I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: One of the best things about blogging is the community and the friends you make. If you had told me ten years ago that I would one day fly to Boston to hang out with two women I’ve never met in person, I would have thought you were nuts (or that I was nuts). But that’s exactly what I did.
I started talking to Abby of The Frosted Vegan and Liz from Floating Kitchen about a year ago through Twitter and our blogs. We kept connecting through our shared interests – mostly cake, brownies and booze (the important things in life). Through this magical thing called social media we started to become what felt like “real friends.” So one day I reached out to them about making it a reality and we started planning a weekend where we could all hang out in person.
It took about six months of going back and forth with all of our crazy schedules, but we made it happen at the end of October. Abby and I flew to Boston where we met up with Liz, who lives outside the city. We spent one night in Boston and then headed to Newburyport and Plum Island for the rest of the weekend.
This trip truly felt like hanging out with old friends. It was one big hang-out-sesh filled with cocktails, walks on the beach and lots of food. We talked about all things blogging and just got to know each other better. Here’s a little breakdown of our weekend:
We stayed at this hotel on Friday night. It’s located in downtown Boston within easy walking distance of lots of great restaurants. It was a beautiful and very comfortable stay. We spent the majority of our time out on the town, but we did eat at one of the hotel dining establishments on Saturday. (See blow.) Hint: It involved a lot of chocolate.
WHAT WE ATE: Roasted sweet potatoes with lemon ginger aioli and dukkah, seared halloumi with mint pistachio pesto, and Ahi tuna crudo with black vinegar and sesame
WHAT I DRANK: “Man With No Name” (tequila, grapefruit, lime, agave)
THOUGHTS: This place was right around the corner from our hotel, which made it especially appealing. The atmosphere had a great vibe and there seemed to be a lot of working professionals in there, blowing off steam after their long week. The drinks and food were both fantastic, and the small plates we ordered were a perfect way to start off our evening.
WHAT WE ATE: Mushroom pizza with smoked mozzarella, roasted garlic knot
WHAT I DRANK: “Pimm’s Cup My Way” (cucumber, botanist, fresh peach, mint), and then the bartender made me a drink with gin, mezcal, lillet and St. Germaine
THOUGHTS: I felt like we got into our groove of the night at this place. The tipsiness started to settle in (especially after that second drink, oof), Abby’s friend from the city came to join us, and we just had a wonderful time. There was some kind of snaffoo at the hostess stand where they lost our name, but we ended up staying at the bar and having a great time there, so whatever. I enjoyed the pizza the most (it was VERY savory). I think the drinks got higher points from us. Abby and Liz were sipping on some really cool beer cocktails.
WHAT WE ORDERED: A chocolate peanut butter cupcake, mocha mousse cake, dark chocolate peanut butter cup, coconut truffle
THOUGHTS: Abby’s friend John took us to this place in his neighborhood, a cute Italian section of Boston. (I believe it’s called “The North End.”) The small streets of Boston really charmed me. The pastries at this place were beautiful and I loved that they were open until 11pm, but I wasn’t overly impressed by their stuff. My cupcake was a little dense. Not terrible, though. It was a fun stop. And we watched Abby do a weird trick where she ate all of the peanut butter out of her pb cup and left most of the chocolate behind. (That thing was massive.)
WHAT I ATE: The “breakfast bowl” (with quinoa, scrambled eggs, tomatoes, roasted market vegetables and gaucamole) + I shared the pumpkin coffee cake with honey butter and the falafel with pickles with Liz and Abby
WHAT I DRANK: a cortado
THOUGHTS: We loved The Beehive! This was our breakfast stop on Saturday morning. It has an awesome interior and there’s way more to this place than what you can see from the outside. I believe it turns into more of a bar/jazz club in the evenings, and there was live jazz playing in the room next to us while we were there in the morning. The food was wonderful and our waitress was kind enough to make me a cortado (espresso with steamed milk) even though she had no idea what it was and I was barely able to tell her. This place was recommended to me by a former Bostonian, so you know it’s good.
WHAT WE ATE: What didn’t we eat? Dark chocolate creme brulee, “chocolate soup,” espresso mousse, s’mores cup, vegan chocolate mousse, chocolate lollipop covered in pop rocks, lemon ginger financier, vegan chocolate cupcake + lots more
THOUGHTS: This was our breakfast dessert and all I have to say is WHOA. This chocolate-focused dessert bar was out of control. There was a counter spitting out warm chocolate chip cookies where you could also get a “shot of milk,” a chocolate fondue (of course), and every fancy little dessert you could possibly imagine.
The current theme of the chocolate bar was “food and art,” which was perfect for me. So each table had an art theme like pop art or surrealism, and then the desserts at that specific table were inspired by those art periods. Pretty cool.
My favorite items were actually the ones I personally picked out: the dark chocolate creme brulee, the espresso mousse and the “chocolate soup.” If I had to pick one favorite thing, it was the chocolate soup. (You can read more about it and find the recipe below.) We also discovered that the chocolate bar’s homemade potato chips were not only good for dipping into chocolate things, but they acted as a wonderful palate cleanser between chocolate courses.
PLUM ISLAND + NEWBURYPORT
After putting ourselves in a dessert coma, we said goodbye to Boston and headed to Liz’s family’s house on Plum Island, which is where we would spend the rest of the weekend. The island is technically part of the city of Newburyport, MA. As you head onto the island there’s an iconic abandoned pink house that sits all by itself on the side of the road. Of course we had to stop for photos of this landmark while we were there.
We spent a good portion of Saturday just hanging out in the kitchen of the house and chatting. Liz made us a nice detoxing spinach and quinoa salad along with some re-toxing bourbon cider cocktails. Isn’t she a wonderful host? We also spent some time walking her dog around the island. I’m definitely jealous of her proximity to the beach. It’s such a beautiful area. Abby and I insisted that we need to come back to visit during the summer. (We mean it, Liz!)
WHAT WE ATE: the marinated and grilled mushroom feature, a cheese plate with goat cheese, parmigiano reggiano and castelinho(p) (????) which came with house-made apple butter, plus sourdough and Portugese sweet bread + butter with honey, flake salt and crushed red pepper
WHAT I DRANK: a cocktail with milk liqueur, nonino amaro, peach, lemon and egg white
THOUGHTS: I LOVED this place. We went into downtown Newburyport for the evening and this was our first stop. They call themselves a “coastal European Bistro and wine loft.” We sat at a bar on the top floor and enjoyed sipping on our drinks while nibbling on our small plates. Everything we had was fantastic. The bread and butter might have been my favorite thing, and I enjoyed putting the cheese and apple butter from our cheese plate on there as well. Liz’s friend came to join us for part of the time, and it felt like a real “girls night out.” Flirting with the bartender may or may not have occurred.
WHAT I ATE: Nachos with pulled pork (shared with Liz)
WHAT I DRANK: Red cactus margarita (Sauza gold blended with pureed raspberries, flavored Chambord and house margarita mix, sugared rim)
THOUGHTS: This was our second dinner stop in Newburyport on Saturday night. If you want a plate of nachos large enough for a crowd, go here. Our plate of nachos was almost as large as the table (and really delicious). Thank goodness Liz was helping me out. We ate our fill and barely made a dent. The margarita wasn’t my favorite – it was a little sweeter than how I like my margs. This place was a nice casual, more family-friendly Mexican restaurant, but it didn’t make quite the impression that Ceia did.
The next morning we popped into town again to hit up the farmer’s market. It was a cute little thing, with a produce stand, soap makers and pastries, etc.
I was excited to see one stand selling kouign-amanns, the pastry I gorged on during my honeymoon. So of course I had to buy one. This one I had was delicious, but it was more like a croissant shaped like a kouign-amann than like the kouign-amanns I had in France. If you want a recipe for the real deal, check out my version.
Near the market was this specialty foods store. Thank goodness I was only taking a carry-on bag for the flight home, because otherwise I might have bought everything in this place. You know a food blogger can’t resist specialty salts, spices and cocktail mixers, etc.
I did indulge in some chocolate, though. I found these gorgeous chocolate bars by the cash register. They have soft packaging that feels like handmade paper, and I was excited to see that the company (Nathan Miller Chocolate) is based in Pennsylvania, not too far from me. (I’m planning to visit sometime soon.) Both bars I got were fantastic, but the 45% buttermilk chocolate was my favorite of the two I bought.
A good portion of Plum Island is a beautiful wildlife refuge. Sunday afternoon provided us with plenty of sun and pleasant temperatures, so it was perfect for wandering around there. I couldn’t stop taking photos – It was so pretty! I kept thinking how strange it was that I was standing on this beach in Massachusetts and later that night I would be back at home in PA.
If you’re ever in this area, I would highly urge you to stop here. We only saw a small portion of the refuge, and it was so gorgeous. Spend an hour or so here, getting in some light exercise and soaking up the beauty of nature. It’s seriously so pretty!!!!
WHAT I ATE: sweet potato burrito bowl with guacamole and spicy mayo
THOUGHTS: We ate lunch here as our last stop before heading back to the airport. That burrito bowl was one of my favorite things I ate all weekend. I thought it would have chunks of sweet potatoes but it was more of a sweet potato mash, which kind of blew my mind. It reminded me how delicious sweet potatoes are – whenever I eat them these days I think, “Why don’t I eat sweet potatoes every day?!” Luckily I have a bowl full of them from my CSA that I’ve been working my way through over the last few weeks. That burrito bowl is on my list of “things to re-create.”
So that was it! We parted ways and I headed back to reality. Internet friends are really one of the coolest things about this age we’re living in.
CHOCOLATE SOUP RECIPE
The chocolate soup I had at the chocolate bar (which was just a fun name for hot chocolate) left a strong impression on me. It was seriously good – the flavor was so rich and interesting, and I felt like it was perfectly salted. For how rich the flavor was, I thought it would be a much thicker consistency, but it was fairly thin. I kept thinking about it afterwards, so I had to contact the executive pastry chef at the chocolate bar and ask for the recipe. He gladly gave it to me, and I was shocked to find out how straightforward it is.
The secret to this hot chocolate is the chocolate you use. There are 3 ingredients: milk, sugar and chocolate. That’s why it’s so perfect, though. The trick to making it really good is using REALLY GOOD chocolate. He told me they use Valrhona Manjari chocolate, and now I REALLY need to get my hands on some of that stuff. I made this at home with some Godiva dark chocolate chips and it was good, but not nearly what I remembered. Don’t even bother making this with Toll House chocolate chips or something like that. You want to use a really good chocolate that you would eat by itself. However, if you’re using a more mediocre chocolate, I found that adding a little vanilla extract and sea salt helped to amp up the flavor. (UPDATE: I finally splurged and got some of that Valrhona chocolate, and oh. my. word. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to make hot chocolate without it again.)
So if you’re looking for a really easy and delicious hot chocolate, look no further. But if you REALLY want to know the true joys of this hot chocolate, go have it at the Langham hotel, perhaps with a side of potato chips.
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Thank you SO MUCH to the Langham Hotel in Boston for putting us up for the night and treating us to the chocolate bar. We had such a good time there together. Also, huge thanks to Chef Ryan for sharing your chocolate soup recipe with us. That will be getting me through the winter.
And thanks to Liz and Abby for a super fun weekend! I had a fantastic time hanging out with you two ladies IRL and I hope we can do it again really soon. xoxo
Illustration at top created with Photoshop and Illustrator.
Prints of my illustrations are available in my Etsy shop, and you can find prints plus other products with my work on them in my Society6 shop.
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- 1 cup milk
- 1 tbsp (0.5 oz) sugar
- ⅓ cup (2 oz) REALLY GOOD dark chocolate chips (see note)
- optional: a pinch of sea salt and a splash of vanilla extract
- Place your chocolate in the mug you want to drink out of.
- Bring the sugar and milk just to a boil. Remove from the heat and immediately pour into your mug over the chocolate.
- Whisk well until the chocolate is fully melted and incorporated.
- Give it a taste. If you feel like it needs a little somethin-somethin, add a splash of vanilla and a sprinkle of sea salt.
- Enjoy immediately.
I also tried this recipe with cashew milk. I would advise also skipping the added sugar when using nut milks as they tend to be sweeter than regular milk. You can always stir in more sugar later if you feel like it needs it.