’aceto which is basically pickled eggplant, a recipe passed down from Chef Chris’ girlfriend’s grandmother. And I was so excited about pickled eggplant, which I’ve never tried before, that I forgot my royal blogger duty of photo taking. Luckily, Grace is world’s slowest eater, so I made her stop mid-chew for documentation purposes.

KitchenSurfing DInner (6)Next came the homemade Agnolotti stuffed with chickpea and saffron butter. Not gonna lie, I was hoping there would be some extra, but we ate them all!

It was also around this time that we finished our first bottle of wine that was paired with the first two courses. a 2010 Costa D’Amalfi Tramonti Bianco.

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Our second homemade pasta was Maccheroni Alla Chitarra with charred leeks and a farmed egg. It was also around this time that we started with our second wine pair, 2012 Tami Frappato Siciliane, a very light but delightful red.

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Most impressive was that Chris sous vide the eggs with a homemade device. And no, before this post, I had no idea what sous vide meant, but it’s basically very complicated way of slow cooking something and usually requires a $700 device if you don’t go all MAcGyver on it like Chris.

We were told to play around with the texture of the egg and pasta so of course we obeyed. I loved the earthy flavor of the pasta. Plus I had a race in the morning so some carboloading was just what I needed.

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We also learned a little bit about how the pasta was made with the cool wooden device before our main course came out!

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Swordfish steaks with celery root, Lacinato kale & Castevetrano olives.

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Tony may have licked all our plates clean after we finished our dishes.

When agreeing upon the menu for the evening Chris and I agreed that a heavy dessert would be too much for a pasta dinner so we agreed for a light cheese plate instead to clean the palette. Plus we live with one of the best bakers in the world, so we have more than our fair share of dessert in the house.

KitchenSurfing DInner (14)But little to our surprise we got another course!

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Chocolate cake bits covered in salted caramel just tied everything in.

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As you can tell from all the smiles, we had a great time with Chris and José!

Not only was everything delicious, but it was well-timed, beautifully presented and we learned a ton about Italian cuisine and pasta from Chef Chris.

I’ve been trying to figure out what my favorite course as, but I honestly loved everything. The roommates said the swordfish was their favorite but I think chickpea agnolotti might be mine. The saffron butter just really won me over. Although I would eat everything all over again in a heart beat.

Once the meal was over, Chris and José cleaned up our kitchen, silverware, plates, and even our stove leaving it cleaner than it was before they came.

So to summarize, we had an amazing fine dining experience in the comfort of our own home. The whole dinner cost $250 and included food, wine, labor, clean up & tip. It saved us the hassle of driving somewhere, parking (which can get expensive in Boston), and the pain of trying to hear each other in a loud restaurant.

To wrap up, I will leave you with a few tips:

1. Plan in advance – Like all other highly demanded services, chefs get booked up so if you know you need a specific date, you best start picking your chef a few weeks in advance. We were lucky that our dinner date was flexible and just changed our day to match with Chris’ availability.

2. You can negotiate – We did not do this with Chef Chris because we thought his price and menu were very reasonable. However, I noticed that when I was looking at other dates, some chefs would propose the same menu to me with a different price (It was $150 more the second time I put in a match request, so I’m not sure if they knew I was the same person). I also got a few proposals outside my budget but I found that some chefs are willing to negotiate to work with you and if not, there’s plenty of other chef fish in the sea that can still fulfill your requirements.

So next time you have some old friends visiting that you want to catch up (without going deaf or spending all your time cooking in the kitchen), or a special occasion or maybe just a great dinner with the family I highly recommend checking out KitchenSurfing.

 

*Disclaimer I was not compensated for this review. KitchenSurfing provided me with the service after I selected my chef. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own!