Thursday, October 20, 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.
1) The team at ArtBar, Royal Sonesta Boston’s locally-infused restaurant, is cheering for the New England Patriots and knows a thing or two about rooting for the home team. As a restaurant with travelers from every part of the world, they have heard it all. To defend the home team the best way they know how, ArtBar has created a specialty “Bully For Brady” cocktail.

Cheer on ‘the most hated team’ in the NFL as they ‘do their job.’ From the special “Bully For Brady” cocktail to a new football menu featuring half-priced wings, ArtBar is ready for some football.

Bully For Brady
We created this with Tom Brady in mind” explains Kevin Khem, restaurants director at Royal Sonesta Boston. “We are keeping the cocktail clean and fresh with nothing artificial – the way Tom likes to eat. Bully Boy Whiskey is perfect for a football themed cocktail.

The Recipe:
Bully Boy Whiskey
St. Germain
Lemon Juice
Cranberry Bitters
Club Soda
Garnished with fresh cranberries and a lemon twist

Football Game Day Menu
The special football game day menu, offered Sundays 1pm- til closing:
½ price wings – lime garlic, sriracha roasted peanuts
Loaded Fries – cheddar, mozzarella, bacon, scallion, garlic parmesan aioli
Fried Calamari – roasted tomato sauce
½ BBQ Ribs – pickled peppers, cornbread

2) Brassica Kitchen + Café Co-Chef/Owners Jeremy Kean and Phil Kruta invite you to a '6-Course Tasting Menu' to raise awareness and funds for Rise Up for Justice. Along with Chef Kean and Kruta, the event will be hosted by Beth Fraster and Rosie McMahan in collaboration with James Mackey of Opportunity Youth United. All Proceeds from the event will support Opportunity Youth United’s work.

Opportunity Youth United is a movement of young leaders from all backgrounds working towards creating a nation where all young people can reach their highest potential and noblest aspirations in the context of supportive, healthy, and inclusive communities. The active membership reflects a diverse group of religions, genders, sexual preferences, and geographical areas across the United States.

The event will take place on October 30th from 6 to 8 pm.
Tickets cost $200 per person or $350 per couple. Attendees will be treated to a 6 course French inspired meal with wine pairings.
To purchase tickets, please go to:

3) On Halloween night, Union Square will be home to a Murder Mystery as Brass Union presents a classic game of “Who Done It?” hosted throughout the venue. Beginning at 8pm, the Brass team will be in full character while they go about their business and guests try to solve the mystery at-hand. Adult trick-or-treaters will comb the scene for clues while doing some of their best detective work questioning the (mostly) unassuming service staff to determine who went on a murderous tear. The first one to figure it out will get a $100 gift card to Brass Union.

Party-goers also will have their chance to shine with Brass Union’s annual costume contest, as voted on by the Brass team. Before 11pm, present yourself at the host stand for your close-up as they snap a picture and later confer with their colleagues in choosing the “Best in Show.” The winner will take home a $100 cash prize, and have bragging rights through the next All Hallows Eve. Additionally, Halloween faithful will be treated to piles of candy and other festive swag and DJ J-Wall will take to the turntables starting at 10pm to spin the “Monster Mash” and other spooky sounds.

Admission is complimentary. This event is reserved for ages 21+.

4) Travel back in time with CHOPPS American Bar and Grill at the First Annual 80’s Themed Halloween Costume party in partnership with The 33 Foundation. Dawn your best perm, apply that frosted blue eyeshadow, and throw on your favorite leg warmers for a party that will be “totally tubular”. DJ Doze will be dropping beats and playing top 80’s hits all night. The Burlington Marriott Boston Hotel will be offering a discounted overnight stay and breakfast for party goers for just $129/night.

Proceeds from tickets sales will go to The 33 Foundation, a community of beneficiaries and donors that are passionate about helping those living with and recovering from spinal cord injury.

To register for the 80s Themed Halloween Party, please contribute a donation of $33 or more to The 33 Foundation at Donations/admission will also be available at the door.

5) Committee is hosting a special Halloween Brunch on Sunday, October 30th featuring beats from DJ Ryan Brown from 12pm–5pm.

Guests are invited to indulge in an array of Meze Dishes (perfect for sharing), Breakfast favorites with a Greek twist, and Greek-inspired Lunch Entrees while Beverage Director Peter Szigeti crafts up creepy cocktails behind the bar.

Please make reservations by calling 617-737-5051

6) In celebration of Halloween, The Beehive is bringing a sensual side to terror on Thursday, October 27, from 5pm-12am, at its Dead Sexy Burlesque show. This year, the space will be transformed into the Evil Laboratory and Cabaret Space of Mad Scientist Dr. Johanny Porkenpie (Jonny Porkpie) and his three peek-a-boo darlings. For one night only the slasher flasher showcase Dead Sexy will leave its weekly Times Square, New York City venue for its annual Boston appearance. Throughout the evening, Executive Chef Gregory Torrech will be serving up devilishly delicious dinner specials alongside special cocktail concoctions from the evening’s sponsor, Beam Suntory.

The psychopath who created Pinchbottom Theatrical Burlesque (named the "Best Burlesque" in NYC - The Village Voice, New York Magazine) and the infamous international burlesque gameshow "Grab My Junk" has dug up a skeleton crew of ghoulishly gorgeous (and gorgeously ghoulish) burlesque stars, to possess the stage of The Beehive just in time for Halloween. Terror has never been so titillating; horror has never been so hot. Come scream — with excitement — at this frighteningly attractive, monstrously talented, insanely seductive night of blood & gore and bump & grind.

Since 2013, Dead Sexy has been haunting the stages of Times Scare, a year-round Haunted House and performance venue in Times Square, NYC. Showcasing acts of more haunting nature, Dead Sexy has featured over a hundred top burlesque stars from across the country and around the world, including over a dozen Burlesque Hall of Fame “Queen of Burlesque” winners. This October in New York, a world-premiere Off-Broadway play will tell the electrifying story behind the creation of this burlesque cabaret.

Show begins at 8pm.
Cost: No cover charge RSVP: Dinner reservations are encouraged and can be made by calling (617) 423-0069.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Rant: Celebrating Bubbly Other Than Champagne

This Friday, October 21, is Champagne Day, a day to celebrate authentic Champagne from France. However, Champagne is well known across the world, and in some respects doesn't need a special day to promote it. There are other types of Sparkling Wines which can use much more promotion, as they still remain very niche wines, still unknown to many wine lovers. Despite their quality and though they often can be less expensive than Champagne, far too many people still have not embraced these Sparkling Wines and that must change.

So let me show some love for two types of Sparkling Wines worthy of your attention. These are wines I look for when I visit a wine shop or dine at a restaurant. I hope that you will also start seeking out these wines, expanding your palate and experiencing bubbly that will satisfy your palate and wallet.

First, Franciacorta, an Italian sparkling wine from Lombardy. I've said before that "Franciacorta may be the best sparkling wine that many people know nothing about." It is not always easy to find at wine shops and restaurants. Fortunately for myself, this past weekend, I was dining at an Italian restaurant on Nantucket and they had a half-bottle of Antica Fratta Brut Franciacorta on their wine list. I ordered it with my dinner and it was an excellent accompaniment to the food.

To learn more about Franciacorta, check out some of my previous articles which help show my passion for this delicious bubbly, including: Jeremy Parzen: Spreading Love For Franciacorta, Fun With FranciacortaFranciacorta: Bubbly That Needs To Be On Your Wine Radar and Franciacorta: Serious Bubbly You Should Be Drinking.

Second, Crémant d'Alsace, a French sparkling wine from the Alsace region. This is another Sparkling Wine which can be difficult to find in wine shops and at restaurants, but it well worth seeking out. Crémant d'Alsace is produced in a similar fashion to Champagne, though there are some differences as well. The term "crémant" basically means "creamy" and originally referred to sparkling wines that were produced with less pressure, which tended to make them taste more creamy than effervescent.

To learn more about Crémant d'Alsace, check out some of my previous articles which help show my passion for this tasty bubbly, including: Crémant d'Alsace & The Spartans At Thermopylae, Schoenheitz Winery: A Taste Of Beauty, Puritan & Co.: Alsatian Wine Advice, Gustave Lorentz: More Alsatian Wine Treasures, Alsatian Wines & Pheasant at Craigie On Main and Crémant d'Alsace: A New Year's Eve Recommendation.

Both Franciacorta and Crémant d'Alsace are delicious, made in a diverse number of styles, and often cost less than Champagne. They both pair very well with food, though they can easily be enjoyed as an aperitif as well. They are also both quality wines, with numerous regulations as to how they can be produced. Both deserve their own special day to promote them so I'll take today to do my part to help make these sparkling wines better known.

Please tell me about your favorite Franciacorta or Crémant d'Alsace.

Thursday, October 13, 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.
1) Facciamo festa! On Thursday, October 20, from 5:30pm-8-m, local SoWa artist Giardini di Sole is partnering with Cinquecento Roman Trattoria, Wanderlush and Campari Brands to bring all things Italian to the SoWa Boston.

Guests will enjoy small plates prepared by the culinary team at Cinquecento while sipping on crafted Campari cocktails by Wanderlush, a locally-born craft cocktail catering company. The neighborhood initiative will also get a chance to view Giardini di Sole’s newest Italian Home Décor and Tableware Collections in their showroom.

WHERE: Giardini di Sole Int’l | 460 Harrison Ave., Suite C-16 | Boston, MA 02118
COST: $40.00 per ticket / 100 tickets available
To purchase tickets, please click here

2) This fall TAMO Bistro & Bar at the Seaport Hotel will offer a special dining experience for their neighbors; every Monday and Tuesday evening, from 6pm-10pm, when the evenings cool off, TAMO will be serving their new “Neighborhood Nights” menu of classic comfort food and creative appetizers. Cozy up by the fire in front of a floor-to-ceiling window or settle in on a bar stool for this two-person weekly special for just $40 per person.

Guests will have the choice of any two courses plus a bottle of wine. Long-standing favorites are supplemented by some new additions to the “Neighborhood Nights Menu."  End your evening in a sweet way with the S’mores in a Crock (graham crackers, chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, ice cream).

“Neighborhood Nights” Menu
Candied Bacon
Steak & Cheese Spring Rolls Chipotle Ranch
Prosciutto Meatballs Housemade Prosciutto Meatballs, Marinara, Mozzarella
Crispy Salt ‘n Pepper Calamari Hot Peppers, 5 Spice Powder
Tacos “Al Pastor” Pork, Shredded Lettuce, Avocado, Lime Crema, Pineapple
Autumn Salad Roasted Kabocha Squash, Wheatberries, Shiitake, Kale, Hazelnuts, Cotija Cheese
North End Pizza House 4 Cheese Blend, Tomatoes, Flatbread
Broiled Chicken Curry Zeera Butter Rice, Creamy Curry, Marinated Chicken
Clam Chowder Served with Bacon and Chives
Lobster Roll served on a warm buttered bun with fries or salad
TAMO Burger Cheddar Cheese, Caramelized Onion, Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Brioche Bun
S’mores in a Crock Graham Crackers, Chocolate Chips, Mini Marshmallows, Ice Cream

COST: $40 per person plus tax & service
For reservations, please call 617-385-4304

3) Chelmsford restaurant Moonstones will partner with the Massachusetts Cheese Guild on Thursday, November 10 at 7 PM to present a four-course wine and cheese-centric dinner entitled Great Cheeses of Massachusetts. Cost for the event is $60 per person, excluding tax and tip.

Moonstones’ trio of chefs, working in collaboration with Winebow Fine Wine Importers, have created a menu that showcases Massachusetts-made cheeses. Special guest will be artisan cheesemaker Luca Mignogna of Wolf Meadow Farm in Amesbury, who will share his “secret” Italian techniques for making small batch ricotta, mozzarella and more.

Three other artisan cheeses produced by Massachusetts Cheese Guild members: Great Hill, Dancing Goat and Smith’s Country -- will also be featured.

Great Hill Blue Cheese
With red-wine poached pears, candied pecans, arugula and balsamic drizzle
La Cana Albarino (Spain)
Dancing Goat Dairy Chevre
And mushrooms in spinach ravioli with crisp pancetta and pinot grigio crema
Muga Rioja Reserva (Spain)
Smith’s Country Cheese Gouda
And cranberry-stuffed pork roulade, served with butternut squash puree and savory bread pudding
Textbook Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa)
Wolf Meadow Farm Ricotta Cheesecake
with Moscato Poached Figs
Maculan Dindarello Moscato (Veneto)

Moonstones believes that the story behind cheesemaker Luca Mignogna complements the restaurant’s own guiding philosophy: Think Global. Eat Local.

Reservations for the Great Cheeses of Massachusetts wine dinner are strongly suggested. Call Moonstones at 978-256-7777.

4) On Wednesday, October 19, from 7:30pm-10:30pm, Bar Boulud, Boston, located at Mandarin Oriental, Boston, will host Château Musar owner and third-generation winemaker Marc Hochar for an educational five-course culinary journey.

Château Musar is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s most unique wineries, and the Hochar family is recognized as one of the most revolutionary thought leaders in the Lebanese wine business, bringing regional bottles out of obscurity and into international acclaim. Alongside Bar Boulud’s Sommelier, David Bérubé, Marc Hochar will bring guests on a vinicultural journey to the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon.

This five-course dinner will showcase bold and classically complex wines, paired with unique seasonal dishes from Chef de Cuisine Michael Denk and Pastry Chef Robert Differ. The menu will be served as follows:

Duck Rillettes (pomegranate glaze)
Musar Jeune Rose, 2015
Musar Jeune Rouge, 2013
Seared Foie Gras (ricard, rye crumpet)
Hochar Pere et Fils 2011
Smoked Sturgeon (blackberry caviar, crème fraîche)
Château Musar Blanc, 2006
Château Musar Rouge, 2007
Chicken Kiev (truffle butter, pomme purée, butternut squash)
Château Musar Blanc, 2003
Château Musar Rouge, 1999
Poached Pear (ginger gelato, almond sablé)

COST: $170 for five-course menu and wine pairings (Ticket price includes tax and gratuity)
Tickets are available here:

Chateau Musar produces some amazing wines and this dinner should be an exceptional experience. I've enjoyed a number of Chateau Musar wines over the years, and have several in my own wine cellar. If you want to splurge on a wine dinner, this would be the event to do so.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A&B Burgers: From Brunch To A New Fall Menu

From Sticky Buns to Sticky Wings....

During the last couple months, there have been some changes at A&B Burgers, from the beginning of their Sunday Brunch to the start of their new Fall Menu. I've raved about A&B Burgers before, from my initial review of A&B Burgers to my more recent review of their Cajun Dinner. What are my thoughts on their recent changes?

Let's begin with Brunch. Their new Brunch menu includes about 8 Starters, priced $4-$15, and includes items such as a Smoked Salmon Platter ($11) and Roasted Cauliflower ($8). There are also about 10 Entrees, priced $9-$16, including choices such as Chicken & Waffles ($15), Cajun Style Andouille Shrimp & Grits ($12), French Toast ($10), and Huevos Rancheros ($10). Overall, the menu offers plenty of choices at reasonable prices, whether you are craving a breakfast option or something closer to a lunch choice. In addition, they serve a number of Brunch Cocktails, priced $10-$12.

For Starters, I'd highly recommend the Sticky Bun ($4), a warm brioche sticky bun topped with a honey pecan glaze. A large, soft and gooey bun with lots of cinnamon flavor, crunchy pecans, and a sweet and tasty glaze. It's big enough to share and is a great, and sweet, way to start off your brunch. The A&B team is highly skilled at creating delicious pastries and this won't disappoint.

The Pork Belly Bacon & Eggs ($10) has two eggs (cooked as you like them), seared confit pork belly, toast and a hash brown pancake. Our dish arrived without the hash brown and we failed to realize its omission until after we returned home. The over easy eggs were cooked perfectly, with a gooey yolk and the whites fully cooked. And the sizeable pieces of pork belly were also perfectly cooked, with a crisp exterior and silky, salty meat and fat.

There was a choice of Sourdough or Brioche toast, and you'll see the large slices of sourdough above. Again, toasted just right, and an excellent accompaniment to the eggs, with plenty of toast to sop up the yolk.

Their take on Southern Biscuits & Gravy ($11) offers a large, homemade herb biscuit with old fashioned pork sausage gravy. This is a great choice for comfort food as the weather gets chillier. The large biscuit was fluffy and soft, with a crunchier top, and was covered in flavorful gravy with ample pieces of spicy sausage within it. A very satisfying dish.

Onto the new Fall Menu, which has plenty of old favorites, like the Smoked Gouda and Sweet Sopressata Mac n' Cheese (pictured above), as well as new dishes such as the Maple Bacon Burger, Turkey Gobbler Burger, and Pumpkin Black Bean Burger. I will note that I tried the Side of Fried Pickles again and they were much better than the last time I tasted them. The coating of the pickles was crisp and not soggy like on a previous visit.

The Korean Sticky BBQ Wings ($10) are ginger and garlic braised wings in a house made Korean BBQ sauce. With a crisp and crunchy fried coating, these wings were meaty and flavorful, with a nice blend of spices, a hint of heat, some pleasant sweetness and lots of messy stickiness. I've enjoyed their other wing dishes, like the Louisiana Fried Chicken, and this dish is equally as delicious. Great bar food and perfect for watching the Patriots on a Sunday afternoon.

Speaking of comfort food, the Shepard's Pie Burger ($14) is a spin on traditional Shepherd's Pie, consisting of a burger, topped by mashed potatoes, grilled corn and with gravy on the side. I like the fact the gravy was on the side as you can then decide how much gravy to use, and whether you will be able to hold this burger in your hands, or it will be so messy you have to eat it with a fork and knife. The burger was the same high quality as usual, and the creamy potatoes and corn worked well with the beef, adding some texture to the sandwich. It was a combo that worked very well and I'd definitely order this burger again. I may even try to make it home.

The new Dessert Menu has three options, including Pumpkin Icebox Trifle, plus you can get Milkshakes, including some Adult versions, such as Chocolate Salted Bourbon.

Above, what looks like a strange little burger, is Kat's Burger ($9), a house-made cinnamon ice cream sandwich topped with candied bacon and cranberry sauce (though we asked for it without the cranberry). This clever dessert is visually stunning and tasty as well, with a nice cake "bun", great candied bacon, and creamy ice cream with lots of cinnamon flavors. It is sized for a single person and isn't a dish made to share.

My favorite of the two desserts was the Apple Dumplings ($8), two good-sized, puff pastries filled with cinnamon apples and with house-made whipped cream and vanilla syrup. The flaky pastries were light and buttery, almost like a superb croissant, and the apples were cooked just right and the filling was spiced well, without being overpowering or unbalanced. Though I was fairly full after lunch, I couldn't resist this dish, each mouthful bringing plenty of pleasure. And this dish is easily large enough to share with someone else.

A&B Burgers is about more than just delicious burgers. So why not check out some of their other options as well?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Origins & History of Sake (Part 3)

10th Century

In 905, during the Heian period (AD 794-1192), Emperor Daigo, the 60th Emperor of Japan, ordered that a census be taken of all the regulations, etiquette, laws, protocols and customs. The end result was a massive compilation, consisting of fifty volumes, the Engishiki, which wasn’t completed until approximately 927. The book is essentially broken into volumes concerning the two councils and eight ministries, and it included some intriguing information about Sake.

There is mention of approximately 13 different types of sake, some ordered by quality grade, that were produced during that time. The Imperial Palace Master of Brewing is known as the mikizukasa. Of the various Sake types, Goshu, Reishu (amazake) and Sanshuso were the highest quality grades while Tonshu, Jyuso and Kosake were a lower grade, for lower ranked officials. Zakkyushu was issued to officials as part of their salary while Aesake was considered only appropriate for cooking.

Two of the most intriguing varieties mentioned were Shiroki (“white sake”) and Kuroki (“black sake”) which were used in Shinto religious ceremonies and were primarily limited only to the Emperor. “Ki” is an ancient term for Sake. Interestingly, these two types of Sakes are still brewed at the Grand Shrine of Ise. Shiroki is basically unrefined Sake made from newly harvested rice while Kuroki is similar, except the ashes of a plant called kusagi are added to it, giving it more of a grayish color. Some claim that Kuroki once had been made from black rice.

There is actually an even earlier mention of Shiroki and Kuroki, in a poem by Fumuya no Chinu (693-770), whose was a member of the Imperial family, in the Man'yōshū. He wrote: "I will offer kuroki and shiroki to you as long as the world endures."

During the Heian period, a popular drinking game for Japanese nobility was Kyokusui-no-en, an outdoor poem-composing party, which more literally is a “party held by a meandering stream.” To play, people sat by a stream and a number of Sake cups would flow by. The participants had to write a tanka, a short poem, on a piece of paper and then pick up a Sake cup before it passed by them. They would then place the poem in the cup and place it back into the stream. If you failed to finish your poem in time, you had to drink Sake as a penalty.

12th Century

The oldest Sake brewery, which has been in continuous operation, is Sudo Honke, located in the city of KasamaIbaraki Prefecture. There is evidence that the brewery was in operation at least as far back as 1141, and likely even earlier, making it at least 875 years old! They have seen 55 generations of brewers and currently make the Sato no Homare brand.

It was also during this time that Office of Sake Brewing lost its exclusive right to produce Sake, and a number of temples and shrines began producing Sake, much of which started being made available for sale in the cities. The temples and shrines had a number of advantages, allowing them to become significant Sake producers. For example, they often owned large areas of land that were used to grow rice and they also controlled a number of important water sources. Plus, they had plenty of potential employees, lots of hard-working monks. Monks were thus the first people outside of the Imperial Court who were permitted to brew Sake.

Not all monks though helped to promote Sake. Myōan Eisai, a Japanese Buddhist who started the first Zen temple initially traveled to China in 1168, for about six months and returned again in 1187 for a few years, studying Zen Buddhism and becoming certified as a Zen teacher. He rturned to Japan in 1191, establishing a Zen Buddhist temple, and also bringing green tea seeds from China. He even wrote a book on tea, the Kissa Yojoki, which discussed the health benefits of tea. However, Eisai also encouraged tea drinking instead of Sake. Throughout Japan, a stone pillar stands at the entrance of every Zen Buddhist temple with the inscription: "Garlic and Sake never to be admitted into the gate.” Fortunately, the Japanese people embraced both tea and Sake.

It should also be mentioned that during this period, is that the government established a stable currency system, which helped to promote more commercial endeavors, including sales of Sake. Thus, the Sake now being produced by the temples and shrines could be sold in the cities, helping to spread its consumption.

13th Century

During a famine, the Shogunate issued a declaration, dated September 30, 1252, which prohibited the sale of Sake and ordered all but one Sake pot per household to be smashed. Allegedly, they destroyed about 37,274 Sake pots in the modestly sized city of Kamakura, which helps to show the extent of Sake consumption in that area. The rationale behind the ban was that the rice used to make Sake would be better used by feeding the hungry during this time of famine. Fortunately, the ban didn't last too long.

To Be Continued...