Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Loving Lambrusco: 2016 Vigneto Saetti Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce

Confession Time: Back during my college years, one of my favorite wines was Riunite Lambrusco, which was fruity and sweet. At the time, it was extremely popular and I didn't know much about wine. Flash forward to the present, and Lambrusco is being highlighted in the media, though it isn't Riunite that is receiving all the attention. Instead, there are a number of producers, mostly in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, producing a diversity of intriguing and delicious Lambrusco wines,  much more serious than Riunite.

Lambrusco is both the name of the grape as well as the wine made from that grape. However, there are actually a number of varieties of the Lambrusco grape, such as Lambrusco Grasparossa, Lambrusco Maestri, and Lambrusco Marani. It is an ancient grape, extending back to a vine that was known to the Romans as labrusca. In recent years, I've enjoyed a few Lambrusco wines, though I haven't seen many available locally. Very recently though, I thoroughly enjoyed a Lambrusco that was new to me and it certainly set a benchmark for future Lambrusco wines I'll taste.

At Sips of Summer: A Wine Tasting With Adam Japko, organized by ASID New England and New England Home Magazine, Adam selected five excellent wines to pair with various foods. The opening wine for the event was the 2016 Vigneto Saetti Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce ($18.99), and it hit a home run. It was an amazing wine, sure to thrill and excite any wine lover. And at this price point, it is a very good value as well.

The Vignetti Saetti Winery was established almost twenty years ago, in 1998, by Luciano Saetti, whose first career was as an egg distributor. Actually, in 1964, his family planted the original vines, farming organically, though they sold off most of their grapes. Luciano has continued the organic practices, including acquiring organic certification. His small vineyard, located in the Santa Croce appellation of Emilia-Romagna, consists of only about 2.8 hectares.

Luciano planted the Lambrusco variety of Salamino di Santa Croce, which received its name because its bunches are more cylindrical, reminding you of the shape of a salami. This variety is more thick-skinned, darker-colored and higher in acidity than other Lambrusco varieties. Besides embracing organic grapes, Luciano also uses only native yeasts and doesn't add any sulphur to his wines. Thus, many people will consider his wines to be natural.

Most Lambrusco wines are produced with the Charmat method, undergoing a secondary fermentation in a pressurized tank. However, Luciano decided that the secondary fermentation for his wines should occur in the bottle, more like the méthode champenoise. The bottles are also riddled and disgorged by hand, making Luciano's choice the more laborious and time consuming. However, it is clear he believes his wine is better because of those choices.

The 2016 Vigneto Saetti Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce is produced from 100% Salamino di Santa Croce, from 40+ year old organic vines. The wine is a deep, almost purple color, with an alluring aroma of berries, violets, mild spices, and a hint of earthiness. On the palate, it has a creamy effervescence, with enticing, dry and juicy flavors of black cherry, raspberry, and ripe plum, with an underlying earthiness and mild spice notes. The tannins are well-integrated, the acidity is strong, and the finish is lengthy and pleasing. Although a number of sulphur-free wines possess a certain funkiness, this wine lacked that quality. It was easy drinking but with plenty of complexity, the type of addictive wine which you'll likely finish the entire bottle before you know it.

This wine is so far from Riunite Lambrusco! Get over your preconceptions about Lambrusco and pick up a bottle of this wine. It is an excellent value and is also very food friendly, from pasta to burgers. It would also be a great choice for the summer, as well as the fall. Kudos to Adam Japko for introducing me to this killer wine.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Rant: After Labor Day, Expand Your Palate

Two weeks from today will be Labor Day, which many see as the end of summer although autumn won't officially arrive for a few weeks more.

Besides the change in the seasons, Labor Day is also the unofficial start of wine tasting season. From September to December, most wine stores will hold large-scale wine events, some where you can taste more than fifty wines. Even better is that most of those events will be free, or they will charge only a nominal fee. This is your opportunity to taste many dozens of wines, and you should seize the chance to do so. As I've mentioned many times before, the best way to learn about wine is to taste it, and taste even more.

The best way to learn through tasting is to expand your palate, to taste plenty of unfamiliar wines, to experience different grapes and to sample wines from new regions. You could easily attend these events and drink only wines you know but why do that? It won't teach you anything. It won't provide you a new experience. You learn something from what is new. And what you learn might also bring you much joy.

Sure, you probably won't like everything new you taste but that shouldn't be an issue. You are only sampling the wines, taking a sip or two, and it is probably for free. If you dislike a wine, if might help you understand what wines you will enjoy. And amidst all that tasting, you'll probably find a number of other wines that you do like, and may even find a new favorite. Take the risk, expand your palate and taste as many different wines as you can.  

And a little more advice. When you attend these tastings, take some notes so you remember which wines you liked. Don't rely on your memory alone because after tasting a couple dizen wines, you probably won't remember your favorite wine the day after. At the very least, use your smart phone to take a photo of the label. That is the easiest way to remember the wines that impressed you.

You'll thank me later for helping you expand your palate.

Thursday, August 17, 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) Viale, Cambridge’s modern-Italian restaurant, is introducing a signature hand-made pasta Brunch Menu, elevating the typical avocado toast with innovative pasta options. Executive Chef/Co-Owner Greg Reeves is looking to give his guests an authentic Italian feel while enjoying the popular weekend meal, using fresh, house-made pasta options and seasonal, locally sourced ingredients.

People have a stigma that pasta has to be filling or too heavy for certain meals, and when I was creating the menu for our brunch options, my main goal was to prove that wrong. You most certainly can incorporate a fresh, hand-made pasta option into a classic brunch dish, and I think guests will try these dishes and stop carb-shaming,” said Chef Reeves.

Viale’s Pasta Brunch Menu includes:
Chocolate Fettucini (peanut butter, coconut, and brown butter puffed rice) $12
Duck Egg Carbonara (bucatini, pancetta, and a poached duck egg) $17
Ricotta Cavatelli (chanterelles, Georgia peas, and basil pesto) $16
Potato Gnocchi (wild boar bolognese, grana, rosemary) $17

Still seeking adventure without the pasta? Enjoy unique twists on brunch staples such as Eggs Benedict with North Country bacon, egg, ricotta, and grana ($13), Crispy Duck & Buckwheat Crespelle with fried eggs, and roasted corn ($14), and the Brunch Burger with North Country bacon, fried egg, provolone, Russian dressing, and French fries.

Let the pasta balance out one of Viale’s hand-crafted cocktails like Prosecco Correcto with grappa di moscato, muscat grape shrub, grapefruit, prosecco, lavender ($12), School’s Out with earl grey montenegro, gin, orchard apricot, peach puree, lemon, becherovka ($12), and Victim of Venus with blueberry infused cocchi rosa, vodka, amaretto, lemon, creme de violette ($12).

To make a reservation, please call (617) 576-1900.

2) Puritan & Co. Chef/Owner Will Gilson and fellow chef friends will be joining forces to pay homage to one of Cambridge’s culinary legends, Julia Child. On Thursday, August 24th, at 6:30 p.m., Puritan & Co.’s Will Gilson alongside other local chefs will celebrate the life and culinary adventures of one of the culinary world’s greatest heroes, Julia Child, with a family-style menu inspired by her classic recipes.

Each chef will prepare one course inspired by his or her favorite Julia Child recipe- offering guests a unique, collaborative dining experience. Contributing to the evening’s meal will be Leo Asaro of Tico, Dave Bazirgan of Bambara, Kevin O'Donnell of SRV, Shaun Velez of Deuxave, and Ellie Wallock, Puritan & Co.

This dinner will be seated in a communal style at larger tables with each dish served individually. Carafes of wine on each table will be kept full for all to share with Puritan and Co.’s full wine and cocktail list available for purchase.

Tickets cost $95 and can be purchased at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/julia-child-dinner-tickets-36412206891?aff=es2

3) On Sunday, August 20th, Babbo Pizzeria e Enoteca will transport guests to their Nonna’s kitchen for a classic Italian Sunday Supper. The multi-course meal will cost $40 per person with an additional wine pairing available for $20. A 5 and 7 p.m. seating are available and walk-ins/reservations will be accepted.

The menu will include:
1st course:
Tomato Bruschetta (Mozzarella di Bufala with Prosciutto di Parma)
2nd course:
Zucchini alla Parmigiana (Escarole and Beans)
3rd course:
Crema al Mascarpone with Frutta di Bosco

To make reservations, please contact (617) 421-4466

4) Chef/Owner Michael Schlow and the Tico Boston team invite guests to a unique experience with a choice between two featured Casamigos cocktails paired with light bites and mingling. On Tuesday, September 12th, from 6:30pm-9:30pm, Tico will be hosting a unique experience featuring Casamigos Tequila cocktails, light bites, and sit-down, family-style dinner.

The evening will include a welcome reception featuring passed appetizers and a Casamigos cocktail; followed by an educational component; and will finish with a delicious family-style dinner. The Casamigos brand ambassador will share the history of tequila. 1oz pours of Blanco, Reposado, and Anejo will be sampled and sipped.

After the educational component a family style dinner will be served highlighting guests favorite menu items of the moment. The event is limited to 25 guests to keep everyone involved and attended to during the educational aspect.

Tickets to the 21+ event cost $55 (this does not include taxes, gratuity, or additional beverages) and can be purchased via the Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/casamigos-night-tickets-36965307229

Monday, August 14, 2017

Rant: Food/Drink Writers of Color

"So I guess this is where I tell you what I learned - my conclusion, right? Well, my conclusion is: Hate is baggage. Life's too short to be pissed off all the time. It's just not worth it. Derek says it's always good to end a paper with a quote. He says someone else has already said it best. So if you can't top it, steal from them and go out strong. So I picked a guy I thought you'd like. 'We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."
--American History X

With the tragic events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia, the hate that is spewing from ignorant racists, the violence that has led to death and numerous injuries, we need to stand united against the forces that seek to divide our country. We need to embrace diversity, opening our minds to new ideas, and to eliminate our biases and prejudices. Embracing diversity will only make us better human beings. And don't we all want to be better people?

As a tiny contribution to this issue, I want to once again showcase local people of color who blog/write about food & drink. I previously highlighted women who blog about wine, and it has been an extremely popular post. It helped to bring to the forefront all the valuable contributions and unique voices of these bloggers. Now, I want to expand the scope and highlight the unique viewpoints from people of color as well. I have done this before but I think on light of recent events, it would benefit us all to post about it again.

I've been blogging about food and drink in the Boston area for almost twelve years, and the vast majority of bloggers I've seen at local events have been white. I've spoken about this before, stating we need to find ways to attract more people of color to these events. An initial step would be to identify those people of color who blog, to showcase their talents. This could be a motivation for other people of color to get involved and start blogging too. It will also present blogs with different voices, a way for all of us to expand our own experience and knowledge.

The following is an initial list of people of color, living in Massachusetts, who blog/write about food and/or drink. This is by no means a comprehensive list but provides a starting foundation. Check out these food & drink blogs and I am sure you will like what you find. If you are or know of any other local people of color with food & drink blogs that are not on this list, please have them send me their info, including their name, URL and a brief description of their blog, and I will add them to the list.

Embrace diversity!

Bianca of Confessions Of A Chocoholic

Chanie of Life By Zen: Chanie shares her adventures and experience with delicious foods, drinks especially great wines, and life in Boston. She cooks and is always testing new recipes or looking for fun foods but prefer to talk about her food adventures and dining experiences.

D. of A Little Bit About A Lot Of Things: This is a food and lifestyle blog. D has been been writing since 2010 and her photos have appeared in Boston Magazine, Boston Common, Thrillist, BostInno and others.

Fiona of Gourmet Pigs; Gourmet Pigs was started in Los Angeles in 2007 and Fiona moved to Boston in 2014. The blog reviews restaurants, bars, and events in the two cities and wherever she travels to around the globe.

Georgina of Notes On Lifestyle By Georgina

Jacqueline of Culinary Consulting

Jen of Tiny Urban Kitchen

Korsha of Korsha Wilson

Kristina of Appetite For Instruction

Lisa of Anali's Next Amendment: Lisa writes about life, food and current events. She’s been blogging since 2006 and is a freelance writer and attorney. She regularly writes for LegalZoom and manages Free Yoga Boston. She’s also an organizer and contributing editor at Kwanzaa Culinarians, where recipes and food stories from the African Diaspora are shared.

Markeya of Traveling Foodie In 4" Stiletttos

Tiffany of The Fab Empire.com: Tiffany is the Boston Editor of The Fab Empire, a lifestyle blog that caters to up and coming urban professional featuring notable people, events, eateries, nightlife and entertainment throughout the country.

Vanessa of Without A Measuring Cup

Yaimani & Yadira of The Two Riveras; We write with simple honesty on food, travel, sisterhood, current obsessions and the simple joys of life. Follow us as we share photos, stories and pieces of our adventures from Boston and beyond.

Thursday, August 10, 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) A Jack's Abby Beer Social will be held on Tuesday, August 15, from 7pm-9pm, at Tavolo Ristorante. They will be showcasing five beers from Jack's Abby. Tickets get you a Jack's Abby beer glass and small pours of each beer, each served with a tasty pairing from the Tavolo kitchen. At the end they'll give you a full pint of whichever beer was your favorite. The event starts at 7 pm but please arrive a few minutes early to check in and get comfortable.

Limited space available so sign up soon!

Tickets are $40 and available through Eventbrite

2) Today is National S'Mores Day so let me provide you a couple ways to celebrate. First, you can get your fix at TAMO Bistro + Bar at the Seaport Hotel. They are offering S’mores in a Crock ($9), a "warm, indulgent deconstructed s’mores bowl topped with vanilla ice cream." It is made with Graham crackers, chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, and vanilla ice cream. Enjoy it in front of one of the fireplaces at TAMO or outside on TAMO Terrace.

3) Another option to celebrate National S'Mores Day is at ArtBar Cambridge. They have a special Fire Pit Menu served all summer by the beautiful fire pits overlooking the Charles River. They offer creative spins on campfire favorites, served in cast iron skillets, and are meant for sharing. For dessert, they offer their S’mores Skillet ($15) with home-made marshmallow, chocolate ganache and salted bourbon caramel drizzle. I've had this before and it is a decadent and delectable dish. Highly recommended!

The rest of the Fire Pit Menu:
3 Meat Chili Nachos ($13)-pickled jalapeno, shredded cheese
Crab Rangoon Dip ($15)-fried wontons
Spinach and Artichoke Dip ($13)-pita chips
Polenta Fries ($15)-chipotle aioli

Fire Pit reservations are recommended, so please call 617-806-4200