Friday, October 9, 2015

Ferrari Trento: Italian Bubbly You Need To Know

Everyone knows about Champagne, that quality sparkling wine that only can come from the Champagne region of France. Most people also know about Prosecco and Cava, as well as California sparkling wines. However, many people are unaware of other regions which also make high quality sparkling wine. For example, I written numerous times about Crémant d'Alsace and Franciacorta, lesser known sparkling wines which should be on your radar because they are delicious, interesting and quality wines. In Massachusetts, not everyone knows about Westport Rivers Winery, which makes some very good sparkling wines.

Now, I want to present another sparkling wine which deserves far greater attention in the U.S., Trentodoc Sparkling Wine from Italy, and more specifically, the Trentodoc wines of Ferrari Trento. With a fascinating history, this family winery is producing sparkling wines which will impress any wine lover. The Ferrari sparkling wines are high quality, presenting a clean, complex and delicious  profile. With the holidays coming, you should seek out Ferrari sparkling wines at your local wine shop

Earlier this week, I attended a media dinner at Sorellina and met Marcello Lunelli, the Vice President and wine maker at Ferrari Trento. It was his first trip to Boston and with our dinner, he presented five Ferrari sparkling wines, from a Rosé to Vintage bubbly. Marcello was a charming dining companion and I learned much about the Ferrari wines, being impressed with the taste and quality of the five wines I experienced. My feelings were mirrored by the others at the tasting, who all seemed similarly impressed.

To better understand the sparkling wines of the Trentodoc, we need to journey back to the end of the 19th century. At this time, the Trentino region was still a part of Austria-Hungary and wouldn't become part of Italy until after World War I. Giulio Ferrari, a graduate of Imperial Royal College of Agriculture ar Saan Michelle all'Adige and the School of Viticulture in Montpelier, spent a year learning about Champagne in Eparnay. He believed that Trentino had similarities to the Champagne region and decided to try producing sparkling wine in Trentino using the methods of Champagne.

Around 1900, he began planting Chardonnay in Italy, which may have been the first time it was ever planted in Italy. He founded the Ferrari winery in 1902, producing small amounts of sparkling wine, using the metodo classico, from his Chardonnay. This was  certainly a risky endeavor but he made it succeed. Even though Giulio charged a high price for his wines, it didn't take long for his sparkling wines to win international awards and recognition, though he exported little of his product. Success through the labors and passion of one man who loved sparkling wine.

In time, more people followed Giulio's example and began producing sparkling wine in Trentino too. Eventually, in 1993, the Trento DOC was established, for white and rosé sparkling wines made in the metodo classico, primarily using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Pinot Blanc and Pinot Meunier are permissible grapes but are used far less commonly. There are currently about 44 producers in Trentino, producing a total of about 8.5 million bottles annually. It is still a relatively small region but it has made a strong mark in the wine world.

Returning to the past, we journey to 1952, when  Giulio Ferrari was seeking a successor for his winery. He had no children of his own so he had to seek outside his family, eventually choosing Bruno Lunelli, who had owned a wine shop in Trento since 1929 and been a good customer of Guilio's wines. Though Bruno purchased the estate, Giulio stayed on to help with wine making until his death in 1965. In 1952, Giulio had only about 30 acres of vineyards, all Chardonnay, and was producing about 9,000 bottles annually. When Bruno took over, he quickly raised production to about 20,000 bottles, though continuing to maintain the quality of the sparkling wines.

Around 2000, the third generation of the Lunelli family took over the operation of the winery and Marcello, pictured above, is the Vice President and a wine maker. Only blood relations of the Lunelli family may work in the company, to help ensure the company remains intact. The winery owns over 300 acres in Trentino, growing 20% of the grapes they need. They purchase the rest from about 500 small farmers in the region. They have 11 different labels, each from specific vineyards, and produce about 4.5 million bottles annually. About 20% of that production, about 900,000 bottles, is exported, primarily to Japan, the U.S.and Germany.

In Trentino, the current harvest is largely completed and they believe it will be an excellent vintage, one of the best since 2010. The last two vintages, 2013 and 2014, weren't too good and they did not produce any of their vintage Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore. Marcello noted that climate change has affected their region, the average temperature having risen one degree in the last thirty years, a greater change than had occurred in the 2000 previous years. To combat climate change, they have been moving their vineyards 100 meters higher and plan to eventually move all of their Chardonnay. As it is a mountainous region, they have the ability to make such a change.

Our welcoming sparkling wine was the NV Ferrari Brut Rosé ($36), a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay which is made in the saignee manner and spent over two years in the bottle on the lees. It has an alcohol content of 12.5% and a dosage of 4.8 g/L. This was a refreshing and delicious sparkling wine, with a clean, crisp taste and pleasing, bright red fruit flavors. It is elegant and complex with tiny bubbles, slight toasty notes and a hint of bitterness of the long finish.

This is a very food friendly wine and Marcello noted that his favorite pairing with this Rosé is pizza, which I would agree would be a good and fun pairing.  We enjoyed this wine with some raw oysters accompanied by a lemon granita, kind of an oyster slushy. The briny oysters and lemon acidity of the granita went well with the clean and bright flavors of the Rosé.

Our second wine was the 2006 Ferrari Riserva Lunelli ($56),  a Blanc de Blancs of 100% Chardonnay from vineyards at Villa Margon. The wine was matured in large format, neutral American oak, spending at least seven years on the lees. It also has an alcohol content of 12.5% and a dosage of 2.5 g/L. The aroma was intriguing, with some brioche and nutty notes and hints of smokiness. On the palate, it was fresh, crisp and clean with green apple and pear flavors, mild spice elements and a touch of toastiness. It also possessed a mild creaminess, a lengthy finish, and plenty of intriguing complexity. An excellent sparkling wine.

With this wine, we had a few different appetizers, including a superb tuna tartare, a beet salad and octopus. Once again, this was a food friendly sparkling wine and went well with all of the various dishes. Based on the tuna tartare, this would also be a great choice for sushi.

At one point during the dinner, Marcello said, "You don't need to be a sommelier as sparkling wine pairs with everything." This means that you don't need to worry about deciding on what wine to pair with what food. If you choose sparkling wine, you won't go wrong no matter what food you choose. When I visited Champagne, I had it paired with nearly all of my food courses for lunch and dinner, and I found that sparkling wine is extremely food friendly and you really can't go wrong selecting it for your meal.

The final three sparkling wines were three different vintages of their Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore, their top of the line bubbly. The first vintage ever made was 1972 and they still have about fifty bottles stored in their library. They do not make this vintage bubbly every year and didn't produce it in 1998, 2002, 2013 or 2014, though they will be making it in 2015. The current vintage available in the U.S. is 2002 though in Europe the 2004 is the current one. The Chardonnay grapes for this special wine are from the Maso Pianizza vineyard, located at an altitude of over 500 meters. The wine is aged on the lees for over 10 year.

We began with the oldest of the three vintages, the 1993 Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore ($400) which has an alcohol content of 12.5% and a dosage of 2 g/L. This impressive sparkling wine nearly left me speechless and I have to say that it was one of the best sparkling wines I've ever had. Marcello said this vintage was one of the best in the last twenty years. Initially, this wine will strike you as fresh and young and you won't believe it's 22 years old. You'll soon realize though the deeper complexity of this wine, something acquired primarily from aging. It is the epitome of elegance, with bright acidity, and an intriguing melange of flavors, including green apple, citrus, salty notes, a mild mushroom  element and some herbal touches. Each taste seems to bring new flavors to your palate. This wine  will age well for many years to come, only gaining in depth and complexity. It receives my highest recommendation.

Yes,most of us can't afford to purchase this wine but the newer vintages are much more affordable as a splurge. And if you can lay down a current vintage for a  number of years, you'll be well rewarded when you finally open the bottle.

The 1999 Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore (n/a) was also crisp and elegant, though it seemed to be older than the 1993. Its fruit flavors were riper and included some dried fruit tastes, while it had more bitter herb flavors as well as a stronger mushroom taste. Though the dosage was the same, there was a touch of more apparent sweetness on the palate. It had a different taste profile than the 1993, and my clear preference was the 1993 The 2001 Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore ($130) is from a vintage which doesn't have the same aging potential as the other two .It certainly tastes fresh and young, with bright fruit flavors of apple and pear, with hints of brioche, vanilla and mild spice. Despite its age, it has some nice complexity and a lengthy, satisfying finish.

In the future, Marcello stated that the winery wanted to produce a Rosé version of Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore, though that is at least two to three years away. The Rosé would be more expensive, which is similar to how Rosé Champagne tends to be pricier than a Blanc de Blancs.

Marcello stated that they faced a challenge in the U.S., trying to spread the word about their sparkling wines, The Trentodoc wines are still largely unknown to many Americans and the Ferrari wines are certainly worthy of much greater recognition. If you love Champagne, you would love these Trentodoc wines too. The wines are high quality and delicious, made in a manner similar to Champagne and produced under strict regulations. They are all food friendly and present complex flavors which will delight your palate. Marcello was an excellent advocate for Trentodoc but it was his sparkling wines which were the most persuasive. And that 1993 will haunt me throughout this Halloween season.

Have you ever enjoyed a Trentodoc sparkling wine?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

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 October 25, at 7pm, Osteria Nino will host its monthly “Sunday Supper” event to benefit the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition (Rockland, MA), the state’s leading breast cancer organization. At this family-style dinner enveloped in warm Italian hospitality, Osteria Nino will team up with local farms throughout New England to feature the season’s finest bounty while honoring Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Osteria Nino’s executive chef, Walace Benica, will prepare a farm-to-fork menu celebrating the best tastes of the region, which will be paired with Italian wines and local beers. The four-course menu will be served family-style and presented as follows:

Ricotta Pudding Soufflé (lacinato kale, parmigiano)
Chicories Salad (toasted walnuts, pomegranate, persimmon)
Shaved Fennel (black olive, orange, red onion)
Butternut Squash Ravioli (brown butter, sage, amaretti)
Pasta e Lenticchie (maltagliati pasta, red lentils, hot pepper flakes, rosemary, ricotta salata)
Ribeye Steak alla Fiorentina (broccoli, spinach, cannellini beans)
Red Wine Poached Pears (mascarpone cream)
Fresh Turmeric Tisana

COST: $75 per person (includes beverage pairings; tax & gratuity not included). A portion of the proceeds benefit Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition.
Reservations are required via EventBrite at:
This event is open to all ages. Patrons must show a valid 21+ ID to consume alcohol.

2) On October 25, from 6pm-10pm, Davis Square speakeasy Saloon will team up with Somerville’s Razors Barbershop for an evening of distinguished gentlemen. Master barber brothers Anthony & Joseph Berriola will be on hand giving traditional straight razor shaves to ensure your lineup is looking tight for fall. To tease the palate, Johnnie Walker will shake up a custom-designed whiskey cocktail or purists can opt to take theirs neat. Once cleaned up (and looking dapper), treat yourself to an appetizer from Saloon’s menu like the signature Devils on Horseback (feta-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, reduced balsamic), Grilled Bratwurst (tomatillo relish, smoked honey mustard, brioche roll) or Saloon Street Corn (two grilled cobs, spicy remoulade, cotija cheese, grilled lime).

COST: $40 per person (includes shave, Johnnie Walker cocktail and appetizer of choice; tax & gratuity not included)
To reserve, please visit:
Shave appointments are available in 20-minute sessions, beginning at 6:00pm. Guests are asked to arrive at least 15 minutes before their scheduled session.

3) Located in Cape Neddick, Maine, The Velveteen Habit is debuting a revamped cocktail menu that captures the peak flavors of the season and the timeless techniques behind true classic cocktails. The Velveteen Habit’s new libations are brimming with freshly squeezed citrus juices, garden-infused spirits, homemade syrups, bitters and shrubs as well as signature “Farmhouse Sodas.”

Utilizing the harvest from their kitchen garden, the beverage team has curated an exclusive collection of spiked house infusions. Imbibers seeking a unique drinking experience can indulge in these TVH Farmhouse Sipping Spirits including crabapple rye, orange spiced rum, coffee liqueur and crème de cassis. Still gloriously marinating behind the bar, limoncello, orangecello, basilcello, barenfang and Irish cream will make their debut later this season.

The Farmhouse 14 Shrub marries TVH’s own farmhouse crabapple vinegar shrub with house spiced rum and sparkling water. For an adult twist on a soda pop favorite, there is Uncle CJ’s Rootbeer with root liquor, Old Overholt, vanilla simple, TVH sassafras bitters and orange. The frothy Little Pucker is a shaken concoction of Pisco brandy, TVH cherry brand syrup, lemon and egg white. The herb-packed Scarborough Fair sees Hendick’s gin with sage liqueur, lime, rosemary and a touch of honey.

Other signature cocktails include the Velveteen Cosmo (Burnett’s Citrus vodka, orange, lime, violet-raspberry liqueur); Negroni Sting (Barr Hill Barrel Aged Honey gin, Campari, blended sweet vermouth); The Sazerac (Old Overholt, blended bitters, simple syrup, absinthe wash); Brooklyn Stop (Bulleit Rye, Domaine Canton, farmhouse ginger syrup, lime); Whiskey Paramore (Laphroag scotch, clement creole shrub, rosemary, honey, lemon); and, The Killer B (Bimini gin, Thai chile honey, lemon juice).

For those going virgin, a trio of refreshing housemade TVH Farmhouse Sodas are available including basil & fennel, pomegranate & lime and crabapple shrub.

4) Maitre Cuisiner de France Jacky Robert of Ma Maison has all your autumnal cravings covered. Name a seasonal ingredient, and be assured that chef Jacky Robert of Ma Maison is using it on his new fall dinner menu.

Tatin of apples accompanies Hudson Valley foie gras
Bone Marrow Butter
A silver tureen of it, in which to dip giant sea scallops
Butternut Squash
… and chestnut soup
… is creamed into a velvety soup with bacon
Glazes a Normandy-style roasted veal loin on the bone,
Gastrique adds scent and sensuousness to foie gras and blackboard specials
Fillets are house-smoked and served with Potato and Onion Salad
Jack Daniels
Splashed over honey, bitters and ginger beer for a unique fall libation
Oyster Mushrooms
Star in an earthy risotto, alongside creminis and shiitakes
Baked Alaska
Silly Rabbit, Leg of
When Chef Robert served this dish to Julia Child and Jacques Pepin back in 1997 at the legendary Maison Robert, Julia exclaimed “Jacky, this is a very silly rabbi t!” The leg is served with brandade and vinegar sauce.
Cooked to the chef’s whim, are the Plat du Jour every Wednesday.

5) In celebration of National Seafood Month, this October, some Boston-based restaurants are cooking up new and innovative seafood dishes so diners can get their seafood fix. The USDA recommends that people consume a minimum of two servings of seafood per week to increase intake of Omega-3 acids, help decrease the risk of heart disease and improve physical and cognitive health and it’s not hard to do with these offerings. Here are some of the local choices available.

Bistro du Midi
Executive Chef & Partner Robert Sisca has a deft touch with seafood having worked for famed Chef Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin. At Bistro du Midi, Sisca delights the senses with a tremendous respect for all things seafood and an immense appreciation for local product. Sisca’s ever changing selection of crudo exemplifies his passion for utilizing seasonal ingredients combined with refined, classic techniques. With choices like Yellowfish tuna with quinoa, heirloom baby beets and basil crème or fluke with duck cracklings, lime and bottarga consommé, these flavorful dishes are tasty and absolutely beautiful.

Chopps American Bar and Grill is the joint creation of national acclaimed Consulting Chef Daniel Bruce and Executive Chef Jeff Williams. The dynamic duo has given new meaning to the American chophouse by elevating familiar dishes with new flavors and inventive techniques. The new yellowfin tuna dish with sesame soba noodles, thai basil, tomato and ginger soy is a fusion of flavors and textures that will delight any palette. Chopps American Bar and Grill features a new “Classic American” era of culture, cuisine, cocktails and beer, making it the perfect spot to grab a drink, enjoy live entertainment and get your dose of Omega-3s.

Between being located adjacent to the Boston Fish Pier and having chefs from the Mediterranean, Committee is the spot to get the freshest and most flavorful seafood. Guests can enjoy succulent Grilled Octopus made with orange, fennel and caper berries or flex their mussels with Committee’s Midia dish consisting of poached mussels, fried cauliflower, fennel and ouzo. .

At dbar guests can dive into enjoying a new entrée showcasing scallops as Chef Christopher Coombs is serving up Seared Diver Scallops. His version includes lemon glazed day boat scallops, shishito pepper infused quinoa, rooftop tomato, radish and basil. When you’re getting scallops straight from the boat to your plate you know they are going to be nothing less than delicious.

Chef Daniel Bruce of Meritage Restaurant + Wine Bar brings a unique Vineyard-to-Table concept to Boston. He has formed special relationships with winemakers from all over the world and has created dishes like the Maine Lobster and Ricotta Gnocchi to complement the finest selections in wine. This simple, but delectable recipe is made with saffron tomato essence, allowing the flavors of the lobster and ricotta to speak for themselves.

Akinto at Wink & Nod
Akinto is the latest culinary collaboration at Wink & Nod’s innovative rotating pop-up dining program. Akinto’s menu showcases the distinctive flavors and ingredients of Southeast Asian street food and is designed for sharing. Executive Chef Patrick Enage’s innate South Asian influence shines through in his seafood offerings, especially in the Crispy Soft Shell Crab Bao Tacos. With tastes from Taiwan, Thailand and New England these up-scale tacos are made with crispy soft shell crab bao, cane vinegar pickle, sweet chili and green onion sauces.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Montefalco Rosso & Sagrantino: "Winter Wines"

In my previous article, Umbria, Montefalco & Sagrantino: Wine Rising From The Shadows, I discussed the intriguing wines of Montefalco and the Sagrantino grape. I went into the history of the region, discussed traditional food pairings and offered suggestions on how to spread the word about these wines which remain unknown to many wine drinkers. I've continued my exploration of the wines from this region, participating in a recent virtual tasting of six more wines from this region.

The Montefalco Consortium, and Colangelo & Partners PR presented a media tasting event, on UStream TV and Twitter, which was led by Filippo Bartolotta, a wine journalist and educator, and a representative of each winery also attended. A number of writers, including myself, received media samples of six wines and participated in the tasting. You can read the numerous Tweets that were generated from this event on Storify.

Bartolotta did a great job of leading the tasting,and my only minor complaint was that the tasting was only an hour long. We easily could have spent much longer talking with the winery representatives, learning more about the region and their wines. These virtual tastings can be educational events and the chance to ask questions of winery representatives can be invaluable. I've participated in numerous virtual tastings and this was one of the best organized ones. Kudos to Bartolotta!

For background on the region and its wines, check out my lengthy prior post, and I'll mention a few additional items here which I learned from the tasting event. The harvest is currently occurring in Montefalco though not everyone has started harvesting their Sagrantino grapes yet.  The best recent vintages were said to be 2008 and 2011. Montefalco Rosso wines, which are currently blends  with Sangiovese, Sagrantino and other grapes, are somewhat "entry" level wines, intended to be more easy-drinking. In addition, Rosso is considered more of an every day wine while the Sagrantino DOCG wines are more for special occasions, primarily because they are more expensive.  However, if you have deeper pockets, you can afford to drink Sagrantino far more often.

As I mentioned in my prior article, the legal blend for Montefalco Rosso will change next year, and only a blend of Sangiovese and Sagrantino will be allowed. I asked what this might entail for Rosso wines and I was told that it should lead to wines with more structure and longevity. Sagrantino itself can easily age for 20-30 years, and with time, it gets smoother and more complex. The secret to its longevity is its tannins and acidity. It was also said that these are more "winter" wines, which pair well with hearty stews and game meats. Though I agree they go well with hearty winter dishes, I still would enjoy them in the summer with a thick grilled steak.

The 2011 Colpetrone Montefalco Rosso ($19.99) is produced by a winery that has about 140 hectares of vineyards and produces about 200,000 bottles annually. This wine is a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino and 15% Merlot, and 60% is aged in steel vats while the other 40% spends about 12 months in French oak. It finally spends about four months in the bottle before release, and about 70,000 bottles are produced annually.

Why Merlot? It was mentioned that the grape came to Italy a long, long time ago so it seems natural to use it. With an aroma of red fruit and vanilla, I found this to be an easy drinking wine, soft and lush, with brought cherry and raspberry flavors, enhanced with prominent vanilla and mild spices. This is a wine for pizza and burgers, uncomplicated and appealing to the majority.

I previously reviewed the Perticaia Montefalco Sagrantino, which impressed me, and you can check out that review for some background info on the winery. For this event, I got to taste their 2011 Perticaia Montefalco Rosso ($27.99), a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15%, Sagrantino and 15% Colorino which was aged for 12 months in steel vats and then 6 months in the bottle. This is a fresh and fruity wine, with pleasing cherry and raspberry flavors, a slight rusticness and mild tannins. There was some depth of flavor and it offered more complexity than some other Rosso wines. Another excellent example from this winery.

Onto the Sagrantino DOCG wines....

The 2008 Tenuta Castelbuono "Carapace" Montefalco Sagrantino ($37) is produced by the Lunelli family which also produces Ferrari Trentodoc, a famous sparkling wine. They started Tenuta Castelbuono in Umbria in 2001, producing their first wine in 2003 and becoming certified organic in 2014. "Carapace" is the name of the winery building which was designed by contemporary artist Arnaldo Pomodoro, took six years to build, and opened in 2012. It has a large copper-covered dome engraved with fissures  that resemble furrows in the earth.

This wine, like all Sagrantino DOCG, is made from 100% Sagrantino (using their best grapes) and it was aged for 24 months in large oak casks and at least 12 months in the bottle. With an alluring nose of red and black fruit accompanied by hints of licorice, I was captivated by this wine. It was elegant, with well integrated, smooth tannins and a complex blend of flavors, including black cherry, blackberry, and raspberry. There were also hints of spice and licorice, with a lingering and satisfying finish. A very well-made wine. Highly recommended.

The 2009 Antonelli Montefalco Sagrantino ($45) is from an older winery, which was founded back in 1881 by Francesco Antonelli, who bought the estate and planted vines. The estate now consists of 170 hectares with 40 under vine.  This wine was aged for 6 months in lightly toasted 500 liter barrels, then spent 18 months in 25 hectoliter barrels. After that, it spent about 12 months in glass-lined cement vats and another 12 months in the bottle. Besides a fruity nose, there was also a strong herbal aroma to the wine, and those herbal elements came out on the palate too, especially some mint notes. With moderate tannins, black fruit flavors were prominent, accompanied by the herbal aspect. It also had a strong acidity, which cries out for a hearty stew or thick steak. This was maybe the most different Sagrantino of the four.

I previously reviewed the Scacciadiavoli di Pambuffetti Montefalco Rosso, which I strongly recommended, and you can check out that review for some background info on the winery. For this event, I tasted the 2008 Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Sagrantino ($40), which was aged for 16 months in new oak and then 9 months in the bottle. This is dark and brooding, a muscular and rustic wine with ripe black fruit flavors, spicy elements and plenty of complexity. Despite its power, it is well-balanced and doesn't overwhelm. To accompany this wine, you need a thick slice of wild boar or a hearty ragu. This wine is sure to keep you warm this winter and gets a strong recommendation.

The 2009 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Sagrantino Collepiabo ($60) is from a winery founded by one of the pioneers of Sagrantino, which I mentioned in my prior article. Without such pioneers, Sagrantino could have passed away into obscurity, if not extinction. Eight to nine years ago, the first wine I tasted and loved from this region was the Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso.

The 2009 Sagrantino spent about 22 months in French oak and another 6 months in the bottle. This was another wine of power but also of elegance.. The complex melange of flavors are intense and subtle, multiple layers that intrigue and delight the palate. Ripe black fruit, earthy undertones, hints of vanilla and spice, and moderate tannins. It possesses a lingering finish that seems to go on and on, and you will yearn for glass after glass. It is well worth its price and it was the first bottle that was empty in my house the night of the tasting. It garners my highest recommendation.

So why aren't you drinking Montefalco Rosso and Montefalco Sagrantino?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Rant: Restaurants, The Land of Opportunity

As I was drafting this post, I saw a Facebook post from Chef Charles Draghi of Erbaluce which directly dealt with the issue I wanted to address. Chef Draghi stated: "In over 30 years of running restaurants (I had my first managerial position at age 18,) I have never once had a U.S.-born person apply for a position as a dishwasher. Ditto for the positions of over-night cleaner, or early morning prep cook/receiver."

In 2014, there were approximately 15,251 eating and drinking places in Massachusetts, providing about 330,000 jobs (which is about 10% of all jobs in the state). The restaurant industry provides maybe the greatest opportunity for anyone to make a living, no matter their level of education, social class, place of origin, experience level, and much more. Your willingness to work hard is often the most important factor in obtaining a job in this industry.

Kitchens often owe a huge debt to immigrants who perform some of the most basic, and still very important, duties, from dish washing to prep work. Yet how often do they get credit for all of their hard labors? Not enough! If they so desire, they can eventually work their way to different positions. I don't think there is another industry which is so open to providing these immigrants jobs. Chef Draghi understands and it was great to see him acknowledging their role.

Non-immigrants too can find plenty of opportunity in the restaurant industry. For example, the position of server has helped many people make a living and provide for themselves and their families. It can be very hard work, but the barriers to entry are often low, giving opportunity to those with little experience. In time, those servers acquire experience which can be used to get better jobs in the industry.

Sometimes we think of the restaurant industry as a luxury, yet we must consider the vital role it plays in our community, in our economy. It provides numerous jobs which can help some of the neediest of our community. It is about more than famous chefs and mixologists. It is also about everyone from dishwashers to barbacks, servers and prep cooks. We need the opportunities that this industry provides. It makes us a better society.

Stop looking at a restaurant and seeing only their celebrity chef. Look deeper and note all of the people who contribute to the success of that restaurant. Give them kudos for all of their hard work, work that many others might not choose to do. Support restaurants as they support our community. With the holidays coming, they will be working harder than ever, and deserve respect and recognition for all that they do.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Kanpai, It's Sake Day

Raise an ochoko today and celebrate Nihonshu no Hi, or as known in English, Sake Day.

Saké Day originated over 35 years ago, in 1978, by a declaration of the Japan Sake Brewers Association and is now celebrated worldwide. Why was October 1 chosen? Interestingly, the Chinese character for Sake (酒) is very similar to the Chinese zodiac sign for the Rooster (酉), the tenth sign. Thus, the first day of the tenth month, October, became Sake Day. It is probably also due, in part, to the fact that October is generally considered to be the official start of the Sake brewing season.

What are you doing to celebrate Sake Day? Let me provide some additional ways to learn about, experience and support Sake.

1) Today, and today only, you can get a FREE copy of the e-book of my first Tipsy Sensei novel, Demons, Gods & Sake, This exciting, supernatural thriller pits Nate Randall, a Boston-based Sake expert, against an Oni, a terrible Japanese creature, which seeks an ancient artifact of great power. In his quest to thwart this evil, Nate encounters other adversaries, including a ruthless Yakuza clan. However, he also acquires a mysterious ally, a sword-wielding man with his own secrets. The action spans the globe, from Boston to Japan, and the stakes have never been higher for Nate. Grab a copy of this novel tomorrow, which has ten 5-Star reviews on Amazon, while it is FREE.

2) You might also like to buy my newest Tipsy Sensei novel, Halloween Nightmare At Fenway, which was just published a month ago.  Nate Randall faces a new threat, an evil spawned from the darkest aspects of World War II. His samurai companion, Hato, will also face a personal challenge, a deadly swordsman who may be even more skilled than he. Can they stop the evil from putting into place their diabolical plans during the World Series at Fenway Park? The Tipsy Sensei will be challenged like never before.

3) If you want to learn more about Sake, check out my numerous educational posts at All About Sake. You'll learn about the basics of Sake, pairing Sake & food, Sake customs and legends, and much more. There are links to over 105 posts, so there is plenty to explore and learn. In addition, if you want some Sake recommendations, then please check out my Collected Sake Reviews, which has over 100 reviews of a diverse range of Sake. This is all an excellent starting point for your exploration of the wonderful world of Sake.

What has been the most popular Sake post on my blog? The clear choice is The Science of Sake & Food Pairings, an exploration for some of the scientific reasons why Sake pairs so well with many foods. Not only is it my top Sake post, it is also in the top ten most popular posts of all time on my blog. Another Sake-related post on this top ten list is the Health Benefits of Sake.

More recently, one of my most popular new Sake post has been Blue Current Brewery: Making Sake In Maine, which is about the first Sake brewery to open in New England. Though still relatively new, they are spreading across Maine, including to many non-Asian restaurants, and their Junmai Ginjo is delicious. Another of my most popular Sake posts this year has unquestionably been An Expanded History Of Sake Brewing in the U.S. I did lots of research for that article, combing numerous old newspapers and other sources to put together the most comprehensive history of the earliest Sake breweries in the U.S.

4) I've created the Sake menus for two local restaurants and you can go to either spot to enjoy delicious cuisine with some interesting Sakes. At Thelonious Monkfish in Central Square, Cambridge, you can enjoy their Asian fusion cuisine and Sushi with Sake. And at Tasting Counter in Somerville, near Union Square, you can order ten Sakes with your nine-course dinner, making it the the non-Asian restaurant with the largest Sake menu in the Boston area. The cuisine is phenomenal and pairs very well with the diverse selection of Sake.

5) Please know that I am available for hire for all your Sake related matters. I can work with restaurants, wine shops, distributors, schools, and other businesses as well as private individuals. I provide a diverse selection of services, including: Educational seminars, from basic classes to more advanced; Sake tastings, from small private affairs to larger groups; Sake and food pairings, from appetizers to dinners; Consultations on Sake recommendations for stocking in wine stores or restaurants; and other Sake events and activities.

If you are looking to hold a different event, something beyond the usual wine tasting, why not try a Sake event instead. Sake pairs with all types of cuisines so a Sake dinner could be held at any restaurant, from Italian to French, Spanish to a Burger joint. If you are interested in any of these services, just email me and we can discuss the possibilities.

Have a great Sake Day! And I hope to see you at a Sake event in the near future.