Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A New Chef At Committee Makes His Mark

Last fall, one of my favorite restaurants, Committee, started off the fall season of their monthly wine dinners highlighting the cuisine and wines of the island of Cyprus. I previously wrote that the waters surrounding Cyprus were "...said to have once been the lair of Scylla, a terrible sea monster which is alleged to have possessed a serpent's body, six canine heads, and twelve limbs. Scylla was supposed to have taken six sailors from the ship of Odysseus."

This month, the wine dinner at Committee (at which I was a media guest) highlighted the cuisine and wines of Lamia and Central Greece, and there is an intriguing connection to the earlier Cypriot dinner. The city of Lamia may have been named after Lamia, the daughter of the god Poseidon, and she is said to have been the mother of the monster Scylla, as well as another creature, Acheilus the Shark.

The region around Lamia is very marshy land, so grape vines don't grow well there, though it is the home of Retsina, a Greek resinated wine which has a bad reputation in some circles. However, it is a reputation that needs redemption as there are a number of excellent examples of Retsina which can now be found. This is also an area which is very meat-focused and as there is little red wine in the region, they traditionally drink white wine with their meat dishes. That is certainly a more unique pairing.

This wine dinner also was intended to introduce Committee's new Chef de Cuisine, Theo Tsilipanos (pictured at the top of this post). Theo is a native of the city of Lamia, having owned a restaurant there for eight years before deciding to move to Boston. Locally, Theo has worked at restaurants including Sel de la Terre, La Brasa and L’Espalier. For this dinner, Theo collaborated with Consulting Chef Diane Kochilas and Wine Director Lauren Friel, who selected the wines for each course.

If you've never attended one of their wine dinners, you really should do so. They are usually held in a small, private room and the multi-course dinner will intrigue and delight your palate, as will the well-paired Greek wines. Chef Theo didn't disappoint, creating a delicious dinner which was evidence of his culinary skills. I've also been back to Committee since this wine dinner, trying more of Chef Theo's cuisine, and he impressed me once again. I continue to highly recommend Committee to everyone.

We began the evening with Babanatsa, homemade cornbread with greens, which is not a combination I usually would consider but it worked. The cornbread was moist and tasty, and the green added an interesting texture as well as a bit of bitterness in opposition to the sweetness of the corn. This type of traditional food was intended to be easy to carry, when farmers and others were climbing up and down the mountains of the region.

We then proceeded onto a Greens Salad with Winter Fruit & Grilled Formaella Cheese. The Formaella Cheese of Arachova is a traditional Greek cheese, a semi-hard cheese made of sheep's milk. It is commonly eaten as a table cheese though sometimes it is fried or grilled. I loved the taste of the grilled cheese and it was well balanced against the fresh greens and fruit. The cheese had a squeaky texture and I think it would be a nice substitute for cheese curds in a Greek version of poutine.

Our first wine of the evening was the Mylonas Savatiano, made of 100% Savatiano from 50+ year old vines. It was aged in stainless steel and was beautifully aromatic, fresh and delicious, with pleasant flavors of pear and lemon, and a crisp acidity. This would also work very well with seafood.

Our next course was Trahanopita with Shaved Bottarga Mesolongiou and Lemon Zest. Trahanopita, which roughly translates as "pasta cake," is made with trahanas, cracked wheat boiled with milk, which is then dried and preserved. It is a "farmer's breakfast," akin to Greek oatmeal. The bottarga is Greek caviar, Red Mullet roe. This had an interesting taste, almost like a potato cake but with more nuttiness, and an intriguing briny, earthy aspect. The lemon added a subtle acidity that helped to balance the dish.

Paired with this dish was the Harlaftis Attiki Chardonnay, produced by one of the oldest estates in Greece. It is made from old vine Chardonnay, with fermentation in French oak and then 4-5 months of aging sur lies. It is a Chardonnay of power, with big citrus and stone fruit flavors, some mild spicy notes, and a hint of caramel. Good acidity, a lengthy finish and a nice structure.

Our next course was a variation on a more traditional dish, Kontosouvli, which is usually spit roasted meat, commonly pork. Instead, we had Red Snapper 'Kontosouvli' with a Celery Avgolemono, and I didn't have any complaints. The fish was moist and tender, delicious with a nice touch of char. Seafood is always a good choice and fish grilled like this would appeal to many people.

The Domaine Vassiliou ‘Siban’ is a more traditional-style wine, made from 100% Savatiano. It was fermented in stainless steel and was crisp and elegant, with bright citrus notes and hints of almonds, especially on the finish. This was certainly an excellent seafood wine, and would love to try it with oysters.

Next up was Kelemia, a whole baked onion stuffed with ground meat and Kefalograviera (a hard Greek cheese). The stuffing was juicy and spicy, with a tang from the cheese. The onions were tender with a nice sweetness, balancing out the spicier filling.

The pairing for this dish reflected the uniqueness of the region of Central Greece, a Kourtaki Retsina. Wine Director Lauren Friel is a big fan of Retsina and was pleased she got to pair it with this dinner. The Kourtaki is made from Savatiano, is unoaked, and has a touch of pine resin, giving it a more subtle piney aroma and taste. I've enjoyed a few Restinas in the past and this one was food too, being more subtle and thus more amenable to wine lovers than some of the more prominent and resinous wines.

The last savory course was Kapamas, a lamb stew with warm spices, wine and tomatoes, which was served over Bobota (a cornmeal cream with Feta). What an alluring aroma from this dish, and the taste was its equal. The spicy lamb was tender and flavorful, with a mild earthiness and a complex blend of tastes. The Bobota was also delicious, a rich corn flavor with such briny elements. A hearty and compelling dish, this is excellent for the winter.

With the lamb, we enjoyed the Muses Estate ‘9 Muses’ Rosé, which is made from 80% Syrah and 20% Mouchtaro. And yes, Rosé is not just a summer wine, and should be enjoyed year round, especially as it is so food friendly. Mouchtaro is a very rare grape, which only grows in the area of Askri, and this winery was the first to revive this ancient grape. This dry Rosé had subtle and delicious tastes of red fruits, with a touch of white pepper and a mild herbal note. Very tasty and it stood up to the hearty lamb.

Dessert was a Pasteli (a sesame and honey bar) with Greek yoghurt mousse and topped by chestnut syrup. The pasteli was crunchy and nutty, with mildly sweet accents, topped by a slightly sour mousse and the sweet, nutty syrup. Our final drink was the Muses Estate ‘Zacharias’ Tsipouro, a strong Greek brandy, sure to warm you up on a chilly evening.

This past weekend, after a Saturday spent at the Boston Wine Expo, I dined at Committee with a friend who had never been there before. It gave me the opportunity to try more of Chef Theo's new dishes, and once again I was impressed, as was my friend. I just want to highlight a few of those new dishes, to showcase the new chef's talents.

One of the specials that night was a meat version of their Artichoke Moussaka. The bottom was a layer of pasta, topped by ground beef and with a potato layer on top of it all. The beef was spiced nicely and went with the pasta, while the thick layer of potatoes was like an excellent comfort food.

These are Cheese Loukoumades, which are basically Cheese Donuts! Who could refuse such a thing? These light and crispy donut holes were filled with three Greek cheeses, including Manouri, Kasseri, & Feta, and topped by a Greek honey-vyssino glaze. Superb! The cheese blend was bright and bold, a melange of compelling flavors, and the glaze added a nice sweetness to balance off the strong taste of the cheeses. I probably could have sat and ate these loukoumades all night with a bottle of wine. Highly recommended!

For dessert, we thoroughly enjoyed the Sokolata, which consisted of melted chocolate halva, crispy kataifi, pistachio powder, and mastiha ice cream. That chocolate was amazing, rich, creamy and with a nice depth of flavor. You'll want to lick the plate clean. The crispy kataifi added a nice textural element to the dish and the unusual ice cream added an intriguing flavor to the rich chocolate. I would stop by Committee just to have this for dessert again. Also highly recommended.

The new Chef de Cuisine, Theo Tsilipanos, is certainly making his mark at Committee and I continue to give the restaurant my highest recommendation.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Rant: The Boston Wine Expo Wine's I Disliked

This past weekend, I spent two days sampling wines, spirits, and food at the Boston Wine Expo, tasting about 175 wines and spirits. That might seem like a lot, but you also have to note that it means I didn't taste over 1600 wines and spirits. I tasted a fraction of what was available, having to make hard choices of which tables I visited, which wines I wanted to experience. I know I missed some excellent wines but that couldn't be helped. There were just too many wines for any one person to handle.

Of those wines I sampled, I found plenty of delicious and interesting ones, but I also disliked a number of those wines. Every year, I write about those wines which I most enjoyed, showcasing those worthy wines. However, which wines did I dislike at the Expo? Which wines did I think were "bad?"

Frankly, I'm not going to mention which wines I disliked. In general, the wines I disliked didn't conform to my own personal preferences, such as being too sweet or too oaky, but other people might enjoy them as they have different preferences. This is made clear at the wine store where I work, where I see plenty of people enjoying wines that I wouldn't drink because our preferences are different. Thus, I can't really say a wine is "bad," but rather that I didn't enjoy it though others might find pleasure in it.

At the Expo, I saw it as well, comparing favored wines with friends, and though we might agree on many of the wines, there would always be a few on which we differed. We all have our own personal preferences and that needs to be respected. Wineries often target certain groups of consumers, those who share certain preferences, and sometimes you might not be their intended audience. It won't be surprising then if you dislike that particular wine. The beauty of wine though is its immense diversity and that means there are wines for all preferences.

During the upcoming weeks, when I provide specific recommendations for the wines I most enjoyed at the Expo, I don't expect every reader will be in complete agreement with my choices. However, what is most important to me is trying to expose my readers to new and diverse wines, grapes and regions, to give them reasons to expand their palates. For example, I'll be highlighting a number of wines from the country of Georgia, as I sure many of my readers will know little about their wines, but I'm also sure they would enjoy them if they sampled them.

I want to embrace the positivity of my wine experiences from the Expo, rather than dwelling on the negative examples. And I fervently hope that my passion for the wines I will highlight will infect my readers and cause them to seek out at least some of those wines.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Island Creek Oyster Bar: The Catch of Burlington

As the number of new restaurants in Burlington continues to rise, one of the hottest new additions is the Island Creek Oyster Bar, located near the Burlington Mall in The District complex. Similar in many respects to the original Kenmore location, this Island Creek is larger, with three private dining rooms, raw bar seating, and a more spacious dining room. Earlier this week, I had lunch at Island Creek with my mom and the meal was so excellent, I needed to write about it immediately, though please note that this is not a full review, just an initial glimpse into the seafood wonders you'll find here.

They have an extensive and interesting drinks programs, with a number of local spirits and intriguing cocktails (priced $12-$13). The wine list is also diverse with lots of fascinating choices, and wine lovers will definitely find plenty that interests them. I opted for a glass of Orleans Borbón Manzanilla Fina Sherry, an excellent choice for seafood and fried food. However, I do wish they added some Sake to their list, which is also a great pairing with seafood.

The lunch menu, which changes to some degree every day, has a Raw Bar section, Appetizers, Salads, Soups, Lunch Entrees ($13-$18), Shore Food Entrees ($15-$27), and Sides. The Raw Bar has numerous Oysters, Crudo/Ceviche, and Shellfish. The majority of the menu is seafood, but there are a few non-seafood options, such as a Colorado Angus Burger and ICOB Rigatoni, but make no mistake, this is a shrine to the bounty of the sea.

We began with Shrimp Cocktail ($3.50/piece) and these were monstrosities, some of the largest shrimp you'll find most anywhere. They were tender, cooked perfectly so that they weren't rubbery or tough. An excellent beginning to lunch and if you love shrimp, then you definitely need to order these.

We also started with the Yellowfin Tuna Poke ($15), with cucumber, sesame, chili, nori and large taro root chips. Silky tuna, with tangy citrus and mild spiciness, delighted my palate. The thin, crisp taro root chips were a nice platform for the poke and the sesame seeds added a bit of crunchiness and a nutty element. Another compelling dish.

The Fried Ipswich Clams ($27/large) come with some cole slaw and french fries, and the clams tend to be smaller than some places, but that isn't a flaw. These are sweet and tender, with a fresh and light batter with a delicious crunch. They aren't gritty in the least, and are certainly addictive, as you find yourself popping fried clam after fried clam into your mouth. Fried perfection. And even the french fries are top notch, with a nice crunchy coating and a fluffy interior.

A Tuna Melt is a rather common sandwich, yet there are restaurants which elevate it to new heights, and Island Creek accomplishes that objective. The Confit Yellowfin Tuna Melt ($13) is on white rye, with ICOB pickles and Fontina cheese, and it is frankly one of the best tuna melts I've ever eaten. The creamy and delicious tuna filling doesn't ooze mayo like some other tuna melts, and the pickles add a nice texture as well as some sweetness. The melted fontina adds some nutty notes and the bread, with panini-like grill marks, is just the right thickness. Everything meshes well together, creating a superb sandwich and one I highly recommend.

How do you end such an excellent lunch? With an equally compelling dessert. The Banoffee Pie ($9) is an English dessert pie, commonly a blend of bananas and toffee, though Island Creek uses dulce de leche. The banana slices atop the pie have a light, crunchy layer of dulce de leche and would be a tasty dessert on their own. The silky and sweet cream is compelling, a fine topping for the thick banana slices beneath. Though the pastry shell beneath the pie was tasty, it was a little too thick for my preferences. But that is a minor issue with an otherwise scrumptious dessert.

Service was excellent, and the entire staff shares working together at every table. They are consummate professionals, knowledge and personable, attentive without being obtrusive. It was such a positive lunch experience, with superb seafood, and I'm eager to return. Island Creek Oyster Bar is a welcome addition to Burlington and I highly recommend you dine there.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

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) Cook, located in the heart of Newton, is featuring a parade of Mardi Gras specials inspired by New Orleans’ favorite feast.  On Tuesday, February 28th, from 4:30pm to close, the Newton restaurant is expanding its intimate neighborhood vibe to include the carnival’s vibrant energy.

Guests can indulge in small plates like Bourbon Honey Mustard Wings ($10), or feast on flavor-packed entrees like Drunken Mussels made with Andouille Sausage ($14), and a Cajun Shrimp Flatbread with a spicy garlic cream ($16). Sweeten the Mardi Gras meal with an order of house-made Beignets ($6). Toast the night with the Special Fat Tuesday cocktail with Bulleit Rye, Myers Dark Rum and grapefruit ($12).

Reservations recommended by calling (617) 964-2465.

2) Salty Pig Executive Chef Josh Turka along with the Salty Pig staff will bring back the popular “Red Sauce Sundays” promotion starting this week on Sunday, February 19, from 5pm-10pm. Guests will enjoy a taste of old school Italian with the sounds of Sinatra and Dean Martin on the sound system, red and white checkered tablecloths and chianti bottles on every table. Dishes start at $7 and go to $19.

Salty Pig Executive Chef Josh Turka has created a Red Sauce menu that will be available all night that includes starters like garlic knots and meatballs; pastas like fusilli al fredo and fettucine bolognaise; entrees like chicken parmesan and sausage and peppers; along with brick oven pizzas and build-your-own charcuterie boards.

WHEN: Sundays, Starting on February 19th through indefinitely

3) One of Boston’s most anticipated culinary occasions of the year, A Taste of Ginger, will be held on Monday, March 27, from 6:30pm-9:30pm, in the beautiful Art of the Americas Wing at the Museum of Fine Arts. Proceeds from A Taste of Ginger will benefit Joslin Diabetes Center’s Asian American Diabetes Initiative (AADI) which works to enhance the quality of life and health outcomes for the rising number of Asian Americans living with diabetes, and collaborates with Joslin as they work to find a cure.

Each year, hundreds of supporters and foodies gather to enjoy a lively evening, including the opportunity to meet and taste the cuisine of Boston’s most celebrated chefs such as Joanne Chang, Jasper White, Andy Husbands and Dave Becker amidst the beauty of the MFA.

Emceed by NBC Boston anchor and health reporter Kristy Lee, the event will honor David Wong, owner of Empire Garden Restaurant, for his outstanding commitment to Joslin’s AADI . Dr. Nandan Padukone, head of the Office of Commercialization and Ventures at Joslin Diabetes Center will co-chair the event alongside Hepzi Fonseca.

FOR TICKETS: Tickets are $250 per guest, and can be purchased online at: www.joslin.org/ginger

Joslin Diabetes Center is world-renowned for its deep expertise in diabetes treatment and research. A federally designated Diabetes Research Center, affiliated with Harvard Medical School, Joslin is dedicated to finding a cure for diabetes and ensuring that people with diabetes live long, healthy lives. We develop and disseminate innovative patient therapies and scientific discoveries throughout the world.

In response to the rising rates of diabetes in the Asian American population and the lack of culturally relevant research, clinical care, and education, Joslin Research Director George L. King, MD, and supporters of Joslin Diabetes Center, established the AADI in 2000. For over a decade, the AADI has made substantial advances to enhance to quality of life and health outcomes for Asian Americans living with diabetes through research, education, outreach and culturally appropriate treatments.

4) Poutine, a favorite French-Canadian dish originating in rural Canada, is composed of a trio of key ingredients: French fries and fresh cheese curds smothered in brown gravy. The growing popularity of this flavor-packed dish is certain to satisfy the most extreme of cravings. This winter, The Beehive is introducing a variety poutine dishes with a modern spin. For its late night menu, The Beehive’s innovative team decided to veer away from its familiar multicultural dishes to craft a selection of Canadian-inspired poutine recipes.

Executive chef, Gregory Torrech, proves he has no limits when it comes to perfecting Canadian cuisine by developing a menu composed of a variety of savory entrees inspired by traditional poutine. Included in Chef Torrech’s late night poutine menu is Classic Quebec Poutine “á la Beehive” with Beehive frites, cheese curds and roasted veal gravy ($13), BBQ Braised Beef Cheeks Poutine with caramelized onions and veal roasted gravy ($18), and Lobster Poutine with Cajun Etouffèe Gravy ($21).

The late-night menu is available Sunday through Wednesday, 10pm-11pm, and Thursday through Saturday, 11pm-1am.

5) On Monday, February 27, at 6:30pm, Legal Harborside will host a four-plus-course Bethel Heights Vineyard dinner with winemaker Ben Casteel. Founded in 1977 by twin brothers Ted and Terry Casteel, Bethel Heights is an Oregon winery in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of the Willamette Valley. While initially only a vineyard, a winery was built with the first estate wines produced in 1984. The winery specializes in Pinot Noir and the family now makes more than 2,000 cases of estate Pinot Noir, and more than 1,000 cases of an estate Chardonnay.

The menu will be presented as follows:
HORS D’OEUVRES
Kumamoto Oyster, Frozen Citrus, Caviar
Salmon Belly Terrine
Corn Cake, Egg Custard
Lobster & Apple Hush Puppy
Bethel Heights Estate Pinot Blanc, Eola-Amity Hills, 2015
FIRST COURSE
Shrimp (polenta, wild mushrooms, green garlic chimichurri)
Bethel Heights Pinot Gris, Oregon, 2015
SECOND COURSE
Scallop Potage (turmeric, almond, carrot, honey pollen)
Bethel Heights Estate Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills, 2014
Bethel Heights “Casteel” Estate Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills, 2014
THIRD COURSE
Salmon (Parisian gnocchi, currant-hazelnut butter, charred frisée)
Bethel Heights “Aeolian” Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, 2013
Bethel Heights “Southeast Block” Estate Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, 2013
CHEESE COURSE
Livarot, Sbrinz & Tomme
Bethel Heights “Casteel” Estate Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, 2014

COST: $125 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)
Reservation required by calling 617-530-9397

6) Puritan & Co. Chef/Owner Will Gilson, Wine Director Peter Nelson, and the Puritan & Co. team invite guests to join them for upcoming Totally Fried Fizz Fest. Rumor has it sparkling wines are amongst the most diverse and versatile wines for food pairings and the wine nerds agree - both sweet and savory fried foods are a divine partner with all things bubbly.

Puritan & Co.’s Totally Fried Fizz Fest on Wednesday, March 22nd will offer an introduction to the diversity of styles and tastes of sparkling wines served alongside the tastiest fried foods. From funky reds to Grand Cru Grower Champagne, the industry-style tasting will allow guests to try dozens of wines from all over the world from various grape varietals exhibiting a full array of colors and flavors.

Tickets cost $65 and can be purchased for either a 5:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. entry time. Tickets are available on Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/totally-fried-fizz-fest-tickets-31569412964.

$5 from each ticket sale will be donated to Lovin Spoonfuls. Lovin' Spoonfuls is a 501c3, non-profit organization that is legitimizing local, immediate, and responsible food rescue.

This sounds like a fantastic event and I highly recommend you check it out!

7) Chef/Owners Carla & Christine Pallotta and the Nebo Cucina & Enoteca team invite guests to join them for late night grub on Saturday nights at the bar with a new, late-night menu at the bar featuring a selection of Nebo’s signature items.

Available on Saturdays from 11 p.m. to close, the menu includes:
Chicken Parmigiano ($12)
Meatball Parmigiano ($12)
Zucchini Lasagna “Bobby Flay Throwdown” winner ($12)
Puglia Spuckie with burrata, imported mortadella, tomato, saba, and EVOO on a ciabatta roll ($12)
Pugliese Pizza with burrata, traditional sauce, EVOO, and basil ($12)
Gino Pizza with spicy sausage, hot cherry peppers, traditional sauce, mozzarella ($12)
Christina Pizza with sweet sausage, bacon, sweet corn, and mozzarella ($12)
*pizzas can be made gluten-free for an additional $4

WHEN: Saturday evenings from 11 p.m. to close
For  reservations, please call (617) 723-6326

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Quincy: The Townshend, Zef Cicchetti & 16C (Part 3)

From Spanish Whiskey to Sangria, Chestnut Ravioli to a Chocolate Snowball, my recent culinary trek to Quincy included three other delicious destinations, The Townshend, Zef Cicchetti & Raw Bar, and 16C. Kerry Byrne (a Quincy native, food writer for the Boston Herald, and the owner of KJB Trending Hospitality) wanted to introduce me to a few more of the newer eateries in Quincy. Through my relatively brief experiences at each spot, I saw much potential and am eager to return for a fuller experience.

Kerry and I began our exploration of Quincy by having a drink at The Townshend, a craft cocktail bar and restaurant serving seasonal, modern far, which opened in May 2015. The restaurant was founded by Devin Adams, whose resume includes Kingfish Hall, Lucca Restaurant, Island Creek Oyster Bar and Drink. It's name is based on the historical Townshend Acts, severe British laws which increased duties on imports, and were part of the reason for the revolt of the American colonists. This is a nod to Quincy's historical importance to the American Revolution.

With a casual decor of light wood and dark metal, it is a cool spot to have a drink after work, or to grab some dinner with a significant other or groups of friends. However, you might want to grab a seat at the bar so you can watch the bartenders in action.

The restaurant is open for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, offering everything from sandwiches to entrees, from Burgers to Wild Boar Ragu, Pulled Pork Melt to Panko Crusted Haddock. Lunch sandwiches range from $11-$13 while dinner entrees range from $24-$29. The kitchen sources many of their ingredients locally and on a chalkboard, to the left of the bar, they list those producers. the chalkboard also mentions the local distilleries, breweries and wineries from which they source some of their drinks.

As we were at the restaurant between lunch and dinner, they only had a very limited menu available, basically a few appetizers, and we opted for the Glazed Chicken Wings, with a Sriracha honey glaze. The meaty wings had a delicious taste of sweet and spicy though it might have been better if he wings had a crunchier coating, though that is more an issue of preference.

The Bar Manager is Palmer Matthews (pictured above), who is a Quincy native, gained much of his bar experience from his time at Drink. He has put together an interesting bar and cocktail program, stocking many local spirits and beers, as well as some more unique offerings. Most of their cocktails cost $10-$11, such as the Blood & Sand (Scotch, Orange & Cherry Brandy) and Kentucky Colada (Whiskey, Coconut, Pina & Peach). They also hand cut their ice from a large block (which you can see above). There is a substantial beer list, with about 8 on draft, and plenty of local brews though you'll also find a number of Belgian beers.

The wine list is interesting and certainly not the usual suspects. There are about 16 wines by the glass, priced $7-$12, and you'll find wines from Hungarian Furmint to Lodi Cabernet Franc. They have over 30 wines by the bottle, with a fair share priced under $50. The diversity appeals to me, and it's good to see one Massachusetts wine even made the list, the Westport Rivers RJR Brut.

I opted for a glass, neat, of Navazos-Palazzi Grain Whiskey, a cask strength Spanish whiskey which was aged in Palo Cortado Sherry barrels. When's the last time you saw a Spanish whiskey at a cocktail bar? It was a first time for me. The whiskey was delicious and aromatic, very Sherry-like and light, with hints of grain and a touch of almost sweet vanilla. It was very smooth, despite the high alcohol content, though a few drops of water might help you enjoy it. 

Palmer then suggested that I try the Dry Fly Distilling Straight Triticale Whiskey, which might be the only straight Triticale whiskey in the world. Triticale is a hybrid of rye and wheat which was created in Scotland in the late 19th century. I enjoyed a shot, chilled by a single large chunk of ice, and found the whiskey to be intriguing, with a nice spicy kick up front, which then became soft and almost sweet. As I love Rye whiskey, I savored the spicy element of the Triticale, but also liked how the wheat softened it more on the finish. It's always great to go to a cocktail bar and encounter something new, and I'd love to return to Townshend to taste more of what they have to offer.

Palmer also joined Kerry and I as we dined at a few more locations, and I found him to be both fun and knowledgeable, down-to-earth individual and a good man to share a drink.

The Townshend team are planning to open another restaurant in the near future, Belfry Hall, which will be an “urban beer hall.”

Leo Keka, a native of Albania, is the owner of Alba Restaurant, a well-known, high-end steakhouse in Quincy. He has now opened a second restaurant, Zef Cicchetti & Raw Bar, next to Alba. Zef Cicchetti, whose name pays tribute to Keka’s father, Jozef Keka, who passed away last year, is a Venetian-style bacaro. They serve traditional cicchetti, small plates, hand-made pasta, local oysters, and more.


It is an elegant restaurant, with lots of dark wood, yet still seems more casual than Alba. You probably were unaware, as I was initially, that coastal sections of Albania once were part of the Republic of Venice. As such, they share some culinary roots so Leo has a good understanding of Venetian cuisine and was a natural extension for him.

Lots of fresh oysters! You can also find little neck clams, Alaskan King crab legs, Maine lobster claws, and Jumbo shrimp as part of their raw bar.

There is an open kitchen, which I always see as a sign of confidence of the kitchen staff. Their food menu includes a number of Cicchetti, from Salt Cod Fritters to Grilled Octopus, priced from $6-$18. You can also find Bruschette, like Steak Tartare, Salumi, Cheese, and Pizzettes (small pizzas). For a heartier appetite, you can try their house-made Pasta dishes ($17-$22), like Black Truffle Gnocchi or Linguine Vongole, or one of their Platti ($23-$38), such as Filet Mignon or Fisherman's Stew. There is something for everyone, whether you want a few bites while drinking at the bar or if a group of you are hungry for a full meal.

We opted to try several different dishes, to get a sense of what you might expect while dining here. The Il Diavolo Pizzette is made with Calabrian chile soppressata and fontina cheese. It is a thin crust pizza, with a nice char, with plenty of soppressata atop it. I enjoyed the lightly spicy pizza, with its crisp crust, and a red sauce with a mild sweetness to it. And it actually is good-sized and can easily be split by a couple people.

The Lamb Garganelli is comprised of braised lamb shank, romanesco cauliflower, and mint gremolata. The pasta was excellent, with a nice bite to it, and the tender lamb was flavorful and compelling. I'm not a fan of cauliflower but the pieces were small, almost circular, and you almost wouldn't even know what it was unless you knew what was in the dish.

My favorite dish was the Chestnut Ravioli, with truffle butter, heirloom cranberry and crispy sage. The fresh ravioli were cooked perfectly, and the taste of the dish delighted my palate in so many ways. The creamy chestnut filling, enhanced by the truffle butter and cranberry, brought to mind an earthy forest. And the crispy sage added a little crunch to the dish. Highly recommended.

Finally, we enjoyed the Saffron Risotto, made with Maine lobster, Vialone rice, and Meyer lemon. The rice was prepared just right, with an excellent texture, and there was plenty of sweet lobster meat in the risotto. For my preferences, the lemon flavor was too strong and I would have liked it more with a lighter use of lemon.

Our final stop was at 16C, a new restaurant owned by Kerri Lynch-Delaney, who is the niece of famed Chef Barbara Lynch, and Kerri also used to work at No. 9 Park as a Pastry Chef. The restaurant offers "fine American cuisine" with Italian accents. You'll find sheet pizzas and a Waygu Burger, Steak Tips and Pan Seared Scallops. However, I decided on dessert, as we had already devoured plenty of savory dishes during our restaurant crawl. The night was ending and a sweet treat would be a nice way to complete the evening.

I did have to try one of their drinks and chose the Red Sangria, which is made with blood orange, dragonfruit, and raspberry. The different fruits are what intrigued me, and I was very pleased with the Sangria. It was fruity, with a nice depth of flavor, and with only a mild sweetness. I'm picky about Sangria and this is actually one of the best versions I've tasted in quite some time. I could have easily drank a few of these without feeling like I was in a sugar coma.

The Dessert list only has a few choices, but they all sounded appealing, and in the end, I decided on the Chocolate Snowball, with a vanilla buttercream and coconut. A decadent treat, with rich chocolate and a creamy frosting, enhanced by the coconut. It is large enough to share, and showcases Kerry's experience as a Pastry Chef. I must come back to try their savory options.

My restaurant crawl through Quincy center merely scratched the surface of the culinary treasures that can be found in this historic city. There are so many other places I could have explored, and more will be opening in the near future. It is clear that Quincy is seeing an ascendancy, and I highly recommend you visit the city and check out its myriad restaurants. It was also great to see the number of immigrants who own and work in a number of these restaurants, and their contributions highlight how our community improves with immigration. Besides all these restaurants, bakeries, and food shops, you also have to remember all of the rich history within Quincy, giving you even more reason to check out this city. I'll be returning to Quincy, to eat, drink and learn more and maybe I'll see you there.