Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Quincy: The Townshend, Zef Cicchetti & 16C (Part 3)

From Spanish Whiskey to Sangria, Chestnut Ravioli to a Chocolate Snowball, my recent culinary trek to Quincy included three other delicious destinations, The Townshend, Zef Cicchetti & Raw Bar, and 16C. Kerry Byrne (a Quincy native, food writer for the Boston Herald, and the owner of KJB Trending Hospitality) wanted to introduce me to a few more of the newer eateries in Quincy. Through my relatively brief experiences at each spot, I saw much potential and am eager to return for a fuller experience.

Kerry and I began our exploration of Quincy by having a drink at The Townshend, a craft cocktail bar and restaurant serving seasonal, modern far, which opened in May 2015. The restaurant was founded by Devin Adams, whose resume includes Kingfish Hall, Lucca Restaurant, Island Creek Oyster Bar and Drink. It's name is based on the historical Townshend Acts, severe British laws which increased duties on imports, and were part of the reason for the revolt of the American colonists. This is a nod to Quincy's historical importance to the American Revolution.

With a casual decor of light wood and dark metal, it is a cool spot to have a drink after work, or to grab some dinner with a significant other or groups of friends. However, you might want to grab a seat at the bar so you can watch the bartenders in action.

The restaurant is open for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, offering everything from sandwiches to entrees, from Burgers to Wild Boar Ragu, Pulled Pork Melt to Panko Crusted Haddock. Lunch sandwiches range from $11-$13 while dinner entrees range from $24-$29. The kitchen sources many of their ingredients locally and on a chalkboard, to the left of the bar, they list those producers. the chalkboard also mentions the local distilleries, breweries and wineries from which they source some of their drinks.

As we were at the restaurant between lunch and dinner, they only had a very limited menu available, basically a few appetizers, and we opted for the Glazed Chicken Wings, with a Sriracha honey glaze. The meaty wings had a delicious taste of sweet and spicy though it might have been better if he wings had a crunchier coating, though that is more an issue of preference.

The Bar Manager is Palmer Matthews (pictured above), who is a Quincy native, gained much of his bar experience from his time at Drink. He has put together an interesting bar and cocktail program, stocking many local spirits and beers, as well as some more unique offerings. Most of their cocktails cost $10-$11, such as the Blood & Sand (Scotch, Orange & Cherry Brandy) and Kentucky Colada (Whiskey, Coconut, Pina & Peach). They also hand cut their ice from a large block (which you can see above). There is a substantial beer list, with about 8 on draft, and plenty of local brews though you'll also find a number of Belgian beers.

The wine list is interesting and certainly not the usual suspects. There are about 16 wines by the glass, priced $7-$12, and you'll find wines from Hungarian Furmint to Lodi Cabernet Franc. They have over 30 wines by the bottle, with a fair share priced under $50. The diversity appeals to me, and it's good to see one Massachusetts wine even made the list, the Westport Rivers RJR Brut.

I opted for a glass, neat, of Navazos-Palazzi Grain Whiskey, a cask strength Spanish whiskey which was aged in Palo Cortado Sherry barrels. When's the last time you saw a Spanish whiskey at a cocktail bar? It was a first time for me. The whiskey was delicious and aromatic, very Sherry-like and light, with hints of grain and a touch of almost sweet vanilla. It was very smooth, despite the high alcohol content, though a few drops of water might help you enjoy it. 

Palmer then suggested that I try the Dry Fly Distilling Straight Triticale Whiskey, which might be the only straight Triticale whiskey in the world. Triticale is a hybrid of rye and wheat which was created in Scotland in the late 19th century. I enjoyed a shot, chilled by a single large chunk of ice, and found the whiskey to be intriguing, with a nice spicy kick up front, which then became soft and almost sweet. As I love Rye whiskey, I savored the spicy element of the Triticale, but also liked how the wheat softened it more on the finish. It's always great to go to a cocktail bar and encounter something new, and I'd love to return to Townshend to taste more of what they have to offer.

Palmer also joined Kerry and I as we dined at a few more locations, and I found him to be both fun and knowledgeable, down-to-earth individual and a good man to share a drink.

The Townshend team are planning to open another restaurant in the near future, Belfry Hall, which will be an “urban beer hall.”

Leo Keka, a native of Albania, is the owner of Alba Restaurant, a well-known, high-end steakhouse in Quincy. He has now opened a second restaurant, Zef Cicchetti & Raw Bar, next to Alba. Zef Cicchetti, whose name pays tribute to Keka’s father, Jozef Keka, who passed away last year, is a Venetian-style bacaro. They serve traditional cicchetti, small plates, hand-made pasta, local oysters, and more.

It is an elegant restaurant, with lots of dark wood, yet still seems more casual than Alba. You probably were unaware, as I was initially, that coastal sections of Albania once were part of the Republic of Venice. As such, they share some culinary roots so Leo has a good understanding of Venetian cuisine and was a natural extension for him.

Lots of fresh oysters! You can also find little neck clams, Alaskan King crab legs, Maine lobster claws, and Jumbo shrimp as part of their raw bar.

There is an open kitchen, which I always see as a sign of confidence of the kitchen staff. Their food menu includes a number of Cicchetti, from Salt Cod Fritters to Grilled Octopus, priced from $6-$18. You can also find Bruschette, like Steak Tartare, Salumi, Cheese, and Pizzettes (small pizzas). For a heartier appetite, you can try their house-made Pasta dishes ($17-$22), like Black Truffle Gnocchi or Linguine Vongole, or one of their Platti ($23-$38), such as Filet Mignon or Fisherman's Stew. There is something for everyone, whether you want a few bites while drinking at the bar or if a group of you are hungry for a full meal.

We opted to try several different dishes, to get a sense of what you might expect while dining here. The Il Diavolo Pizzette is made with Calabrian chile soppressata and fontina cheese. It is a thin crust pizza, with a nice char, with plenty of soppressata atop it. I enjoyed the lightly spicy pizza, with its crisp crust, and a red sauce with a mild sweetness to it. And it actually is good-sized and can easily be split by a couple people.

The Lamb Garganelli is comprised of braised lamb shank, romanesco cauliflower, and mint gremolata. The pasta was excellent, with a nice bite to it, and the tender lamb was flavorful and compelling. I'm not a fan of cauliflower but the pieces were small, almost circular, and you almost wouldn't even know what it was unless you knew what was in the dish.

My favorite dish was the Chestnut Ravioli, with truffle butter, heirloom cranberry and crispy sage. The fresh ravioli were cooked perfectly, and the taste of the dish delighted my palate in so many ways. The creamy chestnut filling, enhanced by the truffle butter and cranberry, brought to mind an earthy forest. And the crispy sage added a little crunch to the dish. Highly recommended.

Finally, we enjoyed the Saffron Risotto, made with Maine lobster, Vialone rice, and Meyer lemon. The rice was prepared just right, with an excellent texture, and there was plenty of sweet lobster meat in the risotto. For my preferences, the lemon flavor was too strong and I would have liked it more with a lighter use of lemon.

Our final stop was at 16C, a new restaurant owned by Kerri Lynch-Delaney, who is the niece of famed Chef Barbara Lynch, and Kerri also used to work at No. 9 Park as a Pastry Chef. The restaurant offers "fine American cuisine" with Italian accents. You'll find sheet pizzas and a Waygu Burger, Steak Tips and Pan Seared Scallops. However, I decided on dessert, as we had already devoured plenty of savory dishes during our restaurant crawl. The night was ending and a sweet treat would be a nice way to complete the evening.

I did have to try one of their drinks and chose the Red Sangria, which is made with blood orange, dragonfruit, and raspberry. The different fruits are what intrigued me, and I was very pleased with the Sangria. It was fruity, with a nice depth of flavor, and with only a mild sweetness. I'm picky about Sangria and this is actually one of the best versions I've tasted in quite some time. I could have easily drank a few of these without feeling like I was in a sugar coma.

The Dessert list only has a few choices, but they all sounded appealing, and in the end, I decided on the Chocolate Snowball, with a vanilla buttercream and coconut. A decadent treat, with rich chocolate and a creamy frosting, enhanced by the coconut. It is large enough to share, and showcases Kerry's experience as a Pastry Chef. I must come back to try their savory options.

My restaurant crawl through Quincy center merely scratched the surface of the culinary treasures that can be found in this historic city. There are so many other places I could have explored, and more will be opening in the near future. It is clear that Quincy is seeing an ascendancy, and I highly recommend you visit the city and check out its myriad restaurants. It was also great to see the number of immigrants who own and work in a number of these restaurants, and their contributions highlight how our community improves with immigration. Besides all these restaurants, bakeries, and food shops, you also have to remember all of the rich history within Quincy, giving you even more reason to check out this city. I'll be returning to Quincy, to eat, drink and learn more and maybe I'll see you there.

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