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Maker Moment: An interview with Maggie of Eat Boutique

Posted by Melissa Massello  November 13, 2012 10:00 AM

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EatBoutique_Homemade_Cocktails2.jpg 

Heidi Murphy/White Loft Studio & styled by Maggie Battista

Some of Maggie Battista's homemade cocktail concoctions.

A doyenne of the DIY pantry, Maggie Battista is a lady you love to know. Always one to make tasty bits and bobs from her garden or bring some delectable morsel back from a weekend trip, she's generous with her goodies as well as her go-to sources. In 2007, Maggie started Eat Boutique as a gift box service to share local, small-batch producers that create "food that hugs you back."

With the recent launch of the the Eat Boutique shop and another of her hugely popular local markets coming up, Maggie takes a break to chat creative cocktails and tipsy Italians in our latest Maker Moment:

What's the first project you remember making/crafting?
How about a memorable one instead? On my first trip back from Paris, I lugged home a mixture of herbs I had dried from the local outdoor market and sea salt from Normandy. I assembled 30 little jars of Parisian Herb-infused Sea Salt as souvenirs to friends and family. It took practically no time (I worked it into my daily routine in Paris, like getting herbs on every trip to the market) but my loved ones found it to be a huge gesture of love, that I wanted to share a little bit of Paris with them. I remember feeling so empowered and I just wanted to keep making stuff.

Most successful project?
My infused liqueurs like my Rhubarb Cordial or homemade Limoncello are my most successful projects. Unlike the store-bought variety, my Limoncello is a just a bit too sweet. In fact, whenever Italians from Italy visit and taste it, they say that it's too easy to drink, that it needs a harsher burn after each sip. They say this as they request two or three additional servings. Ha! 

What do you DIY the most?
More than any other project, I make jam at least weekly. I hate wasting food and especially abhor watching fruit ripen to the point of no return. It's just so good for you and there are too many people who don't have fresh fruit daily, so it's just too sad to waste fruit. Perhaps it's less good for you with tons of sugar added to it, but I get jars and jars of pretty jammy gifts and nothing goes to waste. My pantry and fridge are packed with at least 30 jars of jam at any given time.

EatBoutique_Homemade_Cocktails1.jpg

Heidi Murphy/White Loft Studio & styled by Maggie Battista


Kumquat cordial with cocktail accoutrements.

Favorite favorite tools/materials?
I adore craft paper and butcher paper. I use it for everything: gift wrapping, table coverings, place mats, impromptu chalk boards, big dinner party menus, backdrops for photography shoots, packing gift boxes, and just to doodle on… I can get a roll for less than $40 online and use it for years. I also love masking tape of all kinds, rubber bands and old scraps of paper — those are instant labeling tools that look very chic.

Has a project outcome ever surprised you?
Just before I went to France for a super long trip, I plopped some local apples and seckle pears into two separate huge jars of vodka just so they wouldn't go to waste. I didn't measure, I didn't add sugar, I just let them both sit for the 5 months I was away. I strained the fruit when I returned and added a bit of simple syrup. Both concoctions tasted similar to the cordials I enjoyed up in Brittany, in northern France. I was so surprised to remember this wonderful experience from my travels the moment I returned to my New England kitchen, with no planning or forethought or measuring involved. I also made some bacon before I left, so the husband could have homemade bacon sandwiches anytime. I was very surprised to find a few pieces left for me when I returned. That counts, right?!

What's the best advice you've ever received?
Just try. You may fail the first time or the first 10 times, but when you get it right, you'll feel like you can do anything. That first time something just worked, I felt like a superhero and it just made me want to keep trying.

What's your top tip for first-timers?
Really, just try. If you need any tips or a friend with whom to commiserate, email me.

Anything you DIY now that you never thought you would?
Gosh, everything. I make my own marshmallows, barbecue sauce, bacon and Amaretto. I make my own rub, salt, sugar and spice blends. I make my own gift wrap using plain craft paper, old food sections from The New York Times or even leftover packing material. I never thought I'd be that lady that dries herbs and flowers all over her house for food and decor (respectively), but that's me now and I totally embrace it.

What won't you ever DIY/when do you call in the experts?
I still haven't mastered homemade dark caramel, like the stuff made in France that's dark to the point of almost burnt, rich and salty. Candy is so temperamental, and I don't always have the patience for it. If I can't make something or entertain in a homemade way, I always aim to use small batch items from indie businesses in my entertaining and my recipes, so I still buy (an incredible) caramel sauce.

"When I'm not making stuff, I'm…"
I'm thinking about making stuff. Seriously, I can't sit still for five minutes without thinking up a new project. At this very moment, I'm thinking up ways to use the plums and onions on my kitchen counter. Plum Onion Chutney, anyone?

Thanks, Maggie!

The Eat Boutique Holiday Market is on December 9 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Artist for Humanity EpiCenter, 100 2nd Street in Boston. Learn more and get tickets at eatboutiquemarkets.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the Authors

Melissa Massello is a newspaper journalist turned startup junkie and lifelong Bostonian who prides herself on her do-it-yourself attitude. From making her prom dress out More »
Tara Bellucci is a Boston-based writer that lives for fonts, food, and flea market finds. Whether decorating jars of her homemade jam for The Boston More »

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