Friday, December 9, 2016

My Favorite Fiction of 2016, From Novels to Anthologies

Back in December 2011, I started a blog column, Authors, Alcohol & Accolades, which asked some of my favorite authors about their preferred drinks, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic. There have been 11 editions of this column so far, with more coming in the near future. The inspiration for this series is that I am a voracious reader, of both fiction and nonfiction, and I wanted to combine that interest with my love of food & drink. The series has proven popular and it has been fascinating to explore what authors enjoy drinking.

As a special year-end addendum to that series, I'm posting a list of my Favorite Fiction Books of 2016. This list will include books of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Mystery/Crime/Thriller. During the past twelve months, I've read approximately 225 books, both fiction and non-fiction, which provides a large pool for my choices. Most of the books on these lists were published in 2016, though there are some exceptions (including one from 2002!) which were published in prior years but which I didn't read until this past year. Please also note that these books are not in any specific order of preference.

My Top 10 (actually 11) Favorite SF/Fantasy/Horror Novels of 2016

--Barsk: The Elephant's Graveyard by Lawrence Schoen
--City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett (Book 2 of The Divine Cities)
--Beyond Redemption and The Mirror's Truth by Michael Fletcher (A Manifest Delusions novel & its sequel)
--The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley (Book 3 of the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne)
--Los Nefilim by Teresa Frohock
--Saint's Blood by Sebastien De Castell (Book 3 of The Greatcoats)
--Binary Storm by Christopher Hinz (Prequel to the Paratwa trilogy)
--The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu (Book 2 of The Dandelion Dynasty)
--Necrotech by K.C. Alexander
--Red Right Hand by Levi Black

To winnow my list down to only ten novels was very difficult and tough cuts had to be made. However, there are still novels which didn't make my Top Ten but which are more than worthy of my hearty recommendation. To give them some well-deserved recognition, I am awarding ten of those novels Honorable Mention status. In essence, this makes my list into a Top Twenty list. These are all books which should please most readers and you need to check them out too.

My Top 10 Honorable-Mention Novels Of 2016

--Morning Star by Pierce Brown (Book 3 of The Red Rising Trilogy)
--War God Rising by Tim Marquitz
--United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas
--Silver On The Road by Laura Gilman
--The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston
--Grudging: Birth of Saints by Michelle Hauck
--Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
--The Brotherhood of the Wheel by R.S. Belcher
--The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence (Book 3 of The Red Queen's War)
--The Girl With Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson

My Top 10 Favorite Mystery/Crime/Thriller Novels of 2016

--Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich 
--Young Americans by Josh Stallings 
--Livia Lone by Barry Eisler 
--Red Right Hand by Chris Holm
--Fingersmith by Sarah Waters 
--Rough Trade by Todd Robinson
--Winter Raven by Adam Baker
--Pacific Burn by Barry Lancet
--Canary by Duane Swierczynski
--Kill Switch by Jonathan Mayberry

My Favorite Anthologies Of 2016
     Anthologies often don't get enough credit but they can be quite compelling books, with an interesting mix of stories, often based around a specific theme.

--American Nocturne by Hank Schwaeble
--Road Brothers: Tales From The Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence
--Can & Can'takerous by Harlan Ellison
--Peel Back the Skin edited by Anthony Rivera & Sharon Lawson
--SNAFU: Hunters edited by Amanda Spedding and Geoff Brown
--Drive-In Creature Feature edited by Eugene Johnson & Charles Day
--Grey Maiden by Arthur D. Howden Smith

My Favorite Novellas Of 2016
    Novellas often seem to get ignored on many other "Best Of" lists but I believe they are definitely worthy of attention, especially considering the high quality novellas that are appearing more frequently.

--The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
--Ghosts of the Tristan Basin by Brian McClellan
--Hell's Bounty by Joe R. Lansdale & John L. Lansdale
--The Burning Light by Bradley Beaulieu and Rob Ziegler
--Pieces of Hate by Tim Lebbon
--A Whisper of Southern Lights by Tim Lebbon

All of the books on this list garner my highest recommendation and you should check them out. They would make great holiday gifts for others, or even yourself. Please support an author, a small, independent business person, and buy more books. And if you read and enjoy a book, please leave a review of that book online and also tell your friends about it. The author would greatly appreciate your efforts.

What were some of your favorite books this year?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.
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1) On Saturday, December 24, from 5PM - 8PM, join the Posto family for their take on the traditional Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes. The menu will include:

Trio of Antipasti: Cotuit oyster and persimmon Agro Dolce; scallop crudo with tomato caviar, and citrus chili-marinated mussel toast
Olive oil-poached halibut, confit baby potatoes, roasted garlic, olives, thyme, red flame grapes
(paired with 2014 Ermes Pavese, Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle, Vallée D'Aoste, IT (Prié Blanc))
Salt Cod Tortellini, arbol chili, oregano, marjoram
(paired with 2012 Nino Negri “Ca'Brione,” Lombardy, IT (Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Incrocio Manzoni, Nebbiolo)
Seared Snapper, lobster risotto, truffles, chervil
(paired with 2014 Mura "Cortes,” Sardinia, IT Cannonau di Sardegna)
Choice of dessert: Christmas cookies or Semolina cake with assorted candied fruit and frangelico zabaione
(paired with 2012 Cascinetta Vietti, Moscato d’Asti, Piedmont, IT (Moscato)

The 5 courses are $65 per person with an optional $35 per person wine pairing.
Reservations are highly recommended so please call (617) 625-0600

2) Puritan & Co. invites guests to celebrate Christmas Eve in Inman Square with their prix fixe, three-course menu. Reservations will be taken from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The $45 menu will include:
A-la-carte starter option ($15)
--Six local oysters
--Charcuterie plate
Choice of first course
:
--Lobster and bay scallop bisque
rouille, grilled sourdough, root vegetables
--Salad of baby lettuces and chicories
blood orange, fresh cheese, sunflower
--Duck confit and sausage
whipped potato, brussels, herb jus
--Baby beets and burrata
seeded cracker, fennel, mache
Coice of main course:
--Roasted swordfish
salsa verde, farro risotto, broccoli rabe
--Skillet-roasted chicken
spaghetti squash, marble potatoes, rosemary gravy
--Braised beef shortrib
crème fraiche potatoes, glazed carrots, grilled kale
--Pumpkin agnolotti
hen of the woods, ricotta salata, brown butter, sage
Choice of dessert:
--Assorted cakes, pies, tarts, and ice creams

To make a Reservation, please call (617) 615-6195

3) On Christmas Eve, from 5pm-8pm, Bergamot will be serving up a prix fixe, three-course menu for $85.

The menu includes:
Choice of appetizer:
--Beets 
Satsuma, Pomegranate, Pistachio Chutney, Cloumage
--Cappellacci 
Scallop, Lobster, Crab Mushroom, Pickled Carrots, Shiso, Szechuan Chili Oil, Dashi
--Morcilla 
Tostones, Chimichurri Potatoes, Poached Mango
--Seared Foie Gras
, Milk Bread, Concord Grape Jelly, Honey Cashew Butter, Celery
Choice of entree:
--Stuffed Quail
, Rock Shrimp & Tasso Stuffing, Bacon, Dirty Rice, Okra, Chicken Jus Caramel
--42 Day Dry-Aged Prime Rib
, Brussels Sprouts, Shallot Marmalade, Bearnaise Sauce, Yorkshire Pudding
--Roasted Halibut
, Charred Octopus, Lobster Knuckle, Tomato Caldo, Sofrito, Olive, Yukon Gold
--Parmesan Gnocchi, 
Porcini and Black Truffle Nappe, White Truffles, Watercress
Choice of dessert:
--Citrus Tart
, Meyer Lemon, Blood Orange, Almond Frangipane, Chocolate Sorbet
--Candy Cap Crème Brûlée, 
Port Fig Jam, Tuile
--Chocolate Hazelnut Crêpe Cake, 
Roasted Pears & Brandy Anglaise

To make a Reservation, please call (617) 576-7700

4) Executive Chef Steve Zimei of CHOPPS American Bar and Grill puts the spirit in the season for Christmas 2016. On Sunday, December 25, from 1pm-6pm, guests can enjoy a Three-Course Chef’s Christmas Tasting Menu featuring modern day New England interpretations for the Christmas holiday.

The menu for features choices such as:
Appetizers
--Maine Lobster Bisque, aged sherry, lobster
--Arugula Salad, radicchio, gorgonzola dolce, blackberries candied pumpkin seeds, apple cider dressing
Entrees
--Strip Loin Roast, horseradish whipped potatoes, glazed carrots, marrow butter
--Herb Roasted Atlantic Halibut, root vegetable hash, pomegranate molasses
--Pappardelle Bolognese, slow cooked beef short rib, roasted tomato, fennel, house made pasta
Dessert
--Eggnog Cheesecake, nutmeg crème anglaise

The Three-Course Chef’s Christmas Tasting Menu is available for $45/person exclusive of tax and gratuity.
For reservations please call 781-221-6643.

5) Promising a delicious end to 2016, and start to 2017, SRV will be hosting a Venetian New Year’s Eve followed by it’s inaugural brunch service on New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Eve, SRV will be transporting guests to Venice by way of its $65 luxury Arsenale menu. In addition to the three-course, prix fixe menu, guests will be delighted by special treats throughout the night including an Aperol spritz at midnight. SRV’s regular a la carte menu will also be available.

Three New Year’s Eve seating times are available from 5 to 6 p.m., 6:30 to 8 p.m., and 8:30 to 11 p.m. Reservations must be held with a credit card. Cancellations made within two days are subject to $50 per-person charge while no-shows are subject to $100 per-person charge.

The New Year’s Eve menu will include:
First course:
Nantucket Bay Scallop Crudo with satsuma, fermented beet
Fried Oyster with caper, peppadew pepper
Grissini alla Veneziana with foie gras, allium
Carne Cruda with celery root, black truffle
Second course:
Vitello Tonnato with sweetbreads, tuna belly, bay leaf
Octopus with beans, smoked pork, sauerkraut
Duck Breast with cardoon, chicory
Third course:
Fusi Istriani sardine, celery, orange
Agnolotti polenta, oxtail, carrot
*Truffles can be added for an additional charge

On New Year’s Day, SRV will host its first-ever brunch service featuring Italian-influenced, a la carte menu items. Reservations will be accepted from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. while walk-ins will be accepted until 3 p.m. New Year’s Day brunch will kick off regular brunch service at SRV, which will officially begin on January 22nd and take place every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The brunch menu will include:
Bombolone with corn meal crema ($7)
Cabbage Caesar Salad with anchovy, garlic croutons, parmigiano ($9)
Baby Kale with pear, pecorino, hazelnut ($9)
Vongole alla Pescatora with baby clams, guanciale, garlic bread, aleppo ($13)
Crispy Fingerling Potatoes with rosemary, parmigiano ($6)
Soft Scrambled Eggs with speck, sourdough, chives ($10)
Egg Sandwich with fried egg, musetto, montasio ($12)
Sopressa Veneta with radicchio, walnut, gorgonzola-dolce ($12)
Creamy Polenta with poached eggs, beef stracotto, mustard green ($13)
Sweet Potato Tortelli with chestnuts, brown butter, sage ($14)
Bucatini alle Vongole with clams, aleppo, garlic, parsley ($16)
Fazzoletti with spicy lamb sausage, swiss chard, chickpeas ($16)

To make reservations, please call (617) 536-9500

6) On Saturday, December 31, Terramia Ristorante, located in the North End, is ringing in the New Year with a four-course prix fixe menu featuring a fresh take on traditional Italian dishes.

Guests can start dinner off with a glass of wine accompanied by their choice of appetizers including the Polpette con Polenta, oven baked meatballs covered in creamy fontina cheese polenta and San Marzano tomato sauce, finished off with parmigiano cheese, Caprese or Capesante, pan seared scallops with parsnip puree. In true Italian fashion there will be a course dedicated to pasta with options such as Pappardelle alla Bolognese, Ravioli Di Aragosta and Risotto Porcini before moving to the main course including Maiale; a filet of pork tenderloin covered in a honey walnut crust served with parsnip puree, baby spinach and dried California prune sauce or the Bistecca; pan seared filet mignon with truffle potato mash, sautéed baby spinach and gorgonzola dolce and a red wine reduction. The night will end on a sweet note when guests make a delicious decision on dessert and toast to the year ahead.

Please note, the New Year’s Eve menu and regular menu will be available. The four-course dinner is $75 per person (tax and gratuity not included). Guests dining together must all chose from the same menu.
Reservations are highly recommended and can be made by calling Terramia at 617-523-3112.

7) This New Year’s Eve, BISq will be celebrating with a special menu centered around one of the restaurant’s signature offerings- whole animal dinners. The servings will be made-to-order according to party size and can be accompanied by a variety of drinks specials for additional cost. Reservations will be taken from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. with drink service continuing until late as the space transforms into more of a party atmosphere.

The $70 menu, which is subject to change, includes:
Choice of appetizer:
--Beef heart tacos, black bean puree, cabbage slaw, rocoto
--Lettuce, radish, fennel, apple
--Ceviche, citrus, aji amarillo, quinoa
--Roasted mushroom salad, arugula, creme fraiche, walnuts
Choice of whole-roasted animal:
--Suckling Pig
--Rib eye/ lamb leg
--Whole roasted Chicken
--Fish
--Vegetarian (gratin, pasta, other composed dish)
Choice of side:
--Salt & pepper smashed potatoes
--Grilled broccoli
--Charred shishitos
--Roasted baby carrots
--Poached & roasted beets
Choice of dessert:
--Flan
--Arroz con leche
--Cheesecake
--Cookie
--Churros

You can make reservations by calling (617) 714-3693

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Alexander Jules: Thanksgiving & Amontillado

Did you enjoy Sherry on Thanksgiving? Since 2010, I've advised people to be more adventurous and drink Sherry on Thanksgiving because it is both delicious and pairs well with the various foods on your table. Not enough Americans drink dry Sherry, with sweet Sherries being far more prominent. However, it is the dry Sherries which pair so well with a wide range of foods. Besides giving this advice, I usually follow it as well, and this year brought an Amontillado Sherry to the Thanksgiving table.

Fortunately, I received a media sample in time for the holiday, one of the newest selections from Alexander Jules. Alexander Russan, the founder of Alexander Jules, is similar in some respects to a negociant, visiting Sherry producers and cellar owners and carefully selecting some of their barrels to create a special Sherry. I previously reviewed the first three of his Sherries, as well as provided more info about his company and you should check out my article for additional background on Alexander Jules. Those three Sherries made my 2014 list of Top Ten Wines Over $15. Last year, I reviewed his Los Abandonados 6/8 Oloroso and it made my 2015 list of Top Wines Over $50. And earlier this year, I reviewed his Fino 4/65, and I'm positive it will end up on one of my Top Wines of 2016 lists coming later this month.

The Amontillado 3/10 (about $40/500ml) is intended to be a younger Amontillado and was sourced from Bodegas Juan Piñero, located in the port city of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Sanlúcar is an ancient city, located on the left bank of the mouth of the Guadalquivir River. Until the beginning of the 19th century, the wines of Sanlúcar were generally not considered sherries. However now, Sanlúcar is the only city in Spain which can legally produce Manzanilla sherry, and has its own Denominación de Origen, called Manzanilla de Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

Juan Piñero, who made his wealth in the construction industry, eventually decided to enter the sherry business. Around 1992, Piñero purchased an old bodega in Sanlúcar so he could produce Manzanilla. In addition, he purchased numerous barrels as well as high quality sherry. In 2000, he purchased another bodega, along with barrels of the famed Maruja Manzanilla (which were moved to their original bodega). Piñero, in 2007, bought another bodega, which included barrels of Oloroso sherry. For most of this time though, he sold his Sherry to other bodegas, including La Gitana and Argüeso, but in 2013, he finally decided to began selling his own brand, the first being Manzanilla Maruja.

Russan has worked with Piñero before in producing Sherry, and continues to do so for several reasons. First, Russan finds Piñero to be very responsible, conducting his business in a timely fashion. Second, Piñero manages the bodega in a very traditional fashion, which Russan really likes. Third, Piñero hired Ramiro Ibañez to be his consulting capataz and Russan feels he is a "genius of the Sherry Triangle." Russan stated that when he works with Ibañez, his understanding of sherry is greatly expanded. Finally, Piñero has many different styles of sherry and Russan finds good variation in the barrels, allowing Russan to create more unique sherries.

Russan's concept behind this Amontillado was to make a sherry in a similar style to his previous Amontillado. He wanted it to be "younger, yet complex and complete, still showing Manzanilla character, and softer oxidative qualities." He tasted through the scales/criaderas from the Maruja Manzanilla solera, until he found the point in development that he wanted for his new Amontillado. This Amontillado has an average age of about 18 years, though he feels he tastes younger, more like a 12-15 year old.

It was bottled with only a rough plate filter at the bodega, mainly to remove any large pieces of material that might have been in the barrels. As for food pairings, Russan suggested the Amontillado would pair well with Chinese food, Indian food (curries), Mexican food (Oaxacan cuisine—more spiced dishes), and probably even steak.

After drinking this sherry, I think Russan created exactly the type of sherry he desired, an intriguing blend that presents beautiful Amontillado notes but also hearkens to the nature of a Manzanilla. It reminded me of snacking on almonds and pecans, lightly drizzled with caramel, while sitting on the beach, with the brininess of the ocean wafting over me. It is a lighter style sherry, with a complex melange of flavors, including lots of nuttiness, mild caramel notes, a strong briny nature, subtle hints of citrus and a lengthy, pleasing finish. Everything is well balanced and harmoniousness, and it is an Amontillado which should please most anyone. I think it paired very well with the various Thanksgiving dishes and could easily see this working well with a wide variety of cuisines.

Russan has created another winner and I highly recommend you check out all of the Alexander Jules sherries.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Rant: DON'T DRINK & DRIVE!!!

It couldn't be any simpler so listen carefully. This is one of the most important pieces of advice you will receive this holiday season. Please pay careful attention.

If you've had too much alcohol to drink, if there is any doubt in your mind, don't drive. 

Any questions?

Once again, I step forward with probably my most important Rant of the year. It's an absolutely vital issue for everyone who enjoys alcohol of any type, from wine to beer, from Scotch to hard cider. With the advent of the holiday season upon us, we reach a potentially dangerous period for those people who over indulge, who drink too much at parties, feasts and gatherings. There is nothing wrong with that, and you can drink as much as you desire, as long as you give up your keys to someone who is sober, and do not drive.

As I've said multiple times before, and which I'll repeat year after year, "If there is any question, no matter how small, whether you are too intoxicated to drive, then don't. If your family or friends think you have had too much to drink, don't drive. Just don't. It is not worth the risk by any calculation." Err on the side of caution so that if you have any doubt of your capacity to drive, then please do not drive. Take a taxi or Uber, catch a ride with someone else, walk or sleep it off. Just don't drive!

Rationally, we all know the dangers of drinking and driving. We endanger our own lives as well as the lives of others. Every year, we hear multiple news reports about terrible auto accidents, some with fatalities, that occur because a driver was intoxicated. Families are torn apart, lives are ruined, and much more. Why don't we learn from all these incidents? Even if you don't get in an accident, you might get arrested for drunk driving, with all the attendant high costs, and not just economic. You might even end up in jail.

About 17,000 people are arrested for drunk driving in Massachusetts each year. That is a huge figure, showing that far too many people still don't understand that they should not drink and drive. How difficult is it to understand? DON'T DRINK & DRIVE! I'm sure drunk driving incidents in other states are just as significant.

Each time you drink and drive, you endanger yourself, your passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, and people in other vehicles. Let someone else drive you, whether it be a friend or family. Take an Uber or public transportation. Leave your car where it is parked as you can always pick it up the next day. You have plenty of options so there is absolutely no reason to drink and drive. Be responsible.

I don't want to lose any family or friends this year due to a drunk driving accident. I don't think anyone wants to lose their loved ones either. Your family and friends would rather you didn't drink and drive as they don't you to die in a terrible drunk driving accident. So please just don't!

(This is a repeat of a prior post, with some minor changes, but as it is always my most important Rant of the year, it bears repeating as the holiday season begins.)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.
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1) The Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center’s 5th annual Celebrity Holiday Tree Auction and Toy Drive Kick-off event will take place on Wednesday, December 7, from 6pm-8pm, and they have recruited a special guest to help make it the most successful year yet – and just in time as the need is greater than ever. For this year’s kick-off event, longtime Christmas in the City supporter and New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman will be doing the first public reading of his newly released children’s book, Flying High, exclusively for attendees. Flying High is partially autobiographical; it is the story of a passionate squirrel that learns the value of hard work, with some other familiar New England faces making an appearance in the book as well.

Edelman will take part in a live auction which will include a one-of-a-kind Julian Edelman-themed Christmas tree decorated by the wide receiver and a select number of signed copies of his book will also be auctioned off – perfect for those looking for holiday gifts for young family members.

The evening will feature additional silent and live auctions, raffles and more as well as tasty nibbles and a cash bar provided by the Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center. 100% of money raised will go directly to Christmas in the City to purchase toys for children in need this holiday season.

Christmas in the City, a 100% volunteer organization, will hold its 28th Annual Holiday Party in December and is expecting to serve thousands more children this year – so they need more support than ever to meet the need. 5,000 children living in shelters, hotels or transitional housing will attend the celebration with their parent or guardian. The following day, Christmas in the City will give out toys and clothing, serving 13,000 more children whose families have fallen on hard times and otherwise might find nothing under the tree. The Seaport Hotel will once again serve as a drop-off location for toys; those donating can drop toys directly at the valet parking station or in the hotel lobby beginning on Tuesday, November 29th.

Admission price is a donation of $40. Guests are also asked to please bring ONE toy to donate.
Tickets can be purchased at: https://citctreeauction.eventbrite.com

2) To celebrate the restaurant’s One-Year Anniversary and express sincere gratitude to loyal patrons who’ve warmly welcomed the brand to Massachusetts, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, located at The Shops at Chestnut Hill, will give away ONE FREE SMALL CHEESE PIZZA (takeout only, no exceptions) to every guest between the hours of 1:00PM and 4:00PM on Tuesday, December 13. Since opening last December, “Pepe’s” has enjoyed serving the Greater Boston community and is thankful for the support they’ve received.

Originally, founded in 1925 in New Haven, CT by Frank Pepe, who immigrated to the United States in 1909 at the age of 16, Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana is nationally renowned for its Neapolitan Pizza baked in Coal-fired Brick Ovens.

COST: FREE (no purchase necessary) Offer is good for one free small cheese pizza (no exceptions) per guest. Takeout only.

3) Executive Chef & Co-Owner Jody Adams is proud to launch TRADE Secrets Cooking Classes. For the first time ever at Trade, Chef Jody Adams presents an interactive series of cooking classes inspired by various countries of the Mediterranean.

TRADE Secrets Cooking Classes feature lively and engaging demonstrations, lunch with wine pairings and recipes to take home from Chef Jody Adams. Exploring the Mediterranean countries of Greece, Italy, France and Spain, the Trade Secrets Cooking Classes kick off in January and conclude in April. Held one Sunday afternoon each month, the intimate cooking classes feature welcoming coffee and scones on arrival followed by Chef Jody Adams teaching her tricks of the trade. After everyone has worked up an appetite, guests delight in a 3-course lunch with wine pairings and depart with printed recipe cards to recreate the once in a lifetime experience at home.

Trade Secrets Cooking Classes are $150/person per class and are held on the following dates, starting at 11am, with respective themes for each:
Sunday, January 15 – Greece,
Sunday, February 12 – Italy,
Sunday, March 19 – France,
Sunday, April 23 – Spain.

Space is limited and tickets to each class can be purchased at: http://bit.ly/2f5qLBW.

4) Chef/Owner Dante de Magistris of il Casale Lexington has teamed up with Mario and Luciano Ercolino, founders of Vinosia Wines to present an elegant dinner pairing Southern Italian fare with this exclusive line of Campania, Italy imported wines. Founded in 2003 by Mario and Luciano Ercolino, whose family founded Feudi di San Gregorio, the brothers set out on their own to create Vinosia, a new place of wine.

On Tuesday, December 6, at 6pm, il Casale Cucina Campana in Lexington will transport guests with a full Italian dining experience featuring Vinosia Wines. Guests are invited to indulge in a five-course menu with dishes created by Chef Dante de Magistris and wine pairings expertly selected by Vinosia Wines representative Mariella Zangaro, who is flying in direct from Italy for this special event. The flavorful, traditional ingredients Chef Dante uses in his dishes are prevalent in the Campania region of Italy and perfectly pair with Vinosia Wines where the vineyards wine making techniques extract the immense depth of the Irpinia terroir and grapes also of the same region in Italy.

Vinosia Wines was discovered by Dante de Magistris and his father, Leon, while scouting their family’s hometown region of Campania. Vinosia Wines immediately made the elite list of imported Italian wines carried by The de Magistris family, and for this one-night-only, you will have the opportunity to try five exclusive pours including Greco di Tufo, Aglianico, Taurasi, Aglianico di Irpinia and Primitivo di Manduria.

The menu is $75 per person and includes the following courses:
FIRST
Ostriche Chaud/Froid
Oyster on the Half Shell with Greco di Tufo Mignonette
broiled oyster with speck and oregano
2015 GRECO DI TUFO, L’AURELLA
SECOND
Mafalde con Stinco di Maiale, Rosmarino e Pecorino al Ginepro (braised pork shank ragu, orange and rosemary sauce, mafalde pasta and pecorino ginepro)
2014 AGLIANICO, NEROMORA
THIRD
Capriolo al Caffe, Puree di Patata Dolce, Strudel di Spinaci (espresso rubbed venison loin, sweet potato puree, spinach strudel, anise glace)
2009 TAURASI, MARZIACANALE
FOURTH
Cotoletta di Cinghiale, Salsa Nera di Bosco, Crocchetta Della Nonna (slow roasted wild boar chop, black berry chocolate glace, potato croquette)
2009 AGLIANICO DI IRPINIA, SESTO A QUINCONCE
FIFTH
Trio di Fromaggi, Campani (cacio cavallo, pecorino ginepro, smoked mozzarella di buffalo, seasonal fruits and nuts)
2011 PRIMITIVO DI MANDURIA, UE PASSULA

Price is $75 per person exclusive of tax and gratuity. Space is limited – please call 781-538-5846 to make a reservation.

5) During a media interview, at Little Donkey, with Greg Davis, the Master Distiller at Maker's Mark, I had the chance to taste a new cocktail, the Beast of Bourbon ($12), which was created by Vikram Hegde, the Bar Manager at Little Donkey. Using Maker's 46, which is enhanced by aging in barrels with French staves, this was a tasty cocktail, the hint of cinnamon flavor adding to a holiday feel. You can get this cocktail at Little Donkey, or make it yourself at home.

The recipe includes:
1 part Maker's 46
1 part Angostura Amaro
½ part Lemon
½ part Cinnamon Syrup
Dash Angostura bitters
   Serve it over over ice in a lowball glass with a lemon twist.