Monday, February 27, 2017

Boston Wine Expo: Wines of Alsace & Luxembourg

Despite the number of French wines at the Boston Wine Expo, there were only two wines from the Alsace region, located in northeastern France. I've previously enjoyed many wines from Alsace, from delicious & dry Riesling to compelling Crémant d'Alsace. "As I've said repeatedly before, Alsatian wines are generally not on the radar of the average consumer but they should be. They can often provide excellent value and taste. They are enjoyable while young but can also age well. They can provide a sense of history, as well as showcase state of the art wine making. At their most basic though, they are delicious."

There should be more Alsatian wines at the Expo, especially as there is a significant growth of imports. For example, Alsatian wine exports to the U.S. have increased by about 24% since 2011. In addition, the U.S. is the 3rd largest import market by value. Alsatian wines have plenty of room for growth, but it is obvious that Americans want more Alsatian wines.

Fine Terroir Selections imports wine from France and other Mediterranean countries, representing a single Alsatian producer, the Ruhlmann WineryThe ancestors of the Ruhlmann family were Hungarian knights who settled in the central Alsace back in 1688. The estate includes approximately 75 acres, with two Grands Crus (Frankstein and Muenchberg) and two Lieu-dit sites.  The winery produces five different lines of wines, from Cépage to Cave Précieuse, using grapes such as Auxerrois, Chasselas, Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muscat, Gewurtztraminer and Pinot Noir.

The 2015 Ruhlman Riesling Cuvee Jean-Charles ($12.99) is more of a traditional dry Riesling with bright lemon, pear and citrus flavors, crisp acidity and some mineral notes. At this price, it is an excellent value wine, offering more complexity than many other Rieslings at this price. I think this would be an excellent seafood wine, with everything from oysters to sushi.

About 90% of the Alsatian wine production is white, so their Pinot Noirs are more difficult to find. I've tasted a number of Crémant d'Alsace Rosés, made from Pinot Noir, but their still Pinot Noirs have been elusive. The 2015 Ruhlman Pinot Noir Cuvee Mosaique ($14.99) was absolutely delicious, an easy drinking Pinot with a nice melange of flavors. It is very light red in color as well light-bodied on your palate. It offers bright red fruit flavors, cherry and raspberry, a hint of an underlying earthy element, and a decently long finish. At this price point, this is one of the best value Pinots you'll find and highly recommended. I'd buy this by the case to enjoy on its own or with dishes from burgers to pasta. It also means I need to seek out more Alsatian Pinot Noirs.

Wine importer Ansay International represents Domaines Vinsmoselle, a wine cooperative in  Luxembourg that was founded in 1921. The cooperative is located on the banks of the Moselle, encompassing about 800 hectares of vineyards surrounding Chateau de Stadtbredimus, the former home of Edmond de ls Frontaine, the national poet of Luxembourg. The cooperative, with almost 300 winemakers, also includes the traditional wineries of Greiveldange, Grevenmacher, Remerschen, Stadtbredimus, Wellenstein & POLL-Fabaire Cremant Development Center in Wormeldange. Some of their wines were first imported into the U.S. last spring.

Luxembourg is a small country, surrounded by France, Belgium and Germany, and when I tasted several of their wines it brought to mind the wines of Alsace. Similar grapes, similar styles.

The NV Domaines Vinsmoselle Pinot Luxembourg is a blend of Pinot Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris. It is intended to be an entry level wine, and it is fresh, crisp, and fruity, with delicious pear and melon notes and hints of herbal notes. And at only 11.5% ABV, you'll be able to drink plenty of this wine. It would be tasty on its own or paired with food, from seafood to light chicken dishes.

The 2014 Bech-Kleinmacher Naumberg Auxerrois Grand Premier Cru, with a 12.5% ABV, is a more complex and intriguing wine, with citrus and melon notes, but also a nice mix of spices and herbs, elevating its balanced taste. It is elegant, with a lengthy finish, and will delight and fascinate wine lovers.

The 2014 Wormeldange Wousselt Riesling Grand Premier Cru, with a 12% ABC, will remind you of an Alsatian Riesling. It is dry and aromatic, with plenty of lemon, lime and mineral notes of the palate. There is also a mildly spicy undertone, lots of complexity, and a lengthy, satisfying finish.

The NV Poll-Fabaire Crémant de Luxembourg Brut, with a 12% ABV, is a blend of Pinot Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc, and Riesling, presenting as fresh, clean and dry, with pleasant fruit flavors, a full-body, and a nice minerality. Tasty and creamy bubbly which should please.

Bring on more Luxembourg wines if they are as delicious as these examples.

Boston Wine Expo: Food Finds

As I mentioned previously, the Boston Wine Expo had numerous food exhibitors, many offering free samples of their products. This was beneficial with all of the wine offered in the Grand Tasting as you had a way to refresh your palate, and help soak up the alcohol. You also possessed the opportunity to try some food & wine pairings. Some wines, especially the more tannic ones, taste better when consumed with food. In addition, you could find some new food products that you'll want to later buy and eat at home, take to a party, or share with family & friends.

I'm certainly interested in finding new food products so my wanders through the Grand Tasting Hall always include checking out the various culinary booths. I'm going to highlight some of my favorite food finds from the Expo, and would like to hear about your own favorites too.

Wine & cheese can be an excellent pairing and there were plenty of cheese samples at the Expo. I wandered from Yancey's Fancy New York Artisan Cheese (pictured above) to Cabot Creamery, from Finlandia to Kerry Gold. Each vendor offered several different varieties and flavors of cheese, allowing you to play more with various potential wine pairings.

Several restaurants had booths at the Expo, sampling out one of their dishes. For example, The Living Room offered Momos, a South Asian dumpling, native to Tibet and Nepal. You could get a Vegetable or Beef Momo, and then add your choice of sauce, from Soy-Sake to Sweet Chili. I enjoyed the meaty Beef Momo, and stopped by the booth multiple times.

McCrea's Candies, which regularly has a booth at the Expo, produces a diverse variety of tasty caramels and I've been a fan of their caramels for about five years. Some of their flavors include the following: Black Lava Sea Salt, Single Malt Scotch, Rosemary Truffle Sea Salt, and Ginger Fusion. I'm also pleased that this is a local company, another reason for my support. These caramels can pair well with some dessert wines, such as Cream Sherry, or even sparkling wines. I would like to do a taste test, pairing some of these caramels with hard cider.

Another local producer is Top Shelf Cookies, which makes a variety of fresh cookies from a kitchen in Dorchester. Owner Heather Yunger, a huge Boston Bruins fan, began with her Black & Golds, a chewy dark chocolate cookie studded with peanut butter chips. She makes around 17 different types of cookies, such as the Cocoverdose, a chocolate lover's dream with its three kinds of cocoa and three kinds of chocolate chips. The Fluffernutter is a very local cookie, using peanut butter from Everett and Marshmallow Fluff from Somerville.

Primizie Thick Cut Crispbreads gave away plenty of sample bags of their various flavors. I'll be talking more about Primizie in its own post in the near future, but in short, these are thick, tasty chips, perfect for using with dips.

I was impressed with the crunchy cheese bites from Umland's Pure Dry, a Midwest family-owned company which was just founded last year. They use "100% natural kosher Wisconsin cheese", as well as gluten free, which is vacuum dried into tiny crunchy pieces. There are three flavors: Crunchy Cheddar, Gouda and Pepper Jack. When you look at the back of the package, and look at the ingredients, all you will see is a single ingredient, Cheese! I found these to be nearly addictive, and it's very easy to devour a bag of these crunchy cheese snacks. Though my favorite flavor was the Gouda, the other two were tasty as well. I like the crunchy texture of these snacks, and would like to use these atop a salad or in some other dish.

The local producers continue! Yummy Yammy, based in New England, makes 100% sweet potato salsas which use no tomatoes. You can find three different varieties, including Moroccan, Tuscan, and Mexican (which comes in three heat levels). My favorite was the Moroccan Salsa (medium heat), which is made with Curry, Lentil & Kale. It has a strong and delicious curry flavor and is an excellent dip, though I could easily see that as an ingredient in a variety of dishes. It only has a mild spicy kick and I would like to see another version of this Salsa with more heat. The Tuscan Salsa (medium heat) is made with roasted red pepper, white bean and basil. It is a thicker salsa, with rich flavors, and a mild spicy kick. The Medium Mexican Salsa, which is made with corn, black bean, lime juice, and chipotle, was also rich in flavor and has a different, but compelling, flavor from usual tomato salsa.

What were your favorite food finds at the Expo?

Friday, February 24, 2017

Boston Wine Expo: An Overview

Last year, 13 of the 42 wines on my annual Top Ten Wine lists were tasted at the 2016 Boston Wine Expo. The 2017 Boston Wine Expo took place last weekend and how many of the wines I tasted there will end up on my year-end Top Ten lists for 2017? I suspect the total will be at least similar to the prior year and I wouldn't be surprised if it were higher.

Some of my wine finds this year include the following: a 20-Year Old Spanish Palo Cortado Sherry, an Alsatian Pinot Noir, a number of intriguing Georgian wines fermented in traditional qvevri, Slovakian Mead, an extremely old Port from 1870, fascinating wines from Luxembourg, a Spanish Bobal Rosé, South African Pinotage and Chenin Blanc, Old-World style California wines, tasty Israeli wines, and much, much more. What were some of your wine finds this year?

This year, the Boston Wine Expo was held on February 18 & 19 at the Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center. Produced and managed by Conventures, Inc., in collaboration with the Boston Guild of Oenophilists, the Expo gathered together thousands of wine lovers, producers, importers, distributors and others. As a media guest, I attended both days of the Expo, seeking out new wines, talking to wine makers & importers, enhancing my wine education, exploring new foods, and hanging with some good friends who also enjoy wine. Overall, it was a fruitful weekend as I discovered plenty of interesting wines, and I'll be writing about my favorites over the course of the next few weeks.

Once again, I devoted most of my time to the Grand Tasting room, which featured over 200 producers and over 1800 wines, though I also visited the Vintners' Reserve Lounge and attended one of the Seminars. Overall, I tasted about 175 wines and spirits over the course of the weekend, which is almost 10% of what was available. However, that also means that I didn't get to taste over 90% of what was offered for sampling. It is a huge event and everyone can only taste but a mere fraction of all the wines which are showcased. I'm sure I missed some excellent wines, but hard choices needed to be made, and I had to confined my tasting to only a small slice of the available wines.

Once again, the Grand Tasting offered intriguing diversity in some respects, but failed in certain other areas. On the positive side, you could find wines from lesser known wine countries including Bulgaria, Georgia, Israel, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. More well known regions, such as California, France, Italy, Spain, South Africa and Portugal were well represented. I was pleased to see more spirits showcased at the Expo and hope that trend grows in the next few years. However, some countries and regions had very limited or no representation.

For example, there was only one Sake producer at the Expo and as I have often said, I fervently wish many more Sake breweries were represented at the Expo. I would also like to see more Alsatian wines, Spanish Sherry, Ports from Portugal, Italian Franciacorta, wines from U.S. states besides the major ones, and Uruguayan wines. The Vintners Reserve Lounge also suffered from a lack of diversity, presenting many California wines but much less from other world regions. In addition, a significant number of the wines in this Lounge were the same as in prior years, albeit some might be newer vintages.

I understand some of the reasons for the lack of diversity in some areas. It isn't cheap to have a table at the Expo and not all producers, especially the smaller ones, believe they receive a sufficient economic benefit for the cost. As I mentioned last year, maybe the Expo organizers could try to address this matter by providing reduced pricing for small wineries, maybe based on production levels. In addition, maybe Expo organizers could also be more proactive in trying to bring more exhibitor diversity to the event by actively seeking out producers in regions which have been under-represented in the past.

During the trade hours, from 11am-1pm, it is a quieter time so I was able to taste plenty of wines and speak to the producers, distributors and importers. Once the public hours began, at 1pm, it was tougher to do so, especially on Saturday, when the crowds fill the great hall. You often have to wait in line to reach a specific table, and the producers, distributors and importers have less time to speak with each person who comes to their table. On Sunday, the crowds were smaller so it was easier to access the tables and talk to the pourers.

While tasting wines during the public hours, at several different tables, consumers asked to taste the wines that I was tasting, saying that as I was taking notes, I probably knew what I was doing. It indicates to me that some consumers want guidance of what to taste at the Expo. With over 1800 wines available, it is difficult to know what you should taste. Prior to the Expo, I provided my own Suggestions for what I thought that attendees should taste and some people took advantage of my list. Hopefully I can get my recommendations out to more people next year. In addition, maybe the Expo could offer private tours to attendees, taking them from table to table, trying to show them some of the most interesting wines at the Expo.

The Expo is a social occasion, and the vast majority of people that attend the Expo do so with friends and/or family. I got to see a number of my own wine loving friends at the Expo, including Andrew, Karin, Chanie, Terry, Brad, Susan, Roz, Jonathon, and Larry. We shared some of our favorite wine finds and though I enjoy discovering new wines, I also get much enjoyment from sharing those discoveries with others. And it is even better when your friends find joy in the wines you recommended.

The wine seminar which I attended, on wines from the Douro Valley of Portugal, was well attended. A number of fascinating wines were presented for sampling and the speaker was personable, humorous and informative. I'll be posting a more in-depth report on the seminar in the near future. Did you attend any of the seminars? If so, what did you think of it?

Besides all the wine available at the Expo, there were a number of food exhibitors, many offering free samples of their products. As I've often repeated, at such a large wine event it's beneficial to have plenty of food samples to help absorb the alcohol and cleanse the palate. I have also recommended before that attendees should try to pair some of these food samples with the wines they taste. I enjoyed a number of different and new foods and will talk about them in the near future as well. What were your favorite foods? Did you try any food and wine pairings at the Expo?

Stay tuned for my upcoming reviews of the foods and wines I most enjoyed at the Expo. 

Thursday, February 23, 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.
1) On Tuesday, February 28, from 6:30pm–9p.m, the Boston Harbor Hotel will host The Macallan Whisky Tasting & Dinner at the Rowes Wharf Bar. Chef Daniel Bruce will serve up a three-course dinner, paired with pours of The Macallan. Included in the tasting for the evening is Reflexion, a luxurious offering from the brand’s 1924 series and a true reflection of the foremost influence of the first fill sherry seasoned oak casks.

The menu for Dinner is as follows:
The Macallan Double Cask 12 YR
Citrus Glazed Char Seared Diver Scallops
Smoked Grilled Shrimp with Black Salt
Bacon Wrapped Lamb Chop with Scotch Glaze
First Course
The Macallan 15 YR
Char Roasted Line Caught Cod Loin (Pink Grapefruit, Vanilla and Scotch Butter)
Second Course
The Macallan Reflexion
Cocoa Rubbed Roast Venison Loin (Caramelized Candied Mushrooms, Gingered Potatoes and Crispy Kale)
Third Course
The Macallan Rare Cask
Warm Chocolate Date Cake (Cherry-Vanilla Ice Cream, Ginger Caramel)

Tickets are $175 and can be purchased through Eventbrite.

2) Anthem Kitchen and Bar, the comfortable neighborhood restaurant tucked away in the heart of Boston’s Faneuil Hall, is bringing the beloved tastes of the South to New England with a special pop-up Country Brunch on Sunday, February 26, from 9am-2pm.

You'll enjoy the unique flavors and takes on traditional country dishes at this pop-up featuring country favorites such as Sour Cream Pancakes with Maple Pecan Butter, Beignets with Bananas Foster Sauce, Ham and Goat Cheese Quiche, Spicy Fried Chicken with Sweet Grits & Berry Compote, Shrimp Andouille Omelet, and many more. Wash it all down with sips of some southern charm with drinks like the Milk Punch, the John Daly, the Maple Bacon Old Fashioned and the Ghost of Maria.

To make a Reservation, please call 617-720-5570

3) The Mandarin Oriental, Boston will debut its MOtini Pop-Up Lounge on Wednesday, March 1. This pop-up will be located in the hotel’s lobby and will blend classic contemporary style with modern Oriental touches. Set amongst the exotic blonde wood paneling and cozy fireplace, the ambiance is luxurious yet comfortable, making it an ideal spot to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail, a late-evening nightcap or an inviting place to gather socially and unwind after a busy day in Back Bay.

The MOtini Pop-Up Lounge will feature a selection of seasonal small plates, complemented by an array of hand-crafted martinis. The select menu will include: Kombu Cured Tuna Crudo enhanced with a wakame seaweed salad and bonito ponzu; Crispy Pork Belly glazed with Korean peppers and cucumber kimchi; freshly shucked New England Oysters accompanied by a red wine mignonette; classic Shrimp Cocktail and Fried Olives served with a creamy blue cheese dressing. In addition, an assortment of petit fours from Pastry Chef Robert Differ will provide a sweet finish to this light fared menu.

Signature martinis, $15 each, will include: Sandalwood Fire Knob Creek Rye Whiskey, Dolin Rouge and Cocchi Americano Rosa; Azure Nights Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum, Falernum, allspice, passion fruit and pineapple; Vetiver Poivre Żubrówka Vodka, green chartreuse, lime and thyme and ‘Jacks Are Wild’ ($10, non-alcoholic) apple cider, red cranberry, lychee blend and lime.

The MOtini Pop-Up Lounge at Mandarin Oriental, Boston is able to entertain 25 seated guests or a reception for up to 50. Regular hours of service will be Tuesday to Saturday from 5pm-10pm.  Reservations for groups of six or more people are available. For additional information, please contact (857) 400 2062.

4)Laissez les bons temps rouler!" is a Cajun expression meaning "Let the good times roll!" and it strongly conveys the joie de vivre ("joy of living") attitude of The Beehive’s 10th Annual Mardi Gras celebration on Fat Tuesday, February 28. The Beehive has spared no expense in making this year’s festivities as authentic as possible with Cajun style cuisine and hand-crafted New Orleans-style cocktails. Diners and partygoers alike can look forward to the soulful sounds of jazz musician and trumpet great Alex Lee Clark and his band which will keep the crowd singing and swinging all night long.

From 5pm-12am, trumpet player, composer and arranger Alex Lee Clark who has played with the Temptations and the Four Tips, will take The Beehive’s stage along with his band to fill the space with the life that Mardi Gras deserves! Clark has crafted a unique and exciting sound by blending jazz and pop sensibilities and is one of the most in-demand jazz performers.

Chef Gregory Torrech will cook up Cajun-inspired a la carte specials, like Louisiana shrimp and grits, pan-fried catfish and Cajun seafood jambalaya in addition to the regular dinner menu. In addition to dinner, revelers can enjoy celebratory cocktail and complimentary Mardi Gras beads!

There is no cover charge for this event. Regular menu served in addition to all special items.
To make a reservation, please call 617-423-0069.

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.