Thursday, November 29, 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) Making plans post-New Year's Eve revelry can be tough both mentally and physically, but  Puritan & Co. is here to help. On January 1st, the folks at Puritan & Co. will be throwing a brunch celebration based on their favorite hangover cure, the Vegas buffet.

Tickets are available for one of two seatings- 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Tickets include as many trips as you'd like to a loaded buffet offering housemade pastries, raw bar, ribeye and smoked pork loin on the carving station, bagels with cured fish and every schmear you've ever dreamt about, sourdough waffles, and more; one complimentary bloody mary, spritz, or mimosa. There will also be a cash bar available.

Tickets cost $100 and can be purchased here: Eventbrite. Refunds can be made up to 7 days before. If you'd like to buy tickets for a large group, please send a note to rebecca@puritancambridge.com

2) On Tuesday, December 4, from 7pm-10pm, Chef Daniel Bruce and the team at the Rowes Wharf Bar are excited to welcome LOUIS XIII Cognac for a reception and three-course dinner hosted by Brand Ambassador Philippe Vasilescu. Enjoy one of the world’s most coveted and expensive spirits while indulging in an inspired three-course meal.

First created in 1874, Louis XIII Cognac is an exquisite blend of up to 1,200 grapes eaux-de-vie sourced 100% from Grande Champagne, the first cru of the Cognac region. The spirit ranges from at least 40 years to 100 years in age. Each decanter is individually numbered and designed after an original 16th Century flask, made from fine crystal. The classic 750ml Louis XIII decanter retails for $3,000. Louis XIII is a product of Remy Martin.

The full menu for the Louis XIII dinner is as follows:
Reception
2009 LOUIS Roederer Cristal Champagne
First Course
Caviar Topped Flash Seared Sturgeon Popped Amaranth, Cognac Cream
LOUIS XIII de Rémy Martin
Second Course
Mint & Fennel Laced Slow Roasted Colorado Lamb Chop (Crispy Wild Mushrooms, Baby Rabe, Black Garlic, Pearl Onion Confit)
2003 Château Cos d'Estournel
Grand Finale
Apple Tart Tatine
Grapefruit Sorbet, Smoked Caramel Fennel Pollen
LOUIS XIII Rémy Martin

Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite for $350 per person (including tax and gratuity). This is a 21+ event.

3) Executive Pastry Chef Joshua Livsey and the entire team at Harvest welcome guests to indulge in a tasty doughnut pop-up that is inspired by the classic holiday movie, The Grinch. On Saturday, December 8th, starting at 10am, the Grinch is stealing more than Christmas with a very special doughnut pop-up. Executive Pastry Chef Joshua Livsey, a doughnut devotee and finalist on the Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship, has crafted a series of festive creations.

The custom doughnuts are $3 each (plus tax) and available in the following seasonal flavors:
Where are you, Christmint (Mint Chocolate)
Who Pudding (Eggnog)
Max Snax (Gingerbread)
Cinn-dy Lou Who (Cinnamon)
You’re a Green One, Mr. Grinch (Pistachio)

Guests are encouraged to arrive early as Joshua’s doughnut pop ups are known to sell out early.

4) On Wednesday, December 5th at 7 p.m., dbar will treat guests to taste of bubbles paired with a four-course dinner. The Best of Bubbles Wine Dinner will feature seasonal parings such as crab cake  with various sparkling wines.

The full menu will include:
First
Pear and Frisée salad, Hazelnut Vinaigrette, Laura Chenel Goat Cheese
Bollicini Prosecco Veneto, Italy
Second
Crab Cake, Delicata Squash Ribbons, Bernaise, Grilled Lemon
Pol Roger White Foil Champagne France
Main
Roast Pork Loin and Brunos BBQ Ribs, Black eyed peas and collard Greens, Crispy Shallots
Scarpetta Frico Lambrusco Emilia Romagna, Italy
Dessert
Créme Brulée with Spiced Plum Sorbet
Cavas Hill Cuvée Panot - Cava Rosé Penedès, Spain

Cost: $65 per person.
Reservations can be made by phone at (617) 265-4490.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

My Favorite Fiction of 2018: Lots Of Book Recommendations

What were your favorite fiction books this year?

Back in December 2011, I started a series, Authors, Alcohol & Accolades, which asked some of my favorite authors about their preferred drinks, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic. There have been 11 editions of this column so far, with more coming in the future. The inspiration for this series is that I am a voracious reader, of both fiction and nonfiction, and I wanted to combine that interest with my love of food & drink. The series has proven popular and it has been fascinating to explore what authors enjoy drinking.

Each year, as an addendum to that series, I've been posting a list of my Favorite Fiction Books, including books of Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror and Mystery/Crime/Thriller. During the past twelve months, I've read over 200 books, both fiction and non-fiction, which provides a large pool for my choices. Most of the books on these lists were published in 2018, though there are some exceptions which were published in prior years but which I didn't read until this past year.

Onto my Book Recommendations...

First, let me provide my Top Three Reads Of The Year, those three books which thoroughly impressed and engaged me, compelling works which I've already read at least twice this year, and which I'll read again in the future. These exceptional books have my highest, and unqualified, recommendation.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
A compelling fantasy, based in part on Chinese history, this is a grim and riveting novel, depicting the horrors of war, including the moral decisions that may be made. In part, it is also a coming of age novel, detailing how a determined, young peasant girl is able to enter an elite military academy and become a potent force against those seeking to destroy her country. The history of China is well integrated into this tale, the characters are interesting, and the magic system is intriguing. And the ending has a powerful and shocking impact! Such an impressive debut novel from R.F. Kuang and I eagerly await the sequel.

The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky by John Hornor Jacobs
I've long enjoyed the work of John Hornor Jacobs and this could be the best thing he's ever written. It is a superb novella on several different levels. It is very well-written, evoking such powerful emotions with poetic & beautiful language. On the surface, the book is about an odd friendship, fueled in part by a shared origin in a repressive South American regime. Then, the story becomes about so much more, such as cosmic horror and mundane evil, love and hope. It is absolutely riveting from start to finish, and on a reread, you will find more of the nuances that you might have missed from a first read.

The Midnight Front by David Mack
I was hooked on this book from the very beginning and I remained so until the very end. An impressive and riveting supernatural thriller, this book focuses on a magical war during WWII. The magic system, where wielders derive their powers from demons, is intriguing and well developed. The magical battles are intense, complex and fascinating. The various characters are interesting and their moral dilemmas helped to elevate the novel. WWII was well integrated into the narrative and you experience a number of the most important aspects of the war. The novel can be dark at times, as expected, but overall there is a thread of hope pervading through the text. Plus, alcohol, from wine to spirits, plays a role which especially pleased me. This is another book where I highly anticipate the sequel.

Second, let me provide some of my other Favorite SF/Fantasy/Horror Novels of 2018. Please note that these books are not in any specific order of preference.

Starless by Jacqueline Carey
Priest of Bones by Peter McLean
Iron Gold by Pierce Brown 
Blood of the Four by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence 
The Point by John Dixon
Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
Shadowblack and Charmcaster by Sebastien de Castell 
The Moons of Barsk by Lawrence Schoen
Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellan
A Veil of Spears by Bradley Beaulieu 
Mecha Samurai Empire by Peter Tieryas

And these two books deserve some recognition for simply being fun, popcorn-novels.
Chicken Dinner: A Novel of Battle Royale by Timothy Long
Kill Hill Carnage by Tim Meyer

Third, here are my Top 10 Favorite Mystery/Crime/Thriller Novels of 2018. From gritty noir to more high-tech thrillers, this books are exciting and riveting, sure to get your blood pumping and your heart racing.

Into The Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner
Super Con by James Swain
The Far Empty and High White Sun by J. Todd Scott
Hellbent by Gregg Hurwitz 
Raven's Sword by Adam Baker
Blood Standard by Laird Barron
Deep Silence by Jonathan Maberry
She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper
Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Fourth, here are My Favorite Novellas of 2018. Novellas often seem to get ignored on many other "Best Of" lists but I believe they are definitely worthy of attention, especially considering the high quality novellas that are appearing more frequently.

War Cry by Brian McClellan
Invasion, Scorched Earth, and Bitter Harvest (Seeds of War #trilogy) by Jonathan Brazee and Lawrence Schoen

All of the books on this list garner my earnest recommendation and you should check them out. They would make great holiday gifts for others, or even yourself. Please support an author, a small, independent business person, and buy more books. And if you read and enjoy a book, please leave a review of that book online and also tell your friends about it. The author would greatly appreciate your efforts.

What were some of your favorite books this year?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Alsace Pinot Noir: For Thanksgiving & Much More

When you think of wine from Alsace, you're most likely to think of their white wines, from Riesling to Gewürztraminer, from Pinot Blanc to Muscat. You might be hard pressed to identify a red grape used in Alsace, though if you're a fan of Crémant d'Alsace, especially their Rosé versions, you might know Pinot Noir is grown there. In fact, Pinot Noir is the only red grape authorized for Alsace AOC Red wines and Rosé.

Don't feel bad if you didn't know Alsace produces Pinot Noir wines. Unfortunately, only about 2,800 cases, a mere drop in the bucket, of Alsace Pinot Noir were imported into the U.S. in 2016. That makes it a very tiny niche wine and it needs to grow and grow, as Alsace Pinot Noir is delicious and compelling, worthy of notice.

Within Alsace, Pinot Noir is planted in nearly 11% of their vineyards, and they produce about 105,000 hectoliters of wine with Pinot Noir, which appears to include Crémant d'Alsace, Rosé and Red still wines. Pinot Noir has a lengthy history in the Alsace region, with some claiming it extends back to the ancient Romans. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Alsace Pinot Noir was even more valued than all of their white wines. For unknown reasons, that changed over time so that their wine wines came to dominate.

Within the various terroirs of Alsace, it has been learned that Pinot Noir grows best in their clay and limestone soils, while Pinot Noir grown in more gravel and sandy soils is best suited for use in Crémant d'Alsace and Rosé. In addition, due to climate change, temperatures in Alsace have risen, making it easier to ripen their Pinot Noir. Some of the best areas to grow Pinot Noir are also designated Grand Cru, but only for white wines. Currently, Pinot Noir cannot be designated as Grand Cru though there are efforts to change this and it seems likely that within several years, Grand Cru Pinot Noir will be authorized.

In general, Alsace Pinot Noir tends to present bright red fruit flavors, crisp acidity, and vibrant freshness. Many are intended to be consumed while young though some have the potential for aging. Oak aging is sometimes used, and when it is, it is more of a light touch, allowing the fruit to take center stage. Curiously, their Pinot Noir is usually bottled  in "flutes," those bottles you most commonly see used for Riesling.

Pinot Noir is often recommended for Thanksgiving, a complement to turkey, and this year I enjoyed three Alsace Pinot Noirs with my Thanksgiving feast. Beside the turkey, we also had a honeymoon roast. All three were excellent wines, as well as each having its own distinctive characteristics. My guests each had their own personal favorite of the three wines, though they too enjoyed all three. This isn't the first time I've tasted Alsace Pinot Noir, but it certainly has provided me even more reason to promote this compelling niche wine.

Please note that two of the Pinot Noirs (the Ostertag and Schlumberger) were media samples while I purchased the Binner on my own. I'm also presenting the wines in order of their vintage, from the youngest to oldest.

Domaine Ostertag isn't as old as some of the historic Alsace wineries, but it still makes an impact in the region. In 1966, winemaker André Ostertag returned to his family estate and founded Domaine Ostertag. André had previously trained in the Burgundy region, which obviously gave him experience with Pinot Noir. At his family's estate, he improved vineyard management and in 1997, he started instituting Biodynamic agriculture in his 35 acre vineyard. The winery produces three wine ranges, including Vins de Fruit (expressive of the grape variety), Vins de Pierre (expressive of terroir), and Vins de Temps (expressive of overripeness or noble rot).

The 2016 Domaine Ostertag "Les Jardins" Pinot Noir ($27) is made from 100% Pinot Noir, from 20+ year old vines. The wine was aged in stainless steel tanks for about nine months, has a 12% ABV, and is certified Biodynamic. This wine was the darkest red of the three, with an intense aroma of red and black fruits, and a touch of an earthy smell. On the palate, the wine presented with a complex blend of bold flavors, including red cherry, black cherry, and strawberry, with a prominent earthy element, a touch of the savage. Good acidity, with a fairly long and satisfying finish. It especially paired well with our honeymoon roast.

Domaine Christian Binner is nearly 250 years old, having been established in 1770. The estate now owns vineyards in the Kaefferkopf, Schlossberg and Wineck-Schlossberg Grands Crus and other parcels in Ammerschwihr, with most vines averaging 35 years old, and the rest between 60 and 100 years old. It has been sustainable farmed for about 35 years and in 2012, the winery built an eco-friendly winery, whose roof is covered in soil. They produce a wide range of wines, from Crémant d’Alsace to Late-Harvest.

The 2015 Domaine Christian Binner Pinot Noir ($33) is also made from 100% Pinot Noir, with 60% of the grapes an average age of 35-years old and 40% being over 60 years, including some that are over 100 years old. The wine was aged for about 11 months in 100 year old wood vats. It is also certified Biodynamic, unfiltered, has a 13% ABV, and has no added yeast or sulfites. This wine also had an alluring nose of red fruits and earthiness, with a hint of spice. On the palate, it was lighter than the Ostertag, but with a similar flavor profile in many respects, though tending more toward red fruits rather than black ones. It's earthiness was also milder than the Ostertag. A well balanced wine, with a lengthy, pleasing finish, it paired well with the turkey, as well as a the roast.

Domaines Schlumberger got its start in 1810, when a small vineyard was added to their textile business. Since then, the estate has grown significantly, owning over 330 acres in Geubwiller, and also vineyards in the Grands Crus of Kitterlé, Kessler, Saering and Spiegel, making them the largest Grand Crus owner in Alsace. The estate is now operated and managed by the 6th and 7th generations of the Schlumberger family. The estate has about 30 acres of Pinot Noir, with 20% planted in the Grand Cru Saering.

The 2014 Domaines Schlumberger "Les Princes Abbés" Pinot Noir ($25) is produced from 100% Pinot Noir, from vines of an average age of 19 years. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and then aged on the lees for about 8 months in old wooden foudres. This was a wine of silky elegance, of bright, fresh red fruit flavors, a hint of spice, and a wisp of earthiness. Excellent acidity, some floral accents, soft tannins, and a lengthy, pleasing finish. Such a well balanced and delicious wine, it went perfectly with the turkey. And I loved this wine! That elegance was so compelling and its complex melange of flavors pleased me immensely. Highly recommended.

Overall, all three Pinot Noirs were excellent choices, helping to showcase the diversity of Alsace, as well as being illustrative of its terroir and quality. It's a shame so little Alsace Pinot Noir finds its way to our shores and hopefully that will change in the near future. If you love Pinot Noir, I strongly encourage you to seek out those from Alsace. Plus, check out Crémant d'Alsace Rosé, which is also made from Pinot Noir.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Rant: Helping The Less Fortunate

As November winds down, and we still ponder the memories of our recent Thanksgiving celebrations, our thoughts also reach out to the upcoming December holiday season. You might already be planning the food and drink you'll enjoy, or thinking about what presents to purchase for your loved ones. Your thoughts will likely be directed to how you can maximize your own enjoyment of these upcoming holidays.

However, please stop and ponder another significant thought: Don't forget those less fortunate.

Let us work together to help those who need some assistance this holiday season, even if it requires a little sacrifice on our part. Make this a meaningful holiday season, rather than a selfish one. Though many of us love and enjoy the holiday season, it can be a very sad and disappointing time for those with little or nothing. Every community has some people who find it difficult merely to pay for basic essentials, let alone to buy holiday gifts or prepare a special holiday feast. We can help though, and try to bring some joy to the less fortunate. Share your largess with others, helping those who truly need it.

Even though these are tough economic times for many of us, we all probably can help out others, even if only in little ways. If you cannot spare money, then donate your time, maybe spending it at a food bank or shelter. Or make something to give to others, such as baking a pie, cookies or casserole. Donate old clothes or other durable items which you no longer use. There are many different ways to help out others besides just monetary donations.

During this season, there will be numerous restaurants, chefs, shops and others which will hold special charitable events. Talk about these events, promote them on social media, and spread the word far and wide. Attend those events, encouraging others to do the same. Give to your favorite charities, whatever they might be. I want to hear about your charitable efforts to help those less fortunate. Be creative in your efforts, even if your own finances are tight.

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

Let us share with all during this upcoming holiday season, bringing together everyone in a more united community. There are enough divisions in our world right now and we need more unity, especially at this time. Don't just think of yourself but think of others, think about what you can do to make this world a better place.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving: Giving Thanks

Today, all across America, many of us will gather together with family, friends and others, savoring a lavish feast of food and drink. We might also attend local football games, watch it on TV, or check out the Macy's Day Parade. We will talk and laugh, toast and cheer, savoring all the goodness of the day, reveling in the joy of the holiday. However, amidst all this merriment, we should not forget the deeper meaning of the day. It is about far more than turkey and wine, stuffing and football, pecan pie and naps.

Thanksgiving is a day for reflection upon our lives, to ponder and be thankful for all of the positive things in our lives. We need to appreciate the goodness in our lives, to be happy with everything we have (and I don't mean in a material sense). No matter what troubles or adversities we might face in our lives, I am absolutely sure there is also much to bring us joy.

Our focus today, and actually how it should be every day, should be on the positive aspects of our lives. Savoring the positive in our lives can brighten the darker parts of our lives, and place everything in perspective. Complaining and criticizing often accomplish little and instead we should concentrate on solutions. We can make our lives better if we truly desire to do so. It may take time and effort, but we can accomplish much with a positive mindset.

I am thankful for many other things in my life, including family, friends, health, and much more. I am thankful for all my blog readers. It would take too long to list every single thing I am thankful for here, but I will take the time to reflect upon all of them today. I will try not to dwell on the negative elements in my life. It will hopefully be a day of appreciation and reflection, of hope and a brighter future.

I fervently hope that everyone else can embrace the positive, rather than dwelling on the negative. Share your positive feelings with your family and friends. Tell them that you love them, thank them for being in your life. It may be corny, but a hug and kind words can mean so very much. And you'll never regret it.

I'm going to enjoy plenty of tasty food and drink today, but I will remember that today is about more than the feasting. It is primarily a time for thanks, for all the good that is in our lives, and for being with the people we care about and love.

(This is a reprint of an article from November 2015 which remains as relevant now as it did then.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Les Vins Georges Duboeuf: Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé Comes To The U.S.

Some people feel that Beaujolais Nouveau is simple to produce, and thus show disdain for this "first wine" of the vintage. However, earlier this year, Romain Teyteau, the North America Export Director for Les Vins Georges Duboeuf, told me that Beaujolais Nouveau is actually a complicated wine to produce, as it requires many consecutive hours of production, with the use of 24 hour shifts. There is so little time for error so everything must be done perfectly, to ensure the success of production.

Last week, on Thursday, November 15, it was Beaujolais Nouveau, which is celebrated annually on the third Thursday of November when French law allows the release of this "first wine" of the harvest. I received a media sample of the 2018 Les Vins Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé, sampling it over the weekend.

For more information on Les Vins Georges Duboeuf, Beaujolais and the Gamay grape, please check out my prior article, Les Vins Georges Duboeuf: The Beauty Of Beaujolais. Georges Duboeuf is a négociant, representing over 400 winegrowers in Beaujolais, and is sometimes referred to as the “King of Beaujolais” for his ardent advocacy of Beaujolais, especially the promotion of Beaujolais Nouveau. He currently controls about 10% of the production of all Beaujolais wines.

This year, for the first time, Les Vins Georges Duboeuf has exported to the U.S. a Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé. This wine is made by the same winemakers, Emeric Gaucher and Denis Lapalu,  which make their regular Beaujolais Nouveau. "Rosé's lighter, fresh profile is similar to the description of Beaujolais Nouveau, so it's no surprise that the Gamay grape would be a natural to produce high quality Rosé. They seek Gamay grapes for the Rosé which possess a slightly high acidity, allowing the wine to possess a "fresh mouthfeel."

The label for this wine, which is on all of this year's Beaujolais Nouveau labels, depicts an abstract oil painting, called Foolish Pleasure, that was created by a Nashville, Tennessee native Chloe Meyer, who won, out of a field of over 680 entries, the Georges Duboeuf Artist's Label Competition. 

The 2018 Les Vins Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé ($13.99) is made from 100% Gamay, has a 12.5% ABV, and about 10,000 cases were imported into the U.S. With a bright pink color, this wine had a nose of bright red fruit, and on the palate, those red fruit flavors, especially strawberry and cherry were prominent, though with minor notes of citrus too. It was dry and crisp, with some underlying minerality, and had a pleasing, though short, finish. Easy drinking, it is an excellent food wine and would fit well on your Thanksgiving table. I paired it with some Crab Ravioli, in a white wine & garlic sauce, and it went very well together.

Grab a bottle of the new Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé quickly as it wont be around long.


Monday, November 19, 2018

Rant: When Choosing Holiday Wines, Don't Be A Cheapskate

With Thanksgiving coming on Thursday, many people will be stop by their local wine shop to purchase wines for their upcoming feast. In addition, they will soon start thinking about buying wines for other holiday celebrations, from Christmas to Hanukkah, from Boxing Day to Festivus. I've previously given some suggestions on choosing Thanksgiving wines in Stop Stressing Over Thanksgiving Wines. I have one more piece of advice, which applies to all the wine you'll purchase this holiday season.

Stop being a cheapskate! 

In preparation for the holidays, people stock up on wine to serve their guests at the various parties and celebrations. Often, because they are buying bottles in bulk, their primary concern is price. They generally want to purchase wine that costs $10 per bottle or less and usually end up buying the large, commercial "value" wines, such as the Barefoot or Yellow Tail. It takes almost no thought to buy such wines. Though such wines might be drinkable, they aren't going to impress anyone. You've chosen to take the cheapest route possible, in both price and time.

If you're hosting a holiday party, don't you want to impress your guests? Or do you want to be known as the person who bought the cheapest wine available? Don't you want your guests to leave the party talking about the great time they had, telling others about the delicious wines they enjoyed? Or would you rather have them later complain that the wine was unappealing?

It only takes a little extra work, and maybe price, to elevate your wine selections. Or would you rather be known as a wine cheapskate by your guests, who know you bought cheap wine with no real thought?

I certainly understand the need to control your wine costs when you are providing for a number of guests. You don't have to buy $50 wines to impress your guests and you don't even have to spend $20 per bottle. I have purchased numerous $10 wines and brought them to parties where the other guests loved then, wanting to know where they could buy them. There are good and interesting wines at this price point, if you know where to seek them out. If you want your holiday celebration to be even more popular, then you need to serve those type of wines. The extra effort will elevate your party and please your family, friends, and other guests.

How do you find these inexpensive but interesting wines?

To start, the easiest path is to seek out one of the better discount wine stores. These places often carry a good selection of wines costing $10 or under, much more than you will find at a regular wine store. You'll find plenty of variety in these inexpensive wines, whites and reds, domestic and imported. You'll find wines comparable in price to those large commercial "value" wines but which offer much more character, taste and value.

My top three recommendations for discount wine stores include Bin Ends in Braintree and NeedhamWine Connextion in North Andover, and Rapid Liquors in Stoneham. Make the effort and drive to one of these discount spots and find better value wines. The investment of time will pay off, creating many happy guests at your next party.

For example, when I go to Bin Ends in Needham, I'll can purchase a couple cases of wine, averaging $10 per bottle, and get a nice diversity of wines, reds, whites & rose. These wines will satisfy most people. They are excellent every-day wines, and work well as inexpensive wines for larger parties too. Rapid Liquors has recently expanded their store, offering a large selection and you can always find excellent values there. The Wine Connextion also offers excellent prices, even better than many you would find in New Hampshire.

If you some reason you can't make it to one of these discount wine shops, you still have options. At whatever wine shop you visit, it might be best to ask the wine store staff for recommendations of value wines. They should be able to direct you toward those inexpensive wines which will be more interesting and delicious than those cheap commercial wines. You should also remember that most wine stores offer a discount for bulk purchases, sometimes as few as 6 wines, which is another way to save money on your purchases.

But if for some reason you can't ask a store employee for some recommendations, then my best advice for selecting a good wine that is $10 or under, is to buy a Portuguese wine. At this time, I think some of the greatest value wines are coming out of Portugal, especially at this price point. Chances are that if you purchase a Portuguese wine costing $10 or less, you will find a delicious wine, much better than similarly priced wines from most other regions. And there are plenty of Portuguese wines available in that price range. There is probably no other wine region where you can find as many good wines at that price point.

You also should know that paying a few dollars more for your wine can make a big difference. When you start considering wines priced from $10-$15, your options increase drastically. You can find some interesting wines from all over the world in that price range, though they still offer value. And if you are buying in bulk where the wine store offers a discount for larger purchases, you can save enough money so that the wines end up priced closer to $10 per bottle.

So this holiday season, don't buy the same old cheap wines. It won't take much effort to select some better choices, and still very inexpensively. In the end, you'll impress your guests, make your holiday party more memorable, and drink better wines.

(This is a slightly revised version of a prior post which remains as relevant now as it did when first posted.)

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Table at Season To Taste: An Intimate Gem

As I've mentioned before, it's usually the newer restaurants that get the most attention. Thus, as time goes by, some excellent restaurants fall off the radar, despite the fact they remain worthy of your attention. They are generally known by the appreciative locals that live near the restaurant, but others may rarely make the effort to journey to those spots. Shining the light on these under-appreciated gems is more than warranted.

Recently, I dined, as a media guest, at one such restaurant, The Table at Season To Taste, located in northern Cambridge on Massachusetts Avenue, not far from the Arlington line. Having opened in 2016, the restaurant has an unassuming facade and it adjoins their catering division. The restaurant is owned by Robert Harris, a chef who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and has worked at other local restaurants including Olives, Rialto, East Coast Grill, EVOO, and Casablanca. I'd never dined here before and knew little about it until recently. Now, I can't wait to return and try their new menu when it changes.

Inside, you'll find an intimate restaurant, with only twenty-seats and an open kitchen. It has a homey vibe, with four seats located at the counter in front of the kitchen and sixteen seats at tables on the left side of the restaurant. I love open kitchens and enjoy the ambiance of this tiny spot. Due to its small size, I strongly suggest you make reservations to ensure you can get a seat.

Executive Chef Carl Dooley, a Cambridge native presides over the kitchen, and his passion for cooking and restaurants extends back to high school, when he started working at a lobster shack in Maine. He eventually graduated from the New England Culinary Institute, and in time, started working as Chef de Cuisine at Craigie on Main under Chef Tony Maws. He earned a “Rising Star Chef” award in 2015 and participated in the 13th season of Top Chef. In 2016, he went out on his own, to head the kitchen at The Table. I'll note that several of The Table's employees also once worked at Craigie on Main.

The Table offers a Four-Course Tasting Menu, priced at $98 (with tax and hospitality included). For each course, you have your choice of two options, and the entire menu changes every 4-6 weeks. A Vegetarian menu is available upon request and you can order a la carte options ($17-$35) at the Wine Bar seats.

Their pricing system is progressive, intended to benefit everyone who works at the restaurant, both front and back of the house, and your gratuity is included within the pricing. As their website states, "As a means to more equitably support our team and cultivate a sustainable staffing model we have all decided to no longer accept gratuity, but rather include labor costs in the price of our food and beverage. This ensures a living wage for our entire staff, both front and back of the house." Thus, when you look at their menu prices, including their beverage costs, consider that tax, gratuity and hospitality is built into those prices.

With your dinner, you can order a Wine Pairing for $55 per person. Jesse Eslin, their Wine Director, has curated an intriguing wine, beer, cider and beverage list. You'll find interesting non-alcoholic choices, including House-Made Shrubs, Non-alcoholic Wine, Spindrift Soda, and MEM Cold Brew Iced Tea. There is a small list of 12 beers and ciders ($6-$18), including items such as Schlenkerla Marzen and Dieu de Ciel Peche Morte (a Montreal Imperial Coffee Stout).

The wine list certainly perked my interest, which contained more fascinating small producers, some using more unique grapes. They have 9 wines available by the glass, including 1 Sparkling, 3 White, 3 Red, and 2 Rosé wines, priced $15-$17. They also have about 50 wines available by the bottle, including 3 Sparkling, 12 White, 17 Red, and 17 "Last Call" wines, priced from $59 to $143. Almost half the list is from France, with others coming from Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Portugal, Oregon, California, Texas, and New York. The list changes on a regular basis as well. Wine lovers will be excited as they peruse the list, curious to sample so many different bottles. The Wine Pairing option is a good choice to experience several different wines, chosen specifically to match each dish.

For example, we began dinner with a flute of the Hild Elbling Trocken, a German sparkling wine made from the more unique Elbling grape. I've never tasted this grape before and this example was impressive, with bright acidity, pleasant flavors of tart lemon, apple and peach, and an underlying minerality. Dry and clean, this bubbly was an excellent aperitif and it's inclusion is indicative of the type of intriguing wines that Jesse has compiled.

Another of the wines we enjoyed was the Filipa Pato Tinto, a Portuguese wine made from the Baga grape. This is a killer producer who always delivers, and this wine wasn't an exception. Silky smooth, with delicious black fruits flavors, enhanced by spice notes and a touch of chocolate.

During our dinner, the wine service was conducted by Felicia Aronson, who usually spends about half her time working the floor, and the other half working in the kitchen. She brought plenty of passion and wine knowledge, providing excellent service.

Prior to our first course being served, we received an extra starter, which included Venison Salami, Mutsu apples & Shelburne Farms Cheddar, and a Turnip & Pear Soup. A fun, tasty and seasonal group of dishes. Though I'm not a turnip fan, the creamy soup was good, with bright pear flavors. And the venison salami was excellent, with a touch of rustiness and nice spices.

As for dinner, as there were two of us, we could each order a different option, and thus have the opportunity to experience the entire menu. I highly recommend this course of action if you don't mind sharing.

For the First Course, one option was the Smoked Trout & Cabbage Salad, made with apples, house-made mustard and pickled turnip. I tasted the trout which was cooked just right and was flavorful with a pungent touch from the mustard.

I selected the option of Duck Liver Mousse En Gelle, cured duck breast with pickled cherries and grilled onion. The dish doesn't photograph well because of the very dark cherry gelle atop the mousse, but it was absolutely delicious. A silky and earthy mousse with sweetness from the cherries, I slathered plenty on the home-made, grilled bread.

For the Second Course, one option was the Local Broccoli Ravioli, with little neck clams, oregano, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. My dining companion, who had been at the restaurant before, loved these ravioli, mentioning they were one of her favorite items. I'll note that this was an ample-sized course and not just a small teaser.

I chose the Brown Rice & Sweet Potato Congee, with wild boar sausage, Matsutake mushrooms, pine nuts, and Szechuan chili. Congee is basically an Asian-type of rice porridge, and there are many variations in the various Asian countries. This dish impressed me with its depth of flavor, varied textures, and it was perfect for a chilly fall evening. There was plenty of moist, tender wild boar, chunks of sweet potatoes, and crunchy pine nuts, There was a mild spiciness to the dish which built over time, and it was also an ample-sized dish. Pure comfort food and highly recommended.

For the last savoy course, one option was the Roasted Chicken Thigh with butternut squash curry, pickled mango, and toasted almonds. I tasted the chicken, which was incredibly moist and flavorful, probably one of the best I've tasted in some time. The curry immediately brought to mind the tastes of India and perfectly complemented the chicken. Another winning dish.

My choice were the Glazed Local Scallops with heirloom apple purée, braised kimchee, and sesame oil. There was a great sear on the sweet scallops, and they were enhanced by the apple puree. Another well-composed and tasty dish, with Asian accents.

Desserts and breads are created by Pastry Chef Mary Edinger, who also once worked at Craigie on Main as well as No.9 Park.

The Pumpkin-Nicke Bundt Cake, with rum raisin ice cream, bittersweet chocolate sauce, and fried pepitas, was a fine seasonal dessert.

My choice was the Apple Slab Pie, made from local apples and topped by green cardamom ice cream. The light, flaky crust was buttery, the apples were tender and flavorful, and the ice cream added an intriguing flavor component with the cardamom. An excellent ending to this meal, and I would love to have this on my Thanksgiving table.

Overall, The Table at Season To Taste and Executive Chef Carl Dooley earn my hearty recommendation. From the intimate feel of the restaurant to the creativity and taste of the cuisine, the restaurant delivers a quality experience. Combine that with stellar service and a fascinating wine list, and the experience is even greater. I look forward to checking out their next menu, to see the new creations of Chef Dooley and his team.

Thursday, November 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) On Wednesday, November 14, at 6:30pm, Legal Harborside will host a four-plus-course champagne dinner featuring Dom Pérignon and the brand’s French wine aficionado, Diego Del Pino who has been extensively involved in the wine industry for more than fifteen years and prides himself on his knowledge and excitement for all wines - but especially burgundy and champagne - along with his role as managing the wine portfolio for Moet Hennessy in the Northeast region.

Beginning centuries ago, the world renowned Dom Pérignon collection derives from a young Dom Pierre Pérignon whose ambitious dream was to create the best wine in the world when he was named the cellarer of Hautvillers Abbey, located in the heart of Champagne, in 1668. Gifted with a visionary mind, Dom Pierre Pérignon created, perfected and improved on rudimentary techniques to create a wine like no other. The Abbey's holdings flourished under his tenure, in particular its vineyards. The wine of Dom Pierre Pérignon was the result of imagination, experimentation and audacity, the achievement of a lifetime dedicated to the quest for perfection. Today, Dom Pérignon is reinvented with every Vintage. Precise and tactile to the point of seamlessness, tense through rhythm and vibrancy, vigorous and fresh yet mature, intense and complex, such is the sensual style of Dom Pérignon: so inviting, yet so mysterious.

The menu for the four-plus-course champagne dinner will be presented as follows:

HORS D'OEUVRES
Cape Scallop Tartlet, White Wine Garlic Pan Sauce
Potato Blini, Crème Fraiche, Caviar
Foie Gras Terrine, Brioche Toast Point, Red Onion Jam
Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé, NV
FIRST COURSE
Pan-Seared Scallops (miso butter, crispy taro, maitake mushrooms)
Dom Pérignon, 2009
SECOND COURSE
Butter-Poached Lobster (aged parmesan polenta, chanterelle mushrooms, vanilla butter)
Dom Pérignon, 2006
THIRD COURSE
Pan-Roasted Pheasant (delicata squash pureé, Brussels sprouts hash, veal demi-glace)
Dom Pérignon Rosé, 2005
CHEESE COURSE
Challerhocker (Switzerland)
Pecorino Gran Cru (Italy)
Brebis Mousse (France)
Dom Pérignon “P2” (Plénitude Deuxième), 2000

COST: $275 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)
Reservation required by calling 617-530-9397

2) The Boston Wine Festival returns to Boston Harbor Hotel this winter with a highly anticipated lineup of events to commemorate the festival’s 30th anniversary. Chef Daniel Bruce, founder of the Boston Wine Festival, presents an all-star lineup of winemaker-hosted dinners, seminars, receptions and brunches for this milestone anniversary. For three decades, Chef Bruce and Boston Harbor Hotel have welcomed top winemakers from around the world to Boston for this one-of-a-kind celebration of food and wine. The festival is the nation’s longest running extensive wine and food pairing series, kicking off with a Grand Opening Reception on Friday, January 11, 2019 and continuing through Friday, March 29, 2019.

Celebrated Boston Wine Festival traditions like the Battle of the Cabernets (January 17 and January 18), Meritage Madness (January 25), and the Valentine’s Day Dinner Dance (February 16) return to the festival lineup this year in addition to an incredible schedule of dinners hosted by winemakers from around the globe. Noteworthy dinners at the 2019 Boston Wine Festival include Trimbach (February 7), one of two all-white wine dinners this year and hosted by 12th generation winery owner Jean Trimbach. Frog’s Leap Winery (February 14) returns to the Boston Harbor with John Williams, who is hosting his tenth Boston Wine Festival dinner since 1992 with a memorable event celebrating three decades of wine. Silver Oak (March 8) winemaker, Daniel Baron, comes out of retirement for the special evening which he co-hosts alongside longtime Silver Oak owner, David Duncan.

For 30 years we’ve been welcoming some of the most renowned winemakers in the world and emerging talent to the Boston Wine Festival and I’m thrilled to introduce the fantastic partners that are joining us for this milestone year,” says Chef Bruce. “There’s always something new to explore at the festival, whether it’s your first year joining us or your 30th. My approach to menu creation for our wine dinners has always been tasting the wines first then developing a menu based on the flavor profiles. Each wine we’re presenting has its own story, so it allows us to create a unique menu for each dinner that really celebrates these fantastic wines and the winemakers who create them.

The 2019 Boston Wine Festival schedule includes a new festival tradition, the first annual charity reception Uncorked for a Cause (February 15) in partnership with Share our Strength. Hosted by designer and personality, Taniya Nayak, the walk-around style event will feature wines from around the world with small plates from Chef Bruce and complete with a show-stopping wine wall auction to benefit Share our Strength and the fight to end hunger and poverty. Other notable dinners and events debuting at the festival this year include: Copper Cane (January 24), Halter Ranch Vineyard (February 13), Domaine François Villard (February 21) and DeLille Cellars (March 1).

Tickets are available for purchase at Boston Wine Festival.  Guests who purchase tickets for any 2019 Boston Wine Festival event now through December 31, 2018 will be entered to win a trip for two to Napa Valley, California for a three-night, once in a lifetime wine experience on Columbus Day Weekend 2019 (October 10 – 13). Two sets of winners will be announced at the Uncorked for a Cause event and will receive roundtrip airfare, luxury hotel accommodations, wine tasting experiences at Far Niente and Opus One Winery and tickets to the annual Frogtoberfest Dinner at Frog’s Leap Winery hosted by John Williams and presented by Chef Daniel Bruce.

All Boston Wine Festival events take place at the iconic Boston Harbor Hotel which invites Wine Festival guests to take the elevator home with special room rates available.

3) Ward 8, a Boston cocktail bar and gastropub, is turning five and celebrating the occasion with plenty of food, drinks, and fun! The Ward 8 team is opening its doors to the public and inviting guests to join them for a not-to-miss anniversary celebration on Tuesday, November 27, from 9pm to Close. The party will feature a DJ, complimentary bites previewing All Day Hospitality's newest, upcoming concept, Tony and Elaine's, specialty original cocktails, Parlor Ice Cream Co. sandwiches, and more.

To make Reservations, please call 617) 823-4478.

4) On Monday, December 10th at 6:15pm, Slow Food Boston invites you to a Shared Supper next month in celebration of Terra Madre Day! Terra Madre Day is a major Slow Food event, celebrating local food on a global scale. Every December 10th, people around the world organize parties and gatherings to celebrate good, clean and fair food: good quality and flavorsome; clean for our bodies, for animals and for the planet; fair for producers and consumers alike. This year, Terra Madre Day is focused on Food for Change, Slow Food’s international fundraising campaign to highlight the role of food as a cause, victim, and potential solution to climate change.

Join friends and loved ones for an unforgettable meal at Loyal Nine, where Chef Marc Sheehan brings New England culinary traditions to the forefront in his east coast revival cuisine. On this night, enjoy a family-style, multi-course dinner featuring menu favorites along with one-of-a-kind dishes highlighting seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. The Cost of this event is $55 per person.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Georgian Chacha: The Devil's Brandy

In the legends of the country of Georgia, wine was a gift from God while chacha, a pomace brandy, was a creation of the devil.

It's said that God created wine to remind Georgians of the wonders of heaven, and he first shared wine with all of his angels, as well as the devil. Though they all enjoyed the wine, it motivated the devil to try to compete with God and create his own alcoholic beverage. The devil created chacha, a potent spirit, and let God sample the fiery beverage. God finally declared that if Georgians drank three glasses or less of chacha, they remained with him, but if they had a fourth glass, they belonged to the devil.

As Georgians love to drink, they came up with a way to avoid falling under the influence of the devil. They simply drink chacha rapidly, in quick shots, so the devil won't be able to keep track and count how much they actually drank.

Chacha is a Georgian pomace brandy, similar in many respects of Italian grappa, though it is sometimes called Georgian "vodka." Pomace consists of the leftover skins, pulp, and seeds from the winemaking process. The origins of chacha are murky, with some claims that it has existed for about 1000 years in Georgia. It was commonly made in makeshift stills at homes and generally wasn't commercially produced until the 20th century. It is potent, often with a 40-60% ABV, and sometimes is aged in qvevri or oak barrels. For centuries, it has been claimed that chacha has medicinal properties, a remedy for a long list of ailments.

Chacha is still very much a niche spirit outside of Georgia. During the period of January to July 2018, Georgia exported only 219,500 bottles of chacha, though that was a 114% increase over the similar period a year before. Chacha is available in Massachusetts, and you'll find some single-varietal versions, such as Saperavi and Rkatsiteli. At a recent Georgian business event, I had the opportunity to taste my first chacha, and I hope to taste many more in the future.

The Askaneli Brothers Premium Chacha (about $22) is produced by a company with roots extending back to 1880, though its modern existence started around 1998. They own vineyards in the regions of Kakheti and Guria, producing wine and chacha. Made in the Kakheti region, this chacha matured in oak barrels for at least 12 months, and is filtered, which accounts for its colorless nature. With a 45% ABV, this chacha has an intriguing floral aroma and was surprising smooth and mild on the palate, with only a minor alcoholic bite. It possessed pleasant and more subtle flavors of hazelnut and citrus with floral accents. It was elegant, with a fairly long finish, and is definitely a very good value at this price. It is certainly not harsh like I've found in some similarly priced grappas. A hearty recommendation.

Have you tasted chacha before? What were your thoughts? Do you have any recommendations?

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Cockburn's Port: The Largest Port Lodge In Vila Nova de Gaia

On my first day in Portugal, we spent some time walking around the city of Porto, seeing some of the historic sites, Above, you can see the Ponte Dom Luíz, a a double-deck metal arch bridge, built in 1886, that spans the Douro River. The bridge joins the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, and we walked down part of the upper deck and later also traveled to Vila Nova de Gaia, to visit the lodge of Cockburn's Port.



Vila Nova de Gaia is home to numerous Port Wine lodges, where Port is generally aged and stored. These are not commonly referred to as cellars for a number of reasons. First, the term "lodge" is derived from the Portuguese word "loja" meaning a shop or store. Second, the Portuguese often refer to these places as armazém, which basically translates as "warehouse" or "storehouse." Third, Port is often aged above ground.

What a precarious location for this church. Let's hope it doesn't fall into the Douro.


Due to the extreme heat of the Douro during the summer, most wineries felt that area wasn't conducive to the proper maturation of their wines. As such, they decided to ship their wines down to Vila Nova de Gaia for maturation, where the temperatures were cooler and more consistent throughout the year.

Down a narrow street in Vila Nova de Gaia, we stopped at Cockburn's Port for a tour, joining a public English-language group, and tasting. This visit was a change from our scheduled itinerary and coincidentally, I'd recently reviewed one of their Ports the week before I departed for Portugal. Check my prior article, Cockburn’s​ ​Special​ ​Reserve​ Port: Break Out The Cheese, Chocolate & Twizzlers, for more background and information on this winery.

Cockburns, which is pronounced "Coe-burns" not "Cock-burns," is owned by Symington Family Estates, which also owns Graham's, Dow's and Warre's. In general, each Symington brand possesses three quintas, estates containing vineyards.

All of Cockburn's quintas are "A" rated, the top quality rating for estates.

Near the entrance to the lodge, there are some historic display cases, holding old documents that document the lengthy history of the winery. The walls also have a number of relevant quotes.

Cockburn's is allegedly the largest lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia, storing over 9 Million liters of wine, equivalent to about 12 Million bottles.

In the production of their wines, they generally use indigenous yeasts, rarely inoculating, and much of the grape crushing is done by European robot lagares (size 42). They rarely do any human foot treading, except for their Vintage Ports. Their House Style of Port was described as robust, sweet, and spicy, with deep color and deep fruit.

Cockburn's has their own cooperage, where they make and repair barrels, and they currently possess over 6,000 barrels, of French, U.S. and Portuguese oak. The average age of their barrels is 60-70 years with their oldest barrel, still in use, being from 1900. Most of the barrels are 600-650 liters, with some larger vats as well, such as 30,000 liter barrels used for their Ruby Port. If a barrel is damaged, they will replace the staves with seasoned, older staves.



I was informed that even though 2018 was a challenging vintage, due to rain, hail and extreme heat, it still might be the best vintage of the century, better even than 2011. I'll note that this was contrary to what I heard from other wineries in the Douro region.

In one part of their cellars, you could see wines from the 19th century, as far back as 1868.

We then did a tasting of three Ports, including the Special Reserve Port. The 2013 Cockburn's Late Bottled Vintage was intense, with bold flavors of ripe plums and black fruit, mild spices and a balanced sweetness. It was smooth and easy to drink, with a lengthy, pleasing finish.


The Cockburn's 10 Year Old Tawny Port possessed a lighter, more brownish color, with a delightful aroma and an excellent blend of flavors, including caramel, nuts, spicy notes, and dried fruits. It was silky and a bit sweeter than the LBV, but still nicely balanced and the fortification was well integrated. This is a fine example of a 10 Year Old, and highly recommended.

I'll also mention that I got some dark chocolate to pair with these Ports, and everyone at my table thought the Ports shined even better with some chocolate. And I'm sure they will share chocolate and Port with their family and friends in the future.

Though it was interesting to visit this lodge, our guide could have been better, as he spoke much too fast and for too long at any one time, making it more difficult to ask questions as you didn't want to interrupt him mid-stream. He was good about answering questions once he finished talking, but you might forget your question while you waited for him to finish his spiel.

If you are a Port lover, you really need to visit the lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia . It is an enlightening experience, and you'll better understand how this compelling wine is created.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Rant: DON'T DRINK & DRIVE!!!

It couldn't be any simpler so listen carefully. This is one of the most important pieces of advice you will receive this season. Please give this your full attention.

If you've had too much alcohol to drink, if there is any doubt in your mind, don't drive. Just don't do it!

Any questions?

Once again, I step forward with probably my most important Rant of the Year. It's an absolutely vital issue for everyone who enjoys alcohol of any type, from wine to beer, from Scotch to hard cider. With the advent of the holiday season upon us, from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve, we reach a potentially dangerous period for those people who over indulge, who drink too much at parties, feasts and gatherings. There is nothing wrong with that, and you can drink as much as you desire, as long as you give up your keys to someone who is sober, and do not drive.

As I've said multiple times before, and which I'll repeat year after year, "If there is any question, no matter how small, whether you are too intoxicated to drive, then don't. If your family or friends think you have had too much to drink, don't drive. Just don't. It is not worth the risk by any calculation." Err on the side of caution so that if you have any doubt of your capacity to drive, then please do not drive. Take a taxi or Uber, catch a ride with someone else, walk or sleep it off. Just don't drive!

Rationally, we all know the dangers of drinking and driving. We endanger our own lives as well as the lives of others. Every year, we hear multiple news reports about terrible auto accidents, some with fatalities, that occur because a driver was intoxicated. Families are torn apart, lives are ruined, and much more. Why don't we learn from all these incidents? Even if you don't get in an accident, you might get arrested for drunk driving, with all the attendant high costs, and not just economic. You might even end up in jail.

About 17,000 people are arrested for drunk driving in Massachusetts each year. That is a huge figure, showing that far too many people still don't understand that they should not drink and drive. How difficult is it to understand? DON'T DRINK & DRIVE! I'm sure drunk driving incidents in other states are just as significant.

As a more sobering statistic, 10,497 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in 2016, an increase of 1.7% over 2015. That is far too many deaths and needs to be changed. Of those fatalities, 62% involved the drunk driver, 15% involved the passengers, and 23% involved the occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. In 2016, about 1,233 children, aged 14 or younger, were killed in automobile crashes and 214 of those children died in drunk driving accidents. Since 2007, when there was a high of 13,041 drunk driving fatalities, the number of fatalities has decreased but there is far much more work that needs to be done.

Each time you drink and drive, you endanger yourself, your passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, and people in other vehicles. Let someone else drive you, whether it be a friend or family. Take an Uber or public transportation. Leave your car where it is parked as you can always pick it up the next day. You have plenty of options so there is absolutely no reason to drink and drive. Be responsible.

I don't want to lose any family or friends this year due to a drunk driving accident. I don't think anyone wants to lose their loved ones either. Your family and friends would rather you didn't drink and drive as they don't you to die in a terrible drunk driving accident. So please just don't!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Sips & Nibbles: Thanksgiving Edition

I'm offering a special Thanksgiving edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events. Today, you'll find some restaurant options for Thanksgiving if you just don't feel like cooking this year. **********************************************************
1) It’s said that the first Thanksgiving featured shellfish and fish, so join Legal Sea Foods for a traditional Thanksgiving or opt instead for their special turkey dinner. Legal Sea Foods will serve turkey breast with sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, gravy and cranberry sauce ($24.95 per person and $8.95 for children 12 and under). Come celebrate the holiday with your family and leave the cooking to Legals.

Reservations are recommended and private dining rooms must be reserved in advance. Available at most locations of Legal Sea Foods.

2) Celebrate Thanksgiving, on Thursday, November 22, from 1pm-6pm, at Chopps American Bar and Grill with a Specially Prepared Fall Feast. The full Dinner Menu will also be available.

Thanksgiving Day Chef's Tasting Menu
Appetizers
--Roasted Beet Salad (Goat Cheese Croquette, Tarragon, Frisee, Coriander Vinaigrette)
--Curried Parsnip Bisque (Mint Créme Fraiche)
Entrees
--Traditional Turkey Dinner (Heirloom Baby Carrot, Brussels Sprouts, Whipped Potato, Corn Bread Stuffing, Cranberry-Fig Sauce, Traditional Gravy)
--Butternut Squash Agnolotti (Trumpet Mushrooms, Leeks, Macomber Turnips, Cider, Butter)
Dessert
--Pumpkin Bread Pudding (Molasses Whipped Cream, Vanilla Gelato)

Cost: $45 per person
To make reservations, please call 781-221-6643

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) Bodega Canal now offers taco lovers all-you-can-eat tacos every Monday night from 4:30 to close. For only $9 per person, guests can choose between either Beef or Chicken hard shell tacos. All tacos will be served with traditional accompaniments- pico de gallo, lettuce, and cheese. Guacamole will be available for an additional charge.

 To make reservations, please contact (617) 833-4885

2) Top Chef Alums Carl Dooley and Karen Akunowicz may have been competitors on Top Chef Season 13, but in real life they are fast friends with a deep respect for one another. “Top Chef is as stressful, competitive and isolating as you can imagine” according to Dooley. “But with that isolation of no phones, no computers, no contact with the outside world as we knew it, came the chance to forge amazing friendships with people like Karen. She is fantastic – as a chef and as a friend. I know her new restaurant will be, too

Dooley is welcoming Akunowicz to his restaurant, The Table At Season To Taste, on Wednesday, November 14, from 5:30pm-10pm, for a five course tasting menu previewing her new restaurant and enoteca, Fox & the Knife, opening soon in South Boston.

Cost: $98 per person, optional wine pairing $55 / including tax and hospitality
For Reservations, please call 617-871-9468

3) Matadora, a Spanish restaurant located in the Hilton Boston/Woburn, is celebrating their 1st Anniversary with a special dinner on Thursday, November 15th, at 6:30pm. Besides the Cocktail Reception and Seated Dinner, there will be live music, a Flamenco dance floor show, and a cash bar.

Cocktail Reception
Cava & Chef’s selection of Spanish meats, cheeses, olives and nuts
Seated Dinner (served family style)
Flaming Chorizo
Shrimp Toast
Shishito Peppers
Paella
Dessert
Spiced Almond Cake with Quince Jam and Orange Glaze

Cost: $75/person (includes tax & gratuity)
You can purchase tickets on Eventbrite.

4) Pastry Chef Amanda Perreault and her team at The Southfield Store crank out scratch baked goods for The Store, plated desserts for the Store’s sister property The Old Inn On The Green, and countless orders for catered events and special occasions. All year-round, The Southfield Store sells cakes and cookies, tortes and tarts, cheesecakes and croissants, puddings, pies and breakfast pastries, plus quiches and house made gelato and granola.

As the holidays approach, Perreault and her “elves” go into overdrive, turning The Southfield Store  into the region’s most surprising (and hidden) destination for sweet treats to give or to hoard.

Almond and Cashew Brittles
Peanut butter cups and peanut butter ganache kisses
Peppermint Bark
Bouche de Noel
Pecan Buttercrunch
Gingerbread People and other unique holiday cookies
International breads such as stollen, babka, and panettone
Seasonal pies

Full Thanksgiving dinners can also be ordered from this year. Ordering early for the holidays is highly recommended. Please call 413-229-5050.

And here is a recipe for Nana’s Apple Cake
Courtesy of Amanda Perreault, The Southfield Store

Ingredients
4 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced into ¼” crescents
6 large eggs
3 cups sugar
1 ½ cups canola oil
1 TB. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 TB. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
2 TB. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt

Directions:
Butter a 13” X 9” baking pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla. In a larger bowl, sift the dry ingredients and whisk to blend. Pour egg mixture over dry mixture and mix well. Add the apples and stir to coat the fruit with the batter. Spread into prepared pan and bake for 35-45 minutes (test center with a toothpick). Cool to room temperature before slicing.

5) Executive Chef Sean Dutson and the entire team at Rebel’s Guild invite guests to experience a lavish meal specially paired with Glenlivet Whisky on Tuesday, November 13th, from 6pm-9pm

From the wise words of Mark Twain, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much whiskey is barely enough”.

The full Glenlivet Whisky Dinner is as Follows:
Cocktail Reception
Applewood Smoked Bacon Deviled Eggs
Artichoke and Boursin Fritter
Pulled Pork & Cornbread Shooter
Glenlivet Founders Cocktail
Plated Dinner
--Apple & Butternut Bisque (Crème Fraiche, Spiced Pecan Dust)
Glenlivet 12 Year
--Confit Poutine (Pulled Duck, Sweet Potato Wedges, Cranberries, Sage Gravy and Cheese Curd)
Glenlivet 15 Year
--Pork Belly & Sea Scallops (Sugar Pumpkin Risotto, Caramelized Brussels Sprouts & Wild Blueberry Compote)
Glenlivet 18 Year
--Cinnamon & Apple Bread Pudding (Vanilla Ice Cream)

Tickets cost $75.00 and are available via eventbrite. All attendees must be 21+ with a valid ID.

6) November marks Diabetes Awareness Month and Kendall Square’s Sumiao Hunan Kitchen has teamed up with Joslin Diabetes Center’s Asian American Diabetes Initiative (AADI) to help bring attention to the impact of diabetes on millions of Asian Americans. All month, the team at Sumiao will be featuring a special menu with a collection of delicious, diabetes-friendly dishes, hand-selected by a certified Joslin nutritionist; additionally, the restaurant will be donating 10% of proceeds from its diabetes-friendly brown and black rice sales during the month of November to the AADI.

Standout Hunanese-style selections will include Spicy Crunchy Cucumber with sesame chili oil sauce ($8); Yellow River Fish swai filet, white beech mushroom, pickled cabbage and banana pepper ($26); Pan-Seared Egg Tofu with Japanese egg tofu, shrimp, peas and carrots ($18); Steamed Egg Tofu with egg topped with spicy minced pork ($15); Beef with Broccoli with carrot, garlic and kung pao sauce ($18); and, Steamed Whole Tilapia caught daily with choice of two toppings: duojiao (spicy) or ginger-scallion (non-spicy) ($36). In total, Sumiao Hunan Kitchen will offer 20 diabetes-friendly options.

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

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

7) Valerie Rochon, President, The Chamber Collaborative of Greater Portsmouth and Mayor Jack Blalock unveiled the details for the 10th Anniversary of Restaurant Week Portsmouth & The Seacoast.  With more than 40 restaurants participating and 75,000+ guests expected to travel to Portsmouth and local Seacoast towns during Restaurant Week, November 8-17, the city is gearing up for a successful fall season. Located one hour north of Boston and one hour south of Portland, Maine, Portsmouth is an easy drive from all points New England. Known for its historic sites, architecture, festivals and coastal charm, Portsmouth attracts talented and ambitious chefs and restaurateurs who are creating a one-of-a-kind New England culinary destination.

We are grateful and thrilled that several restaurants who helped launch the Chamber’s first Restaurant Week Portsmouth & The Seacoast in 2008 are still cooking up a storm and participating in this program ten years later. What began as a program to help stimulate the local economy has turned into a program embraced by the restaurant community to say ‘Thank you’ to our residents, businesses and visitors. It truly sets us apart from other cities across the country,” shared Rochon.

Mayor Jack Blalock, himself a restaurant owner in Portsmouth, recognizes the effort and creativity that the chefs put into creating generous and memorable menus. “From the rising stars in our kitchens to the stalwarts who helped create the Chamber’s Restaurant Week ten years ago – everyone is making a tremendous commitment and impact for the overall success of Portsmouth and the Seacoast community.”

Restaurants that participated in the 1st Restaurant Week, and which are still participating, include: Agave Mexican Bistro, Black Trumpet Bistro, The Dolphin Striker, Jumpin’ Jay’s Fish Café, Library Restaurant--A Steak House, The Portsmouth Brewery, Portsmouth Gas Light Company, and Ristorante Massimo.