Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tupelo: Where's My Pecan Pie?

On a last minute whim, on a Wednesday evening, I stopped by Tupelo for dinner. I really was interested to check out their pecan pie. Tupelo probably came to mind because the Boston Globe had reviewed the restaurant that day. I enjoyed my first visit to Tupelo and looked forward to another tasty meal.

I began by ordering a glass of their Watermelon White Sangria ($6), which is house made with fresh watermelon, white wine, and some simple syrup. It had a strong watermelon taste and had only a small bit of sweetness to it. I found it tasty and refreshing, an excellent summer drink. Unlike my first visit, I also received a bread basket with my meal, containing corn bread, biscuits and some toasted bread.

For dinner, I ordered a couple of the nightly specials plus one item off the regular menu. One of the regular Small Plates is the Southern spiced turkey meatballs ($6). You receive three decent-sized meatballs in a gravy-like broth accompanied by a thick slice of warm French bread. The meatballs were quite firm and meaty, very tasty with a nice spicy kick. I dipped the bread in the flavorful broth and very much enjoyed it.

One of the specials was the PEI mussels ($10) which were in a white wine and crawfish butter sauce with lots of garlic. It too came with a thick piece of French bread, which I dipped in the sauce. The plentiful mussels were small and tender and the sauce was buttery and flavorful. An excellent dish. I also had the Softshell crab ($12), which was chicken fried and accompanied by a corn and tomato salad. The fried crab was quite good, nicely crunchy.

I saved some room for dessert, remembering all the delectable choices I had seen previously on their menu. The Boston Globe review had also raved about the desserts, such as the coconut cream pie and pecan pie. But, the pecan pie was gone! So was the coconut cream pie, the banana pudding, and everything else I had seen before. The dessert menu had changed on the day of my visit, the same day the Globe review had come out.

The new early summer dessert menu includes items such as red velvet cake, key lime pie, mixed berry pie, stonefruit crisp, and chocolate peppermint parfait. None of those items appealed to me, maybe because my expectations had been for different items, like pecan pie. Maybe I need to stop by Petsi Pies to find that pie.

Service was very good again, and the restaurant was quite busy by the time I left. I continue to recommend Tupelo, especially as a value restaurant with tasty food. I have yet to have a dish I did not enjoy. But where is my pecan pie?

1193 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA
Phone: (617) 868-0004

Governor Patrick Approves Alcohol Tax

Start stocking up on wine and liquor now as the alcohol tax is coming.

I recently ranted about the proposed 6.25% tax on alcohol that Massachusetts legislature has proposed. The budget passed the House and Senate though Governor Patrick was ready to veto it unless some ethics reform legislation also passed. But the House and Senate passed an ethics bill and Governor Patrick has now approved much of the budget, including the new alcohol tax.

The 6.25% sales tax on alcohol will go into effect on August 1, 2009. So, buy your wine, beer and liquor now before the tax goes into effect. Stock up now when you can save money.

Now let us see if Governor Patrick can get re-elected after approving these new taxes.

The Beehive: New England Steamer Pot

Nothing says New England comfort food like a good ol’ clambake! When the craving hits and you can’t get seaside quick enough, The Beehive in Boston’s South End has brought the tide in a little bit closer with their New England Steamer Pot; featuring 1 ½ of a fresh caught Main lobster, steamer clams, corn on the cob and potatoes tossed with andoudille sausage and green garlic ($26).

The Beehive’s newest addition to their seafood menu created by Chef Rebecca Newell, Boston’s Queen of Comfort food, was inspired by her childhood trips to the shore. “All in one pot…there’s something to that you know? When you can pull away the lid of something that has been simmering and it conjures up memories of sandy flip flops, seagulls and sunny days I feel like I’ve done my job…and I’m hungry,” said Newell.

The Beehive New England Steamer Pot
At Beehive, they serve ½ lobsters to make it affordable for all! This is recipe for one person, but if you're having a clam bake, just multiply it by two, three or four! – Chef Rebecca Newell

½ Link of Anoudille Sausage, Grilled
1 Lobster
6 Steamer Clams
½ Ear of corn
1 Chicken lobster
3 Oz of whole butter.
2 Tablespoons of chopped green garlic
4 Oz of Melted Butter

Make court bouillon and bring to a boil. Drop in lobster and cook for 7 minutes. Add corn at the last minute! In a medium size sauté pan, add whole butter and melt.
Add clams, sausage and green garlic. Add 2 cups of court bouillon. Cover with a lid and steam open clams, about 2 minutes. Pour into a serving bowl. Put in lobster and ear of corn. Serve with drawn butter and lemon wedges!

Beehive Court Bouillon
2 Bay Leaves
12 Dashes of Old Bay
4 Cups of White Wine
6 Dashes of Tabasco
2 Tablespoons of chopped thyme
2 Gallons of water

The Beehive
541 Tremont St.
Boston, MA
Phone: 617-423-0069

Monday, June 29, 2009

Rant: Break That Rut

I have met people who only drink Chardonnay. I have met others who rarely visit more than a single restaurant. Or they order the same dish every time they visit a restaurant. They are stuck in a boring rut. They have closed themselves off from such a wide range of opportunities for fantastic wine wine and food.

There is no need for such a rut. Why shut yourself off from a myriad of possibilities, where you can find so many new and exciting foods and drinks? Don't deprive yourself of the many available options out there. Take a chance and break out of your rut.

If you only drink one type of wine, or a limited selection, then go to wine tastings and try new wines. And keep trying new ones. Whenever you get a chance to try a new wine, do so. You might not like every wine you taste, but I bet you find some new wines that you do like. You might be very surprised at how many wines you actually end up enjoying. With the many thousands of wines out there, why restrict yourself to a single type?

The same goes with food. Don't order the same meal every time. Branch out and choose something new and exciting. You never know what other wonders are out there to discover. Select a new restaurant and check out what they have to offer. Break out of your comfort zone and take a chance.

Is it risky? Sure it is. But it is well worth the risk because you stand to find some incredible new wines and foods. You might not always succeed but when you do, you will be very, very happy. I love making new discoveries, trying new experiences. This weekend, I tried a wine made from a grape that was new to me. And I loved it. I also tried garlic scapes for the first time, made as a tempura, and they were absolutely delicious.

What new things have you tried lately?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

TW Food: Wine & Cheese Dinner

T.W. Food is holding a special American Artisanal Menu featuring a marriage of Wine & Cheese. On Tuesday, July 7, Chef Tim Wiechmann and Mark Trumble present a special menu featuring local cheese, from farmers like Michael Lee at Twig Farm in Vermont, and PA Noble in Pennsylvania. Also featured on the menu will be quality artisanal cheeses from other parts of the US. The dinner is $49 per person.

This really sounds like intriguing dinner, and I love the fact it has so many different artisanal cheeses.


Grateful farms baby lettuces and pistachio vinaigrette

American artisanal cornmeal polenta and shiitake mushrooms

grilled hanger steak, marmalade of local kale, shallot and petit sausage

Ravioli with baby beets, mizuna and peaches

Hand-cut tagliatelle, local porcini and yellowfoot mushrooms

Mini brioche grilled cheese and apples

Frozen lemon and fromage blanc mousse with chocolate ganache

Wine includes:

Chardonnay, Dreyer Sonoma, 2006, Sonoma County, California.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Murphy’s Law Red, 2006, Columbia Valley, Washington.
Zinfandel, Z-52, 2006, Lodi, California.
Rose, Solorosa, 2007, Napa, California.
Rosso Classico, Il Cuore, 2006, Mendocino, California.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Wyatt, 2007, California.
Chenin Blanc, Dom. des Baumard, “Clos St. Catherine”, 1998, Loire Valley, France.

T.W. Food
377 Walden Street
Cambridge, MA
Phone: 617-864-4745

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bad News: Alcohol Tax is Coming

With a heavy heart, I have some bad news for Massachusetts wine and liquor lovers. I ranted earlier this week about the proposed 6.25% tax on alcohol that Massachusetts sought to pass. Though the budget passed the House and Senate, the Governor was going to veto it unless some ethics reform legislation also passed.

Today though, the papers are reporting that the House and Senate passed an ethics bill yesterday and that Governor Patrick is now ready to approve the new, increased tax. So it looks like the alcohol tax will become a reality. Get ready to pay more for your wine, beer and spirits. Ugh.

The Beehive: Bastille Day

The Beehive will be making musical history during their 2nd Annual Bastille Day Celebration on July 14 from 5pm-2am. The Beehive will once again be pushing the envelope as they present a special reunion/tribute concert to the iconic and often controversial French singer-songwriter, musician, actor and director Serge Gainsbourg.

While Gainsbourg passed away in 1991 his legacy has lived on as an icon, often referred to as one of the world’s most influential musicians, and has become part of the fabric of French-pop culture. Performed for the first time ever in North America by “Gainsbourg Etcetera" - a musical collaboration of Gainsbourg’s wife Bambou Gainsbourg, son LuLu Gainsbourg and five of Gainsbourg’s former musicians including: Gary “Mr. La Javanaise" Georgett, Mike Rathke, Tony “Thunder” Smith, John Kumnick and Stan Harrison, this event is truly musical history in the making as the group performs renditions of Gainsbourg’s works and original arrangements by LuLu Gainsbourg.

The impact that Gainsbourg had on not just French culture, or music culture, but on popular culture itself… is immeasurable. We’re honored to have been able to work with the incomparable Tony Smith, Bambou Gainsbourg, LuLu Gainsbourg and everyone involved to make this event happen. The event is truly about “La France Today” – these performers are not only world-class, but a strong representation of modern French pop culture,” Said Bertil Jean-Chronberg, General Manager of The Beehive and event organizer.

The event will be not only an all-star collaboration, but also a joint performance bringing in the contemporary French pop sensation ElodieO to the stage to both open the show and perform live with Gainsbourg Etcetera! ElodieO’s music has been described as an elegant mix of 60's Nico-esque popand 90's golden era trip-hop and down-tempo. Intermittent French Electro-Pop and Gainsbourg re-mixes will be provided by Christopher Muther Dj’ing for the event.

So as Boston becomes Paris for one night only, The Beehive will also feature casual-French inspired fare and specials via the restaurant, flowing champagne bubbles (with the most extensive champagne list in New England featured at The Beehive) and one of the most authentic and exclusive Bastille Day celebrations in the U.S.

Full dinner reservation guarantees you an “in” with no fees – otherwise, advanced tickets are only $25 or a mere $10 at the door if this event isn’t sold out. Call 617-423-0069 for more information or visit beehiveboston.com to get your tickets online!

This event is brought to you not only by The Beehive, but in-part by the in-kind sponsorship of: Kronenbourg, Absolut Vodka and The Lenox Hotel, Back Bay Boston.

About Serge Gainsbourg:
Born Lucien Ginzberg in Paris on April 2, 1928, his parents were Russian Jews who fled to France following the events of the 1917 Bolshevik uprising. After studying art and teaching, he turned to painting before working as a bar pianist on the local cabaret circuit. Soon he was tapped to join the cast of the musical Milord L'Arsoille, where he reluctantly assumed a singing role; self-conscious about his rather homely appearance, Gainsbourg initially wanted only to carve out a niche as a composer and producer, not as a performer.

Still, he made his recording debut in 1958 with the album Du Chant a la Une; while strong efforts like 1961's L'Etonnant Serge Gainsbourg and 1964's Gainsbourg Confidentiel followed, his jazz-inflected solo work performed poorly on the charts, although compositions for vocalists ranging from Petula Clark to Juliette Greco to Dionne Warwick proved much more successful. In the late '60s, he befriended the actress Brigitte Bardot, and later became her lover; with Bardot as his muse, Gainsbourg's lushly arranged music suddenly became erotic and delirious, and together, they performed a series of duets — including "Bonnie and Clyde," "Harley Davidson," and "Comic Strip" — celebrating pop culture icons.

Gainsbourg's affair with Bardot was brief, but its effects were irrevocable: after he became involved with constant companion Jane Birkin, they recorded the 1969 duet "Je T'Aime...Moi Non Plus," a song he originally penned for Bardot complete with steamy lyrics and explicit heavy breathing. Although banned in many corners of the globe, it reached the top of the charts throughout Europe, and grew in stature to become an underground classic later covered by performers ranging from Donna Summer to Ray Conniff.

Gainsbourg returned in 1971 with Histoire de Melody Nelson, a dark, complex song cycle which signalled his increasing alienation from modern culture: drugs, disease, suicide and misanthropy became thematic fixtures of his work, which grew more esoteric, inflammatory, and outrageous with each passing release. Although Gainsbourg never again reached the commercial success of his late-'60s peak, he remained an imposing and controversial figure throughout Europe, where he was both vilified and celebrated for his shocking behavior, which included burning 500 francs on a live television broadcast and recording a reggae version of the sacred "La Marseillaise."

Gainsbourg also created a furor with the single "Lemon Incest," a duet with his daughter, the actress Charlotte Gainsbourg. In addition, he posed in drag for the cover of 1984's Love on the Beat, a collection of songs about male hustlers, and made sexual advances towards Whitney Houston on a live TV broadcast. Along with his pop music oeuvre, Gainsbourg scored a number of films, and also directed and appeared in a handful of features, most notably 1976's Je T'Aime...Moi Non Plus, which starred Birkin and Andy Warhol mainstay Joe Dallesandro. He died on March 2, 1991.

Sandrine's Bistro: Bastille Day Celebration

The region’s largest Bastille Day celebration, free and open to the public, takes place in the heart of Harvard Square on Sunday, July 12. Activities begin at 3pm and continue until 1am.

Activities include:
· Shady sidewalk beer and wine garden
· Quality food and product vendors line the street (crepes, sausages, cakes, juices, soups, books, jewelry)
· Traditional French waiter’s race will be held for major prizes
· Live musical entertainment followed by a DJ
· Dancing under twinkling lights

This event is sponsored by Sandrine’s Bistro and The Harvard Square Business Association. Sandrine's Bistro will also be offering sidewalk seating, an extravagant $25 prix fixe menu at both lunch and dinner during Bastille Week, and creative cocktails until 1 AM.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

2004 Makor de Elvi

I recently drank a Kosher wine yet I was unaware that it was Kosher when I purchased it. While browsing through the Lower Falls Wine Co., I checked out their Spanish section. They don't have an area set aside for Kosher wines and this wine was not noted as being Kosher either. It was just one more Spanish wine mixed in with all the others.

I chose to purchase it because it is from a lesser known region of Spain, Utiel-Requena, and contains a lesser known grape, Bobal. I wanted something different and it was one of the wines that fit that desire. Though I looked at the back label, I did not notice its Kosher designation. Though even if I had seen the designation, it would not have affected my decision to buy it. I am pleased though that the wine store did not emphasize that aspect of the wine, treating it just like any other wine.

The 2004 Makor de Elvi ($23) is produced by Elvi Wines, a family-owned company in Spain that only produces Kosher wines from several different D.O.s, including Priorat, Utiel-Requena, Ribera del Jucar, La Rioja, and Cava. This wine came from the Utiel-Requena D.O., which is located to the west in the province of Valencia. I originally thought this wine was made from 100% Bobal, as it is the only grape listed on the label, but I subsequently learned this wine is actually a blend of 50% Bobal, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Tempranillo. It appears to be aged in oak for nine months, though I am unsure of the type of oak, and has an alcohol content of 13%.

Bobal is indigenous to Utiel-Requena and derives its name from the Latin term "bovale" which refers to the shape of a bull’s head. Though it often was used to make bulk wines, there are now efforts to produce high quality bobal wines. I have had a few other wines made with bobal and have enjoyed them, including the 2005 Bodegas Mustiguillo “Mestizajes."

The Makor had a rich, deep purple color with smells of ripe plum and blueberry. On the palate, there was plenty of spice up front which transformed into a fruity taste. Lots of plum, blackberry, and dark cherry flavors. It is a medium-bodied wine and the tannins were restrained. The finish was fairly long, though with a bit of sourness on the end. I had this wine with a roast chicken breast and corn bread stuffing. It actually was a decent pairing as the wine was not overly tannic and the fruit did seem to go well with the spices on the chicken. Check out this wine and see some of the potential of Bobal.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

German Wine Tasting: June 25

German wines can be confusing, especially with all the strange German terms on their labels. Would you like to learn more about German wines, to help cut through the confusion? If so, then check out a special German Wine Tasting & Regional Survey at the Lower Falls Wine Co. on Thursday, June 25th from 5pm-6:30pm.

Their own Luke Wohlers, Master Sommelier candidate and German wine aficionado, will host this fun, educational affair. Luke will pour a spectrum of whites so you can hone in on the regional differences in German white wine. This will be a broad survey, with an emphasis on the dry styles widely popular in Germany and increasingly available in the US. Luke will also touch on issues such as the German classification system and the effects of global warming, including the current trend towards riper whites and the potential for serious reds.

The event is free and no RSVP is required. There will also be special pricing on German wines during the event.

Lower Falls Wine Co.
2366 Washington Street (Rt. 16)
Newton Lower Falls, MA
Phone: (617) 332-3000

City/Town Recommendations #14

This is my fourteenth 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 Somerville, Waltham, and Wellesley. 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.



415 Washington St.
Somerville, MA
Phone: (617) 661-3254
(Excellent Spanish Tapas and Sangria. Great ambiance and very romantic spot)

Gargoyles on the Square
219 Elm Street
Somerville, MA
Phone: (617) 776-5300
(Excellent American cuisine with Asian influences. Very good brunch.)

When Pigs Fly
378b Highland Ave.
Somerville, MA
Phone: (617) 776-0021
(Very good bread bakery with lots of diverse choices)

Taza Chocolate
561 Windsor Street
Somerville, MA
Phone: (617) 623-0804
(Excellent artisan chocolate maker)



Il Capriccio
888 Main St.
Waltham, MA
Phone: (781) 894-2234
(Excellent Italian cuisine with a killer wine list)

Wine Stores:

Gordon's Fine Wines and Liquors
894 Main Street
Waltham, MA
Phone: 781-893-1900
(Very good wine store with frequent tasting events)



Quebrada Baking Co.
272 Washington St.
Wellesley, MA
Phone: (781) 237-2111
(Very good bakery with exceptional Snickerdoodles)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

L'Andana: Creative Advertising

This is dedication!

Edson Coimbra, Jr. (pictured above) is the General Manager of the L'Andana restaurant in Burlington. He drives a scooter to work and decided to add a special banner promoting the restaurant to the back of his scooter. I think that is creative advertising and I bet plenty of picture check it out when he drives by.

My readers know that I am a big fan of L'Andana and I strongly recommend that you check it out. If you want value, check out their new Enoteca menu with plenty of small plates and inexpensive dishes. On a recent visit there, I was also very pleased to see that they now carry a local wine from my favorite Massachusetts winery. They stock the Turtle Creek Zinfandel (which is made in Lincoln, MA).

86 Cambridge Street
Burlington, MA
Phone: (781) 270-0100

Women & Wine Preferences

Women buy more wine than men. Besides that fact, there are numerous other differences between women and men as it relates to wine. The new issue of Wine Spectator (7/31/09) discusses an intriguing online survey, that the magazine conducted in conjunction with Vinexpo, concerning women and wine.

The survey involved only 431 women (aged 21 to over 60 years old) in the U.S. So, though this is only a small sample, some of its findings reflect results from prior studies and surveys. The results are also still interesting.

93% of the respondents drank wine at least once a week and 80% of the time it is with food. It is good to see so many women drinking wine with their meals. I think that helps promote more of a wine culture, that wine can be an integral accompaniement to food. 79% of women prefer red wine to white or rose. That goes against the stereotype of women usually being white wine lovers.

It was also good to see that 65% of the time women would try a new wine rather than buy a wine they have had before and enjoyed. Nice to see how adventurous they are with wine and I only hope men are similarly as adventurous.

What was really interesting, was to see where women and men seek out advice on buying wine. Respondents could choose two answers. For women, they most often (46.2%) would turn to a wine merchant. They would consult newspapers and magazines about 35.7% of the time. Only 26% consulted Internet resources, such as blogs. For men, there were some differences. Men consulted newspapers and magazines about 44% of the time and consulted Internet resources about 46% of the time.

So it appears men are more likely than women to consult blogs for wine advice and recommendations. Magazines and newspapers still remain a significant factor for both men and women. All very interesting.

Monday, June 22, 2009

New BJ's Liquor Store

Back in January, I mentioned that a new liquor store was coming to Stoneham. A liquor license was granted to RWJ Beverage LLC. and they have now opened a small store within B.J.'s Wholesale Club. I previously had some concerns about whether this would be the type of store that I would like, whether it would be a place for wine lovers or not.

I have checked out the new store a couple times now, and should note that some minor changes were made since my original stop. But, much of my concerns about this store seem to have been realized.

The store is roughly rectangular with wine and alcohol on three sides, plus two rows of wine bins in the middle of the store. There is a small, windowed case for some of the more expensive items.

They sell some hard liquor though their selection is more limited than many other stores. For example, they only have eight brands of vodka, from Gordon's to Ketel One. Prices are good and that seems to be the primary reason why many will buy alcohol here. Though you can find other stores with similar competive prices, such as Rapid Liquors in Stoneham.

There are about 100 different wines available, approximately 90% costing less than $20. There are many familiar brands, such as Yellowtail and Beringer. They seemed to be heavy on California wines and I was not keen on their diversity. This is not a place where I found anything unique or unusual. But, prices are good and that will be a drawing point for some. For example, the Caymus Conundrum only cost $22, as opposed to the more usual $27-$30.

There were only about five higher-end wines in their windowed cabinet, from a 2006 Stag's Leap Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon ($45) to a 2006 Concha Y Toro Don Melchor ($60). Those prices are only about 10% less than usual retail so they are not significantly discounted.

The store will likely undergo some further minor changes in the near future but they are not headed in the direction I would prefer. This is not a destination for wine lovers but rather a place to go to save a little money on ordinary wines and liquors. Though my preference, if I want to save money and get a better selection of wine and alcohol, I will continue going to Rapid Liquors.

Update as of 6/22/09 (2:30pm): I had an informative conversation with Mike Reardon of RWJ Beverage. He explained much about the model for his wine/liquor store, future plans, and other such matters. It was a very positive conversation and I will be sharing my insights soon. In short, Mike is really trying to improve the store and make it a worthwhile destination.

Rant: Alcohol Tax in Massachusetts

Just read the local headlines of the Boston newspapers. Corrupt politicians taking bribes, rampant spending waste, difficult economic times for many families. Do we really need more taxes? Especially on alcohol?

The proposal for the new Massachusetts budget includes an increase to the sales tax, from 5% to 6.25%, as well as making that tax applicable to alcohol, which was previously nontaxed at retail stores. That budget is close to being enacted. Both the House and Senate have approved the bill and it is now up to Governor Deval Patrick. The Governor has stated he would veto the sales tax increase unless the Legislature also passed ethics reform legislation. So it is unsure whether the the tax increase will go through or not.

When so many families are having difficulty making ends meet, then how will additional taxes help them? From speaking to a number of people, it will likely cause many of them to spend less or go to New Hampshire where there is no sales tax. This will be especially noticeable in those cities and towns closest to New Hampshire. New Hampshire liquor stores already have good prices, and a decent selection, so why wouldn't people buy their wine and alcohol there? The alcohol tax will hurt small many business owners in Massachusetts, especially those small, independent wine and liquor stores.

If the state wants help with their budget, they should first directly address the problems of waste and corruption that exist. The Governor at least seems to understand part of that. Let us see if the Governor remains true to his statement though.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

City/Town Recommendations #13

This is my thirteenth 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 Natick, Needham, Newton Lower Falls, Salem and Tewksbury. 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.



1282 Worcester Rd.
Natick, MA
Phone: 508-647-0495
(Good all-you-can-eat Japanese, sushi, seafood buffet)



Petit Robert Bistro
45 Chapel Street
Needham, MA
Phone: (781) 559-0532
(Excellent French bistro)

Spiga Trattoria Italiana
18 Highland Circle
Needham, MA
Phone: (781) 449-5600
(Excellent Italian cuisine. Superb bread pudding)

Newton Lower Falls

Wine Stores:

Lower Falls Wine Co.
2366 Washington Street (Rt. 16)
Newton Lower Falls, MA
Phone: (617) 332-3000
(Excellent wine story with great selection and service)


Wine Stores:

Salem Wine Imports
32 Church St.
Salem, MA
Phone: 978-741-9463
(Very good boutique wine store)


Fresh Taste of Asia
118 Washington Street
Salem, MA
Phone: (978) 825-1388
(Very good Asian food including sushi)



1487 Main St.
Tewksbury, MA
Phone: (978) 863-9889
(Good Japanese cuisine and hibachi steakhouse)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

New Wine & Beer Stores Coming to Melrose

I have some good news, that three new wine stores will open soon in the local area, namely Melrose.

Melrose, which previously did not permit liquor stores, has finally changed and decided there is a place for such businesses in their town. Several businesses quickly stepped forward seeking one of the three liquor licenses that were available. These licenses apparently only permit the sale of wine and beer, and not hard liquor.

Last month, the Melrose Liquor Licensing Commission finally made their decision on who would obtain the licenses.

One license went to Carl Caratozzolo and Jerry Pulaski, owners of the existing Sweet Thoughts gift store which is located at 504 Main Street, near Turner's Seafood. They sell a variety of items, including gourmet foods. I am curious how much wine they will stock considering they already sell numerous other items.

Another license went to Richard Moyette, the owner of McDonough’s Liquors in Stoneham. The new store will be called McDonough’s Fine Wines and will be situated in the Oak Grove Village area. I am familiar with his store in Stoneham so am curious how the Melrose store will differ, it at all. If it concentrates more on wine, that could be a good thing.

The third license went to Gene and Rebecca Beraldi, the owners of Beacon Hill Wine and Spirits which is located at 63 Charles Street in Boston. The new store will be called Beacon Hill Wine and Gourmet and will be situated at the corner of Main and Essex Streets, not too far from Sweet Thoughts. I know the Beacon Hill store and I like it, and expect they will create a good wine store in Melrose. I am really looking forward to seeing what they do.

These new wine stores will likely not open until at least August, once all the license paperwork and redtape is completed. I'll keep my eye on the situation and report back when they do open.

City/Town Recommendations #12

This is my twelfth 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 Concord, Malden, Melrose, and Middleton. 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:

The Concord Cheese Shop
29 Walden Stree
Concord, MA
Phone: (978) 369-5778
(Very good wine shop which also sells gourmet cheeses)

Farfalle Italian Market
26 Concord Crossing
Concord, MA
Phone: 978-369-2900
(Very good wines, mostly Italian, plus it is an Italian grocery store and cafe)


La Provence
105 Thoreau St.
Concord, MA
Phone: (978) 371-7428
(Very good French cafe and bakery)

Bedford Farms Ice Cream
68 Thoreau Street
Concord, MA
Phone: (978) 341-0000
(Excellent home-made ice cream)


Wine Stores:

Kappy's Fine Wine & Spirits
325 Bennett Highway
Malden, MA
Phone: (781) 321-1000
(Very good selection of wine)


All Seasons Table
64 Pleasant Street
Malden, MA
Phone: (781) 397-8188
(Very good Asian cuisine and sushi)

Ristorante Serena
18 Lebanon St.
Malden, MA
Phone: (781) 324-3170
(Very good Italian cuisine)

Sun Guang Bakery
423 Main St.
Malden, MA
Phone:(781) 388-9837
(Excellent Chinese bakery with delicious cakes)



Turner's Seafood
506 Main St.
Melrose, MA
Phone: 781-662-0700
(Very good, fresh seafood)

Bobby C's Ristorante
2 Main St.
Melrose, MA
Phone: 781-662-5472
(Very good Italian cuisine)



119 South Main St.
Middleton, MA
Phone: 978-774-0500
(Excellent steakhouse with reasonable prices)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bin Ends: Fine Wine Flea Market

Bin Ends, the discount wine store in Braintree, announces its first Fine Wine Flea Market. This will be a fine wine tasting and sales event and it is free to attend. You will be able to taste dozens upon dozens of fine wines from many of the world's top wine producers.

Wines will be available for purchase day of the show and for pick up and delivery later that week. First come, first served. All wines will be available before July 4th weekend. These deeply discounted prices (up to 50% off) will be available day of show only. You can also enter a drawing to win a bottle of 2002 Roederer Cristal Champagne.

I expect this will be an excellent event with lots of great deals. I will probably try to attend and hope to see some of my readers there too.

The event will be held on Sunday, June 28, from 1pm-5pm. The first 100 folks to arrive will get a complimentary GoVino tasting glass. Please RSVP asap as space is very limited. To register, send an email to mailto:torsvp@binendswine.com, or call 781-817-1212

Bin Ends
236 Wood Road
Braintree, MA 02185

Petit Robert Bistro: Father's Day

Petit Robert Bistro, where every entrée on the menu costs less than $20, is the solution to honoring Dad with a delicious and celebratory meal without spending an entire paycheck to do so. The trio of Petit Robert Bistros has never raised its prices, yet portions and quality remain at Father’s Day calibre.

Chef Jacky Robert is father to two young adults, but more importantly, he is the virtual Father of French Cuisine in Boston. Robert was the first executive chef in the city to hire a female sous chef. In addition, his protogees and family tree of kitchen “offspring” since 1973 include super stars like Lydia Shire, Lee Napoli, and by cross-pollenization Susan Regis, Tony Ambrose, Bill Poirier, Frank McClelland, Gordon Hamersley, Jeff Fournier and Marc Orfaly, among others.

Make Dad Smile with More Than a Dozen Under-$20 Entrees, like:

* Roast Rack of Lamb with Pommes Lyonnaise

* Veal Blanquette with Rice Pilaf

* Grilled Salmon Steak

* Panko-Crusted Pork Loin with Caper Butter

* Grilled Skirt Steak and Frites with choice of three classic French sauces

* Chicken Coq au Vin with Buttery Noodles

* Local Bluefish with Maine Lobster and Corn Cream

* Calf’s Liver with Caramelized Onions and Bacon

Naturally, French wines and beers are poured, and French desserts like Mousse au Chocolat and Grand Marnier Souffle satisfy Dad’s demanding sweet tooth.

Call for reservations.

Petit Robert Bistro
468 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA
Phone: 617-375-0699

480 Columbus Avenue
Boston, MA
Phone: 617-867-0600

45 Chapel Street
Needham, MA
Phone: 781-559-0532

Thursday, June 18, 2009

City/Town Recommendations #11

This is my eleventh 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 Brookline, Burlington and Danvers. 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:

The Wine Gallery
375 Boylston Street (Rte 9 @ Cypress St)
Brookline, MA
Phone: (617) 277-5522
(Very good wine store with Enomatic tasting machine and gourmet foods)

Wine Press
1024 Beacon St.
Brookline, MA
Phone: (617) 277-7020
(Very good wine store with plenty of value wines)


1280 Beacon St.
Brookline, MA
Phone: (617) 734-1268
(Excellent Japanese cuisine with fine sushi, albeit a bit pricey.)

Japonaise Café and Bakery
1020 Beacon Street
Brookline, MA
Phone: (617) 566-7730
(Excellent bakery with great sliced, "Shoku Pan" bread)



86 Cambridge Street
Burlington, MA
Phone: (781) 270-0100
(Excellent Italian cuisine with value menu in their bar/lounge)

Capital Grille
10 Wayside Road
Burlington, MA
Phone: (781) 505-4130
(Very good steakhouse, albeit pricey)

Ginger Pad
Wayside Commons
4A Wayside Road
Burlington, MA
Phone: (781) 221.7899
(Very good and inexpensive Asian rice and stirfry bowls)



Hardcover Restaurant
15 A Newbury St. (Route 1 North)
Danvers, MA
Phone: 978-774-1223
(Good steakhouse, all-you-can-eat salad buffet, and romantic setting)

Stoneham Farmer's Market

The Stoneham Farmer's Market is now open, every Tuesday through October 13, from 2pm-7pm. It is located in the rear parking lot of the Stoneham Council of Aging at 136 Elm Street, Stoneham.

I stopped there the other day to check it out and found around a dozen or so booths. There were about five booths selling fruits and vegetables, three with bread and baked goods, and booths with assorted artisans, such as soaps and artwork. The produce looked pretty good though I don't know how reasonable the prices are as I have not had much opportunity to compare them to other markets. None of the prices though seemed glaringly out of whack.

I was pleased to see Mamadou Bakery had a booth. They have a store in Winchester and produce excellent bread, in a wide variety of flavors and types. I bought a loaf of bread that was even still warm. Big Sky Bread and Bakery had a booth with plenty of bread, pastries and baked goods. They have a store in Newton though I have not been there. There products looked quite good though and I bought a couple things to try, including some large coconut macaroons which were quite moist and filled with plenty of coconut.

It is definitely worth the effort to stop by the market and check it out.

Morton's Cocktail Recipe Contest

Calling All Mixologists ...

To celebrate summer, Morton’s Back Bay is hosting a cocktail recipe contest. Patrons are invited to submit their favorite summer drink recipe to cm.mbo@mortons.com (attn: Katie Butler). The winner will receive a private cocktail party for 10 at Morton’s Bar 12.21, where their summer libation will be served exclusively to their guests.

When: June 16 – July 31. The Winner will be announced on August 3, 2009

Why not take a chance and submit your favorite cocktail creation?

699 Boylston Street
Boston, MA
Phone: 617-266-5858

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Catching Fire

What made us human? What helped to differentiate us from the rest of the animal kingdom? Anthropologists long have theorized that man truly began to change when he started eating meat, when he became a hunter. Yet that might not be an adequate explanation. It might not have been sufficient to truly transform man. What might have assisted the matter is "cooking."

This intriguing theory is outlined in Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham (Basic Books, May 2009, $26.95). Wrangham is the Ruth Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University and Curator of Primate Behavioral Biology at the Peabody Museum. So he is a local author. This hard cover book has 207 pages of text and over 40 pages of notes.

One of the chapters which most interested me was the first chapter, dealing with a comparison of raw food versus cooked food. There has been a raw food movement, extolling its virtues, though it does not appear to have caught on that much locally. This chapter though extolls the virtues of cooked food, pointing out the problems of raw food, countering some of the commonly cited advantages of raw food. I did not know that even animals grow faster when they eat cooked food.

Wrangham has written a compelling and fascinating case for his theory. Though well written, the book sometimes tends to get a little academic for a general reader, though very appropriate for the subject matter. It is thus not a book for a casual reader but if the subject matter intrigues you, then you'll find much of interest in it.

Coppa & Ken Oringer

Last week, James Beard Award-winning chef Ken Oringer announced plans to open his sixth Boston restaurant.

Coppa, which will be located in the city’s South End just six blocks away from his Barcelona-themed tapas bar Toro, is slated to open in late August as an Italian enoteca (wine bar). The Web site (www.Coppaboston.com) will be up soon.

Oringer and partner Jamie Bissonette, currently chef de cuisine @ Toro, are developing an Italianate menu of small plates, handmade pasta, pizzas, and the charcuterie and nose-to-tail cooking for which the two men are both renowned. Prices will be under $13.

Bissonette’s wife Courtney will run the front of the house, which holds just 40 seats indoors, plus 24 more on a brick patio outside. Italian wines and artisinal beers will be poured, and ingredients will be “as local and sustainable as humanly possible,” promises Oringer.

I am eagerly looking forward to this new restaurant, especially as I think Chef Bissonette has done some a great job at Toro. Plus, it looks like this will be a value restaurant too.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tupelo: Delicious Fried Grits

Who would have thought that fried grits could be so tasty?

There is a new restaurant in Inman Square, Tupelo, which provides Southern cuisine. Located on the site of the former Magnolias, Tupelo is owned by Renee McLeod (of Petsi Pies fame) and Mike Walker. Chef Rembs Layman’s family came from New Orleans and he has worked at places including Chez Henri, La Morra, and Pomodoro.

Tupelo is a very casual and cozy eatery, with a small bar. They serve only wine and beer, and the wine list is small but diverse. I had a glass of Pinno Pinotage ($6.50), a good and inexpensive wine from South Africa. They also serve fresh brewed, unsweetened iced tea ($2) with free refills. If you refer back to yesterday's rant, you can see that this restaurant is doing it right with their iced tea. I also note that you are served water in a mason jar.

The food menu is split into Small Plates ($5-$8), Creoles, Etouffees & Jambalayas of the Day ($7), Entrees ($9-$15) and Side Plates ($5). Thus it is relatively inexpensive and the dishes provide a decent quantity for the price. There are also usually several nightly Specials available.

One item not listed on the menu is Corn Bread, one of my favorite foods. How can a Southern restaurant not serve corn bread? I was a bit disappointed but I asked my server about it anyways. Fortunately they did have corn bread available and I ate a couple pieces (plus there was no charge for it). It was tasty and moist though I would have preferred that it had been served warm. I probably could have gotten that though if I had requested it. Next time I will know.

I began my meal with one of their specials, Fried Grits ($5), which had come highly recommended by Pam of Cave Cibum. Though I am not usually a fan of grits, or at least what is commonly available locally, I decided to give this a try. They looked nothing like traditional grits. Instead, they reminded me of marshmallows, small squares with a crisp exterior but a creamy interior with a flavorful corn taste. I dripped a little hot sauce atop each fried grit and enjoyed them very much. I would heartily second Pam's recommendation on this dish.

I also tried the Jambalaya ($7) which contained thin slices of sausage, shredded crab meat and shrimp. For the price, this was a decent-sized dish with plenty of flavor. The rice was cooked well, the dish was spiced properly and there was plenty of seafood. Another dish I would recommend.

The hardest part of my meal was trying to decide which dessert to order. All of the desserts cost $7 each and they all sounded delicious. Coconut cream pie, double chocolate bread pudding, pecan pie, banana pudding and more. The dessert chef is Rachael Cummings and they also get some items from Petsi Pies and ice cream from Toscanini’s.

After much consideration, I chose the Coconut Cream Pie with bittersweet chocolate. This came like an individual tart, a flaky pastry shell containing a creamy, coconut filling all topped by a mound of fresh whipped cream. The plate was swirled with bittersweet chocolate. A decadently delicious treat which certainly satisfied me. It would be worth coming here just for dessert.

Service was excellent, my server being personable and accomodating. I enjoyed my dinner very much and Tupelo shows much promise. I certainly will return to try their other dishes. In these tough economic times, it is good to see a value restaurant open that provides excellent food. I do recommend you check out Tupelo.

1193 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA
Phone: (617) 868-0004

Tupelo on Urbanspoon

City/Town Recommendations #10

This is my tenth 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 Acton, Andover, Belmont, and Braintree. 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:

Acton Wine & Spirit Co.
305 Main St. (Route 27)
Acton, MA
Phone: (978) 263-9060
(Very good wine store, nice selection, and weekly wine tastings)


Wine Stores:

166 North Main Street
Andover, MA
Phone: 978-749-9464


63 Park Street
Andover, MA
Phone: 978-749-9777
(Good Chinese and Japanese cuisine)

19 Essex Street
Andover, MA
Phone: 978-475-4811
(Creative, seasonal and delicious cuisine.)

The Cupcake Boutique
13 Elm Street
Andover, MA
Phone: 978-475-4429
(Tasty, moist cupcakes)


Wine Stores:

The Spirited Gourmet
448 Common Street
Belmont, MA
Phone: 617-489-WINE
(Excellent wine store, great selection, free weekly wine tastings)


Vicki Lee's Cafe
105 Trapelo Road
Belmont, MA
Phone: 617-489-5007
(Very good cafe and bakery)


Wine Stores:

Bin Ends
236 Wood Road
Braintree, MA
Phone: (781) 817-1212
(Excellent wine store with great prices)

Henry's Wine Cellar

As I mentioned previously, Beverly Wine & Beer Co. closed its doors but has reopened with a new owner and location. The new owner, John Keohane, is also the owner of Henry's Foods and the new wine store, Henry's Wine Cellar, is located next to the food market. Kurt Reming, the former owner of Beverly Wine & Beer Co. will manage the new wine store.

Henry's Wine Cellar will have a soft opening on Monday, June 15, and there will be special events during the week.

Wednesday, June 17, 3pm-7pm: The special guest will be winemaker Diego Couarrubias of Porta Winery in Chile. He is stopping here on his way to the Aspen Food and Wine Festival to present five of Porta's delicious wines, accompanied by a selection of Henry's fine foods.

Thursday, June 18, 4pm-7pm: In Italy, wine is simply another food group, served daily with local recipes.and enjoyed with family and friends. To bring a little bit of Italy to our Italian-inspired wine store they will pair two Italian wines -- one white, one red -- with samples of Henry's Own Take-n-Bake Cheese Pizza. You decide which pairing works best! Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio $19.99 (reg. $27.99) or Tenuta Sant'Antonio Scaia Rossa del Veneto $11.99 (reg. $14.99)

Saturday, June 20, 2pm-5pm: Grand Opening
Celebrate the official grand opening of Henry's Wine Cellar. Enjoy a festive wine tasting, with a wide array of Kurt's handpicked selections. Sample delectable gourmet foods from Henry's Market. Admire the beautiful new store, complete with a cigar humidor in the former bank vault, while you meet and greet the staff from Henry's Wine Cellar and Henry's Market.

Monday, June 22, 4pm-7pm: Aram Deirmenjian of Kiamie Wines will pour his Paso Robles winesg. These prestige selections include a red Rhone-style blend, an unusual white Rhone wine, a rich Cabernet Sauvignon, and a unique red blend.

Thursday, June 25, 4pm-7pm: Special guest will be Cliff Lusso of Global Beer Network, a critically acclaimed Belgian beer importer. He will feature six beers to taste, and teach guests about the complexities of these highly regarded brews. Each beer will be paired with the perfect food from Henry's kitchen.

Henry's Wine Cellar
588 Cabot Street
North Beverly, MA
Phone: 978.524.0300

Monday, June 15, 2009

How Do You Cut The Cheese?

I never really considered that there might be a recommended method to cut the cheese. Fortunately, the new issue of Culture (which was just released on newstands), the fascinating cheese magazine, explained how it should be done, as well as why.

The flavor and texture of a piece of cheese varies dependent on where it is cut. Cheese closest to the rind will have a stronger flavor and have a different texture than the middle. This gets even more noticeable in older cheeses.

If you want a slice of cheese to include all parts of the cheese, from the rind to the middle, then there are suggested ways to slice different shaped cheeses. The Culture article provides various diagrams of how to cut differently shaped cheeses to accomplish this task. This is something I will now think about when cutting and serving cheese.

The new issue of Culture is once again a pure delight, filled with plenty of other interesting articles. I am especially intrigued by a recipe for Roquefort-Honey Ice Cream. It sounds so delicious! If you love cheese and are not reading Culture, you should be.

Rant: Restaurants & Beverages

It is Monday morning and once again time for my weekly rant.

Though restaurants obviously understand the importance of their food, they sometimes fail to recognize that their beverages can be just as important. Food and drink complement each other, and a failure in the drink department can thus hurt a restaurant's overall quality. Sometimes it may seem a small matter, but those small items can make a significant difference.

I love fresh brewed, unsweetened iced tea. It is actually very easy and inexpensive to make yet some restaurants don't seem to get it. First, some restaurants won't serve iced tea year round because it is seen as a "summer" drink. Yet those same places will serve iced coffee year round as well as ice cream. Let us see iced tea available all the time. Second, some restaurants serve iced tea from the fountain, like a soda. I strongly dislike the taste of such iced tea. It seems artificial and has a funky taste. They should just spend $25 and buy an iced tea maker. Third, and what really irks me, is when a restaurant charges me for refills of my iced tea. It is so cheap to make, that it seems criminal when you get charged an extra $2 or more for a refill. A restaurant with unlimited refills of iced tea gets my recommendation.

I am also a big fan of Saké and it bothers me when the only thing I see on a drink menu is "Hot Saké." Generally, Saké is best serve chilled. Even when it is served warm, it should not be served as hot as you get it at those restaurants. Why serve Saké at all if you are not going to do it right? Yet just because a restaurant serves chilled Saké does not let them off the hook. If you buy a bottle of Saké, the restaurant should keep it chilled at your table, like they would a bottle of white wine. But not all places do that and they should.

There are 25-30 wineries in Massachusetts, plus plenty more in the rest of New England. In addition, New York, has its own significant wine industry. So why don't you see more of these local wines on restaurant wine lists? Why aren't more restaurants supporting local wineries? Yes, some restaurants will add one or two local wines to their menus, but plenty don't. Those restaurants who pride themselves on providing local foods should especially consider adding local wines to their lists. Not all local wines are worthy of a restaurant wine list, but there are plenty that would enhance such a list.

Do you have some of your own restaurant and beverage issues? If so, please tell me about them in the comments.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Announcing WBW #59: Homage to Kushi no Kami

This month for Wine Blogging Wednesday we will pay homage to Kushi no Kami. And who is Kushi no Kami? It is an ancient name for the god of Saké and for WBW #59 we pay homage to this unique beverage. Saké was once referred to as “kushi” which translates as "something mysterious or strange." To many people, Saké still is mysterious and strange but I hope to unveil some of that mystery and reveal its wonders.

Saké, also known as “rice wine” or “nihonshu,” is a beverage that I believe in taste, style and food compatibility most resembles wine. It is an incredibly diverse beverage with a wide range of styles and flavor profiles. You can find everything from Sparkling Saké to Koshu, aged Saké. Almost everyone should be able to find some type of Saké that will appeal to them.

The traditional Saké toast is "Kanpai", a rough equivalent to "cheers" though with a deeper meaning. This Japanese term literally translates as "empty or dry cup" though it really means "Let us drain our cups in friendship." Saké is very much a social drink.

For this theme, all you have to do is to conduct your own kikishu (“Saké tasting”) by selecting any Saké and reviewing it. You will earn bonus points if you review multiple Sakés of different styles or types. For example, you could compare a Ginjo to a Daiginjo or a Honjozo to a Junmai. You will also earn bonus points for pairing Saké with food.

Where can you find Saké? First, there are three all-Saké stores in the U.S. where you can shop or order online. These include True Saké in San Francisco, Sakaya in New York City, and Saké Nomi in Seattle. Plus, your own local wine store may carry some Saké.

If you want more information about Saké, then check out my blog, especially my posts from January 2008 when I did a month-long special on Saké. A few of posts that might be of interest include Types of Saké, Saké & Food, and Saké Tasting. You can also check out the Saké links on the left side of my blog.

You have until Wednesday, July 8, 2009 to post your review. Please email me a link to your post at ubarluther@aol.com. If you don’t have your own blog, put up your review as a comment on this blog. I hope that existing Saké lovers share their love for this fine beverage and newcomers to Saké learn something, and maybe find something new to enjoy.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Templars & Wine

The Knights Templar, which existed from the 12th to 14th centuries, have acquired a mysterious and conspiratorial reputation in modern pop culture. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown is but one popular book that has dealt with the Knights. Yet the real Knights were often more ordinary than commonly depicted.

To financially support their military endeavors, the Knights Templar engaged in various businesses, including wine making. A significant agricultural area for the Knights was Catalonia in Spain. Renaissance Magazine (issue #67) just published an article "Days of Wine and Olive Oil" written by Paula Stiles. This interesting, albeit brief, article discusses the role of the Knights in wine making in Catalonia.

The Knights drank wine every day and their wine consumption was governed by certain regulations. The wine they drank had to be diluted, and they also had to share a glass with another person. This all seemed directed at preventing the Knights from getting drunk. They may have used the traditional porron. It is also likely they drank wines made with Spanish grapes like Tempranillo, Paralleda and Garnacha.

Check out the article, or maybe do research elsewhere to learn more about the Templars and their wine making.

Turner's Seafood: Crab Festival

Though there is only one kind of edible crab found in New England waters, the big-clawed, flaky Jonah, that doesn’t mean we don’t crave other varieties of these sweet and succulent crustaceans, and late spring is when Turner’s Seafood in Melrose flies them in from around the country: King crab from Alaska, Dungeness from California, and soft shell from Maryland.

Turner’s Seafood is now holding their annual Crab Fest, now through June 28. A special Crab Fest menu is available, in addition to the regular menu of more than 50 creative fish and seafood offerings.

Crab Fest Highlights include:

* Asian-Style Jonah crab claws
* Classic Crab Cakes
* Crab Rangoon
* Steamed or Baked Dungeness or King Crab

The family that owns and operates Turner’s Seafood is also their seafood supplier, so diners are guaranteed that all crabs are literally hours old, and have undergone a rigorous eight-point inspection process with a member of the Turner family overseeing quality, storage, processing, portioning and preparation.

Unsurpassed quality standards every step from the boat dock to the plate have been the hallmark of Turner’s Seafood since James F. Turner founded the company more than 55 years ago. Today, grandsons Jim, Joe and Chris Turner run the company.

Turner’s Seafood wholesale operations are based in Gloucester, Massachusetts and supply finer seafood restaurants from Boston south to Florida and west to California.

Home Cooks Note: The fresh fish market within the Peter Neimitz-designed Turner's Seafood Grill & Market in Melrose will be selling various kinds of crab by the pound based on availability. See simple recipe below for making the most out of lump crabmeat.

Serves 4-6

1 lb. sliced mushrooms (any type)
1 TB vegetable oil
Pinch of sea salt
½ tsp cracked black pepper
2 TB chopped shallots
1 TB chopped garlic
2 TB salted butter
2 lbs fresh lump crabmeat
½ c. cooking sherry
2 tsp chopped fresh parsley

Pre-heat a large sauté pan and add mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook mushrooms until they obtain a nice brown color and all liquid has dissolved.

Next, add shallots, garlic and butter. Continue cooking for two minutes then gently add crab meat (do not break up the lumps).

After one minute, carefully add sherry. NOTE: Steam from the liquid will heat the crab, so there's no need to stir. When crab is hot the dish is ready.

Garnish plate with fresh chopped parsley. Serve with steamed spinach and boiled new potatoes.

Turner's Seafood
506 Main St
Melrose, MA 02176

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bistro 5 & Spirited Gourmet: Wine Dinner June 26

If you love excellent Italian cuisine and fine Italian wine, then you will be interested in an upcoming wine dinner which involves some of my favorites. The Spirited Gourmet in Belmont is hosting their second wine dinner with Bistro 5 in Medford, featuring wines from Vineyard Road Imports.

I love the food at Bistro 5 and selected it as my "Favorite Local Restaurant" of 2008. Vineyard Road is also one of my favorite importers and they have some incredible selections in their portfolio. This wine dinner should be quite an event.

The wine dinner will be held on Friday, June 26th, from 7pm-9pm with a Reception starting at 6:30pm.

The five-course menu includes:

Hamachi Carpaccio with truffle froth and foie gras mousse

Soft Shell Crab with saffron froth, Spanish chorizo and chipotle aioli

House cured boar and duck Salumi with Foie Gras mousse and pear gelee

Lamb Medallions in Barbaresco sauce with sage rosemary and tomato bread pudding

Dessert Tasting

The dinner will be paired with the following wines (and some surprises). I should note that some of these wines are making their debut at this dinner.

NV San Giuseppe Prosecco - Reception wine
2007 La Bella Notte Armonico - Friuli
2005 Vodopivec Vitovska Classica - Friuli
2005 Montaribaldi Barbaresco "Palazzina" - Piedmont
2004 Convento Muri Gries Lagrein "Abtei Muri" - Alto Adige
2006 Oasi Angeli "Kurni" Montepulciano - Abruzzo
1999 Riecine Sangiovese Passito - Tuscany

The dinner costs$100 Per Person (Tax and Gratuity Included). Please call The Spirited Gourmet to make reservations, and do so soon as I am sure this will sell out quickly.

The Spirited Gourmet
448 Common Street
Belmont, MAPhone: 617-489-WINE

Bistro 5
5 Playstead Road
Medford, MA
Phone: 781-395-7464

The Return of The Mouss-icle

One of my favorite chocolate shops, Chocolee Chocolates, is gearing up for summer with new products this month. Nearly every time I visit the South End, I just have to make a stop here. Maybe for the addictive salted caramels, or a warm beignet. It is a place I heartily recommend.

From June through October, proprietress/chocolatier Lee Napoli will be selling her $3 Mouss-icles. These icy cold treats are composed of rich milk chocolate mousse, frozen onto a stick, then dipped in both milk and dark chocolate.

In years past, Napoli’s Warm Chocolate Beignets were only available from October through June, but this year, they will remain on hand every weekend, year-round. $7 buys a bag of three custom-fried rounds of sweet dough filled with gooey chocolate ganche and sprinkled with granulated sugar. Individual beignets are $2.50 each.

Also ask for:

Custom-Filled Chocolate Eclairs @ $3 each

Dark Chocolate Dipped Giant Strawberries @ $2 each

Bittersweet Brownie Bites with Cream Cheese Layer @ just 95 cents apiece

Coming Soon: Chocolee Gelato sold by the scoop

Chocolate Truffles in Summer Flavors available per piece or per pound

Ok, I am getting a chocolate craving and am going to have to drop by here very soon.

Chocolee Chocolates
83 Pembroke Street
Boston, MA
Phone: 617-236-0606

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pinotage: Behind the Legends by Peter May

How much do you know about Pinotage? You might only know that it is a grape that originated in South Africa. Even if you know a bit more than that, you probably still don't know a lot about the grape. But as Pinotage plantings continue to spread to many different wine regions, it is a grape you may start hearing about more and more. So maybe you should be learn more about this unique grape. Plus it wouldn't hurt to taste and try some different Pinotage wines.

I recently reported on the publication of a new book all about Pinotage. Well, I purchased the book, eagerly devoured it and have returned to review it. Pinotage: Behind the Legends of South Africa's Own Wine (Inform & Enlighten, April 2009, $31.50) was written by Peter May, who also authors the Pinotage Club blog. The book is a trade-sized paperback of 238 pages.

This is a very comprehensive book, covering so many different aspects of Pinotage, from its origins to its future. I learned plenty about this grape, much of the information probably not available elsewhere. Peter also helps to clarify the facts behind the myths surrounding Pinotage. I enjoyed the stories about Pinotage wine makers and wineries. Overall, I was very pleased with this book and certainly recommend it.

The book begins seeking the origin of Pinotage, which has been shrouded in error and mystery. Yet in the end, you will learn the truth of when Pinotage was created, which grapes were used, and how it spread through South Africa. It is almost a miracle that it ever happened at all. I was amazed at the role a simple paintbrush played in the creation of Pinotage, and that the creator, Abraham Izak Perold, never got to taste a Pinotage wine.

Peter next discusses the growth, production and marketing of Pinotage, providing examples of specific wineries. Learn the role of an office stapler for joining scion and rootstock. Ever hear of a kuipe? It is an open concrete fermentation tank used by many Pinotage producers. There is even a discussion of Stormhoek Winery, who became very popular in large part to wine bloggers.

Next up, there is an interesting discussion of the various styles and types of Pinotage wines available, including rosé, sparkling, and dessert wines. The most fascinating varieties included a Pinotage Grappa and Pinarone, an Amarone style Pinotage! Have you seen the term "Cape Blend" on some South African wines? You can learn about the origins of this term, and efforts to create standards for the use of that term.

Much of the rest of the book discusses the spread of Pinotage to other regions of the world. I bet you did not realize how many areas now grow Pinotage. Though I knew Pinotage was grown in New Zealand, I thought their efforts were rather recent and did not realize their first Pinotage wine was released in 1964, only five years after South Africa. Over twenty California wineries now grow Pinotage.

Pinotage is also grown in Virginia, Montana, Oregon, North Carolina, New York, Canada, Israel, Zimbabwe, Australia, Brazil, and Cyprus. And probably other wine regions by now too. New York was a surprise to me, though currently only a single winery near Seneca Lake produces a wine with Pinotage as part of the blend. Maybe Long Island wineries should give it a try.

Peter May has written an excellent and fascinating book about an intriguing grape and I recommend you check it out.

A Taste of Westport: June 20

Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery will host a local wine & food festival fundraiser, A Taste of Westport, on Saturday, June 20, from 1-4pm. It will be held under one tent on the lawn at their winery in Westport, MA.

Local food, wine and beer will be the focus as guests can sample the wonderful flavors Westport has to offer. A portion of the proceeds from this event will go to support the preservation of farm land in Westport, through the Westport AgCom. Westport’s finest food providers, farmers, cheese makers, bakers, and more will be on hand to sample what they do best as event goers enjoy the sights at the vineyard and the sounds of live music. The event will also feature, Buzzards Bay Brewing, Running Brook Vineyards and Travessia Urban Winery, all of which source from the small town of Westport.

This is a rain or shine, 21+ event, under one tent and all are encouraged to dress farm casual and weather appropriate. Space is very limited and this small intimate wine & food festival will sell out! Local restaurants, caterers, and producers will be offering small samples to taste, as well as an array of locally grown and produced wines and beer will be on hand. There will be a cash raw bar available featuring locally sourced shellfish. Some vendors and participants will also have items for sale if you’re interested in bringing something back home with you.

Tickets are $45 per person. Cash raw bar and vendor items for sale excluded.

Advanced ticket sales only. Tickets and information are always available during regular business hours at the Westport Rivers Company Store located at the winery. Tickets also available online.

For more info please contact Westport Rivers at 508-636-3423 ext.2 or email: retail@westportrivers.com

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pho Republique: Lime Rickey

The lore of the Lime Rickey is shrouded in mystery with claims of its origins spanning from Washington D.C. in the 1920’s, to Brooklyn, New York and even Wildwood, New Jersey. To many Bostonians, Boston is the home of the seaside tradition; conjuring up beachfront memories paired with a box of fried clams and sandy flip-flops.

This summer, Bar Manager Vincent Conte of the South End hotspot Pho Republique, has finally decided to put an end to the “Lime Rickey Controversy” and hand-stamp Boston’s newest hometown made Lime Rickey.

While the Lime Rickey is a traditional drink, Pho Republique is adding the tantalizing flavor of Pomegranate moving the oceanfront visualization to a breathtaking dinner in Malaysia leaving your taste buds begging for more! So drink, taste, live and claim the newest addition to Boston’s drink arsenal. Celebrate your summer with Pho Republique and their new, Pomegranate Lime Rickey.

Recipe: 1.75oz Tanqueray Rangpur Gin
.25oz Pomegranate Reduction
Splash of Tonic
Lime Garnish

Directions: Pour 1.75oz of Tanqueray Rangpur Gin and .25oz of Pomegranate reduction and shake vigorously with ice. Add a splash of Tonic and serve in a tall, bamboo glass. Finally, garnish with lime.

Cost: The Pomegranate Lime Rickey is $10 and is now a permanent drink at Pho Republique available at their bar.

The Lime Rickey has always been a classic drink… This drink is memorable; people are going to recognize both the flavors of pomegranate and the traditional Lime Rickey,” said Vincent Conte, Bar Manager of Pho Republique.

Pho Republique
1415 Washington Street
Boston, MA
Phone: 617-262-0005

Stoneham Sun: Myers & Chang

My new column of "A Passionate Foodie" can be found in the June 10 issue issue of the Stoneham Sun newspaper. This is a weekly column that concentrates on reviews of local restaurants though it also sometimes touches on other food and wine topics.

The new column has been published today and will be available online soon. The new article is a restaurant review of Myers & Chang, a casual and fun Asian restaurant in the South End of Boston. I recommend the restaurant for lunch, for those summer days you decide to spend some time in Boston.

If you have any questions or comments about my column, feel free to add them here.

Dine with passion

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

2007 Cerejeiras Regional Tinto

Prior to the Travessia wine tasting, I spent time checking the selection at Bin Ends, seeking some inexpensive, every day wines. With summer coming, I like to stock up on such wines, especially as I usually bring a bottle or two with me when I go to BBQs, parties or other summer get togethers. Bin Ends certainly had plenty of good choices and I quickly assembled a case of wine, including number of Spanish and Portuguese wines.

One of my choices was the 2007 Cerejeiras Regional Tinto ($5.60)! This had to be one of the most inexpensive wines in the store and the price was surely a compelling point. But, I also knew this was a Portuguese wine and have found many enjoyable from this country costing under $10. I might be more leery of a California or French at this price point, but with a Portuguese wine I had no qualms about buying it and taking a chance. And I was not disappointed.

The wine is from the Estremadura region of Portugal, not the more familiar Douro or Dao regions. Estremadura lies along the Atlantic coast and includes the capital city of Lisbon. The wine is a blend of Castelao, Aragonez, and Tinta Miuda. It is fermented and aged only in stainless steel and has an alcohol content of 12.5%. Thus there is no influence by oak, allowing only the fruit to shine.

The wine has a deep, purple color with a restrained nose of hints of dark berries and spice. It was not as aromatic as many other Portuguese wines I have tried so I was not sure how it would taste. But I was pleased with its flavors: ripe plum, black cherry, vanilla and intriguing spices. It had a rather unique taste, something I often associate with Portuguese wines. The tannins were moderate making it an easy-drinking wine with a fairly long finish.

I opened a bottle of this wine with my dinner, Shepherd's Pie, and it was a good pairing, especially with the burger. I think this would also make an excellent BBQ wine. It had plenty of character, especially at this price point. I highly recommend this wine as an excellent value. How can you go wrong when it costs under $6?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Rant: Nobu & Bluefin Tuna

Nobu, the popular and well-known Japanese fusion restaurant, has recently become a major target of Greenpeace and others. There are calls for boycotts of Nobu, and some Hollywood celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon. It is filling the news channels and blogs.

Why is this so? Because Nobu serves blue fin tuna.

On a recent Saturday night, Casson Trenor and members of Greenpeace staged a "dine-in" protest at the Nobu in Tribeca. They tried to place false menus and business cards at the restaurant, the menus listing dishes with endangered species such as Mountain Gorillas and the business cards stating that Nobu was specializing in endangered species. Some of the protesters also badgered the waitstaff about blue fin tuna and sustainability. Eventually, the protesters were asked to leave the restaurant.

There is no question that Nobu does serve blue fin tuna. Their menus do state that blue fin is “environmentally challenged” and customers are suggested to ask about alternatives. But are the protests and calls for a boycott justified?

I am very concerned about the lack of information being disseminated concerning Nobu and blue fin tuna. There are so many unanswered questions out there, yet I see few people, if any, pointing out that fact. Emotions and soundbites are being promoted over logic and analysis. It seems as if Nobu was chosen as a target solely because of their celebrity status.

I do not think people should blindly follow the call for a boycott of Nobu. Instead, they should first ask questions of Nobu's critics. Get them to provide the necessary answers that will provide justification for action.

Here are some of those questions:

Where does Nobu get their blue fin? Is the blue fin acquired by Nobu caught by sustainable methods?

Why has Nobu been selected as a primary target when so many other restaurants also serve blue fin tuna? Shouldn't the boycott be called on all restaurants that serve blue fin?

How much blue fin does Nobu purchase each year? And what percentage does that constitute of all the blue fin caught worldwide? Is Nobu really a significant offender? Who are the most significant offenders? What efforts are being taken against that greatest offender?

Where does the majority of blue fin tuna end up? What percentage of blue fin ends up in the U.S.? How many U.S. restaurants serve blue fin?

These questions are but a starting point for the discussion as the answers may lead to additional questions. And if the critics of Nobu don't have answers to these questions, that really calls into question their actions. Sustainability is certainly a very important issue but blind adherence is not necessary or warranted.

Question everything.

Update 6/8/09, 7pm:

I found a WWF FAQ on Bluefin Tuna in the Mediterranean which has some interesting figures. It is estimated that approximately 60,000 tons of bluefin tuna are caught in the Mediterranean each year.

"In the two-year period of 2004-2005, some 33,788,590 kg of processed fresh and frozen Mediterranean BFT (bluefin tuna) were imported by the EU, whilst 52,805,389 kg were imported by Japan, and 871,592 kg by the US. BFT is thus sold in almost all European countries. Within the EU, 15 per cent of the 2004-2005 imports went to non-Mediterranean countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Germany, United Kingdom, and Holland."

What that seems to mean is that the US imports only about 10% of the bluefin tuna. Japan is the largest offender and the European Union is also a significant offender.

Monday Morning Rant

Mondays often seem the most difficult day of the week, the start of the work week after the weekend. I hear more complaints from people about Monday than any other day of the week. And I too sometimes dread Mondays, especially after a particularly fun and relaxing weekend. So, maybe Mondays are the best day for a rant.

There are issues about food, wine and spirits which sometimes irritate me, which irk me with their inanity. I get upset when soundbites are promoted over logic and analysis. Sometimes I get annoyed by rampant ignorance. Someone needs to step forward to speak out about those matters, to oppose these problems. And I am going to try to do just that, every Monday.

Each Monday, I will post my rant of the week, discussing the current issue that has irked me. Please join the discussion by commenting on my rants. How do you feel about the issues? Do they irk you as well? Are there potential solutions?

Let us see what develops from Monday rants.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Travessia Urban Winery: Tasting at Bin Ends

Though a handful of states (such as California, Oregon, Washington and New York) get all the press for their wines, excellent wines are made in other states as well. In fact, all fifty states have wineries and Massachusetts alone has more than 25 wineries. And new wineries continue to open, including the Travessia Urban Winery.

I first met Marco Montez, the owner and wine maker of Travessia, several months ago at a Boston Wine Expo after-party held at the Boston Wine School. He was personable, down-to-earth, and genuine. He passionately talked about his winery, but in humble tones. It was not until recently though that I had the opportunity to taste some of his wines. Bin Ends held a special tasting of several wines from Travessia and Marco was there to talk about them and his winery.

Marco, who was born in Angola, has been involved with wine since a young child. When he ws young, his family moved to Portugal, about an hour north of the Douro River. His family made wine, generally for family and friends and Marco assisted. This was still a time when people stomped on grapes with their feet, which is not even legal in the U.S. any longer. Eventually, Marco moved back to Angola for a couple years before then moving to New Bedford, Massachusetts.

He acquired a degree in electricial engineering and currently has a full time job in that field yet his passion is wine making. In 2007, Marco began to assist Running Brook Vineyards, in North Dartmouth, with their wine making. This led to Marco opening his own winery in December 2008, deep in the heart of New Bedford. Though Marco lacks any official oenology education or degree, he has plenty of hands-on experience.

An important aspect for Marco is that he uses only local grapes. He does not want to import grapes from California or New York. He only wants to use grapes grown in Massachusetts, so that his wines will truly be Massachusetts products. Currently, he obtains his grapes from Running Brook, who have vineyards in Dartmouth and Westport. Eventually, Marco would like to own his own vineyards.

His wines are generally intended to drink young, thus he uses less sulfites as he does not need additional sulfites to ensure the wine will age well. All of his wines are also currently filtered though that that may not always be the case. It will all depend on the particular wine.

We got to taste five of Marco's wines, including one that is not yet available for sale. His wines are available for sale at the winery as well as Bin Ends. Note that the prices I have listed here are those at Bin Ends.

We began with the 2007 Travessia Unoaked Chardonnay ($10.40). This wine is made of 100% Chardonnay grapes. It was fermented and aged solely in stainless steel plus malolactic fermentation was prevented. It has an alcohol content of 13.6% and only 211 cases were produced. I found the wine to have a bright gold color with an enticing nose of citrus and apple. On the palate, the wine was crisp with an acidic bite. It had delicious fruit flavors, especially apple and almost some tropical fruit flavors, almost reminescent of hints of pineapple. A lively wine that will be excellent for the summer, as well as an accompaniement to food. I was impressed with this wine, especially at this price which makes it an excellent value.

The 2007 Travessia Chardonnay ($12) is also made from 100% Chardonny but sees some oak aging. All of the Chardonnay is actually fermented together and then later split, some being aged in oak and some not. This wine spent about six months in French oak, about 20% new, and underwent a partial malolactic fermentation. It has an alcohol content of 13.6% and only 440 cases were produced. The color of the wine was the same as the unoaked Chardonnay though the nose is much different. There was a mild buttered popcorn smell wth hints of underlying fruit. The taste was creamy with restrained apple and melon flavors. It was not overly oaked, not heavy handed. I liked this wine too, though my personal preference is the unoaked version. This is still though a very good value at this price.

We got to taste the Travessia Rose, which is not yet for sale. This is not a traditionally made Rose but is actually a blend of red and white wines. It is an area of some controversy as there are many traditonalists who don't think blending should be a permissible practice to make Rose. Marco would not tell us what type of grapes were used to make this wine, though he indicated two different grapes were used, as well as three different wine batches. The Rose has an alcohol content of 12.8% and only about 50 cases were produced. The wine had a bright pink color and a dominant smell of spice. I could not fully identify the spice, though it reminded me of Xmas cookie spices. It has a bit of residual sugar so there is a slight sweet taste to the wine, which also had those same spice flavors s on the nose. I generally prefer Old World style Rose so this wine was not that appealing to me though others at the tasting enjoyed it.

I did though enjoy the 2007 Travessia Vidal Blanc ($10.40), a wine made from a hybrid grape and was made to be a semi-sweet wine. It was fermented and aged only in stainless steel. It has an alcohol content of 13.6% and only 575 cases were produced. The wine had a rich golden color and an enticing, spicy nose. It had a full mouthfeel with nice tastes of apricot and spice, almost reminding me a little of Gewurztraminer. The sweetness was mild, not cloying, and this would probably make a nice accompaniement to spicy Asian cuisine. Another very good value wine.

The final wine of the evening was the 2007 Travessia Sweet Vidal Blanc ($11.20), a sweet wine that was fermented and aged only in stainless steel. It has an alcohol content of 11% and only 120 cases were produced. The nose on this wine seemed closed, and I could not really smell anything. The wine was sweet, like a dessert wine, with some tropical fruit flavors but there was a bit of bitterness on the finish. I preferred the other Vidal Blanc.

I recommend you check out Travessia wines, and visit the winery in New Bedford. I will be making a trip to the winery in the near future and will report back afterwards. Good wine can be made in many different places so give Massachusetts wine a try!