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) Towne Stove and Spirits has a new spring menu, created by Culinary Director Lydia Shire and Executive Chef Mario Capone. The revamped carte du jour will refresh some signature dishes by incorporating new seasonal flavors while adding in some future classics.
In the “Start” category of the menu, you will find some new options: English Pea Soup (with basil, tender purple garlic flan - $9); Crisp Soft Shell Crab Panini (drunken avocado soup shot - $21); Rock Shrimp Spaghetti (with guanciale & Calabrian spiced tomato, hot pepper oil - $16); Sashimi of #1 Tuna (miso mustard “paint” bowl of crisp edamame beans - $18); and, Spring Artichoke Raviolini (with whole deep-fried artichoke Romano - $17). The culinary duo has also unveiled new “share” options including: Giant Hot Pita (made to order with ember-roasted eggplant, creamy fava bean ‘pate’, spiced lamb kabob - $18); Charcuterie: Italy’s Best Sopressata & Prosciutto (Towne’s best potted trout, chicken liver and cider pate with wood grilled Pugliese bread - $21); and, Towne’s Own Rum Smoked Salmon (on crisp maple brown bread with preserved beet and pink horseradish - $17).
There is also a new “pizza – wood grilled” option: Garlic Pizza (with carpaccio of king oyster mushroom & Sardinia’s truffle cheese, truffle honey - $18). The new Little Gem Salad (with whipped feta, peeled grapes, Marcona almonds and lemon-poppy seed dressing - $12) and Asparagus Cooked Over Coals (ciabatta with burrata, lambs lettuce, Argan oil, pistachio polonaise - $13) now also grace the “salad” section.
Moving onto the “sea + crustacea” section of the menu, find Fluke Filet (with sorrel butter and lime on bed of flaked fluffy crisped brioche and parsley crumbs - $31); Swordfish Steak (simply grilled or charcoaled, rosemary skewered with squid, lemon risotto and olio santo - $32); Black Sea Bass (with ramps, grilled razor clams and cassava puree - $31); Bouillabaisse Lobster & Pork Belly Roast (with baby monkfish tail, saffron, sea urchin rouille - $38); and, Wood Grilled Lobster Tails (with drawn butter and charred lemon – market).
For "steaks, chops + birds” options, check out: Giannone Roto Chicken (citron ‘flak’ salt, Chantilly mashed potatoes - $24); Coq au Vin (young chicken brick-style with Austrian Riesling, strewn with toasted garlic and spring carrot spaetzle - $32); Sirloin 14 oz Prime (simply grilled or with chive blossom, fresh horseradish butter - $42); Lamb Sirloin Steak (tandoori-charcoaled with golden lentils, crisp fried okra and India’s poppadoms - $38); and, Veal Porterhouse (roast cippolini onions, caramelized shallots, fig and morel sauce - $42).
For “sides,” you will find the following: Tagine of Basmati Rice (with cardamom, cilantro, mint, thin fried spring onions - $7); French Fries (whole head of roasted garlic, rosemary salt, truffle and porcini oil - $8); Wood Grilled Asparagus (with hollandaise or simply steamed - $12); and, Whole Roast Large Mushroom Caps (with garlic, fine sherry and curly parsley - $11).
2) From creating items such as the “Mellow Yellow” cupcake infused with melatonin and valerian, to his “Elvis Cupcake,” a chocolate, peanut butter, banana and bacon homage to the king of rock n’ roll, Chef Stephen Butters of Butter Café and Bakery located in Walpole, continues to make a name for himself in the world of sweets. On April 19, at 10pm ET/PT, Chef Butters will appear on the Food Network's show "Sweet Genius” competing for a prize of $10,000.
Though I find host & dessert master Ron Ben-Israel to be a little creepy, I do enjoy the show, watching the pastry chefs create some amazing desserts with very strange ingredients. And it is even better when there is a local competitor. So let us give our support to Chef Butters on April 19.
3) As part of its ongoing efforts to support the community, Blue on Highland, located in Needham, is launching “Dine & Donate,” a program that allows guests to donate a percentage of their final bill to a local school or non-profit pediatric cancer care and research organization of their choosing. Guests that dine-in or order take-out from Blue on Highland on Sundays will be able to specify which local education or non-profit children’s organization they would like a percentage of their final bill to be donated to including: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s The Jimmy Fund, Chickering School PTO in Dover, or the Needham Education Foundation.
“We’re a neighborhood restaurant and there’s nothing more important in our communities than our schools and children. Our guests come from a variety of communities so we wanted to come up with a way that we could support several local PTO’s and cancer research centers, not just one organization,” said Catherine Walkey, Owner of Blue on Highland.
Guests need only fill out a card that specifies where they would like their percentage allocated, and Blue on Highland will do the rest. This takes place every Sunday, from 11:30am-9pm.
4) In a city where scotch bars are often limited to scotch and cigar bars, Towne Stove and Spirits is ready to revamp and refocus the beverage program at their second level “Uptowne” bar. To introduce their new scotch bar concept to the neighborhood, Towne's Beverage Manager, Brad Bernardo, will be hosting a series of scotch tastings. Connoisseurs will sip, swizzle and snack while Towne’s beverage team shakes, stirs and swirls different single, blended, pure, and vatted malts that have been aged perfectly in oak.
When: Tuesday, April 17 & April 24, from 6pm – 7:30pm
These tasting events are complimentary to guests ages 21+ and an RSVP is required by emailing Towne’s Beverage Manager, Brad Bernardo: firstname.lastname@example.org. Limited space is available and is granted and confirmed (via email) on a first come, first serve basis.
5) Concord Cheese Shop proprietor Peter Lovis is "..mad for spring goat cheeses, made from the milk of Mama Goats whose kids were born in March. While suckling, Mama’s milk is bold flavored and rich, which is manifested in spring-produced cheese. Of the 20-plus local and European goat cheeses sold at the Concord Cheese Shop, Lovis’ favorites are the “buttons” and “pillows” that are delivered within days of being inside Mama Goat. But like his children, he cannot choose between them."
“Goat cheese tastings should include one fresh, one ash-coated or leaf-wrapped, and one aged French goat cheese,” says Lovis. Some to look for now:
--Crystal Brook Farm (Sterling, MA) There are 100 kids on Annie Stoddard’s farm, and their mamas are producing incredibly thick and healthful milk. Annie’s cheese is delivered to the shop within 5 days of milking. Then, it is shaped into 2-inch crottins (French for goat droppings) and marinated in garlic and olive oil.
--Le Lingot de Quercy (France) resembles a small gold bar or ingot. It weighs half a pound, has a thin rind, and is firm enough to slice. One can observe the cheese ripening from the outside in, resulting in two distinct colors, textures and flavors.
--Valency (France) was created by a friend of Napoleon’s in the 1800s. Because the emperor’s war in Egypt was faring badly, the friend made sure that the traditional pyramidal shape of the cheese was truncated, so as not to remind Monsieur Bonaparte of his battle woes while dining.
--Ponte de Bique (Loire Valley) Another classically pyramidal cheese that’s light, fresh and pairs well with a glass of chilled Sancerre.
--Arina (Holland) This versatile goat gouda is firm and large. It utilizes milk from goats who’ve grazed all summer on fresh grass and hay. It’s made in the fall, so is slightly aged and ready for optimum eating now.
--Bonne Bouch (Vermont) is a 4-ounce round, packaged in a sweet wooden crate. Made from spring milk, but aged for a few months while covered in fine ash, an ancient method of cheese preservation that’s still popular.
--Laura Chenel’s Chevre (Sonoma) Creamy and mild, this handcrafted cheese is well-priced, and complements pizza and warm sandwiches.