Category Archives: cheese

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Okay, I’m not joking when I say that my boyfriend’s condo is overflowing with fresh fruit. I just recently did away with the cherries, as well as 2 pints of strawberries, and now these cheesecake bars are my solution to the giant box of blueberries his parents gave us when they left for vacation last week. We still have an insane number of peaches, plums, mangoes, and apricots. Maybe I can squeeze in something with the mangoes before I leave California this weekend… In any case, my goal was to make a dessert that would use up the blueberries and only ingredients I had on hand, which included a box of cream cheese and a lemon, both things I bought in anticipation of baking and now need to get rid of before I leave. Wouldn’t you know it, Tyler Florence apparently had the same thought I did, and has generously shared with the world a recipe for lemon blueberry cheesecake bars. My lucky day!

Lemon blueberry cheesecake bars

These bars are super easy to make, and has 5 stars with over 100 reviews, so a pretty sure bet if you’re baking for a BBQ or a potluck. My only qualm was that I thought the tartness of the lemon in the cheesecake was a bit much for me, but I’m not a fan of sour things in general, and I cringe whenever I have to eat fruit that is not very sweet and ripe. I don’t even really like sorbets because they’re too sour for me, shrug. But with some good summer blueberries and a heavenly crust, these creamy bars are a wonderful treat. My boyfriend said it tastes just like cheesecake, except it took me so much less effort! I halved Tyler’s recipe because I only had 1 box of cream cheese, and it made 8 bars that were about 2×2″, which I think is the perfect size. I also made a few minor changes, including adding more butter and cinnamon to the crust, using neufchatel instead of regular cream cheese, and adding more blueberries than called for (I was trying to use them up!) It all worked out well, and the crust was sturdy and rich. Just the way I like it!

Lemon blueberry cheesecake bars

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars (makes 8 bars, 2×2″ each)

Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence


For the base:

  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 5 sheets graham crackers
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 8 oz. (1 box) cream cheese (I used the 1/3 less fat neufchatel), at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, washed and dried
  • powdered sugar for dusting


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×5″ bread pan, and line with parchment, leaving tails to allow you to pull the bars out of the pan later. Press and fold the parchment to make neat corners in the pan.

2. Prepare the crust first – in a blender, grind the graham crackers until you get fine crumbs. Pour out into a bowl, and stir in the 1 tbsp sugar and 1/8 tsp cinnamon. Add the melted butter and stir well to distribute evenly.

3. Pour the crumbs into the bottom of the baking pan, and press down evenly with the bottom of a flat glass (I used a shot glass because it was nice and small for getting into corners). Bake in the oven for 12 minutes until golden. Set aside to cool.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a mixing bowl, stir together the egg, 1/2 cup sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Add the room temperature cream cheese, and beat on low with an electric beater until the mixture is smooth. Pour filling into the pan on top of the crust, then sprinkle the blueberries on top. If you are using as much blueberries as I am, you will basically cover the entire top with blueberries. They will sink about halfway into the filling.

5. Bake for 30 minutes at 325 degrees F, or until the center only slightly jiggles (I could not tell with all the blueberries on top, so I just went with 30 minutes, which is 5 minutes less than the original recipe in a 9×9″ pan). Remove from oven and cool completely in the pan. Then place pan in the refrigerator and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight to set.

6. When set, gently remove the bars from the pan by lifting the parchment lining. Cut into bars and dust with powdered sugar to serve.

Lemon blueberry cheesecake bars

Lemon blueberry cheesecake bars

Ultimate Carrot Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting (Lightened)

Crisp fall weather has set in for good, and Halloween has passed, which means a fast-paced few weeks until that amazing celebration of all things delicious, Thanksgiving. This year, I am extra excited for Thanksgiving, because not only will I get the chance to see my family for the first time since June, but I will also get to see my boyfriend at the same time because he’s flying out to Massachusetts to spend the holiday weekend us! The past two Thanksgivings that I’ve had since starting medical school have been away from home, so I really miss being home with my family and being able to help make Thanksgiving dinner. Just three more weeks, I can’t wait!

A slice of heaven

Whenever I think of fall, Thanksgiving, winter and Christmas all rolled into one nook of the year that I simply consider “the holidays”, the warm spicy aroma of cinnamon is the scent that defines it best for me. It is no surprise then, that the end of the year always feels like the right time to make a big bountiful carrot cake from scratch to share with family and friends. I still remember the first time I was introduced to carrot cake, baked by a beloved woman whose name is also Lucy. We fondly call her “old Lucy”, which is “老Lucy” in Chinese, (versus myself as little Lucy/小Lucy) to differentiate the two of us. Although she is my friend’s grandmother, she is just like another grandmother to me, she watched me grow up and always supported me in my endeavors. She was the first Asian woman that I had ever met in my young life who could bake Western style cakes, since she worked as a housekeeper for a Jewish family at the time. Looking back on it, I really was very impressed by her ability to bake, and unconsciously her skill was probably one that I aspired to. I remember being incredulous as a kid, resisting the suggestion to try this carrot cake, and ultimately realizing that it tasted nothing like carrots at all. In fact, I always remembered it being one of the most moist cakes I had ever tried, no doubt owing to the insane amount of oil used in making carrot cake ;)

In any case, last year I was home visiting the family when I decided that it was finally time for me to tackle my own decadent carrot cake. I’ve made some simple recipes that turned out so-so carrot cake. Especially those “light” carrot cakes that end up tasting more like cardboard than anything else. But this time, I really wanted it to be the irresistible kind you see in a big glass cake stand in the cozy neighborhood bakery, the kind of carrot cake where you just have to get a slice because it practically literally has your name on it. You know who I turn to when I want the best, most indulgent recipes? America’s Test Kitchen. Maybe it’s my Massachusetts hometown bias, since they are based in Newton, MA after all, but I just love how meticulous and well-tested their recipes are. The recipes are shared in their Cooks Illustrated magazine on a regular basis. I found the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, as well as one for a lightened version also done by them, and I proceeded to tinker a little with them to find a happy medium between the two, which I call the Ultimate Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (Lightened). You see, it tastes exactly like an indulgent slice of full-fat carrot cake, but it actually is lightened to some degree, and that’s why “lightened” is only carried in parentheses :P Needless to say, carrot cake isn’t diet food, no matter how many carrots you stick in there. But if you want to make a beautiful, moist cake that will be perfect for the holidays and is sure to please, you just can’t go wrong. Don’t let the long ingredient list scare you, this is the ultimate carrot cake we’re talking about, remember? All this good stuff in it is what makes the cake so darned amazing. And pretty please, make it as a two-layer round cake, because it looks that much more incredible (especially if your decorating skills are good, unlike mine heh). Also, the picture below was taken using my dad’s DSLR… I asked him to focus on the tip of the pirouette, and realized later that the front of the cake was out of focus, oops. Still learning!

Ultimate carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

Ultimate Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (Lightened) (makes one 2-layered 9″ cake, serves 8-12)

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated original and light recipes, shared on Sunday Nite Dinner.


For the cake:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (optional, as I didn’t have any on hand)
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups carrots (approx 5 medium carrots), peeled and shredded
  • 8 oz. crushed pineapple, drained
  • 2 handfuls of sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

For the frosting: (you may want to make more frosting, as this amt is not enough to cover the entire cake, only top and middle)

  • 8 oz. light cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cup (6 oz.) confectioner’s sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round baking pans (or a single 9×13 pan) with vegetable oil. Line bottom of pan with parchment and brush oil on top.

2. In a bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg; set aside.

3. In a separate large bowl, beat eggs, vanilla, granulated and brown sugars on medium-high with an electric beater until thoroughly combined, about 45 seconds. Reduce speed to low; with mixer running, add oil in a slow, steady stream. Increase speed to high and mix until mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 45 to 60 seconds longer.

4. Turn off beaters, and using a spatula, fold in the flour mixture into the wet batter until just combined (do not over-stir). Towards the end, stir in the carrots, pineapple, coconut, raisins, and walnuts until mixed in.

5. Pour into cake pan and bake until toothpick or skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. On a wire rack, cool cake to room temperature in pan, about 1  hour.

6. For the frosting, mix cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl at medium high speed with electric beater until well combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add confectioners’ sugar and mix until very fluffy, about 1 minute.

7. Run paring knife around edge of cakes to loosen from pan. Invert cakes onto wire rack, peel off parchment, then invert again onto serving platter. Frost cake layers as desired (note the amount of frosting called for above is enough to frost just the top and middle of a 2-layer cake; I would double the frosting recipe if you intend to cover the entire cake).

Ultimate carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

Enjoy this ultimate carrot cake with a warm mug of spicy tea (or with a tall glass of milk at midnight if that is your style). The cake layers are moist and fluffy, with an abundance of flavor in each bite being contributed by the carrots, coconut, pineapple, raisins, and walnuts (you can see the ingredients right in the cake in the above picture!) And the cream cheese frosting is amazing… lightened up by quite a bit so that it is not cloying, and instead maintains the wonderful tang of cream cheese with a sweetness that complements the cake such that you’ll want some in each forkful. Dust on some cocoa or cinnamon on top and decorate with some whole walnuts for a nice fall look, and you can even throw on a chocolate pirouette for contrast like I did, or a cinnamon stick would work too. Some flaked coconut would be nice too for winter especially if you decide to frost the sides. Yummm…

Caramelized onion and goat cheese phyllo tarts with fresh basil

Summer is in full swing, and the basil plant that I acquired a month ago has been reminding me of its bright and refreshing flavor with its bountiful jewel-green leaves. Ever since I got this plant, I’ve been in love with fresh basil. I tear up a leaf or two and sprinkle it on top of my rice when I eat my meals, and it adds a hint of fresh flavor that reminds me of eating at a Thai restaurant. When I water my basil, the smell of the leaves always reminds me of delicious appetizer skewers of cherry tomatoes with balls of mozzarella and basil leaves, all drizzled with the most luscious balsamic vinegar. And one of these days, I am going to harvest a big handful of basil to make the freshest, most flavorful pesto sauce, mmm.

fresh basil

Last week when my boyfriend was in town visiting for the July 4th long weekend, we were discussing options for a night of cooking in when I remembered a recipe for goat cheese tarts with sweet onions and thyme that I saw on the Serious Eats French in a Flash column. They sounded like the perfect appetizers to go with a pasta dinner that we were planning. I was particularly excited about the goat cheese, as I had just recently bought a small pyramid of spreadable Chavrie (goat’s milk cheese) and had not thought of a good way to use it yet. And instead of thyme, the thought of the bright taste of fresh basil paired with this tart made my mouth water. The original recipe also calls for using frozen puff pastry for the tart bases, but I had some frozen phyllo dough that I’ve been wanting to use instead, which I thought would add a dimension of lightness to the appetizer as well. My inspiration for adding honey to the tarts came from the multiple experiences I have had with restaurant appetizers that wonderfully pair the salty creaminess of cheese with the sweetness of fruit and honey, such as with baked brie and sheep’s milk ricotta. So thus was born the concept of crispy flaky squares of phyllo dough topped with soft caramelized onions, basil, goat cheese, and a drizzle of honey to bring all the flavors together.

In execution, this recipe is actually pretty straight-forward. But do plan ahead, as it takes about an hour to make these tarts, although most of the time is spent waiting, with some stirring here and there, so it is definitely an appetizer that is great to make alongside your main dish and it will be piping hot and ready to serve just when you are finishing up your cooking. If you have never used phyllo dough before, fear not! This recipe was my first time using my frozen phyllo dough as well, and although the directions on the box sounded scary and involved, the actual preparation of the dough was very easy. It would help immensely if you have a pastry brush to brush the phyllo layers with oil, but if you are a poor student like me, the back side of a big soup spoon will do just fine too :) These tarts were so good hot out of the oven, even my boyfriend who doesn’t like cheese enjoyed these. The flavors come together to be savory, the textures of the soft cheese and onions contrast with the crisp phyllo dough, and the hint of richness from the goat cheese is balanced by the brightness of the basil and the touch of honey. I will be keeping this recipe for the future when I want to serve French hors d’oeuvres at a dinner party, and I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do!

caramelized onion and goat cheese phyllo tart with fresh basil

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Phyllo Tarts

with Fresh Basil (makes 6 small tarts, serves 2-3)

Recipe adapted from Serious Eats


  • 1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced into bite-sized strips
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil, about 20 leaves
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 oz spreadable goat cheese (Chavrie brand is the easiest to find at grocery stores)
  • 20 sheets of 9×14″ frozen phyllo dough, freshly thawed and cut in half (approx 9×7″, or 4 oz. by weight)
  • grape seed or olive oil for cooking and brushing on phyllo
  • honey to garnish


1. In a skillet on medium heat, gently saute onions with 1/2 tbsp of grape seed oil, stirring often, for 15 minutes.

2. Tear up the leaves from 1 sprig of basil (about 10 leaves) and add to skillet along with brown sugar. Stir to mix well, and continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes. Turn down the heat slightly if the onions are browning too quickly.

3. Remove onions from heat and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

4. Prepare thawed phyllo dough on a clean cutting board. Layer one sheet of phyllo on top of the next, brushing each layer with a light coating of grape seed oil (it does not need to coat entire sheet, but do brush enough to ensure that each sheet adheres to the next. When all 20 sheets have been layered together, use a sharp chef’s knife and cut into approximately 6 squares.

5. Line a baking pan with foil, and spread phyllo dough squares into pan. Top each square with onions, then the goat cheese.

assembled tarts ready to bake

6. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees F until the phyllo bakes to a golden color.

tarts done baking

7. Remove tarts and serve warm, drizzled with honey and garnished with torn fresh basil. Enjoy!

And just for completeness sake, this was the delicious main dish that followed the appetizers,  made by my boyfriend. A hearty whole wheat penne with chicken thigh, onions, mushrooms, and basil in a vodka sauce. Such a good dinner… I think he should come visit and cook for me more often :)

chicken with whole wheat penne in vodka sauce

Saturday, May 5th – Senior Ball

11:30AM Campus – en route to Kendall Square
1 strawberry flavored Special K bar with a big gulp of water.

I went to bed at 7am this morning because I was up late writing a paper for a humanities class. I only got about 4 hours of sleep, and woke up at 11am. No time for breakfast/lunch! This is the last minute of the last minute prep work I needed to do for senior ball. I had to go to the Cambridgeside Galleria to buy jewelry and some miscellaneous senior ball supplies:

1:20PM Highlights Salon on Newbury St.
Appointment to get my hair done in an updo with my friend Karen. The stylists were really nice, and even brought me a cup of tea with honey while I was in the middle of getting my hair done. I brought in pictures of the hairstyles that I was interested in, but the stylist kind of went off and started doing her own thing. Oh well haha. It took an hour and a half to do the whole updo, but I liked how it turned out. It was a non-symmetrical updo, with a mixture of curls, pinned up sections, and even a mini-braid added for variety, and the stylist left my shorter hair in front as a soft side-swept piece to frame my face.

4:00PM Dorm Room
Painting my fingernails and toenails (two different shades of pink), then eating part of a salad topped with grilled sha cha (Chinese satay) seasoned chicken while waiting for the polish to dry. I didn't want to go to senior ball starving, but I also wanted to save room for the dinner which was in about 3 hours, so I ate about 3 oz. of the chicken and 1/3 of the salad greens dipped in a vinaigrette dressing made with sha cha seasoning, sesame oil, vinegar, and scallions. According to Wikipedia, sha cha sauce/paste is made with soybean oil, garlic, shallots, chilis, brill fish, and dried shrimp. Interesting, I couldn't tell from the flavor.

7:30PM The Sheraton in Copley Square
I met my boyfriend at about 6pm and he gave me my corsage. It was so pretty! We went to the florist to order the corsage and the boutonniere together so that they'd match. I got light pink roses of different sizes for my corsage, decorated with purple accent flowers and a white satin ribbon. I didn't know which dress I was wearing when I chose the corsage, so I tried to get one that would match most colors lol.

Dinner started off at the Sheraton with a basket of rolls and a plate of little balls of butter. The bread was okay, but I was slightly weirded out by the butter balls. I prefer other butter designs much more. The little balls just seemed odd.

Next came a salad of  baby greens, baby yellow beets, sunflower seeds, dried cherries, and a slice of goat cheese, all drizzled with champagne vinaigrette dressing. The salad was actually pretty good, I really liked the combination of sunflower seeds with the sweetness of dried cherries. The goat cheese was soft and mild, which gave the salad some creaminess to balance the vinaigrette. Even the baby beets were good, they were subtle, and reminded me of squash.

For our entree we had a choice of pork chops, baked chicken, or vegetarian napoleon. I went with the pork chops, and while it was okay, I had expected much better. The pork chop itself came as a thick chop maybe an inch or more thick. In effect, the middle was dry and difficult to cut and chew. The pork chop was topped with a little bit of bbq sauce, and some tiny fried sweet potato strings that looked more like shaved sweet potato bits than anything else. The pork had mixed vegetables on the side, including asparagus, peppers, squash, and a small carrot. You can't see it in the picture but there's a dallop of mashed sweet potatoes under the pork chop, which was creamy but infused with ginger (I dislike ginger). The dinner was served with peach and ginger chutney and beurre blanc sauce. I poured a little bit of each on my plate to see if it would go with the pork, but all I really wanted was more of the bbq sauce on the pork.

After dinner we got a dessert that was unfortunately very disappointing. It was supposed to be tiramisu with strawberries and raspberries drizzled with chocolate. We got a tiramisu that I wouldn't even consider a real tiramisu. It had no espresso soaked layer on the bottom! It was just a layer of marscapone sandwiched between two layers of sponge cake, then dusted with cocoa on top. Therefore, it was terribly dry for a tiramisu (though perhaps okay if I consider it just a regular sponge cake with cream), and we didn't even get the strawberries with it. For a dessert-lover like me, this was such a tragedy.

Dinner was served with ice water only, and if you wanted other drinks you had to buy it from a cash bar. The menu clearly stated that we were supposed to get complimentary iced tea with dinner, but that never appeared at any point during the ball. Bummer.

1:00AM Baker Dorm 4th Floor Lounge – Senior ball afterparty, a.k.a. watching a movie, munching, playing foozball
2 drinks of peach Schnapps mixed with Mountain Dew, 1.5 powdered sugar covered crunchy round things that looked like donut holes, and a small handful of pretzels.

All in all I had a fun night, and a lot of fun prepping for the ball this past week. It was like re-living the excitement of prom all over again, except this time I didn't have parents to fuss over what I wore, who I went with, what I did, etc. I also loved seeing all my friends and classmates dressed up really nice, you don't get a chance to see that during the rest of the time at college because our formals are never quite that formal. All the ladies had such beautiful dresses in all these pretty colors! And men in tuxes make me weak in the knees :) Here are a few pictures from the ball:

Tuesday, May 1st

Happy May! I can't believe summer is just around the corner, I feel like spring has barely settled in. Today my boyfriend had a special coat and tie dinner event for one of his classes in order to thank the class sponsors (they paid for the class equipment, it was a big deal). In anticipation, I knew I had to eat light for lunch so that I could compensate for the unavoidable pitfalls during the dinner. It was supposed to be worth $80 a person, so there was no way that I was going to go and not eat anything haha.

11:30AM Molecular Biology Lecture
Salad from Baker dining that I made last night. Consisting of: blanched broccoli, raw spinach, carrots, onions, corn, romaine lettuce, scallions, cucumbers, jumbo cherry tomatoes, egg whites from 2 hard-boiled eggs, topped with about 3 oz. of baby shrimp sauteed with garlic, lemon juice, and seasonings, all drizzled with 1/2 tbsp of fat free Italian dressing and 1/2 tbsp of fat free tomato basil dressing. The volume of the salad came to about 3 cups or so, which is a ton of vegetables lol. I was sitting there crunching away (probably quite loudly) for about 40 minutes or so, trying to eat my lunch. I had to get used to the taste of the dressing, which was a little bit nauseating at first. Let's just say that combining Italian and tomato basil is not a good idea for reasons that I'll leave out since this is a food diary and I don't want to gross you all out. The vegetables themselves were not bad though, and I felt pretty satisfied afterwards. My favorite item was the blanched corn, which added a touch of sweetness to the veggies. The shrimp were also delicious, with just the right amount of lemony-garlic flavor to perk up the salad.

Salad eaten with 1/2 bottle of water (8.5 oz).

6:30PM MIT Faculty Club (Alfred P. Sloan Building) – Cocktail Hour
Cocktail hour to start off my boyfriend's dinner party. Admittedly I didn't hold back (I had a bowl of vegetables for lunch, I was starving!), so for appetizers I grabbed a few grapes, a couple florets of raw broccoli, a slice of cantaloupe, 5 small baguette slices, and 3 crackers, with buttermilk herb dip and roasted garlic spread on the side. So good! The herb dip and roasted garlic were heavenly when paired together and eaten with the baguette rounds. My boyfriend had to practically stop me so I wouldn't get full on them before dinner haha. Probably also has something to do with me cutting carbs out of my diet for the past few days, my body knows what it wants! Since it was cocktail hour after all, I also had a glass of white wine on the side. It was subtle and a little bit sweet, which went well with the appetizers.

After looking at the menu from the faculty club catering page, this is what the appetizer spread consisted of in total:

Rustic Tuscan:
An Artfully Displayed Assortment of Imported Cheeses
Gourmet Crackers and Rustic Breads
Fresh Sliced Seasonal Fruit and Berries
A Bounty of Crisp Baby Vegetables with Buttermilk Herb and Blue Cheese Dips
Citrus Roasted Country Olives
Eggplant Caponata and Roasted Garlic Spread
Farmhouse Style Chutney and Whole Grain Mustard

Random interjection b/c I dunno where else to put it: this is me being vain in my room prior to the dinner: (I like dressing up for events)

7:15PM Three Course Dinner
The MIT faculty club is actually a rather nice spot on the top floor of the MIT Sloan building. It has large windows that overlook the Charles River, with a beautiful view of the Boston skyline. Since the sun was setting when we sat down for dinner, it was particularly soothing to watch the light blue sky fade to a dark blue. Our table settings were very formal, with multiple forks, knives, and dessert utensils all set out before us, as well as multiple glasses for water, wine, and coffee. On a small plate in front of us sat a dainty pat of butter in the shape of a flower (they call this a butter rosette on their menu). Aside from the fact that the tables were a little bit crowded (10 people to a table), the presentation was pretty nice. I sat directly facing a window, so I was able to look out at the city skyline all night.

The first course was salad, which was a plate of mixed greens with a few grape tomatoes, tossed in a light vinaigrette. On top of the salad sat a single toast point with a layer of sweetened cheese spread piped on top. I think the toast with cheese was my favorite part of the salad. It had been baked in an oven, so the toast was warm and crispy, while the cheese was lightly browned on top. My boyfriend commented that it tasted like a danish, but I thought it was much better. Mind you, it wasn't ooey gooey cheese like cheddar or mozzarella. It was more like a grainy cheese spread, a combination between cream cheese and ricotta. From the menu, this was salad with "Warm Goat Cheese Crostini and Orange Sherry Vinaigrette Dressing"

The servers poured wine for us, and I requested a red wine, which I thought would go better with the steak than a white wine. Unfortunately the red wine was very acidic, and didn't complement anything I was eating, so I left it alone for the rest of the night.

Then came the bread basket full of "Artisan rolls", which was passed around the table. I picked a dark brown looking square loaf just to give it a try. To my disappointment it was pumpernickel, which I really dislike. (We did a lab in my chem lab class that involved purifying caraway essential oil. The strong flavor of pumpernickel comes from the use of caraway seeds, therefore I was thoroughly sick of that smell by the end of that lab.)

Next the entree. Greg and I both opted for the steak entree instead of the pasta one. I'm glad I chose the steak, as the pasta dish was a big mound of rich and heavy pasta primavera in a thick cream sauce. The steak entree came as a 12 oz. sirloin, cooked medium rare, on a pool of gravy. It came with a small side of mashed potatoes piped to look like whipped cream (the volume was about the size of a scoop of ice cream), and 4 sticks of asparagus wrapped with a piece of carrot, next to a random piece of roasted red pepper. The presentation was pretty nice, and the flavor of the steak was quite good too. I normally dislike steaks because I don't like the excessive chewiness of grilled beef. However, since this sirloin was grilled medium rare, with a gravy sauce, I actually enjoyed it. The texture was easy to chew on, and the sauce gave the steak a richer flavor, not just that of meat. I think it was a mushroom based sauce, at least it tasted that way. The mashed potatoes were extremely good, because they were very buttery and creamy. Everyone at the table had commented on how decadent the mashed potatoes were. The vegetables were good, albeit sparse. I would have preferred more vegetables on the side for variety. On the menu this is called "Grilled Black Angus New York Sirloin of Beef with Forest Mushroom Ragout, Asparagus Bundle, and Dutchase Potato". So I was right on the mushroom sauce :)

Finally, after our entrees, came a most delicious dessert, their "Classic Apple Tart". Apple tart with a mini-scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, drizzled with caramel sauce. The apple tart was amazing. It had a buttery crust that was topped with beautifully laid out slices of apple. The fact that the apple was baked on top of the tart meant that it didn't turn into a pool of mush like it does in regular apple pie, and they must have used something other than granny smith apples since they weren't tart at all. The richness of the tart was balanced perfectly by the refreshing little bit of ice cream. My only qualm was that there were no dessert drinks (milk, coffee, or tea) offered to us until after we had finished our desserts. I could have gone for some milk to go with the tart instead of just ice water. Still, the tart was such a guilty pleasure, and I loved every minute of it haha.

Ah… what a satisfying dinner. And it was all for free, thanks to my boyfriend taking that class of his lol. But now I gotta get off my ass tonight and work out some more to burn some of this splurge-fest off. Bummer! Here I am, probably on a sugar high from the dessert, after the dinner was over: (I'm standing in front of a map of MIT on campus lol)

11:00PM Dorm Room
1.5 bottles of water (25.5 oz).

1:00AM Baker Gym
30 minutes on the elliptical, 10 minutes stretching, 15 minutes lifting weights (they're easier to lift today, yay!) Don't ask me why I'm always working out at such late hours. I do everything late at night, it seems.

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