During the car ride into the city, Michelle had been working to tune up her potential questions to ask. The most promising one, surely the most memorable one, I thought, was the one about the octopus and the washing machine.
So as we sat down to eat at Babbo (unlike NYC, Babbo in Boston is the pizzeria) before walking over to Milk St., it only seemed fitting that I order the octopus all’arrabiata. It was tender (other than one big tentacle), charred and spicy. The pizzas had improved since our last visit, though I still think they put too much cheese on them causing the middle to be a soggy puddle in some cases. But I’m a pizza nerd, no one else seemed to mind and there were no leftover pieces left.
Michelle’s birthday gift to me this year was organizing our domino friends (literally the friends we often gather with to play dominoes and drink cocktails – remind me to tell you about the butter tasting dominoes night!) for a night out to see a cooking demonstration and Q&A with Sara Moulton at Christopher Kimball’s new venture Milk St.
So after paying the check at Babbo, we walked the short distance from Fort Point over to Milk St. Technically, the entrance is on India St., but it’s easy to find, right on the Greenway, opposite the Aquarium.
A quick shout out to the SpotHero app, which I’d never used before and was honestly a bit skeptical about, but it helped both car loads of people land some cheap and very convenient parking spots. I’m not sure how well the app works during peak times, but for finding a spot on a random Thursday night, it worked very well.
Later in the evening, Kimball mentioned they had looked at an obscene amount of properties before deciding on the space. The effort paid off. It’s a great space. On the ground floor with lots of windows and high ceilings. It feels open, airy and welcoming.
On entering and walking up a short flight of stairs, we hung up our coats up and took advantage of the complimentary wine bar before finding some seats. You also could buy a copy of Sara Moulton’s new cookbook for later signing, but I’d brought my own copy. More thoughts on her cookbook in a separate post.
While I didn’t need to buy the cookbook, Michelle had one more surprise up her sleeve as she gave me a signed copy of the first issue of the Milk St. magazine. It looks and feels very much like Cook’s Illustrated, though with color photos and maybe some shorter stories. I’m looking forward to trying the pine nut rosemary cookies and the pie dough.
My only (mild) complaint about the evening was that they tried to squeeze a few too many people into the space. It was a bit cramped. If you weren’t in the first couple rows the sight lines were a bit tough at times. Even with the 3 large monitors mounted to see the counter tops, I found myself shifting around quite a bit to try to see more. I pity the person that was stuck behind my big head.
The session started with a brief introduction to Milk St. and what they would be doing. Namely, the magazine, a podcast, a public television show in the fall, cooking classes and cooking demos with visiting chefs, like tonight. Next they introduced Sara and Chris and we were off. Sort of. The first few minutes as they recapped Sara’s career they got a bit deep into some inside baseball about the demise of Kimball’s first magazine (pre-Cook’s Illustrated) and the end of Gourmet. Both still seemed to harbor some ill-will about how both went down.
Moving past the intro, Sara moved right into the cooking demo. She would be making the apricot soufflé from her cookbook. A good choice for a demo as the word souffle likely strikes fear into most home cooks. Similar to a ATK segment, Sara walked through the steps with Kimball adding questions or commentary along the way. Fun bits included tasting two different types of dried apricots and cleaning the copper bowl that Sara “borrowed” from Gourmet when she left. Another random tip I didn’t know? If you find your coffee too bitter, add a little salt to take the edge off. There was audience interaction throughout, too, with people encouraged to shout out questions as Sara cooked.
About halfway through as they were mixing the beaten egg whites into the apricot mixture, Kimball walked off and pulled the MC with him into the prep kitchen (behind closed doors). He appeared a bit agitated but popped out again and things continued on. Soufflés were mixed, shaped and popped into the oven.
While they baked, the pair moved into a more formal interview about Sara’s past career and her new book. Given her public persona, Sara told some funny and lecherous tales of her time as a young cook in France as well as some Julia stories. Julia favored cheddar goldfish as the appetizer of choice at her home if you came for dinner. It was during this portion of the night, with the shuffles rising in the oven and almost done, that we learned why Kimball had looked agitated earlier. He tried to tell Moulton on the side, but Gold bless her, she couldn’t play along and let us in on the secret and like a true pro used it as a teaching moment. Turns out, the prep bowls for the recipe included salt, not sugar and Kimball had finger-tested the batter during the shaping phase. Kudos to him for keeping a straight face with a mouth full of salted batter. Turns out soufflés rise just fine with salt whipped into the eggs instead of sugar. But still taste really bad.
It didn’t ruin the evening however, as we were going to taste three other recipes from her book, not the souffles. The evening wrapped up as the samples were brought out, more wine was available and there was time to meet and greet with both Sara and Chris. Both were gracious and inviting and I was able to get my cookbook signed, a picture taken with both. And most importantly, Michelle was finally able to ask her octopus question!
A good night with friends, all around. And I didn’t even include the Seinfeld-level of silliness as we got separated and lost in the parking garage on the way home.