Friday, September 28, 2018

International Sherry Week: Events At Taberna de Haro

What is one of the tastiest, most intriguing, and unique wines that you are probably not drinking? It is most likely Sherry, a fascinating fortified wine from a small region of southern Spain.

So, what will you do to celebrate International Sherry Week?

International Sherry Week, celebrating its 5th year, will be held from October 8 to October 14, 2018. This year, there will be about 2,500 Sherry events across the world, held in about 30 different countries. You can check out this Event listings to see which events are close to you. These events are intended to spread a passion for Sherry, to educate people about its wonders, and convert wine lovers into Sherry lovers as well.

As a long-term lover and fervent advocate of Sherry, I enjoy taking the 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 most of the Sherry imported into the U.S. is sweet. As such, many Americans have not encountered the myriad 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. For more background and information about Sherry, check out my 40+ articles on All About Sherry.

 
Locally, one of the best places to celebrate Sherry Week is at one of several events being held at Taberna de Haro in Brookline. Chef/owner Deborah Hansen has a deep love for Sherry, and her restaurant has 60+ Sherries on their ever changing wine list. It has the best and largest Sherry list of any place in the Boston area and Deborah has some cool events planned for Sherry Week. If I weren't going to be in Portugal during Sherry Week, I definitely would be attending some of these events. 

Monday, October 8, from 5pm -10pm
Splash Me!: Enjoy a complimentary splash of sherry with your dinner on Monday to kick off International Sherry Week.
--Manzanilla La Guita Hijos de Rainera Perez Marin
--Manzanilla Fina Callejuela Callejuela
--Fino El Maestro Sierra El Maestro Sierra

Tuesday, October 9, from 7pm - 8:45pm
I Can Make You a Sherry Lover in 6 Glasses or Less: This tasting seminar is an introduction to the large and lovely world of sherry, a world that has captivated Deborah for 30 years. You’ll taste methodically through 6 styles of sherry, all from the formidable house of Valdespino, identifying their complex flavors, discussing how they differ from wine, how to pair them with food, when to drink them, and the variables that make them unique. For the curious and/or the casual drinker of sherry. Tasting includes tapas paired with each.
$50 Registration and pre-payment required. Call 617-277-8272, evenings
Sherries exclusively by Valdespino:
--Manzanilla Delicioso
--Fino Inocente
--Amontillado Tio Diego
--Palo Cortado Viejo CP
--Oloroso Don Gonzalo
--Pedro Ximénez El Candado

Wednesday, October 10, from 7pm - 8:45pm
Fino and her Finesse: Fino is often the favorite sherry. Easy to pronounce and simple to adore, fino also has several iterations you might not know about. In this tasting seminar, we’ll compare young finos with old. Hint: It’s all about the time under flor. You’ll taste fino en rama as well as finos with palmas, as well as tease out the differences between fino from Jerez de la Frontera vs. El Puerto de Santa Maria. A close-up in-tight look at fino, the golden child of Jerez.
$85 Registration and pre-payment required. Call 617-277-8272, evenings
--Fino Cruz del Mar, César Florido
--Fino Tradición 10 yr., Bodegas Tradición
--Fino La Jarana, Emilio Lustau
--Fino Puerto Fino, Emilio Lustau
--Fino en Rama, Saca July 2013 Equipo Navazos
--Fino Amontillado Tres Palmas, Gonzalez Byass

Thursday, October 11, from 5pm -10pm
Flight of Sherry Cocktails
Try 4 different mini-cocktails, all containing sherry in large or small proportions with a complimentary tapa. $25

Thursday, September 27, 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)  Marina Bay’s Victory Point is now offering two new Sunday menus, for Brunch and Football.

First, Victory Point took the classics you loved from its previous buffet-style Sunday setup and dressed up the brunch program with new, a la carte options offered from 10:00am – 12:30pm, including Eggs Benedict served with cage free eggs, house hollandaise over a skillet English muffin ($13) with an option to add lobster ($6) or crab ($4); Nutella French Toast made with caramelized banana and whipped cream ($12); Victory Point Hash made with BBQ pulled pork, cheddar cheese, sunny side eggs and crispy fingerlings ($13); a Brunch Sampler uniting eggs benedict, French toast, waffle, bacon, home fries and toast ($15); a twist on the traditional pancake tower – the VP Waffle Tower stacked high with 3 giant waffles layered with strawberry jam and cream cheese frosting ($12); a Breakfast Sandwich made with two sunny side up eggs, smoked bacon, American cheese, Sambal and Duke’s mayo ($12); an Omelette made to your liking ($10) and your classic Two Eggs with choice of sausage, ham or bacon served with home fries and toast ($10).

Second, after brunch wraps up, Victory Point kicks off its all-American football party from 1:00pm. to 9:00pm. Complete with all the game watching necessities of a tailgate paradise, get a close-up view of every matchup from a 10-foot projection screen, challenge your friends to cornhole and have the chance to win exciting raffle items from participating beer sponsors.

The kitchen will shift its gears from brunch to tailgate with a new game-watching menu featuring the G.O.A.T. Burger made with a 12 oz. angus beef burger, 12-month aged cheddar, LTO topped with Guerrero’s special sauce in a sesame bun ($12); a platter of fall-off-the-bone Chicken Wings tossed in better-than buffalo sauce and served with blue cheese ($12); and a Spiked Platter - paying homage to New England’s favorite tight-end which includes two buckets of beer and three appetizers of your choice ($69).

2) On Wednesday, October 3, from 6pm-9:30pm, Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry Dinner will return to Boston Center for the Art's Cyclorama in the South End. The evening will feature a silent auction, cocktail reception, and an exclusive multi-course seated dinner prepared table-side by Boston's top chefs- all benefiting No Kid Hungry‘s work to end childhood hunger in America. As one in five children in this country struggles with hunger, including more than 270,000 kids in MA, No Kid Hungry works tirelessly to lessen these statistics through fundraising events like the No Kid Hungry Dinner.

This year’s No Kid Hungry Dinner features over 20 participating chefs, including: Bambara's David Bazirgan, Bristol Restaurant & Bar's Jessica Biederman, Toro's Jamie Bissonnette, Brasserie Jo's Nick Calias, Boston Urban Hospitality's Chris Coombs, Chickadee's John DaSilva, Cultivar's Mary Dumont, Puritan & Co's Will Gilson, The Smoke Shop BBq's Andy Husbands, Mooncusser Fish House's Carolyn Johnson, Bar Mezzzana's Colin Lynch, Davio's Italian Steakhouse's Rodney Murillo, SRV's Kevin O'Donnell and Michael Lombardi, Bendetto's Michael Pagliarini, Sarma's Cassie Piuma, Outlook Kitchen & Bar's Tatiana Rosana, Waypoint's Michael Scelfo, Eastern Standard's Jeremy Sewall, Select Oyster Bar's Michael Serpa, PABU's Ben Steigers, Tapestry's Meghann Ward, Oak & Rowan's Brian Mercury, Flour Baker & Cafe's Joanne Chang, and MIDA's Douglass Williams.

Tax-deductible tickets range in price from $1,000 for individual tickets to the seated dinner and cocktail reception to $25,000 to a 20-person group ticket. 100% of the proceeds benefit the No Kid Hungry campaign. To purchase tickets or for more information, please visit: https://events.nokidhungry.org/events/bostons-no-kid-hungry-dinner/.

3) Chef Dante de Magistris and his brothers are launching Saturday and Sunday Brunch, from 10:30am-2pm, at their newest restaurant, The Wellington Neighborhood Eatery. Weekend brunch also features live entertainment from local artists, the Ethan K. Funk Band.

The brunch menu includes 4 varieties of waffles, including the Chocolate Banana Waffle (with banana bourbon sauce, chocolate shavings, candied pecans and whipped cream) and Fried Organic Chicken & Waffles. Other options are the Breakfast Pizza (2 organic poached eggs, pepper bacon, gruyere and fontina, avocado, pickled red onion), the Farmer’s Omelette (herb roasted ham, roasted peppers & Vidalia onions, artichokes, Maplebrook Farm cheddar, homefries and multigrain toast) and 4 different versions of Benedict (spinach, herb roasted ham, pepper bacon or smoked salmon). I have to check out their Chicken & Waffles!

Beverage Manager Chris Keith has created some easy afternoon sippers too with:
--Chris’ Magical Garden, his version of a bloody Mary (sriracha, sambal, lime juice, soy sauce, pickled vegetable skewer, bundle of fresh cilantro, thai basil, mint and lime wheel)
--Monkey Business with Fazenda cold brew, house made Falernum, banana liqueur, orange blossom infused whipped cream & cacao nibs. This banana liqueur is Tempus Fugit Spirits Crème de Banana – Tempus Fugit Spirits based in San Francisco is bringing back old school liqueurs in a real organic way without corn syrup and additives, which is great for obscure old cocktails
--What’s Up Doc with mezcal, freshly squeezed carrot, orange & ginger liqueur

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

2014 Kay Brothers Amery Vineyard Block 6 Shiraz: Ancient Australian Vines

During the last few years, I've bought or drank very few Australian wines, having been turned off by the large amount of jammy fruit bombs that country seemed to produce for a time. I didn't want a sledgehammer of wine to assault my palate, but I rather desired wines with more subtlety and complexity. Maybe it's time to reconsider the wines of Australia, to ascertain whether there has been a change in the type of wines they make. The 2014 Kay Brothers Amery Vineyard Block 6 Shiraz certainly has opened my eyes to the possibilities.

The Kay Brothers winery was initially established back in 1890 by brothers Herbert & Frederick Kay, and it is now the oldest winery in the McLaren Vale that is still owned by the founding family. The 3rd and 4th generations of the family now control the winery, including Herbert’s grandsons Colin and Bill. Their Amery Vineyard, consisting of about 22 hectares, was purchased back in 1890 and is located in the foothills of the Southern Mt. Lofty Ranges. Their vineyards are planted with grapes including Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Grenache, Mataro & Muscat Blanc. There are a relatively small winery, producing only about 12,000 cases annually.

I was intrigued by an interview I read in BeverageDynamics (February 17, 2018) with Michael Wehrs, the sales and marketing manager for Kay Brothers. Wehrs stated, "Australian shiraz used to be these big juicy fruit bombs. There was a time when we made wines for that certain palate. Today, those producers might not even recognize our shiraz. We've toned it down, focusing more on acidity and the refreshing quality on the end of the palate. Australian shiraz is no longer the jammy fruit bombs of Yellow tail."

Was this the case? Had there been a turnaround in Australia, at least with some producers? If so, would these new wines be exciting and compelling? Was it time to revisit Australian Shiraz?

I received a media sample of the 2014 Kay Brothers Amery Vineyard Block 6 Shiraz ($119.99), a 100% Shiraz from the ancient Block 6 plot, which was planted in 1892. 122 year old vines! This special plot is only four acres and was first vinified separately back in 1984. This wine, with a 14.5% ABV, aged for at least 22 months in 1/3 new, 1/3 second, and 1/3 third use French and American oak puncheons. Only 3600 bottles of this wine were produced.

The wine benefits from some decanting, to give it some time to open up. It possesses a rich, crimson color and an alluring nose of spice and black fruit. On the palate, the wine is elegant and silky smooth, with a complex melange of concentrated flavors of plum, black cherry and raspberry, with a strong spicy backbone, well integrated tannins, and pleasing acidity. It is well balanced with a long, lingering finish that completely satisfies. This is no where close to a jammy, fruit bomb but rather the type of high quality wine that seduces your senses. Paired with filet mignon, this was an excellent accompaniment, a no-brainer pairing that elevated the dinner.

If this is an example of what is now coming out of Australia, I really do need to revisit Australian Shiraz. This is definitely a splurge wine, one worth the price, so I want to check out some more affordable Australian wines to see if change has occurred.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Rant: Should You Drink Port Wine Before, During Or After Dinner?

Portugal Giving Up Port Making
OPORTO, Portugal (UPI) Portugal’s port wine industry turned sadly today to the task of developing a wine that tastes good served with soda, ice and salted peanuts. After centuries of turning out casks of port wine, the industry's leaders have decided that the jet age prefers almost anything to port, even sherry. "This idea of turning port into a sort of lemonade might seem like a crime of the greatest magnitude,” said Jose Correia de Oliveira, Portugal’s secretary of commerce. One of the biggest headaches the industry has is that port is an after-dinner drink. "It is very difficult for us to persuade the consumer to hold off drinking until after dinner,” Oliveira said."
--Madera Tribune (CA), March 9, 1960

The demise of Port? It was apparently a low time for the Port industry, though it raises an intriguing point concerning how wine may be viewed by the general public. If a wine is perceived only as an after-dinner drink, its consumption will be more limited than other wines that might also be drank as an aperitif or during dinner. In addition, not everyone may want to continue drinking after dinner if they consumed a significant amount of wine before dessert. After dinner wines, including dessert wines, generally remain as niche wines, and may struggle to maintain popularity.

When you think of Port Wine, do you think of it more as an after-dinner drink? Do you think of it as an aperitif too? Do you think of it when considering wine pairings for food (and I'm not referring to dessert courses)? I suspect that most consumers still think of Port as something you drink after dinner, maybe with chocolate, blue cheese or a cigar. Hopefully, that can change and consumers can be more open to drinking Port at other times as well.

Historically, it appears that such a change of view took place in certain spheres, helping to save the Port wine industry from its troubles. Seven years after the above newspaper article, there was an apparent turnaround and people began drinking Port wine as an aperitif, with France in the lead.

"Portugal Wine Usage Grows
NEW YORK (UPl)—More than 9 million gallons of port wine from Portugal were consumed throughout the world in 1966. and port, once considered solely as a dessert wine, is gaining popularity as an aperitif, reports a producer of port wines from Oporto. France is leading Europe in making port wine a fashionable aperitif, according to Sandemann Brothers. The firm estimates three-fifths of its world port sales now are for consumption as a before-dinner drink."
--Desert Sun (CA), September 26, 1967

In the U.S., Port wine seems to still be more of an after-dinner drink. And that is probably a significant reason why it is such a niche beverage, despite its recent slight increase in consumption. We need to educate people that Port is appropriate throughout the course of a dinner, from aperitif to after dinner. We need to show people that Port can be paired with a variety of dishes throughout the course of a mult-course dinner. That is more difficult as few restaurants host wine dinners that pair Port throughout the courses of a meal. Back in 2012, Legal Sea Foods hosted such a dinner and it was an enlightening experience. We need more restaurants to take this step, to help make it seem more normal to pair Port with dinner.

These issues plague other wine as well, from Sherry to Champagne, though you'll find more wine dinners featuring those two wines paired throughout the meal. Too many people think all Sherry is sweet, so it too is often seen as an after-dinner drink. However, local Spanish restaurants, and especially Taberna de Haro, have been educating consumers about Sherry, showing them that most Sherry is actually dry and pairs well with a wide variety of foods. Champagne is more often seen as a celebratory wine, and not something you pair with dinner, yet that too is slowly changing. The key to all of these niche wines is that they do not possess a single specific taste profile, but rather possess much diversity, and that diversity makes them more food friendly.

When I travel to Porto and the Douro region in two weeks, I'll be especially interested in gaining more information on Port and food pairings, which I'll share with my readers. However, I will call on my readers to be more open minded about these niche wines, and to experiment with food pairings. Don't see these wines as single-occasion wines, but rather see their versatility.

Port wine for breakfast, anyone?

Friday, September 21, 2018

Pizza For Lunch: Osteria Posto & Spiga Ristorante

Pizza is pure comfort food. 

I probably eat more pizza than any other type of food, and I never grow tired of it. I can easily have pizza for lunch and then have pizza again for dinner.  And then do it again the next day. Greek, Neapolitan, White Pizza, Thin Crust, Thick Crust, or even a cheap frozen pizza. Give me a slice or a whole pie. Bring on Prince Pizzeria and their all-you-can-eat pizza lunch, which only costs about $8. Just give me pizza.

I certainly have my favorite spots for pizza, including the two restaurants I'm highlighting below. Both are excellent spots for lunch or dinner, with delicious menus of Italian specialties, though their pizza is usually only available during lunch. Both receive my highest recommendation.

Osteria Posto, an Italian steakhouse in Waltham, has been a favorite of mine since it opened in later 2015. Their homemade pasta dishes are killer. During the week, Monday to Friday, they are open for lunch from 11:30am-2pm. Their Lunch menu has plenty of choices, including Appetizers (from Arancini to Calamari), Salads (Caesar to Beets), Pasta (Mezze Rigatoni to Tagliatelle), and Pizza (Red--Margherita to Sausage & White--Mushroom to Soppresata).

On my last visit, I began my lunch with the Burrata ($18), Maple Brook Farms Burrata, oven roasted peaches, and Prosciutto di Parma. This was an ample dish, large enough for two people to share, and the blend of the creamy mozzarella, the sweet, juicy & slightly smoky peaches, and the silky & salty prosciutto was pure bliss. There is beauty in the simplicity of this dish, the quality ingredients standing well on their own, but playing so well with others too.

Your Pizza choices, all Neapolitan wood-fired, include 6 Red and 6 White options, prices ranging from $13-$21. I opted for the Meatball Pizza ($18), which has chunks of meatballs that were made from beef, pork, and veal, and is accompanied by mozzarella, asiago, parmesan, oregano, and garlic. The crisp, light crust has just the right amount of chewiness and char, and the savory meatballs possess so much flavor. The cheese and garlic enhance the totality of the pizza as well. Each slice satisfies and you have to reach for another.

The next time you have a pizza yearning, stop by Osteria Posto.

Spiga Ristorante, an Italian restaurant in Needham, has undergone some recent changes with the return of Chef Marisa Iocco. You can get more information about the changes and the restaurant in my prior review. They are open for lunch, Monday to Friday, from 11:30am to 3pm, and pizza features on their lunch menu. You'll find plenty of other choices on their Lunch menu too, from Guazzetti (Italian stews) to home-made pasta dishes like the superb Timballo. There are usually lunch specials as well that aren't on the menu.


On a recent visit, I began with one of their cicchetti, the Caprese Sbagliata ($15), which included a basil bread pudding, local tomatoes, mozzarella and greens. Chef Iocco is famous for her dessert Bread Pudding and this savory version was superb, light, moist and flavorful. I bet she could open a restaurant that just served variations of bread pudding and it would be a success. This dish was an excellent variation on a caprese salad, and the freshness of the ingredients was clear.


There are five Pizza options on their menu, all priced at $14, and ranging from Margherita to Italian Tuna. Chef Iocco states that her pizza is a cross between Roman and Neopolitan, with Abruzzo accents. I chose the Bianca Pizza, with prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and arugula. The delightful crust, not too thick and slightly chewy, had plenty of tender, salty prosciutto and it is large enough to feed two people. You can also see it is more oval-shaped, not like a traditional round pizza.

Spiga Ristorante is located close to the Needham location of Bin Ends, so there is double reason to journey there. Have lunch or dinner at Spiga and then shop for some wine at Bin Ends. And make sure to try some pizza as well as Chef Iocco's bread pudding.

Thursday, September 20, 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) October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month and Osteria Nino is raising awareness and funds with Think Pink: a fun night of floral arranging with Alice's Table. On Wednesday, October 10th at 6:30 p.m., sip on seasonal cocktails while you learn the tips and tricks of flower arranging. At the end of the night bring home your arrangement in a stylish new vase.

$10 from every ticket purchased will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Tickets cost $65 and can be purchased at: https://alicestable.com/events/think-pink_1534517185

2) Join Executive Chef Stefano Zimei and Sommelier Bruno Marini of CHOPPS American Bar and Grill for a Global Wine Dinner, where wines from around the world are expertly paired to offer guests a cultural experience unlike any other. On Friday September 21st, from 6:45pm-9:45pm, sommelier Bruno Marini and the team at CHOPPS will transport guests from Burlington to international grounds with a global tasting of wines from around the world. Guests will nosh on an four-course prix fixe meal paired with international wines.

The full menu is as follows:
Reception
Chef’s Selection of Passed Hors d’oeuvre
NV Louis Roederer ‘Brut Premeir’, Reims, France
First Course
PRIME BEEF CARPACCIO (Olive Relish, Truffle Aioli, Shaved Parmesian, Ciabatta)
Alborino Martin Codax ‘Burgans’, Val do Salnes, Spain
Entree
PEPPERCORN CRUSTED NEW YORK STRIP (River Rock Farms, Potato Pave, Shallot Brandy)
Cabernet Sauvignon Kelleher ‘Brix Vineyard’, Napa, California
Vs.
Super Tuscan Ca’Marcanda ‘Promise’ by Gaja, Tuscany, Italy
Dessert
BLUEBERRY COBBLER
NV Moscato Di Asti Michele Chiarlo ‘Nivole’ Piedmont, Italy

Price is $85 per person (inclusive of tax and gratuity). Space is limited, reservations are required, and tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite.

3) As part of Legal Sea Foods’ 10th annual Oyster Festival, they will once again host an event on the all-weather rooftop at Legal Harborside. “Mollusk Mania" is an “everything oyster” celebration featuring a raw bar of six varieties. Amidst panoramic harbor views, guests will be treated to bushels including freshly shucked seasonal standouts from Wellfleet, Cotuit, Katama Bay, Cranberry Cove, Standish Shore and Washburn Island. Legal Sea Foods’ shuckers will be on-hand giving interactive "How to Shuck an Oyster" tutorials.

VIP ticket holders will be granted early admission at 1pm and receive a VIP plate of shell-shockingly good prepared appetizers: baked oysters, grilled oysters, an oyster slider and a fried oyster sushi hand roll.

Restaurant specialties will be available for the duration of the Oyster Festival through October 10 and include Fried Oysters (three for $10) in four preparations (buffalo, BBQ, sriracha lime and BLT); Baked Oysters (three for $12) available in a quartet of options (lobster spinach, crab & cheese, scampi and roasted); and the Legal Sea Foods teams will shuck seasonal standouts at their raw bars daily for those who opt to go au natural. Legals also suggests washing it down with the official drink of the 2018 Oyster Festival, the Deadrise, with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, muddled cucumber, lime and grapefruit bitters ($11).

Date: Sunday, September 23
VIP admission: 1:00pm-3:00pm
General admission: 1:30pm-3:00pm

COST: VIP admission: $65 per person (includes tax)
General admission: $55 per person (includes tax)
But your Tickets online here.

4) Gather, the Briar Group eatery at District Hall in the Seaport, invites Boston’s brunchers to get a taste of some friendly competition between some of the area’s best restaurants at the 4thAnnual Brunch Battle, held on Saturday, October 6, from 12pm-2pm, to benefit Community Servings.

Guests will cast their vote for their brunch favorites as Boston's best brunch spots duke it out to see who will be voted this year's Brunch Battle Champ! Competitors include Gather, LuLu’s, Brownstone, Row 34, Southern Proper, Metropolis, Branch Line, Towne Stove & Spirits, The Broadway, and more.

Sponsors: Lunetta, Barrington Coffee and Tito's Handmade Vodka, who will generously match the donation to Community Servings up to $1,500.

Tickets are available for $25 and include admittance and brunch samples from all restaurants. This event is 21+. For tickets and information, visit this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/4th-annual-brunch-battle-tickets-48499529398

5) Executive Chef Nick Deutmeyer and the Post 390 team invite guests to rejoice in cooler weather with a special Farm to Post dinner on Wednesday, October 3, from 6pm-9pm, featuring the freshest local apples and cider from Kimball Fruit Farm, a third-generation family run farm owned and operated by Carl and Marie Hills in Pepperell.

Post 390's Farm to Post tasting series features a monthly spotlight on some of New England’s finest farmers, producers, vineyards, brewers, and fishermen and focuses on ingredients that are sourced locally and produced sustainably. Every month or so Executive Chef Nick Deutmeyer and his team create a special “Farm to Post” menu highlighting products from these farms and producers.

The Apples & Cider Kimball Fruit Farm Dinner menu is as follows:
Cocktail Hour
--Apple & Cheddar Cheese Tasting
--Pork & Apple Sausage Tartelettes (blue cheese, dried fig, frisee, apple cider vinaigrette)
--Brandied Apple Flambé (duck liver mousse, parsley)
First Course
Chilled Crab & Apples (tart apple & herb gelée, peekytoe crab celery root salad, hackleback caviar, marcona almond, Florentine, chive crème fraiche)
Second Course
Sing a Song of Sixpence (roasted young pigeon, moutarde violette, rye & honey crumble, apple tarte tatin, blackberry-rosemary jus)
Entrée Course
Hand-Carved Heritage Porchettea (apple & sage bread stuffing, wild mushroom velouté, pumpkin mousse, cider reduction)
Dessert Course
Warm Apple Spice Cake (vanilla ice cream, maple glaze)

Tickets to the Farm to Post Dinner on October 3 are available on Eventbrite for $55 per person, and include a special cocktail hour, three course dinner and beverage pairings. Following the kick-off dinner the menu will be available in the restaurant for six weeks.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

2013 Bedrock Griffin's Lair Syrah: Bold Like Fred Flintsone

"Yabba dabba doo!"
--Fred Flintsone

Though I doubt the name of Bedrock Wine Co. was inspired by The Flintstones cartoon show, which took place in the fictional town of Bedrock, Fred Flintstone's catch phrase above, which signaled his excitement and happiness, echoes my own thoughts about Bedrock's Griffin's Lair Syrah.

I was fortunate to receive a bottle of the 2013 Bedrock Wine Co. Griffin's Lair Syrah, Sonoma Coast ($50-$60) as a birthday gift from my good friend, Andrew Witter. Bedrock Wine Co. was founded in 2007 by Morgan Twain-Peterson in a converted chicken coop and six years later, he was joined by his friend, Chris Cottrell, and they have since expanded their facilities. They have multiple passions, including the preservation of old vineyards, especially those over one hundred years old. They also want to showcase and promote Syrah, a grape which has been frequently under-appreciated, an even maligned, in the U.S. In addition, they like to showcase different wine styles, from all across California, to show the myriad possibilities. They tend to prefer making wines simply, with little manipulation although understanding that all wine-making is a form of manipulation.

The Griffin's Lair vineyard, owned by Joan and Jim Griffin, has provided fruit for the famed Pax Mahle Winery, and eventually, Bedrock was able to purchase some of their grapes for their own wines. The 2013 Bedrock Griffin's Lair Syrah is a blend of 88% Syrah and 12% Viognier, which are co-fermented, with about 50% whole clusters for "perfume, finesse, and general awesomeness." From  the Bedrock website, it states, "I adore the 2013 in all of its exotically feral, Syrah wonderfulness—I think it might be the most complete wine we have made from the vineyard."

The dark, almost purplish colored wine, emitted an alluring nose of black fruits and spice, with subtle, almost fleeting aromas of other elements, such as herbal and floral notes. You can detect the complexity of this wine from the start, and that complexity is further elaborated on the palate. Full bodied and intense, it is lush and seductive, possessed of an intricate melange of flavors, including plum, black cherry, vanilla, dark spice, and an underlying earthiness. Such a long and lingering finish, each sip providing pleasure for minutes at the least. The tannins are well integrated, the silky feel of the wine caressing your palate. A hedonistic and complex wine that will please almost any wine lover.

This is a wine for hearty dishes, a thick steak, a rich stew, a Bolognese, wild boar and more. It could also be slowly sipped on its own, especially during the cold months, maybe in front of a fireplace. It is a wine too that would bring people together, savoring the mutual pleasures of sharing this wine. I owe much gratitude for Andrew for gifting me this wine, introducing me to its wonders. It is well worth a splurge and receives my highest recommendation.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

il Casale, Olio Taibi & Olive Oil

"The olive tree is first of all the trees."
--Columella, Roman agronomist

There have been olive trees on Sicily for over two thousand years, at least as far back as the ancient Greeks, and currently Sicily produces about 10% of Italy's olive oil production. Worldwide, there are about 700 different olive cultivars and some of the most common olives varieties on Sicily include Biancolilla, Castiglione, Carolea and Nocellara. Sicily also has 6 Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) olive oil regions, more than any other Italian region.

Like wine grapes, olive cultivars have different flavor profiles and may be presented in an olive oil as a single variety or a blend. Because of these different flavor profiles, pairing olive oil with various foods can be similar in some respects to pairing wine and food. However, how many consumers actually consider the flavor profile of their olive oil when using it in their recipes? Probably few people do so and they could benefit from some pairing suggestions. Last week, I attended a dinner, as a media guest, where such pairing suggestions were front and center.

il Casale, in Lexington, hosted a five course dinner, showcasing the two olive oils of Olio Taibi owned by Giuseppe Taibi, who has lived in Lexington since 2009. As the olive oils are from the Taibi estate in Sicily, the wine pairings were also from Sicily. The demand for this dinner was so high that the restaurant shut down regular service for the evening, hosting only this special dinner. This was a repeat situation of the last wine dinner I attended at il Casale, though at the Belmont location. It is clear that il Casale has a very solid and loyal customer base. I've attended numerous wine dinners and they rarely take over the entire restaurants, and sometimes only occupy a table or two. il Casale seems to possess the formula for success for these special events.

Like the Belmont wine dinner, there were probably over 100 people at the Lexington olive oil dinner. As I mentioned previously, when you have so many people enjoying the same dishes, at the same time, there is always a worry that it will overwhelm the kitchen, and that your dishes will be less than hot when they reach your table. However, once again, that was not the case at all, as each dish we enjoyed in Lexington was at an optimal temperature. Their professional kitchen is obviously well experienced in dealing with such crowds and know exactly how to handle the situation. Overall, il Casale once again provided a superb dining experience, with excellent food, wines, and service. If you've never dined at il Casale before, I highly recommend you do so.

Chef Daniele Baliani took the lead on presenting the cuisine for this wine dinner. Daniele has worked with Chef Dante de Magistris and the entire team on and off for 24 years at both il Casale Belmont and Lexington. If you spend a little time speaking with Chef Baliani about the food, you'll quickly notice his passion. And during the course of the evening, he stopped by many tables to speak with the various guests about the cuisine, as well as Italy in general.

The special guest of the evening was Giuseppe Taibi, a 4th-generation olive oil producer, and also a  tech entrepreneur with a PhD in artificial intelligence from Boston University. Giuseppe grew up in Agrigento, on the southeast coast of Sicily, near the famed Valley of the Temples, an archaeological site containing the ruins of seven ancient temples. Back in 1867, his ancestor, Cav. Gerlando Taibi purchased an estate and grew olives, starting a family business that continues to the present, though that almost didn't happen.

In 2006, Giuseppe's father felt that their olive oil business was no longer sustainable so he believed it needed to be sold. Giuseppe didn't want that to happen and began examining the business to see what could be done to save it. He quickly realized that the family business had been closer to a hobby, never generating significant income, though the olive oil was well loved. To save the business, Giuseppe knew it would require a significant restructuring, and he chose to undertake that great endeavor.

Giuseppe opted to institute organic and sustainable agriculture, and to harvest for quality over quantity. Part of this quest for quality included harvesting earlier than other farmers. All these changes weren't easy, and were costly, but Giuseppe was driven to transform the estate. The estate currently consists of about 30 acres of olive trees, primarily the Nocellera and Biancolilla cultivars, though they have a small amount of a third olive cultivar. Giuseppe also chose to treat his olives like wine varieties, and this paradigm shift is both logical and should make it more accessible to consumers.

Olio Taibi produces two organic, monocultivar, EVOO from the Biancolilla and Nocellara olives (each $49.95/500ml). At each table, there were two small bottles of this olive oils with tiny plastic tasting cups. Prior to the dinner, after our Processo aperitif, Giuseppe led us through a tasting so that we could taste, experience and understand the differences between the two. I think Giuseppe did an excellent job of differentiating the two olive oils, and making it easier for people to know which they should use for different dishes.

The Biancolilla olive cultivar, one of the oldest olives in Western Sicily, is said by Giuseppe to produce an olive oil with "green fruitiness, delicate bitterness, medium pungency, & well balanced." It can be lightly spicy (especially pepper notes), slightly fruity, and may have notes of tomato, artichoke, almond and fresh grass. It is a more delicate and subtle olive oil. Giuseppe states that this an olive oil that pairs well with dishes and ingredients that are typically paired with white wines, such as seafood, vegetables, and fresh cheeses. That advice makes it much easier to pair this olive oil at home.

The Nocellara olive cultivar, grown primarily in Sicily, is from the Valle del Belice area of south-western Sicily and can be used for both olive oil and table olives. It derives its name from the Italian word for "hazelnut" as the olive's shape resembles a hazelnut. Giuseppe says that it produces an olive oil with "green fruitiness, medium bitterness, intense pungency, and well balanced." It has a more intense fruitiness with a peppery finish. It will pair well with dishes and ingredients that are typically paired with red wines, such as red meats, legume soups, and red sauces. This was my personal favorite of the two olive oils as I enjoyed its intensity, both its fruitiness and spiciness.

Our dinner began with Insalata di Finocchio all'Olio Taibi "Biancolilla", a salad of fennel, arugula, orange slices, and sliced Castelvetrano olives dressed with the Biancolilla olive oil. The delicate olive oil went well with the salad, just the right touch of dressing, enhancing the spicy arugula, acidic oranges, and briny olives. A fine way to open up your palate for the rest of the courses to come.

The salad was paired with the 2017 Stemmari Chardonnay, from Sicily, which possesses excellent acidity, some tropical fruit notes, a subtle floral aspect and mineral notes. Fresh, dry and delicious.

The second course was Bruschetta al Pesce Azzurro con Olio Taibi "Biancolilla, a smoked bluefish pate with grilled garlic bread bruschetta finished with the Biancolilla olive oil. There was the addition of a salad of diced zucchini, shaved radish, torn mint and parsley, dressed with the EVOO, lemon juice and finished with fresh cracked black pepper. The bluefish pate was brined in a solution with demerara sugar, and then citrus peels were added before it was all cold smoked. The pate was bursting with delicious flavors, earthy and briny, with a hint of smoke. It was also silky smooth, and excellent when slathered on the bread. A superb pate! The salad added some crunchiness to the dish, and that type of textural addition was included on the next two courses too.

Paired with the pate was the 2017 Planeta Rosé; a blend of 50% Nero d'Avola & 50% Syrah. I've long been a fan of this winery and you can read a couple of my prior articles for more background on Planeta: Planeta Wines: Indigenous Treasures of Sicily and Planeta Wines: More Indigenous Treasures of Sicily. This Rosé was excellent, crisp, light and full of tasty red fruit flavors, from strawberry to raspberry, with subtle hints of peach. Easy to drink, very food friendly, and perfect year round. This would make for a great Thanksgiving wine and at an average cost of $12, this is also a great value wine.

Next, we enjoyed the Maccheroni al Pesto Siciliano, homemade tube pasta with sun-dried tomato pesto, almonds, and pecorino pepato, finished with the Nocellara olive oil. You might be confused that there are no pine nuts in this pesto, but the Italian term "pesto" simply refers to something crushed by a mortar. The familiar version of pesto, with pine nuts, is a Genoese speciality. This is il Casale's own version of pesto. Pecorino pepato is a Sicilian sheep's milk cheese studded with black pepper. This was an interesting and tasty dish, with al dente pasta, crunchy almonds, and strong peppery notes. The intense olive oil also added an additional layer of flavor. A well crafted dish and a worthy pesto variant.

Paired with this pasta dish was the 2016 Feudo Maccari Noto Nero d'Avola, which is aged only in stainless steel. Silky smooth, with bright cherry, raspberry and plum flavors, enhanced by some pepper and spice notes. Nice acidity, well-restrained tannins, and a family long finish. An easy drinking wine, it could be enjoyed on its own though it would pair well with plenty of dishes, from pasta to pizza, burgers to hotdogs. Simply delicious.

M favorite dish of the night was the Agnello al Forno alla Saracena, Cous-cous al Pistacchio con Olio Taibi "Nocellara", an oven roasted lamb saracene style, atop pistachio cous-cous, with crispy artichokes and Nocellara olive oil. I love lamb and this was so tender you didn't need a knife, only the side of your fork, to cut it. The lamb was earthy and flavorful, with an added crunch from the pistachios and the nuttiness of the cous-cous. Each bite was sheer gustatory pleasure and I would definitely order that if I saw it on the menu another time.

The 2014 Cos Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico, a blend of 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato, was aged for at least 18 months, with the Nero in oak botti and the Frappato in glazed cement tanks. With an intense, dark red color, this was a superb wine, with intense flavors of black cherry, plum, spice, chocolate, and a touch of earthiness. Moderate tannins, good acidity, and a lingering, pleasing finish. Perfect with the lamb, this wine showcases the quality of wines that can be found in Sicily.

Dessert was Torta della Nonna all'Olio Taibi "Biancolilla", Grandma’s olive oil tea cake, with whipped ricotta and candied orange peel. A light dessert, with plenty of flavor and not overly sweet.

The final wine of the evening was the 2015 Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria, which is produced from the Zibibbo grape, also known as Muscat of Alexandria. Intensely aromatic, this dessert wine was mildly sweet with balanced acidity, presenting flavors of apricot and dried fruits, with some herbal notes.

Overall, this was another winner of a dinner from il Casale, once again indicative of the quality of these two restaurants. The dishes evidenced creativity, with a nice balance of flavor and textures, and the wine pairings were spot on, showcasing some of the best of Sicily. It was a pleasure to meet Giuseppe and taste his high-quality olive oils, and it was great how he presented them so consumers could more easily choose which specific olive oil would work best with their own recipes and dishes. Kudos to Chef Dante de Magistris, Chef Daniele Baliani and the entire team at il Casale.

"The olive tree is surely the richest gift of heaven."
--Thomas Jefferson

Monday, September 17, 2018

Rant: Boston Needs A Georgian Restaurant!

The country of Georgia may be the birthplace of wine, with evidence stretching back about 8,000 years, which is why Georgians sometimes state they have 8,000 vintages of history. Georgia is located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, in the Southern Caucasus mountain range, which forms the northern border of the country. It is bordered on the west coast by the Black Sea, by Russia to the north and Turkey & Armenia to the south, with Azerbaijan to the south and east.

When Georgians drink, they eat, rarely drinking on its own. Sometimes they engage in the supra, a traditional formal feast that features near endless food and a vastness of wine. And the various regions of Georgia each have their own food specialties, plenty of diversity in this fascinating region. Georgian wines have started making inroads into the U.S., and you can find a number of them in the Boston area.

However, we need a Georgian restaurant in the Boston area! None currently exists, though other cities, from New York to Washington, D.C., have such restaurants.

It may seem strange that I'm calling for a Georgian restaurant in Boston when I've actually never been to one or eaten Georgian cuisine. However, I'm a passionate advocate of Georgian wines, having tasted well over 100 different ones, and have written 16 articles about Georgian wines. Check out All About Georgian Wine which collects the links to those articles.

Georgians always drink wine with food so their wine is produced specifically to be accompanied by food. And based on the quality and diversity of their wines, it seems logical that their cuisine must be equally as compelling. I've read multiple articles about their cuisine and they have enticed my palate, made me yearn to dine upon many of their dishes.

For example, Khachapuri, Georgian cheese bread, is considered an essential element of the supra, as well as an everyday food item too. There are over over 50 different varieties of khachapuri, made with various fillings. The Adjaruli Khachapuri, a type of molten cheese bread, originated in the seaside region of Adjara and has become hugely popular in New York City according to NY Eater. All you have to do is look at the various photos of this dish and you'll probably start salivating. Who wouldn't love Georgian cheese bread?

Check out this intriguing map of the top dishes from each region of Georgia, and you'll see plenty of enticing photos at that site as well. You can look at Mtsvadi, Georgian barbeque that is made with pork, mutton or veal, often marinated in pomegranate juice. Khinkali, a Georgian dumpling, is often made with mixed pork and beef, though sometimes also with lamb. Shkmeruli is a dish of fried chicken in a creamy garlic sauce. The list just goes on and on with one alluring dish after another. The Georgian Journal also has numerous articles and recipes about Georgian cuisine.

Spend just ten minutes reading about Georgian cuisine, and perusing photos of their foods, and you'll probably become a convert as well, desirous of a Georgian restaurant in the Boston area. This is an excellent opportunity for someone to bring a unique, new restaurant to the area. Who will step forward and be a pioneer, an advocate for Georgian cuisine? We really need Khachapuri!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Provence Rosés: Château de Berne Emotion & Urban Provence

As I wrote recently, When Labor Day Arrives, Don't Stop Drinking Rosé! It's not just a summer wine, but one which should be enjoyed year round. Let me provide reviews of a couple Provence Rosés which you can enjoy this fall and winter.

Château de Berne, located in the village of Lorgues, owns a 1,235-acre estate (with 330 acres of vineyards) which dates back to the 12th century, though its roots extend back over two thousand years to the ancient Romans. In 1960, the estate was restored and then in 1995, the estate was purchased, with the new owner replanting numerous vineyards and modernizing the winery. In 2007, a British businessman purchased the estate, which has also become a five-star Relais & Châteaux property. They are currently converting over to 100% organic production.

The 2017 Château de Berne Emotion ($16) is an AOP Côtes de Provence Rosé, a blend of 50% Grenache Noir, 25% Cinsault, and 25% Syrah. The grapes undergo cold soak maceration for 2 to 3 hours, and then fermentation occurs in stainless steel tanks for 2 to 3 weeks before bottling. With an ABV of 12.5%, this pale, pink Rosé has a pleasant nose of red fruits and hints of peach. On the palate, it is light, dry and crisp, an easy drinking Rosé with delicious flavors of strawberry, cherry, and peach with a mineral aspect and a moderately long and pleasing finish. This Rosé went very well with a flaky piece of cod, and would pair well with dishes from a goat cheese salad to a roast chicken, or even a pizza. This wine is what you seek in a Provence Rosé.

And I will note the more unique bottle shape of this wine, its gentle curves and white bands reminiscent of a woman in a striped bathing suit.

Ultimate Provence, located near the village of La Garde-Freinet, has a recently renovated 100-acre estate and they focus on a single wine, the Urban Provence Rosé. The 2017 Urban Provence Ultimate Provence Rosé ($23) is an AOP Côtes de Provence Rosé, a blend of 45% Grenache Noir, 35% Cinsault, 15% Syrah, and 5% Rolle. Like the Emotion above, the grapes for this wine undergo cold soak maceration for 2 to 3 hours, and then fermentation occurs in stainless steel tanks for 2 to 3 weeks before bottling. That shouldn't be surprising as both wines were produced by the same winemaker, Alexis Cornu.

With an ABV of 12.5%, this pale, pink Rosé has a pleasant nose of red fruits, accented by some peppery notes. On the palate, it is typical Provence, light, dry and crisp. There are tasty flavors of strawberry, raspberry and cherry, with some spicy notes, a mineral backbone and a lengthy, satisfying finish. This Rosé is a bit more complex than the Emotion and will hold up to a bit heartier of a dish. I would enjoy this with burgers or pizza, lobster or scallops, roast chicken or even pork. Another winner of a Rosé, sure to please.

This bottle is also a bit more unique, tall with multiple ridges and a large crest. It is the type of bottle you might save as it is empty.

Thursday, September 13, 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) Executive Chef Tyler Kinnett and the team at Harvest welcomes former Harvest kitchen alumnus and noted cookbook author, Annie Copps, to showcase her new cookbook titled, A Little Taste of Cape Cod, at Harvest’s “The Book and The Cook” dinner series.

On Tuesday, September 18th, from 6pm-9pm, Harvest Executive Chef Tyler Kinnett and Pastry Chef Josh Livsey will welcome Annie B. Copps, a former Harvest chef, and her cookbook, A Little Taste of Cape Cod. Acting as both cookbook and guidebook, A Little Taste of Cape Cod offers readers recipes for signature dishes celebrating the flavors of everyone’s favorite cape.

The menu will include oysters, garlicky mussels with linguica, bluefish pate, lobster rolls, pan seared scallops, Baby Back Ribs with cranberry BBQ sauce, corn pudding, and apple crisp.

Tickets are available for $85 (inclusive of tax and gratuity) and include a short reception, 4 course dinner, a fun and vibrant Q&A with the author and chefs, and a signed copy of A Little Taste of Cape Cod.

Space is limited and reservations are required. Call 617-868-2255 directly to book seats. Or visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-book-and-the-cook-a-little-taste-of-cape-cod-tickets-49602479351 to purchase tickets.

2) The Ghost Walks, a new Theatre District’s spot for inventive cocktails and creative sharable plates, is introducing weekday lunch service. Now available 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, guests can enjoy all-new lunch offerings of small plates, sandwiches, and tacos available for dine-in and take out.

Chef Aaron Lhamon and the Ghost Walks team are debuting a new culinary approach at The Ghost Walks, featuring a mix of inventive dishes and beloved staples. Guests can eat globally-inspired small plates like Shrimp Salad with crushed black bean salsa, cilantro, cumin, and crema; Fried Burrata with pepper and tomato sofrito, and paprika; and Charred Brussels with bourbon maple syrup and caramelized pumpkin seeds. Small plate favorites from The Ghost Walks dinner menu like the Sweet & Spicy Ribs with cochujang, calamansi, palm sugar, togarashi, and Asian slaw; and the signature TGW Wings available in fire (served with goat cheese ranch) or naked (with a selection of three house sauces) will also be available during lunch service.

Chef Aaron is debuting a fresh lineup of sandwiches and tacos for the ultimate to-go lunch option. Served with house made potato chips, The Ghost Walks’ sandwich selection includes Braised Beef Bahn Mi with Ponzu sticky sauce, sesame, cilantro, braised red cabbage; Pimento Grilled Cheese with roasted peppers and cheddar; Italian Grinder with salami, tomato, lettuce, provolone, aioli, and evoo; Oyster Po Boy with old bay, aioli, and slaw; and The Waygu Ghost Burger with smoked tomato jam, Aleppo aioli, cheddar cheese, baby romaine, and served on brioche. Guests can enjoy a fresh lineup of tacos served on gluten-free white corn tortillas. Mix and match from taco selections including Barbacoa with lime aioli, cilantro, smoked salt, and smoked tomato jam; vegetarian-friendly Tempura Cauliflower with avocado, cilantro, chipotle aioli, and arugula; and Crispy Pork Belly with cilantro, chimichurri, Mexican salsa, and lettuce. Each taco serving comes with your selection of three tacos for $9.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Celebrate Port Wine Day!

"Port is the greatest poetry in wine."
--Francisca Van Zeller

Today is Port Wine Day, an annual, worldwide celebration of the wonders of Port. This is the fifth such celebration and September 10 was chosen as the annual date as it is the day when Port's designation of origin was created back in 1756. Today is a day to enjoy a glass of Port (or several), to learn more about this delightful fortified wine, and to spread the word to others.

As a Cavaleiro in the Confraria do Vinho do Porto, a Knight in the Brotherhood of Port Wine, it is my responsibility to promote Port consumption, to be a passionate advocate and help educate others about the fascinating history and details of Port. For some background information on Port, you can check out my five-part Origins of Port, my article on the Diversity of Port, or some of my Port reviews. Next month, I'll be traveling to Porto and the Douro region, so you can expect to see much more coverage of Port in the coming months.

How much Port is consumed in the U.S.? Let's first look back to 2010 so we can gain some sense of the past and assess how consumption has changed during the last decade. Portugal produced about 6.7 million cases of Port, which was a reduction of over 10% since 2007. What might surprise many people is that the largest importer of Port was France, buying about 28.5% of all Port production, and it has actually occupied the top spot since 1963. Who would have though the French were such big fans of Port wine?

Holland, in second place, purchased about 14.2% while Portugal itself, in a close third place, purchased about 14%. Great Britain, which once was the primary consumer of Port, now occupied fourth place while the U.S. occupied sixth place, buying only 3.9%, broken down roughly into 374,000 cases of Port, comprised of 107,000 Reserve Ports, 77,000 Ruby and 70,000 Tawny Ports.  U.S. purchases of Port had been generally declining from a high of 4.6% in 2006, except for a slight boost in 2010, up from 3.8% in 2009.

We can now look at current Port wine sales, from January to June 2018, including comparing them to the similar period in 2017. Portugal produced about 3.3 million cases of Port, down 1.2% from 2017. That total was divided into 2.7 million cases of standard Port and 560,000 cases of premium Port. Once again, the largest importer of Port was France, buying about 30.9%, an increase since 2010. Second place is now occupied by Portugal, at 16.3% and Holland falls back to third place at 13.6%. Belgium now occupies fourth place at 11.6%, and Great Britain has dropped to fifth place at 5.9%.

The U.S. remains at the sixth position though it now purchases 4.8%, an increase since 2010 and a new high, above the 4.6% in 2006. This percentage translated into about 160,000 cases. The percentage increase is primarily due to an increase in the purchase of premium Ports. Despite this increase, Port in the U.S. remains a niche beverage. 160,000 cases is still a relatively small amount when compared to all of the other wine available in the U.S.

There are plenty of California wineries which produce more than that in a single year. The U.S. also imports far larger amounts of wines from other countries, such as approximately 243 million cases of Italian wine. The amount of Port that comes into the U.S. is a small drop compared to so many other domestic and imported wines. As such, not enough Americans are enjoying the pleasures of Port and they need to be introduced to this compelling wine. It is promising to see that more Americans are drinking Port, but we need a significantly larger percentage to become Port fans.

If you already enjoy Port, then continue to explore its diversity and try types of Port you might not be familiar. In addition, share Port with your family and friends, showing them the pleasures of Port, trying to persuade them to drink more Port. If you don't know much about Port, then make an effort to learn more about it. Buy some Port and drink it, both alone and paired with food. Check out Port from various producers and see how their styles differ. Try pairing Port with food, such as Port and Blue Cheese, or Port and chocolate. Slowly savor a Vintage Port with good friends, reveling in its complexity and diverse flavors.

How will you celebrate Port Day today?

"Port is the oil of good conversation."
--Adrian Bridge

Thursday, September 6, 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) On Wednesday, October 3rd, from 6pm-9:30pm, Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry Dinner will return to Boston Center for the Art's Cyclorama in the South End. The evening will feature a silent auction, cocktail reception, and an exclusive multi-course seated dinner prepared table-side by Boston's top chefs- all benefiting No Kid Hungry‘s work to end childhood hunger in America. As one in five children in this country struggles with hunger, including more than 270,000 kids in MA, No Kid Hungry works tirelessly to lessen these statistics through fundraising events like the No Kid Hungry Dinner.

This year’s No Kid Hungry Dinner features over 20 participating chefs, including: Bambara's David Bazirgan, Bristol Restaurant & Bar's Jessica Biederman, Toro's Jamie Bissonnette, Brasserie Jo's Nick Calias, Boston Urban Hospitality's Chris Coombs, Chickadee's John DaSilva, Cultivar's Mary Dumont, Puritan & Co's Will Gilson, The Smoke Shop BBq's Andy Husbands, Mooncusser Fish House's Carolyn Johnson, Bar Mezzzana's Colin Lynch, Davio's Italian Steakhouse's Rodney Murillo, SRV's Kevin O'Donnell and Michael Lombardi, Bendetto's Michael Pagliarini, Sarma's Cassie Piuma, Outlook Kitchen & Bar's Tatiana Rosana, Waypoint's Michael Scelfo, Eastern Standard's Jeremy Sewall, Select Oyster Bar's Michael Serpa, PABU's Ben Steigers, Tapestry's Meghann Ward, Oak & Rowan's Brian Mercury, Flour Baker & Cafe's Joanne Chang, and MIDA's Douglass Williams.

Tax-deductible tickets range in price from $1,000 for individual tickets to the seated dinner and cocktail reception to $25,000 to a 20-person group ticket. 100% of the proceeds benefit the No Kid Hungry campaign. To purchase tickets or for more information, please visit: https://events.nokidhungry.org/events/bostons-no-kid-hungry-dinner/

2) Bin Ends is back with their Wine Dinner Series, kicking off with Chef/Proprietor Steven LaCount at Chiara Bistro in Westwood on Sunday, September 16th at 6:30 PM. The dinner will  explore the Wines & Cuisine of Southern Italy - a specially prepared meal featuring the cuisine and fine wines of the Abruzzo, Campania, Calabria, & Sicily.

Chef/Owner Steven LaCount and his talented staff will prepare a five-course dinner menu while Bin Ends proprietor John Hafferty DWS has hand-selected the wine for the evening and will serve as master of ceremonies.

The Menu:
~First Course~
Crudo of Branzino (Marinated Manila Clams, Pickled White Balsamic Shallots, Shaved Finger Peppers, Anchovy & Citrus Vinaigrette, Micro Arugula)
2015 Lorenzo Piccione di Pianogrillo Grillo, Sicilia
~Second Course~
Cast Iron Seared Local Swordfish (Saffron Risotto, Orange Braised Fennel, Castelvetrano Olive & Caper Butter Sauce)
2017 Fattoria Nicodemi Rosato di Cerasuolo, Abruzzo
~Third Course~
Linguine Carbonara (Pancetta, Guanciale, Egg Yolk, Caciocavallo Cheese, Parsley)
2014 I Custodi "Pistus" Etna Rosso, Sicilia
~Fourth Course~
Rosemary Crusted Loin of Lamb (Olive Oil Crisped Chickpea Polenta, Sicilian Eggplant Caponata, Herbed Ricotta Cheese Stuffed Squash Blossoms)
2014 Falerno del Massico "Zer05" Primitivo, Campania
~Desert Course~
A Sweet Tour of Sicily
Lemon-Honey Olive Oil Cake, Buttermilk Panna Cotta, Almond Granola
Lemon Curd, Candied Lavender, Blood Orange Supremes
Caffo Limoncino dell'Isola, Calabria

Seating is limited to 30 people. Tickets cost $95 and can be purchased at this link. Once you make your purchase, simply print out your confirmation receipt and bring it with you to Chiara Bistro on the evening of the dinner. Under "Delivery Instructions", choose "In-Store Pick-Up" and Bin Ends will take care of the rest. If there are any members of your dinner party who have specific dining restrictions, please let them know in the NOTES section while placing your order as well.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Sia Blended Scotch: Finding Your Passion

The fascinating story behind Sia Blended Scotch Whisky touches on some universal and important themes, from following your passion to refusing to judge a category by one or two examples. Plus, the Sia is also delicious, a whiskey that could convert non-whiskey drinkers.

I received a bottle of the Sia as a birthday gift from good friends Rob & Laura Ciampa. Of course I needed to learn all that I could about the Sia, especially as I wasn't familiar with the brand. The founder of Sia is Carin Luna-Ostaseski, a native of Miami, Florida, who worked for about 17 years as a Marketing Creative Director for major news outlets and numerous California start-ups. There was a point in time where Carin disliked whiskey, though that was primarily based on a very limited sampling.

One night, while out with some friends and co-workers, one of those co-workers convinced Carin to try some whiskey, hoping to find one that would appeal to her preferences. Carin was willing to take a chance, tasting five different whiskies, and became an instant fan of the Oban 14 Year Old. This brought her the realization that you can't judge a category by only a few samples. There is so much diversity in whiskey and other spirits that there is almost always something for everyone. It is just a matter of finding a whiskey that will appeal to your own preferences. This is true for all alcohols, from Sake to Wine.

Carin began tasting more whiskies, and after a break-up, she began collecting whiskey, eventually accumulating about 300 different bottles. A passion for whiskey can taken hold and she continued to increase her knowledge and experience with whiskey. In time, this led Carin to the idea of creating a new blended Scotch, something to be accessible and affordable. This entailed lots of work in finding partners in Scotland who could source and blend the whisky. Carin decided on the name "Sia," which means the "number six," which is also the date of her birthday. In 2012, Carin eventually decided to run a Kickstarter to raise the funds needed to launch her new brand. With a goal of $39,000, she eventually raised over $45,000, making the campaign a success.

The Sia Blended Scotch Whisky ($49.99) is a blend of 60% grain and 40% malt, sourced 50% from Speyside, 40% Highland, and 10% Islay. It has an ABV of 43% and is imported into the U.S by Spirits Imports, Inc.  It is also important to know that 1% of sales are donated to charities that help women start and grow their businesses.

The nose of the Sia is intriguing, with touches of vanilla, spice, caramel and a tiny waft of smoke. On the palate, it is silky smooth, lacking the burn you find in some other Scotches. You'll find a melange of pleasing flavors, including caramel and vanilla, a strong spicy backbone, and more subtle hints of citrus, smoke, and toffee. It possesses a touch of sweetness and has a lengthy, satisfying finish. It certainly accomplishes its goal of being approachable and accessible. A family member, who generally dislikes whiskey, tasted it and was surprised at how much she liked it. The Sia earns a hearty recommendation.

Thanks to Rob & Laura for introducing me to this tasty whisky,

Monday, September 3, 2018

Rant: Celebrating Restaurant Workers

Today is Labor Day, a national holiday "dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers." It is celebrated on the first Monday every September and is often seen as the unofficial end of Summer. For many people, it is a time for parties and BBQs, eating and drinking. Some may go away for the long weekend, maybe to spend the last weekend at the beach, while others may simply visit a friend or family member's home for a celebration. Not much thought seems to go into the meaning behind this national observance.

Today, I'm hoping that everyone takes at least a little time to think about the underlying meaning of this holiday, and to give thought and thanks to the many good people involved in the local food service industry. Servers, bus persons, cooks, dishwashers, bartenders, hosts/hostesses and more. They work hard to bring you pleasure, to provide you delicious food and drink and to satisfy your cravings and urges. They deserve our gratitude and recognition for all their hard work.

The honor these workers, you should dine out more often, patronizing the excellent restaurants in the local area. Each month, numerous restaurants must close, many due to financial reasons, and if you want your favorite restaurants to survive, you need to dine there more often. Give them your continual support!

When you dine at these restaurants, make sure to tip properly as many of these workers greatly depend on your tips. The issue of tips has garnered lots of press lately, with heated discussions over what is proper, whether restaurants should go tipless, and much more. Patrick Maguire, of I'm Your Server Not Your Servant, has written a number of articles about the issues surrounding tips, providing thoughtful discussion. The main point to remember is that you should tip fairly, and you really need to stop and think about what is fair.

In addition, consumers need to understand about efforts to help the back of the house staff, such as the administrative/hospitality fees used at restaurants like Ledger, Tres Gatos, Casa Verde, Little Dipper Cafe, Brassica Kitchen, and others. This is a small fee, often only 3%, which helps the non-tipped staff who work in the kitchen, behind the scenes, often toiling for long hours to ensure your food is delicious. Some diners bristle at the idea of this tiny fee, though they probably don't understand the rationale behind it.

Finally, when you dine out, please treat all of the restaurant workers with respect and courtesy. Being civil and polite should be a given, but sadly that isn't always the case. Treat restaurant workers in the same manner in which you would want to be treated. We rarely talk about the responsibilities of diners but maybe that should change. Being respectful and courteous while dining out should be a responsibility. If you don't think so, then I suggest you should stay home.

Don't just eat, drink and celebrate today. Please, also give some thought to the meaning of the day, recognizing all the service people who make your life better.