Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I briefly highlight some interesting wine and food items that I have encountered recently.
1)  The Wine ConneXtion, located in North Andover, is hosting its own month-long playoff in March to determine the best bottle of wine under $25. Over 30 sommeliers, media personalities, chefs and restaurateurs will choose their favorite wines, and The Wine ConneXtion will pit these selections head-to-head in a single elimination battle for wine supremacy.

There will be preliminary tastings held every Saturday in March beginning March 10. From 12pm-5pm each week, guests will taste 10 player’s wines and vote on their three favorites. The top three weekly wines will make it to the final tasting round on Saturday, March 31, when one bottle (and one player) from the nine finalists will be crowned the "March Wine Madness" champion!

Throughout the entire month of March guests can peruse the aisles of the Wine ConneXtion and learn more about their favorite March Wine Madness player’s wine choice, which will be prominently displayed in the store. Wine lovers and fans alike are encouraged to get in on the action by using the Twitter hashtag #MarchWineMadness. Join the Wine ConneXtion in this fun taste-off with some of the area’s greatest wine connoisseurs and come away knowing the best wine bargains out there.

PLAYERS: Jenny Johnson, Executive Producer/ Co-Host of NECN’s TV Diner; Joe Faro, Owner of Tuscan Kitchen; Catherine Walkey, Owner of Blue on Highland; Scott Kearnan, Editorial Director at STUFF Magazine; Jamie Coelho, Associate Editor at Rhode Island Monthly magazine and The Dish local food newsletter; Tony Bettencourt, Chef/ Owner of 62 Restaurant & Wine Bar; Andrew Rimas, Editor at Improper Bostonian; Dan Henn, Wine Sommelier of Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse – Boston; Jay Foster, Beverage Director of C.S. Post 390 Restaurant; Eric Eastman, General Manager of BOKX 109 American Prime; Jennifer Mueller, Celebrity Chef; Billy Costa, Co-Host of NECN’s TV Diner and Co-Host of "Matty In the Morning" on KISS 108FM; Chef Brian Poe, Executive Chef of Poe’s Kitchen at the Rattlesnake; Chef Lydia Shire, Culinary Director of Towne Stove and Spirits and Chef/Owner of Scampo; Bruno Marini, General Manager & Wine Director of Strega Waterfront; Nicholas Daddona, Certified Sommelier of Les Zygomates Wine Bar & Bistro; Jason Bond, Executive Chef of Bondir; Bre Garcia Dale, Education Director at the Boston Center for Adult Education; Jonathon Alsop, Boston Wine School; Tom Grella, Executive Chef and Co-owner of Prelude Restaurant; Cecilia Rait, Co-Proprietor of Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro; Jennifer L. Ziskin, Wine Director and General Manager of La Morra; Matthew Morello of Brasserie 28; Richard Auffrey, The Passionate Foodie Blog; Bertil Jean-Chronberg, General Manager and Sommelier of The Beehive; Mary Edes, General Manager of Coppa, Jose Duarte, Chef/Owner of Taranta Restaurant; Paul Turano, Chef/Owner of Tryst Restaurant; Eric Bogardus, Executive Chef Petit Robert Central; Erwin Ramos, Chef Ole Restaurant Group.

As you can see above, I am one of the Players, and have selected the Gruet Blanc de Noir ($11.99) as my choice for a winner. Who doesn't love sparkling wine? Plus, this bubbly is made in New Mexico, probably not a place that immediately comes to mind when you think of sparkling wine. But the Gruet is a delicious wine, especially at this price point. So please vote for the Gruet!

Preliminary Tastings:
Saturday, March 10th, from 12pm-5pm
Saturday, March 17th, from 12pm-5pm
Saturday, March 24th, from 12pm-5pm
Final Tasting: Saturday, March 31, from 12pm-5pm
Cost: Free. Guests must be 21 years of age or older

2)  On March 13, at 6:30pm, Legal Sea Foods’ Vice President of Beverage Operations and Master of Wine, Sandy Block, will host a “Blind Tasting” wine dinner at the Park Square location. Each course will feature a comparative tasting of European and New World wines whose identities will be concealed so guests can enjoy them with the food pairings. While discussing their distinctive qualities in a group setting, guests will indulge in the following at Legal Sea Foods’ wine cellar:

Hors d'Oeuvres
Smoked Oyster Paté, Roasted Walnuts, Grilled Crostini
Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Stuffed Mushrooms
Maine Lobster Tartare, Meyer Lemon Aioli
First Course
Serrano Ham Wrapped Scallops with baby arugula salad, marcona almonds, & cabrales blue cheese dressing
Second Course
Pan Seared Yellow Fin Tuna with Mediterranean red quinoa salad, yogurt mint cucumber sauce, hummus, pita chips
Third Course
Hickory Wood Grilled Swordfish with smoked beluga lentil salad, bacon braised Swiss chard, roasted pepper coulis
Cheese Course
Local Baby Swiss, Manchego, & Meunster with peach compote & buttery toast points

Cost: $75 per person (excludes tax and gratuity)
Reservation required by calling: 617-530-9397

3) For St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday, March 17, let Grafton Street and Irish Village get you in the Irish spirit.

Grafton Street's St. Patrick’s Day Menu includes:
--Corned Beef & Cabbage (Boiled Cabbage, Red Potatoes, Carrots, Parsley Sauce)
--Rustic Shepherd’s Pie (Braised Lamb, Root Vegetables, English Peas, Carrots, Mashed Potatoes)
--Guinness Beef Stew (Hearty Vegetables, Potatoes)
--Grilled Atlantic Salmon (Smoked Savoy Cabbage, Slab Bacon, Fingerling Potatoes, Grainy Mustard)

At the Irish Village, you can enjoy:
--Complimentary Corned Beef Sandwiches
--Live Entertainment from Finbar Doyle, a true Irishman who gets the entire bar singing and clapping along to his classic pub songs with just an acoustic guitar and a bodhran (Irish drum).
--Perfect Pints of Guinness from bartender and Irishman Kieran McWilliam, who has been pouring Guinness at Boston’s original Irish pub for more than 20 years. Kieran expertly pours Guinness in a way that upholds the beer’s sought after bitterness and creaminess. Served at an ideal temperature in a traditional 20-ounce Imperial pint glass, there is no better way to enjoy this Irish staple.

4)  The Taste of Alsacepresented by the B.S.S.C.A., the Harvard Square Business Association, and Sandrine's Bistro, will take place on Wednesday, March 7, from 6pm-8pm, at The Inn at Harvard. At this event you will find:

--Restaurants including Brasserie Jo, Eastern Standard, Elephant Walk, Finale, Fornax Bread Co., Petit Robert Bistro, Russell House Tavern, Sandrine's Bistro, Savenor's, Sel de la Terre, l'Espalier, Upstairs on the Square
--Complimentary French wines
--Unique Silent Auction Items such as South African Photo Safari for 2, Red Sox tickets, Chalet in Annecy, Museum packages, restaurant gift certificates, Private UN tour with lunch, Beacon Hill house tour, Weekends in Strasbourg, and many more.
--Live Jazz

The Cost is $75 per person, and for more info and tickets, please Register Here

5)  Check out some of the new Saturday and Sunday brunch offerings at Ashmont Grill in Peabody Square of Dorchester. Please note that menu choices and creative alcoholic libations change often. There is plenty on this new menu that sounds very delicious.

New right now:
* ‘Croque It Your Way:
Three versions of the classic French sandwich, on brioche, including The Croque Boum-Boum, smothered in Bolognese sauce
* Crispy Fried Chicken with herb gravy, buttermilk biscuits, skillet potatoes
* Warm Cinnamon Sugar Donuts with chocolate-burnt cherry dipping sauce
* Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus w/ spiced pita chips and marinated olives
* House-made Turkey Chili with griddled cornbread
* Battered French Toast Sticks with Brandied Berry Compote, whipped cream
* Poached Shrimp Cocktail with spicy tequila sauce
* Banana Upside Down Cake with maple ice cream
* Gazpacho Bloody Mary plus The Bacon Bloody, The Bleu and Bloody
* Midnight Mimosa with Stoli Oranj and Cointreau
* Old Standards: Trainwreck Omelette …Ashmont Cobb Salad …Pearl Hot Dog ... Grass-Fed Burgers

6)  The Beehive presents their 5th annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities on Thursday, March 15, from 5pm-2am. St. Patrick’s Day at The Beehive means an evening of authentic entertainment including performances from the most exciting and genuine Irish music acts in the city and Irish inspired à la carte food & drink specials.

The claim is that this will not be your typical Irish fest. “No green beer…but what we are planning is a sophisticated evening of amazing Irish comfort food and authentic, world-class, Irish entertainment for a mature audience,” said Co-Owner, Jack Bardy. The Beehive has landed the stamp of approval again for this year’s event from the Boston Irish Tourism Association. “We’ve been more than happy to get involved with The Beehive and their annual St. Patrick’s day festivities, and we’re looking forward to the amazing food and festivities planned!” said Michael Quinlin, President and Founder of the Boston Irish Tourism Association.

Music: There will be a special performance by The Ivy Leaf, a young, traditional Irish quartet that came together through the Boston session scene. Featuring fiddles, flute & whistle, concertina, vocal, and bouzouki and guitar accompaniment, the group's influences are a blend of the old and new, taking on centuries old dance music and giving it a modern vigor.

Food: In addition to serving the regular menu, Chef Rebecca Newell has created several à la carte specials including: Corned Beef & "Cabbage" Flatbread with Sauerkraut & Cheese, Finaan Haddie Smoked Fish & Chips with Malt Vinegar Aioli & Slaw and Grilled Lamb Chops with Colcannon Mashed Potatoes just to name a few. And what would a St. Patrick’s Day celebration be without libations? The Beehive will be serving Irish-inspired cocktail specials such as the Lady Luck (Jameson Irish whiskey, Canton ginger, vanilla simple syrup, orange bitters, $11), Beehive Banshee (Jameson Irish whiskey, Bailey’s Irish cream, amaretto liquor, $11) and the Blood and Whiskey (Jameson Irish whiskey, blood orange juice, and Angostura bitters, $11) all evening long.

INFO: No cover charge, Cash Bar, Reservations recommended

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