Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting wine and food items that are upcoming. **********************************************************
1) Get hungry for BostonChefs.com's 11th annual Flavors of Fall at the Royal Sonesta Hotel Ballroom on Monday, November 17 in support of Youth on Fire.

You can attend the VIP Hour from 5:30-6:30pm to indulge in savory snacks, briny bivalves and a glass or two of bubbly. Then, from 6:30 to 8:30pm, chefs from in and around Cambridge will be plating their favorite seasonal dishes to be paired with an assortment of beers and wines at the Main Event. This year, even more restaurants have been added into the mix so that guests can sample twice as many harvest-inspired snacks than ever before. Enjoy past favorites Park, The Blue Room, Belly, and Sandrine's, as well as a couple of new participants like Commonwealth and The Sinclair. And because a party just isn't a party without music, the Jane Potter Trio will be back to keep your ears just as happy as your tastebuds.

Every penny from sales of both VIP ($125) and Main Event ($75) tickets will be donated to Youth on Fire, a program of AIDS Action Committee that provides a safe, supportive space and a full range of services and resources designed specifically to meet the needs of homeless, runaway and street involved youth. The funds from our efforts this year will be used specifically to secure permanent housing for those working to transition off of the streets.

Tickets for Flavors of Fall, the season's longest-running tasting extravaganza, are available online now.

2) This month celebrate oyster season at the first annual Battery Wharf Oyster Festival. Benefiting the Massachusetts Aquaculture Association and the Island Creek Oyster Foundation, the event will be held on the Boston Harborwalk at Fairmont Battery Wharf on Sunday, September 21 from 2pm-5pm. The waterfront will be alive with music, small plates prepared by some of the city’s most popular chefs and a wide array of freshly shucked oysters from Massachusetts-based growers.

Five of Boston’s most talented chefs will be at the event preparing small plates. Participating chefs include Michael Serpa from Neptune Oyster, Will Gilson from Puritan & Company, Graham Lockwood from Aragosta Bar & Bistro, Jeremy Sewall from Row 34 and Island Creek Oyster Bar and Louis DiBiccari from Tavern Road.

Massachusetts’ South Shore and Cape Cod waters are the home for a number of oyster growers. The growers, all of whom are part of the Massachusetts Aquaculture Association, include Moon Shoal, WiAnno Oysters and Beach Point Oysters from Barnstable, Chatham Shellfish Company, Indian Cove Aquaculture in Wareham, Cotuit Oyster Company, Eastham-based First Encounters, Island Creek Oysters from Duxbury and Pleasant Bay Oysters from Orleans.

Tickets for the Battery Wharf Oyster Festival are $65 per person, including all food, two drink tickets, live entertainment and a cash bar. The event is hosted by Fairmont Battery Wharf and Island Creek Oysters. To purchase tickets, please visit oyster-festival-boston.eventbrite.com.

3) On October 14, at 6:30pm, Legal Harborside will team up with Louis-Fabrice Latour, President of Louis Latour, for an exclusive four-plus-course wine dinner. Family operated since it’s foundation in 1797, the French winery in Burgundy is internationally renowned for the quality of its red and white wines. The company has continually built a reputation for tradition and innovation and takes pride in practicing environmentally-friendly methods. Both white and red grapes are hand-picked at their peak ripeness and undergo a complex fermentation process to produce some of the finest and full-bodied flavors in the world.

The menu will be presented as follows:

HORS D’OEUVRES
Smoked Scallop Mousse - fried sage, bruléed apple
Salmon Gravlax - rutabaga, lemon confit vinaigrette
Poached Shrimp - brandade, sweet garlic
Paddlefish Roe - crème fraîche, fingerling potato
Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne, NV
FIRST COURSE
Sea Bream (celery root emulsion, verjus vinaigrette)
Louis Latour Meursault, 2012
Louis Latour Chassagne-Montrachet, 2012
SECOND COURSE
Halibut en Croûte (romanesco, cauliflower, hazelnut, preserved lemon)
Louis Latour Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru “Sous les Puits,” 2010
Louis Latour Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru “Sous les Puits,” 2009
THIRD COURSE
Bacon-Wrapped Monkfish (savoy cabbage, pickled chanterelles, calvados caramel)
Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru, 2010
Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru, 2009
CHEESE COURSE
Grand Cru Gruyère (anise tuile, pistachio, mint)
Louis Latour Beaune Premier Cru “Vignes Franches,” 2009
Louis Latour Château Corton Grancey, Grand Cru, 1999

COST: $135 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)
Reservation required by calling 617-530-9470

4) Head to The Beehive on Wednesday, October 8, for “Oktoberfest Der Beehive,” the ‘Hives annual event featuring Bavarian and German food & libations, and live entertainment from The Bavarian Hofbrau Band including oompah, beer songs and polka.

Start the night off with an ice cold beer from Harpoon Beer including Harpoon IPA, Octoberfest & UFO Pumpkin, and Cape Ann Brewery Co. including its Fisherman's Kölsch, Cape Ann Brew and the exclusive Honey Brew, before indulging in Executive Chef Marc Orfaly’s Bavarian-inspired specials. In addition to the regular menu, Chef Orfaly will serve up items such as German sausages and house roast pork knuckle both served with sauerkraut and potatoes. While enjoying ice cold beers and cocktails, guests can also enjoy The Beehive’s oven fresh pretzels. Dinner and drinks will be served from 5pm-1am.

Not in the mood for dinner? Join the Beehive at 7:30pm when the The Bavarian Hofbrau Band takes the stage. Founded over 20 years ago, The Bavarian Hofbrau Band perfected the oompah style band. Members have visited the Old Vienna Hofbrau in Montreal, the World's Fair in Tennessee and have even traveled to various cities and towns in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The evening’s entertainment will take guests on a tour of Europe, starting in Vienna, going north into Bohemia, then west through Northern Germany and then south through the Black Forest, Bavaria and finally Liechtenstein.

For reservations, please call 617-423-0069

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

iFest: Ireland in Boston (And Win Tickets!)

In ten days, Ireland will come to Boston  at the iFest, a three-day festival that celebrates Irish culture, cuisine, heritage, hospitality, and entertainment. The festival will be held from Friday, September 26 to Sunday, September 28 at the Seaport World Trade Center. There will be something for all interests, such as Music/Entertainment, Literature/Design, Genealogy, Sports, Tourism, and Food/Drink. If you have any interest in Ireland, I'm sure there will be something here to intrigue you.

For my readers who enjoy good food and drink, the iFest offers much to savor. There will be Chef Demonstrations with several of Ireland’s top chefs, including Darina Allen, Kevin Dundon, Cathal Armstrong, and Euro-toques Young Chef of the Year Mark Moriarty, who will prepare dishes prepared with Guinness stout. These Irish chefs will be joined by some local chefs, including iFest Culinary Ambassador Barbara Lynch, Ana Sortun, Lydia Shire, Ming Tsai, Jasper White, and Colin Lynch. Mixologist Ezra Star of Drink will also demonstrate how to blend the perfect cocktail.

You'll also find an Irish food village with the opportunity to sample Irish produce, cheese, and bread and meet exhibitors from Burren Smoke House, Kerrygold, National Organic, and Crossogue Preserves.

Want something more alcoholic? You can attend a beer tasting at the new, experiential Guinness 20/20 Bar which will show the future of what Guinness pubs will look like, served with samples of Irish food. There will also be samples of Irish cocktails made with Dingle Distillery Irish vodka & gin.

There will also be Jameson Irish Whiskey tastings. In addition, a master cooper from the Midleton distiller will lead a master class on the old skill of cooperage – taking the barrels apart and showing how whiskey is distilled.

For something nonalcoholic, you could attend a Bewley’s Irish Tea Party with a Boston pastry chef, Maura Kilpatrick.

You can order tickets online here, and avoid waiting in line at the event to purchase tickets. A General Admission session ticket costs $60 or get a VIP ticket for $110. There are also special Family package deals.

However, I am also giving away TWO FREE GENERAL ADMISSION TICKETS (a $120 value) to the Sunday session. All you have to do to enter is to leave a comment here telling me what you like about Ireland, The contest will end on Thursday, September 18, at midnight. I will then randomly select one commenter to win the pair of tickets.

I'll be attending the iFest on Friday evening, and will be reporting back on what I experienced. Hope to see some of my readers there too. We could sip some Irish whiskey together.

Boring Americans: The Seafood Edition

Americans have boring tastes. In general, they tend to stick to a limited amount of choices, rarely venturing out to explore the possibilities. For example, when considering wine consumption in the U.S., a small number of grapes dominate the market, with Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon leading the pack. This is despite the fact that there are hundreds of grapes used to make wine around the world. Why aren't more Americans adventurous with their plates?

Sadly, this applies to seafood consumption too. There are more than 100 seafood species available in U.S. markets, but only 6 species account for 91% of the seafood consumed in the U.S. Once again, Americans show that their culinary choices are generally boring. There is a bounty of available seafood species, but most Americans won't venture out to try all of these delicious and interesting species. Why is that the case?

The top seafood for Americans is shrimp, and the average person consumes over four pounds a year, an amount equivalent to the average consumption of the #2 and #3 seafoods, canned tuna and salmon. The other three seafood in the top six include Alaska pollock, tilapia and Pangasius catfish. Such limited choices. In comparison, the Japanese regularly consume far more different species, as 80% of their seafood derives from 18 different species, three times as many as Americans. However, the Americans are not along in their limited choices. For example, 80% of Iceland's seafood consumption derives from only six species and 80% of Norway's seafood consumption only comes from five species.      

As Americans rely on such a limited amount of seafood species, that puts a greater strain on those species. It would help promote sustainability if more Americans diversified their seafood palate, eating less common species, which can be equally as delicious as the more common ones. I recently described the benefits of eating mussels, yet only about 1% of Americans eat mussels. Why not add mussels to your list of commonly eaten seafood?

When you next dine at a seafood restaurant, why not try something different, a type of seafood you have never eaten before? Ask your server for suggestions. When you visit your local seafood market or seafood department, try something new, and ask your fish monger for suggestions. Be adventurous with your palate and you might find some new favorites.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Rant: Dirty Restaurant? No Worries If It's Authentic

When selecting a restaurant, how much do you value its cleanliness? Are you willing to dine at a dirty restaurant if the cuisine is "authentic?"

It seems that many people are willing to make that trade-off, and that disturbs me on a certain level.

In June, a study, Conflicting Social Codes and Organizations: Hygiene and Authenticity in Consumer Evaluations of Restaurants was published in Management Science. The study was conducted by Glenn Carroll of Stanford Graduate School of Business, David W. Lehman of the University of Virginia and Balázs Kovács of the University of Lugano, Switzerland.  Their study included statistical analysis of over 724,000 consumer reviews from Yelp (of over 9700 restaurants) and over 52,000 food safety inspections conducted by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

They found that many restaurants of they studied, by law, must publicly post their health grades, meaning that consumers can readily determine the cleanliness level of a restaurant. It would seem logical that consumers would value restaurants more which possessed higher health grades. However, when selecting a restaurant, cleanliness is not the only factor that consumers consider.

For a number of consumers, authenticity of the cuisine is very important. I'm not going to get into a lengthy discussion of what constitutes "authentic" cuisine as it is a very complex issue, and often it is more of a personal issue. Each diner generally has their own idea of which restaurants they consider to have authentic cuisine. They might consider the opinions of restaurant reviewers, though there is no guarantee that the reviewer is an expert in that particular cuisine. For the purposes of this article, what is most important is that many people value authenticity.

In the study, it was found that reviewers tended to rate restaurants higher if they had a higher health grade or if they were considered authentic. However, if a restaurant was rated highly because it was considered authentic, the health grade generally didn't matter so that even a place with a low health grade received a high rating. Authenticity was valued much higher than hygiene, and consumers would ignore dirt and health violations just because the cuisine was considered authentic. What does this conclusion say about people?

When considering authenticity, we generally are referring to ethnic restaurants. Does this mean consumers assume authentic ethnic restaurants are dirty?  Is this a form of prejudice or ignorance?  Do consumers have different standards for restaurants, dependent on whether it is ethnic or not? For example, a steakhouse is almost never referred to as "authentic"or not. Thus, the health grade of such a place would be very important but if it were a Chinese restaurant, consumers would care less about the health grade.

It seems strange that people would value authenticity over a threat to their health. The threat of food poisoning seems to be ignored in favor of authenticity. It seems even more strange when you realize that authenticity is elusive.

How important is authenticity to you? Does it trump the cleanliness of a restaurant?  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting wine and food items that are upcoming. **********************************************************
1) On Tuesday, September 23, at 7:00PM, the Met Back Bay will host Kitchen Kibitz in its private dining space “Townhouse” for a special Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) pop up dinner called “Land of Milk & Honey.” The event will be a prix fixe dinner in a communal setting exploring some of the mystical Mizrachi Jewish cuisine of the Middle East, specifically the small community of Yemen. The guest chef for the evening will be Chef Geoff Lukas of Sofra Bakery. Making it an extra sweet new year, the menu will reflect traditional ingredients of honey, pomegranates and fenugreek with large trays to share and plenty of entertainment throughout the night including live music and belly dancing performances.

The all-inclusive ticket price of $85 per person can be purchased beginning Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 via the following Eventbrite link: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/kitchen-kibitz-land-of-milk-and-honey-tickets-12946215479
Seats are limited to 34 seats, so purchasing tickets well in advance of the event is highly recommended.

MENU:

Course 1: Bread Service:
Malawach, flatbread with fenugreek, challah
Zhoug, matbucha, za'atar
Hummus ful
Charred eggplant with coriander and pomegranate
Apple and hawayej tabouleh
Black-eyed peas with fenugreek and cascara
Charoset
Course 2: Soup
Yemenite Soup (Hawayej, knedlach, charred leeks, summer veg, hilbeh)
Course 3: Main
Braised lamb shoulder with pomegranate molasses and chickpeas (Kabsa mixed rice, Schmaltzy potatoes with pickled lime, Roasted brussels sprouts au jus with pomegranate seeds)
Course 4: Dessert
Date and apple halva
Yemeni honey cakes with comb
Malabi with pomegranate syrup

2) On September 30, at 6:30pm, Legal Harborside will team up with David Adelsheim, Proprietor of Adelsheim Vineyard, for an exclusive four-plus-course wine dinner. As one of Oregon’s founding wineries, the first vineyard was planted in the early 1970s in the north part of Willamette Valley. As a family-owned vineyard in its fifth generation, experimentation and collaboration have contributed to its regional and national success. Core standards for crafting stylistically consistent wines include using traditional and state-of-the-art techniques that create elegance, complexity, balance, and richness in their aromas, flavors and texture.

The menu will be presented as follows:

HORS D’OEUVRES
Nori Dusted Tuna - pickled daikon, miso ginger aioli
Scallop Sashimi - pickled squash, brown butter vinaigrette, local apple
Trout Pâté - caraway dust, trout roe, tart pear jam
Local Oysters on the Half Shell - preserved lemon, pomegranate sumac
Adelsheim Auxerrois, Chehalem Mountains, 2012
FIRST COURSE
Hazelnut Dusted Trout (spaghetti squash, golden raisin, warm hazelnut apple vinaigrette)
Adelsheim “Bryan Creek Vineyard” Pinot Blanc, Chehalem Mountains, 2012
Adelsheim Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, 2012
SECOND COURSE
Long Island Duck (chestnut spaetzle, lightly smoked duck confit, blueberry & beet purée)
Adelsheim Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 2012
Adelsheim “Elizabeth’s Reserve” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 2011
THIRD COURSE
Grilled Flat Iron Steak (mole negro, chipotle cherry glaze, roasted yams, charred leaks)
Adelsheim “Vintage 32” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 2009
DESSERT COURSE
Fresh Blackberries (honey rosemary ice cream)
Adelsheim Déglacé, Willamette Valley, 2012

COST: $110 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)
Reservation required by calling 617-530-9470

3) Friends of Boston’s Homeless partners with renowned Boston chefs Karen Akunowicz (Myers + Chang), David Becker (Sweet Basil, Juniper), Chris Douglass (Ashmont Grill, Tavolo), and Jim Solomon (The Fireplace), for an exclusive farm-to-table fall harvest dinner to benefit The Serving Ourselves Farm at Boston’s Long Island Shelter.

The evening will feature a sunset cocktail reception on The Serving Ourselves Farm followed by a four-course dinner by the event’s team of celebrity chefs. Designed to showcase local food purveyors and culinary talent, the dinner will draw on ingredients grown and sourced at the farm. Guests will enjoy an elegant and intimate affair with a relaxed atmosphere featuring family-style food presentation, simple farm-inspired décor, and the company of fellow contributors.

100% of proceeds from the event will benefit Friends of Boston’s Homeless programs to help homeless individuals gain independence through education, employment, life skills development and permanent housing. To date, the annual Fall Harvest Dinner has raised $75,000 and is expected to reach a total of $100,000 this year.

WHEN: Thursday, September 25
6:00 – 7:00pm Sunset Cocktail Hour and Hors D’oeuvres
7:00 – 10:00pm Four Course Harvest Dinner with Beer and Wine

TICKETS: $250 per person / $2,000 per table of six (includes signage and goods from the farm)
To purchase tickets, call (617) 942-8671/8683 or visit https://www.fundraise.com/2014harvestdinner.
 
4) Cook, an American bistro located in Newton, will begin its new ‘Cook for Charity’ celebrity chef series by welcoming WCVB-TV host Anthony Everett of “Chronicle.” On Wednesday, October 1,from 6pm-8pm, Everett will roll up his sleeves and get cooking with Executive Chef/Owner Paul Turano as they serve up the special “Everett Flatbread,” designed by Everett himself from the open kitchen, wood-fired grill. The five ingredient flatbread (representing WCVB-TV’s Channel 5) will consist of: sausage, mushrooms, pepperoni, onions and meatballs with 100% of flatbread sales going directly to the Multiple Sclerosis Society which works to improve quality of life for individuals and families affected by MS; and raises funds for cutting-edge MS research to stop disease progression, restore lost function and end MS forever.

Everett has been heavily involved with the MS Society, and the night of cooking will be one of several celebrity chef events at Cook, all of which will raise money and awareness about a charity chosen by the specific celebrity of the evening.

COST: $15 per flatbread. 100% of proceeds from the Everett flatbreads all evening long will be donated to the MS Society
The regular menu will also be available on the night.
Reservations are recommended by calling 617-964-2665.

5) On Wednesday, September 17, at 6:30pm, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House invites guest to explore the bold and flavorful wines of Napa Valley winery, Cliff Lede Vineyards. Cliff Lede General Manager, Lee Abraham will be onsite to meet with guests. Guests will enjoy a five-course seasonal dinner paired with a selection of the vineyard’s finest wines.

2014 Cliff Lede Wine Dinner Menu
Passed Appetizers
2013 FEL Pinot Gris
Beer Battered Alaskan King Crab Bites (Sam Adam Noble Pils Beer Batter, Blood Orange Remoulade)
Oysters on The Half Shell (Melon Gastrique)
Second Course
Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc
Cirtus Poached Sea Bass (Sea Bass poached in a citrus broth, White Peach Salsa)
Third Course
Cliff Lede Pinot Noir
Three Season Lamb Lollipops (Black Cherry Compote, Wild Mushroom and Thyme Demi, Pomegranate Cola Syrup)
Dinner Course
Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon
Bone-in Filet (Bone Marrow and Foie Gras Reduction, Smashed Potatoes, Glazed Baby Brussel Sprouts)
Finale
Moondance Dream Cabernet Sauvignon
Chocolate Tasting (Truffles, mousse, mini chocolate pastries)

COST: $195 per person + tax and gratuity
To make a reservation, please call (617) 951-1368.

6) On Tuesday, September 23, the Beat Hôtel will be transformed into the Big Easy during its first ever “New Orleans Burlesque: Fleur de Tease” from 8:30PM to 12AM featuring drink and dinner specials from Chef Ignacio Lopez, live music from The Brian Thomas New Orleans Band and a spicy burlesque show. Three of NYC's top burlesque performers will twist and twirl their tassels in homage to the storied history of New Orleans burlesque, once a hot-spot for superstar entertainers performing at legendary clubs in the French Quarter. The great residents of the Big Easy who once invented jazz used that same creativity to produce a vibrant burlesque scene that has remained ever present in the city since the 1940's.

The sultry show will feature three tempting, teasing and tantalizing ladies including New York City’s Calamity Chang. This “Asian Sexation” is a talented burlesque performer as well as the co-producer of the world's only Asian Burlesque Spectacular show in NYC. Joining her onstage is “The Go-Go Pussycat” Bettina May, a former Suicide Girl who has been performing nationally for the past six years. The Maine Attraction who will entice the audience with her dance-inspired “Burlesque Fusion.” The ladies will perform to the explosive sounds of The Brian Thomas New Orleans Band. Boston based trombonist Thomas is one of the most sought after musicians in the country playing music ranging from jazz to funk. He has been playing trombone since the age of 10 and leads his own jazz quartet, big band, and funk power house Akashic Record, each of which feature his original compositions.

While enjoying the show, guests can feed their appetite with specials from Ignacio Lopez which will be served in addition to the regular menu. Guests can indulge in everything from Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos with black beans, Spanish rice, queso blanco, cheddar and salsa ($25), BBQ Spare RIB Dinner, tender pork ribs, country mashed potatoes and slaw ($24), and Seared Duck Breast with risotto, sour cherries, kale and port wine sauce ($27).

For more information or to make a reservation, please call 617-499-0001.