Thursday, February 22, 2018

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) Boston chef and restaurateur Jay Hajj and TV journalist Hank Phillippi Ryan join forces on Sunday, February 25 for the Champagne & Snowflakes Charity Brunch to raise money for the Chefs Table Foundation, a registered 501(c)3 that supports homeless veterans seeking careers in the culinary arts.

Guests will get a chance to meet both Hajj and Ryan while sipping champagne and enjoying an exclusive “mansion-style” brunch prepared by Endicott House executive chef Eddie Cerrato. The decadent brunch begins at 11 a.m. and takes place at the MIT Endicott House (80 Haven St., Dedham). Ryan will interview Hajj about his culinary journey and from boy in war-torn Lebanon to American chef, entrepreneur and Food Network regular today, as told in his recently published "Beirut to Boston" cookbook.

Hajj is best known as the chef-owner of South End casual dining landmark Mike’s City Diner. He’s also one of the partners and landlords behind Yvonne’s, the “supper club” in Downtown Crossing’s landmark Locke-Ober building, and other marquee restaurants around Boston.

Ryan’s is a familiar face to countless Bostonians as an investigative journalist for WHDH Channel 7. She’s also the award-winning author of 10 mystery novels. Guests will get the opportunity to learn more about those books, including her upcoming 2018 release, “Trust Me

Tickets for this culinary-forward fundraiser cost just $50 and can be purchased here on the Chef’s Table Foundation website.

2) CHOPPS American Bar and Grill is hosting a special fiesta in celebration of National Margarita Day today, February 22. In honor of the holiday, the CHOPPS teams welcome guests to sip on a variety of margaritas, enjoy special bites like tequila-infused doughnuts and taco specials, and enjoy live music starting at 6:30PM.

Guests can sample custom margaritas featuring Maestro Dobel Tequila, with a special lineup designed just for National Margarita Day. Margarita specials include the suave Black Diamond Margarita, made with fresh lime and agave served up in a black lava salt rimmed glass, and the spicy Smoked Pineapple Chipotle Margarita with Smoked Silver tequila and Bols Pineapple Chipotle Liqueur. Fruitier options are also available for those with a sweet tooth such as the Strawberry Fields and Mango Mania Margaritas, each including a sweet Bols Liqueur.

Executive Chef Steve Zimei will be offering taco specials to keep you fueled, including: Braised Short Rib (pickled red cabbage, jack cheese, tomatillo aioli), Tempura Fried Fish (shredded cabbage, carrot, pico de gallo, and lime), and Marinated Chicken (corn and black bean salsa, chili-lime, and chimichurri). Snack on complimentary Tequila-infused Doughnut Holes like the margarita glazed doughnut, the tequila lime doughnut, and tequila shot doughnut. Enjoy live music from David Corson starting at 6:30PM in the Great Room at CHOPPS.

3) Long known in this region for creative, farm-to-table American cuisine, The Old Inn On The Green will operate a pop-up restaurant under a classic summer tent at Jacob’s Pillow, the internationally acclaimed dance venue located in Becket, Massachusetts. The partnership with the restaurant was recently announced by Pamela Tatge, Director of Jacob’s Pillow.

The Old Inn On The Green is an 11-room inn built in the 1760s, which served as a stop on the Boston-to-Albany stagecoach route. Today, under the ownership of Peter Platt and Meredith Kennard, it boasts modern amenities for its overnight guests, and an open-to-the-public restaurant, with a deep vintage wine list and candlelit ambiance.

The Old Inn On The Green at The Pillow, as the pop-up will be called, will provide dinner and full bar service for up to 100 diners, during a 10-week season that runs from June 20 through August 26. Dinner will be served Wednesday through Saturday from 5 to 9 PM. Sunday Brunch will be served from 11 AM to 2 PM. Executive Chef is Peter Platt of The Old Inn On The Green and the Chef de Cuisine is Matthew Sweitzer.

Typical plates:
* Duck Confit Baos (steamed buns) with Pickled Lemon-Blueberry Relish
* Lettuce Wrap with Shrimp, Carrots and Corn in mint-green pea pesto
* Falafel Salad with Grilled Summer Vegetables
* Kale & Ricotta Dumplings with Corn Ragu
* Grilled Rib Eye with Onion Bordelais
* Mushroom Chicken Ballantine

Typical brunch items:
* Eggs Benedicts: Seafood, Beef, Vegetable, Smoked Salmon
* French Rolled Omelets: Ham/Artichoke, Asparagus/Chevre
* Crispy Trout Caesar
* Banana Bread Sandwich
* Baklava French Toast with honeyed apples
* Crepe Gateau with roasted fruit

Reservations are strongly suggested, and are available exclusively via www.yelpreservations.com/oldinnonthegreenatthepillow.

4) On Wednesday, March 14, at 6:30pm, Legal Sea Foods in Park Square will present an evening with their very own Master of Wine, Sandy Block, as he moonlights in hosting a four-course pairings dinner that showcases a variety of matured wines and his personal favorites dating back to 1990.

A jack of all trades, in addition to serving as Legals’ Vice President of Beverage Operations Block also shares his 30+ years of knowledge within the wine industry as a contributing editor for media outlets and an instructor at Boston University. Block will put his acclaimed Master of Wine title to the test for this exclusive dining experience for guests to enjoy a selection of grapes carefully paired with a delectable four-plus-course dinner menu.

The menu will be presented as follows:
HORS D’OEUVRES
Smoked Salmon* Napoleon, Brioche
Curry Chicken Skewer, Masala-Orange Marmalade
Spicy Lobster Arancini
Schloss Schönborn Hochheimer Domdechaney Riesling Spätlese, Rheingau,1997
FIRST COURSE
Sole Piccata (Garlic Ghee, Fragrant Jasmine Rice)
Domaine Gaston Huët “Clos du Bourg” Vouvray Demi-Sec, Loire Valley, 2007
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht “Gueberschwihr” Riesling, Alsace, 2001
SECOND COURSE
Spinach-Wrapped Salmon (Mushroom Duxelles, Lemon Beurre Blanc)
Joseph Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, Burgundy, 1999
MAIN COURSE
Braised Venison Medallions (Herbed Fingerling Potatoes, Rainbow Chard)
Beringer “Private Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 1990
Château La Dominique, Grand Cru Classé Saint-Émilion, 2000
DESSERT
Triple Chocolate Mousse Parfait (Marshmallow, Chocolate Shavings)
Graham’s Vintage Port, 1994

COST: $135 per person, excludes tax & gratuity
Reservation required by calling 617-530-9397

5) Vialé in Central Square, Cambridge is enthused to announce the next event in their new, seasonal dinner series in collaboration with Cambridge School of Culinary Arts (CSCA). The next CSCA Takeover at Vialé will be held on Monday, February 26, from 5pm-10pm. As with all of the dinners in the series, this dinner will pair Vialé chef/co-owner, Greg Reeves (CSCA graduate) and the Vialé team with a different CSCA student/chef. For this event, Chef Reeves will team with Rasul Ussaev, from the Professional Chef's Program, and Michael Nichols, from the Professional Pastry program, serving their own unique plates alongside Vialé's usual dinner menu.

Rasul Ussaev is currently pursuing the Professional Chef’s Program. Interestingly, cooking began as a childhood chore in which he would help prepare family dinners but has since evolved into real gastronomic passion. Rasul is highly inspired by Italian, American, and Fusion culinary influences. Travelling across the globe and visiting more than 20 countries exposed Rasul to many ideas of how to serve up more than just food, but also how to create true satisfaction in every bite. In parallel to the chef’s program, he is also a senior at UMASS Boston pursuing Bachelors in Supply Chain Management.

Michael Nichols is currently pursuing the Professional Pastry Program. Michael was born and raised in Houston, Texas, at the crossroads of BBQ, Tex-Mex, Southern, and Cajun cuisines. Growing up on a steady diet of smoked briskets, tacos al carbon, chicken fried steaks, gumbos, pecan pies, pralines, and chocolates, he nevertheless trained as an engineer like his dad. Mike moved up to the northeast to work in biotech, but was always happier cooking and baking for his family. One summer on a family vacation to Peru, amidst the mountain farms and open air markets, he decided that he should do what he loved for a living. He returned home and enrolled at Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. Mike lives in Newburyport, and plans to open a chocolate shop after graduation.

Make reservations for this fascinating CSCA Takeover at Vialé.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

2015 Windvane Pinot Noir: A Carneros Charmer

Straddling the Sonoma and Napa wine regions, the Carneros AVA is well known as a cooler climate, an excellent area for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I've long enjoyed Pinot Noirs from the Carneros region, some of my favorite Pinots of California. Thus, I was curious when I learned of a new brand from this area, Windvane, producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Windvane, part of Freixenet USA, is largely the creation of winemaker Steven Urberg, who is also the winemaker for Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards (also located in the Carneros AVA). Urberg's vision for Windvane was inspired by his interest in the windiest sections of the vineyards, believing that wind greatly influenced the character of the grapes. He believes that "...the stress from intense gusts coupled with the steepest, rockiest and thinnest soils, allow for slower ripening, intense flavor development and high levels of acidity in the grapes."

I received a media sample of the 2015 Windvane Carneros Pinot Noir ($45), which is produced from 100% estate Pinot Noir from a variety of the windiest blocks in the westernmost section of their 335-acre estate. The 2015 vintage was challenging due to the weather conditions, leading to the harvest of only a small crop, but the grapes possessed "excellent concentration and intense character." Thus, only 1,300 cases of this wine were produced. The Pinot Noir was harvested at night to preserve their freshness an only free run juice was used for the wine. The wine was then aged for about nine months in French oak (46% new).

I opened the bottle to accompany a dinner of Chinese sausages (bought from J. Pace & Son in Saugus.) With a 14.5% ABV, the wine possesses a medium red color and an enticing aroma of red fruit with mild, underlying spice notes. On the palate, the complex wine presented delicious and intense flavors of red cherry and blackberry, enhanced by mild spice notes and plenty of acidity. Medium-bodied, the finish was fairly lengthy and satisfying, ending with a silky crispness. The acidity of the wine helped to balance the sweetness of the sausages, and its flavors worked well with the spices and flavors of the sausage.  

This Pinot Noir would have been excellent on its own too, though it would be a great accompaniment with many different dishes. It is an impressive wine, worth the splurge, and earns my recommendation.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Rant: Is Japanese Sake Too Cheap?

Is Japanese Sake too cheap?

That is a question recently addressed by an article in the Nikkei Asian Review and number of people in the Japanese Sake industry believe the answer is affirmative. They would like to see the price of Sake rise, priced more on a scale like wine, the price affected by elements such as the use of local, regional rice varieties. However, please note that they are largely concerned with the price of Sake within Japan, and not the prices overseas, such as in the U.S.

It is mentioned that foreign tourists visiting Japan are frequently shocked at the low prices of Sake, including even some of the higher quality Daiginjo Sakes. You can find an excellent Junmai Ginjo Sake for about 1,500 yen (roughly US$14), priced at the same level as ordinary table wine, making for a strange dichotomy. Far more time and effort, as well as higher-end ingredients, go into the production of the Sake. Why shouldn't it be priced higher then than some mass-produced wine made from lesser grapes?

A high quality Junmai Daiginjo can sell for only 5,000-6,000 yen (US$47-$56), which is comparatively a bargain compared to a similarly priced wine. In Japan, quality French wines can easily sell for 40,000-50,000 yen (US$376-$470). The price gap is quite expansive. There are some exceptions, with a newly added "Super Premium" category in Sake competition, including Sakes priced at 10,000 yen or higher.

Once Sake is exported to the U.S., the price rises, but it still remains more affordable than numerous premium wines. In the U.S., it is very uncommon to find Sake priced over $150 at a retail store, though you will find some on high-end restaurant lists. You'll find a myriad of wines priced over $150. In general, Sake is fairly priced based on production costs. Fortunately, and unlike the wine industry, critic ratings rarely boost the price of Sake. Sake possesses excellent value and you usually get your money's worth.

If the Japanese Sake industry chooses to raise their prices, that would likely raise the priced of Sake exports as well. Thus, U.S. consumers would see higher prices at their local wine shops and restaurants. I understand and empathize with the rationale for Japanese breweries to want to see higher prices for their products within Japan. As a consumer though, I'd prefer to keep Sake prices in the U.S. at their present levels. However, I would be willing to pay a moderate increase if it would help the Japanese Sake industry.

When compared to wine, Sake is relatively inexpensive, and a price increase would simply move Sake closer to wine prices. We are discussing primarily premium Sake, the top 25% of production, and not futsu-shu, the often mass produced, lower quality Sake. Sake is a wonderfully diverse and delicious alcoholic beverage, one of complexity and quality. Production can be quite laborious and time-consuming, especially if production is more old-style in nature. The ingredients are high-quality,  from the water to the rice. Consumers should be willing to pay a fair price for a bottle of quality Sake, even if the price must be raised a bit.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

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) Join Davio’s Foxborough on Monday, March 5, at 6:30pm, for a five-course wine dinner hosted by Michele Pasqua of Italy’s iconic Marco Felluga Estate. Executive Chef Paul King will prepare dishes including the Seared Duck Breast, Porcini Risotto, Shaved Truffle and Crispy Pork Belly, Goat Cheese Polenta, Pear Mostarda to compliment the wine as you learn all about the rich history of Marco Felluga.

Michele Pasqua is the Managing Director of Marco Felluga and Russiz Superiore. Founded in 1956, the Marco Felluga estate has long been regarded as one of the flagship wineries of Friuli, a region known for producing some of Italy’s finest white wines. Since joining the company in 2011, Pasqua holds responsibilities in all aspects of both wineries, especially in overseeing the major export markets.

MENU
PASSED APPETIZERS
Seared Scallop, Crispy Prosciutto
Smoked Gouda, Chorizo Arancini
Fig, Goat Cheese Flatbread
2015 Marco Felluga “Just Molamatta”
PRIMO
Crispy Pork Belly, Goat Cheese Polenta, Pear Mostarda
2015 Marco Felluga “Mongris” Pinot Grigio
SECONDO
Seared Duck Breast, Porcini Risotto, Shaved Truffle
2011 Russiz Superiore Refosco
PIATTO DEL GIORNO
Prime Brandt Beef New York Sirloin, Sweet Potato Tots, Broccoli Rabe, Maple Glaze
2014 Russiz Superiore Cabernet Franc
DOLCE
Apple Crostata, Caramel Cashew Ice Cream, Maple Drizzle
2015 Russiz Superiore Sauvignon Blanc

The menu will be available for dinner on Monday, March 5th only for $95 per guest (excluding tax & gratuity).
To purchase tickets please visit www.davios.com/fox

2) SRV Co-Executive Chefs Michael Lombardi & Kevin O’Donnell introduce monthly Pasta Making Classes. Learn to make pasta with the pros followed by a 3-course lunch, beginning Sunday, February 25, from 11am-2pm. Classes will continue to be held the last Sunday of the month and can be booked 28 days in advance.

Each experience will feature a welcome glass of sparkling wine, interactive chef demo led by Lombardi and O’Donnell, passed cicchetti offerings and a three course lunch in the private dining room including wine pairings. Guests will leave with their homemade pasta to enjoy at home.

For a more specific breakdown of the event flow and menu, please see below:
11:00-11:15: guests arrival; sparkling wine and water offered
11:15-12:30: Chefs demo 3 pastas that each guest will have opportunity to make (pasta making will continue on an on-going basis as guests learn and mingle); 3 passed cicchetti will be served during this time.
12:30: guests are invited to be seated in PDR for lunch, including Salad, 3 Pastas, Dessert, and Wine Pairings.

COST: $150.00 per person inclusive of tax and gratuity. All tickets are nonrefundable and can be purchased 28 days in advance.
To reserve, please email Carrie@SRVBoston.com or call the restaurant directly at 617-536-9500. A credit card is required for taking reservations.

3) On Tuesday, February 27, at 6:30pm, Legal Harborside will host a four-plus-course wine dinner featuring selections from Knights Bridge Winery, a distinguished winery that produces world-class Chardonnay and Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc from its 100-acre site in the eastern hills of Knights Valley (just north of the Napa Valley), a premier source of grapes for fine wines and an area known for its mineral-rich soils and the legendary quality of fruits it puts out.

Founded in 2006 by a close circle of friends who celebrate a shared passion for wine and food, a love of farming and respect for nature, Knights Bridge Winery owners Jim Bailey, Tom Costin and Essel Bailey have created this unique place where their families and friends can gather.

Legal Harborside will team up with winery’s Boston-based co-founder Jim Bailey to host the dinner. The menu will be presented as follows:

HORS D’OEUVRES
Crab Arancini, Calabrian Chile Aioli
Shrimp Laksa, Crispy Bean Thread
Bolognese Tortellino, Cured Tomato Fondue
Knights Bridge “Pont de Chevalier” Sauvignon Blanc, Knights Valley, 2014
FIRST COURSE
Pan-seared Mahi Mahi (green curry, bunashimeji mushrooms, japanese eggplant)
Knights Bridge “Pont de Chevalier” Chardonnay, Knights Valley, 2014
SECOND COURSE
Lobster Thermidor (haricots verts, hedgehog mushrooms, gruyère crisp)
Knights Bridge “West Block” Chardonnay, Knights Valley, 2015
MAIN COURSE
Herb-rubbed Lamb* Rack (saffron couscous, black cherry chutney, baby artichokes)
Knights Bridge “Estate” Cabernet Sauvignon, Knights Valley, 2014
CHEESE COURSE
Aged Cheddar, Comté, Brillat-Savari
Knights Bridge “To Kalon” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, 2013

COST: $135 per person, excludes tax and gratuity
Reservation required by calling 617-477-2900

4) The North End’s il Molo will join the Chinese New Year festivities by offering a selection of Chinese-inspired dishes from February 16 - February 23, from 4pm-11pm. The specials will include a Crispy Black Bass entrée (tossed and seared in a sizzling garlic lime sauce - $31), as well as some appetizer options including Chinese Short Rip Dumplings (short rib, ginger, soy, star anise served with a black bean & orange dipping sauce - $13), Shrimp & Pork Spring Rolls (shredded cabbage, water chestnuts, shrimp, pork, dried shitaki mushroom served with sweet chili dipping sauce - $12) and Pan-fried Scallion Cilantro Pancakes (served with soy miso dipping sauce - $12). Off il Molo’s regular dinner menu, the Lobster & Crab Rangoons are a restaurant favorite and are served daily with a zesty dipping sauce.

From the bar, guests can thrill their taste buds with two specialty craft cocktails created by beverage director Luke Collier for the Year of the Dog celebrations: a traditional Mai Tai and a Lychee Martini.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Momi Nomni Omakase Duet: Chef Chung & Chef Iwakura

Have you seen the term "Omakase" on a menu at a Japanese restaurant? The word derives from a Japanese word meaning "entrust" and, in essence, it means you are leaving the decisions of your dinner to the chef. The chef will present you with their choice of a multi-course meal, using the opportunity to impress you with their skill and creativity. It involves an element of trust, or at least an adventurous spirit.   

When I learned of an Omakase Duet at Momi Nomni with Chef/Owner Chris Chung and Chef Youji Iwakura, it was a no-brainer to attend this special dinner. These are both chefs in which I have complete faith in their culinary skills. I was sure that their Omakase would impress and delight me, and I also knew that my food friend Adam Japko would appreciate it as well.

Momi Nomni, which has been open for only about four months, is owned by Chef Chris Chung and is intended to be a casual izakaya. Located in Inman Square in Cambridge, it is a small restaurant, with about 30 seats, but that lends a sense of intimacy. I hadn't yet dined there so this was my first experience, though it definitely won't be my last. Chef Youji Iwakura, who has been a chef at Snappy Ramen, will be opening his own restaurant, Kamakura, in the near future, which will offer contemporary Kaiseki. I've previously experienced the cuisine of both of these chefs, and they are certainly highly skilled, the type of chefs you can always trust to present you a delicious meal.

I didn't take many notes at this dinner, choosing simply to enjoy the various dishes so this isn't a complete review of the restaurant. It is more a snapshot of the possibilities at the restaurant, as well as  a glimpse of the exceptional culinary skills of the chefs. I definitely recommend you visit Momi Nonmi and I'm sure Chef Chung won't let you down.

Sake is important to Chef Chung so there is a Sake sommelier, Stephen Connolly, at Momi Nonmi. Stephen certainly possesses a great passion for Sake and is a very good ambassador for it at the restaurant. We ordered a bottle of Yuho "Rhythm of the Centuries" Yama-oroshi Junmai Sake to accompany the Omakase, figuring this umami-rich Sake would pair well with the various courses. It worked very well, and was also delicious all on its own. Stephen also provided us tastes of a few other Sakes, including an intriguing Hiya-oroshi. If you know little about Sake, let Stephen lead you through their Sake list, providing you pairings for your meal.

Our nine-course Omakase began with Tofu Creme, home-made tofu with Maine uni, bekko-an (a type of sweet sauce), and pickled seaweed. It may not look like much, but this was an impressive beginning to our dinner. The blend of flavors was absolutely delicious, with elements of sweet and salty, with a fine creamy texture. It was like a sweet custard kissed by the ocean. I could have easily devoured a dozen of these dishes and been a very happy person.


This beautifully presented dish was Avocado, with uni senbei (the cracker), fish roe, and watercress. You could eat this dish in any way you desired, and it was savory, creamy, earthy, and briny, though with different elements than the first dish. The senbei added a nice textural element, as well as making for a nice delivery system for the rest of the dish.

Next up was an Aoyagi Sushi Duo, with Kamakura shoyu, licorice/miso, and scallions. Aoyagi is Surf Clam, and it seemed very fresh with an excellent texture as well as an intriguing taste. One piece was prepared as Nigiri while the other had a slight sear and was atop scallions. Another compelling dish, sure to please any sushi lover.

This course was Tuna, with Aoyagi clam veloute, curry, and fennel, presented in a large clam shell. The tuna was silky, its flavors enhanced by the creamy veloute and curry spice. There were plenty of layers to these flavors and everything was well balanced and delicious.

The Sashimi Millefeuille was prepared with Amadai (tile fish), turnip, kumquat, and asiago. Beautifully presented, it also possessed complex and delectable flavors, with some bitterness and sweetness.

The next course was Winter Vegetables (and I didn't get a photo), with an Amadai broth, black garlic, and truffle. This dish was also complex, with layers of compelling flavors, and bursts of umami and hints of sweetness, complementing the earthy veggies.

The Monkfish Cheeks, with daikon, walnut, and yuzu, were tender and flavorful, enhanced by the citrus of the yuzu. You don't find monkfish cheeks often so this was a special treat. It makes me wonder why more restaurants don't serve them.

Maybe the most decadent dish of the evening was the Monkfish Onigiri, with foie gras, chocolate kabayaki, and persimmon. Pure hedonistic pleasure from this superbly executed dish. Every element was prepared perfectly, and the combination worked so well.

The final course, a dessert, was the Mizu Shingen Mochi, with pomegranate, yuzu, and toasted soybean. On the right side of the picture, what looks like a pool of jelly, is a "water cake." This dessert is popular in Japan though this is the first time I've seen it in the Boston area. To eat this dish, you swipe your spoon from either side of the plater to the other, gathering all three elements together into one tasty treat.

Many kudos to Chefs Chung and Iwakura for creating such a delicious, compelling, creative and well-crafted Omakase Duet. We enjoyed every dish and our trust in the chefs was well warranted. Get yourself to Momi Nonmi and enjoy Chef Chung's cuisine. And keep an eye out for Chef Iwakura's new restaurant, Kamakura, which will open in the near future.

Kanpai!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Rant: "Experts" Making Mistakes

Who can you trust?

The issue of trust is front and center lately as the public tries to determine which news sources are accurate. This is not merely an issue that affects politics and science, but also includes the realm of alcoholic beverages. You'll find many people claiming to be an expert of spirits, wine or beer, but can you trust them? Are they providing you accurate information?

Recently, I received a digital review copy of a new guide to the world of spirits, covering a wide range of topics, from Bourbon to Pisco, Gin to Rum, Baijiu to Shochu. It was written by an alleged "spirits' expert," who has written for a number of national spirit & wine magazines. It seemed authoritative, the type of book many readers would trust.

However, as I skimmed through the book, choosing select chapters of interest, I was dismayed to find a number of factual errors which should have been caught. They weren't obscure issues that could be possibly forgiven the error. I didn't even finish the book because the errors made me mistrust the entire book. Why didn't this expert catch these errors? Was it a lack of knowledge? A failure to fact check?

Let me provide just a few examples of the errors I found.

The book states that Bourbon must be "aged in new, charred, white oak barrels." However, according to the Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, 27 C.F.R. 5.22(b)(1)(i), bourbon must merely be aged in "charred new oak containers." There is no requirement that it be "white oak." It is a simple error yet something that any Bourbon "expert" should know. It is also very easy to check and verify.

As another example, the book states that basically "... all mezcal is tequila with some tweaks, all tequilas are definitely not mezcals, ..." However, Mezcal experts understand that Mezcal long predates Tequila and that actually, all Tequila is Mezcal but not all Mezcals are Tequila. This is the opposite of what is claimed in this new book. Tequila was simply a Mezcal from a specific place of origin. That is another easy fact, supported by numerous sources, and a spirits expert should not have made such an error.

Though the book is about Spirits, there is a chapter on Port Wine and this chapter has a significant error. It states "Port is a blend of five distinct grape varietals--Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesca, Tinga Roriz, Tinta Cao, and Tinta Barroca." This is inaccurate as Port can be produced from over 100 different grapes and not just those five grapes. Those five grapes are certainly the most commonly used to make red Port, but they are not the only grapes used. In addition, White Port is generally made from white grapes, and not any of those five grapes. It would have been easy to edit the book's statement to be more accurate, mentioning that those five grapes are the most common, instead of making it seem definitive that only those five grapes are used.

It is disappointing that numerous readers will likely read this book and accept its information as accurate. Some writers may use this book as a research resource, further spreading its inaccurate information. Just because a book or article is from an alleged expert, you shouldn't automatically accept its veracity. You should verify your sources as best as you can. Fact check! And fact check again! You can't always trust an "expert."

Friday, February 9, 2018

Vilarnau Cava: Spanish Bubbly, Art & Food Pairing

At first, these two bottles of Cava, Spanish sparkling wine, stand out due to the colorful artwork covering the bottles. The art style is known as Trencadís (which means "chopped") in Catalonia, and pique assiette in France, and is a type of mosaic that is composed of small pieces of broken ceramic tiles, roof tiles or crockery. The Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí was well known for using this art style, especially in his Parc Güell in Barcelona. These Cavas are available without the artwork on their bottles, but why wouldn't you want such appealing colors and shapes?

The history of the Vilarnau Winery extends back to the 12th century, when the Vilarnau family settled into the Penedés region. Their original home was within the estate of the Castillo de Subirats, where grape vines were already been grown. The family didn't start producing Cava though until 1949, using grapes from their Can Petit i Les Planes de Vilarnau estate, where vineyards had been present for centuries. In 1982 Vilarnau became part of the González Byass family of wineries, eventually leading to the creation of a new winery in October 2005.

The Can Petit i les Planes de Vilarnau estate occupies about 20 hectares, growing grapes including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Macabeo and Xarel·lo. As their website states: "Our aim at Vilarnau is make the best cava with as little impact on our planet environment as possible. We make our living from the land, so looking after and nurturing it as best we can is in our DNA. The better we treat the land and our environment, the better the fruit the vines produce will be and the better our cava will be." Sustainability and environmental responsibility are important to the winery, from reducing their carbon footprint to organic viticulture certification.

Vilarnau produces a range of different Cavas, from Brut Nature Vintage to Demi Sec Organic, from Barrel Fermented to Gran Reserva Vintage. Three of their Cavas are available in the Trencadís bottles, and I received media samples of two of those Cavas, including the NV Vilarnau Brut Reserva and the NV Vilarnau Brut Reserva Rosé. Both are value wines, priced at $15-$16, and sure to please most palates. I've long preferred Cava to Prosecco, which I commonly find too sweet for my preferences.

The NV Vilarnau Brut Reserva ($14.99) is a blend of 50% Macabeo, 35% Paralleda; 15% Xarel.lo, three indigenous grapes which are traditionally used to make Cava. Each grape was vilified separately, and then later blended together, and the Cava was aged for over 15 months in the bottle. With a nice golden color, small bubbles, and 11.5% ABV, this Cava presents a pleasing aroma of fruit, including apple and citrus. On the palate, it is fresh, crisp and dry, with a tasty blend of green apple, citrus and pear, enhanced with a touch of toast, and a moderately long finish.

Sure, you can pop a bottle of this Cava to celebrate any occasion, but it is also inexpensive enough that you can open a bottle anytime, including with dinner. Many people don't realize that Sparkling Wine can often be food friendly and you can enjoy it throughout the course of a meal, and not just as an aperitif. I enjoyed this Cava with seared scallops and it was an excellent pairing, elevating the experience because of the bubbly. This Cava would pair well with a wide range of seafood though it would work with other dishes as well, from fried chicken to cheese. And you could even enjoy this Bubbly with just a bag of salty potato chips. Try it sometime!

The NV Vilarnau Brut Reserva Rosé ($15.99) is a blend of 85% Trepat and 15% Pinot Noir. Trepat is an indigenous Spanish grape that is often used to make Cava Rosé. This Cava was aged for over 15 months in the bottle. This wine has a lovely, rich pink color, small bubbles, a pleasant aroma of red fruits, and possesses a 12% ABV. On the palate, it is fresh, crisp and dry (like the Brut Reserva), though its flavors include strawberry and raspberry with a hint of a floral element. With a satisfying finish, this is an easy-drinking Cava with a delicious taste that feels like a party in your mouth.

I also drank this with seared scallops and though it has a different flavor profile, it still worked with the scallops. It was intriguing to experience the scallops with the two different Cavas. This Rosé is also food friendly and you could easily enjoy it too with a wide range of foods, from Sushi to Pizza, Burgers to Roast Chicken. Grab a bottle and just try it with whatever you're eating.

At $15-$16, these Cavas are very good values and well worth checking out. Don't just buy them for a celebration but pick some up just because you want something to pair with dinner.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

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 Tony Maws is preparing a special dinner at Craigie On Main for Valentine's Day. “What’s better than sharing a meal with someone special, with a really nice glass of wine and a beautifully prepared menu with fantastic ingredients? That’s what we are providing at Craigie On Main this February 14th” shares Maws.

THE MENU:
First Course
Sashimi of Hiramasa (pork belly sub)/red pear, red endive, pistachio, pink peppercorn vinaigrette
Or
Veloute of Oysters and Oyster mushrooms/caviar, cucumber, sake lees
Second Course
House-Made Red Beet Spaghetti/Lobster, butter, chervil
Or
Creamy “Bloody Butcher” grits/pheasant confit, Perigord black truffle, braised red cabbage, hazelnuts
Third Course
Wagyu Beef Three-Ways/red beets, blue foot mushrooms, pistachio, pomegranate jus
Or
Olive Oil-Poached Loup de Mer/horseradish, Macomber turnip, beurre rouge
Or
Salt-Baked Celeriac/Carolina Gold rice, blue foot mushrooms, Perigord Black Truffle
Dessert Amuse
Blood Orange and Campari Sorbet
Dessert
Chocolate tasting for 2 people

Craigie On Main is offering two menu options: a 5 Course Menu, $135 per person; and then a 4 Course Menu, $75 per person, beginning at 9:30pm.
Reservations are recommended by calling 617-497-5511

2) On Sunday, February 25, from 6pm-9pm, the team at Harvest welcomes guests to the 3rd Annual Winter Ice Party on their heated patio with proceeds from ticket sales going towards Furnishing Hope of Massachusetts. Dance, drink and dine as DJ Ryan Brown plays top hits while you can sip on frosty Harpoons and wintry ice luge drinks made with Knob Creek Straight Rye Whiskey.

Executive Chef Tyler Kinnett is serving up an array of fresh New England cuisine and party favorite bites including oysters, confit pork ribs and sandwiches, charred beets, fried mac & cheese and homemade pretzels. Finish off the night with sweets from an exclusive dessert bar specially prepared by Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship finalist and Executive Pastry Chef Joshua Livsey. Satisfy your sweet tooth with snowflake sugar cookies, French macaroons, doughnuts, and hot chocolate spheres.

This year, Harvest is joining forces with Furnishing Hope of Massachusetts whose mission is to help families who are transitioning out of homelessness create a home for themselves. A portion of proceeds from ticket sales will go towards providing families with basic furniture and household goods necessary to create a comfortable and nurturing environment.

Price is $55 per person. Space is limited and reservations are required. Call 617-868-2255 directly to book seats. Or visit to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/3rd-annual-harvest-winter-ice-party-tickets-42214254973 purchase tickets.

3) Puritan & Company Chef/Owner Will Gilson has created a new, transport-friendly restaurant concept that debut this past Monday, February 5. Called Puritan Trading Company, this “Ghost Restaurant” will have a separate menu with a range of cuisine and concepts that cater to the takeout crowd and travel well. The food will be made out of the Puritan & Company kitchen, but the packaging and pickup of the orders will be completed out of the space next to Puritan & Company. The restaurant is working exclusively through Caviar for the launch. Customers are encouraged to order directly through the Caviar website.

According to Gilson, “The menu features food we love from our travels around the world and the foods that WE would want to eat if we ordered take out. And most importantly, the food on this menu is designed to be packaged and transported,” said Gilson. “Construction of a restaurant in the space next door featuring this menu would be too costly at this point, so it’s almost like making a restaurant without an address.”

The genesis of the idea came from Gilson and his culinary team looking at how to incorporate some new and unique dishes that didn’t work on the current Puritan & Company menu or fit into the current concept. They let the idea of delivery service take hold and make it a creative and fun way to still make creative dishes for guests that also travel well.

Some of the menu selections include:
Scallop and linguica dumplings-sweet and sour piri piri sauce or roasted garlic aioli
Street food style seared udon noodles-chicken, cauliflower, shishito peppers, green onions
Jonah crab rangoons-sweet and sour piri piri sauce or roasted garlic aioli
Fried whole belly clams -squid ink aioli, grilled lemon, jalapeno, thai basil
Grilled pork belly banh mi-quick pickles, cilantro, sub roll, hoisin bbq
Spicy white clam garlic toast
Double fried chicken wings-jalapeno, cilantro-lime aioli, Sichuan oil
Spicy Fried cauliflower -scallion, sesame, chili
Grilled marinated beef shortribs-ginger-scallion sauce
Guanciale fried chinese black rice
Crispy chicken sandwich -potato bun, pickles, iceberg, sweet and sour sauce

I was sitting at the bar at Puritan this past Monday and saw numerous Caviar pick-ups so it was clear that a good number of people were willing to try this new service. And if I lived closer, I'm sure I'd be using the service too.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

2015 Domaine Du Poujol Carignan Blanc: Jefferson & Acacia

It's alleged that Thomas Jefferson, when he was touring the wineries and vineyards of southern France, stated that the Poujol estate, located in the Hérault department, was a great vineyard site.

Throughout its history, the Domaine Du Poujol has gone through a number of different owners. In 1994, the estate was purchased by the Cripps family and they subsequently sold it to the Hartung family in 2016. Laurent Hartung, who is a Belgium native, wanted to become a vintner and eventually found the Domaine du Poujol, which he purchased with his family. The estate comprises about 67 hectares, with ten hectares of vineyards from which they harvest grapes, ten hectares which are being replanted, and the rest being woods and garrigue. They plan to plant another 10 hectares of vineyards in the next 5 or so years.

The vineyards have been cultivated as Biodynamic for the last 20 years, an agricultural philosophy embraced by the Hartungs. "Poujol is more than a vineyard. It is a philosophy and a real way of life that we want to share with other producers and with all our clients." Their grapes include red Carignan, Carignan Blanc, black Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Roussanne and Vermentino, with plans to plant more in the near future.

Carignan Blanc? This is a rare grape, a white mutation of Carignan, found primarily in the Languedoc-Roussillon region though a little can be found in Spain too. While perusing the shelves at the Lower Falls Wine Company, I found a wine made from Carignan Blanc, priced at only $13, so it was an easy decision to buy a couple bottles to check it out.

The 2015 Domaine Du Poujol Carignan Blanc IGP Pay's D'Herault is produced from 100% Carignan Blanc, from vines that were planted in 1961, and has a 13% ABV. The wine was vinified in Acacia barrels and then aged for about nine months in those same barrels. Acacia, also sometimes known as Black Locust, is a wood that is usually harvested from forests in northern France. It is supposed to be gentler than oak, provide some floral elements, and is used mainly for white wines. There is much more to Acacia than I'll provide here, and it may end up as the topic of a future post.

With a nice golden color, the wine had an intriguing nose of lemon, citrus and a hint of almonds. On the palate, this medium-bodied wine possessed tasty, fresh flavors of peach and pear, with savory spices notes and lot of crisp acidity. There were some mineral elements in the taste, good complexity and and a long, satisfying finish. This would be an excellent summer wine but delicious during the winter as well, especially paired with food, from roast chicken to seafood. And at this price point, it is an excellent value as well.

Monday, February 5, 2018

2015 Schlossmühlenhof Dornfelder: A Great Choice At Bin Ends

When most people think of German wines, Riesling is the first to come to mind. That isn't a surprise as it is their most widely planted grape and they certainly excel in its production. However, many people know little about the red wines being produced in Germany, despite red grapes occupying about 35% of their vineyards. Part of the problem is that many local wine stores don't usually carry German red wines. Germany's most widely planted red grape is Spätburgunder, their name for Pinot Noir, but they also make wines from red grapes such as Trollinger and Lemberger.

While perusing the wines at Bin Ends, I found a German red wine made from another less commonly known grape, Dornfelder. I'd very limited prior experience with this grape but this wine was inexpensive and I was willing to give it a try. In the end, I was extremely pleased I had taken the chance on this delicious wine.

The 2015 Schlossmühlenhof Dornfelder Rotwein Trocken ($14.40/1 Liter) is produced from a winery whose roots extend back to 1846, when Johan Michel, a miller, purchased the Schlossmühle ("castle mill"), located in a region of rolling hills that each to the foot of the Wartberg mountain. The family began selling wine prior to the 1940s and currently the sixth generation of the family owns and operates the winery and estate. Their high altitude, cool climate and limestone soils help to produce unique, terroir-driven and high-quality wines.

The Dornfelder grape is an intriguing cross of two other grapes, Helfensteiner and Heroldrebe, though both of these grapes are also crosses of other grapes. Helfensteiner is a cross of Pinot Noir and Shiava while Heroldrebe is a cross of Portugieser and Blaufrankisch. Dornfelder is named after August Ludwig Dornfeld, who played a significant role in creating a famed viticultural school in Weinsberg. The grape received official authorization in 1980 and is currently grown on about 20,000 acres, making it the second most widely grown red grape in Germany. It is especially prized because it usually produces wines with a rich, dark red color rather than the paler colors of Pinot Noir.

The 2015 Schlossmühlenhof Dornfelder Rotwein Trocken, at only 13.5% ABV, certainly presented with a deep, opaque red, almost purplish, color. On the nose, it was appealing, with enticing black fruit flavors enhanced by mild floral and spice notes. On the palate, it was silky, with mild tannins, and a delicious melange of juicy black fruit, intense spice and nice acidity. It was more elegant rather than powerful, with a lingering, pleasing finish. There was plenty of complexity for a wine at this price point and is was a sheer pleasure to drink, especially with a couple of burgers. This was definitely a food-friendly wine, a versatile wine that would pair well with pizza to tuna. Highly recommended.  

At $14.40 for a liter, the price for a 750ml bottle of this wine would have been about $11, making this a killer value. I already know that this excellent wine is going to end up on my 2018 list of Top Ten Wines Under $15. Hurry down to Bin Ends before this wine is gone.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Sips & Nibbles: Valentine's Day Edition

I am back again with a special Valentine's Day edition of Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.
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1) The most romantic day of the year is quickly approaching and il Molo in Boston’s North End neighborhood is serving up some serious romance for the occasion. Because the heart wants what it wants, Chef Pino Maffeo has created an extensive prix fixe menu that will have you covered no matter your sweetheart’s cravings; whether a seafood- or hearty meat-lover, there’s something on il Molo’s Valentine’s Day menu to impress everyone.

The three-course dinner will feature a combination of Chef Pino’s favorite New England classics and exciting seasonal-inspired dishes. Choose from appetizers such as Lobster Bisque, Burrata Salad or Classic Shrimp Cocktail which will lead the way for a heavenly main-course with menu highlights including Fra Diavlo, Grass Fed Sirloin, Stuffed Maine Lobster ($15 supplement) and Veal Milanese. Nothing spells l-o-v-e- quite like a rich and decadent treat, so end your dinner on a sweet note with one of Pastry Chef Gabriela’s homemade desserts such as Coconut Cake, Tiramisu or Chocolate Cake.

DATE: Wednesday, February 14, 4pm-11pm
COST: $65 per person, excluding gratuity & taxes.
Reservations are required so please call 857-277-1895. Credit card will be required to hold any reservations.

2) Kane’s Handcrafted Donuts is pleased to partner for the second year in a row with Sweethearts® Brand Candies on a limited-edition Valentine’s Day donut, the Sweethearts® Brand Donut. This creation will be available beginning February 1st through February 14th at both Kane’s Handcrafted Donuts locations: 120 Lincoln Avenue in Saugus and 90 Oliver Street in Boston’s Financial District.

The special Valentine’s Day donut is a decadent red velvet cake style donut, carefully dipped in a sweet cream cheese glaze and decorated with a custom version of NECCO®’s classic Valentine’s Day confectionery, Sweethearts®, which declares the Kane’s slogan, “Donuts are Love.”

We are pleased to partner once again with a company like NECCO® with such a rich New England history,” said Paul Delios, co-owner and president of Kane’s Handcrafted Donuts. “We feel Valentine’s Day is the right holiday for us to join forces since Sweethearts® Brand is synonymous with the holiday, and because Kane’s ‘donuts are love.’ They’re the perfect way to tell your sweetheart just how much you love them.”

For the month of February, Kane’s is also featuring a Chocolate Orgasm Donut (pictured above),a cake style donut filled with creamy chocolate pudding, dipped in Hersey’s chocolate syrup and rolled in crushed chocolate cookies. This is certainly a great donut for Valentine's Day as well.

3) Oysters and romance go hand-in-hand just like going to Select Oyster Bar on Valentine's Day. Grab your date, a friend, or your mom and enjoy a memorable meal at Select where chef Michael Serpa will offer a prix fixe menu featuring a selection of crudos and more at just $75 per guest. Pair it with one of the many wines available by the bottle or glass.

Begin with Black Bass Crudo or Yellowfin Tuna Crudo. Then, choose Point Judith Calamari or Maine Lobster Salad. Finally, select Dayboat Scallops or Greek Bronzino.

This menu is available for dinner on Friday 2/9, Saturday 2/10 and Valentine's Day, Wednesday 2/14.

For reservations, please call (857) 239-8064

4) In celebration of Valentine’s Day on February 14, Sumiao Hunan Kitchen will be offering a lovingly-themed prix fixe menu for-two including a specialty cocktail and many of the restaurant’s new seasonal dishes. Sumiao’s beverage team will be mixing up a sweet and refreshing Peach Sangria for sipping, served alongside selections of hand-picked Hunan classics – including Steamed Pork Sausage, Avocado Meatballs, Sizzling Calamari and String Bean with Shang Gan – that will help conjure the image of love on this special day.

The $78 customizable, sharable three-course prix fixe options includes sangria, two appetizers, two entrées (with white rice included) and one dessert.

To make Reservations, please call 617-945-0907

5) Treat your sweetheart to a special Valentine’s Day weekend date night at the Seaport Hotel’s state-of-the-art Action Kitchen on Saturday, February 17th from 7:00-9:30pm. Relax by the fireplace and enjoy a four-course menu prepared by Executive Chef Robert Tobin, including Pan Roasted Rabbit Leg with cobb bacon, mustard sauce and house made pasta and Grilled Venison Rib Chop with smoked parsnip puree, duck fat potatoes and chocolate sauce, served with carefully selected rye and whiskey pairings from Vermont’s WhistlePig farm and distillery. Located in a 150-year-old dairy barn, WhistlePig uses homegrown rye to distill the whiskey and ages it in barrels made from their own oak trees.

Tickets are $150 per person and can be purchased online at www.whistlepigdinner.eventbrite.com. The event is open to guests 21 and over.
Please reserve your seat in advance as space is limited.

6) Blackbird Doughnuts has specials for Valentine's Day with heavenly flavors such as a Heart Shaped Boston Cream doughnut as well as a Sweetheart Doughnut Cake.  Blackbird is also offering platters by the dozen wrapped in a ribbon and packaged box-of-chocolates-style for a never-ending, mouthwatering Valentine's Day experience.

Menu includes: Valentine's Half Dozen ($18)--one of each doughnut in their Valentine assortment & packaged in a box with gold foil sticker & ribbon; Valentine's Dozen ($36)--two of each doughnut in their Valentine assortment & packaged in a box with gold foil sticker & ribbon; Valentine's Assortment Platters ($108)--three dozen Valentine's doughnuts; Sweetheart Cake ($26)--citrus old fashioned donut cake filled with strawberry-raspberry jam, frosted with lemony cream cheese buttercream; and Valentine's Minis ($75)--a box of 50 mini-doughnuts decorated with Valentine's sprinkles, and select vanilla or chocolate ganache.

PS: Customers can select "naughty" or "nice" messages to be written on the doughnuts.

Call Blackbird at 617-482-9000 by Monday, 2/12 at 2pm to guarantee your order. They will also be available on Valentine's Day for walk-in purchases.

7) For Valentine's Day, you often give gifts of chocolate or other candies so let me give you one of my favorite candy recommendations. McCrea's Candies produces a diverse variety of tasty caramels and I've long been a fan of their caramels. Some of their flavors include: Black Lava Sea Salt, Single Malt Scotch, Rosemary Truffle Sea Salt, Tapped Maple, Classic Vanilla, and Ginger Fusion. I'm also pleased that this is a local company, another reason for my support.

For Valentine's Day, they offer a Chocolate Caramel Box ($24.95), containing 36 pieces of Deep Chocolate Caramels, wrapped in a festive box. You could also gift someone a 3 month, 6 month of 12 month membership in their Caramel of the Month Club. Each month, the recipient will receive 36 pieces of one of their special flavored caramels. My favorite flavor is their Single Malt Scotch, which is made with Ardmore Scotch, and it would please any Scotch lover.

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) For Super Bowl SundayCanary Square, in Jamaica Plain, will be throwing a game-watching party with all the action taking place on its huge projector. From 5 p.m. until halftime, guests can indulge in an all-you-can-eat buffet for only $20 (drinks not included). Its regular menu will also be available for purchase.

The buffet will offer:
--Super Healthy Taco Salad- Red Beans, Pickled Fresno's, Grilled Chicken, Fresh Tortilla, Chip, Choice of Taco Salad Dressing or Lime Vinaigrette.
--Build Your Own Nacho Bar- Queso Dip, Refried Beans, Jalapenos, Salsa, Sour Cream, Olives, Scallions, Beef Chili, Chicken Chili.
--Wings- Choice of Buffalo, Barbecue, Honey Mustard
--Hand Cut Fries
--Fried Mozzarella Sticks- Marinara
--Pizza- Cheese or Pepperoni
--Pulled Pork Sliders

2) Also for Super Bowl Sunday, CHOPPS American Bar & Grill in Burlington, welcomes Patriots fans to the expansive bar at CHOPPS for all the action of the Super Bowl. Guests can cheer on the Pats with a view of the game from every seat. Chef Steve Zimei (check out his Interview that was posted yesterday) will be offering a special Game Day bar menu, with specials including:

ATL ‘We Smoked You’ Chicken Wings
Hickory-smoked, Lemon Pepper Sauce, Alabama White Sauce
The Gridiron Grinder
Housemade Sausage, Peppers and Castle Island Beer-braised Onions, Whole Grain Mustard Aioli, Baguette
Fourth Down Flat Bread
Braised Short Rib, Gorgonzola Cream, Seared Cipollini Onions, Arugula
TB12 Chili Dip
Pork, Beef, and Veal , Red Kidney Beans, Monterey Jack Cheese , Sour Cream , Housemade Spicy Chips
Field Goal Bruschetta
--Braised Pork Belly, Melted Taleggio Cheese, Truffle Vinaigrette
--Marinated Heirloom Tomato, Basil, Aged Balsamic Vinegar
--Rock Shrimp, Smoked Tomato, Garlic Butter, Herb Pesto
Chopps Charcuterie
Jansel Valley Bresaola, local Prosciutto, Cave-aged Cheddar, Coulemmier, Fig Jam, Crostini
Gronk Goes Nuts
Oven-roasted Four Rose Bourbon-glazed Cashews, Smoked Sea Salt

3) On Tuesday, February 13, at 6:30pm, Legal Sea Foods in Park Square will host a wine dinner paired with selections from Opus One Winery (Oakville, California). French in style but Californian in execution, the iconic winery was officially born in 1983 and is the brainchild of two powerful and dynamic wine personalities: Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux and Napa Valley vintner Robert Mondavi. Sharing one vision which was to create wine of uncompromising quality, the two set off on a journey which would redefine and alter the course of fine wine production in the Napa Valley region.

Today, Opus One is made up of four parcels comprising approximately 170 acres and produces one ultra-premium California red wine blend each year. While the grape composition of each vintage is different, Opus One is most often a blend of five grape varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot.

Legal Sea Foods will team up with Opus One Winery’s sales manager Ms. France Posener, a 30-year veteran of the winery, to host a four-plus-course dinner featuring signature cuisine paired with her selections from the Opus One Winery. The menu will be presented as follows

HORS D’OEUVRES
Smoked Sable, Rosemary Toast, Lemon-Dill Aioli,
Asian Beef Salad, Phyllo Tart
Citrus-Ginger Cream Tart
Veuve Clicquot Rosé Brut Champagne, NV
FIRST COURSE
Veal Roulade (chanterelle mushrooms, roasted Yukon gold potatoes, baby mâche, truffle beurre blanc)
Opus One, Oakville, 2010
SECOND COURSE
Petite Filet Mignon (bone marrow, roasted root vegetables, apple beurre rouge)
Opus One, Oakville, 2014
MAIN COURSE
Stuffed Swordfish (crab meat, boursin, winter squash risotto, porcini mushroom marsala sauce)
Opus One, Oakville, 2004
CHEESE COURSE
Brillat-Savarin, Époisses, Clothbound, Cave-Aged Cheddar (Mediterranean olives, black mission figs, sliced prosciutto, focaccia toast points)
Overture by Opus One, Oakville, MV

COST: $250 per person, excludes tax & gratuity
Reservation required by calling 617-530-9397

4) Best Burger Bar, located in Brookline, announces their latest Burger Special, the Bacon-No-Hater, a limited-edition burger for the month of February. The Bacon-No-Hater is a triple dry-aged burger with double bacon, double cheddar cheese and Umami Sauce on an all-natural potato bun. This burger is sure to please all the bacon lovers out there.

No meal is complete without a cocktail, and The Hilltop, a classic on the Best Burger Bar cocktail menu, goes perfectly with anything and everything. The Hilltop cocktail pays homage to the famous Hilltop restaurant on Route 1, which Best Burger Bar’s Beverage Director, Brother Cleve, frequented as a child. The Hilltop is a combination of Tenure British Vodka, Ford’s Gin, House-made bone broth, prickly pear syrup, Cocchi Americano, fresh lemon juice, and bitters that makes for a unique blend of sweet and savory. A garnish of an all-natural, pasture raised meat stick fully ties together drink.

5) Last October, I reviewed the Moldova Restaurant in Newton, and stated: "The Moldova Restaurant is unique and interesting, with plenty of diverse and delicious food. Much of it is comfort food, sure to please your palate and belly. The welcoming vibe of the spot is also a compelling reason to visit. Plus, the fact they carry Moldovan wine makes a visit more of a total Moldovan experience. Kudos to Artur and Sandra Andronic for opening this restaurant, indicative of their passion for Moldova. I strongly encourage my readers to check out the Moldova Restaurant for lunch or dinner."

The Moldova Restaurant has now started a Kickstarter so they can expand their restaurant, tripling its size. They have a modest goal of $10,000 and have plenty of cool Backer levels, offering lots of tasty rewards, such as a Romantic Dinner for 2 and a Moldovan Cooking Class. Operating a restaurant is a difficult business and support for their expansion is needed, and would lead to an even better restaurant. I like the passion at this restaurant and hope my readers will support this Kickstarter and enjoy the rewards once the Kickstarter meets its goal.