Thursday, October 29, 2015

Thursday Sips & Nibbles: Thanksgiving Edition

I am back again with a special Thanksgiving edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events. Today, you'll find some restaurant options for Thanksgiving if you just don't feel like cooking this year.
**********************************************************
1) This Thanksgiving, Taj Boston invites guests to celebrate with a Signature Buffet on Thanksgiving Day, featuring a tempting array of seasonal culinary creations offered in the Grand Ballroom. Executive Chef Andrew Beer presents a variety of dishes including the following:

--Chilled Seafood Display - Chilled shellfish with East and West Coast Oysters, Crab Claws, Shrimp, Marinated Mussels, Lobster Tails, Citrus Lime Cocktail Sauce, Champagne Mignonette, Spicy Remoulade
--Sliced Seasonal Fruits and Artisanal Cheeses
--Soup Station – New England Clam Chowder, Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Cinnamon and Caramelized Apple
--Chestnut Stuffing with Mirepoix and Herbs
--Mushroom and Sage Stuffing
--Yukon Gold Whipped Potatoes
--Roasted Sweet Potato with Burnt Marshmallow
--Orange Scented Cranberry Chutney
--Carving Station - Slow cooked organic Turkey Breast and Comfit of Leg with Turkey Gravy, Pepper Crusted prime rib with Béarnaise and Red Wine Sauces, Brown Sugar Glazed Ham with Sage Apple Butter
--Desserts – Assorted Selections

Seating for the signature buffet will be offered at 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 2 p.m. Prices are $85 per person/$42 per child and reservations are required. To make a reservation, please call 617-536-5700

2) Executive Chef Karen Mitchell of The Palm Boston is offering a decadent three-course menu filled with fresh and unique twists on classic Thanksgiving indulgences. With a grandiose dining space featuring 30-foot tall ceilings and extraordinary granite columns stretching the height of the grand dining room, The Palm Boston’s beautiful and classic atmosphere is the perfect place to enjoy Thanksgiving with family and friends.

For $55 per person, guests can enjoy the following menu:
First Course
Lobster Bisque (Fresh Lobster Meat, Cream & Brandy)
Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque (Apple Cider Crème Fraiche)
Baby Kale, Radicchio & Apple Salad (Candied Pecans, Crispy Pancetta & Shaved Reggiano, Tossed in Maple Dressing)
Second Course
Slow‐Roasted Hand Carved Turkey (Home Style Stuffing, Homemade Cranberry Sauce & Giblet Gravy)
Choice of Individual Portion Side:
Home Style Stuffing
Goat Cheese Whipped Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Creamed Spinach
Wild Mushrooms
Green Beans – pancetta, toasted pine nuts & pepper flakes
Charred Brussels Sprouts – lemon brown butter
Third Course
New York Cheesecake (Raspberry Sauce)
Pumpkin Pie (Ginger Spiced Whipped Cream)

Thanksgiving hours are Noon – 8 p.m. A separate menu will be available for $24 for children under 12. For reservations, please call (617) 867-9292

3) Chef Daniel Bruce welcomes guests to Meritage Restaurant + Wine Bar for a four-course menu of inventive offerings that blend his contemporary flair with traditional Thanksgiving cuisine. Guests can give thanks and appreciation this holiday by gathering with friends and family at the recently renovated Meritage Restaurant + Wine Bar for a one night only special holiday celebration. Adults can also choose to enjoy their Thanksgiving meal with wine pairings, perfectly selected by Boston Harbor Hotel Sommelier Nicholas Daddona.

The menu for the evening is as follows:
One choice per course
First Course
Parsnip Cider Soup (Confit of Fennel)
Endive and Watercress Salad (Dried Cranberries, Blue Cheese, and Roasted Pears)
Maine Lobster and Ricotta Gnocchi (Saffron Tomato Essence)
Pan Roasted Jumbo Shrimp (Garlic, Olive Oil, Lime and Baby Brussels)
Second Course
Fricassee of Wild Mushrooms (Soft White Cornmeal Polenta, Truffle Oil Drizzle)
Pan Roasted Jumbo Shrimp (Garlic, Olive Oil, Lime and Baby Brussels)
Seared Diver Sea Scallops (Pink Grapefruit, Melted Leeks, Red Quinoa)
Pan Seared New York State Foie Gras (Blackberries, Fresh Favas)
Third Course
Parmesan and Leek Filled Agnolotti Pasta (Harvest Vegetable Bolognese)
Leek and Fig Stuffed Organic Turkey Breast (Pumpkin, Sage Dressing, Roasted Potatoes and Baby Kale)
Grilled Atlantic Swordfish Medallion (Scarlet Turnips, Romanesco Broccoli, Yellow Curry Sauce)
Wood Grilled Filet Mignon with Soft Whipped Potatoes, Horseradish Onion Cream (Meritage Syrup)
Fourth Course
Vermont Ascutney Tome Cheese, Grilled Walnut Bread, Toasted Marcona Almonds
Apple Spiced Cake, Granny Smith, Cape Cod Cranberry, Organic Cider Spiced Caramel
Maple Custard Éclair , Pumpkin Confit, Sage, Hazelnut Cranberry Croissant Pudding
Bitter Chocolate Cremeux, Blackberry, Fennel Pollen, Cabernet

Thanksgiving Dinner will be offered from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. Menu is $105 for adults ($165 with wine pairings) and $45 for children under 10. To make a reservation please call 617-439-3995

4) Deuxave Chef/Owner Christopher Coombs and his team are pulling out all the stops with a decadent three-course Thanksgiving Day prix fixe menu featuring sophisticated takes on traditional dishes. The $85 per person menu includes dishes such as:

Spiced Heirloom Pumpkin Soup, Adam & Larry’s Scituate lobster, chestnuts & pancetta
Pavé of Duck Confit, frisée & petit mustard greens, forest mushrooms, dates, chestnuts & cranberry
Misty Knolls “Turducken,” turkey breast, duck rillettes, chicken boudin, Robuchon potatoes, hash of Brussels, turnips, butternut squash, cranberry sauce & gravy
Slow Roasted Salmon, lentils du puy, spiced cauliflower, poached heirloom cranberries, butternut squash, cider, chestnut brown butter purée
Pumpkin Cheesecake, house made graham cracker, chai tea glace, salted white chocolate caramel sauce
Apple Galette, date purée, Poire Williams glace, spiced granola

Thanksgiving hours are Noon – 8:00 p.m. Thanksgiving menu is also offered to children 12 and under for $25. Reservations are required and a credit card must be provided to hold the reservation. Please note that there is a 48 hour cancellation policy of 50%. For reservations, please call 617-517-5915

5) Chopps American Bar and Grill Executive Chef Jeff Williams is preparing his first New England Thanksgiving meal at Chopps American Bar and Grill. This luxurious American feast features modern interpretations of classic Thanksgiving fare as Chef Williams prepares his first New England Thanksgiving on the East Coast in the Chopps kitchen. Chopps has a number of different seating options available for groups of all sizes.

For $35 ($25 for children 12 & under), guests can enjoy the following menu:
STARTER (choice of one)
Baby Swiss Chard & Kale Salad (Dried Cranberry, Sunflower Seed, Chaubier, Honey & Burnt Orange Vinaigrette)
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (Crème fraiche, Chili Oil)
MAIN COURSE (family style)
Slow Roasted Turkey (Giblet Gravy, Mashed Potato, Mushroom & Sage Date Corn Bread Stuffing)
SIDES (choice of two)
Heirloom Carrots (Coriander, Honey Glazed)
Green Beans (Ginger Ponzu, Crispy Onions)
Crispy Brussels Sprouts (Preserved Lemon, Sage)
DESSERT (choice of one)
Pumpkin Cheese Cake (Cranberry Compote)
Petit Pecan Pie (Vanilla Crème Gelato)

The special Thanksgiving menu will be available from Noon – 5 p.m. (a la carte menu options will also be available). Reservations are recommended. For reservations please call 781-221-6643.

6) Indulge in a Provençal Thanksgiving at Bistro du Midi with Executive Chef Robert Sisca’s three-course prix fixe menu featuring additional foie gras and truffle additions. With views overlooking the picturesque Public Garden, Bistro du Midi is the perfect place to enjoy this beloved holiday. The $68 menu features an array of tempting seasonal dishes such as:

Heirloom Squash Soup, wild mushrooms, aged balsamic
Wagyu Beef Tartare, pistachio, burgundy truffle
Goat Cheese Gnocchi, arugula pistou, cranberries, squash, pine nuts
Turkey Ballotine, sweet potato purée, cauliflower, chestnuts, pan jus
Seared Duck Breast, chorizo, cauliflower, golden raisins
Ribeye, kale, sauce au poivre
Beet Panna Cotta, caramelized pistachios, chevre ice cream
Pumpkin Beignets, red currant caramel, vanilla sugar
Foie Gras Course (supplement $21) – Seared foie gras, chestnuts, chocolate, macerated cherries
White Truffle Course (supplement $65) – Parmesan gnocchi, king oyster mushroom, shaved white truffle

The prix fixe menu will be served in the main dining room and café; reservations can be made for the main dining room from 1 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.  A separate prix fixe menu will be offered for $29 for children 12 and under. For reservations, please call 617-426-7878

7) This Thanksgiving, Chef Robert Tobin invites you to relax and leave the cooking to him and the culinary team at the Aura Restaurant at the Seaport Hotel offers the ideal way to escape the hosting duties and any potential stress, and instead enjoy a beautiful Thanksgiving Day brunch buffet in the company of your family and friends.

Guests will feast on Thanksgiving favorites, traditional brunch fare and an array of autumn classics. The spread will include breakfast items like traditional eggs benedict, French toast, and a leek and truffle quiche. There will also be a raw bar with clams, oysters, and shrimp cocktail. Thanksgiving necessities include roasted butternut soup with chestnut cream, roast turkey breast with cranberry sauce, roasted honey ham, sweet potato & maple syrup casserole, stuffing, buttermilk mashed potatoes, and roasted Brussels sprouts. Pastry Chef Karen Hodson will put out a delectable assortment of holiday cakes, pies, mini pastries and a chocolate fountain,

Live entertainment will be provided by Lance Houston Jazz Quartet. The Brunch Buffet will be held from 11am-3pm and the cost is $85 per adult and $25 for children, ages 5-12 (plus tax & gratuity). For reservations, please call 617-385-4304

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.. This edition has some especially compelling events, from a Game Dinner at Bistro du Midi to a Scotch Dinner at Saloon. This is the time to treat yourself to a special dinner event.
**********************************************************
1) On Tuesday, November 3, at 6pm, Bistro du Midi is hosting their First Annual Game and Bordeaux Dinner. Carnivores will rejoice as Chef Robert Sisca incorporates the fruits of his favorite pastime into mouthwatering dishes. The menu showcases dishes expertly paired with classified Bordeaux selections hand-picked by Head Sommelier Todd Lipman. Highlights of the pairings include the Roasted Squab paired with the 1998 Château Dassault – a wine currently at its peak with fall flavors of plum, smoke, pea husk, cedar, cinnamon, and coffee.

The full menu is as follows:
FIRST
Venison tartare, burgundy black truffle, pistachio, quail egg
2014 Rosé de Chevalier, Pessac-Léognan
SECOND
Roasted Squab, goats milk feta, polenta, baby Brussels, espresso jus
1998 Château Dassault, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé
THIRD
Pheasant sausage, Iberico ham, basquaise, smoked bacon aïoli
2006 Château Vieux-Maillet, Pomerol
FOURTH
Rack of elk, vadouvan spices, pumpkin, romaine, sauce au poivre
1995 Sarget de Gruaud Larose, Saint-Julien
FIFTH
Duck egg crème brûlée, smoked sea salt
2007 Château Coutet, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Barsac

Cost: Game dinner is $150 per guest and reservations are required.
For reservations, please call Bistro du Midi at 617-426-787

This looks to be an amazing dinner with killer wines. Venison tartare! Rack of elk! And older Bordeaux. I highly recommend you attend this event.

2) Davis Square watering hole Saloon will host an exclusive single malt pairing dinner celebrating Scotland’s favorite sips on November 4 at 6pm. Emceed by Scotch Master Ambassador Simon Brooking, this five-course scotch-friendly menu has been designed by executive chef Shayne Nunes and features scotch pairings hand-selected by Brooking from Saloon’s expansive craft portfolio.

Throughout the dinner, Brooking will impart his wisdom on spirit rookies and aficionados alike by giving them a liquid tour of classic single malts such as Laphroaig, Auchentoshan and Bowmore. Saloon’s beverage director and resident malt man, Schuyler Hunton, also will be on hand shaking up two specialty craft cocktails including the “Dr. Frankenstein” (peaty scotch, Cocchi Americano, lemon juice, Giffard Val de Loire) and the “Little Scotland” (Haig Club, Cynar, Tempus Fugit Vermouth, salt, orange bitters).

This exclusive taste of the isle’s most celebrated regions will be presented as follows:

AMUSE
Crostini (Mission fig jam, Great Hill blue cheese, smoked almond)
Auchentoshan 3 Wood
FIRST COURSE
Chipotle Pumpkin Soup (smoked gouda, toasted pepitas, cinnamon crème fraiche)
Bowmore 18 Year
SECOND COURSE
Sticky Pork Rib (hickory rub, blueberry barbeque sauce, cornbread purée)
Laphroaig 15 Year
THIRD COURSE
Coleman All-Natural Pork Loin (citrus brined, roasted Brussels sprouts, honey roasted carrot purée, reduced pomegranate)
Laphroaig Cairdeas
DESSERT COURSE
Sticky Toffee Pudding (French vanilla ice cream)
Bowmore 15 Year

COST: $76.70 per person (gratuity and EventBrite fee included)
Advance reservations required. For tickets, please visit: www.saloonscotchdinner.eventbrite.com. This event is reserved for ages 21+.

This is another event that looks killer, with a fine selection of Scotches. Highly recommended too.

3) While the Boston Christmas Festival  at Seaport World Trade Center is known for its great bargains on toys, home goods, clothing and high-quality crafts - this year this annual event introduces The Farmer’s Market featuring over 48 small batch artisan producers of specialty foods. Whether shopping for delicious gifts or looking for just the right tasty treat for holiday entertaining, The Farmers Market at the Christmas Festival offers the singular opportunity to buy artisan foods and support small local food purveyors without leaving metro Boston!

Dress up a cheese platter with Triple Ale Onion Spread, add zest to a salad with Spiced Beet Vinegar, or reimagine poultry with Kiwi Lime Salsa Verde, just a few of the palate pleasers from former luxury yacht chef Warrick Dowsett, founder of Wozz Kitchen Creations (Bethlehem, NH).

Tempt taste buds with sensational seasonings like Smoky Maple Barbeque Rub or Black Truffle Salt from Soluna Garden Farm (Winchester, MA), also known for its all organic teas.

For a decadent indulgence, sample mouthwatering confections from Ye Olde Toffee Shoppe (Hopewell Junction, NY).

Foodies will also enjoy the Festival’s Gingerbread House Competition where top chefs from area restaurants and bakeries exhibit masterpieces judged by a panel of celebrities and their children. The houses are on display throughout the show and sold with all proceeds to benefit Housing Families, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to ending family homelessness.

Festival Hours:
Friday, November 6 from 12pm-7pm
Saturday, November 7 from 10am-6pm
Sunday, November 8 from 10am-5pm

Tickets are $15 for adults; free to children under 14. For information, call (617) 385-5000, or visit www.BostonChristmasFestival.com to print a discount coupon or buy tickets online. For the latest updates, follow Boston Christmas Festival on Facebook.

4) The Velveteen Habit (TVH), located in Cape Neddick, is debuting seasonal creations from executive chef Chris Wilcox. Available in addition to a series of nightly specials, The Velveteen Habit’s new menu items infuse the peak flavors of their kitchen garden’s autumn bounty while showcasing the best tastes from local land and sea.

For “Charcuterie, Cheese & Preserves,” highlights include the Vinegar & Cellar-Fermented Vegetables ($5), Chicken Liver Mousse with black currant jelly, almond and a buttermilk biscuit ($9) and Damariscotta River-raised Norumbega Oysters served with a signature hot sauce and lemon ($3 each). “Small Plate” options are designed to share, such as the Dry Aged Beef Tartare with dilly beans, black pepper and pretzels ($12), Garden Beet Salad with yogurt, beer nuts and spicy greens ($11) and Garden Lettuces & Herbs with crisp vegetables, charred onion and a cider vinaigrette ($12;

There are seven artfully presented “Dinner Plates,” like the Seared Duck with roasted pumpkin, Brussels sprouts, Concord grape and cocoa ($31), Smoked Pork Loin with braised cabbage, caramel apple and caraway granola ($30), Atlantic Salmon with creamy farro, peas, horseradish and grilled onion ($30) and Smoked Beef Short Rib with olive oil crushed potatoes and pot roasted vegetables ($31). In addition, TVH offers a “Family Meal” that is prepared and served for-two: Cold Spring Ranch Tomahawk Ribeye, from New Portland, with horseradish creamed kale, roasted potatoes and chimichurri ($89).

The Velveteen Habit’s owner and sommelier, Benjamin Goldman, has curated an eclectic list of wines that feature lesser known varietals, up-and-coming vineyards and rare vintages. Being a wine-centric restaurant, Goldman focuses his efforts on pouring what’s fun and exciting both domestically and internationally while taking into consideration each guest’s palate. Thoughtfully customized pairings from the vine are available for any dinner experience ($45 per person).

At the bar, sophisticated bites are complemented by craft cocktails that incorporate TVH garden-infused spirits as well as homemade syrups, bitters and shrubs. For utensil-free plates, there is Smoked Bratwurst with cheddar grits, fennel and cider mustard ($14) and the signature TVH Cheeseburger with pickled cucumbers, burger sauce and tater tots ($16). For turophiles, there is an antique cart displaying a daily selection of Local Cheese with lavosh and honeycomb ($5 each) that are categorized in a user-friendly manner.

5) With a fresh, street-food inspired menu dominated by sharable small plates; a new, full service lunch; and added embellishments from artists that call the Fort Point ‘hood home, Louie and Michael DiBiccari’s Tavern Road is heading in a whole different direction this fall.

Chef Louie’s new dinner menu features sharable small plates that pay homage to the vibrant vittles often sold by cart in Peru, Mexico, France, Italy and Spain. Made with the best New England ingredients, this is globally inspired street food that’s locally sourced. Playful renditions of celebrated dishes include Duck & Yellow Bean Pupusas ($9), Parsnip & Potato Pierogies ($8), Lamb Meatball Tostadas ($14) and Peruvian Roasted Chicken Thighs ($12).

After dark, the award-winning late night menu showcases hearty bar snacks including Louie’s acclaimed Fried Chickpea Bites ($6), Porchetta ($10), and signature Lamb Meatballs ($12), served with yogurt and harissa vinaigrette.

Daytime diners will find the restaurant now opens for full service lunch in the main dining room. Wine, beer and cocktails are available from the Tavern Road bar, and the menu is comprised of select, dishes from the dinner menu as well as chef-driven sandwiches, salads and snacks. TR Street Foods has closed, but take out options will still be available via phone orders and the TR Street Foods app.

6) BOKX109 launches three complimentary spirits tastings this fall, including. Remy Martin, Bruichladdich Scotch, and Mount Gay Rum. Beverage Manager Tom Dargon and the BOKX109 Team are hosting this series of tasting events, which are free and open to the public.

BOKX109 American Prime is amplifying its beverage program by bringing in representatives from high quality spirits including Remy Martin, Bruichladdich Scotch, and Mount Gay Rum for locals and Indigo Hotel-goers to experience. BOKX bartenders will be serving up creative seasonal libations highlighting the spirit sponsor of the evening. Guests can also enjoy live music and complimentary bites from Executive Chef Israel Medina straight from the BOKX109 kitchen. The series is scheduled as follows:

Tuesday, November 3, 6pm-7pm: Remy Martin
Remy Martin representatives will be at BOKX109 featuring the 1738 Sidecar (Remy Martin 1738 Cognac, Cointreau, lemon juice) from BOKX109’s new cocktail list. Light fare will be provided.

Tuesday, December 1,6pm-7pm: Bruichladdich Scotch
Emerging Islay Scotch producers will be hosting a free sampling and education event at the BOKX109 Chef’s Table, accompanied by new age BBQ bites from Executive Chef Israel Medina.

Thursday, December 17, 6pm-7pm: Mount Gay Rum
The folks of Mount Gay Rum will be in house showcasing the Caribbean Old Fashioned (Mt. Gay Black Barrel Rum, Angostura Bitters, sweet vermouth). Guests can also enter to win a limited edition snowboard in an exclusive raffle!

7) Loyal Nine and Chef Marc Sheehan announce the introduction of Sunday Brunch beginning November 1,  available from 10:30am-2:30pm in the dining room. Chef Sheehan, Pastry Chef Adam Ross, and team have developed a varied menu and select dishes may include:

--Lobster Popovers with Smoked Pork Fat Hollandaise
--Buckwheat Sourdough Pancakes
--Augusta Potato Rosti with Creamed Chipped Beef, Fried Egg and Fish Pepper Relish
--Baked Eggs with Mussels, Parsley and Dulse
--Fried Clam and Bacon Sandwich with Piccalilli Aioli
--Sour doughnuts

Brunch beverages from Lead Bartender Fred Yarm include Bloody Marys, Bloody Caesars, Michelada, tiki drinks, and a few large format cocktails. Also available will be Loyal Nine’s vast selection of coffees: drip coffee, espresso-based drinks, manual brew (siphon, V60, Aeropress, Chemex, woodneck), 24-hour steeped Ethiopian cold brew, Nitro on tap, Cascara, espresso tonic, and more.

For Reservations, please call (617) 945-2576.

8) On November 19, at 6:30pm, Davio’s in Patriot Place is hosting a Glenfiddich Scotch Dinner . Struan Ralph, Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador, will guide you through his chosen scotches and Executive Chef Paul King will prepare a four course prix-fixe dinner to compliment the scotches as you learn about Glenfiddich!

MENU
Amuse Bouche
Duck Confit, Crispy Polenta, Great Hill Blue Cheese
Pan Seared Jonah Crab, Dijon Aioli
Featuring Davio’s Cabernet, Davio’s Chardonnay
1st Course
Baby Lola Rosa, Grilled Octopus (Fregola, Caper Vinaigrette)
Glenfiddich 18 year
2nd Course
Pan Seared Nantucket Bay Scallops (Corn Soufflé, Spicy Greens)
Glenfiddich 12 year
3rd Course
Roasted Prime Natural Aged Rib Eye (Mushroom Arancini, Broccoli Rabe, Brandy Shallot)
Glenfiddich 15 year
4th Course
Banana Hazelnut Bread Pudding (Salted Caramel Gelato, Shaved Chocolate)
Glenfiddich 21 year

COST: $85 Per Person (tax and gratuity not included)
Reservations are required so please call 508-339-4810

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Nikkei Cuisine: Japanese Food the South American Way

It's fascinating to realize that the largest Japanese population outside of their country is located in Brazil. Japanese immigration to Brazil began in 1908 with the arrival of about 800 Japanese, many farmers, and a number of them obtained jobs working on coffee plantations. After World War I, there was a boom in Japanese immigration to Brazil, most settling in São Paulo, and presently, there are roughly 1.5 million Japanese in Brazil.

From the start, Japanese ingredients, foods and Sake were imported into the country and there is some evidence there were also Japanese brewers in Brazil who were producing Sake, miso, and soy sauce. The first Sake brewery of note was Tozan Farm, which started producing Sake in 1934. Because of the hotter temperatures in Brazil, it wasn't easy to make Sake but the brewery succeeded and still exists. Currently, there is at least one other Sake brewery in Brazil too.

The Japanese in Brazil needed to adapt their cuisine, to handle the different Brazilian ingredients that were more readily available and less expensive than imported ingredients, creating a "Nikkei cuisine." For about one hundred years, this cuisine has evolved, merging the best of the two cultures, yet many people are probably unaware of it. There certainly are no restaurants in the Boston area which specialize in this cuisine. However, home cooks now have a resource so they can prepare and experience this cuisine for their family and friends.

Nikkei Cuisine: Japanese Food the South American Way by Luiz Hara ($35, Jacqui Small LLP, October 2015). is a hardcover book of 256 pages (which is also available as an e-book).  Luiz Hara, an Italian-Japanese Brazilian chef, was raised in the Brazilian city of São Paulo and has lived in London for over 20 years ago. He underwent culinary training in Japan, earned a degree at Le Cordon Bleu in London, and started The London Foodie blog in 2009.

The book begins with a brief introductory chapter, "What is Nikkei Cuisine?" The term Nikkei derives from the Japanese word nikkejin and basically refers to those Japanese who migrated overseas and all of their descendants. As such, Nikkei cuisine is "the cooking of the Japanese diaspora." It will vary dependent on where the Japanese settled as they adjust and modify their cuisine, using different local ingredients and cooking styles. This chapter also provides some family background on the author as well as a brief history of the Japanese immigration to Brazil.

The bulk of the book consists of eight chapters of recipes, containing  over 100 recipes. The recipes reflect a blending of Japanese cuisine with those of Brazil and Peru. The chapters and some of their interesting recipes include the following:
 
--Small Eats: Boneless Short-Rib Sliders; Kouji Fried Chicken;;Spaghetti Alla Giapponese (squid spaghetti with spicy miso bolognese); Causa of Baby Cuttlefish
--Sushi, Traditoes & Ceviches: Tiradito of Scallops & Sea Bass; Ceviche of Sea Bass (with Brazil nut milk, truffle dashi, & shiitake mushrooms)
--Rice & Noodles: São Paulo-Style Yakisoba; Arroz Con Pollo Nikkei,; Nikkei Lobster Rice
--Soups & Hotpots: Miso & Mandioquinha Cream
--Mains: Brazilian Churrascp with Nikkei Flavors; Chicken & Kabocha Pumpkin Stew
--Vegetables, Salads & Tofu: Pimentos de Padron Nikkei (with red miso powder)
--Desserts: Matcha Madelines; Banana & Nutella Gyoza

The eighth chapter is Mastering the Basics: Sauces, Marinades & Condiments: which touches on the basic recipes of Japanese cuisine, from making rice to tempura, dashi broth to teriyaki sauce, ponzu sauce to sesame dressing. This section would be helpful for many cooks who want to use some of those basics in their own recipes. There is then a brief section with a glossary of ingredients from Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisines.

The recipes run the range from easy to complex, so the cooks of all skill levels will find recipes they can use. Each recipe is accompanied by a beautiful color photo, making this a visually compelling cookbook as well. If you enjoy Japanese cuisine, this intriguing variation will appeal to you. The same applies to those who enjoy Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine. This isn't a fusion cuisine that someone recently tried to combine. This is a cuisine which was slowly integrated over decades, a necessary blending by immigrants in a new country. Thus, the concepts have been tested and honed over time.

Nikkei Cuisine:presents a more unique cookbook, one which highlights a cuisine which previously has not received sufficient attention. With the holidays coming, this would be a nice gift or you can buy it for yourself to create some of the recipes for your holiday dinners. I am most intrigued to try the Spicy Miso Bolognese, and will report back once it is made. I also recommend that you pair these recipes with Sake, which should be an excellent accompaniment to all of these dishes.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Rant: Don't Be A Selfish, Greedy Glutton

As the holiday season nears, food and drink blogs are ramping up their holiday coverage. You'll read epic tales of sumptuous feasts, accompanied by expensive and rare bottles of wine. You'll read plenty of holiday recipes, describing how to prepare some of the most decadent dishes. You'll read of pricey gifts received, from costly electronics to tropical vacations. Colorful photos will display all of these hedonistic pleasures in their luxuriant glory.

However, I want to see something else, something more meaningful. Are you up to the challenge?

I don't want to be regaled by selfish, greedy gluttons. Instead, I want to hear about charitable efforts to help those less fortunate. This should be a time of generosity and charity, of giving to others rather than feeding our own gluttony. Though many love the holiday season, it can be a very sad time for those with little or nothing. Every community has some people who find it difficult merely to pay for basic essentials. Share your largess with others, helping those who truly need it.

Even for those of us who are having tough economic times, we all probably can help out others, even if only in little ways. If you cannot spare money, then donate your time or make something to give to others, maybe bake a pie, cookies or casserole. Donate old clothes or other durable items which you no longer use. There are many different ways to help out others besides just monetary donations. All it takes is a little creativity and thought.

During this season, there are numerous restaurants, chefs, stores and others which are holding special charitable events. Promote those events on your blogs, spreading the word far and wide. Attend those events, encouraging others to do the same. Give to your favorite charities, whatever they might be. Just don't revel in selfish, greedy gluttony, ignoring the plight of others.

This applies to our readers as well and I encourage all of you to be charitable as well, in whatever way that you can. Be creative in your efforts, even if your own finances are tight. That would be the best gift I could receive from my readers, the knowledge that you have all helped out those less fortunate.

I will do my own part to help the less fortunate, to share what I possess. Year round, I promote numerous food and wine-related charitable events and probably will promote even more this season. I will give to several charities as well, even if I only can give small amounts, to those which are personally close to my heart. I will try to help in a number of different ways and I strongly encourage all of my fellow bloggers to do the same this season.

Let us share with all during this joyous holiday season.

(This is a reposting of an old rant (with minor revisions) which remains as relevant as ever and also worthy of repeating.)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.. **********************************************************
1) Boston Nightlife Ventures corporate beverage director Michael Boughton and Ye Olde Tavern Tours host a special cocktail event at The Tap Trailhouse celebrating notable colonial cocktails on Boston’s celebrated Freedom Trail. Ye Olde Tavern Tours and The Tap Trailhouse invite guests to enjoy a unique interactive cocktail class featuring flavors of historic Boston. Guests will learn the history behind colonial cocktails and how to make classic drinks including shrub, flip, grog and punch classics. Boston Nightlife Ventures corporate beverage director Michael Boughton will lead a tutorial focusing on the history and creation of historical cocktails as guests mix up and sip on their versions of the colonial sips.

WHEN: Tuesday, November 3, 6pm-7pm.
Tickets are $35 and required to attend the event. They are available for purchase here: http://bit.ly/1jvJm9e.

2) Osteria Nino in Burlington is debuting a new bar menu as well as a refreshed list of balanced craft cocktails. The Roman kitchen’s “10 for 10” bar menu showcases ten Italian specialties that are available for $10 each weekdays in the bar and lounge area. Designed to encourage a social bar experience, these shareable dishes are created with the tried and true techniques of “cucina italiana” and include the Crispy Roman Risotti Suppli with tomato and mozzarella; Calamari Fritti with lemon and aioli; Bruschetta with fig jam and fresh ricotta; a Salumi Formagi compilation with cured Italian meats and cheese (pictured below, left); a trio of 6 Hour Meatballs made with pork, beef and tomato; Cacio e Pepe, delicate Roman guitar string pasta, pecorino Romano and black pepper (pictured below, right); Cavatelli all’Amatriciana with cured pork, tomato and pecorino Romano; Fettuccine Alfredo with butter and parmigiano; Fettuccine al Rago with a traditional southern beef and pork ragu, tomatoes and parmigiana; and, Margherita Pizza with tomato, basil and mozzarella..

On the liquid side, the cocktails ($12) are organized in four user-friendly categories to easily navigate your palate: “Italian,” “Vodka & Gin,” “Whiskey” and “Other.” Seasonal standouts include the Autumn Sweater with rye, amaro and maple syrup; Apple Crisp with cider, maple bourbon and cinnamon; and, Fall Honey with silver tequila, spiced honey and pomegranate. For a taste of Italy, highlights include the Sicilian Sunrise with Amaro Averna and grapefruit and Old Paesan with rye, orange and bitters. For clear-based spirits, the Water Lily marries gin, violet and citrus while the Berry Gin Fizz shakes up cranberry and citrus with egg white. Whiskey lovers can opt for a twist on the classic, the Nino Manhattan with bourbon, Antica Formula, bitters and a cherry.

Bar menu: Available weekdays from 4pm-6pm

3) In celebration of Halloween, The Beehive is bringing a sensual side to terror on Wednesday, October 28 at its Dead Sexy Burlesque show. This year, the space will be transformed into the Evil Laboratory and Cabaret Space of Mad Scientist Dr. Johanny Porkenpie (Jonny Porkpie) and his three peek-a-boo darlings: Jo “Boobs” Weldon, The Maine Attraction and Nina La Voix. For one night only the slasher flasher showcase Dead Sexy will leave its weekly Times Square, New York City venue for its Boston premiere. Throughout the evening, Executive Chef Gregory Torrech will be serving up devilishly delicious dinner specials alongside special cocktail concoctions from the evening’s sponsor, Jim Beam.

The psychopath who created Pinchbottom Theatrical Burlesque and the infamous international burlesque gameshow "Grab My Junk" has dug up a skeleton crew of ghoulishly gorgeous (and gorgeously ghoulish) burlesque stars, featuring Jonny Porkpie and Jo “Boobs” Weldon (Headmistress, New York School of Burlesque and author of The Burlesque Handbook) to possess the stage of The Beehive just in time for Halloween. Terror has never been so titillating; horror has never been so hot. Come scream — with excitement — at this frighteningly attractive, monstrously talented, insanely seductive night of blood & gore and bump & grind. .

WHEN: Wednesday, October 28, from 5pm-12am. Show begins at 8pm
COST: No cover charge
RSVP: Dinner reservations are encouraged and can be made by calling (617) 423-0069.

4) International Sherry Week is November 2 to 8,  and you can celebrate at Taberna de Haro,  I'm a huge fan of Sherry and have written numerous articles about this wondrous wine. Chef Deborah Hansen is presenting two Sherry classes/tastings to introduce you this compelling beverage. I strongly encourage you to check out either class, or even both of them.

Sherry, She’s My Girl (a great introdiction)
Tuesday November 3, 7pm-8:30 pm
Manzanilla Papirusa (Emilio Lustau)
canapés de brandada y gildas ~ brandade canapés w roasted red pepper; olive-anchovy-caperberry gildas
Fino El Maestro Sierra (El Maestro Sierra)
cazon en adobo ~ marinated & fried shark
Amontiallado La Garrocha (Bodegas Grant)
Puerros gratinados ~ leeks au gratin
Palo Cortado Obispo Gascón (Bodegas Barbadillo)
piquillos con rabo ~ oxtail-stuffed piquillo pepper
Oloroso Don Gonzalo (Valdespino)
morcilla a la parrilla ~ black sausage & grilled apple
Cost: $65 per person (plus tax & gratuity)
Reservation and pre-payment required. Please call 617-277-8272
~~~
Sherry, To Know Her is to Love Her (Learn even more)
Wednesday, November 4, 7pm-8:30pm
Manzanilla Sacristía AB (Selección Antonio Barbadillo Mateos)
Xató ~ salad of chicories with romescu, salt cod, olives, anchovy
Fino Alexander Jules 22/85 (Selección Alexander Jules)
mejillones ~ mussels with sherry & black garlic
Amontillado AB (Gonzalez Byass)
apio horneado ~ slow-roasted celery with jamón ibérico & bechamel
Palo Cortado Wellington (Hidalgo La Gitana)
cordero torneado ~ braised lamb with turnip
Oloroso Emperatriz Eugénia (Emilio Lustau)
queso Payoyo y pera ~ Payoyo cheese on rustic bread with honey & butter-roasted pear
Cost: $80 per person (plus tax and gratuity)
Reservation and pre-payment required. Please call 617-277-8272

5) This November, Harvest restaurant will commemorate its 40th anniversary with special offerings and promotions for guests. Since it first opened its doors in 1975, the iconic Cambridge restaurant has remained an institution in Harvard Square, celebrating the modern New England table with a focus on the region’s freshest ingredients. As it continues to cultivate new talent in all areas of the restaurant, the team at Harvest reflects on the last 40 years by recognizing its culinary legacy, including Barbara Lynch, Chris Schlesinger, Lydia Shire, Gordon Hamersley and Sara Moulton, and how they’ve made an impact on the culinary industry within the region and beyond.

From November 1 through November 30, guests are invited to celebrate Harvest’s 40th Anniversary with a series of in-restaurant programming:
--Anniversary Tasting Menu: Executive Chef Tyler Kinnett and Executive Pastry Chef Brian Mercury have created a special Anniversary Tasting Menu that will be offered throughout November, inspired by the celebrated chefs who have made their mark at Harvest over the past four decades, and their signature dishes during their time at the restaurant. Notable guests such as Julia Child also served as inspiration for the menu. Guests can choose from two tasting menu options, including:
o A three-course menu: Two savory courses, one sweet; $48; $68 with wine pairing
o A six-course menu: Four savory, two sweet; $68; $88 with wine pairing
--Anniversary Gift: Each guest who enjoys the Anniversary Tasting Menu at Harvest will end their experience at Harvest on a sweet note, with a special Birthday takeaway created by Executive Pastry Chef Brian Mercury. Potential delicacies include homemade cashew brittle, goat’s milk fudge and chocolate chip meringue.
--Anniversary Toast: Harvest is offering “throwback” specialty cocktails priced at 1970s prices, including the “Harvest Wallbanger” at $2.95. The Harvest Wallbanger is the restaurant’s take on the classic drink made popular in the mid-70s.
--Anniversary Month Specials: All guests who celebrate a birthday or wedding anniversary at Harvest restaurant throughout the month of November will receive a special “anniversary rate” of 15% off their total bill (excluding alcohol, tip and gratuity). To redeem, guests must note celebration at time of making reservation and mention to their server.
--Anniversary Prizes: Guests who share their past and present Harvest memories and photos on Instagram throughout the month of November using #HarvestThenandNow and @DineatHarvest will earn the chance to win one of three prizes, including:
o Brunch for four at Harvest
o Dinner for two at Harvest
o $50 Gift Card

For more information on Harvest’s 40th anniversary, visit www.harvestcambridge.com.
To make a reservation, guests can call 617-868-2255

6) Executive Chef Daniel Bruce and Sommelier Nick Daddona welcome guests on Wednesday, October 28, at 7pm, to the recently renovated and redesigned Meritage Restaurant + Wine Bar for an evening showcasing flavors of Burgundy. This will be a unique evening featuring the Kings of Burgundy with expert culinary pairings by Executive Chef Daniel Bruce. Meritage Wine Director Nicholas Daddona and Adam Friedberg of AP Wine Imports will guide guests through a rich palette of flavors featuring a variety of truly artisanal wines from Burgundy.

The four-course dinner menu is as follows:
-Amuse-
Domaine Gracieux Chevalier Crémant de Bourgogne
Warm Melted Leek and Maple Smoked Salmon Flan, Sturgeon Caviar
-First-
2012 Domaine du Cellier aux Moines Les Pucelles 1er Cru' Puligny-Montrachet Blanc
Pan Roasted Lemon Sole (Grilled Sweet Corn and Truffle Cream)
-Second-
2012 Domaine Coillot Perre & Fils La Charme aux Pretres Marsannay Rouge
2012 Domaine Bryczek Chambolle-Musigny Rouge
Confit of Duck and Dried Cranberry Tortellini (Local Wild Mushroom and Black Kale Fricassee)
-Third-
2012 Domaine Prieur-Brunet 1er Cru Volnay- Santenots Rouge
2009 Domaine Bryczek Cuvee du Pape Jean-Paul II 1er Cru Morey-Saint-Denis Rouge
Pinot Noir Braised Lamb Osso Bucco (Moroccan Spice Roasted Autumn Vegetables)
-Fourth-
Warm Red Bosc Pear Galette (Star Anise Gelato)

Tickets are available for $195 per person, including tax and gratuity.
For reservations, please call (617) 439-3995

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Vermouth Del Professore Rosso: A Sweet, Herbal Wine

I've posed the question before, and it bears repeating. Why is Vermouth, a fortified and aromatized wine, largely ignored by wine lovers? That should not be the case. As I've also said before, "It's a wine with a fascinating history that extends back thousands of years...It can be delicious and complex, intriguing and diverse, and offers a template upon which a producer can put their individual stamp." You need to drink more Vermouth, whether on its own or in a cocktail.

Let me recommend an Italian Vermouth which would be a great choice to start your Vermouth explorations: the Vermouth Del Professore Rosso ($26) which I purchased at Bin Ends.  This Vermouth is a special collaboration between Federico Ricatto (an artisan-producer), the Antica Distelleria Quaglia and the Jerry Thomas Speakeasy in Rome. The Antica Distelleria Quaglia extends back to the latter half of the 19th century, and was purchased by Giuseppe Quaglia in 1906. It is now operated by Carlo Quaglia, the great grandchild of Giuseppe

The idea was to recreate an older style of Vermouth, a traditional Turin style, and they ended up using a recipe that was based on one used Federico Ricatto;s grandfather. Each year, they only produce about 10,000 bottles and each bottle is individually numbered. The Vermouth is produced from a Muscat wine, pure cane sugar and 13 herbs and spices, including mountain mint, wormwood, gentian, cloves,and mace. It is matured for a time in oak casks and has an alcohol content of 18%. The Vermouth also takes its name "Pofessore" from Jerry Thomas, aka “The Professor”, who many say is the "the father of American mixology."  

The Vermouth has a pleasing amber color and an intriguing aroma of herbs, citrus and honey. As a Rosso, it is supposed to be sweet and that comes out on the palate but it is a a softer sweetness, well balanced with acidity, savory elements and a hint of bitterness. Some inexpensive Vermouths can be cloyingly sweet but that is not the case here. The savory herbal notes will tantalize as some will seem familiar while others seem more exotic, and less common. The subtle bitterness, especially on the lengthy finish, will be a satisfying ending to this compelling wine. It is smooth and medium bodied, and can be drank on its own or in a cocktail.

One of my favorite ways to drink it is in a Rye Manhattan, and the type of Vermouth you use makes a significant difference in the taste of the cocktail. The herbal notes of this Vermouth pair well with the spicy Rye,and you might find yourself drinking more Manhattans because of it.

Who else  has tasted this Vermouth before?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ciao! Pizza & Pasta in Chelsea: Quality Food In a Small Package

It's a cliche that "big things come in small packages" but sometimes that saying is spot on. Sometimes you dine at a small restaurant which over delivers with its cuisine, an unexpected find which becomes a hidden treasure. I recently had such an experience and want to share my find, to spread the word about the culinary delights of this compelling new restaurant.

During the last couple years, the news has been talking about the evolution of Chelsea, how it is being transformed with new apartment buildings, new hotels, and plenty of renovation. It once had a more infamous reputation, being seen as a heavily crime-ridden area, and still is seen that way by some despite the significant recent changes. It is a city on the upswing, which will see even more positive growth and investment in the coming years. One of those positive changes that will be seen is new and interesting restaurants, like Ciao! Pizza & Pasta.  

Having opened a little over a month ago, on September 14, Ciao! Pizza & Pasta took over the location of a former Chinese restaurant, which had previously been there for about 23 years. Ciao is owned by Edson Coimbra, a former General Manager at L'Andana in Burlington, and Chef Marvin Posada, a former Executive Chef at L'Andana.  Both have worked at other local restaurants as well and eventually decided to open their own place together. I first met Edson about eight years ago while he was working at L'Andana though I hadn't met Chef Posada until I visited Ciao. Edson lives in Chelsea, only a short distance from Ciao, and is a strong supporter of the Chelsea community.

Parked in front of the restaurant is Edson's scooter, which also helps to advertise the new restaurant.

I was excited to check out the new Ciao, especially after hearing more about the concept, a wood-fire pizzeria with homemade pasta. I went once to Ciao as Edson's guest and then returned on my own two more times, to try even more items on their menu. The restaurant is located across the street from the Chelsea District Court and down the street from the Mystic Brewery. There is a tiny parking lot next to the restaurant and plenty of street parking nearby.

The restaurant is small, only about 500 square feet and most of that occupied by the kitchen. There are only five seats at a counter that looks out the large front windows onto Williams Street. Because of the limited seating, about 80% of their business is takeout. The restaurant is open from Monday to Saturday, 11am-10pm, with dinner currently being busier than lunch. Because of its small size, you might dismiss it as a typical pizza joint, the kind which are ubiquitous in most cities and towns, but you would be very wrong. They serve high quality cuisine, made from scratch, which would be fitting for any high-end Italian restaurant except their prices are far more reasonable.

The front of the restaurant has wood paneling, and that wood was taken from a 100+ year old house in Abington, adding some character to the place. With their open kitchen, something I like, you can watch the staff prepare your food, from pasta to pizza. Most of the kitchen staff lives in Chelsea, further showing their support of the local community. In response, the Chelsea community has been very supportive of Ciao, welcoming them to the neighborhood. In addition, many local businesses and organization, have been patronizing them, including local firemen and police officers. Other businesses, such as Mystic Brewery, have been seeking to work on joint endeavors together.  


The wood-fire stove at Ciao, which extends past the side wall of the restaurant.

Edson, pictured on the right side, is the bright smile in the front of the house, warmly greeting all of the customers. His charming personality exudes sincerity and I'm sure it has contributed to the initial success of Ciao. Besides greeting guests and taking orders, Edson also helps to educate the customers on the dishes they offer, translating restaurant lingo that some customers may not understand. During my multiple visits to the restaurant, I watched how he interacted with customers, and he did very well, especially evidenced by the number of repeat customers who stopped by.

Chef Posada, who is also very personable, designed the entire menu and I was able to watch him preparing a number of dishes. He was intense, taking care to ensure that every dish came out and met his high standards. As the former executive chef at a fine dining restaurant, Chef Posada continues to produce high quality cuisine, yet in a far more casual and less expensive restaurant.

One aspect of his cooking which struck me was his understanding of textures in various dishes. That might not be an element of cooking which many of us think about, but it can be important, elevating a dish from good to excellent. And poor textures in a dish can doom it, even if the taste is there.  For example, the various pastas were cooked to an excellent firmness, a nice al dente. If your pasta is too firm, or too soft, it will detract from the dish. The addition of tiny, crunchy pieces of chorizo atop a Bolognese dish as well as the addition of crispy duck skin to a duck confit pizza elevated both dishes, enhancing the taste. Even the texture of the pizzas is designed to please the customer.

The Menu, which sees some change (maybe 2-3 items) about every two weeks, currently has 2 Salads ($7-$9), 2 Paninis ($9), 4 Pastas ($11-$18) and 10 Pizzas ($10-$15). Prices are reasonable, especially considering the quantity and quality of the food.  You can also see the creativity in the dishes, such as the Gamberetto pizza with shrimp & chorizo. Due to their small size, they don't have a liquor license and unfortunately, there is no BYOB either. If you get take-out though, you could open a bottle of wine and enjoy it with any of these dishes.

At the front counter, you can see some of their desserts as well as their housemade pastas. The pasta should persuade you to check out those dishes.

The Beet Salad ($9), with two kinds of beets, goat cheese & aged Balsamic, offers fresh produce with plenty of creamy goat cheese. A nice way to begin your meal.

Paninis are only available from 11am-4pm and I tried the Pollo Arrosto ($9) with fontina cheese, sliced tomato and greens. With your Panini, you get home-made potato chips, though the menu does not mention that fact. These are huge crispy chips, topped with some rosemary and sea salt, and an excellent accompaniment. If they had these available as a Side, I'm sure they would sell very well. In time, they plan on creating additional types of chips, such as sweet potato, and might even start selling them by the bag.

The Panini bread is made from their pizza dough, cooked in the wood-fire oven, and is thin and crunchy, adding a nice textural component to the tasty slices of chicken.  It was a hearty and good sandwich, making for a nice lunch and a better alternative than the basic sub from many other takeout places..

The Bucatini all'Amatriaciana ($11), with San Marzano tomatoes, smoked bacon and pecorino, presents plenty of al dente buucatini with a pleasing red sauce, well balanced with nice acidity to it, and the added element of the smoky bacon, which adds taste and texture. On a chilly fall day, it was a pleasant choice.

Herbed Gnocchetti 

The Herbed Gnocchetti( $18) is atop red wine braised short ribs & root vegetables and topped with some parmesan. The tiny gnocchi were firm and pillowy, just a perfectly prepared pasta, and the short ribs and sauce was hearty and rustic, with a delicious blend of spices and flavors as well as tender meat. A perfect fall/winter dish. I also would love to see those tiny gnocchi in other dishes, and think they are probably even better than normal-sized gnocchi.

Porcini Fettucine

The Porcini Fettucine ($12) are topped with wood-fired roasted button mushrooms, black truffle butter, and parmigiano reggiano. Once again, the pasta was a perfect consistency, and this dish burst with umami flavors. Earthy and buttery, this is another dish which fits perfectly in the fall.

Campanelle.

The Campanelle ($14) is topped by a chorizo bolognese & parmigiano reggiano and I was thoroughly impressed with this dish. It was hearty and delicious, with plenty of creaminess in the sauce, lots of spicy meat, and crunchy bits of chorizo, The campanelle pasta was cooked perfectly and was an excellent vehicle for the bolognese. I finished every bit of this large dish and probably could have devoured a second one. Though I enjoyed all four pasta dishes, this was easily my favorite and earns my highest recommendation.

You won't find the usual Cheese or Pepperoni pizzas at Ciao. Instead, there are more traditional and creative choices available and you just need to be a little open to trying something different. At the most basic, you can order the Margherita Pizza ($10), with San Marzano tomato, mozzarella,  basil and extra virgin olive oil. The thin pizza crust was cooked just right, with a slight char, pleasing texture and a nice, chewy exterior crust. The fresh mozzarella has a nice springy to it and the red sauce is pleasant with a hint of sweetness and nice acidity. A simple but delicious pizza, showcasing the delights of wood-fire pizza.,

For something more creative, the Duck Confit Pizza was an off-menu Special one evening,  It was made with duck confit, some crispy duck skin, fresh mozzarella, a sweet potato/butternut squash puree, caramelized onions, and cranberries. As you can see, they don't skimp on their toppings. The pizza was an excellent blend of flavors, with sweetness and tartness, and the duck meat was tender and flavorful. The pizza crust was once again just right, all making for a damn tasty pizza.

For Dessert, you can have a Bindi Tiramisu or Cheesecake, Homemade Cannoli, or a Nutella Pizza. .The Nutella Pizza ($11)is pictured above though that is not its usual full-size but instead a smaller version. The usual version is the same size as the rest of their pizzas. It is topped with sliced strawberries, bananas and mint leaves, as well as some powdered sugar. I'm not a fan of powdered sugar, and would order it again without it, but the rest of the pizza was sweet and delicious. The pizza crust was once again cooked just right, and the nutella, fruit and mint made a nice combo of flavors. A nice way to end your meal and I was told it has been very popular.

Ciao is producing killer house-made pasta and wood-fire pizzas, far better than the average takeout pizza joint. Chef Posada is working big magic in a small restaurant, and this is the type of place that every community should have. If I lived closer, I would be there every week. Chelsea is lucky to have Ciao. Edson & Chef Posada have embraced the idea of community and created a restaurant which helps to enhance their neighborhood. You should make the trek to Chelsea to experience this compelling cuisine. Ciao earns my high recommendation and its future looks very promising.

Good luck to Edson & Chef Posada!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Rant: People Are Drinking Less

Every time we dine out, we are faced with the same decision. What beverage, if any, should we order? Let's eliminate alcohol from the equation and consider only nonalcoholic beverages. Do you prefer a carbonated soda, a tall glass of iced tea, or simple tap water? What influences your decision in this regard? Do you have multiple glasses of your chosen beverage during your meal? These are probably decisions you don't think much about, directed more by habit than conscious choice.

However, at restaurants and other food service outlets, people are drinking less, or at least less nonalcoholic beverages. According to a new report from the NPD, a company which analyzes consumers spending, about 70% of these consumers order something to drink but their beverage orders have decreased by about 4% in the last five years, a reduction of approximately 2 billion servings. Why is that so?

The two most popular beverages are soda and milk, accounting for almost 50% of all drink orders, though their popularity has been decreasing and they lost about 4 billion servings in the last five years. Time for more milk commercials? Other beverages, including iced & frozen coffee, specialty coffee, frozen slush drinks, and tap & bottled water, have been seeing increased consumption. In some respects, soda and milk are ordered out of habit, with little thought into the choice though that habit has been changing.

One of the reasons for the changes in drink consumption is due to price, especially the increased ordering of tap water. Why spend $3.00 for a single glass of soda when you can get water for free? Restaurants which offer free refills of beverages tend to sell more of those beverages as they offer value to consumers. This is why a number of fast food restaurants have installed pour-your-own drink machines, trying to offer more value to their customers. Have you ever drank tap water instead of purchasing a drink at a restaurant because of cost issues?

I know I have done so. When I order nonalcoholic drinks, I tend to choose fresh-brewed, unsweetened iced tea. And I am much more likely to order it if they offer free refills. As I can easily drink 3 or 4 glasses during a meal, it can be costly if they don't offer free refills.

In addition, consumer tastes have changed over the years and they have been seeking out different drink options, like specialty coffees. Now only are they ordering them with their food, but they also are ordering them as snacks, instead of food. For others, they are choosing more healthy options, understanding that sugary sodas aren't a healthy choice. Restaurants need to pay attention to these changes unless they want to lose beverage sales.

What nonalcoholic beverages do you order when dining out?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.. **********************************************************
1) Everyone has eaten candy corn and bobbed for apples, but historically these foods have very little to do with the culinary tradition of Halloween. Halloween is thought to have derived from a pre-Christian festival known as Samhain celebrated among the Celtic people. Samhain was the principal feast day of the year that began on November 1 marking the darker half of the year and/or winter.

In the 9th century, the Roman Catholic Church shifted the date of All Saints' Day to November 1st and over time, Samhain and All Saints' Day merged to create the modern day Halloween that we celebrate today with celebrations the night before.

The vigil of the feast at sundown on October 31st the night before Samhain or “Halloween,” was a night when charms and incantations were powerful, when people looked into the future, and when feasting and merriment were ordained.

Traditional dishes of Samhain were dishes like, Colcannon, applecake , barmbrack, farls and fadge with roasted apples and butter. A ring was inserted in one of the fadge cakes and it was believed that whoever got the ring would be married before the year was out.

Beat Brasserie’s Chef Ignacio Lopez will be diving into ancient cookbooks to give culinarians and interesting new view on this overlooked foodie holiday. These dishes will run as specials in addition to the Beat’s regular menu from October 26 – October 31.

Food is always an essential part of every holiday. I’ve never heard of anyone looking into the culinary roots of this Halloween and we thought it would be interesting to see how it was celebrated before commercialism gave us bags of candy,” said Lopez.

2) South Boston’s Loco Taqueria and Davis Square's The Painted Burro face off in the next installment of Taste of the Nation’s Neighborhood Food Fights Round 5  Loco Chef Nicholas Dixon will compete against Painted Burro Chef/Owner Joe Cassinelli in a Battle to End Childhood Hunger

This Fifth Round will take place on Tuesday, October 20, from 7pm-9pm, at Lincoln Tavern in South Boston. It will be a Taco Tuesday at its finest. The Painted Burro is being featured on Cooking Channel’s “Taco Trip” with Aaron Sanchez that same evening at 10pm following the SOS Food Fight.

Tickets are priced at $30 per person and include the food created by both talented restaurants along with two complimentary drinks. Tickets can be purchased at: http://ce.strength.org/events/boston-food-fights.

3) Cook, an American bistro located in Newton, is welcoming Jonathan Soroff, columnist for The Improper Bostonian, as part of its continuing “Cook for Charity” celebrity chef series. On Wednesday, October 28, from 6pm-8pm, Soroff will roll up his sleeves and get cooking with Executive Chef/Owner Paul Turano as they serve up flatbreads from the open kitchen, wood-fired grill.

In addition to Cook’s signature menu items, the restaurant will be serving “The Soroff” special, a house-made flatbread with Italian sausage, roasted mushrooms, vinegar peppers and provolone cheese ($15). 100 percent of sales from each $15 “The Soroff” flatbread will be donated to the Caring for Carcinoid Foundation.

Soroff has a longstanding personal connection with the Caring for Carcinoid Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of cancer patients, families and caregivers by raising funds to discover more effective treatments and ultimately cures for carcinoid, pancreatic and neuroendocrine cancers. There are over 100,000 people in the U.S. living with neuroendocrine cancers, and there is currently no cure.

The night of cooking is one of several celebrity chef events at Cook, all of which will raise money and awareness about a charity chosen by the specific celebrity of the evening. The regular menu will also be available on the night. For more information, visit www.cooknewton.com or call 617-964-2665. Reservations are recommended.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Ten Reasons To Drink Greek Wine

"Nothing more excellent or valuable than wine was every granted by the gods to man."
--Plato

For over 4000 years, wine has been a significant element of Greek culture, something few other wine regions can say. The Greek word for wine, which can be traced back over 3000 years, is oenos.  The ancient Greeks loved wine and it figured into much of their life with even their philosophers waxing poetically about wine. During the last twenty-five years, the Greek wine industry has undergone much renovation and change, bringing their production processes into the modern world. However, despite its lengthy history, Greek wine seems to lack the recognition it deserves.

A significant number of wine stores carry few, if any Greek wines, and I've been told by some shop owners that Greek wines don't sell. Too many consumers haven't tasted Greek wines, and at the wine store where I work, it is extremely rare for anyone to ask for a Greek wine. Even a significant portion of wine lovers seem to have little experience with Greek wines. For years, I've been promoting Greek wines, as each time I attend a Greek wine tasting, I find more reasons to love their wines. And it's long overdue that Greek wines get more attention.

Let me provide you a list of ten reasons why you should explore Greek wines, why you should seek out these intriguing and delicious wines. Be adventurous with your palate and drink some Greek wines.

"Wine fills the heart with courage."
--Plato

First, Greek wine has a lengthy and fascinating history.
Wine making in Greece extends back over 4000 years and wine was an integral element of ancient Greek civilization. Few other countries can boast of such a lengthy wine making history. Plus, some of their indigenous grapes have been around since the days of ancient Greece.  For example, you can now enjoy wines made from the Limnio grape, which was written about by the ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle.  Each sip of such a wine beings with it a sense of history, a connection to the ancient past. Taste the centuries in a glass of Greek wine.

"Where there is no wine there is no love."
--Euripides

Second, Greece has many unique, indigenous grapes.
There are over 300 indigenous grapes in Greece, though only about 15% are used regularly. Aidani, Assyrtiko, Malagousia, Robola, Roditis, Sideritis, Agiorgtiko, Limnio, Mandilaria, Mavrodaphne and Xinomavro are but a small sample of their indigenous grapes. They present unique flavors and aromas, though still offering some familiarity. Any wine lover seeking to broaden their palate, to experience something new, should seek out such unusual grapes which may be found only in Greek wines. I love exploring unusual grapes and Greek wines allow me to further enhance my experiences.

"Both to the rich and poor, wine is the happy antidote for sorrow."
--Euripides

Third, Greece grows some international varietals.
Besides all of their indigenous grapes, you'll also find more familiar grapes like Chardonnay, Sauivignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. You will even find Tempranillo!  Some producers use these grapes in blends while others make single varietal wines. Though they make good wines with these grapes, sometimes they can seem like wines made from any other part of the world. I much prefer the Greek wines made from indigenous grapes, as they offer a better sense of place. Some producers feel they must make wines with international grapes as that is what consumers seek.  It is a much easier sell than trying to get consumers to embrace Malagousia or Mavrodaphne. 

"Bacchus opens the gate of the heart."
--Homer

Fourth, Greek wines are diverse.
Though about 70% of the current Greek wine production are White wines, they also produce Sparkling, Rosé, Red, Dessert wines and Retsina. Plus, the wines come in a wide variety of flavor profiles so there should be something available to appeal to any personal preference. In addition, there are many different terroirs in Greece, which further leads to diversity in their wines.  Greek wines are multi-dimensional and there is much to discover in that multitude. 

"Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever."
--Aristophanes

Five, Greek wines are made for food.
Greek wine is a natural pairing for food, especially Mediterranean cuisine, though its versatility extends into many other cuisines as well.  Many producers have told me that their wines were specifically produced to accompany food and I have yet to hear a Greek producer tell me that their wines were created not to pair with food.  If you purchase a Greek wine, you can be almost assured that it will pair well with food.  Dependent on the type of food, there is also probably a type of Greek wine which will work well with that dish, from seafood to steak, pasta to chicken.

"No poem was ever written by a drinker of water."
--Homer

Six, there is good value in Greek wines
As many wine lovers are concerned about price, Greek wines should be appealing as you'll find a fair number of tasty Greek wines for under $15, making them very affordable options. The fact Greek wines are not as popular means they are more hidden value wines. Some wine regions, due to their popularity, raise their prices commensurately. Greek produces high-end wines too, but those on a budget will find much to please them. These value wines are also an excellent entry to experience all that Greek wine has to offer.  

"When there is plenty of wine, sorrow and worry take wing."
--Ovid

Seven, there are many organic vineyards in Greece.
The eco-system in Greece is very conducive to organic agriculture, especially due to conditions which limit potential diseases, so the use of chemicals in vineyards is often unnecessary. A number of wineries have received organic certification, though others have not sought certification yet still engage in organic agriculture. And as agriculture has been such a significant aspect of the country for millenia, many farmers take a more holistic approach to agriculture. This matters to numerous wine lovers and is an added reason to embrace Greek wines.

"I regard those as wise who employ old wine freely and study old stories."
--Plautus

Eight, the average person will enjoy Greek wines.
There is no reason why consumers won't like Greek wines.  The wines offer plenty of delicious tastes, pair well with food, and offer value. I have seen plenty of consumers taste Greek wines, and be pleasantly surprised at how much they enjoyed them. The reason they often do not sell is more due to unfamiliarity and ignorance. Most consumers know little about Greek wines so they gravitate instead to what they already know. That can be overcome with greater education and more tastings. People need to be shown they are missing out on these delicious Greek wines.

"The best kind of wine is that which is most pleasant to him who drinks it."
--Pliny the Elder

Nine, give Retsina a chance.
Many people turn their nose up at Retsina, having had very unpleasant previous experiences with this wine. My initial experiences with retsina, up until several years ago, were nasty, reminding me of Pine Sol. However, I have now tasted a few Retsinas which I actually enjoyed. The pine element was more in the background, adding an interesting herbal element to the wine without overpowering. Wine making has improved and now you will find delicious and appealing Retsinas that should change your opinion about these wines.

"In wine there is health."
--Pliny the Elder

Ten, and most importantly, Greek wines are delicious.
It is a simple thought but sometimes gets forgotten amidst everything else. In the end, the most significant aspect of wine is that it tastes good. No matter what else a wine has going for it, if it does not taste good then it has failed. I have tasted many good Greek wines, certainly not everything I have tasted, but the majority at least. I have tasted good wines of all types, whites, reds, roses, dessert wines and retsina. I may appreciate Greek wines for many different reasons, but first and foremost, taste remains the most compelling reason to drink Greek wines.

So, are you convinced to give Greek wines a try?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tipsy Sensei: Halloween Book Signing Event On 10/22

Next Thursday, October 22, from 6pm-8pm, please come see me talk about my new Tipsy Sensei novel, Halloween Nightmare At Fenway, and purchase a signed copy for yourself or as a gift. It is a perfect book to read as Halloween nears. It is a supernatural thriller, based in Boston and steeped in Japanese folklore. It reaches back to some of the darkest aspects of World War II and now threatens Boston, the Red Sox, Fenway Park and the World Series. Can a local Sake expert, an immortal samurai and a Boston homicide detective stop this threat?

The New England Authors Expo is holding a special Halloween edition of their Thursday Night Author’s Lecture Series at the The Buttonwoods Museum/Haverhill Historical Society , which is located at 240 Water Street, Haverhill. There will be up to ten local authors at this event discussing, signing and selling their horror novels. This will be a great event to meet some interesting authors and learn more about some chilling horror novels and tales.

I will be signing and selling all four of my Tipsy Sensei books, including The Tipsy Sensei & Others, Demons, Gods & Sake, and Hand Fed Tigers. Remember, the holidays will soon be here so this would be an excellent time to purchase gifts for the book lovers on your list.

I hope to see you at this event!

Riceburg Food Truck: An Initial Impression

One of the newest food trucks in Boston is Rice Burg, which offers rice patties as buns for their sandwiches. I stopped by the truck recently, when they were parked near the Back Bay T station. Their menu is small, offering four sandwiches and sides, including rice cake skewers, fish/beef balls, and fries. Though the sandwiches are listed under Rice Burgers ($6.75-$7.75), they don't sell hamburgers and what they do sell really doesn't qualify as a burger. Instead, you'll find crispy chicken, shaved steak and shaved Shitake mushrooms.  The Sides cost $2-$3.

The Rice Skewers ($2) are supposed to be crispy fried rice cakes topped with their Red Sauce. I wasn't impressed with these as they were much more chewy than crispy though the red sauce with sesame seeds was tasty, a nice combo of sweet and spicy. In some respects, they reminded me of the fake crab sticks you get at sushi joints.

On the other hand, the Crispy Chicken Rice Burger ($6.75) was impressive. You can choose either Mala Spicy or Sweet & Sour, and I opted for the latter. The sandwich was made with lettuce, a pineapple ring and the sweet & sour sauce. The chicken, all white meat, was large and thick, with a crisp coating and lots of tender, moist meat. The sauce was tasty too, a nice balance of flavors. The rice patties were good too, adding an intriguing element to the sandwich, like a rice and chicken bowl. I think it was a great option instead of a bread bun and I would like to see those rice patties used on other sandwiches too. The only minor complaint is that the rice patty did break apart a bit, in larger chunks, as I ate the sandwich. Overall, a delicious sandwich, priced quite reasonably, and I would definitely order it again.

Once I try some of their other items, I'll report back. For now, I highly recommend you check out their Crispy Chicken Rice Burger.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Rant: Pairing Food & Bubbly

"You don't need to be a sommelier as sparkling wine pairs with everything."
--Marcello Lunelli

Many people are unsure how to pair wine with food, sometimes following old advice which isn't fully accurate. The old saw of white wine for seafood and red wine for meat is a generalization with many exceptions, all dependent on a number of factors such as the type of seafood or meat, how it is prepared, what additional ingredients accompany it and more. For example, one major exception is Salmon which is often paired with Pinot Noir.

You first need to know that there are no set rules for food and wine pairing. You can pair anything you like, provided that is your preference. If you want to drink a delicate Chablis with a hearty prime rib, then go for it. If you want to drink a heavy Syrah with lobster, go for it. Your personal choice is never wrong. Other people might not like your pairing, but that doesn't mean your pairing is wrong for yourself.

However, there are rationale reasons, generally based on chemistry, why certain wines generally pair better with certain foods. A sommelier may understand  those reasons and can guide you with such pairings. You can read a wine pairing book and gain a better idea of those reasons so you can make pairing decisions based on those matters.

Or you can follow some very simple advice, which will allow you to pair any dish with wine. Follow the sage advice of Marcello Lunelli and choose to drink Sparkling Wine throughout your meal.

Most people drink Sparkling Wine as an apertif or as a celebratory toast. They don't realize how well it goes with so many foods so they rarely drink Sparkling wine throughout their meal. They don't drink it with their appetizer, entree and dessert. Even sommeliers rarely seem to recommend Sparkling Wines throughout a dinner. Wine lovers need to get over their misconception that Sparkling Wine is mainly a before dinner drink. They need to take the chance and drink it with whatever they choose to eat, from seafood to steak, pasta to Chinese food. It may be one of the most versatile wines when it comes to food pairings. And it can be so delicious.

When I visited Champagne, I had it paired with nearly all of my food courses for lunch and dinner, and I found that Sparkling Wine is very food friendly and you really can't go wrong selecting it for your meal. No matter what the cuisine, Sparkling Wine would be a fine accompaniment. Marco Lunelli said that his favorite pairing with his Brut Rosé was pizza. When is the last time you had pizza and Sparkling Wine?

The price of Champagne can be daunting to some, but there are plenty of other, less expensive Sparkling Wine options, from Crémant d'Alsace to Franciacorta, Cava to Prosecco, and much more, You can afford Sparkling Wine for a casual dinner and I urge you to experiment with food pairings. Grab a bottle of bubbly and drink it with whatever you are eating. You'll be surprised at how good it tastes with your food. And if you have guests, they'll think you are a wine genius for pairing bubbly with all the dishes.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Ferrari Trento: Italian Bubbly You Need To Know

Everyone knows about Champagne, that quality sparkling wine that only can come from the Champagne region of France. Most people also know about Prosecco and Cava, as well as California sparkling wines. However, many people are unaware of other regions which also make high quality sparkling wine. For example, I written numerous times about Crémant d'Alsace and Franciacorta, lesser known sparkling wines which should be on your radar because they are delicious, interesting and quality wines. In Massachusetts, not everyone knows about Westport Rivers Winery, which makes some very good sparkling wines.

Now, I want to present another sparkling wine which deserves far greater attention in the U.S., Trentodoc Sparkling Wine from Italy, and more specifically, the Trentodoc wines of Ferrari Trento. With a fascinating history, this family winery is producing sparkling wines which will impress any wine lover. The Ferrari sparkling wines are high quality, presenting a clean, complex and delicious  profile. With the holidays coming, you should seek out Ferrari sparkling wines at your local wine shop

Earlier this week, I attended a media dinner at Sorellina and met Marcello Lunelli, the Vice President and wine maker at Ferrari Trento. It was his first trip to Boston and with our dinner, he presented five Ferrari sparkling wines, from a Rosé to Vintage bubbly. Marcello was a charming dining companion and I learned much about the Ferrari wines, being impressed with the taste and quality of the five wines I experienced. My feelings were mirrored by the others at the tasting, who all seemed similarly impressed.

To better understand the sparkling wines of the Trentodoc, we need to journey back to the end of the 19th century. At this time, the Trentino region was still a part of Austria-Hungary and wouldn't become part of Italy until after World War I. Giulio Ferrari, a graduate of Imperial Royal College of Agriculture ar Saan Michelle all'Adige and the School of Viticulture in Montpelier, spent a year learning about Champagne in Eparnay. He believed that Trentino had similarities to the Champagne region and decided to try producing sparkling wine in Trentino using the methods of Champagne.

Around 1900, he began planting Chardonnay in Italy, which may have been the first time it was ever planted in Italy. He founded the Ferrari winery in 1902, producing small amounts of sparkling wine, using the metodo classico, from his Chardonnay. This was  certainly a risky endeavor but he made it succeed. Even though Giulio charged a high price for his wines, it didn't take long for his sparkling wines to win international awards and recognition, though he exported little of his product. Success through the labors and passion of one man who loved sparkling wine.

In time, more people followed Giulio's example and began producing sparkling wine in Trentino too. Eventually, in 1993, the Trento DOC was established, for white and rosé sparkling wines made in the metodo classico, primarily using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Pinot Blanc and Pinot Meunier are permissible grapes but are used far less commonly. There are currently about 44 producers in Trentino, producing a total of about 8.5 million bottles annually. It is still a relatively small region but it has made a strong mark in the wine world.

Returning to the past, we journey to 1952, when  Giulio Ferrari was seeking a successor for his winery. He had no children of his own so he had to seek outside his family, eventually choosing Bruno Lunelli, who had owned a wine shop in Trento since 1929 and been a good customer of Guilio's wines. Though Bruno purchased the estate, Giulio stayed on to help with wine making until his death in 1965. In 1952, Giulio had only about 30 acres of vineyards, all Chardonnay, and was producing about 9,000 bottles annually. When Bruno took over, he quickly raised production to about 20,000 bottles, though continuing to maintain the quality of the sparkling wines.

Around 2000, the third generation of the Lunelli family took over the operation of the winery and Marcello, pictured above, is the Vice President and a wine maker. Only blood relations of the Lunelli family may work in the company, to help ensure the company remains intact. The winery owns over 300 acres in Trentino, growing 20% of the grapes they need. They purchase the rest from about 500 small farmers in the region. They have 11 different labels, each from specific vineyards, and produce about 4.5 million bottles annually. About 20% of that production, about 900,000 bottles, is exported, primarily to Japan, the U.S.and Germany.

In Trentino, the current harvest is largely completed and they believe it will be an excellent vintage, one of the best since 2010. The last two vintages, 2013 and 2014, weren't too good and they did not produce any of their vintage Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore. Marcello noted that climate change has affected their region, the average temperature having risen one degree in the last thirty years, a greater change than had occurred in the 2000 previous years. To combat climate change, they have been moving their vineyards 100 meters higher and plan to eventually move all of their Chardonnay. As it is a mountainous region, they have the ability to make such a change.

Our welcoming sparkling wine was the NV Ferrari Brut Rosé ($36), a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay which is made in the saignee manner and spent over two years in the bottle on the lees. It has an alcohol content of 12.5% and a dosage of 4.8 g/L. This was a refreshing and delicious sparkling wine, with a clean, crisp taste and pleasing, bright red fruit flavors. It is elegant and complex with tiny bubbles, slight toasty notes and a hint of bitterness of the long finish.

This is a very food friendly wine and Marcello noted that his favorite pairing with this Rosé is pizza, which I would agree would be a good and fun pairing.  We enjoyed this wine with some raw oysters accompanied by a lemon granita, kind of an oyster slushy. The briny oysters and lemon acidity of the granita went well with the clean and bright flavors of the Rosé.

Our second wine was the 2006 Ferrari Riserva Lunelli ($56),  a Blanc de Blancs of 100% Chardonnay from vineyards at Villa Margon. The wine was matured in large format, neutral American oak, spending at least seven years on the lees. It also has an alcohol content of 12.5% and a dosage of 2.5 g/L. The aroma was intriguing, with some brioche and nutty notes and hints of smokiness. On the palate, it was fresh, crisp and clean with green apple and pear flavors, mild spice elements and a touch of toastiness. It also possessed a mild creaminess, a lengthy finish, and plenty of intriguing complexity. An excellent sparkling wine.

With this wine, we had a few different appetizers, including a superb tuna tartare, a beet salad and octopus. Once again, this was a food friendly sparkling wine and went well with all of the various dishes. Based on the tuna tartare, this would also be a great choice for sushi.

At one point during the dinner, Marcello said, "You don't need to be a sommelier as sparkling wine pairs with everything." This means that you don't need to worry about deciding on what wine to pair with what food. If you choose sparkling wine, you won't go wrong no matter what food you choose. When I visited Champagne, I had it paired with nearly all of my food courses for lunch and dinner, and I found that sparkling wine is extremely food friendly and you really can't go wrong selecting it for your meal.

The final three sparkling wines were three different vintages of their Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore, their top of the line bubbly. The first vintage ever made was 1972 and they still have about fifty bottles stored in their library. They do not make this vintage bubbly every year and didn't produce it in 1998, 2002, 2013 or 2014, though they will be making it in 2015. The current vintage available in the U.S. is 2002 though in Europe the 2004 is the current one. The Chardonnay grapes for this special wine are from the Maso Pianizza vineyard, located at an altitude of over 500 meters. The wine is aged on the lees for over 10 year.

We began with the oldest of the three vintages, the 1993 Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore ($400) which has an alcohol content of 12.5% and a dosage of 2 g/L. This impressive sparkling wine nearly left me speechless and I have to say that it was one of the best sparkling wines I've ever had. Marcello said this vintage was one of the best in the last twenty years. Initially, this wine will strike you as fresh and young and you won't believe it's 22 years old. You'll soon realize though the deeper complexity of this wine, something acquired primarily from aging. It is the epitome of elegance, with bright acidity, and an intriguing melange of flavors, including green apple, citrus, salty notes, a mild mushroom  element and some herbal touches. Each taste seems to bring new flavors to your palate. This wine  will age well for many years to come, only gaining in depth and complexity. It receives my highest recommendation.

Yes,most of us can't afford to purchase this wine but the newer vintages are much more affordable as a splurge. And if you can lay down a current vintage for a  number of years, you'll be well rewarded when you finally open the bottle.

The 1999 Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore (n/a) was also crisp and elegant, though it seemed to be older than the 1993. Its fruit flavors were riper and included some dried fruit tastes, while it had more bitter herb flavors as well as a stronger mushroom taste. Though the dosage was the same, there was a touch of more apparent sweetness on the palate. It had a different taste profile than the 1993, and my clear preference was the 1993 The 2001 Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore ($130) is from a vintage which doesn't have the same aging potential as the other two .It certainly tastes fresh and young, with bright fruit flavors of apple and pear, with hints of brioche, vanilla and mild spice. Despite its age, it has some nice complexity and a lengthy, satisfying finish.

In the future, Marcello stated that the winery wanted to produce a Rosé version of Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore, though that is at least two to three years away. The Rosé would be more expensive, which is similar to how Rosé Champagne tends to be pricier than a Blanc de Blancs.

Marcello stated that they faced a challenge in the U.S., trying to spread the word about their sparkling wines, The Trentodoc wines are still largely unknown to many Americans and the Ferrari wines are certainly worthy of much greater recognition. If you love Champagne, you would love these Trentodoc wines too. The wines are high quality and delicious, made in a manner similar to Champagne and produced under strict regulations. They are all food friendly and present complex flavors which will delight your palate. Marcello was an excellent advocate for Trentodoc but it was his sparkling wines which were the most persuasive. And that 1993 will haunt me throughout this Halloween season.

Have you ever enjoyed a Trentodoc sparkling wine?