Thursday, August 1, 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) On August 4th, Boston’s restaurateur, Nick Varano, the CEO and owner of The Varano Group, will open the doors to his newest dining establishment, Strega Prime. Located in the former Beacon Grille space at Tradecenter 128 in Woburn, this will be an upscale Italian Steakhouse, a new concept for Varano. Strega Prime’s new Executive Chef Farouk Bazoune, the former Executive Sous Chef at Mooo in Boston, worked hand-in-hand with Corporate Chef, Salvatore Firicano and Varano to develop the upscale steakhouse menu to incorporate touches of Varano’s famous modern Italian cuisine.

For salads and appetizers, highlights include: Hand Chopped Steak Tartar (prime beef, soy glaze, pickled red onion and marrow toast - $16); Fried Parmesan and Truffle Calamari (gremolota, sishitto peppers, fennel, spicy Arrabbiata sauce - $13); Braised Kurabuta Pork Belly (parsnip puree, exotic mushrooms, Madeira sauce -$14); and Roasted Beet Salad (beet puree, honey-whipped ricotta, Mache, pistachio dust - $11). For a la carte options, notable mentions include: Petite Filet (8 oz -$37) and the Porterhouse Steak for Two (42 oz - $88). There are a number of sharable sides like the Four Cheese Macaroni ($10/ with fresh lobster meat - $18) and the Sherry Wild Mushrooms ($14). There is also a section of fully plated entrées with options like: Seared Sea Scallops (mushroom pesto fregula salad, salsa verde, crispy shallots - $34), Butter Poached Lobster (parsnip puree, lobster beure monte – MRKT) and Cavatelli (ricotta cavatelli, fontina cheese, cheddar cheese, black truffle puree, confit garlic - $16/$29).

For lunch, menu highlights include: Prime Beef Carpaccio (house mustard sauce, shaved parmesan, arugula, Grissini -$13); Veal and Pancetta Dumplings (ginger soy sauce, micro cilantro -$12); Maine Lobster Roll (salad of greens -$19); Strega Prime Open Face Sandwich (sirloin, gorgonzola, baby tomatoes arugula -$15); and the PLT (pancetta, lettuce, tomatoes, Tuscan bread, parmesan fries -$12).

Strega Prime offers an extensive beverage program featuring house-made martinis, craft cocktails, wines and beer. The newly renovated space will feature a large wine cellar with over 1,300 selections of red and white wines and over 7,500 bottles for guests to enjoy. The extensive selection includes a number of rare and exclusive wines that date back as far as the late 1940’s. In addition to the by-the-bottle options, Strega Prime will offer 45 wines by-the-glass, as well as a selection of beers including 6 craft on-tap choices and 12 bottled beers.

Strega Prime is open Monday through Friday for lunch from 11:30am-5pm, and seven days a week for dinner service from 5pm-11pm. Strega Prime’s Ultra Lounge will be open until 2am seven nights a week. Strega Prime will also offer a Sunday brunch service, which is set to begin in the early fall of 2013.

2) On Tuesday, August 20, at 6:30pm, Legal Sea Foods in Park Square will host a wine dinner with Hugel & Fils. Hugel & Fils’ production averages 110,000 cases per year, of which around 90% is exported to more than 100 countries worldwide. Legal Sea Foods will team up with Frederick Wildman & Sons’ Director of Marketing & Fine Wine, Martin Sinkoff, to host a four-plus-course dinner featuring signature cuisine paired with Sinkoff’s choices from the Hugel & Fils vine.

The menu will be presented as followsr:

Crab & Wild Mushroom Tartlet, Thyme Lemon Aioli
Citrus Arancine, Dill Crème Fraîche
Oysters* on the Half Shell, Lime & Mint Granita
Hugel Gentil, Alsace, 2011
Poached Sole Veronique (White Wine Sauce, Baby Mache)
Hugel Pinot Blanc, Alsace, 2010
Pan Seared Striped Bass (Quinoa Salad, Tarragon Butter Sauce)
Hugel Riesling, Alsace, 2011
Maine Lobster Casserole (Herbed Red Bliss Potato, Radicchio, Frisée Salad, Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette)
Hugel et Fils Riesling Jubilee Grand Cru, Alsace, 2007
Caramelized Pear Crostata (Honeyed Mascarpone Cheese)
Hugel et Fils Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive, Alsace, 2005

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

3) Lucia Ristorante Owner Donato Frattaroli and Executive Chef Pino Maffeo introduce the next class in the Lucia Winchester cooking series by teaching guests how to make a variety of Risotto dishes. On Wednesday, August 21, from 6:30pm-9:30pm, Chef Pino will show guests the methods and techniques it takes to make the perfect fall dish just in time for autumn. This class will include hands-on demonstrations on how to make his Saffron Risotto, Wild Mushroom Risotto, and Seafood Risotto. Some topics will include different varieties of risotto, as well as recipes and cooking techniques.

The Risotto class costs $60 per person. For more information about this event, or to make a reservation for the class, please call (781) 729-0515. I'll be at this class and am looking forward to learning more about making Risotto, which is certainly one of my favorite dishes. Hope to see you there too.

4) In late August 2013, Chef Tony Maws opens The Kirkland Tap & Trotter, his second Boston-area restaurant, touting a menu of rustic, hearty fare combining ingredients and unexpected flavors that you would find Chef Maws cooking at home for family and friends. Located in Somerville, The Kirkland Tap & Trotter’s atmosphere will embody an eclectic and cozy neighborhood vibe akin to some of the best “gastropubs” in England.

The Kirkland Tap & Trotter is an ‘every night of the week’ kind of establishment, serving favorites you would find my friends and family gathered around on a Monday night,” says Chef Tony Maws. “You’ll find the same ingredients on the menu at Kirkland Tap & Trotter that you see at Craigie, but here they will be prepared simply and perfectly executed. You won’t see any swooshes on the plates here. I wanted to create a place where I could hang, and guests can embrace my jeans and a t-shirt philosophy, feeling comfortable enough to eat with their hands and play air drums.”

The 115-seat restaurant includes a 12-seat bar, with additional seating at high top tables alongside a large open dining room. The kitchen and menu centers around a large wood-fired grill set into a masonry base, featuring dishes such as: Grilled Spice Crusted Chicken Wings, radishes, arugula; Grilled Red Chile Salmon Head, oxalis; and Grilled Sardines Provençale, parsley, red onion.

The drink menu is also representative of the libations that Chef Maws and his friends and family enjoy imbibing at home, and will feature a large beer list, and an expansive wine by the glass list tilting toward Old World terroir and funky wines made by real people. Additionally, The Kirkland Tap & Trotter has partnered with Revolution Cocktails to create a unique cocktail menu with drinks that are well-crafted but “don’t take ten minutes to make.”

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