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) From Wednesday, October 31 to Sunday, November 4, the Olé Restaurant Group will celebrate all things mole with a special “Mole Menu.” Mole is a sauce that is a staple of Mexican cuisine and a culinary symbol of the country’s “mestizaje,” or mixed heritage, due to the types of ingredients it contains and the legends surrounding its origin. Moles come in various flavors and can contain up to 30 individual ingredients, with chile peppers as the most common component.
The “Mole Menu,” available at Olé Mexican Grill in Cambridge, MA and Zόcalo Back Bay, located in Boston, will feature four distinct incarnations of the sauce: mole negro, mole coloradito, mole mancha manteles and mole verde oaxaqueño. Mole negro is called the “king of mole” for its complexity. It is seasoned with indigenous Mexican ingredients like guajillo chiles, Mexican oregano and marjoram, and will be paired with turkey. Originally from Oaxaca, mole coloradito, made with cloves, oregano, peppercorns, canela and an inconspicuous combination of spices will be paired with beef. Mole mancha manteles, literally named “tablecloth stainer” because of its deep red color, will be served with lamb shank. Originally from Puebla, this fruity mole combines sweet notes with spice for a captivating contrast. Or, for those looking for a vegetarian option, mole verde oaxaqueño, made with Mexican herbs like hoja santa and epazote and served with vegetables, is one of the best known moles and a truly soulful food.
Mole Week Menu (Each entrée is served with Mexican rice and black beans.)
Mole Negro with Turkey, $20
Mole Coloradito with Beef, $22
Mole Mancha Manteles with Lamb Shank, $24
Mole Verde Oaxaqueño with Vegetables, $18
The “Mole Menu” will be served in conjunction with the regular menu. Reservations are recommended. Please call Olé Mexican Grill at (617)-492-4495 or Zócalo Back Bay at (617)-456-7849.
2) When sourcing locally, salt is not always considered. But Harvest's Executive Pastry Chef Brian Mercury can personally guarantee the sea salt, a key ingredient in his desserts, is indeed local and fresh. Armed with a bucket and waders, he regularly walks into the cold waters of the Maine Atlantic to collect sea water that will ultimately yield what he refers to as "white gold". "I really do believe in the sourcing of our ingredients, and figured I could do my part and collect my own sea salt" explains Mercury. He has even found the sea salt actually tastes different from beach to beach.
To make his own sea salt, Mercury first travels to the shores of Maine and wades into the ocean collecting ten gallons of icy Atlantic sea water. Then he returns home to start the salt making process. The water is poured into stainless steel pots where it is boiled for hours until the water gradually boils off, first producing a thick cloudy mixture, then a paste and finally the beautiful end product emerges, clear crystals of sea salt. Mercury estimates he gets five cups of salt from ten gallons of sea water.
One of Mercury's favorite desserts to highlight his home-made sea salt is the Taza Chocolate Crèmeux. He adds his sea salt to both the caramel center and the caramel puffed barley of the dessert. The caramel puff is then covered in a malted milk chocolate sauce and topped with vanilla mascarpone. Mercury says the brininess of the salt is the perfect contrast to the sweetness of the chocolate and caramel.
Certainly an intriguing story of a pastry chef taking it to the next level.
3) Spooked by the prospect of navigating the complicated waters of sustainable seafood? The source of the fish on the plate is often as much of a mystery as what’s hiding around the next corner in a haunted house, and attempting to discover either can seem a daunting task.
So to celebrate the spirit of Halloween, The Beehive, located in Boston’s South End and the New England Aquarium are confronting these ominous subjects with a Night Before Halloween Sustainable Seafood Dinner on Tuesday, October 30. Served alongside The Beehive’s regular menu, the four course, prix-fixe menu was designed by Executive Chef Rebecca Newell and the experts at the New England Aquarium as a way to raise awareness of the challenges facing the oceans as well as the benefits of sustainable seafood.
So while All Hallows Eve may cause a fright, guests will not have to fret over the environmental friendliness of their meals because all four intriguing and satisfying courses feature sustainably harvested seafood. Dinner reservations are available anytime between 5:30pm-11pm and there will be live jazz music from 8pm-12am, and libations served from 5pm-1am.
--Bloody Mary Soup (Shrimp & pickled vegetables)
--Deviled Crab Cake (Chopped salad & sea urchin vinaigrette)
--Scallops (Black squid ink pasta & “rest in” peas)
--Blackened Boo Wahoo (Wild rice, pumpkin & spinach)
Cost is $65 per person, $55 for NE Aquarium members. For reservations, call 617-423-0069.
4) Tripe! It sounds disgusting as it is essentially part of an animal's stomach, usually cow. If you see it at a market, it looks almost like a honeycombed sponge. Many people won't eat it, though it is hard to say how many of those people have actually tasted tripe. It is much more popular in Europe, and a number of Italian restaurants in the U.S. serve tripe. I admit never being much of a fan of tripe, having tasted some rather rubbery versions in the past. Despite that, I had not given up in finding a tripe dish that might appeal to me.
When Pizzeria Posto created its new small plates menu, one of the new dishes was Trippa all’Amatriciana ($5), with spicy pomodoro, guanciale, parmesan, cracked black pepper and topped by two thick slices of grilled bread. The other night, I stopped by for dinner and decided to take a chance and order the Trippa. I was not disappointed in the least. The tripe was tender and flavorful, and looked quite appealing as well. You wouldn't even know it was tripe based on what you see at the supermarket. Chef Joe Cassinelli has created a tripe dish that basically anyone will enjoy. I would certainly order it again, and share it with others.
On Twitter the other night, Chef Cassinelli even stated that if someone orders the Trippa, and doesn't like it, he will take it off your check. So you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain by tasting the Trippa. Forget your preconceptions and take a chance on the Trippa all'Amatriciana.