Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Westmount Winery: Pinot Gris to Pinot Noir Rosé

"Westmount embodies the spirit of adventure and exploration."
--Westmount Wine website

The delight of Oregon wine! Pinot is King, especially in the Willamette Valley, but other grapes grow well in different regions of Oregon. With the heat of the summer, it's a great time to explore the White and Rosé wines of Oregon, such as those of Westmount Wine. I received a couple media samples of their wines, which were both delicious and refreshing.

Westmount Wine Company, which falls under the parent company NW Wine Co., was founded by four people, including Danielle Andrus Montalieu and John Niemeyer. The third founder was Laurent Montalieu, who acts as the Executive Winemaker. He studied agricultural engineering at the Institute of Oenology in Bordeaux, moving to Oregon in 1987, eventually becoming a partner and winemaker at the famed WillaKenzie Estate. The fourth founder was Robert Moshier, who has a degree in Production and Operations Management. He is also a wine lover, as well as an avid climber and mountaineer.

"The Westmount winemaking philosophy is to maintain the personality of the vineyard while allowing the grapes to develop into the wine they were meant to be.”
Anne Sery, Winemaker

Westmount Wine has over 100 acres planted with grapes, primarily Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, with some Chardonnay. As they are outdoors people, it was only natural for them to produce wine in cans as well, something which is much easier to carry and transport in the wilderness (or beach) rather than glass bottles.

The 2018 Westmount Pinot Noir Rosé ($20), with a 12.9% ABV, possessed a medium pink color and an alluring nose of fresh red fruits with a hint of tropical fruit. On the palate, it was dry, crisp and fresh, with bright strawberry and watermelon, and subtle hints of more tropical fruits and citrus. A tasty, refreshing and well-balanced wine, it is excellent on its own though is also very food friendly.

The 2017 Westmount Pinot Gris ($20), with a 13.1% ABV, was equally as delicious. A compelling nose of stone fruit with a hint of spice. On the palate, it is fresh and crisp, bright and round, with tasty flavors of pear, apple, and a subtle spice note and hints of a floral element. Well balanced, with a fairly long and pleasing finish. Enjoyable on its own or paired with food, from salads to seafood.

Both of these wines are easy drinking, perfect for the summer, but they aren't simple. There is sufficient complexity for the price, and they'll provide much pleasure as well.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Rant: Boston Needs Vampires!

There seems to be only a single restaurant in the Boston area that serves Vampires. With all of the restaurants in this area serving Mexican cuisine, you'd think there might be more Vampires available. Unfortunately that isn't the case and it should change. Bring on more Vampiros!

"An order of Vampiros, a thinly sliced mini-steak snuggled in a corn tortilla is a must."
--Del Rio News-Herald Mundo Latino (TX), September 5, 1993

Vampiros resemble a type of open-faced taco, and basically are composed of a grilled corn tortilla which is topped by melted cheese, carne asada, and other varied toppings. Check out the recent article, Interview With the Vampiro by Dylan James Ho, for an excellent introduction to this intriguing dish. In the U.S., Vampiros have been around for at least about thirty years, and the above newspaper quote was the oldest reference I found.

"Vampiros involves white cheese melted on corn tortillas and sprinkled with bits of carne asada, like a beefed-up quesadilla."
--The Los Angeles Times, January 26, 1995

It certainly doesn't seem difficult to create Vampiros so why are they so rare in the Boston area? The only restaurant I've found that serves them is the Yard House, under the name of Vampire Tacos. Their website states, "Vampire Style" is a street taco wrapped in a grilled, crispy cheese-crusted flour tortilla shell." Their recipes is made with carnitas, bacon chorizo, chipotle, cumin crema, guacamole, roasted garlic, and cilantro. Does anyone else know of another Boston area restaurant serving Vampiros?

"That includes the Vampiro, which brings a grilled corn tortilla heaped with carne asada or pastor topped with gooey, melted Monterey Jack cheese, guacamole, sweet caramelized onions, and crisp shredded lettuce."
--Arizona Republic, July 22, 2011

Why is Boston so behind on Vampiros? For at least 30 years, they've been available from Texas to California, and currently seem to be huge in Los Angeles. Why does it take so long for some trends to travel here? It seems like it would be an excellent opportunity for a local chef to present Vampiros to Bostonians. So who will step forward and offer this "undead" Mexican dish to their diners?

Friday, August 16, 2019

East Of Suez: Delicious Pan Asian Cuisine in Wolfeboro, NH

"Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
Where there aren't no Ten Commandments an' a man can raise a thirst"
--Mandalay (1890), by Rudyard Kipling

What first drew me to the restaurant was the fact that it was BYOB. Then, I checked out their food menu and it intrigued me as well, Pan-Asian cuisine, ranging from the Philippines to Vietnam. It also seemed reasonably priced. And as I looked further, I learned that it had existed for over 50 years, a worthy and uncommon achievement in the restaurant industry. As I was going to spend a few days vacationing in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, I knew I wanted to dine at East of Suez

East of Suez was founded back in 1967 by Charles and Norma Powell, taking over a spot that once houses a pizzeria. Charles' father had been a naval officer, photojournalist and cinematographer, and often took Charles with him on visits to China and Japan. In 1962, Charles met his future wife, Norma Antonio, who was from the Philippines. At the time they opened the restaurant, they both lived in New York, so running a restaurant wasn't easy and during the early years, the restaurant was only open on weekends.

Currently, the restaurant is owned and operated by their daughter, Elizabeth Powell Gorai. East of Suez is primarily open for the Summer, though it may extend a bit into October dependent on the weather. Their food is prepared to order, and many local ingredients are used, except for those unavailable. It is also a BYOB spot, so you can bring your own wine or beer, though they also sell a variety of nonalcoholic beverages.

Their website states, "We are one of the oldest Pan-Asian restaurants in the United States, serving an eclectic sampling of exotic cuisine from Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim, with occasional detours around the world since 1967. Our menu is small, specifically so, to represent a mix of the time-honored classics and culinary innovations our patrons have grown to love, however, each evening we experiment by adding choice delicacies to our collection, in much the way a traveler gathering mementoes might do, if he ventured to explore 'East of Suez."

The restaurant is cozy, spread out over several rooms, and decorated with an eclectic Asian decor, spanning several different cultures. I dined here twice, with several good friends, and on both visits it was fairly crowded, indicative of its popularity. We also brought wine with us on both occasions. Overall, I was impressed with the cuisine, enjoying the layers of flavors in each dish. It earns my hearty recommendation, and I look forward to dining there against some time.

The Regular Menu is relatively small, but with plenty of different choices, and each day they have a Special Daily Menu, adding even more choices. The Regular Menu generally consists of Starters/Small Plates (7 choices, $10-$12), Mains (8 choices, $19-$24) and Desserts (4 choices, $9-$10). The Special Daily Menu adds a Soup (Cup $6, Bowl $8); 4 Starters/Small Plates, 3 Mains, and 2 Desserts. So, there's plenty of options without being overwhelming. There are also Vegetarian and Gluten Free options. This is an excellent place to order a bunch of small plates and share, so you can sample the range of dishes available.

The Manila Polo Club Chowder ($6 cup/$8 bowl) is made with "Rich steamer clam and black tiger shrimp broths with chunky shrimp, bay scallops, clams, golden potatoes, veg." It is "Simmered all day in sweet cream seasoned with saffron, garlic and a hint of red chili." This was a superb chowder, rich and flavorful, with plenty of chunks of seafood. It wasn't too thin or too thick, and was seasoned well, creating nice layers of flavor. It was a big hit at our table.

Another big hit were the Goat Cheese Rangoon ($11), made from "Local NH farm goat cheese, seasoned with fresh herbs, enveloped in wonton skin & deep-fried crispy outside, melty inside; with sweet chili sauce dip." I'm not a fan of Crab Rangoon, with their fake crab meat and cream cheese, but I loved these goat cheese rangoon! Fried perfectly, with a crunchy exterior, the creamy goat cheese was a delight on the palate, enhanced by the sweet chili dip. We had these on both visits as they were just that damn good. Highly recommended!

The Philippine Lumpia ($11) were "Fingerling spring rolls of pork, tiger shrimp & veggies, deep-fried, sliced & served with pineapple sweet & sour." You can also order a Vegetarian version of the Lumpia. These crunchy rolls, with flaky layers, had a pleasing balance of flavors.

The Crab & Corn Fritters ($12) consist of "Shredded lump crab meat and shaved cob corn blended with Thai herbs and spices; Deep-fried crispy and served with nuoc cham, sweet chili lime dip." Another tasty and well balanced dish, the fritters had a great fluffy texture to them, with the crunch of the corn, some sweet crab, and a hint of spice. The dip was delicious too, as were all of the sauces and dips at the restaurant.

The Sichuan Giant Dumplings ($14) were "hearty pork dumplings steamed and drizzled with crunchy garlic soy black vinegar and chili flakes." They certainly were packed with savory pork and the sauce was intriguing, with sour and umami flavors, and a mild hint of heat.

The Japanese Yakitori ($12) include "Rock sugar & sweet soy marinated boneless organic chicken thigh, skewered & charbroiled; with ginger teriyaki glaze." Juicy, flavorful chicken, with some slight charring, and a light sweetness. Again, a well balanced and tasty dish.

Another of the regular Small Plates, Tita Glo's Lettuce Cups ($10), are "Auntie's wok-tossed turkey, apple, raisin & veggie crumble, with sesame, hoisin & garlic; served warm in a cool Boston lettuce leaf with toasted sunflower seeds." A take on lettuce wraps, it is also like a taste of Thanksgiving, with Asian accents.

The Longanisa Bao Buns ($10) are "Sweet and garlicky Philippine pork sausages in puffy steamed bar bun, with lettuce, tomato, onion and banana catsup aioli." Soft buns, with a meaty and intriguing sausage taste, enhanced especially by the aioli.

Onto some Main dishes now. The Bulgoki Steak ($22) consists of "Korean BBQ style, Angus beef flank steak, sliced thin & marinated in sesame, sweet soy & garlic chili miso paste; charbroiled & served with spicy kimchee pickles." The steak was tender and delicious, with a compelling and well-balanced sauce, bringing a nice contrast of sweet and heat.

The Drunken Noodles ($24), aka Pad Kee Mao consists of "wide rice noodles pan-fried with black tiger shrimps, red chili oil, garlic, sweet Thai basil leaves, red and green peppers, onions and Shaoxing rice wine in a sweet & spicy oyster sauce." The noodles had just the right texture and absorbed the tasty and spicy sauce. A hearty dish, there was plenty of shrimp and veggies, and it seemed fresh and bright, a delightful summer dish.

I really loved the Philippine Adobo ($20), "Mama Tars' tender confit of bone-in organic chicken & country style fatty pork, marinated and slowly braised in crushed garlic & soy vinegar with bay leaf & black peppercorns; with sliced fresh banana." Both the chicken and pork were extremely meaty and tender, in a superb and scrumptious sauce, each bite bringing gustatory pleasure.  Highly recommended.

The Vietnamese Bo Luc Lac Beefsteak ($25) is another beef dish, with "Well-marbled Angus rib-eye marinated in soy, garlic, rice wine, and lemongrass, char-broiled to order, sliced and served over mesclun greens and aromatic herb-tossed rice noodles, with nuoc cham, sweet chili lime dip." Once again, the beef was tender and flavorful, though with its own unique taste, a bit brighter here due to the lemongrass. The rice noodles were also quite tasty, with a mild herbal flavor.

Besides all the savory dishes, make sure to save room for Dessert. The Banana Blueberry Hawaiian Bread Pudding ($9) is made from "Barnstead blueberries and coconut sugared bread custard, served with Alae Sea salt butter caramel." I love Bread Pudding and will often order it if I see it on a menu. I think it is an under appreciated dessert, and still would love to see a Boston-Area bakery specializing in it. This Bread Pudding was fantastic, with an excellent, spongy texture, and great flavors of coconut and blueberry, with a salty and sweet edge from the caramel. Highly recommended.

The Banana Tempura ($10) consists of "Sweet bananas, batter-dipped, deep-fried light & crispy & honey-drizzled, with scoop of coconut ice cream." Another winner dessert, with an excellent tempura batter, fresh and sweet bananas, and creamy coconut ice cream. Pure hedonism.

Overall, East of Suez presents well-balanced dishes with pleasing layers of flavor. The dishes seem fresh and and everything seems cooked just right, from their noodles to steak. Some of the dishes seem very traditional while others are variations, and those variations, like the Goat Cheese Rangoon, work well. Service was very good on both visits. My only complaint is that they need better wine glasses, as the ones they offer seem more like fancy water glasses. However, you can bring your own glassware if you so desire (which we did on one visit). I strongly recommend you check out East of Suez before the summer ends.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

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.
1) Puritan & Company Chef/Owner Will Gilson; along with notable Boston-area chefs that include: Little Donkey’s Jamie Bissonnette, Chickadee’s John Da Silva; Select Oyster Bar’s Michael Serpa; Nathalie and Haley.Henry’s Peter McKenzie; Pastry Chef Brian Mercury and Spoke’s Kelcey Rusch. The Puritan & Co. team invite guests to join them for a delicious, multi-course meal inspired by culinary legend Julia Child.

On Thursday, August 29th, from 6:30pm-9:30pm, Puritan & Co. will team up with area chefs to celebrate the life and culinary adventures of one of the culinary world’s greatest heroes, Julia Child. Guest chefs from around Boston will prepare a Julia Child recipe and present guests with a unique multi-course meal paired with wine. Taking place in August, Julia’s birth month, the dinner will celebrate one of the most important culinary visionaries in history. At this event, guests will be seated at large communal-style tables, though each dish is served individually. Carafes of wine on each table will be kept full for all to share with full wine, beer, and cocktail lists available for purchase.

Tickets, which cost $110 each, will be available for purchase at: https://juliachild6pco.eventbrite.com

2) On Wednesday, August 28, from 5pm-7pm, Glass House, the restaurant, bar, and modern day “meeting house” in the heart of Kendall Square, is hosting 7th Annual Bombshells Against Breast Cancer to raise money and awareness for The Ellie Fund – an organization that provides essential support services to breast cancer patients.

Pink-clad guests will enjoy refreshing drinks, light bites, and a night of raising money for a great cause on the Glass House patio alongside Boston Bombshells (noun ; an influential woman in Boston who supports other women in and out of the work place through her attitude and actions), at this annual event.

This year’s Bombshells include:
Courtney Cox – Reporter, NESN
Julia Scaparotti – On-Air Personality, 103.3 AMP Radio
Fabianna Marie – CEO, Fabulously Fighting & Fabssential Wellness
Heather Higgins – Chief Cookie Officer, Top Shelf Cookies
Bekah Berger – Radio Host, Hot 106 Providence
Ashley Erling – Executive Producer, The Rhode Show
Janet Wu – Anchor, Bloomberg
Jessica Hennessy – Owner, The Haute Life
Loren Raye – Radio Host, The TJ Show
Kate Arnold – VP / Creative Director, Weston Table
Andrea Cook – AVP of Communications, WORK Inc.
Elizabeth Pehota – Reporter / Host, New England Revolution
Rachel Holt – Sports Reporter, NESN
Tanya Edwards – Writer & Producer, Boston Globe Media
And more to come!

Tickets are available for $20 via Eventbrite and benefit The Ellie Fund. Throw on your favorite pink (optional) attire for a fun filled night. Event is 21 +.

3) With National Rum Day taking place tomorrow, Friday, August 16, all locations of The Friendly Toast are ready to celebrate with a new Tiki Flight.

The Tiki Flight is offered all summer long and features four specialty tiki cocktails, including:
--Shandy’s Painkiller (Flor de Cana silver rum, Rumhaven coconut water rum, crème de coconut, pineapple, OJ)
--Singapore Zing (New Amsterdam gin, cherry & orange liqueurs, passionfruit puree, pineapple, grenadine, bitters, fresh lime)
--Original Mai Tai (Silver & dark rums, amaretto, pineapple, OJ, fresh lime)
--Mermaid’s Tail (Rumhaven coconut, water rum, spiced rum, blue curacao, pineapple, fresh lime).

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Hudson-Chatham Winery & Respect For Hybrids: A New Estate Blend

There are prejudiced individuals who would dislike the 2016 Hudson-Chatham Block Two Red Table Wine without even tasting it. These snobs would dismiss this wine without sampling the liquid within the bottle. Such a shame!

They would miss out on a delicious wine, all because of their shallow views concerning hybrid grapes. This Red Table Wine is a blend of four hybrid grapes but you should't allow that fact to color your opinion about this wine. Hybrids often get little respect because they are not "pure" vitis vinifera like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. Hybrid wines are far too often judged by the nature of the grapes rather than the taste of the wine.

Vitis vinifera is the "common grape vine" and the one most used for making wine. All of the major grapes of which you are familiar are likely these types of grapes, from Tempranillo to Syrah, from Sauvignon Blanc to Pinot Blanc. Hybrids are a cross of two or more Vitis species, such as vitis vinifera and vitis labrusca. They are often created by people seeking to create a hardier grape, especially for harsher northern climates. Because they are not pure vitis vinifera, some people turn up their noses at these hybrids, refusing to believe they can produce quality wine. Drop that pretentiousness and judge these wines by their taste.

It has gotten to the point that some fans of hybrid grapes don't even want to use the term "hybrid," to avoid the prejudices that the term can spawn. I believe we should embrace the term, and don't try to hide what is being used. Instead, we need to fight the prejudice by getting these people to taste these wines, to understand the quality that can be found within them.

Sure there are poor quality wines made from hybrids, but there are plenty of poor quality wines made from vitis vinifera too. There are also some excellent wines made from these hybrids, and a wine lover would be hard pressed to guess they were hybrids simply from tasting the wine. You should approach a wine without prejudices or biases, willing to taste the wine and let it stand on its own. If you do so, you will probably find plenty of delicious wines that you might never have experienced otherwise.

In the Hudson Valley of New York, one of the most ardent advocates of hybrid grapes is Carlo DeVito. Carlo, with his wife Dominique, own the Hudson-Chatham Winery and you can read my prior article for background on the winery. The winery produces a number of different hybrid wines from grapes like Baco Noir and Chelois. I've enjoyed a number of them in the past, and I recently opened a media sample of the 2016 Hudson-Chatham Block Two Red Table Wine, sharing it with friends during a meal of grilled ribeye and sausages.

This wine is a field blend of four grapes, Baco Noir, Chambourcin, DeChaunac and Chelois, and this is their first release of this wine, made from all estate fruit. The wine was inoculated, but underwent open top fermentation for approximately 21 days. It was subsequently aged in older French barrels, for about two years, and has only a 12% ABV. When I tasted the wine, I immediately thought of Beaujolais, a light, fruity wine with subtle spice notes. Easy drinking and delicious, it was the type of wine that makes you crave a second, and third, glass. It was perfect on a fine summer day with some grilled meats. It isn't a wine to over-analyze, but one simply to drink and enjoy.

In addition, if you were blind-tasted on this wine, you'd never know hybrid grapes were used. It would certainly be an example of a wine that could change your views about hybrids. So get over yourself and stop prejudging hybrids. Drink the wine before making any judgments. Carlo certainly understands the quality that can be produced from hybrids and wine lovers should broaden their palates and enjoy his wines, including this new red blend.