Saturday, June 30, 2007


Unagi Sandwich! What a wonderful dish.

Slices of sweet potato tempura make up the "bread." Slices of unagi, eel, make up the filling and it is all drizzled with a type of barbecue sauce. It is cut into four large pieces. Such a great melange of tastes. I love it! I had this at Kyotoya before when it was a special one evening but it has now been added to their regular menu. I believe it was only $6.95 which also makes it a good value.

I did a previous review of Kyotoya last year and have been there a number of times since, as well as getting take-out delivered. That is a bonus, that they deliver. Great to be able to have sushi brought straight to your house.

Last evening, I visited them again, savoring the Unagi sandwich. I also had an order of the Tempura appetizer which includes two big shrimp and a number of veggies tempura pieces. As I have said before, their tempura is superb. It is lightness, crispy and flavorful.

I also ordered sushi, getting their 18 piece special for $18.95. Individual orders of sushi cost about $3-6. But you get a better price for bulk discounts. The sushi was fresh and good-sized. For these prices, it is an excellent value. Sato II in Stoneham has sushi as well, but you don't get the discounts there that you do at Kyotoya.

Also had a beef teriyaki dinner which comes with miso soup and salad. Excellent, tender and tasty beef. Well worth ordering.

Service was very good, as usual. I heartily recommend Kyotoya. And try the Unagi sandwich!

58 Montvale Ave.
Stoneham, MA
Phone: (781) 438-9688

Fleming's July Wine Tasting

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse is having a series of special wine tastings in July, their Nights of Discovery. This series will take place on three Tuesdays in July (the 10th, 17th and 24th) and start at 6pm. You can taste five wines, from five different countries (South Africa, France, Australia, U.S. and Portugal). Each wine is also paired with food. This event is Free but you have to call to make a reservation. This certainly looks like a great event.

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse
217 Stuart St.
Boston, MA
Phone: (617) 292-0808

Friday, June 29, 2007

2002 Orcella Ardea

The 2002 Orcella Ardea ($16) is from the Montsant D.O. of Spain, next to the famed Priorat D.O. Montsant is a lesser known region of Spain but one where some excellent value wines are coming from. The Ardea is made from 60% Garnacha, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. It was also aged in French Oak.

As the wine first touched my lips and tongue, there was an immediate rush of vibrant fruit, rich cherry and a hint of raspberry. This wine fills your mouth in a luscious ocean of flavors. The finish ends with more spicy tones, though mild spices. It is a well balanced wine that definitely pleases the senses. I was very impressed with this wine.

I had this wine with a steak and the wine complemented the beef quite well. The wine was full bodied enough to stand up to the beef and the beef mellowed the mild tannins. A nice pairing.

This wine is a definite Drink & Buy, and one I heartily recommend.

Red Sox Wines

You should now be seeing in the local wines stores some special "Red Sox" wines. Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling, and Tim Wakefield are depicted on special wine labels, from Chile, and proceeds of the sales will benefit charity. The wines are respectively a Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. They are inexpensive, around $12-14.

You can read more about the wines at the Boston Wine Buzz and Charity Wines.

I have not tried any of these wines yet but will likely buy a few bottles to try them out, and tyo support some good causes.

Birthdays for Foodies

As my own birthday approaches, I am reminded how one's birthday is a great time to be a foodie. Why is that do you ask? Because a number of restaurants will give you free or discounted food!

For example, I just received a coupon from The Melting Pot for a free chocolate fondue dessert. I know that I will receive additional offers in the next couple weeks from other restaurants as well. Plus, I know there are restaurants where I can go on or near my birthday and get discounted, or even free, dinners or desserts. As another example, the Capital Grille gives you a free dessert too.

To maximize such freebies, you should sign up for the mailing lists of the various restaurants. They often ask for your birthdate and then send you something near that time. This is certainly good will for the restaurant and a nice bonus for you.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Karishma Lunch Buffet

I returned to Karishma Indian Bistro to try their lunch buffet ($7.99).

As in my last visit, the restaurant's two large screen TVs were playing some type of Indian MTV. I still don't think this is going to appeal to everyone and could turn away some customers.

The buffet is about standard size for what you often find at Indian restaurants. I started with some salad. The ingredients were kept separately so you could pick and choose what you wanted. All the veggies were fresh and crisp. The buffet also has basmati rice, pieces of naan, and a number of Indian entrees and appetizers. There were both meat and vegetarian options, including lamb curry, chicken tikka masala, and tandoori chicken. All of the food was also very fresh. The meats were very tender and you could cut them with a fork rather than a knife. The sauces are flavorful. For the price, you certainly get a good value. I would recommend this lunch buffet.

Service was very good. My water glass was kept full and the staff was friendly.

They do have an expanded buffet on the weekends which might be interesting to see what they add.

Karishma Indian Bistro
23 Water Street
Wakefield, MA
Phone: (781) 246-4111

Reader's Choice Awards

This week a number of local newspapers, including Malden Observer, Medford Transcript, Melrose Free Press, The Reading Advocate, Saugus Advertiser, Stoneham Sun and Wakefield Observer, had an insert for the Reader's Choice Awards. These awards, in over 70 categories, are voted on by the public and include numerous dining awards. The towns covered by the awards include Malden, Medford, Melrose, Reading, Saugus, Stoneham and Wakefield.

(The insert gives a URL of but if you go there it states it is under construction)

I read over the awards and was surprised by some of the results.

Liquor Stores: There is not a separate category for wine stores. There are a couple wine stores though on this list but there are a number of wine stores that are strangely absent from the list, including the Wine Shop of Reading, the OurGlass Wine Co. in Saugus and Grapevine Travelers in Saugus.

In the Dining categories, I was surprised how many chain restaurants received high votes. The Dockside, 99 Restaurant, Macaroni Grill, and Chilis all ranked high in various categories. In Reading, in the "Fine Dining Category" their #1 choice was the Macaroni Grill. I never considered them a Fine Dining establishment. In the category "Indian Restaurants", Felicias of the North End received an Honorable Mention. I thought they were an Italian restaurant? Did someone make a mistake? In the "Sushi" category in Stoneham, there is no listing for Kyotoya. Why not? In the "Steak" category in Stoneham, the #1 choice is the 99 Restaurant. Gaetanos and Felicias receive Honorable Mention. Why not a listing for Kromel's?

Pick up your local newspaper this week and check out the full list of Awards.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ratatouille Wine

Opening tommorrow is the new Disney/Pixar film Ratatouille, about a rat named Remy who wants to be a French chef. I have long been a fan of Pixar films and this film particularly appeals to me as a foodie. I have seen some of the previews of the film and eagerly look forward to seeing it. Pixar films work on multiple levels, pleasing both children and adults.

We are all used to seeing all the various licensing of this cartoon characters. There is usually little you cannot find with the characters' likenesses on them. But a bottle of wine? Is that going to far?

Forbes is reporting that Disney is going to market a wine, called "Ratatouille" and bearing the likeness of Remy on the label, through Costco. The wine will be a French Chardonnay from the Burgundy region and will retail for $12.99.

It seems very strange that they will sell wine using a cartoon character. Recently in the news, a number of the cereal manufacturers had agreed to limit the use of cartoon characters in selling cereal. How many children will see the wine and want it simply because it has Remy on it? How do adults explain it is an adults only product? I am not sure it is really a good idea to do this. I am sure that Disney could have found different products to gear towards adults.

What do you think?

Ban Garlic?

I love garlic. I think it enhances many different foods. So I was shocked to read that there is an effort in Italy to ban garlic! Ban garlic? No, I am not kidding. It seems to have some strong support. They complain of how its makes your breath smell and state that some are allergic to it. Italian food without garlic? Please say no!

Check out the full article in the Times Online.

Lunch at Bamboo

Today I stopped again at Bamboo for their lunch buffet. I previously gave this buffet a positive review. My visit this time was also very positive.

We arrived when they opened at 11:30am. This is a good thing to do if you can as the restaurant quickly fills up. Near the end of our lunch, people had to wait in a long line to get to the buffet. It certainly is a popular lunch spot.

There were plenty of appetizers and entrees and they were both very fresh. I enjoyed the Peking ravioli, chicken fingers, boneless spareribs, sweet potato tempura, General Gao's chicken, and much more. Even my young nephew greatly enjoyed the food and he can be picky. It is certainly a good value buffet at $10. And the buffet was certainly consistent with my prior visit. I continue to recommend this buffet.

Service was very good and they quickly refilled the buffet whenever a dish got near empty.

I only had a single complaint. I had some of their unsweetened iced tea ($1.75) which was good. But, they charge you for a second glass. Most places give free refills on iced tea. It certainly is a very cheap beverage to make. So, I don't see any reason why they should charge you for another glass.

213 Burlington Road
Bedford, MA
Phone: (781) 275-5888

Bamboo on Urbanspoon

Melting Pot: Summer Wine Special

The Melting Pot is having "Wine Down Weekdays", a special summer wine discount. On Mondays through Thursdays, you get 25% off their Premium Wine Bottles ($30 or More). That is a significant discount and maybe you can try a more expensive wine than you are used to ordering.

The Melting Pot
213 Burlington Road
Bedford, MA
Phone: (781) 791-0529

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

2005 Bucklin Mixed Blacks

From the Sonoma Valley comes the 2005 Bucklin Mixed Blacks ($25). This is a red wine blend composed of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet and Grenache. This is called a "field blend" which means that these four grapes are grown together in the same part of the vineyard. When they are ready for harvesting, the grapes are all picked and crushed together. So, there is not later blending of the wine. It starts blended from the start.

I found this to be a compelling wine. It is a full bodied wine that really fills your mouth. There is a strong berry flavor at the start, more like blueberry and blackberry rather than cherry. It has a lush beginning. As it slides down your palate, the spice flavors spring up, including almost a licorice/anise flavor. There is a lingering finish and much overall complexity. This is a harmonious and well-balanced wine. For the price, this is an excellent wine and a definite Drink & Buy.

I had some of this wine before dinner, and it drank well without food. It also made a nice pairing with cheeseburgers and rice pilaf.

Georgie D's, Once Again

I stopped by Georgie D's Place for an early dinner this evening. I previously reviewed this restaurant and was impressed. Would my subsequent visit be as good?

The restaurant opened at 5:00pm and I arrived around 5:15pm and was their first patron. I sat in the main dining room near the bar. I was given the option of a couple tables. I started off with a glass of their house Chianti ($6). This was a decent wine, a typical Chianti. It is a simple but pleasing wine.

I was also delivered a loaf of warm, home-made bread and a dish of oil. Once again, I have to rave about the bread. I love bread and this is an excellent loaf with a very crusty exterior and a soft interior.

For an appetizer, I chose one of the specials, shrimp and pesto poppers ($10). This was apparently something new that the Chef came up with. The dish had five very large shrimp, encased in a spiced batter, with tomatoes and a pesto dipping sauce. The shrimp were tasty and meaty. The spiced batter was mild and the pesto made a nice accompaniement. An inventive and delicious appetizer.

I felt like having some veal parmigiana but it was not on the menu. No problem! The waitress stated it would not be a problem at all to make it. As I said previously, the menu states that if you do not see something on the menu, just ask. When the dish ($17) arrived, it consisted of two pieces of veal with pappardelle. The red sauce was dark, thick and tasty. The veal was also delicious with plenty of melted cheese.

I was too full to order dessert. Between the bread, shrimp, veal and pasta, I had plenty of food.

Service was excellent. The waitress was personable, courteous and helpful.

Overall, my second visit was as good as the first. So, there has been consistency at this restaurant. I definitely recommend that you check it out. But you may want to make reservations, especially on weekends. I think the word is getting out about the quality of this restaurant.

Georgie D's Place
499 Main St.
Stoneham, MA
Phone: (781) 481-9300

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Foodie Blogroll

You will notice a new set of links, The Foodie Blogroll, on the left side of this blog. The Blogroll provides links to dozens and dozens of other Foodie blogs and websites. There are many different types of sites including a number with receipes. Check out the sites and enjoy!

Bacon Placemats!

Bacon! Bacon! Bacon!

Yes, I love bacon. I really adore it. I even love wine that has a bacon flavor. So, I was really impressed to see the Bacon Placemat.

Check out Instructables and see the glorious photo of the Bacon Placemat. You need at least 12 pieces of Bacon though you can definitely use more. It would make a create plate as well for your breakfast. Can't wait to try this!


Peabody Recommendations

Revised as of 6/14/09

This is my ninth post of a planned series noting my personal recommendations for food/wine places in various towns and cities. This time I am touching on Peabody. This list might be expanded and/or revised in the future but I will note when it changes. Be sure to check my extended reviews of many of these places elsewhere on my website.

Wine Stores:

Kappy's Liquors
175 Andover St.
Peabody, MA
Phone: (508) 532-2330
(Good selection of wines)


9 Rear Sylvan St.
Peabody, MA
Phone: (978) 531-4800
(Very good steakhouse, albeit pricey)

Fire Bull Restaurant
5 Central St.
Peabody, MA
Phone: (978) 531-5744
(Very good Brazilian BBQ/rodizio buffet)

82 Newbury St. (Rt. 1 South)
Peabody, MA
Phone: (978) 535-2268
(Excellent Japanese teppanyaki and sushi restaurant)

Tennessee's Real BBQ
260 Andover St.
Peabody, MA
Phone: (978) 977-9977
(Very good BBQ, including their pulled pork)

P.F. Chang's China Bistro
210 Andover Street
Peabody, MA
Phone: 978-326-2410
(Very good Asian food)

Spanish Wine Makers Tasting

Do you like Spanish wine? Would you like to learn more about how they are made?

If so, there is a special opportunity this weekend to meet and talk to six Spanish winemakers. On June 30 (Saturday), from 2-5pm, go to Acton Wine & Spirit Co. for a special tasting event.

The following Spanish winemakers will be in attendance:
Juanjo Galcera from Vinos Pinol
Pedro Alvarez from Ladera Sagrada
Carmen Sebastien from Falset Marca
Diego Magna from Magana
Emilie Esteve from Vinos Sin Ley & Castellar
David Sampredro from Cortijo

The wine store will be making this a party and they will have food. They will also have pens so the winemakers can autograph bottles. It should very interesting to get to chat with the wine makers, and they make some excellent wines, including many inexpensive value wines. There will be special pricing at the event so you should be able to get some good bargains.

I will be leading a group of the North Shore Winers to this tasting and eagerly look forward to it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

10 Items or Less

If I had to calculate how many different foods I eat, it would certainly be a daunting task. It would have to number in the hundreds at least. Yet there are people who can calculate the number of foods they eat on just their fingers!

In the July issue of Gourmet, in the Good Living section, they state that 20% of Americans "live on a diet of ten foods or fewer. Among the most common choices? French fries, fried chicken, chocolate chip cookies and Kraft macaroni & cheese."

What an amazing statistic. It is difficult to imagine ever limiting myself to only 10 different foods. How boring that would be.

Gourmet did not provide any analysis for the reasons behind the statistic. Is it because these people cannot afford much food? Is it a psychological issue? Is it a matter of choice? Something to ponder.



No, I am not meditating. What I did was have Sunday brunch at the OM Restaurant in Harvard Square.

When you walk into OM, you do feel transported to another world, a hip Tibetan/Buddhist realm. The ambience is certainly very cool and inspiring. The furniture, plates, silverware, and such all seem very modern and chic. While Asian artwork abounds. We sat upstairs, with a view out into Harvard Square.

OM has a full bar menu including their special aromatherapy cocktails, drinks with infused essential oils. These martinis cost $12 so they are a bit pricey, more comparable to the higher end lounges in Boston. We tried the Violet Femmes, which include sweet violet, Wokka Saki vodka, saki & jasmine essence. This was an excellent drink, with a smooth berry taste and without any bitterness. A great summer drink that should please most everyone. We also had a Bloody Mary, a good drink with lots of horse radish so it was very spicy. It only cost $9.

I glanced at the wine list too. It has many interesting choices though it is a bit pricey. Glasses start at $10 and rise to $25. There are very few bottles that cost under $40. The prices of a number of the wines that I know seem to run about twice the usual retail cost. But the wines generally are high quality, including some very renowned wines.

The brunch menu includes both lunch and breakfast choices. Prices run about $8-18, with an average of $12. You can get a basic bacon and eggs or something a bit more exotic. After we ordered, we were brought a basket with a large pecan roll and an almond croissant, both heated. I did ask the waiter if these were made on premises but he did not know though stated most of the pastries were made on premises. Both pastries were excellent. The pecan roll had plenty of pecans and cinnamon while the croissant was very flaky with a nice almond flavor. A good way to begin our brunch.

When our meals came, we split what we had ordered. This included the Black Angus Burger ($13) with smoked chili aioli, tomato marmalade, bacon, swiss, romaine lettuce, cornichons, sweet potato fries & a buttery brioche roll. The burger was large, juicy and flavorful. The roll was light and very fresh. The fries were excellent, just the right texture and crispiness. Maybe one of the best sweet potato fries I have ever had. We also ordered the French Toast ($12) with vanilla & cinnamon custard, seasonal berries, chantilly cream, and berry syrup. You receive 4 large halves of thick French Toast, with a strong vanilla and cinnamon flavor. The berries includes raspberries and blackberries and were fresh and juicy. The cream was great as well. Both meals were large and filling. We also ordered a size of Merguez sausage ($6) and received four sausage links. This was a spicy and delicious sausage.

We were too full to order dessert but we received small lychee popsicles. These were interesting frozen cylinders on a stick with a mild but noticeable lychee flavor. Very nice.

Service was excellent. Our waiter, Mike, was personable and helpful.

Overall, this was an excellent experience. I will definitely return here to try dinner some evening, or lunch during the week. Some people may find it a bit pricey but you do get high quality food, cooked well and plenty of it. It is Passionate Foodie Recommended!

Om in Cambridge

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sun Guang Bakery

Need a birthday cake but are tired of the traditional ones? Tired of birthday cakes where the frosting is thick and sickingly sweet? Want something a bit lighter but still delicious?

If so, then go to the Sun Guang Bakery and try one of their birthday cakes made with rice flour. Sun Guang is a small Chinese bakery in Malden that sells excellent birthday cakes, or cakes for any special occasion. The cake is light and spongy while the frosting is more like whipped cream. Fresh fruit the decorates the cake. I have ordered a number of their cakes, for various occasions, and they have always been a big hit. Their prices are also very reasonable. The cakes come in various sizes and can be made to order as well.

The bakery also sells other pastry items, including cream rolls, doughnuts, coconut puffs, breads, and several types of filled buns. I have also sampled many of these items and found all to be very good. This is definitely a bakery worth checking out, especially for its good prices and unique items.

Sun Guang Bakery
423 Main St.
Malden, MA
Phone:(781) 388-9837

Sun Guang Bakery in Malden


Last evening, I watched an episode of "The Secret Life of Breakfast" on the Food Network. As I have mentioned before, I am a big fan of breakfast. One of the segments especially intrigued me, concerning a restaurant called Cereality.

Cereality is a "cereal bar and cafe." You choose your favorite cereal, add whatever toppings you wish, and top it all off with milk. The cereals include many name brands of both hot and cold cereal like Frosted Flakes, Captain Crunch, Cocoa Puffs, Cheerios and much more. The toppings bar includes items from malted milk balls to fruits and nuts. You can even make a larger portion of your own cereal and toppings to go and package it in your own designed cereal box. To eat your cereal, they give you a "sloop" which is a spoon that can also act as a straw so you can drink the milk at the bottom of your bowl when the cereal is gone.

This is a franchise with current locations in Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. Nothing in Massachusetts yet though. But maybe in the future.

2004 Diemersdal Pinotage

Pinotage is a varietal that you generally either like or dislike. There is often little middle ground. Most Pinotage is found in South Africa though a few other countries are growing some now. I have long been a fan of Pinotage, enjoying its earthiness and unique taste.

The 2004 Diemersdal Pinotage ($16) is a South African wine. I found this to be a good Pinotage but not exceptional. It will also probably appeal more to fans of Pinotage than garner converts. The wine is medium bodied with a strong earthy flavor and some spice. The fruits flavors are more muted. There is a medium length finish. The others who shared this bottle with me were divided on it. Generally those who like Pinotage liked this wine.

I would Drink and Buy this wine though it might not be my first choice.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Gargoyles on the Square

I had read plenty of good reviews of Gargoyles on the Square in Somerville. I had also seen their menu online and it intrigued me. So I finally went there this evening for dinner.

Located in Davis Square, Gargoyles is very close to Downtown Wine & Spirits and next door to Spike's Junkyard Dogs. The front windows look into the bar area which is located in the front of the restaurant. The bar area is very comfortable with a large bar, several tables and some very cushioned chairs. The dining area is in the back and is more intimate and darker. Though you might expect, because of its name, to see a gargoyle motif inside you won't find one. It is more simply decorated with photos on the walls and candles on the tables. A very nice ambiance.

The wine list by the glass is very small though reasonably priced. The list by the bottle has more choices and is relatively diverse, with wines from California, France, Italy, Spain, Argentina and more. Prices are good with a fair number of wines in the $25-40 range. There are only 3 types of Sake though they have a full bar menu, including some interesting martinis.

We had a bottle of 2003 La Baronne, a Rhone wine from France for around $30. This was an excellent wine with nice fruit flavors and not too overpowering. It was definitely Old World, more subtle than a California wine. And it paired well with all of our diverse foods.

The food menu is small, with only about seven appetizers and seven entrees. But, we certainly had difficulty making a selection because so many dishes sounded good. Each dish is quite unique with intriguing combinations of ingredients. You can also order a six course tasting menu if you are undecided.

Eventually we made some decisions, starting with a couple appetizers. The first was the Slow Cooked Kurobuta Bacon with carrot crumbs, escargot, potato spuma, and fried grapefruit ($9). The Bacon was a thick, square slab of what seemed like a pork belly. It was tender, flavorful and definitely had that wonderful bacon taste, though not as smoky. The rest of the ingredients were presented well on the large plate, and all of the flavors harmonized so well. This was am amazing dish. The second appetizer was the Buttermilk Fried Chicken “Oysters” with red velvet waffle, scarlett corn chow chow, and kalamansi-onion marmalade ($9). This was actually chicken which was made to resemble a fried oyster. The pieces sat upon this intriguing red waffle. Again, this entire dish was wonderful with some a melange of interesting flavors. A great start to the meal.

We then shared the Baby Iceburg Salad with jack cheese, cactus relish, and sangrita-agave vinaigrette ($8). This was a mini-iceburg letttuce with the cheese resting below it. The vinaigrette came in a shot glass, topped by a corn chip. The vinaigrette was milder than I expected but very tasty. A simple but good dish.

Our first entree was the “Signature” Hoisin & Honey Glazed Duck Confit with sweet sticky rice, mango, cashews, and young coconut milk ($24). I was initially disappointed with this dish as it came strewn with bean sprouts (which were not listed on the menu). I dislike bean sprouts and if I had known they were on the dish I would have asked for them to be left off. After pushing them aside, I began to eat. First, the rice was exquisite, with a nice coconut flavor and plenty of cashews and mango pieces. Then the duck! There were two duck confit legs and they were superb! Such a nice, crisp skin that was just perfect. The meat fell off the bone and was very tender. Our waiter said this was a favorite dish of many and I certainly can see why. If you like duck, this is definitely the dish for you.

Our second entree was the Tobiko Tempura Scallops with littleneck clams, forbidden rice, dried miso, spicy asparagus & sesame salad and fried shiitake. There were several huge scallops, encased in a flavorful and crispy tempura. Large scallops tend to be tougher but these were not tough at all. The clams were very good as well. This was an excellent meal and definitely something I would recommend.

For dessert, we shared the Butterscotch Fondant with black truffle ice cream, dried strawberries, and rice crispies! This was a good-sized dessert and very delicious. The ice cream was unusual but very good. The butterscotch fondant was creamy and had a nice butterscotch flavor that did not overwhelm.

Service was very good and our waiter, Mike, was personable and helpful. The rest of the staff was also very good, from the moment we entered the restaurant. The waitstaff at the other tables also appeared to be doing a good job. The other patrons in the restaurant seemed to be enjoying their meals as well.

Gargoyles certainly deserves its accolades and fine press. I was impressed and heartily recommend this restaurant to all. I will definitely return to try some of their other dishes. And for more Duck!

Gargoyles on the Square in Somerville

Wine Rating Systems

Seems there is a recent flood of articles and blog posts concerning Wine Rating systems. There is an interesting article in the San Francisco Chronicle titled "Are Ratings Pointless." One interesting point the article raised is that wines are generally only rated once, though wine does change over time. So, why isn't wine rated over time, to see how well it ages? No clear answer but it certainly raises a good point.

There is also a movement in the wine blog community to try to standardize a wine rating system just for bloggers. They want to differentiate themselves from the wine professionals, such as the Wine Advocate and the Wine Spectator. Two bloggers, WineCast and Catavino, have addressed this issue. They are pushing for a 5 point/star system. I don't agree that a 5 point system is really that much better.

What exactly do we want our Ratings to accomplish? And are those purposes better off served in Tasting Notes rather than a rating? I think the basic purpose is to guide people to wines they will like. It is not to create a set of trophy wines that people will seek out, to the detriment of good wines that just don't happen to be the very best. The 100 point system is often cited as flawed because there are people who only seek wines rated 90 and above. They ignore good wines just because they are not rated high enough. Yet, a 5 point system is subject to the same problem, that people might only seek 4 or 5 point wines, ignoring all others.

The Real World Winer devised a very simple Rating system, which I still use, with only 3 categories.

1) Drink & Buy: A wine I recommend as worthy of buying.
2) Drink Not Buy: A wine that is drinkable but not something I would buy myself.
3) No Drink No Buy. A wine I would not recommend at all.

Everything else you need to know about the wine is in the Tasting Notes. My goal is to direct people toward certain wines, regardless of price. So, an excellent $10 wine or an excellent $200 wine could both be in the first category. The tasting notes will mention the price, and also whether I consider it a good value. Thus, people can enjoy good and superb wines, without just seeking the trophy wines.

I thus hope that more people will drink wines that would only receive good, but not excellent points, in other systems. Why miss out on so many good wines?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

2004 Conte Vistarino Costa del Nero

I have raved about the wines of Adonna Imports before and tried another Italian wine from their portfolio this evening. The 2004 Conte Vistarino Costa del Nero is a Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) from the Oltrepo Pavese D.O.C. The wine is light red in color but is full bodied on your palate. There is a rush of fruit on your front palate that transforms into more spice on the finish. It also makes your mouth water a bit, rather than drying you out. This is the second wine from Adonna Imports that actually made my mouth water. There are some mild tannins on the finish.

I had this wine with a simple dinner of meatballs and rotini topped by a Zinfandel red sauce. The wine was an excellent accompaniment to the dinner. This is definitely a good food fine, especially with a hearty red sauce or meat. A definite Drink and Buy.

Virtual Restaurant Tastings

Would you like to join me at a local restaurant, tasting what delicious dishes can be found? You can do least virtually.

In a previous post, while discussing Virtual Wine Tastings, I raised the question of Virtual Restaurant Tastings (VRT). If it can be done for wines, why not restaurants as well? So, I have been brainstorming on the idea and think it can work. So, very shortly, I shall host our first Virtual Restaurant Tasting.

How will it work? During a certain time period, maybe two weeks, a specific restaurant will be chosen for the VRT. You can then go to that restaurant and try their food and drink. Then you can add your comments here, saying what you liked or disliked. When the time period is up, we should have a number of comments that you can read and see how other people thought about the restaurant.

Now, there will be some added incentives for you to participate in the VRT. First, I will try to arrange for discounts at the restaurant during our tasting time period. For example, you might get a 10% discount off your entire bill. Second, I will try to arrange a special prize, such as a gift certificate, for one lucky person who adds their comments here about the restaurant.

The first restaurant for our VRT will be the Dairy Dome in Stoneham. They have already agreed to participate and I am currently working out the final details. The VRT should start soon, probably in the beginning of July. I hope many of you will participate in this new endeavor.

If any restaurant would like to participate in an upcoming Virtual Restaurant Tasting, just email me.

Blind Malbec Tasting

Many wine stores have free wine tastings though you almost always know exactly what you are tasting. The bottle is right in front of you so you know the winery, price and the varietals. The Vineyard though is doing a series of free blind tastings.

Tommorrow, June 21st, from 5-7pm, The Vineyard will have a Blind Malbec Tasting. All of the wines will be served in brown paper bags so you don't know which wine you are drinking, though you will know they are all Malbecs. Here are the Malbecs they will be tasting.

Alto Cedro Malbec $15.99
Finca El Portillo $10.99
Nieto Senetiner Reserva $11.99
Punto Final $11.99
Saurus Patagonia Select $14.99
Salentein $17.99

I think this is a cool idea, though maybe it would be nice to toss in one bottle of some other type of wine, just to see if people can tell the difference between a Malbec and maybe a Syrah or Pinot Noir.

There will be other Blind Tastings this summer and you can see the upcoming ones at the bottom of my blog in the Events section.

I should also mention that The Vineyard is currently having a Wine Sale until the end of the month. If you purchase a case or more of wine, you get 20% off the regular price. If you purchase 3 cases you get a discount of 25%.

The Vineyard
554 Turnpike St. (Rt. 114)
North Andover, MA

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Karishma Indian Bistro

Karishma Indian Bistro is a new restaurant in Wakefield, having been open only for a couple months. I stopped there for dinner this evening to check it out.

Karishma is a small place, with about a dozen or so tables, and is simply decorated. Seating is to either side of the door and there is a buffet area directly across from the doorway. There are two large screen TVs and they were playing some type of Indian MTV. I did not mind the music videos but I am not sure that it would appeal to everyone.

I first checked out the drink menu and it is relatively small. They sold wine by the glass, with only a few options, but identified it by varietal such as Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. Thus, you don't know the winery. So, this is not a very wine-friendly restaurant. They do sell beer including a couple Indian beers. They also have non-alcoholic drinks including several varieties of Lassi.

The food menu has some interesting and usual choices, including Tandoori, Biryani, Masala, Dosa, Vindaloo and many vegetarian dishes. But, they do seem to lack variety in their appetizers. No items like Meat Samosa or Chicken Pakora. Most of the available appetizers were vegetarian. There is also a lack of variety in their breads, one of my favorite parts of an Indian meal. They only have Naan, Garlic Naan, Roti and Tandoori Roti. Prices are good, meals generally ranging from $10-15.

They do have a lunch buffet during the week, for only $8, and a special lunch buffet on the weekends for $12.

We ordered the Chicken Vindaloo, Lamb Curry, Garlic Naan and Tandoori Roti. The two breads were quite large, buttery and cooked perfectly. The garlic naan had plenty of garlic. Though they lack variety in their breads, they certainly make excellent bread. Both the Vindaloo and the Curry came in large bowls, filled with plenty of meat (the Vindaloo also having potatoes.) We also got a large bowl of basmati rice. We had been asked how hot we wanted the dishes and we chose the hot version. They certainly lived up to being hot! But what a delicious heat! The meats were very tender and the sauces were flavorful and spicy. Both dishes were excellent.

Service was very good. They made sure our water glasses were kept full and the staff were friendly and personable.

Overall, this is a good restaurant with some excellent food. I would like to see some more variety on their menu, but what they do have will please you.

Egg Spucky

I love breakfast! Waffles, pancakes, bacon, eggs, sausage, cinnamon rolls and so much more. I do love a good egg sandwich and had an excellent one recently.

Dairy Dome has the "D-Boy" which consists of 3 eggs, ham, cheese and BBQ sauce on a soft, spucky roll. It is only $2.50. You get real fried eggs, not the egg substitutes you sometimes get elsewhere. It tastes very good but the best part is the spucky! It is very fresh, a nice soft interior with a bit of a crusty exterior. Just a perfect piece of bread. It is also a good value for the size of the sandwich.


Dairy Dome
474 Main St.
Phone: (781) 438-9425

Monday, June 18, 2007

2003 Dominio de Tares Exaltos

As a continued part of the Catavino June virtual tasting, I opened a bottle of 2003 Dominio de Tares Exaltos ($28). This wine is from the Bierzo D.O. of Spain and is made of 100% Mencia. The Mencia vines are over 60 years old. Plus, the wine's alcohol level is only 13.5 making it milder than many of the wines out there now.

This is a lush and delicious wine. It begins with strong, dark berry fruit flavors and ends with a smoky lingering finish. It is a full-bodied wine that fills your mouth. There are some tannins on the finish but they are relatively mild and smooth right out with some steak tips. Overall, the wine is very smooth and luscious. I drank some of this wine first without any food and enjoyed it.

This is definitely one of my favorite Bierzo wines and it is a definite Drink and Buy recommendation.

Scutra Summer Special

Scutra is one of my favorite restaurants in Arlington. It is a small, intimate place with an inventive and delicious European menu. They are currently running a Summer Dinner Special.
On Monday through Thursday evenings from June 19 through August 30, you can get a three course menu for only $21.99! This includes appetizer, entree, and dessert.

Now, as the cost of an entree averages $22, this special is as if you get a free appetizer and dessert! This is a great way to check out this fine restaurant.

92 Summer St.
Arlington, MA
Phone: (781) 316-1816

More City/Town Recommendations

Revised as of 6/14/09

This is my eighth post of a planned series noting my personal recommendations for food/wine places in various towns and cities. This time I am touching on a few different cities and towns, including Arlington, Beverly and Medford. This list might be expanded and/or revised in the future but I will note when it changes. Be sure to check my extended reviews of many of these places elsewhere on my website.



92 Summer St.
Arlington, MA
Phone: (781) 316-1816
(Intimate higher end restaurant with excellent food and service.)

689 Mass Ave.
Arlington, MA
Phone: (781) 641-2227
(Excellent food with very good martinis. Large bar area.)

Kayuga II
444 Massachusetts Ave.
Arlington, MA
Phone: 781-648-4848
(Good Japanese cuisine and sushi)

Quebrada Baking Co.
208 Mass Ave.
Arlington, MA
Phone: (781) 648-0700
(Very good bakery and superb Snickerdoodles)

Food Markets:

Penzeys Spices
1293 Massachusetts Ave.
Arlington, MA
Phone: (781) 646-7707
(Excellent selection of spices and very good prices)


Wine Stores:

Beverly Wine & Beer Co. (They are closing)
47 Dodge St.
Beverly, MA
Phone: (978) 524-0300
(Very good selection, including many boutique wines, plus excellent service. Weekly free wine tastings.)


Wine Stores:

Grapevine Travelers
18 High St.
Medford, MA
Phone: (781) 396-VINE
(Good selection, helpful staff and free weekly wine tastings)

10 Revere Beach Parkway
Medford, MA
Phone: (781) 395-8888
(Large selection and free weekly wine tastings)


Bistro 5
5 Playstead Road
Medford, MA
Phone: 781-395-7464
(Excellent Italian cuisine and interesting wine list)

Kelly's Roast Beef
35 Revere Beach Parkway
Medford, MA
Phone: (781) 393-4899
(Excellent roast beef sandwiches and fried seafood)

Danish Pastry House
330 Boston Ave.
Medford, MA
Phone: (781) 396-8999
(Excellent bakery and lunch cafe)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Mineno Hakubai

With its blue bottle and silver label, the Mineno Hakubai ("White Blossom on the Hill") Junmai Ginjo Sake ($32) presents an appealing Sake. This was the last of my recent Sake purchases from Astor Wine & Spirits. (Which gives me an excuse to go back to NYC and Astor for another wine buying trip.) Astor states this Sake is one of their most sushi-friendly Sakes. I though drank this Sake alone.

I enjoyed this Sake but it was not one of my favorites. It was a pleasant drink, with some citrus and almost licorice notes. The finish was a bit short. It was a well balanced Sake and relatively smooth. But, there was nothing that really stood out for me. Though you will likely enjoy this sake, it is not one that you will feel is top notch.

So, for me, this is a Drink but not Buy.

Spanish Cava

Cava is Spain's sparkling wine, a Champagne-like wine but with its own unique style. It is made in the same manner as Champagne, but often uses different varietals such as Macabeo, Paralleda, and Xarello. Because the regions of Spain that make Cava usually get more sunshine than in the Champagne region, Cavas are often softer with riper fruit flavours. There is much less of that yeasty Champagne flavor. Plus, Cavas are often much less expensive than Champagnes. I am a big fan of Cavas.

"Cava" is the Catalan word for "cellar." But, I was a bit shocked this morning to find out that the meaning of "cava" is very different in Arabic.

I was reading "Dogs of God: Columbus, the Inquisition, and the Defeat of the Moors" by James Reston. (An excellent history BTW). And it mentioned that "cava" in Arabic means "whore."

So, I wonder how that affects sales of Cava in Arabic regions. Though there are restrictions on alcohol in general in Arabic countries, I would assume that "Cava", because of its meaning, might be especially out of favor. Plus, in Arabic communities in other regions, I would suspect that Cava sales are not especially high. It would be interesting to delve deeper into this subject, to see what effect the meaning of Cava does have.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Bedford Recommendations

Revised of as 6/14/09

This is my seventh post of a planned series noting my personal recommendations for food/wine places in various towns and cities. This time I am concentrating on Bedford. I have not spent much time in Bedford except the recent openings of restaurants on Route 62 caught my attention. And these places deserve recommendations. If anyone has any suggestions for Bedford restaurants, wine stores, food markets, etc., please send them to me. This list might be expanded and/or revised in the future but I will note when it changes. Be sure to check my extended reviews of many of these places elsewhere on my website.


The Melting Pot
213 Burlington Road
Bedford, MA
Phone: (781) 791-0529
(Excellent fondue restaurant. A fun dining experience for couples or families.)

Flatbread Company
213 Burlington Road
Bedford, MA
Phone: (781) 275-8200
(Excellent organic pizzas plus desserts)

213 Burlington Road
Bedford, MA
Phone: (781) 275-5888
(Very good Chinese lunch buffet with sushi. Rest of menu looks good too.)


Sushi and Tequila???

A strange combination to say the least. But, a new hotel bar, Sushi-Teq, is trying to make it work. Today's Boston Globe has a positive review of Sushi-Teq. The bar serves only sushi and not any other Japanese food. It is a small place which seats 30 people. One advantage they have is that the chef is Toru Oga, who runs the famed Oga's in Natick as well as being part owner of the Ginza restaurants. So, the sushi is probably very inventive and tasty.

You can check out their menu which begins with some educational info on sushi. Prices do seem a bit above average but not outrageous. The menu also has some educational info on tequila and then lists the tequila, margaritas and cocktails they carry. Finally, the menu discusses Salsa music, which they play at the bar.

The review also mentions that Mix 98.5 is running a promotion this month on Tuesday nights, offering THREE shots of tequila to anyone who visits the bar.

It certainly seems an interesting place and I will have to check it out.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Credit Card Roulette

Do you like to dine out? Do you also like to gamble? If so, why not combine the two in a game of credit card roulette!

In its basic form, each member of a dining group puts a credit card into an opaque bowl/box. Then one of those credit cards is chosen and that person has to pay for the entire dinner. Everyone else eats for free. Certainly an intriguing dinner game.

Now there are plenty of alternate versions of this game, and sometimes there are certain restrictions placed on what has to be paid. Sometimes credit cards are pulled out after each course and the last remaining card must pay. Sometimes the person only has to pay the food bill and not for alcohol. You can basically make whatever rules you wish.

The Phantom Gourmet has shown a few episodes where they have placed credit car roulette, mostly recently at the Paragon Restaurant in Foxwoods. That bill was $3000. It was an exciting show.

I have not played credit card roulette yet though I definitely would. Just need to find enough people willing to play. Any takers?

Kamikokoro Toukagen Shiboritate

The Kamikokoro "Toukagen Shiboritate" (Sound of Seashore) Tokubetsu Junmai Nama Genshu ($34) is one of the sakes I recently bought at Astor Wines & Spirits. Though it seems like a mouthful to say, several of the words are merely descriptive. Tokubetsu means "special." "Junmai" refers to the quality of the sake, especially its degree of rice polishing. Nama means an unpasteurized sake. And Genshu means an undiluted sake, which has a stronger alcohol level. As a Nama, this sake is made only in the spring and you should drink this soon after you buy it.

This sake is made in the Okayama Prefecture in Japan which is famous for its peaches. The same yeast that occurs on the peaches is used in making this sake. This does imbue a taste of white peaches to the sake.

This is a very smooth sake, with definite tastes of white peach and a tinge of sweetness. There was also a bit of almost licorice or anise flavor as well. Though its alcohol content is higher than usual, it does not possess that taste of "heat" that you sometimes feel in high alcohol wines. This sake is also crisp, due to its high acidity. I very much enjoyed this sake and recommend it as a Drink & Buy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wine Education Classes

Would you like to learn more about wine? Would you like to attend some local wine education seminars?

I am the Organizer behind The North Shore Winers, a wine Meetup group. As the organizer, I select or create various wine events for the members of The North Shore Winers to attend. These include wine tastings, wine dinners, winery visits, educational seminars, and more.

I may soon be organizing some wine education seminars at OurGlass Wine Co. in Saugus. Though they already run some wine seminars there, they may run some special seminars primarily for the North Shore Winers. So, if you want to attend some educational seminars about wine, sign up for the North Shore Winers and get in on our private classes.

We currently have over 115 members and continue to grow. Membership is free and open to everyone. All you need to do is sign up for the group on Meetup and then RSVP for future events. So come and join us!

New England Spirits

Don't have time to go down to a local wine store? Would you prefer to have your wine delivered to your house? You do have options. There are a few local wine stores that do deliver, generally for a small fee. But there is another option, a company that does not have its own store but delivers wine to much of eastern and central Massachusetts.

I recently learned of New England Spirits and its concept intrigues me. You order your wine online and either have it delivered or you can pick it up at a wine store in Acton. They sell wine, beer and spirits. They claim that their prices are 20% lower than retail wine prices, and that seems to be accurate. I examined the prices of a number of wines I knew and their prices were definitely lower. They have a good selection of wines, from all over the world, from the inexpensive to the higher end wines.

The delivery charge starts at $25 and is reduced dependent on the amount of wine you buy. At $251, the delivery is free. So, this is probably best if you are buying a case of wine.

I have not used this company yet but probably will try it soon. If anyone else has used them, I would like to hear about your experiences.

Chain Restaurants

You won't find many reviews of chain restaurants here. I probably won't review places like Applebees, the Olive Garden, Panera Bread, McDonald's, etc. For the most part, you know what to expect from a chain. And for many such places, you will not find any special dining experience. They can tend to a certain mediocrity. I do eat at some of these places, but I also don't expect much from them.

But there are also chain restaurants which I would recommend. There are some chains which can exceed what you expect. They can provide excellent food and a good dining experience. I recently reviewed The Melting Pot in Bedford, part of a chain, and recommended it. Flemings, McCormick & Schmicks, and Smith & Wollensky are some other chain restaurants that I recommend. What makes these places stand out?

I think one factor is the basic idea/concept behind the restaurant. What niche does it try to fill? Does it try to be unique? Whatever its niche/concept, it needs to aim for being the best in its group. Another factor is the quality of the food. The better the quality of the food, the more likely it will be one of the better chains. Mediocrity is easy to pull off. A third factor is likely management. Some chain restaurants are independently managed/owned and the hard work and care of those managers/owners can make a big difference.

Prices at the better chain restaurants are generally higher than other chains. But, that is the tradeoff for better quality and often is justified

So, don't write off a restaurant solely because it is a chain. Look more closely at it and give it a try. You might actually find a fine restaurant.

Flatbread Company

I returned to the Flatbread Company in Bedford for lunch. My last visit had gone very well. This second visit was an equally as good experience.

We gain ordered a small Cheese and Herb pizza, which was just as good this time. We also ordered a Jay’s Heart, but with sausage. The sausage is made on the premises and is seasoned with fennel. It tastes sweet and made for an interesting topping. I think on my next visit I may combine their pepperoni and sausage together. The spicy pepperoni will provide a nice contrast to the sweet sausage.

For dessert, we tried the chocolate chip banana bread sundae. Like the brownie, the banana bread was warmed in the clay oven and then served with vanilla and chocolate ice cream, whipped cream, and covered with chocolate sauce. You actually get a choice of ice cream, whether all vanilla, all chocolate or a scoop of both. The banana bread was very moist, filled with bananas and chocolate. I would recommend this dessert.

Service was very good. Once again, our waitress was pleasant, courteous and did her job very well.

Flatbread Company has been consistent so far on these two visits and I continue to recommend it.

Flatbread Company
213 Burlington Rd.
Bedford, MA
Phone: (781) 275-8200

Flatbread Co on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Saugus Recommendations

Revised as of 6/7/09

This is my sixth post of a planned series noting my personal recommendations for food/wine places in various towns and cities. This post lists my favorite wine stores, restaurants, and food stores in Saugus. This list might be expanded and/or revised in the future but I will note when it changes. Be sure to check my extended reviews of many of these places elsewhere on my website.

Wine Stores:

OurGlass Wine Co.
124 A Broadway (Rt.1 North)
Saugus, MA
Phone: (781) 941-8068
(Great selection and service. Free weekly wine tastings plus other special events.)


Sake Japanese Restaurant
670 Broadway (Rt.1 North)
Saugus, MA
Phone: (781) 233-3858
(Very good Japanese food, including sushi)

Out of Asia
1268 Broadway (Rt. 1 North)
Saugus, MA
Phone: (781) 231-3883
(Excellent Asian cuisine)

Midwest Grill
910 Broadway (Rte 1)
Saugus, MA
Phone: (781) 231-2221
(Excellent Brazilian all-you-can-eat BBQ. Carnivore paradise.)

Angela's Coal Fired Pizza
880 Broadway (Rt.1)
Saugus, MA
Phone: 781-941-COAL
(Very good pizza and chicken wings)

North End Cafe
124 Broadway (Rt. 1 North)
Saugus, MA
Phone: (781) 233-6550
(Very good Italian food and sandwiches)

Prince Restaurant
517 Broadway (Rt. 1 South)
Saugus, MA
Phone: (781) 233-9950
(Very good pizza buffet for lunch.)

Kelly's Roast Beef
595 Broadway (Rt. 1 South)
Saugus, MA
Phone: (781) 233-5000
(Excellent roast beef sandwiches and seafood plates.)

Lendy's Deli
635 Broadway (Rt. 1 South)
Saugus, MA
Phone: (781) 231-3180
(Great breakfast and deli sandwiches.)


Truly Jorg's
126 Broadway (Rt. 1 North)
Saugus, MA
Phone: (781) 231-5888
(Inventive and tasty pastries and cookies.)

Kane's Donuts
120 Lincoln Ave.
Saugus, MA
Phone: (781) 233-8499
(Very good donuts. Incredibly huge coffee rolls!)

Food Market:

J. Pace & Sons, Inc.
333 Main St.
Saugus, MA
Phone: (781) 231-2741
(Excellent Italian market with a bakery, fresh meats, produce and much more.)

Penin Guide to Spanish Wine

The 2007 Penin Guide To Spanish Wine has recently been released in the US. It is considered one of the most definitive books on Spanish wine. It has only been available in English for a few years. I have copies of the 2006 and 2007 guides and think they are excellent books.

The Penin Guide is is a trade-sized paperback book that has over 1100 pages! The first few hundred pages of the Guide is an interesting educational section on wine in general, with some specifics on Spanish wines and their history. The rest of the book consists of thousands of wine reviews and listings for the wines and wineries of Spain. It also provides information of the current vintage in Spain and specific information on each D.O.

The Guide normally sells for $36 but it is currently on sale on Amazon for only $23.76 (a 34% discount). If you love Spanish wines, or want to learn more about them, then I recommend this book.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tinto Fino

Tinto Fino is an all-Spanish wine store in the East Village in New York City. It is owned by Mani Dawes, a co-owner of Tia Pol, a Spanish tapas restaurant in NYC. On a prior trip to NYC, I visited this store as I love Spanish wines.

Tinto Fino is a tiny, rectangular Spanish wine store. On each of its two long sides there are tables of wines, broken down by geographical area. They probably have around 150 or so different wines, including Cavas and Sherries. Prices range from around $10-$100, with a couple of wines that may be above or below this range. Prices appear average and there is a 10% discount if you buy 6 or more bottles.

Selection is very good, including the familiar Tempranillo based wines as well as less familiar varietals such as Bobal and Mencia. I would say I had only seen about 20% of the specific wines before, in other stores. This means there were plenty of new wines for me to select. In the end, I did buy a case, including a couple sherries.

The owner, Mani Dawes, was at the store when I visited and she helped make my experience better. She is very personable and obviously quite knowledgeable about Spanish wines. She gave me some advice on selecting sherries, as well as information concerning the specific bottles I was going to purchase. She possesses a true passion about Spanish wine, a trait I always seek in wine store owners. If anyone visits New York City, and enjoys Spanish wine, I strongly recommend that they take a visit to Tinto Fino.

Their website had been under construction for some time and I just found out today that it is partially open. You can now sign up for their email list. If you love Spanish wines then sign up for their email list! I look forward to seeing what their emails are like.

Tinto Fino
85 First Ave.
New York, NY
Phone: (212) 254-0850

Wakefield Recommendations

Revised as of 6/7/09

This is my fifth post of a planned series noting my personal recommendations for food/wine places in various towns and cities. This time I am concentrating on Wakefield. This list might be expanded and/or revised in the future but I will note when it changes. Be sure to check my extended reviews of many of these places elsewhere on my website.

Wine Stores:

Caporales II Liquors Inc.
29 Broadway St.
Wakefield, MA
Phone: (781) 245-7335
(Good selection of wine, beer and spirits.)


Duck Walk
397 Main St.
Wakefield, MA
Phone: (781) 246-3715
(Excellent Thai food with an extensive wine and bar menu)

19 Centre St.
Wakefield, MA
Phone: (781) 213-9933
(Very good and inexpensive Thai food. Also BYOB)

Sushi Island
397 Main St.
Wakefield, MA
Phone: (781) 224-3479
(Excellent sushi and Japanese cuisine. Plus several good sakes.)

Caffe Italia
21 Water Street
Wakefield, MA
Phone: 781-245-2245
(Good Italian cuisine)

Food Market:

The Farmland
415 Main St.
Wakefield, MA
Phone: (781) 245-9797
(Very good meats, prepared foods, produce and bakery.)

The Melting Pot

Nestled in an office complex on Burlington Road in Bedford are three very different restaurants: Bamboo (Chinese/Japanese), Flatbread Company (Organic pizza) and The Melting Pot (Fondue). I have previously reviewed Bamboo and Flatbread Company and recommended both. So, how does The Melting Pot fare?

The Melting Pot is a chain restaurant with locations all across the country. The original Melting Pot opened in 1975 in Florida and now it has become a franchise empire with over 100 existing restaurants and over 30 more in development. In Massachusetts, the first Melting Pot opened in Framingham, near Route 9. Then the Bedford location opened and there are also plans to open a third restaurant in downtown Boston. I suspect that if these three restaurants are successful then they might open even more Melting Pots in Massachusetts. I have made two visits to The Melting Pot in Bedford, once in April a few weeks after it opened, and again this past weekend. Both of my experiences were very similar.

The Melting Pot is only open for dinner. I definitely recommend that you make reservations as it gets crowded, especially on the weekends. I have seen people turned away who did not have reservations. It is a fairly large place so they are doing a good business currently. I did notice on my second trip that when they turned away a couple without reservations that they apparently gave the couple a $10 gift certificate. This is certainly a nice touch and a good business practice.

The Melting Pot is located next to a parking garage which is used by businesses during the day but which restaurant patrons can use after 5pm. There is additional parking behind the restaurant as well. The restaurant is also easy to find, located just off Route 3.

When you step inside the restaurant, there is a hostess station in front of you and behind that station is a glass enclosed wine cellar. Very visually interesting and gives the impression that wine is important to the restaurant. To the right of the hostess station appears to be maybe a private dining area, possibly for functions. To the left is a bar area, with a marble topped bar and some marble topped tables. You cannot sit at the actual bar but you can sit at one of the several tables in the bar area. There are also a couple booths in the bar area where you can have your dinner.

So, is this a restaurant for intimate dining? Or is it a family place where children are welcome? Actually, it is both! There are a number of different dining areas so you actually get a measure of privacy in several areas. On my first trip there, I was in a small dining area that seemed a bit secluded though you could see your neighbors. On my second visit, I sat in the Lover’s Lane section. This is a more secluded area, where each cozy booth sits only two people. You are surrounded on three sides by walls so it truly gives an intimate feel. There are candles inset on the facing wall and subdued lighting. I think this is a great touch. This section would be perfect for first dates, anniversaries or any type of special occasion.

Once seated, you are presented with a menu and wine list. Your server will also be by to explain the menu, especially if this is your first time at the restaurant.

The wine list begins with over 30 wines available by the glass, most of the glasses costing $6-8. This is certainly a larger selection of wines by the glass than many restaurants and at reasonable prices as well. Their wine list by the bottle is also quite impressive. First, there is a lot of diversity on their list, including a number of lesser known but still excellent varietals and wines such as Spanish Alabarino, California Viognier, Italian Vernaccia, and South African Pinotage. Price wise, there are many bottles costing $30 or less. So, you have a number of choices if you are seeking an inexpensive bottle. This is one of the better wine lists I have recently seen. Overall, The Melting Pot is definitely a restaurant that places an importance on wine.

My only minor complaint about the list is that it does not list vintages. The wine list states: “Vintages subject to change and availability.” At least for their higher end wines, it would be nice to see the available vintages. Otherwise, it becomes a longer process where your waitperson first goes to check the available vintages and then tells you what is available. Then, you decide if you want the available vintage and if so, then the waitperson has to go back and retrieve the bottle.

On my first visit I had a glass of Spanish Tempranillo, a pleasant, easy-drinking wine. On my second visit, I ordered a bottle of French Burgundy, a 2005 Joseph Drouhin. This was a light, fruity wine that went well with dinner.

The Melting Pot also has a full bar and carries a number of specialty drinks, including such interesting concoctions as Chocolate Martini, Yin & Yang, and Paradise Punch. They also have a full list of after dinner drinks, ports, cognacs, scotches and more.

The food menu is essentially all fondues. There are cheese fondues, entrée fondues and dessert fondues. The only non-fondue items available are the salads. So, if you do not want fondue, you are basically out of luck. But, this menu does allow more specialization from the restaurant. They can concentrate on doing one thing well, fondues.

The fondues can be ordered individually, or as part of a three or four course meal. A cheese fondue for 2 people costs $15, plus $8 for each additional person. Individual salads cost $7 each. Individual entrees, which include a salad, range from $18-24. Three course meals range from $62-64 and the four course meal ranges from $84-96. Dessert fondues cost $17 for a small and $32 for a regular. A small serves two people. A couple of entrees, including lobster, do not have listed prices as they are based on market price.

On both of my visits, I tried four course meals, getting different choices each time. I would estimate that dinner should last around 2 hours or so if you get a four course meal. The dinner proceeds at a more leisurely pace and you definitely are not rushed.

A four course dinner begins with a cheese fondue and you have five available choices. I have tried the Traditional Swiss Cheese Fondue and the Feng Shui Cheese Fondue. There is heating unit at each table. Your server comes to the table and mixes all of the ingredients for your cheese fondue in the pot, stirring the mix as the cheese melts. While the server is adding the ingredients, you can always ask for more or less of a specific ingredient. For example, I asked for more garlic. For dipping, the server brings you cubes of French, rye and pumpernickel breads. The server also brings pieces of carrots, celery, cauliflower and green apple. If you need more of these items, the server will gladly bring you more as well.

Using long forks, you then dip your items in the cheese fondue. I found both cheese fondues to be excellent, with intriguing flavors, and I would definitely order both of them again. The green apple makes an especially good dipping choice as the hot cheese contrasts well with the cooler and crisp apple. And it was fun dipping the various items.

The second course was the salads and you have four available choices. Each salad is made for an individual so a couple can order different salads if they wish. On my visits, I tried the California salad, the Chef’s salad and the Mandarin and Almond salad. All three salads were very good. They combine interesting flavors together to make an excellent whole. For example, the California salad has Gorgonzola cheese with walnuts and a Raspberry Black Walnut Vinaigrette. A very nice mix of tastes and textures. The Mandarin salad, with its wonton strips, Mandarin oranges and Asian dressing were a similar mix of intriguing tastes and textures.

There are fourteen available choices for your entrée, some with only a single meat such as breast of chicken or filet mignon. There are also entrees with a variety of meats and seafood, so you get a little bit of everything. You also get to decide on the cooking style for your entrée and there are five choices for that as well. This is where you have to do a bit more work for your dinner. The server creates the cooking style but then it is your job to dip and cook the raw meat and vegetables you receive. Items generally take one to three minutes to cook. You have two forks so you can cook two items at a time. A couple can thus cook four items.

On my first visit, I had the Pacific Rim entrée, with the Coq au Vin cooking style. This entrée included teriyaki sirloin, shrimp, peppered pork tenderloin, marinated duck breast, breast of chicken and two potstickers. The Coq au Vin style includes mushrooms, garlic and Burgundy wine. Along with your entrée, you receive red bliss potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli and yellow squash (which they will bring more of if you want). There was plenty of meat on our dish, and all of it seemed high quality. It was tender and tasty. And you can cook it to your preference, from rare to well done. The Coq au Vin was flavorful and it was fun cooking our own dinner.

One my second visit, I had the Fondue Fusion which included lobster tail, filet mignon, Ahi tuna, white shrimp, teriyaki sirloin, sweet curry chicken breast, and potstickers. The cooking style was their Zen, with ginger and lemongrass. Again, a good selection of food, all high quality and delicious, and the Zen style was very good.

With your food, you receive an abundance of dipping sauces. You won’t know where to start. The sauces include a Gorgonzola Port, Louisiana Hot sauce, Barbeque sauce, Teriyaki glaze, Spicy cocktail, Mild curry, Garlic Dijon butter, Ginger plum and Green Goddess. The particular sauces you receive will vary with what you order but you will probably receive 6 or more sauces. I particularly enjoyed the Garlic Dijon butter, especially on the lobster and potatoes. The teriyaki glaze was excellent on the beef and the ginger plum is nicely sweet on the chicken.

And if all this food is not enough, there is still dessert. You have nice choices for chocolate fondues, including one where you can choose what items you want in your fondue. I have had the Chocolate S’mores and the Flaming Turtle. With the chocolate fondues, you receive a plate of strawberries, bananas, pineapple, cheesecake, marshmallows, pound cake and brownies. These desserts are decadent and so satisfying! Great chocolate flavors, combined with such items as caramel, pecans and marshmallow cream. The dipping items are fresh and flavorful. If nothing else, you should go just to have a dessert fondue.

Service was excellent. Even on my first visit, when they had only been open few weeks, I had no complaints about my server. They all seem very well trained, personable and accommodating. They need to be more than just a server as they also have to cook and create the fondues at your table. So, they work hard and seem very proficient in what they do.

My overall impression is that this is an excellent restaurant and I definitely recommend it. It is a fun place to go, where your dinner becomes more than just a meal. It becomes a dining experience, a very social activity. And it caters to both couples seeking an intimate dinner and families who want something fun. The food is delicious, with many interesting taste and texture combinations, and you have plenty of varied choices. They also have a very good wine list. I can understand why they are so busy as the word seems to be getting out about The Melting Pot.

So, go give it a try! This Passionate Foodie will definitely return there.

The Melting Pot
213 Burlington Road
Bedford, MA
Phone: (781) 791-0529

QRW News

I read a number of wine magazines, including the Quarterly Review of Wines (QRW). I recently read their Summer 2007 issue. You can actually read some of their articles online. One of their features is called "All Things Grape and Small," which is a series of short news items about the world of wine. You can read those online but I also wanted to make specific reference to a few of the items here.

In the Rioja region of Spain, long the home of Tempranillo, they now can plant a number of new varietals, some indigenous and some not. What is of most interest to me is that they can plant Monastrell, one of my favorite varietals. Though other regions such as Jumilla, Alicante and Yecla have long planted Monastrell, and make some excellent wines, it will be interesting to see how the grape develops in Rioja.

Burgundy producer Maison Jean-Claude Boisset will bottle some of his Grand Cru Burgundy with screwcaps. This will be the first Grand Cru Burgundy so bottled. Screwcaps are definitely spreading in the wine world and they certainly are not indicative of an inferior wine. So, when you see a screwcapped wine, doesn't assume it is a lesser wine.

Sales of Italian wines in the U.S. continue to grow and currently occupy 32.4% of the U.S. market. That means that almost one of every three bottles of wines sold in the U.S are Italian wines.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Summer Culinary Outings--Part 2

Instead of making plans to attend a food festival, maybe you want something a little more spontaneous. What you could do then is to visit certain streets, squares or neighborhoods and check out their restaurants, food markets, wine stores, bakeries and more. In certain areas, you could easily spend several hours just eating, drinking and shopping for culinary finds.

So, what are some of the best areas to visit?

Charles Street in Boston, Harvard Square in Cambridge, Porter Square in Cambridge, and Beacon Street in Brookline are all excellent choices. The South End in Boston has also become a culinary mecca and I will go into more detail about the choices available there.

For a culinary tour of the South End, to maximize your possibilities, you will want to drive there. But, if you don't have a car, you can still visit many of the places. You can use the subway to access the area. You can start your visit at either end of the South End: Washington St. at the intersection with Massachusetts Ave. or Tremont St. at the intersection with East Berkeley St.

Let us first touch on some of the sights of Washington St. Note that this is just a sampling of the possible places you can visit.

Flour Bakery & Cafe: A famed and excellent bakery. They serve breakfast and lunch, and also have many different pastries, cookies, breads and other baked goods.

Seiyo: A combination wine store and Japanese restaurant. Excellent sushi and a good selection of wines. Also have a number of Japanese sakes. Have bento boxes for lunch.

Toro: A Spanish tapas restaurant, only open for dinner. Located at 1704 Washington St.

Stella’s: Fine Italian food as well as Sunday brunch.

Brix: Small wine store but with an excellent and diverse selection.

You can then cut over to Shawmut Avenue to check out a couple other places.

South End Buttery: Another fine bakery.

South End Formaggio: An excellent shop for fine cheeses and gourmet foods.

Then you can move onto Tremont Street, which has many possible places to check out.

Garden of Eden Café & Lionette’s Market: Organic cafe and food market.

Wine Emporium: A large wine store with wines from all over the world, including more unusual regions.

Acquitaine: A French bistro with brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

B&G Oysters: Oyster bar. Part of Barbara Lynch's culinary empire.

Butcher Shop: Restaurant and butcher shop. Also part of Barbara Lynch's culinary empire.

Sibling Rivalry: Superb restaurant with an excellent brunch.

South End Open Market: On Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., except on holiday weekends, you can visit this market. This market has numerous food vendors as well as non-food vendors, such as antique dealers, jewelers and more.

There are plenty of other culinary places in the South End. New restaurants are opening all the time. You can find a list of many others on UrbanSpoon.

Summer Culinary Outings--Part 1

With summer nearly here, plenty of us are considering what we can do on the weekends. You might go to an outside concert, go bicyling, or visit the beach. Or you could go on a culinary adventure. There are a number of options for these culinary outings and I will present one here. I will discuss other options in a future post.

Summertime is a time for food festivals! The Scooperbowl just passed but there are plenty of other festivals coming up. Here is a sampling.

The Phantom Gourmet BBQ Beach Party will be held June 22-24 on Boston City Hall Plaza.
The 26th Annual Chowderfest is July 1 on Boston City Hall Plaza.
The 5th Annual Tanglewood Wine & Food Classic will be held August 8-11.
The 7th Annual Boston Summer Restaurant Week will be held August 5-17.
The Phantom Gourmet Food Festival will be held September 23 on Landsdowne St.

There are plenty of other festivals that you will find in your local newspaper or local magazines such as Boston Magazine. I may post about some of the others later as well.

Besides food festivals, there are also many local cultural fairs and festivals, such as Greek and Italian festivals. The North End has a ton of festivals during the summer. They have festivals just about every weekend. Some of the upcoming festivals include the celebration of St. Jude starting on June 24, St. Joseph on July 27, and Madonna del Soccorso (the Fisherman’s Feast) on August 24. At these cultural festivals, you get to try many ethnic foods and drinks. They can be lots of fun.

Friday, June 8, 2007


Want some good sushi in Tewksbury? Try Kyoto.

Kyoto is a Japanese teppanyaki and sushi restaurant. I have eaten sushi here five times but have not yet tried their teppanyaki. Their sushi is a little less expensive than average. The sushi is fresh, good-sized and well-made. One of my favorite maki is their sweet potato tempura maki. It is basically just pieces of sweet potato tempura wrapped with rice and nori.

Kyoto has a full bar and carries many of the usual drinks you find at Asian restaurants. But, they only have one brand of Sake.

Service is very good and the staff is very friendly and personable. Give Kyoto a try!

1487 Main St.
Tewksbury, MA
Phone: (978) 863-9889

Kyoto Japanese Steak House on Urbanspoon

2006 Domaine Tempier rose

In the realm of Rose, Domaine Tempier is often said to be one of the elites. The 2006 Domaine Tempier Rose ($34) is a blend of Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Grenache. It is estate bottled from organic fruit. It is one of the most expensive Roses you will find. I brought a bottle to my weekly get together with the Real World Winers.

This Rose is a very pale pink, lighter than most of the other Roses I have tasted recently. It has a fruity nose though the nose is mild. This is a more subtle Rose than the others I have had. It is definitely more Old World, very French in style. If you do not like subtle wines, you may not care that much for this wine. But, if give it a chance, you will find much complexity in thise Rose. It has tastes of strawberries, a bit of herb, and maybe some melon. It has a lingering finish and all of its tastes mingle harmoniusly. This is not a casual wine, not one to guzzle. It is a wine you linger over, one which you think about each sip. It is not a big bold wine, and it is not intended to be. But, it is a fine wine, one I definitely recommend as a Drink & Buy.

I should also note that Domaine Tempier makes a few reds, Mourvedre blends, which are superb!

Win 100 Bottles of Wine

Win 100 Bottles of Wine!

All you have to do is fill out an entry form at
If you don't win the 100 bottles, they will also award 100 second place winners a bottle of wine. You have nothing to lose by entering. Winners will be announced July 31.

Flemings Steak House is a a chain steakhouse with locations all across the country. Locally, there is one on Boston, near the Park Plaza Hotel. I was last there at a recent Restaurant Week and had an excellent meal. They do have good steaks. Plus, they are well known for having a huge list of wines, 100, available by the glass. Most restaurants have maybe 2 dozen available by the glass. But, Flemings truly is a wine lover's haven.

Each June, they choose a new list of 100 wines. 60 of those wines are the same for all of their restaurants. The other 40 are chosen by the specific restaurants. I am on the Flemings mailing list so just got the announcement of their contest. The mailer also lists the 60 wines they have newly chosen.

Bagel World

Sometimes there is a restaurant close to you but you never seem to go there. You really know little about it. Then one day you decide to try it and find a real gem. So, what other hidden gems may be hiding in plain sight?

10am on a weekday, seeking some type of breakfast food. I decided to stop at Bagel World in Reading. I had never been there before and really knew nothing about it. It advertised a wide range of bagels plus sandwiches.

I found that there was a line waiting to get bagels. And in fact, there would still be a line at 10:30am when I left the store. This was certainly a popular place. And some subsequent searches online found that Bagel World had many fans.

The menu is fairly simple. Bagels and more bagels. And sandwiches on bagels. They do have a diverse selection of bagels, in flavors sure to please all. I ordered an egg and cheese sandwich on an egg bagel. They actually use two eggs for their sandwiches rather than the usual one. And I believe it still cost under $2. I also ordered a French Toast bagel with butter. To drink, I got some fresh brewed iced tea.

The bagels were excellent. Just the right type of chewiness. They were not caky or dry. The egg sandwich was very good too. Now I understood why there were still lines at this hour. They made a fine bagel and at good prices.

There are actually 3 Bagel Worlds in the area, the others being in Salem and Peabody. They have a website but it has little information currently. It states to check back soon for more info. They do open at 5am so they can really catch the early birds.

I do know that there had been a Finagle the Bagel near Bagel World in Reading but the Finagle closed. Maybe it could not compete. So check out Bagel World.

Bagel World
323 Main St.
Reading, MA
Phone: (781) 942-2442

Bagel World Iii Bakery & Deli on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Wine Store Websites

Most wine stores have their own websites but the biggest problem I have found with those sites is that many are not kept current. They can fail to list upcoming events, their new wines or special sales. So, how do you find out about these matters? How can learn what is coming up at your favorite wine store?

The best way I have found is to get on the wine stores' email lists. Most wine stores send out periodic emails that are far more current than their websites. Some send emails weekly while others are more monthly. And at least one sends emails every couple of days. These emails notify people of special tastings, sales, new wines, and much more. For some wines, of limited production, these email lists may be your best way to obtain a few of those wines before they sell out. With your advance notice, you can buy them quickly or get the store to hold some for you.

All you have to do to get on an email list is to send the wine store your email address. Their websites often have a place to sign up for their emails.

Here are a few wine stores and what you can expect from their emails.

The Beverly Wine & Beer Company sends out a very nice weekly email. It lists the wines that will be at their weekly tasting, the names of new wines they have just received, any upcoming special events, and usually even has a recipe.

Marty's actually has several different email lists, many geared to specific wine types or regions. Their emails are frequent, often every couple days or so. They commonly list new and special wines, as well as upcoming tastings and events. I very much enjoy their emails.

Lower Falls Wine Company is a very good wine store, but with a poor website. Their emails are sporadic but notify you of special wine tastings they have. And some of these tastings are very special events that are well worth attending. And you will never know of them just by reading their website.

So, sign up for the email lists of any local wine store you frequent. You will appreciate being kept up to date on what is going on.