Thursday, November 16, 2017

Sips & Nibbles: Thanksgiving Edition

I am offering 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.
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1) Capo’s talented culinary team is offering a variety of options to help make this Thanksgiving the best one yet. Leave the baking to the experts and order a special Thanksgiving Pie to Go or join Capo for prix fixe and a la carte Thanksgiving Day dining options.

PIES TO GO
This Thanksgiving Capo is offering made-to-order Specialty Pies by renowned Boston pastry chef Kate Holowchik, the newest addition to the Capo culinary team. Available for pre-order now through Monday, November 20, the beautiful pies are sure to turn heads at the dinner table. Chef Kate’s baking up Thanksgiving favorites including Pumpkin Pie and Apple Pie, and decadent French Silk for just $25 each. All three flavors are also available gluten-free, upon request, for $30 each. Visit https://www.caposouthboston.com/store/ to order a pie.
When: Last Day to Order: Monday, November 20; Pick Up: Tuesday, November 21 – Thursday, November 23
Cost: Holiday pies are $25 each (gluten-free also available for $30)

TURKEY GOBBLER TO GO
Enjoy Thanksgiving on the go with a special Turkey Gobbler Sandwich packed with Roasted Turkey, chestnut sausage stuffing, orange cranberry sauce, caramelized onion focaccia, roasted turkey gravy. The Turkey Gobbler Sandwich is the perfect option for Bostonians stuck working on the holiday that are still looking for their Thanksgiving fix, or the unlucky hosts who were left with no leftovers for next-day sandwiches. Swing by Capo on Thanksgiving between 2pm and 10pm to pick up Chef Nick Dixon’s ultimate turkey sandwich for just $12.

THANKSGIVING DINING
The team at Capo welcomes guests to enjoy a hearty Turkey Day meal at Capo, with a variety of options to accommodate families of all sizes. Dishes by Chef Nick Dixon and desserts from pastry chef Kate Holowchik can be enjoyed as a three-course prix fixe menu ($45/adult, $20/children, free for children under 4) or a la carte.

First Course (for prix fixe, choice of)
Lobster Bisque, Cream lobster bisque, crème fraiche, $15
Gnocchi Alforno, Hand-rolled gnocchi, English peas, shaved truffle, $16
Cacio de Pepe, House-made spaghetti, guanciale, black pepper, pecorino Romano, $15
Second Course (for prix fixe, choice of)
Roast Turkey, Chestnut and sausage stuffing, Yukon mashed potatoes, winter vegetables, cornbread soufflé, gravy, cranberry bourbon sauce, $25
Roast Prime Rib, Yukon mashed potatoes, bone marrow popover, au jus, $32
Eggplant Involtini, fresh mozzarella, smoked tomato sauce, torn basil, $18
Third Course (for prix fixe, choice of)
Pumpkin Crostada, $10
Apple Pie Tiramisu, $10
Chocolate Hazelnut Tart, $10
A La Carte Side Dishes
Roasted Winter Squash, delicata squash, Brussels sprouts, baby carrots, rosemary, $10
Cornbread Soufflé, $10
Slow Roasted Sweet Potato Casserole, $12

Capo will be open on Thanksgiving for dinner from 2pm – 10pm, with last call at 11:30pm. For Reservations, please call 617-993-8080.

2) The newly opened Sumiao Hunan Kitchen is celebrating their first Thanksgiving in Kendall Square by dishing out Hunanese twists on traditional “Turkey Day” staples and family-style prix fixe menus for four-to-eight guests for two straight days, November 23 & November 24 from 11am-close.

Sumiao’s a la carte specialties include the four-piece Pan-Seared Pumpkin Cake with sweet pumpkin, sticky rice powder, condensed milk and sesame ($12); Mala Turkey with house chili soy sauce, Szechuan peppercorn oil, cilantro and sesame ($14); Crispy Turkey with hoisin-BBQ sauce ($28); and, tempura-style Yolk Breaded Pumpkin with preserved duck yolk and sweet pumpkin ($18).

Whether feasting for Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving, group dining is made simple with Sumiao’s trio of prix fixe-style menus ($125-$250 per group). Each menu starts with Melted Gold Soup with pumpkin and millet. Moving onto the appetizer course (Sumiao Shang Gan, Scallion Pancake or Spicy Dried Baby Fish), groups of four pick one while groups of six choose two, and eight select three. Each guest then can choose one sharable entrée from a selection of 12 signature vegetable, seafood and meat dishes like the Spicy Cauliflower, Red-Braised Pork Belly or Steamed Duijiao Tilapia. Each group also gets a complimentary order of one of the a la carte specials featured on these two days.

To make Reservations, please call 617-945-0907

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.
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1) On Wednesday, November 29, from 6:30pm-9:30pm, Celtics star Marcus Smart will be hosting An Evening with Marcus Smart at Towne Stove and Spirits to benefit his YounGameChanger Foundation. Guests will be treated to passed bites; cocktails; silent and live auctions; and meet-and-greet opportunities with some of Boston’s notable athletes and VIPs.

Boston Celtics Guard Marcus Smart established the YounGameChanger Foundation to provide families with seriously and chronically ill children with encouragement and life-changing experiences and to be a voice of motivation, empowerment and encouragement to inner city young athletes to be game changers off the court or field.

Single tickets cost $200 and proceeds will benefit Marcus Smart's YounGameChanger Foundation's mission.

To purchase tickets, please visit https://www.marcussmart.org/event/eveningwithmarcussmart2017

2) November marks Diabetes Awareness Month and Kendall Square’s newly opened Sumiao Hunan Kitchen has teamed up with Joslin Diabetes Center’s Asian American Diabetes Initiative (AADI) to help bring attention to the impact of diabetes on millions of Asian Americans. All month, the team at Sumiao will be featuring a special menu with a collection of delicious, diabetes-friendly dishes, hand-selected by one of the nutritionists from Joslin’s AADI.

Standout Hunanese-style selections will include Cinderella with Japanese pumpkin and lily ($12); Kung Pao Shrimp with peanuts, green & red peppers and dried chili pepper ($20); Hunan Steak Tips with white beech mushroom, serrano pepper, black pepper and honey ($28); Lava Fish with swai filet and duo jiao ($24); and, Steamed Butterfly Shrimp with aged orange peel, garlic and peppers ($28). In total, Sumiao Hunan Kitchen will offer more than 20 diabetes-friendly options.

One in two Asian Americans will develop diabetes or pre-diabetes in their lifetime, despite having a lower average body mass index than the overall population of Americans. Originally from Hunan, China, Sumiao Chen has followed the diabetes epidemic closely through her experience as a scientist and former doctor, sparking a passion for raising awareness about the issue and promoting health conscious menu choices at her restaurant.

Joslin makes no guarantee that these items will be available at time of visit. Joslin does not endorse products or services, including those of this restaurant.

3) On Monday, December 4, from 7pm-10pm, Bar Boulud’s resident Sommelier, David Bérubé, invites guests to celebrate the holiday season with a festive five-course Champagne Dinner featuring pours from Champagne Taittinger.

Founded in 1932, Champagne Taittinger is regarded as a regional leader for chardonnay-based champagnes; they are renowned for their exclusive and extremely rare prestige cuvee: Comtes de Champagne. Showcasing a premier selection of vintages including the Comtes de Champagne White 2006, each pairing has been chosen to complement the unique, harvest-inspired dishes created by Chef de Cuisine Michael Denk and Pastry Chef Robert Differ.

Bar Boulud’s Five-Course Champagne Taittinger Dinner will include:
Truffle Arancini
Taittinger, La Francaise, Brut, 3L
Caviar “Sandwich” (Brioche, red onion, crème fraîche, farm egg)
Taittinger, La Francaise, Brut, 3L
Halibut (Hazelnut crust, spaghetti squash, Brussels sprouts, beurre blanc)
Taittinger, Prélude, Grand Crus, Brut
Veal Duo- Roasted tenderloin, veal cheek blanquette (kumquats, black trumpet mushrooms, carrots, parsnips)
Taittinger, Comtes de Champagne, Brut 2006
Opera Torte Moderne (Almond biscuit, whipped ganache, ivoire chocolate-espresso gelato)
Taittinger, Prestige, Brut Rosé

COST: $175 per person (taxes and gratuity included)
Tickets may be purchased at Eventbrite.com: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/taittinger-champagne-dinner-tickets-39525509864

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Pabu: Kirin-zan Sake For The Win

The relatively new Pabu, located in the Millennium Tower, is a modern-take on a Japanese izakaya and I was fortunate to dine there recently with a friend of mine from Japan. We opted for the Omakase, nine courses of nigiri and seafood, and it was superb, some of the best sushi I've ever enjoyed. I didn't take photos or notes of the dinner as it was an evening simply to enjoy, to spend time with my friend and his wife. However, I was thoroughly impressed with the food and am eager to return to check out more of their menu.

They also have an extensive beverage program, including Sake, Japanese Whiskey, Shochu, wine, beer, spirits, cocktails, and more. You'll find 8 Sakes by the glass ($12-$24) or carafe ($25-$49), 2 Hot Sakes by the carafe ($25-$30), and over 60 Sakes available by the bottle. It may have the largest Sake selection in the Boston-area. Bottles size ranges from from 300ml to 500ml, from 720ml ($59-$325) to 1.8 liters. The mark-up on Sake bottles seems to be roughly 2-3X retail, dependent on the specific bottle. There is an excellent diversity in the Sake selection, including a number of bottles you don't see at other Boston restaurants.

During our dinner, we ordered two bottles of Sake, both from the same kuraKirinzan Shuzo, and it was a superb decision.

The Kirinzan Shuzo was established in 1843 by Kichizaemon Saito, who was also a seller of charcoal. Initially, he named his brand Fukunoi, a term referring to the blessings of the gods as well as the natural waters of the area. Eventually, Tokuhei Saito, the 4th generation of the family,  chose to abandon the charcoal business and commit fully to Sake production. He also changed the name of the company to Kirinzan, as the brewery was located near Mt. Kirin in the town of Tsugawa in the Niigata Prefecture.

The Kirin is also a mythical creature, in both Chinese and Japanese mythology, and in Japan resembles a dragon crossed with a deer, with a single horn like a unicorn. It is considered a very positive omen, a harbinger of happiness, prosperity and good luck. I'm sure Kirin-zan Sake will bring you much happiness.

The Sake brewery is now located in the town of Aga, as eventually Tsugawa merged with another town and two villages. They rely on local ingredients, from their rice to their water, and their motto is "Brand sake begins with individuals working in harmony."

The Kirin-Zan Junmai Daiginjo ($189/720ml at Pabu & about $80 retail) comes in a cool pentagonal blue bottle. With a Sake Meter Value of +3 and Acidity of 1.3, it is made from Gohyaku-mangoku rice that has been polished down to 45%. This is a superb Sake, elegant and complex, with such an alluring taste. It is clean and bright, with subtle citrus notes, some peach and melon, and a lengthy, pleasing finish. It is said to be "reminiscent of a clean mountain stream," and it possesses such a sense of purity, a Sake that paired perfectly with the nigiri. This is a Sake which impresses and I highly recommend it.

The Kirin-Zan Junmai ($79/720ml at Pabu & about $36 retail) and comes in a more rounded bottle. With a Sake Meter Value of +5 and Acidity of 1.4, it is made from a blend of Gohyaku-mangoku and Yukinosei rice that has been polished down to 60%. That amount of polishing would usually qualify it as a Ginjo but the brewery has not chosen to do label it as such. This Sake is supposed to reflect the typical style of Niigata, which is known as tanrei and typically is said to be crisp and smooth. And it is dry, crisp and smooth, with more richness and acidity than the Daiginjo, and subtle flavors of melon, apple and steamed rice. Its complexity is evident, though not as complex as the Daiginjo, and its richer flavors would pair well with heartier dishes, such as beef and duck. It too comes with my strong recommendation.

Check out Pabu and be sure to drink some Sake!  


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Boulder Canyon: Thanksgiving Kettle Chips

I have to say that I dislike most flavored potato chips. I certainly am intrigued by the potential, like Chicken & Waffles or Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese, but they are usually a major disappointment. Not only do they not taste like the stated flavor, but they don't even taste good. So, when I heard about kettle chips with the flavors of Turkey & Gravy and Pumpkin Pie, I was justifiably wary but also curious. I received media samples of these chips and was pleasantly surprised by what I tasted.

Back in 1994, brothers Don and Jay Poole started Boulder Canyon, with the objective of creating the best potato chip. They had previously been involved in engineering and serving manufacturing equipment for the food industry and one of their clients was a potato chip company. The Poole brothers were intrigued and created a better way of making potato chips. Don and Jay started producing kettle chips, using their new small-batch cooking methods, as well as America-grown potatoes and natural ingredients.

Kettle cooked potato chips use thickly sliced premium potatoes that are slow cooked in small kettles using sunflower and/or safflower oil. They have a crunchy texture and locally, you probably have enjoyed Cape Cod Kettle Chips. Boulder Canyon also now produces Frozen Riced Vegetables, Popcorn, and Speciality Chips made from other ingredients besides potatoes. They also make a series of Seasonal items, such as the summer Sweet Corn Chips and Peach Cobbler Chips. And for Thanksgiving, they offer Turkey & Gravy and Pumpkin Pie.

I hadn't previously tasted any of the Boulder Canyon kettle chips so these Thanksgiving flavored chips were my first experience. It won't be my last.

The Turkey & Gravy kettle chips are crunchy, with a slightly thicker chip than you get with the average potato chip. It is a well-made kettle chip and I can easily see how their basic kettle chip would be appealing all on its own. The ingredient label notes the chips contain sea salt, onion powder, molasses and spices and other information seems to indicate those spices might include sage, thyme and rosemary. Frankly, the chips don't taste like turkey or gravy, but they do bring to mind the typical spices found in Thanksgiving dinner, especially those in stuffing. The savory notes are tasty and may not taste like poultry, but the spice combination works well. They certainly would be an excellent addition to your Thanksgiving feast. They are also one of the best flavored chips I've enjoyed in a long time.

The Pumpkin Pie kettle chips are just as crunchy as the Turkey & Gravy ones, solidifying my thought that the basic kettle chips would be thoroughly appealing. The ingredient label for these chips lists pumpkin, molasses, cinnamon, paprika, and spice. And when you open the bag, a prominent aroma of cinnamon with hints of pumpkin wafts through the air. These chips actually resemble the flavor of pumpkin pie, though the pumpkin flavor is more subdued in these chips with the cinnamon being much more dominant. And the flavors once again work well, a pleasing combination of sweet and salty, which are also addictive. I enjoyed these chips far more than I expected.

Boulder Canyon impressed me with these two flavored kettle chips and now I'll be seeking out more of their products. If you want to bring something different to your Thanksgiving feast, why not bring one or both of these flavored chips. It certainly would also make for one of the easiest Thanksgiving dinners, just open a couple bags of the kettle chips.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Pantry to Palate: An Acadian Cookbook With Rappie Pie

"The point of writing a cookbook is to get people to cook."
--Simon Thibault

Some cookbooks are simply fun to read while others provide intriguing recipes. They might also teach you about other cultures, broadening your knowledge and experience. In addition, you could appreciate the beauty of the photography, the exquisite and mouthwatering dishes that are visually displayed. And sometimes a cookbook touches you in a deeper way, striking you on an emotional level and creating a connection to your heart and soul. That recently happened to me.

I received a review copy of a new cookbook, which is due out today, called Pantry to Palate: Remembering and Rediscovering Acadian Food by Simon Thibault (Nimbus Publishing, $29.95), a trade paperback of 250 pages. Simon is a Halifax-based journalist and radio producer whose work focuses on food and this is his first book. The cookbook explores Simon's Acadian ancestry, presenting approximately 50 recipes, many derived through his own family.  

In the 17th century, the Acadians were the earliest European settlers of Canada, having come from France, and primarily settled in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Unfortunately, the English expelled most of them in the 18th century, with numerous Acadians relocating to Louisiana. In the forward to this cookbook, Naomi Duguid, a famed food writer and photographer, stated, "In it we learn about the tenacity of Acadian food traditions and the way they have evolved." You may not be familiar with Acadian cuisine and this cookbook would be an excellent introduction.

"It's hard to talk about food and not talk about family."
--Simon Thibault

The majority of the recipes in this book come from Simon's family notebooks, old, hand-written cookbooks. These cookbooks were written by the women in his family so Simon stated that the cookbook is "devoted to the collective and semi-collected works of women who cooked for and amidst generations of Acadians."

The cookbook is broken down into six sections, including:
--Preserves (from Pickled Beets to Mustard Pickles)
--Breads (from Johnny Cakes to Workhouse White Bread)
--Lard (info about lard and directions on rendering lard)
--Tête de Cochon (from Headcheese to Boudin)
--Soups, Sides & Staples (such as Fricot, Meat Pies; Rappie Pie/Rapure, Potato Pancakes, & Seafood Chowder a Mame)
--Desserts (such as Molasses Cake, Seaweed Pie, Baked Apple Pudding, Date Cake & Agnes Doughnuts)

The Desserts section is the largest of the six, followed by Soups, Sides & Staples. All of these sections include plenty of history, background and family information about the recipes, presenting a fascinating story about family, culture and food. The recipes range in complexity from simple to moderate, and nearly all of the ingredients are readily available. Throughout the book, you'll also find plenty of compelling photos, of food and more, by food photographer Noah Fecks. Some of the photos are even of the old notebooks that Simon used as a resource for the recipes.

"The foods brought out during celebrations are often the foods that tell us the most about ourselves, no matter our heritage."
--Simon Thibault

The Soups, Sides & Staples sections begins with an essay, Big Meals, Big Tables, discussing how Simon's family made Rappie Pie. Usually made and served in large pans, it was often for special occasions, especially considering the length of time it took to prepare and cook. It was a joint effort, with both the men and women taking on specific roles, the men engaged in the laborious task of removing the starch from the potatoes while the women were picking the chickens clean of meat. The men and women continued working together on the rest of the tasks, a true family project. And when the Rappie Pie is done, it was served with butter and molasses.

Later in this section, Simon provided some history about Rappie Pie, noting that there were many different ways to make it. In addition, due to the nature of the dish, recipes generally weren't written down, instead they were passed down from person to person, generation to generation. Simon provides one recipe which can serve as a template for your own Rappie Pie creation.

Simon even provides some local spin on Rappie Pie, mentioning Bernadette Lyle, who is from an Acadian village in Nova Scotia and now lives in Wakefield. She started an annual Rappie Pie dinner in Wakefield, which became an extremely popular. Simon also mentions the Facebook group, Rappie Pie Rules!, which posts pictures from many people who make Rappie Pie at home.

It is all of this information on Rappie Pie which especially touched me. My wife and her family are from Nova Scotia and they introduced me to Rappie Pie. In my prior post, Food & Family: In Memory of Frenchie, I wrote about Rappie Pie and my family, and Simon's description of his family making Rappie Pie is similar to the stories I heard about the Babin family. The Babin's didn't write down their Rappie Pie recipe, but passed it down from generation to generation, although now the recipe has been finally written down, to ensure it endures for future generations.

We continue to make Rappie Pie for special occasions, for get-togethers with the extended family, so that the tradition does not end. And sometimes we just make Rappie Pie for dinner, which is much easier and quicker now with the frozen, pre-grated potato blocks. To us, Rappie Pie is more than just food, but it also has a strong connection to our family. And that is why this cookbook resonates so much to me, a shared connection to Simon's experiences.

I give a strong recommendation to Pantry to Palate: Remembering and Rediscovering Acadian Food by Simon Thibault, which tells a great story, relates some delicious recipes, and has great photography. And for my readers, I am also running a giveaway for a FREE copy of this cookbook. All you have to do to enter is to add a comment here on my blog, or comment on my Facebook post about this review. Then, on Wednesday, November 15, at 11pm EST, I will randomly select one of the commenters to win a copy of this book. Good luck!

Friday, November 10, 2017

2015 Ktima Tselepos Nemea Driopi: The Blood of Heracles

A wine made from this Greek grape is sometimes known as the "Blood of Heracles," because legends claim that Heracles drank this wine either before or after slaying the terrible Nemean lion. However, maybe the wine should be known as the "Blood of the Lion" as another of the legends claim that the grape vines were splattered with the blood of the Nemean Lion after Heracles killed it. The history of this grape may not extend back to ancient Greece, but it is certainly one of the most important grapes in modern Greece.

Cava Spiliadis is an importer of Greeks wines which were personally curated by George Spiliadis, the son of Milos restaurateur Costas Spiliadis. They represent a number of Greek wineries and I recently received several media samples from their portfolio. I've long been a passionate advocate for the wines of Greece, and some of the reasons for my passion can be found in Ten Reasons To Drink Greek Wine

This week, I'm reviewing four Greek wines from the Cava Spiliadis portfolio, each worthy of your attention, each compelling for different reasons. All four of the wines are red, and would be great for the fall and winter, ideal for holiday parties and feasts. Previously this week, I reviewed the 2013 Ktima Gerovassiliou Avaton, an intriguing red blend that uses the ancient Limnio grape, the 2011 Ktima Biblia Chora Biblinos, a tasty wine made from a mystery grape, and the 2014 Ktima Katsaros Valos, a wine made from Xinomavro, one of only three grapes that starts with "X." It's time for the last of the four wines to be reviewed.

Ktima Tselepos, located in the region of Tegea, Arcadia in the Peloponnese, was founded in 1989 by Giannis Tselepos who studied oenology at the University of Dijon. He worked in several French wineries in the Burgundy region and eventually returned to Greece. The vineyards are situated at an altitude of about 750 meters. In 2003, Giannis bought the Driopi Vineyard, a 50 year-old vineyard that constitutes about 8.5 hectares and is located in Koutsi, Nemea. He replanted 4 hectares, seeking to grow high-quality Agiorgitiko.

Nemea is located in the northeastern part of the Peloponnese and is famed in the myth of the Labors of Heracles. As atonement for murdering his family in an insane rage, Heracles was told he had to perform the commands of King Eurystheus, his cousin. The first mission for Heracles was to slaw the Nemean lion and bring its pelt back to the King. In one version of the tale, the lion was kidnapping women, using them as bait to slay men who came to save them.

No other warrior was able to slay the lion as it could not be slain with mortal weapons, its golden fur invulnerable to normal weapons. It's terrible claws could also slice through any armor or shield. Heracles was unaware of its magical defenses when he first encountered it, so he tried to shoot arrows in it, quickly learning that the arrows merely bounced off its fur. Eventually, Heracles temporarily stunned it with a club and then he used his great strength to strangle it to death. Finally, he realized he could use its own claws to remove its pelt. To celebrate his victory, it is claimed he consumed the wine of Nemea, allegedly made from the Agiorgitiko grape. There is no evidence though that the grape actually existed that long ago.

The 2015 Ktima Tselepos Nemea Driopi ($18) is produced from 100% Agiorgitiko, fermented in stainless steel and then matured for 8-10 months in large oak barrels, about 40% new oak. Agiorgitiko is the most planted red grape in Greece, and its name translates as "St. George's" grape, which might have been named after a village or chapel in Nemea. A variety of wine styles are produced from this grape, from easy drinking wines to more age-worthy ones. About 40,000 bottles of this particular wine were produced.

This tends toward more of the easy drinking variety, with a deep, dark red color and subtle aromas of black and red fruits and a tough of spice. On the palate, there are plenty of juicy fruit flavors of black cherry, raspberry and plum, with a sprinkling of spice notes and a moderately long and pleasing finish . The tannins are well integrated, the wine is silky smooth, and you could easily drink this on its own or with everything from pizza to burgers. There is plenty of complexity in the wine for this price point and each sip makes you crave another. Highly recommended.

Drink more Greek wine!

2014 Ktima Katsaros Valos: The Threshold of Acid-Black

There are three wine grapes that begin with "X," including Xarello (indigenous to Spain), Xinomavro (indigenous to Greece) and Xynisteri (indigenous to Cyprus). Have you tasted wines produced from these grapes? I've been fortunate to taste wines made from all three of these grapes and I'm here today to highlight one of those wines, a Greek wine made of 100% Xinomavro.

Cava Spiliadis is an importer of Greeks wines which were personally curated by George Spiliadis, the son of Milos restaurateur Costas Spiliadis. They represent a number of Greek wineries and I recently received several media samples from their portfolio. I've long been a passionate advocate for the wines of Greece, and some of the reasons for my passion can be found in Ten Reasons To Drink Greek Wine

This week, I'm reviewing four Greek wines from the Cava Spiliadis portfolio, each worthy of your attention, each compelling for different reasons. All four of the wines are red, and would be great for the fall and winter, ideal for holiday parties and feasts. Previously this week, I reviewed the 2013 Ktima Gerovassiliou Avaton, an intriguing red blend that uses the ancient Limnio grape, and the 2011 Ktima Biblia Chora Biblinos, a tasty wine made from a mystery grape.

Ktima Katsaros is a small, family-run winery that is located on the slopes of Mount Olympus,at an altitude of about 750 meters above sea level, in the region of Krania. Mount Olympus is the highest mountain and Greece and once was thought to be the home of the Greek gods. The winery was established in 1985, and its organic vineyards encompass about 20 acres. Their current winemaker, Evripidis Katsaros, began working at the family estate in 2007, and brings with him experience from having worked at two different French wineries.

The 2014 Ktima Katsaros Valos ($25) is produced from 100% Xinomavro, a grape whose name translates as "acid-black." In addition, the term "Valos" toughly translates as "threshold." Xinomavro likely originated in the Náoussa region, in northern Greece, and is the second most planted red grape in Greece. The grape is most often compared to Nebbiolo, and tends to possess strong tannins and high acidity, meaning it also can age very well. As the wine ages, it starts to lose its red fruit flavors and begins to acquire savory notes, especially tomato and olive. I've tasted numerous Xinomavro wines, and have been impressed with their diversity, taste and complexity.

The Valos is fermented in stainless steel, matured in new French barriques for 9 months, and has a 13.5% ABV. Only about 4000 bottles of this wine were produced. With an inky dark red color, it has a pleasant nose of red cherry with light spice notes. On the palate, there are cherry notes, as well as hints of ripe plum, accompanied by some savory elements, especially herbal notes which are most evident on the finish. The tannins are well integrated, the finish is long and satisfying, and the wine is simply delicious. This is a wine that would go well with duck, wild boar, pork loin or even a steak though you could probably enjoy this with a pizza too.

Opt for the X, the X in Xinomavro.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Sips & Nibbles: Thanksgiving Edition

I am offering 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.
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1) It’s time to start thinking about how you are going to prep for Thanksgiving. Make plans now to participate in Chef Tony Maws’ Thanksgiving Class on Saturday, November 11, from 10am-11am, at Craigie On Main. You will be the Thanksgiving Hero, as you will learn:
*Three different turkey cooking techniques -Old School Roasting -Spatchcocking -2 cook Method
*How to carve a turkey -techniques -knives
*Leftovers Magic
*Great Thanksgiving Beverages

Price: $150 per person
Make Reservations by calling 617-497-5511

2) On Thursday, November 23, from 11am-4pm, Aura at the Seaport Hotel will feature an expansive Thanksgiving Brunch Buffet paired with live jazz music from the Lance Houston Jazz Quartet. The family-friendly spread includes a raw bar, breakfast offerings like eggs Benedict, tomato basil quiche, and French toast as well as traditional turkey-day dishes like roast turkey breast with gravy, sirloin with porcini red wine sauce, roasted butternut squash puree, cornbread stuffing, buttermilk mashed potatoes, and roasted Brussels sprouts. Finish off the holiday meal with indulgent treats from the dessert buffet including an assortment of cakes, pies, mini pastries, and a chocolate fountain.

Cost: $85 per adult; $25 per child ages 5-12; complimentary for children 4-and-under
For reservations, please call 617-385-4304

3) The Seaport Hotel wants to help turkey lovers host the “Friendsgiving” feast of their dreams this holiday season by offering the chance for guests to bring up to 23 friends to the Seaport Hotel’s state-of-the-art Action Kitchen, for a private, interactive and collaborative cooking experience led by Executive Chef Richard Rayment. Chef Rayment will guide the group through the process of bringing their prix fixe menu to life and afterwards, guests can sit down to enjoy their meal in the intimate dining room and reap the rewards of their handiwork with perfectly paired wines.

The “Friendsgiving” menu features an assortment of artisan cheeses and fresh bread for guests to nibble on as they work, as well as classic turkey-day dishes including rolled roast turkey roulade with cornbread stuffing and pan gravy, fresh cranberry and orange relish, sweet potato and marshmallow casserole and a creamy corn and baby spinach casserole. Guests can also finish off their meal by making, baking and decorating their own Thanksgiving sugar cookies.

“Friendsgiving” in Action Kitchen is offered from November 17-19 and November 24-26 and costs $90 per person with the option to add a beverage package for an additional $36 per guest. For more information or to reserve the space for your Friendsgiving Dinner, please visit www.actionkitchenboston.com.

4) This Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 23, from Noon to 8:00 p.m., Chef de Cuisine Michael Denk and the culinary team at Bar Boulud, Boston will host friends and families for a warm and elegant Thanksgiving Day gathering, complete with everyone’s favorite trimmings. Featuring an extensive and bountiful three-course prix-fixe menu that is sure to please everyone at the table, Bar Boulud, Boston’s Thanksgiving dishes are crafted from seasonal ingredients carefully selected to evoke warm memories of long-loved holiday classics.

For starters, guests will begin their meal by selecting their preferred appetizer of choice from options like creamy Butternut Squash Soup, complemented by apples, pecans and spiced Chantilly cream, or a crisp Harvest Salad, laced with autumn-inspired components like delicata squash and spiced pumpkin seeds.

As a main course, guests will select one of four options on which to indulge, including, Heritage Breed Turkey, consisting of a tender roasted breast and braised leg accompanied by savory sourdough-sage stuffing, roasted green beans, local cranberry compote, and pomme purée, sided by savory rosemary turkey gravy, and Chef Denk’s hearty Braised Short Rib, boasting creamy garlic pomme puree, fresh herbs and a variety of perfectly roasted root vegetables.

To finish the meal on a sweet note, Pastry Chef Robert Differ will offer an array of elevated takes on traditional holiday treats, including Pumpkin Pie, supported by a delicious brown butter crust, topped with a drizzle of maple caramel sauce and light Chantilly cream, and Apple Tarte Tatin, capped with creamy vanilla bean ice cream, a flaky butter sablé and anglaise cream.

COST: $95 per person; $48 for children 12 and under
MORE INFO: To make a reservation, call 617-535-8800

5) On Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 23, Guests are invited to Bistro du Midi to indulge in a Provençal Thanksgiving with a special three-course feast. The $75 prix fixe menu boasts an array of seasonal selections from Executive Chef Josue Louis and decadent desserts from Pastry Chef Allen Morter. Reservations are available from 1 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on both floors. A $32 three-course sample menu is also available for children.

Guests can choose one item from each of the following courses:
First Course
--Belgian Endive Salad, poached pear, hazelnuts, fourme d’Ambert
--Heirloom Squash Soup, apple compote, chestnut, spiced crème
--Yellowfin Tuna, cucumber, avocado, black olive, shortbread crumble
--Pork & Duck Terrine, dates, house accoutrements
--Spanish Octopus, fennel, capers, almonds, Romanesco
Main Course
--Sweet Potato Gnocchi, ricotta salaya, black trumpet, cashews
--Loup de Mer, broccolini, artichoke, delicate, sauce grenobloise
--Roasted Turkey, pumpkin brioche stuffing, seasonal vegetables
--Duck Breast, celery root, candy cane beet, dates, juniper jus
--Heart of Ribeye, bone marrow croquette, sauce bordelaise
Dessert Course
--Chocolate Ganache, cassis cremeux, lavender ice cream
--Pumpkin Spice Cake, pomegranate gelee, thyme ice cream
--Maple Mousse, ginger cake, cranberry crème
--Apple Butter Beignet, sage anglaise
--Selection of Sorbet

For reservations, please call 617-426-7878

6) Executive Chef Steve Zimei of Chopps American Bar and Grill is pulling out all the stops for Thanksgiving 2017. Guests can dig into an à la carte menu featuring selections like Yellowfin Tuna Tartare, Oven Roasted Chicken Breast, Steak Frites or dig into a three-course Chef’s Turkey Dinner featuring creative interpretations of classic Thanksgiving eats.

Guests can choose on item from each of the following courses:
Appetizers
--Roasted Beet Salad, goat cheese croquette, tarragon, frisee, coriander vinaigrette
--Butternut & Apple Soup, toasted pumpkin seeds
Entrees
--Traditional Turkey Dinner, cider roasted carrots, Brussels sprouts, whipped potatoes, corn bread stuffing, orange cranberry sauce, traditional gravy
--Pumpkin Ravioli, roasted squash, hazelnuts, sage butter
Desserts
Eggnog Cheesecake, salted caramel sauce

Both the special a la carte Thanksgiving menu and Three-Course Chef’s Turkey Dinner are available from 12pm – 6 p.m.
The Three-Course Chef’s Turkey Dinner is $45/person exclusive of tax and gratuity.
Reservations are recommended. For reservations please call 781-221-6643.

7) This Thanksgiving, November 23rd, from 11am-10pm, in Boston’s South End, The Beehive, hosts its annual Thanksgiving Day feast, with a traditional prix fixe, three course menu. Executive Chef James Lyons cooks up what is now famously known as “Boston’s Liveliest Holiday Meal.” If that’s not enough, the Beehive’s approach to the festive holiday also delivers live jazz music throughout the day where patrons can celebrate with a glass of champagne or one of The Beehive’s signature cocktails like the Hi Ho with bourbon, all-spice dram, lime and pineapple gomme ($11), Queen Bee with vodka, Elderflower liquor, fresh grapefruit and champagne ($13) or the Sax Maniac with rye, Madeira Bual and amaro ($11.5).

The Beehive’s Thanksgiving Day Menu
Appetizers/First Course
--Lobster Chowder (Bacon, Potatoes, Corn, Chili)
--Butternut, Acorn & Hubbard Squash Soup (Maple Syrup, Granola)
--Kale Tabbouleh Salad (Farro, Quinoa, Beets, Orange, Pumpkin Seeds, Ricotta Salata)
--Beef Short Rib Arancini (Arabiatta Sauce)
--Chopped Autumn Salad (Apple Cider Vinaigrette)
Entrees/Second Course
--Organic Turkey (Country Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts, Cape Cod Cranberry Chutney, Herbed Gravy)
--New York Strip Roast (Mashed Potatoes, Creamed Kale, Garlic Jus)
--Rack of Lamb (+$10)(Mashed Potatoes, Creamed Kale, Mustard Shallot Sauce)
--Wild King Salmon (Flat Leaf Spinach, Toasted Buckwheat, Forraged Mushrooms)
--Vegetarian (Vegan) Thanksgiving (Roasted Stuffed Delicata Squash, Carrot Porcini Osso Buccu, Cider-and-Bourbon-Glazed Shallots, Country Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts, Cape Cod Cranberry Chutney, Herbed Gravy)
Dessert/Third Course
--Bourbon Pecan Pie
--Spiced Pumpkin Pie
--Malted Milk Chocolate Tart
*Please Note: Menu Subject to change

COST: $59 per person prix fixe menu (3 Courses); Children’s menu: $19 (10 & Under)
RSVP: Reservations recommended by calling 617-423-0069

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.
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1) On Thursday, November 16, from 6pm-pm, check out the 8th Annual Raise Your Glass for Jimmy beer and wine tasting fundraiser will benefit the Jimmy Fund and cancer research & care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The Jimmy Fund solely supports Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, raising funds for adult and pediatric cancer care and research to improve the chances of survival for cancer patients around the world. It is an official charity of the Boston Red Sox, as well as the official charity of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, the Pan-Mass Challenge, and the Variety Children's Charity of New England. Since 1948, the generosity of millions of people has helped the Jimmy Fund save countless lives and reduce the burden of cancer for patients and families worldwide.

Guests will experience more than 25 beverage selections from six wineries and three breweries, including a variety of craft beers and local brands.
--Wine selections include: August West, Fit Vine West, Gordon’s Wine, M.S. Walker, Masciarelli, & Plymouth Bay Winery
--Beer selections include: Anheuser Busch, Down the Road Brewery, and Alltech Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co.

The event will also feature seasonal hors d’oeuvres and desserts from Prince Street Catering. Guests will enjoy music by The Diplomats of Funk and attendees can also participate in a silent auction.

The event is presented by the Dana-Farber Leadership Council (DFLC), a network of dedicated professionals, entrepreneurs, and community leaders whose mission is to advance Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund’s lifesaving work in cancer research and patient care through financial support and advocacy.

COST: Tickets cost $60 per person. For more information or tickets, please visit: www.jimmyfund.org/raiseyourglass
WHERE: Eaton Vance, 2 International Place, 13th Floor

2) On Wednesday, November 15 at B3 Restaurant, Boston's top chefs will go head-to-head in the ultimate holiday showdown. From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., chefs will compete in a holiday cook-off benefiting Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry Campaign, which aims to eradicate childhood hunger across the nation.

Tickets cost just $25 and include unlimited bites from the competing chefs and two complimentary drinks. For more information, please visit https://ce.nokidhungry.org/events/boston-holiday-food-fight. For more information about Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign, please visit: https://www.nokidhungry.org/about-us.

3) Restauranteur Kathy Sidell’s MET Restaurant Group (MET Back Bay, Saltie Girl, MET Bar & Grill and MET on Main) is bringing back its iconic “Boston Hot Chocolate Experience” just in time for the holiday season. From November 25, 2017 through February 14, 2018, the Boston Hot Chocolate Experience is presented in a flight of four miniature glasses and hosts four distinct flavors for chocolate lovers including: Classic Hot Chocolate, featuring Vanilla Chocolate, whipped cream and mini toasted marshmallows, Espresso with an almond biscotti garnish, Caramel Sea Salt with whipped cream and caramel drizzle and finally, White Chocolate Peppermint Hot Chocolate featuring white chocolate, crushed peppermint stick, vanilla cream & candy cane.

To elevate the experience this season, the team at MET Back Bay (only) has added Tableside S’mores, letting guests toast and roast from the comforts of their own table with extra-large marshmallows, graham crackers, white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate.

Each flavor can be upgraded to an “adult version” with additions like, Bailey’s, Galliano Ristretto, Caramel Vodka and Peppermint Liquor. If hot cocoa lovers find that they are in the mood for just one, MET Restaurant Group has that covered. Customers can order any flavor as the “One Big One” presentation.

For more information or to make a reservation visit www.metbackbay.com or www.metbarandgrill.com.

4) Chef Daniel Bruce and the team at Boston Harbor Hotel invite guests to experience the best of Glenmorangie Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky with a reception and three-course dinner in Rowes Wharf Bar.

On Wednesday, November 15, at 6:30pm, whisky lovers can embrace the crisp fall air and indulge in four varieties of Glenmorangie alongside a three-course dinner prepared by renowned Chef Daniel Bruce.

The full menu for the evening is as follows:
Reception
Glenmorangie The Original 10 Year
Maple Smoked Salmon, Whiskey Fritters, Black Salt Aioli
First Course
Glenmorangie The Quinta Ruban
Char Grilled Jumbo Sea Scallops and Foie Gras Toasted Barley, Melted Leeks, Black Kale Purée
Second Course
Glenmorangie The Nectar D’OR
Wood Grilled Prime Petit Filet, Crispy Wild Oyster Mushrooms, Roasted Pumpkin, Melted Cheddar Sauce
Third Course
Glenmorangie Extremely Rare 18 Year
Citrus Cake with Lychee Sorbet, Honey Cremeux, Grapefruit Curd

Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite for $125 per person (including tax and gratuity). This is a 21+ event.

5) On Tuesday, November 14, at 6:30pm, Legal Sea Foods will host a wine dinner with selections from Concha y Toro Estates’s extensive portfolio of wines. Concha y Toro Estates is known for its French grape varieties made throughout the Chilean region. The plentiful sunshine and terrain in Chile paired with French winemaking techniques creates the premium homegrown taste of Concha y Toro Estates’ wines. Its wine portfolio includes icons such as Don Melchor and Almaviva, its emblematic Casillero del Diablo brand, as well as Trivento wines from Argentina, and Fetzer and Bonterra from California.

Legal Sea Foods will team up with Concha y Toro Estates’ wine expert Italo Jofré to host a four-plus-course dinner featuring signature cuisine paired with his selections from the Concha y Toro’s collection of wines.

The menu will be presented as follows:

HORS D’OEUVRES
Halibut Ceviche, Crispy Tostada
Squid Salad, Sesame-Lime Dressing, Wonton Cup
Prosciutto-Wrapped Sea Scallop, Béarnaise Sauce
Terrunyo “Los Boldos Vineyard, Block 5” Sauvignon, Casablanca Valley, 2016
FIRST COURSE
Lobster Empanada (creamed corn, thyme sauce)
Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay, Limari, 2016
SECOND COURSE
Herb Roasted Swordfish (lemon caper sauce, kale & wild mushroom risotto)
Terrunyo “Peumo Vineyard, Block 27” Carménère, Cachapoal Valley, 2015
MAIN COURSE
Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb (gorgonzola & onion stuffed portobello mushrooms, watercress & beet salad)
Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon, Puente Alto, Maipo Valley, 2015
Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon, Puente Alto, Maipo Valley, 2010
CHEESE COURSE
Aged Gouda, Brillat-Savarin, Aged Cheddar (mushroom escabeche, rosemary focaccia)
Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon, Puente Alto, Maipo Valley, 2013

COST: $105 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)
MORE INFO: Reservation required by calling 617-530-9397

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

2011 Ktima Biblia Chora Biblinos: A Mystery Grape

It's said that there are over 10,000 wine grapes in the world but only about 1300-1400 grapes are commonly used to produce wine. In Greece, there are approximately 300 or so indigenous grapes, with some being quite old, like the Limnio grape which could be 2400+ years old. However, sometimes new grapes are discovered, grapes that may have once been thought extinct. And sometimes, these newly uncovered grapes remain mysterious.

Cava Spiliadis is an importer of Greeks wines which were personally curated by George Spiliadis, the son of Milos restaurateur Costas Spiliadis. They represent a number of Greek wineries and I recently received several media samples from their portfolio. I've long been a passionate advocate for the wines of Greece, and some of the reasons for my passion can be found in Ten Reasons To Drink Greek Wine

This week, I'm reviewing four Greek wines from the Cava Spiliadis portfolio, each worthy of your attention, each compelling for different reasons. All four of the wines are red, and would be great for the fall and winter, ideal for holiday parties and feasts. Yesterday, I reviewed the 2013 Ktima Gerovassiliou Avaton, an intriguing red blend that uses the ancient Limnio grape.

Today, I'm discussing a wine from Ktima Biblia Chora, which is located on the southern slopes of Mount Pangeon in Kavala, about 100 kilometers east of Thessaloniki. This winery project, which started in 1998, is a partnership of Vangelis Gerovassiliou (of Ktima Gerovassiliou) and oenologist Vassilis Tsaktsarlis. Vassilis has a Chemistry degree from Aristotle University and an Oenology degree from the University of Bordeaux. Subsequently, Vassilis worked at the Costas Lazaridis Estate, eventually partnering with Vangelis for Ktima Biblia Chora. The winery finally came to fruition in 2001.

The Ktima Biblia Chora vineyard is spread over 118 acres, situated at an altitude of 300-420 meters. The winery states: "The soil is rocky and barren with limestone and clay and good levels of drainage. The cool breezes from the Agean Sea and Mount Pangeon are key factors in the production of Biblia Chora’s Premium wines." The term "biblia" derives from the ancient Greek phrase "biblinos oenos," which means “sacred wine” and the term "chora" means "land."

Initially, the ancient Phoenicians traveled to the region of Pangeon seeking various metals, finding veins of gold and silver. In addition, they planted grapes here, especially a variety known as "Biblos," which was eventually used to produce the "biblinos oeno," likely once a cult of Dionysus was established atop of Mount Pangeon. The Greek continued winemaking in this region, and it soon became well known as a center of winemaking called the "Biblia Chora." Ancient Greek writers, such as the 7th-6th century B.C. Greek poet Hesiod and the 3rd century B.C. poet Theocritus, both mentioned the Biblia Chora. Thus, the Ktima Biblia Chora is located in a rich, historical region, well known for its wine making for over 2600 years.

The 2011 Ktima Biblia Chora Biblinos ($33) is made from 100% of an unknown grape that was discovered on the slopes of Mount Pangeon. It is said that in 2005, a shepherd found the vine and brought it to the winemakers at Ktima Biblia Chora. The grapes were large, oval berries set in a big, loose bunch. It couldn't be identified so it was put through DNA testing, which ultimately still couldn't identify the grape but it was able to verify that it was vitis vinifera, of Greek origin. Essentially this is a lost grape, one whose origins could extend back to the ancient Greeks, and it might never be identified. Initially, in 2008, this grape was used to make a Rosé wine and then in 2009, it was used to make a Red wine.

For the 2011 vintage, only 2500 bottles were produced, and the wine was fermented in stainless steel and then aged in French oak for about 12 months. With a 14.5% ABV, the wine is inky dark in color with an interesting aroma of black fruit with some light floral notes, like wild violets. On the palate, there is an intriguing and complex melange of flavors, with ripe plum, blueberry and black cherry up front and leading to some spicy and savory notes, especially on the long and lingering finish. Good acidity, some rich voluptuousness up front, and well-integrated tannins. The savory aspect, hints of herbs and roast meat, was compelling and I was well enamored with this wine. This is another wine that would be great paired with hearty dishes, from a grilled steak to a leg of lamb.

This wine, made from a mystery grape, earns my highest recommendation.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

2013 Ktima Gerovassiliou Avaton: Reaching Back Thousands of Years

You could drink a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape which is less than 400 years old. Or you could drink a wine produced from a grape that is more than 2400 years old! Why not opt to enjoy a wine that brings with it such a great sense of history, a connection to the ancient past. And Greek wines can offer that connection.

Cava Spiliadis is an importer of Greeks wines which were personally curated by George Spiliadis, the son of Milos restaurateur Costas Spiliadis. They represent a number of Greek wineries and I recently received several media samples from their portfolio. I've long been a passionate advocate for the wines of Greece, and some of the reasons for my passion can be found in Ten Reasons To Drink Greek Wine

This week, I'll be reviewing four Greek wines from the Cava Spiliadis portfolio, each worthy of your attention, each compelling for different reasons. All four of the wines are red, and would be great for the fall and winter, ideal for holiday parties and feasts.

First up is an intriguing Greek red blend from Ktima Gerovassiliou, which was established in 1981 by Vangelis Gerovassiliou who chose to revive a family vineyard, planting indigenous grapes as well as some international ones. The family estate is located in the Papamola region of Epanomi, approximately 25 kilometers southeast of Thessaloniki. Vangelis obtained a degree from the University of Bordeaux and eventually, in 1986, created an ultra-modern winery and extended the vineyards to about 74 hectares. Vangelis has also created a Wine Museum, especially noted for its exhibits of over 2600 corkscrews.

The 2013 Ktima Gerovassiliou Avaton ($48) is a blend of three indigenous Greek grapes, including 50% Limnio, 25% Mavrotragano & 20% Mavroudi. As an aside, "Avaton" roughly translates as "unreachable." This wine is fermented and aged in French oak, has a 14% ABV, and about 10,000 bottles are annually produced. What helps to make this wine distinctive are the grapes used in the blend, especially the Limnio.

First, Limnio (also known as Kalambaki) might be the oldest known varietal that is still cultivated, potentially extending back at least 2400 years, if not longer! There are a number of ancient references which may refer to the Limnio grape, which apparently originated on the island of Limnos. Around 421 B.C., the Greek playwright Aristophanes wrote a play, titled Peace, and mentioned the Limnia ampelos, the vine from the island of Limnos. In the 4th century B.C., the Greek philosopher Aristotle mentioned the Lemnia wine grape, noting that it possessed the "herbaceous flavors of oregano and thyme." Other ancient Greek writers, including Hesiod and Polydeuctes made reference to the Limnia grape.

You can drink a wine made from a grape that was enjoyed by the famed Aristotle! And Aristotle never drank Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir. Reach back through many centuries and sip from the ancient past.

The island of Limnos is located in the northern Aegean Sea and initially was considered sacred to Hephaestus, the Greek god of metallurgy, who was thrown out of Olympus by Zeus and landed on Limnos. Hephaestus allegedly created a new forge on Lemnos, continuing his smithing.

The first king of Lemnos was allegedly Thοas, the son of Dionysus and Ariadne, and he taught the people the art of winemaking. As Dionysus was the god of winemaking, it certainly makes sense that Thoas would follow in his father's footsteps. And his mother, Ariadne, was the daughter of King Minos of Crete, infamous for his labyrinth which contained the dreaded Minotaur. Interestingly, Pliny the Elder wrote about a labyrinth on Lemnos, though no evidence of its actual existence has been discovered yet.

Greek myths also state that during the reign of Thoas, the men of the island rejected the women, seeking comfort in the arms of Thracian women. Out of revenge, the women of Lemnos murdered nearly all of the men on the island. This would spawn the phrase "Lemnian deed," which refers to the cruel slaughter of someone as an act of revenge. King Thoas had a daughter, Hypsipyle, who couldn't kill her own father so she bound him within a boat and sent him adrift in the sea. It is then said that Jason and the Argonauts eventually came to Lemnos, marrying a number of the women.

Limnio wines commonly have high alcohol, good acidity, mild tannins and herbal elements. Second, Mavrotragano is a grape indigenous to the volcanic Greek island of Santoríni, and its name roughly translates as "black and crisp."  Wines from this grape have powerful red fruit flavors, strong spice, a bit of earthiness, good acidity and strong tannins. Third, Mavroudi is a generic name, which roughly translates as "blackish," and refers to a number of different Greek dark-skinned grapes.

The 2013 Ktima Gerovassiliou Avaton has an inky dark red color, with an alluring aroma of black fruit, mild spice, and a touch of earthiness. On the palate, the wine is muscular and big, though it is still elegant and the tannins are well restrained. There are complex & rich flavors of ripe plum, black cherry, and blackberry, enhanced by a spicy backbone, good acidity, and a hint of herbs. It is delicious and well-balanced, with a lengthy, pleasing finish. It would be great paired with hearty dishes, from a grilled steak to a leg of lamb.  Such an intriguing and tasty wine, I highly recommend it!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Rant: Stop Neglecting Sherry!

"There are only two kinds of sherry, the good and the better."
--Jerez saying

What may be the most intriguing, complex, tasty, unique and best value wine that you probably aren't drinking?

The answer is Sherry, a fascinating fortified wine from a small region of southern Spain. For too many people, Sherry is only a sweet wine that their grandparents may have drank. However, most Sherry is actually dry and it is an amazing wine, one that many more Americans need to taste and experience.

Today is the start of the fourth annual International Sherry Week, an effort to elevate the image of Sherry, to attract more people to savor this delicious wine. As a lover and fervent advocate of Sherry, I want to take this opportunity to spread my passion for this wine, to intrigue others to give it a try. Sherry remains a niche beverage in the U.S., and many Americans have not encountered the joys of dry Sherry. Even many wine lovers have little experience with dry Sherry.

It is dry Sherry which is enjoyed the most in Spain, and there must be a very good reason for that fact. As an example, consider the Sevilla Feria, the famed Spring Festival of Seville, a six-day event where the attendees consume approximately 600,000 bottles of Manzanilla Sherry. How many other wine festivals do you know where that much wine is consumed in such a short time?

Hopefully, we can change matters and get more Americans drinking more Sherry. Here are some items that hopefully will intrigue and motivate you to discover more about Sherry.
  • The Sherry region has a lengthy, fascinating history, extending back a few thousand years and may even the source of the Atlantis legend.
  • Sherry may have been the first wine brought to the New World.
  • The Mayflower, before it sailed to the New World by the Puritans, was used to transport Sherry.
  • In the 1860s, about 43% of all wine imports to Britain were Sherry. 
  • Palomino, the primary grape of Sherry, may have been planted by the ancient Phoenicians. Every sip of Sherry is a taste of history.
  • Manzanilla Sherry can only be produced in a single city in the entire world.
  • Aged Sherry is one of the best values in the wine world. You could buy 50 year old Sherry for $50-$100, far cheaper than almost any other similarly aged wine on the market.
  • Francois Chartier, a sommelier and author, has written on the science of food and wine pairings and believes that Fino Sherry is the King of Food Pairings.
  • Sherry would be a great idea for drinking on Thanksgiving.
  • A Sherry Bodega is radically different from the average wine cellar, and often is even on ground level, helping to make Sherry possess its distinctive nature.
  • Here are 10 Things you should know about Sherry.
  • And here are 5 More Things you should know about Sherry.
Locally, Sherry is starting to get a more visibility, albeit more in the form of Sherry cocktails. I enjoy such cocktails, but I would like to see more people enjoying Sherry on its own too. If you enjoy the flavors of Sherry in cocktails, then why not try the flavors on their own, without other flavors clouding the issue. Try a Fino or Manzanilla, an Amontillado or Oloroso. Or maybe even a Palo Cortado.

The best place in the Boston-area to enjoy Sherry is clearly Taberna de Haro in Brookline, which has about 75 Sherries on their list. No other restaurant has half as many Sherries, and owner/chef Deborah Hansen is truly passionate about Sherry. You can dine there, order some tapas and get a flight of Sherries to compare and contrast. And this week, check out their amazing Sherry Week events!

Other places with Sherry to check out include Tres Gatos, The Hawthorne, and Toro. And you should also check out a special Sherry Week event at The Wine Press in Brookline, across the street from Taberna de Haro. Streetcar Wine & Beer in Jamaica Plain also sells plenty of interesting Sherry.

Stop missing out on the myriad wonders of Sherry. Take a chance and order a couple dry Sherries, to taste something new. You can thank me later when you find a new favorite.

(This is a revised/expanded version of a previous article from 2014.)

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Sherry Week Events at Taberna de Haro & Wine Press

Sherry, that delicious and fascinating fortified wine from the Jerez region of Spain, has a special place in my heart. I've written over 40 articles that touch on Sherry, most collected in All About Sherry, including a five-part history of Sherry, food pairings (including Thanksgiving), Aged Sherry, reviews, and more. Sherry isn't appreciated sufficiently in the U.S., and you still can find some amazing values for aged Sherry. You should explore Sherry and learn to understand its nature and allure.

Next week, from November 6-12, you'll have that opportunity as it is International Sherry WeekSpecial Sherry events are being held all across the world and there are two local spots, both in Brookline, which are hosting events. I strongly encourage you to attend at least one Sherry event, and hope that you might attend even more than one.

The Wine Press, located at 1024 Beacon Street, Brookline, will host a Sherry seminar with Gonzalez Byass, a 5th generation family winery that was founded in 1835. Back in 2010, I visited Gonzalez Byass, and got to experience a number of their delicious and impressive Sherries. The winery also has many interesting stories to tell so attending this seminar should be a great time.

The seminar will give you a history of their winery, as well as the Jerez region, plus will teach you all about Sherry.  This will be a classroom setting with a guided tasting and light pairings. You might taste Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado and Pedro Ximinez. And you'll learn how these Sherries pair with various foods.

The seminar cost $10 per person and you can purchase tickets through Eventbrite. There will be two hour-long seminars, one at 5:30pm and the other at 6:30pm. Each attendant will also receive at $10 gift card to The Wine Press, and I bet you'll want to buy some Sherry once you complete this seminar.

Note: You must be 21 years of age to attend

Unsurprisingly, Taberna de Haro, which provides great support to Sherry year-round, is hosting numerous Sherry events for International Sherry Week. Taberna de Haro has the largest Sherry selection in the Boston area and it is always a pleasure to see what new Sherries they have to offer. And next week, their passion for Sherry will be even more evident.

First, all week long they will have: 
--Additional craft Sherry cocktails, beyond the usual deep selection
--Sherry Pairings both by the glass and by the bottle
--Sherry Flights
--And 20% off full-bottles of Sherry

Second, on Monday, November 6, they will host Industry Night Party, where you can bring a bottle of sherry to Taberna (optional) to enjoy with friends and colleagues. Tapas and lots more sherry will be available, as well the week’s special Sherry Cocktails and Flights.

Third, on Tuesday, November 7, they will host a tasting, “I’ll Make You a Sherry Lover in 6 Glasses or Less.” For those who think sherry is all sweet and cheap or just not their cup of tea, Chef Deborah Hansen believes she can change your mind. She'll serve 6 perfectly approachable sherries paired with traditional tapas.
The cost is $60 per person (plus tax and gratuity) and please call 617-277-8272, in the evening, to pre-pay and reserve.

Fourth, on Wednesday, November 8, they will offer a tasting, “So You Think You Might Be Obsessed with Sherry. This will be a "support group" and provocative tasting to fuel your obsession.  Deborah will 6 high-end sherries with traditional and creative tapas.
The cost is $75 per person (plus tax and gratuity) and please call 617-277-8272, in the evening, to pre-pay and reserve.

Fifth, on Thursday, November 9, they will pair Manzanillas and Oysters. You will get 6 complimentary oysters with every bottle of Manzanilla Sherry you purchase. Experience the ocean in a whole new way.

Sixth, on Friday, November 10, and Saturday, November 11, there will be a Sherry Flow-Through.
Drink various sherries all through your meal - like they do in Jerez - and get a beautiful sherry poster.

Drink More Sherry!

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.
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1) Chef/Owner Michael Schlow, Chef de Cuisine Brendan Pelley, the Doretta Taverna team, and Banville Wine Merchants invite guests to join them for their upcoming wine dinner. On Wednesday, November 8, at 6:30pm, Doretta Taverna and Raw Bar will be hosting a special, five-course wine dinner with Chef Brendan Pelley and Banville Wine Merchants.

The evening will include a cocktail meet and greet at 6:30 p.m. followed by a sit-down dinner at 7 p.m. The meal will feature delicious, off-menu fall dishes paired with a carefully curated selection of Banville wines.

Tickets are $100 plus tax and gratuity and can be purchased at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/doretta-wine-dinner-tickets-39206442525?aff=eac2

2) Gaslight Brasserie du Coin, located in Boston’s historic South End, is celebrating its roots by offering an Alsace-inspired prix-fixe menu with carefully curated wine pairings by Trimbach wines. Beginning November 1, Gaslight is introducing an exclusive and authentic Alsace Prix Fixe Menu available through the months of November and December.

Gaslight’s Alsace Three Course Prix Fixe Menu ($33 per person):
Trimbach Wine Pairing (supplement $17 per person)
Available in addition to the regular dinner menu

Hors d’Oeuvres (Choice of One)
Wine Pairing: Trimbach Pinot Blanc
--Quiche Lorraine (Petite Salade)
--Spätzle (Wild Mushrooms and Spinach)
--Bisque de Courgette (Butternut Squash, Apples, Ginger, and House-cured Bacon Lardons)

Plats Principaux (Choice of One)
Wine Pairing: Choice of Trimbach Pinot Gris, Riesling or Pinot Noir
--Poulet avec Riesling (Chicken Braised with Riesling, Cabbage, Prunes and Roasted Creamer Potatoes)
--Choucroute Garni (Duck Confit, Sausages, House-made Bacon With Apple-braised Sauerkraut)
--Shnitzel du Porc (Fingerling Potatoes, Chili Mignonette, and Buttermilk Vinaigrette)

Dessert (Choice of One)
Wine Pairing: Choice of Trimbach Pear or Raspberry Cordial
--Crème Brulée (Tahitian Vanilla Bean and Fresh Berries)
--Gateau Aux Pommes (Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce)

Featured Draft Pour: Kronenbourg 1664 Draft ($4)

3) On Tuesday, November 14, from 6pm-9pm, North End seafood destination il Molo will team up with local wine expert Christian Trotta and Fantasy Fine Wines for a special five-course dinner harmonized with selections from Marco Bonfante wines, an Italian winery set in the south of Piedmont with a long and illustrious winemaking history. Now run by brother-sister duo Marco and Micaela Bonfante, the winery has been producing exceptional wines for eight generations.

il Molo’s Executive Chef Pino Maffeo has prepared an Italian-inspired menu that will take guests’ taste buds on a culinary journey, while Trotta enhances each course with his carefully selected wine pairings.

MENU
First Course
Smoked Salmon, Rye, Mustard, and Caviar
Roero Arneis 2015
Second Course
Seared Foie Gras and House Made Panettone
Barbera D'Asti “Stella Rossa” 2015
Third Course
Wild Mushroom Pappardelle and Fresh Truffle
Langhe Nebbiolo 2014
Fourth Course
Braised Short Rib and Fresh Truffle Polenta
Bonfante Barolo 2012
Dessert
House Made Coconut Cake
Albarone Albarossa 2011

COST: The cost is $120.00 per person. Excludes tax and gratuity.
MORE INFO: For more information, please call 857-277-1895. To purchase tickets, please visit: http://www.ilmoloboston.com/store/event/il-molo-and-christian-trotta-present-marco-bonfante-wines-of-piemonte

4) On the first Thursday of December for the past eight years, the Town of Concord has been sent a tremendous wheel of Crucolo cheese, direct from the producer in Trentino, Italy. Every year, the festivities surrounding the cheese’s arrival in Concord have grown to include more and more segments of the town’s population: from students to selectmen; from merchants to musicians, and from the young to the young at heart.

New for 2017 is a team of magnificent Belgian draft horses, and a full contingent of brass instruments.

At 3:30 PM on Thursday, December 7 where Main and Walden streets intersect, this free, colorful and boisterous parade will provide spectators with an hour of old fashioned fun as a team of horses hauls the giant cheese down the street in a straw-filled wooden cart, guarded by Militia-men, and accompanied by the blare of brass instruments spurring on high-spirited dancers from Concord Academy. Those who arrive early (highly suggested) are given Italian flags to wave as the cheese passes by.

After a brief round of speeches, echoed by the crowd, the Crucolo cheese is then carved on a raised stage and subsequently sampled by all. The cheese – a mild asiago fresco made from cow’s milk -- is sold at The Cheese Shop of Concord, and in the past has sold out in less than 2 weeks.

5) Chef/Owner Delio Susi and his talented team welcome guests to Sulmona, his recently debuted restaurant in the heart of Kendall Square, for a seasonally inspired Hunter’s Dinner during the month of November, from the 1st-22nd. Chef Delio Susi serves soulful Italian food inspired by his hometown of Sulmona and he has an undying appreciation for using only the finest sourced ingredients.

This November, Chef Delio invites guests to savor the bold flavors of the New England bounty with his Hunter’s Dinner. The Hunter’s Dinner can be enjoyed as a prix fixe menu ($55/person) or a la carte, with or without a three course wine pairing (+$15/person). Prices do not include tax and gratuity.

FIRST COURSE
Choice of
--Pan Roasted Quail, Golden Raisins, Herbed Couscous $17
--Autumn Bruschetta, Butternut Squash Caponata, Fresh Ricotta and Garlic Toast $16
--Pumpkin Arancini, Fontina Cheese, Marinara, Grated Cheese $12
SECOND COURSE
Choice of
--Rabbit Triangoli, Caccitore Style, Grana Padano Cheese Swiss Chard $29
--Venison Rack, Parsnip Mashed Potatoes, Heirloom Carrots, Huckleberry Demi $35
--Rainbow Trout, Browned Butter, Sage, Roasted Root Vegetables, Citrus Gremolata $30
THIRD COURSE
Choice of
--Huckleberry Cobbler, served warm with Vanilla Gelato $11
--Apple Cider Sorbet $9

To make reservations, please call 617-714-4995

6) Puritan & Co. Chef/Owner Will Gilson exhibits his culinary talent by paying homage to Harvest season with a multi-course dinner focusing on Fall Flavors. Puritan & Company in Inman Square offers guests a taste of the cuisine that is inspired by the bounty of New England’s local farms with a six course, prix-fixe dinner on Thursday, November 16, from 6pm-9pm. The dinner will be served communal-style and will include carafes of wine at each table.

The menu includes:

hors d’oeuvres
clothbound cheddar-stuffed kielbasa with mustard & apples
potato mille fueille with caviar, crème fraiche & chives
parmesan polenta fritter with sage pesto & pine nuts
beet fritter with salmon tartare & horseradish
first
braised pork shoulder- squash, chicories, rosemary chutney, puffed wild rice
second
celery root bisque- lobster, black truffle, parmesan, meyer lemon
third
seared scallops- sweet potato, leeks, brown butter, piperade
fourth
slow-roasted ribeye- kale & mushroom crepe, celery root, truffle jus
dessert
apple cider donut- pumpkin mousse, candied pecans, bourbon caramel, cinnamon ice cream

The dinner is $85 per person and reservations can be made by logging onto Eventbrite or by calling 617-615-6195.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

An Expanded History of Pechuga Mezcal

(This is a revised/expanded version of a prior article I wrote on the history of Pechuga Mezcal. I've added a number of additional documented references to Pechuga, roughly doubling the prior amount, and also felt the history would benefit from standing on its own.)

Tequila gets far more publicity, as well as more shelf space at bars and restaurants, than Mezcal but Mezcal is more than worthy of your attention, being complex and intriguing, and often made by more traditional methods. In short, Mezcal is a distilled spirit from the agave plant and Tequila is actually a type of Mezcal, though the average consumer is probably unaware of that fact.

For some background information on Mezcal, please check out several of my prior Mezcal articles, including Rant: 400 Rabbits Say "Drink More Mezcal"Mezcal Bars in the Boston AreaMezcal & BeyondAmuleto Mexican Table, Mezcal Vago & "A Slap To The Face", and Ten Reasons To Drink Mezcal. With this new article, I want to concentrate on a more unique version of Mezcal known as Pechuga.

Pechuga is basically a flavored version of Mezcal in which one of the steps of the distillation process includes some type of meat. The Spanish term "pechuga" basically translates as "breast" and commonly refers to a "chicken breast" though it can also refer to the breast of any type of poultry. Despite the name, Pechuga is not limited to the use of poultry. Currently, you'll find versions of Pechuga made from a variety of animals, including turkey, deer, goat, cow, pig, rabbit and even iguana.

Was chicken breast the first type of meat to be used to produce Pechuga? Currently, the answer is unknown though the earliest known documented reference to Pechuga mentions chicken. Obviously Pechuga was invented some time before the earliest written reference so we cannot say for a surety that chicken was the first meat used to create Pechuga. A different meat could have been used for the first Pechugas yet maybe then there was a change at some point to the use of chicken. Maybe chicken was less expensive than other options.

My own theory, which needs far more evidence, is that turkeys may have been the first animals used in the making of Pechuga. The turkey is native to Mexico while the chicken was an import brought by the Spaniards. Turkeys were, and still are, eaten and used in numerous Zapotec rituals, while turkeys and their eggs were also commonly given as gifts for celebratory occasions. Pechuga is often said to be commonly consumed for holidays and celebratory occasions so why wouldn't the symbolic-rich turkey be used? Far more research into that question is needed.

To make Pechuga, a Mezcal is commonly distilled for a third time with a raw piece of meat suspended inside the still. In addition, various fruits, herbs, nuts, grains and/or spices are added into the still. Pechuga is sometimes referred to as a harvest Mezcal as it is commonly produced during November to January, when the wild fruits are ripe, such as apples, plums, red plantains, pineapples, and more. The specific recipe of that melange of ingredients will vary from mezcalero to mezcalero and as there is no legal definition for Pechuga, the recipes can be quite diverse.

The base Mezcal is usually produced from Espadin agave, as it is one of the most common, hearty and least expensive agaves. Placing all of the various ingredients into the Mezcal will tend to overwhelm any subtlety of the agave so it would make little sense to use some of the rarer agave varieties to make Pechuga. The heat of the still will cook the meat and the vapors will pass through and into the meat. Sometimes, a few mezcaleros will conduct this process during the second distillation instead of adding a third.

How does the meat affect the taste of the Mezcal? Some claim the meat helps to mellow and soften the Mezcal, and others state it gives the Mezcal a fuller body. If you taste a Pechuga, you probably won't be able to identify the specific type of meat that was used, but will likely detect more savory notes, and possibly even some gamier elements. Every Pechuga I've tasted has been intriguing and delicious, as well as very different from all the others.

Though Pechuga is relatively rare, it can be found in the U.S. market, primarily due to the work of Ron Cooper of Del Maguey. Around 1999, Cooper, after a few years of fighting the bureaucracy, was the first to bring Pechuga into the U.S. market. Currently, they sell two Pechugas, one made with chicken and the other with Iberico ham. Since then, a number of other Mezcal producers, including Pierde Almas (using a rabbit),  El Jolgorio (using a guajolote, a creole turkey rooster ), Wahaka (one also using a guajolote and another which is a vegan version), and Fidencio (using chicken breast). As Pechuga is made in small batches, it tends to be very pricey, and you can expect to pay $100-$300 a bottle. Some restaurants and bars sell Pechuga by the glass or a small cup so you can taste one without shelling out the money for an entire bottle.

The origins of Pechuga are murky, both its date of origin as well as the reasons behind its initial creation. When I initially surveyed the current information about Pechuga, there was some evidence that it reached back at least to the 1930s as there were glass bottles labeled Pechuga from this decade. As for printed evidence, the earliest was alleged to be a book from the 1950s which mentioned a Pechuga made from baby goat breast that was added during the second distillation. It seemed likely that Pechuga originated before the 1930s, but the evidence seemed lacking.

I decided to seek more evidence about Pechuga's origins, beginning with a search through some newspaper archives. I didn't have high expectations but knew the searches wouldn't take too long so it wasn't a major investment. My efforts quickly paid off as I uncovered a newspaper article from 1901 mentioning Pechuga! That alone was exciting but I then used that article as a springboard for deeper research, uncovering numerous other Pechuga references, especially in a number of Mexican newspapers and books.

At this time, I've discovered printed documentation of Pechuga extending back to 1864, meaning it is over 150 years old. In addition, I've located multiple printed references to Pechuga, ranging from 1864 to 1930, which provide more insight into this unique type of Mezcal. Despite my fascinating discoveries, there are still significant questions remaining about the history of Pechuga. Additional research is certainly needed to address the unknowns and I strongly suspect there is more to find out there.

The oldest documented reference to Pechuga that I found was from August 1864, indicating that the existence of Pechuga extends back over 150 years. In the Boletin de la Sociedad Mexicana de Geografia y Estadisticathere was a lengthy article, Memoria Sobre El Maguey Mexicano Y Sus Diversos Productos, written by D. Manuel Payno (August 1864). There is a passage in this article that stated: “El primer producto que se obtiene y que se llama vino ordinario, sufre una segunda destilacion, que pro duce el vino refino, que se expende en el comercio con un grado de 46° (Gay Lussac). Las primeras porcio nes que pasan en esta segunda destilacion, toman el nombre de flor primera, segunda, etc. Hay un vino que - rectifican añadiéndole gallina y no recuerdo qué otras cosas bien poco volátiles, que llaman vino de pechuga, el cual lo preparan solamente para regalo."

This passage mentions "vino de pechuga," which was made by adding chicken and other unstated ingredients. This is basically what we know as Pechuga, a Mezcal which adds meat and other ingredients. The passage also notes that this Pechuga was prepared only for a gift, something for a celebratory occasion, which is also something which fits much of what we know. Unfortunately, there were no other references to Pechuga in Payno's lengthy article.

One issue we may have with finding older references to Pechuga is that it might be difficult if the term "pechuga" is not used. At some point in history, a mezcalero decided to add meat to his Mezcal still and it may not have had a special name at that point. Who knows how many mezcaleros emulated this pioneer before someone finally decided to name it Pechuga? Then, we don't know how long it took after that for someone to mention Pechuga in a book or newspaper.

It's interesting that the next documented reference I found is from a Colorado newspaper, Out West (November 21, 1872), which provided a travelogue, written by Rosa Del Monte, who journeyed with a group to various parts of Mexico. At the Hacienda de Quesaria, the group had breakfast, checked out their sugar mill and were amazed by "chicken wine." As the passage states: “But the most remarkable product of the estate is “Chicken Wine.” As any-one may imagine, we greeted the member of the party who made the discovery with shouts of derision, but he stuck to his statement, and soon a bottle with “Vino de Pechuga” (the breast of a chicken) on the label was produced. We tasted the decoction, and found it very bad rum, with no perceptible taste of feathers. Three barrels, worth $36 the barrel, are made daily, and two chickens are boiled in every four gallons of the wine. Such is the fact—but the reason why remains a mystery to this day.”

This is a fascinating passage and the writer might have been confused as to the actual method of production of the Pechuga. This was likely created with Mezcal and not wine, as Pechuga is sometimes referred to as "vino de Pechuga," despite no actual wine being involved. It is also surprising that this Pechuga is allegedly made every day, and not just as a gift as mentioned in the Payno article. This is also the first time we have a price for Pechuga, $36 per barrel, though it is unsure whether that is in U.S. dollars or Mexican dollar.

During the 1870s, a number of Mexican newspapers printed ads for the sale of Pechuga, which seems to indicate it was being produced for more than just gifts. The El Padre Cobos (November 2, 1873), and in a number of other issues during the next few months, posted an ad: "Gran Lecheria! En la calle de la Alcaiceria entre los numeros 27 y 28 se vende leche pura garantizada desde las cinco de la manana adelante y chocolate superior de varias clases, al estilo de Guadalajara. Proximamente se recibera de esa ciudad un abudante surtido de vino de Pechuga febrido in Tequila, Frijol garbancillo y Cigarros de la Conchita y el Buen Gusto todo legitimo y a precios comodos."

This ad mentioned that an assortment of "Vino de Pechuga," which was made in Tequila, would soon be available for sale. This article thus indicates Pechuga was being made in the Tequila region, though there isn't any indication it was made exclusively in that area.

Later in that same newspaper, El Padre Cobos (January 18, 1874)and in a number of other issues during the next few months, posted a revised ad, noting "..: vino de Tequila comun y de pechuga, tan puro como no se ha tomado nunca en esta capital;.." This ad highlighted the high purity or quality of these products, including the Pechuga.

The El Libreto (January 4, 1875) also ran an ad for "... del Pechuga legitimo y Tequila puro de la mejor clase." This ad emphasized "legitimate" Pechuga, which could indicate that fake Pechuga was also being sold on the market.

An article in La Bandera Nacional (October 6, 1877) mentioned: "Hay alli un tequila, legitimo pechuga, que a los jalisciences les recuerda Jalisco, un vino de Papa Clemente, que hace sonar con el Vaticano, un jerez que entusiasma a los espanoles; pero mas que todo esto, se recomienda la amabilidad de quien despacha." This references "legitimate" Pechuga that reminds some people of a Sherry wine from Spain which is favored by the Pope. This is certainly high praise for the Pechuga, as well as raising once again the potential issue of fake Pechuga.

In La Libertad (March 13, 1878), and in a number of other issues during the next month, there is an advertisement mentioning: "...Tequila de Pechuga de la fabrica del inteligente Sabas Cruz. Por su gusto y aroma parece un balsamo, y no se sacia uno de saborearlo: tiene ademas virtudes medicinales." Besides mentioning once again that the Pechuga comes from Tequila, there is also the first reference to Pechuga possessing "medical virtues," though no specifics are provided.

Later that month, La Patria (March 31, 1878) noted that Jesus Flores won a prize at an exposition for his "vino de Pechuga." Unfortunately, the article didn't provide any additional details about this winning Pechuga but now we see that Pechuga was sometimes entered into competitions. More evidence of Pechuga at competitions will later be seen from other sources.

Almost a year later, La Patria (February 1, 1879) ran an advertisement from a seller, Nicolas Andrade, of Tequila and Pechuga. The ad lists the prices, in Mexican dollars, for various containers, from a cup to a barrel. It is interesting to see that Pechuga generally cost twice as much as Tequila. A cup of "Grande Tequila" costs $0.03 while a cup of Pechuga cost $0.06. A bottle of Tequila cost $0.37 while a bottle of Pechuga cost $1.00. A Jar of Tequila cost $3.50 while a Jar of Pechuga cost $7.00. A Barrel of Tequila cost $25.00 but there wasn't a price for Pechuga by the barrel. It is hard to say the reason for the higher cost of Pechuga, whether it was due more to rarity or whether it was because it was considered to be of higher quality. Or maybe a combination of both.

More prices were provided by the El Municipio Libre (April 3, 1879), in an advertisement by a liquor store. Mescal de Tierra Caliente cost $1.50 for a bottle and $20.00 for a Box (though there is no indication how much the box contains). Tequila Superior cost $3.00 for a bottle and $40.00 for a Box. And "Legitimate" Pechuga costs $7.00 for a bottle and $90.00 for a box. These prices are higher than the other advertisement though Pechuga is still the most expensive. What is also curious is that this ad states its Pechuga is "legitimate," continuing to raise the question whether some people were selling fake Pechuga. Maybe that is why the other seller's prices were so cheap.

La Patria (April 26, 1879) notes a recommendation for a vendor of "...en particular el exquisito vino pechuga para familias, que por sus virtudes higienicas ha merecidos el titulo de elixir mexicano:" The phrase "el elixir mexicano," the "Mexican elixir," was in italics. This is another reference to Pechuga being healthy for you, noting its "hygienic virtues," though once again, there are no specifics listed.

In 1880, Mariano Barcena presented a study, La 2. Exposicion de “Las Clases Productoras” y descripcion de la ciudad de Guadalajarato the Secretary of Development. There was a list under the heading, Bebidas Azucaradas y Otras, which included a number of Pechuga references, usually as "vino de Pechuga." There were also references to “vino de Pechuga y almendrado” (Pechuga and Almonds), “Pechuga Almendrado,” and “Pechuga Naranjado” (Orange Pechuga). These terms seem to indicate the additional ingredients added to the base Pechuga. It raises the question then whether originally Pechuga only contained chicken, or another meat, and not the fruits, nuts, and such known to be used to create later versions of Pechuga. This study also mentioned that Sr. D. Carlos G. Sancho presented a "very good" Pechuga.

Pechuga apparently was entered into international competitions, as noted in El Monitor Republicano (April 22, 1880) in the following passage: "Vino Tequila de Pechuga, Almendrado, llamado Vino de Tertulia, fabricado por Librado Escamilla, en Guadalajara, y premiado en la ultima Exposicion Universal de Paris. Conocidas ya las cualidades del Vino Tequila para la cuaracion de diarreas cronicas, anemia, malas digestiones, reumatismo, falta de apetito e irregularidades en las enfermmedades del sexo femenino, se hace mas recomendable la preparacion del Vino de Tertulia, porque su gusto exquisito lo hara agradable y facil de tomar a las Senoras y ninos."

This passage mentioned a "Pechuga Almendrado," which was also called Tertulia Wine and made by Librado Escamilla in Guadalajara. There is no explanation for why it is called "Tertulia," though that term translates as "gathering," and thus might be an indication that the Pechuga is a drink for gatherings. This specific Pechuga is also said to have been given an award at the last Universal Exhibition in Paris, likely in 1878, indicating this Pechuga was considered high enough quality to be entered into a competition, as well as good enough to win. There aren't any details though as to the nature of the competition, and what the Pechuga might have faced.

In addition, this fascinating passage provides details on the alleged health benefits of Pechuga, which can be used for the treatment of chronic diarrhea, anemia, bad digestion, rheumatism, and a lack of appetite. It is also noted that this Pechuga Almendrado can help irregularities in the diseases of women, especially as it is considered smooth and easy enough for both women and children to drink. This won't be the only reference to Pechuga Almendrado being especially appropriate for women.

In the Anales del Ministerio de Fomento de la Republica Mexica (1881), there are references to a few specific producers of Pechuga, Jesús Flores is noted to be the owner of a wealthy distillery in Tequila and produces a variety of Mezcals, including Pechuga and Alemendrado. He was also the only person win a first class medal in the first Guadalajara Municipal Exhibition. Sabás Cruz received an award for his Pechuga at the recent Exposition in France. And Cárlos Sancho is mentioned as making a very good Pechuga.

For a more technical reference to Pechuga, El Monitor Republicano (July 23, 1881) has an article, "Inspeccion De Bebidas Y Comestibles," which notes: "..; por ultimo, el aguardiente de tequila llamado vino de pechuga, vino de familia, es un verdadero elixir en el que hay buena proporcion de azucar y alguna sustancia aromatica, adiciones que aumentando la densidad del liquido hasta hacer flotar en su superficie el alcohometro, obligan a destilarlo para conocer su riqueza; hecha esta operacion en esos aguardientes de las cuatro cantinas aludidas, dieron como termino medio 38.5 por ciento; sometiendo esos elixires a las manipulaciones indicadas para buscar las reacciones caracteristicas de la presencia del alumbre o del acido sulfurico, el resultado fue claramente negativo." In short, this passage notes that Pechuga is a "true elixir" and contains a good proportion of sugar and some aromatics and these additions increase the density of the liquid.

In 1882, the Memoria de la Primera Exposicion Industrial De Queretaro, y Lista de los objetos presentados en la misma ("Memory of the first exhibition industry of Queretaro and list of objects presented"), written by Celestino Diaz, had a couple references to Pechuga. First, it mentioned that Francisco A. Vargas won a First Class Award for his "Pechuga Naranjado." Second, it mentioned two bottles of Pechuga that were made by Mariano R. Velazquez. There was a third reference too, using a different term for Pechuga, which was wasn't clear unless you were already aware of this other term.

There was a mention of "mezcal de sustancia, que los Srs. Becerill y Ordonez fabrican en San Angel." From another reference I found, I was aware that "mezcal of substance" was another term for Pechuga, and I'll mention that later in this article.

Published in January 1884, the book Estudio quimico-industrial de los varios productos del maguey mexicano y analisis quimico del aguamiel y el pulque ("Chemical-industrial study of various products of Mexican maguey and chemical analysis of aguamiel and pulque") was written by José G. Lobato and contains the following passage: "El estado de Zacatecas posee varios distritos mezcaleros; pero entre ellos el de Pinos es muy notable por las plantaciones y cultivo de sius magueyeras, que producen much mezcal, alcohol de primera y segunda clase, llamdos chorrera el primero, y pechuga el sugundo. Esta misma denominacion se les aplica en San Luis Potoso, Guanajuato, Queretaro y otros Estados."

This passage mentions that the Mexican state of Zacatecas, located north of Jalisco, has several Mezcal producing districts and that the Pinos district is notable. This district is best known for two classes of Mezcal, Chorrera and Pechuga. It continues noting that this also applies to other Mexican states, including San Luis Potoso, Guanajuato, and Queretaro, indicating the prevalence of Pechuga Mezcal.

Another passage in that same book goes into some additional detail, "El mezcal de pechuga de San Luis Potosí, de Pinos en Zacatecas, de Tequila en Jalisco, etc., es un alcohol muy aromático, muy sápido, muy carminativo, debido esto al aceite esencial del maguey, al ácido agávico y á la agavina encontrada por el Sr. Fernandez en 1876, con moti vo del análisis que exprofeso ejecutó, comisiónado por el Ayuntamiento de Guanajuato con motivo del envenena miento de este alcohol por el plomo."

It is stated that the Pechuga of San Luis Potosí, the Pinos in Zacatecas, and Tequila in Jalisco, are very aromatic and full-bodied. Strangely, it's also stated that these mezcals are "carminativo," which translates as carminative, meaning they can induce or prevent flatulence. Mezcal has long been said to cure many ailments, but mentioning its carminative properties along with it being aromatic and full-bodied seems to be a strange combination. The passage also mentions that these qualities are considered to be due to the essential oil of the maguey plant, agavic acid and its agavina (natural sugars).

An advertisement in the  El Correo de San Luis (April 23, 1885) (and May 19) noted its low prices, for "Vino de Pechuga Almendrado," which is also stated to be "propio para las senoras por su suavidad y buen gusto," ("suitable for ladies for its softness and good taste"). This is the second reference I've seen that refers to women as a specific demographic for this type of Pechuga. Is it only because almonds were added to this Pechuga? This reference seems to raise more questions than it answers.

There is a brief mention in El Amigo de la Verdad (January 28, 1888) of several classes of Tequila, including Sweet, Tequila with Walnuts and Pechuga Almendrado.

There is a reference to Pechuga being sent to the U.S. in the El Tiempo (October 10, 1889), noting an American steamship traveling to San Francisco with a load of 60 barrels of Mezcal and 1 barrel of Pechuga. It seems Pechuga wasn't as popular in California as was Mezcal.

There is an interesting passage in the El Abogado Cristiano Ilustrado (June 15, 1890) noting: "Hombre! me occure ahora que si--como se dice el autor de aquella cita resulta ser un Jesuita, este escribio ese parrafo, de que tanto bombo hace La Ilustracion, bajo la influencia del jugo fermentado de las uvas de Engadi o del pechuga de Tequila al que no dejan de ser afectas las gentes de sotana." This seems to discuss a priest who might enjoy wine from "Engadi" grapes or Pechuga.

An advertisement in La Patria (July 2, 1890) states: "El afamado deposito de vinos de Tequila propiedad del Sr. Aurelio Gutierrez, situado en la calle de Manrique num. 1, acaba de recibir un magnifico surtido de Pechuga doble, Pechuga almendrado y Tequila de la bien reputada fabrica de la Sra. viuda de Martinez." It notes a vendor who recently acquired an assortment of Tequila, including Pechuga Doble ("Pechuga Double") and Pechuga Almendrado, which came from the well-regarded distillery of the widow Mrs. Martinez. This is the first reference I've seen to Pechuga Doble.

An intriguing book, El Maguey. Memoria sobre el cultivo y beneficio de sus productosby Jose C. Segura, was published in Mexico in 1891. Jose Segura (1846-1906) was an agronomist engineer and a professor at the National School of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, having written several other books and numerous articles. This book, published in Spanish, discussed the many uses of the agave plant, including its use in making Pulque and Mezcal. It is probably worth a deeper examination as it may contain other intriguing information about agave, Pulque, Mezcal and more. It would also help if there were an English translation.

Segura references Pechuga, though he used a different term, referring to it as a mezcal of "sustancia," substance, a term which we saw earlier in this article in an 1882 book. Segura wrote "Dos clases de Mezcal se conocen en el Sur de Mexico: el mezcal de cabezas, que es el que se obtiene destilacion del liquidoen donde se han puestoa fermentar las cabezas, y el que llama de sustancia, que es el que se obtiene distilando el jugo fermentado de las cabezas con carne de gallina cocida, o patas de ternera. Tambien acostumbran en algunas partes, aromatizar el mezcal, destilandolo sobre cascaras de fruta." This passage states that the mezcal of sustancia was distilled with chicken or legs of veal. There was also a mention that sometimes fruit peels are added to the mezcal to help aromatize it.

Finding prices for Mezcal and Pechuga is always interesting. The Boletín de Agricultura Minería e Industrias (January 1, 1892) references "pechuga almendrado" with a barrel priced from $16-$18 in Mexican dollars. For comparison, a barrel of "Mezcal Tequila, buena clase" is priced from $10.75-$11 and a barrel of "Mezcal Tequila, doble o de punta" (double or pointed) from $18-$20. As such, Pechuga is more expensive than some other Mezcals, but not all types.

In the El Municipio Libre (August 1, 1895) there is an article about the upcoming National Exhibition of 1896, where various Mexican states will exhibit some of their best products. The article states: "A mas del aguardiente se elabora en algunas haciendas vino de mescas que es muy apreciado, con especialidad el de pechuga y almendrado." This basically indicates that some haciendas, which produce Mezcal, specialize in Pechuga and Almendrado.

In the Saturday, January 5, 1901 edition of The Oasis, an Arizona newspaper, they published an article, Mescal Making, though the author of the article was not identified. The article discussed the Mezcal being produced in the Sahuaripa district of the Sonora state in Mexico, stating the area was "...noted far and wide for the excellence and quality of the mescal there produced,..."

There was a further explanation of how Mezcal was produced, including information on its quality levels, which mentioned Pechuga. “Of the finished liquor there are three qualities determined by the number of distillations to which subjected. The product of the first distillation is called “vino,” and is the cheapest grade of mescal. The “vino” when subjected to a second distillation loses about thirty per cent in weight and then is known as “Bacanora.” This is a much finer and more expensive liquor than the “vino.” In the third distillation the “Bacanora” loses another thirty per cent, by weight, of the “vino” and the product, known as “pechuga,” is a very fine and costly liquor, within reach of the purses of the wealthy only. It is a soft, smooth liquor, having all the strength of the “vino,” contained within forty per cent of its weight but losing none of its fiery qualities and pungent taste.”

It is important to note that this article didn't specifically mention that Pechuga was made with meat, but it was stated to be produced from a third distillation. Did the author misunderstand the actual nature of Pechuga? It doesn't seem logical that this Pechuga didn't include meat. Why else refer to it by a name meaning "breast," especially "chicken breast?"  There doesn't appear to be any other historical evidence that the term Pechuga was ever used for anything but Mezcal flavored with meat. I think it is probably most likely the author made a mistake, an omission error, failing to mention the addition of meat in Pechuga. We also see that Pechuga was very expensive, and tasted soft and smooth, though still possessing the fiery character of Mezcal.

As an aside, on Saturday, May 24, 1902, The Oasis published a second article, Mezcal Manufacture, mentioning Pechuga. However, the article was simply an expanded version of their prior article, using much of the same information, and didn't add anything new about Pechuga.

In El Agricultor Mexicano (June 1, 1901)there was a passage "En el estado de Zacatecas, que cuenta con mucho distritos mezcaleros, el mas notable es el de Pinos que produce un alcohol supremo, y que es de dos clases, la de primera se llama "chorrera" y "pechuga" la de segunda." It mentioned the Mexican state of Zacatecas, located north of Jalisco, which had many Mezcal producing districts with the Pinos district being considered the best. The Pinos district was best known for two types of Mezcal, Chorrera and Pechuga.

The term "mezcal de sustancia" appeared again, in the Diccionario de Aztequismos: ó sea, Catálogo de las palabras del idioma Nahuatl, Azteca ó Mexicano, introducidas al idioma Castellano bajo diversas formas, written in 1904 by Cecilio A. Robelo. The book provided a list of various types of Mezcal and defined "Mezcal de sustancia" as "el que se obtiene destilando el jugo fermentado de las cabezas con carne de gallina cocida, o patas de ternera." That basically states that it is made by distilling the mezcal with chicken or veal legs.

Prices also arose again, in the Periódico Oficial del Estado de Zacatecas (July 16, 1910) which notes bottles of pechuga almendrado for sale for $0.75 each while different brands of tequila cost only $0.25 to $0.46 per bottle. Pechuga was thus clearly more expensive, three times as much as the cheapest tequila.

An advertisement in El Informador (August 14, 1930) is intriguing as it states: "Alegre sus dias de campo obsequiando sus amistades con Tequila "Providencia," "Pechuga Almendado" que da gusto al paladar mas exigente." That roughly translates as "Cheer up your field days by giving away your friends with Tequila Providence, Pechuga Almendado which gives taste to the most demanding palate."

It is abundantly clear now that Pechuga wasn't a 20th century invention, but extends back at least to 1864, over 150 years ago. These are fascinating finds, and I hope that it might lead to even more such discoveries in the future. We may have peeled back several layers of the "onion" of Pechuga but there are plenty of other layers to still uncover.

Have you tasted Pechuga? If so, what were your thoughts? What are your thoughts about this history of Pechuga?