Thursday, July 28, 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) Legal Sea Foods in Charles Square is entering the final month of their “Endless Summer” series in August, with monthly themed eats exclusive to its al fresco Terrace Bar situated in front of the Charles Hotel in Cambridge.

The Terrace Bar kitchen will feature the Down East Boil – feeding two to four people – every day in August. For thirty one days and nights, Legals will serve up the bucket filled with chilled peel and eat shrimp, whole Jonah crabs, snow crab legs, marinated mussels and Narragansett beer.

WHEN: August 1-31, 2016, during standard kitchen hours at the Terrace Bar
COST: $59.95 (serves 2-4)

2) Chef Brian Poe is bringing a taste of summer to Beacon Hill by rolling out an updated menu filled with seasonal specialties at The Tip Tap Room. In addition to serving up his signature protein and vegetarian tips as well as burgers, Chef Poe now is cooking up inventive new options with international flavors.

To start, new appetizers include the Burrata with aged coppa, heirloom tomato, herb bread crumbs, arugula and chervil with a cherry pepper vinaigrette and toast points ($14.95); Rock Shrimp Tempura with sweet chili-garlic aioli, baby corn and asparagus tips ($16.95); Duxbury Clams with beer broth, chorizo, cherry tomato and toast points ($17.95); Hummus & Tabbouleh with crispy garlic, roasted red peppers, crumbled feta and grilled naan ($11.95); and, Fried Oysters with lemon powder, mango coulis and bacon tartar sauce ($15.95).

The small plates also have been revamped with vegetable-forward options like Cucumber with cherry tomato, basil and candied lemon vinaigrette ($7.95); Zucchini that is buttermilk fried and served with Thai chile aioli, eggplant slaw and ricotta salata ($8.95); Corn with cotija cheese, ancho chili crema, lime and guajillo ($7.95); and, Risotto with Parmigiano-Reggiano, pea tendrils and freeze dried corn ($9.95).

For soups, there is the Watermelon Gazpacho with jalapeño, avocado, cucumber and feta cream ($11.95) and Lobster Bisque with corn, potatoes and ginger ($13.95). Salads can come topped with a choice of tips, with newcomers such as the Baby Kale with peppadew peppers, carrot, crisp quinoa, egg, Idiazabal cheese, fried shallots and sherry mustard vinaigrette ($11.95) and Strawberry Salad with native mesclun greens, goat cheese, candied hazelnuts and mint vinaigrette ($12.95).

With standouts from land and sea, new entrees come with suggested 12oz beer bottle pairings and include Seared Sea Scallops that are pistachio and panko crusted, served with chorizo rice and a peach and mango salsa ($27.95), Striped Bass with charred tomato, baby turnip, artichoke a la plancha and saffron cream ($23.95) and New York Strip with mountain mint, scallion and black quinoa salad, pea tendrils, spicy hazelnut crumble and mango-hazelnut puree ($29.95)

3) On September 24, music legends The Marshall Tucker Band will headline the 7th annual Hoedown fundraiser in Wayland. The fundraiser will benefit Lovelane Special Needs Horse Riding Program, a therapeutic horseback riding program serving children with disabilities in Lincoln.

The highly anticipated event is the premiere fundraiser for the Lovelane program. Guests are encouraged to dust off their cowboy boots and dress casually for a night of music, dishes prepared by Boston’s finest chefs and dancing under an outdoor tent all to benefit the children with special needs who participate in Lovelane’s program.

In addition to The Marshall Tucker Band, Hoedown will also include a live set from David Foster and the Mohegan Sun All-Stars, local Boston favorites French Lick, featuring Celtic’s owner, Wyc Grousbeck on drums and Jon Cohan & His Golden Rulers featuring blues performer Erica Rodney.

Boston chefs and restaurants will be providing bites for the evening, including: Dave Becker of Sweet Basil, Tom Berry and Juan Pedrosa of Yvonne’s, Joe Cassinelli of Posto, Steve DiFillippo and Rodney Murillo of Davio’s, Carey Dobies and Israel Medina of Bokx 109, Scott Guitose of Blue Ribbon Barbecue, Andy Husbands of Smoke Shop, Phyllis Kaplowitz of Bakers’ Best Catering, Barbara Lynch of No9 Park, B&G ysters, The Butcher Shop, Stir, Sportello, Drink and Menton, Jeff Pond of Area Four, Keith Pooler of Bergamot, Dave Punch of Sycamore of Newton, Tatania Pairot Rosana of Outlook Kitchen and Bar, Joshua Smith of Moody’s Delicatessen and the Backroom and Jason Tom of Night Market.

For beer and liquor connoisseurs, Deep Eddy will offer Vodka tastings. Clown Shoes, Farmer Willies Ginger Beer, Harpoon, Polar Beverages and Narragansett will be on hand with craft brew tastings and Ninety Plus Cellars will be donating wine.

Hoedown VII will take place September 24, from 4:00pm-9:30 p.m., at Duck Puddle Farm the home of Priscilla and Wil Catlin in Wayland. For Debby Sabin, founder of Lovelane, the Hoedown is a night not only to raise money, but to celebrate the successes of the students that ride at Lovelane.

Hoedown VII will be an incredible evening, where new and old friends of Lovelane come together and celebrate not only the success of the program, but more importantly the success of our students,” says Sabin. “This event is so much fun to be outdoors in your boots and jeans on a gorgeous property listening to the best music and eating off of the best menus in New England.”

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased here, Hoedown Ticket. Discounted individual tickets are now available until July 31st for $425, tickets purchased for groups of six or more are available for $375 each, and tickets for young professionals (21-35 years of age) are available for $200 each.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

2015 Kir Yianni Akakies Rosé: A Summery Greek Wine

ξερωσφύρι (kserosfiri or xerosfyri). A Greek term that literally means "dry hammer" and refers to "drinking alcohol without eating." It is commonly used as a negative reference, as Greeks, like many Europeans, believe you should drink wine accompanied by food. Americans, on the other hand, often drink wine on its own. Maybe more Americans should be emulating the Greeks.

At the very least, more Americans should be consuming Greek wine. Why should they do so? Check out my Ten Reasons To Drink Greek Wine, which hopefully will motivate you to sample Greek wines, to explore its diversity and wonders. And let me provide you a specific example as well.

This summer, many Americans will drink Rosé, commonly on its own, while they sit outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. However, the Greeks understand that Rosé is an excellent wine for food, pairing well with many different dishes. And in addition, Rosé can and should be enjoyed year round, paired with everything from your Thanksgiving turkey to a simple pizza.

In Greece, there is a single Appellation of Origin for Rosé wine, the Amyndeon, located in northern Greece in Macedonia. All of the wines from Amyndeon must contain at least 85% Xinomavro. One of the most well known wineries in this region is Kir-Yianni, which means "Sir John" in Greek. The winery was founded in 1997 by Yiannis Boutaris, who had left the Boutari Wine Group.  Though their first vintage was in 1990, it was not until the 1995 vintage that the wine was bottled under the Kir-Yianni name. More than half of their labels are single vineyard growths on the eastern and western slopes of Mt. Vermio in Macedonia. They grow indigenous Greek grapes as well as some international ones such as Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc.

I recently received a media sample of the 2015 Kir Yianni Akakies Rosé ($15), which is made from 100% Xinomavro. The vineyard for these grapes is located at an altitude of about 2300 feet and is surrounded by numerous Acacia trees. The term "Akakies" means "Acacia" and refers to the presence of these trees.

Xinomavro (which means "acid black") is an indigenous grape in northern Greece and often is compared to Nebbiolo. Xinomavro is difficult to grow and usually provides mild color, strong tannins and high acidity. Because of those characteristics, it ages very well. While young, the wines tend to be dominated by red fruits and as they age, you'll find more savory notes, such as tomato and olive. It is a grape with which you should be familiar, and which should impress.

The 2015 Kir Yianni Akakies Rosé under went about 3 months sur lie and batonnage, and has a 12% ABV. With a bright pink color, I found this Rosé to be crisp, dry, and full bodied with bright strawberry flavors as well as some savory, herbal notes, especially on the finish. It was clean and refreshing, an excellent summer wine, yet which would not be out of place during the winter either. It would pair this with seafood dishes, from oysters to sushi, as well as roast chicken and even pizza. I even paired this Rosé with ribs and it would very well.

This summer, go Greek!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Rant: I Want To Touch My Food

I don't believe it's a coincidence that some of our favorite foods, from pizza to burgers, tacos to cupcakes, are held in our hands as we eat them.

Generally, we pick up these foods with our hands and bite into them, which creates a greater connection between us and our food. Usually, there isn't an intermediary of metal, wood or plastic utensils which might interfere with our enjoyment of these foods. It's a psychological issue, and one which most people don't even think about except on an unconscious level. They understand they enjoy these foods and can describe in the detail many of the reasons for such, except they will rarely mention that part of the reason is that they can touch the food.

Eating with your hands can even lead to you licking your fingers, savoring the sauce, condiments, cheese, frosting, and other items that might accumulate on your skin. There is a certain intimacy involved in eating food with your hands, one which we appreciate though usually on a deeper level. Yes, you can enjoy food which you eat with a knife and fork, but there is something more satisfyingly primal with being able to use your hands.

What may make us think more closely about this issue is when we are confronted with a situation outside of the norm, when we are unable to eat a certain item with our hands that usually we should be able to do so. For example, this weekend I ate at a local Mexican restaurant, opting for some steak tacos in corn tortillas. Tacos should be finger food, whether a hard or soft taco. You shouldn't need to use a fork and knife to eat a taco, and if you do, there is a large disconnect, and ultimately the food won't seem as tasty.

The tortillas for these steak tacos were a fail in this regard. They had been cooked so much that they were limp, with a greasy texture, and made it near impossible to pick up and eat. I had to use a knife and fork to eat them and overall, it was unsatisfying. It was difficult to get the right ratio of ingredients on the fork, definitely very different from being able to hold the taco in your hand and bite into it.

The same would apply to a burger that is so filled with extra ingredients that you can't pick it up but rather need a knife and fork. You lose part of the essential aspect of the dish, the direct connection of flesh to food. I'm not sure all restaurants understand how certain foods should not require utensils to enjoy, that part of the allure is being able to hold them in your hands as you eat them. Do your own test at home. Try eating some of the foods with your hands and try some with utensils. And I bet, if you're being honest, you will notice a difference.

Let me touch my food!


Thursday, July 21, 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) Celebrate Banyan Bar & Refuge's "1st birthday" with a Hawaiian Style Luau on Monday, July 25th. Lei's, Tiki drinks (out of pineapples), an a la carte menu filled with Kulua pork, Poke , and so much Don Ho music.

This is a seated dinner. Banyan opens at 5pm but will be taking reservations depending on availability and until the kitchen closes at 10pm. Reservations can be made by calling the restaurant 617-556-4211.

Green papaya salad, long beans, lime vinaigrette, toasted peanuts (gf,v) $7
Watermelon Salad, tomato, silken tofu, shiso, lemon ginger vinaigrette, sesame seed (v) $7
Potato salad, macaroni, kewpie mayo, egg, pickles (gf,v) $6
Roasted purple sweet potatoes, soy glaze, togarashi (v) $6
Meat + Seafood
Smoked scallop + jonah crab rangoon, pineapple sweet + sour sauce $9
Manapua, stuffed sweet bread, char siu pork, guava jelly  $5 each
Spam Fried Rice, grilled pineapple, salt cod, fried garlic (gf) $12
Lomi Lomi salmon bowl, backyard farms tomatoes, pickled red onions, cilantro, fried shallots, white rice (gf) $14
Grilled octopus poke bowl, kimchi, seaweed, taro chips, white rice  $16
Kalua Pork, slow roasted pork in ti + banana leaf, coconut milk braised local greens, king’s hawaiian bread (gf)  $14

2) Pier 6, Charlestown’s waterfront dining destination, has just launched its mid-summer menus featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients from Executive Chef Adriano Silva.

New dinner additions include the Halibut Tartare with avocado, wontons, and sesame vinaigrette ($15), Local Burrata with a tomato chutney, arugula pesto, and brioche ($12), Provencal Style Duck Leg served with brussel sprouts, celery root puree, and a plum coulis ($14), Pepper Crusted Tuna with summer vegetables and a gazpacho sauce ($27), and a New York Strip with cauliflower mashed potatoes and a mushroom gravy ($35).

For an afternoon delight try the all new lunch menu which includes Grilled Swordfish with sugar snap peas, faro salad, and romesco ($25), or a Chicken Caesar Wrap with parmesan, croutons, and potato salad ($12). Brunch offers options such as Avocado Toast with cherry tomato, dukkah, feta, and fried egg ($8), or the Heirloom Tomato & Watermelon Salad with fresh mozzarella, red onion, and balsamic ($10). For an al fresco dining experience order off the new deck menu with options such as the White Clam Flatbread with corn, bacon, tomatoes, mozzarella, and cherry peppers ($14), or a Rustic Italian Flatbread with sopressata, oregano, mozzarella, and cherry peppers ($12).

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

My New Favorite Beer: Night Shift Harborside

If you live in Massachusetts and love beer, then you've likely heard of Night Shift Brewing, a craft brewery located in Everett. Even though their beer generally isn't sold outside of Massachusetts, numerous beer lovers from other states are also aware of and enjoy their beer. At the Beacon Hill Wine & Gourmet in Melrose, where I work part-time, I see the popularity of Night Shift beer as it doesn't stay long on the shelf.

Though I'm not really a beer lover, I took the opportunity last week to attend, as a media guest, a tour and tasting at the brewery. I wasn't hopeful that I'd find a beer I enjoyed, but I was willing to check it out anyway and see what I might find. To my pleasant surprise, I found two beers that I actually liked, one which impressed me so much that I bought a couple bottles to take home.

The origins of Night Shift Brewing extend back to 2007, when three friends, Michael Oxton, Michael O'Mara, and Rob Burns, engaged in home brewing in a kitchen in Somerville. Their passion for home brewing grew, and they referred to themselves as "Night Shift" as that is when they did most of their brewing as they all worked day jobs. Eventually, in 2011, they started construction of  their first commercial brewery on Charlton Street in Everett and it opened in March 2012. They quickly outgrew this spot and in May 2014, they opened a new brewery on Santilli Highway in Everett. Current plans include the production of 10,000 barrels of beer this year.

The new brewery space includes a 2500 sq. ft. Taproom, which originally was somewhat of an after thought, as the founders didn't expect it to be as popular as it has become. You can order any of their beers, in a variety of sized-glasses, many on draft. You can also order a sampler so you can try multiple beers. They sell a little bit of food as well. Currently, they sell about 50% of their production in their taproom, showing its importance and popularity. In addition, most of the rest of their production is sold within 25 miles of the brewery.

It also helps that the brewery hosts a number of different activities during the week to draw in more customers. They also have a patio area where you can sit and drink this summer. It's a commercial area of Everett so the view isn't anything special, but you are there for the beer, not the view.

Night Shift seems to experiment often, trying to create a wide variety of different beers, including the use of a myriad of barrel types, mostly used, for aging. There are seasonal beers as well as beers that are available year round.

My primary reason for disliking most beer is their bitterness due to the hops. I have a sensitivity to certain types of bitterness and hoppy beers are a major turn-off to me. However, I am aware that there are some types of beer where the hop influence is minimal, such as the Gose style.

Gose (pronounced like "Gozer" the evil, god-like entity from the original Ghostbusters movie) is a style of beer that extends back at least to the 16th century, though some claim its lineage is even older, where it is invented in the German city of Goslar, from which it acquired its name. Over time, the style became extremely popular in the city of Leipzig, leading to the construction of over 80 Gosenschänken, Gose taverns. The style died off after World War II but has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, including the production of numerous Gose beers in the U.S.

Usually, Gose is a top-fermented sour beer, brewed from at least 50% malted wheat, with the addition of some coriander, and usually has only a 4%-5% ABV. They generally do not have a prominent hops flavor and taste sour because of their inoculation with lactic acid after the boil. Gose commonly has a tart lemony taste with an herbal element and briny aspect. The briny aspect sometimes comes from the addition of salted water. Within the U.S., breweries across the country have been creating their own Gose-style beers, putting their own spin on it, including some which are hoppy or flavored with other substances.

The Night Shift Harborside ($12/750ml) is a Gose-style ale that was brewed with coriander and Island Creek Oysters. Beer brewed with oysters? Yes, and they are not the only brewery which has done so. The Harbourside is a traditional Gose in many ways, being a top-fermented wheat beer and a 3.6% ABV. However, instead of adding sea salt or salted water, they produced the batch with the addition of about 350 live oysters to the wort a few minutes before the end of the boil. I found this beer to be crisp and refreshing with a bright lemon taste, mild coriander spice, and a strong briny element which I very much enjoyed. It made for an excellent summer drink, sour and salty, and lacked the bitterness I find in many there beers. And with its low alcohol, you could drink plenty of this on a nice summer afternoon. I think this beer would pair well with seafood dishes too!

It certainly qualifies as the best beer I've had this year and sets a high bar for any other beers I sample the rest of this year. Even if you think you don't like beer, you should taste the Harborside as it may change your mind.

I also enjoyed the Timbo Slice, a barrel-aged sour golden ale with tangerines and apricots. It had bright fruit flavors, including stone fruit and tropical fruit, with a mild earthy aspect. This is a beer with a bit more substance to it, and just wasn't as summery as the Harborside, though I would enjoy the Timbo Slice in the fall and winter, maybe paired with a beef dish.