Thursday, January 10, 2013

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) Great news! After suffering a kitchen fire on July 15, Chef & Owner Anthony Caturano is ready to reopen the doors to his North End staple, Prezza. Opening today, the refreshed Prezza will once again dazzle diners with its Old World-style Italian cuisine and a wine list boasting over 800 labels.

Says Caturano, “We are really excited to kick off 2013 on a fresh note. On behalf of the Prezza team, I want to sincerely thank the Boston Fire Department, the City of Boston and our amazing neighbors, friends and patrons for the overwhelming support we’ve received in wake of the kitchen fire. We are forever grateful and look forward to reuniting with everyone soon.”

Prezza will make its encore performance by debuting a new menu that captures the tastes of the seasons through twists on classic Italian preparations. Newcomers to the appetizer portion of the menu include: Lambrusco Braised Chicken Thighs (with prosciutto, crispy potatoes - $16); Eggplant Stuffed with Fresh Anchovies (scamorza, roasted tomato - $16); Sunny Egg (wild mushrooms, grilled bread - $16); Baccala (tomato, fresh chili pepper, chick peas - $16); and, Chestnut Soup (croutons, duck confit, white beans, mushrooms - $15). For new handmade pastas ($15 – appetizer; $30 – entrée), Chef Caturano will now serve: Ricotta Stuffed Pansotti (butter, sage, Aceto Balsamico); Chestnut Ravioli (pulled duck, butter, parmigiano cheese); and, Pumpkin Ravioli (brown butter, sage, mascarpone, lobster meat).

From the oven, Prezza will now dish out: Roasted Halibut (squid ink gnocchi, lobster, cherry tomatoes, basil lobster broth - $34); Roasted Bronzino (Brussels sprouts, black olives, roast potatoes - $28); Veal Porterhouse (saffron lobster risotto, broccoli rabe, red wine sauce - $46); and, Venison Loin (grilled cabbage, amarone risotto - $38). Prezza will also continue serving up throwback favorites such as: Seared Scallops (pumpkin, sage, mascarpone, spiced hazelnuts - $16); Grilled Clams (sausage, tomato, lemon zest, oregano - $16); Crispy Shrimp (Italian slaw, cherry pepper aioli - $16); and, Wood Grilled Squid & Octopus (braised white beans, toasted parsley - $16); Ravioli di Ouvo (ravioli stuffed with ricotta and egg yolk, tossed with butter and sage - $12); Potato Gnocchi a la Bolognese (rustic meat ragout, tomato, porcini cream, pecorino cheese - $15 – appetizer; $30 – entrée); Fish Stew (lobster, swordfish, shrimp, clams, mussels, squid, lobster broth, toasted bread, saffron aioli - $38); Crispy Pork Chop (vinegar peppers, potatoes, roasted red onions - $28); and, Swordfish (tomato braised octopus, chili flake, chickpeas - $30).

Prezza is open for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5:30pm-10 and Friday and Saturday from 5:00pm-10:30pm. The bar opens daily at 4:30pm.

2) Turner Fisheries is unveiling an Ocean to Table Tuesday night dinner series this month, which will offer guests the option of ordering seasonally inspired, three-course prix fixe menus featuring a different theme per month. This series launches on January 8, every Tuesday from 5pm-10pm.  Chef de Cuisine Armand Toutaint has chosen a theme of root vegetables for the month of January, and will be preparing dishes featuring pumpkin, sweet potato, parsnip, and beets, paired with sustainable seafood. Guests can expect to dine on broiled rainbow trout with honey glazed beets and skin-on haddock with sweet potato hash.

The Ocean to Table dinner costs $45 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity. Wine pairings are additional, and will vary by menu.

3) Owner & Chef Brian Poe has decided that his New Year’s resolution is to launch a brunch at the Tip Tap Room in Beacon Hill. Poe now offers the Tipsy Brunch on Sundays from 10:30am-3pm. The brunch will include some classics with modern twists including: Muffins & Stuff (Chef Poe’s blend of fresh breads with breakfast caramel butters --$6); Baked Berry Irish Cut Oatmeal (topped with mint, white chocolate mousse, cinnamon sugared pecans - $6); Breakfast Salad (frisée with champagne and brown sugar vinaigrette topped with grilled doughnut croutons on a frittata - $9); Belgian Beer Waffles (Belgian Wit maple syrup, beer butter $10); Two Eggs (scrambled, fried or poached on toast with potatoes $8.50); Tip Top Benedict (butter fried smashed potato cake dusted with English muffin crumbs, cured ham, poached eggs, beer cheese hollandaise $12.50); The Signature Omelet (basil, Brie cheese, mushrooms, truffle shavings, asparagus $11.95); BLT Burger & Egg (housemade Beacon Hill bacon, lettuce, tomato, egg, cheddar on brioche, served with French fries $8.95); Cranberry French Toast (topped with maple pecans and whipped cream $12); Jalapeño Corned Beef Hash (topped with a poached egg $11); Croque Madame (griddled ham with Gruyere cheese, Dijon mustard, fried egg $12); and, Steak & Egg (5oz peppercorn-parsley rubbed filet, fried egg, whiskey sauce on French toast $21.95). For sides, there is Bacon ($3), Toast ($2) and Sausage ($3). To pair with the homestyle goodness, the Tip Tap Room will also serve up their 36 seasonal beers on tap as well as brunch-esque specialty brews.

4) In an episode dubbed the “Italian Empire,” by the Food Network, the Tuscan Brands family which includes the Tuscan Kitchen restaurant and the newly opened Tuscan Market in Salem, NH, both focusing on authentic artisanal food and preparation, will be the focus of an upcoming episode of “Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell.

In the episode which is scheduled to air on Thursday, January 31 at 10pm, Tuscan Brands is looking for an executive chef who can handle the heavy volume while maintaining a dedication to scratch cooking. Chef Anne Burrell brings in four candidates, who are tested on their Italian cuisine skills and knowledge. The final two chefs are each handed the keys to the restaurant for a dinner service: One chef must dig their way out of a bad start, while the other struggles with consistency.

It was a great experience working with Anne who shared our passion and commitment to authentic artisan Italian cuisine,” said Joe Faro, Chief Food Taster and Founder of Tuscan Brands.

A viewing party is in the works for the evening of the show at Tuscan Kitchen and more details will be released as they become available.

5) On January 31, at 6:30pm, Legal Harborside will team up with Château Fuissé winemaker, Antoine Vincent, to host a wine dinner at Legal Harborside. This four-plus-course culinary adventure will highlight the best tastes from sea and vine.

The menu is as follows:

Gougère with camembert mousse
Freshly shucked oysters,* citrus mignonette
Alaskan crab cannelloni, Thai basil and chili
J.J. Vincent Crémant de Bourgogne, NV
Braised Lobster (quince and ham salad, lettuce-ginger emulsion)
 J.J. Vincent Pouilly-Fuissé “Marie Antoinette,” 2010
Fresh Chestnut Soup (squab-stuffed cabbage, hazelnut oil and pain d’épices)
Château Fuissé Juliénas “Domaine de la Conseillère,” Cru Beaujolais, 2009
Château Fuissé Morgon “Charmes,” Cru Beaujolais, 2009
Baked Halibut (fricassée of snails, sweetbreads and lardons, roasted shallot and Meyer lemon)
Château Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé “Les Brulés,” 2009
Château Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé “Les Brulés,” 2008
Selection of Burgundian cheese
Château Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé “Le Clos,” 2010
Château Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé “Le Clos,” 2008

COST: $95 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)
Reservations can be made by contacting 617-530-9470

6) Owner & Chef Brian Poe is launching a new lunch menu at the Tip Tap Room in Beacon Hill. Chef Poe’s new offerings include a series of savory appetizers and soups, lunch salads, sandwiches and burgers and, of course, its namesake’s tips and taps.

For starters, the Tip Tap Room will dish out the following items: Wild Mushrooms (sautéed with soy & chive vinaigrette, charred tomatoes - $9.75); Boar Meatballs (spicy ginger cilantro garlic broth - $13.95); Baked St. André Brie (coriander citrus roasted beets, warm mushroom vinaigrette - $9.95); Mashed Sampler (shareable tasting of horseradish, goat cheese, creamed corn & olive tapenade mashed potatoes - $5); French Onion Soup (Gruyère cheese, toast point - $5/cup; $9/bowl); and, Acorn Squash Soup (cinnamon spiked cranberry salsa, goat cheese - $5/cup; $9/bowl).

New lunch salads include the following highlights, all available with an optional tip selection (additional $6.50; swordfish - $7.50; wild game - $10): The Tip Tap (maple roasted pecans, roasted pumpkin, blue cheese crumbles, cranberry-sage vinaigrette - $9.95); Fried Goat Cheese (grilled asparagus, watercress, crispy prosciutto, carrot-ginger vinaigrette - $10.95); and, Grilled Baby Bok Choy (sauté of snap peas, Thai chilies, caramelized shiitakes, grilled tofu, sesame-soy vinaigrette - $10.95).

There are ten sandwich and burger options like: Mediterranean Tuna Melt (tuna salad, melted American cheese, Bibb lettuce, tomato, sourdough bread - $10.95); Grilled Sausage Sub (beer boiled, bell pepper & onion slaw, French baguette - $9.95); B.L.T. (seven-bacon tips, lettuce, tomato, Tabasco mayonnaise, sourdough bread - $8.95); Turkey Burger (lettuce, tomato, cranberry-fennel slaw - $10.95); and, Steak Burger (lettuce, tomato, veal demi, A1 aioli, Tip Tap dressing - $10.95).

7) On Sunday, February 10, China Blossom Restaurant and Lounge, located in North Andover, and the Andover Chinese Cultural Exchange (ACCE) will celebrate the Chinese New Year with a festival sponsored by Yang’s Martial Arts. The Chinese New Year celebration is centuries old and the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. More than anything, the Chinese New Year is a time to bring family together for feasting and celebration, and China Blossom will highlight this with authentic cuisine as well as various Asian traditions. Due to the tremendous success of last year’s event, a second seating has been added this year, and guests will have the choice of attending a 4pm or 6pm performance, with each show followed by dinner.

Guests will enjoy butt-kicking gong fu (kung fu) and lion dance demonstrations, as well as traditional Chinese dances from the Newton Chinese Dance Team and live cultural music. World-renowned player Zhan-tao Lin will wow the crowd with the Er-hu, which is similar to a violin with an exception of two strings. Lin is a professional musician from China who has won many competitions and performs in the New England area, including at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In addition, celebrated musician Shin-Yi Yang is sure to please with the Gu-zheng, an ancient Chinese instrument that has strings that are plucked like a guitar’s. Yang is the founder of the Boston Guzheng Ensemble and the two-time winner of the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship given by the Massachusetts Cultural Council's Folk Arts and Heritage Program. Guests will also have the chance to increase their luck and ward off evil spirits in the New Year with the Hong Bao (Red Envelope) ceremony. During this traditional ceremony, red envelopes containing “lucky money” are typically given by the married to the unmarried, usually children.

After guests have taken in all of the festivities, guests will be invited to indulge in a dim sum buffet featuring China Blossom favorites as well as traditional Chinese New Year offerings. Tickets are $30 per person (Senior and children pricing is available: Seniors, $25, Under 11, $20), and can be purchased online here or by calling China Blossom at (978) 682-2242. Seating is limited and reservations are required. Proceeds will benefit the ACCE, a non-profit community group dedicated to introducing Chinese culture. ACCE provides educational opportunities and support for charitable causes in the Merrimack Valley.

Ongoing Events & Live Performances:
Er Hu (Chinese Violin) performance
Gu Zheng (Zither) performance
Newton Chinese Dance Team
Lion Dance by Yang's Martial Arts
Martial Arts Demonstration by Yang's Martial Arts
ACCE Singing Chorus
Hong Bao (Red Envelope) ceremony
Buffet dinner featuring traditional dim sum

COST: Tickets are $30 per person (Senior and children pricing is available: Seniors, $25, Under 11, $20).
RSVP: Seating is limited and reservations are required. Tickets can be purchased online here or by calling China Blossom at (978) 682-2242.

8) For the first time in CityFeast’s 8 year history, the Seaport District and the South End will join the North End in dining out to conquer Diabetes! The 8th Annual CityFeast, held on Sunday, January 27, at 6pm, is fun-filled evening hosted by twelve of the most exclusive restaurants in Boston: Antico Forno, Aura, The Gallows, Lucca, Lucia, Pulcinella Mozzarella Bar, Taranta, Temazcal, Terramia Ristorante, Tremont 647, Tresca and Strega Waterfront.

Tickets include a five-course dinner with wine pairings (or tequila pairings at Temazcal) at the choice participating restaurant, and proceeds will benefit Joslin’s High Hopes Fund, which provides support for research, clinical care and education for diabetics and their families.

The North End’s own Carla Gomes began this event to show her dedication and appreciation to Joslin after her son David was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on his first birthday. David has received care at Joslin for over 18 years.

Tickets are priced at $150 each; of which $100 is tax deductible. Due to high demand, reservations are limited, and will be distributed on a first come first serve basis. For more information on CityFeast or to purchase tickets visit: Http://­www.­joslin.­org/­cityfeast

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