Friday, April 16, 2021

New Sampan Article: Peruvian Taste & Chifa: Peruvian/Chinese Fusion

"The most interesting feature of Chinese life to me was that on board their boats, or sampans, as they are called....Upon these boats live whole families of three and even four generations."
--The Fall River Daily Herald, November 20, 1888

As I've mentioned previously, I've a new writing gig, contributing to Sampan, the only bilingual Chinese-English newspaper in New England. I've previously written twenty articles for Sampan, including:


My newest article, Peruvian Taste & Chifa: Peruvian/Chinese Fusion, is now available in the new issue of Sampan. Chifa cuisine originated in Peru, an intriguing fusion of Chinese and Peruvian ingredients and techniques. It is relatively rare in the U.S., although locally, there are a number of Peruvian restaurants that offer a Chifa dish or two. However, the new Peruvian Taste Restaurant, located in Charlestown, offers more than a dozen delicious and interesting Chifa dishes. Check out my review and see some of their compelling dishes.

I'm currently working on a new article for the Sampan.

What is a "sampan?" The newspaper's site states, "A sampan is a popular river boat in traditional China. This small but useful vessel, by transporting cargo from large boats to the village ports, creates a channel of communication among villages." And like that type of boat, Sampan delivers news and information all across New England, and "acts a bridge between Asian American community organizations and individuals in the Greater Boston area."

Sampan, which was founded in 1972, is published by the nonprofit Asian American Civic Association, "The newspaper covers topics that are usually overlooked by the mainstream press, such as key immigration legislation, civil rights, housing, education, day-care services and union activities. These issues are crucial to the well-being of Asian immigrants, refugees, low-income families as well as individuals who are not proficient in the English language."

There is plenty of interest in Sampan which will appeal to all types of readers, from restaurant reviews to historical articles, from vital news stories to travel items. In these current days when racism and prejudice against Asians and their restaurants is high, it's more important than ever that accurate information about the Asian community is disseminated and promoted. We need to combat the irrational prejudices that some possess, and support our Asian communities just as we would support any other element of our overall community. We are all important aspects of a whole, and we need to stand together.

Support Sampan

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

2019 Uivo Renegado: A Tasty, Portuguese Field Blend of Old Vines

As I've often said, some of the best wine values in the world can be found in Portugal. I'm here today to  discuss another one of those excellent values, a $15 wine which impressed me for several reasons, and which I think will please my readers as well.

Folias de Baco is a wine-making project founded in 2007 by Tiago Sampaio, whose family were grape growers in the famed Douro region of Portugal. Tiago's initial studies in agriculture were in Portugal but he traveled to Oregon to receive his PhD in Viticulture and Enology. It was in Oregon that Tiago acquired some of his most important wine-making philosophies, including a passion for creating more natural wines. Tiago works with family estate vineyards, with many old vines, located in the Alto Douro in the sub-region of Cima-Corgo, Even though the vineyards are managed by organic agriculture, they are not certified as such.

Tiago produces at least a dozen different wines, some under the Uivo brand. The term "Uivo" translates as "howl", and has a number of different connotations. On the wine label, it states, "Uivo, a howl back to nature!"

The 2019 Uivo Renegado ($15) is a unique wine, a field blend of more than 25 indigenous grapes, both red and white, in a rough 50/50 mix. The vines are 70+ years old, and grow on 2 hectares of schist and granite at an altitude of about 650 meters. The grapes are trod by foot in large granite lagares, and undergo spontaneous fermentation with wild yeasts. About 5% of the wine is aged for six months in 2-3 year old chestnut barrels and the rest is aged in cement. It's also not fined or filtered, and has only an 11.5% ABV. This is definitely a more natural wine.

How can such a wine only be $15?

The wine has a dark pink color, resembling a Rosé, and on the nose, there are red berries and subtle herbal notes. On the palate, it's crisp and fresh, with tasty cherry and strawberry flavors, and a savory element, a subtle melange of herbs and spice. There is also a hint of spritz, which enhances the refreshing nature of the wine. It possesses plenty of complexity, especially at this price point, and has a pleasing finish too. This wine went well with a filet, and would be great for grilled meats this summer. Or just sipping it on its own on a warm summer day. With such a low ABV, you can easily have a couple of glasses. 

I'd recommend you buy this by the case! 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Rant: We Don't Know How To Talk About Seafood

Unfortunately, though understandably, the Seafood Expo North America (SENA) was canceled again this year due to the pandemic. This has always been one of my favorite food events each year, and I've written extensively about seafood issues I've learned at this event. With SENA's recent decision to cancel their 2021 event, I've been thinking about their previous events, and one panel discussion I attended in 2017 has remained deep in my heart. 

At this panel discussion, one speaker stood out, Barton Seaver, a resident of Maine, a seafood sustainability expert and educator, and the Director of the Sustainable Seafood & Health Initiative at the Center for Health & the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He is also the author of several excellent seafood cookbooks. I've met Barton and seen him speak several times about seafood issues, and he's a compelling speaker who makes you think, who stirs your intellect and heart. 

Barton Seaver began his talk stating: "We don't know how to talk about seafood." Provocative and thought provoking. 

He continued, noting that we don't have a great definition of "sustainable seafood," especially as there are so many different elements of sustainability. Seafood often isn't included in discussion about "good food" despite it being maybe the only food with the term "food" actually in it. We need to look at seafood more from a cultural viewpoint.

Seafood suffers from "otherness," being seen as different from other foods. Over time, seafood lost its identity, partially from the advent of refrigeration and a decrease in home cooking. When people commonly think of proteins, they usually don't include seafood in their thoughts. It's also the only food that is considered guilty before being innocent. It's something people think must be analyzed, to determine whether it passes a person's standards or not. These same individuals don't conduct that same analysis with their beef, chicken, or pork.

The culinary aspect of seafood scares people, who feel intimidated when trying to cook seafood. Currently, Americans eat almost only 10 species of fish, 8 if you group the different types of catfish together. Other fish and seafood is not seen as having the same value as these 10 types. Our fishermen catch so many other species and this is an unsustainable economic situation. We demand the market supply for fish rather than take what is caught. We must all start eating other species of fish and seafood, going beyond the common 10. We need to put less pressure on those common 10 and also help fishermen who catch all the other species. 

Barton then raised an issue I hadn't considered before, but which makes much sense. He stated that one of the biggest obstacles to seafood sustainability is the recipe. The recipe? The problem is that recipes usually are written to use a specific type of fish. For example, you will commonly find recipes for Cod and Mussels, Salmon and Crab. Some seafood cookbooks break down into chapters for these specific seafood types. However, Barton feels that recipes shouldn't specify the fish type but be more generic, such as a "light, flaky whitefish."

The idea is to encourage home cooks to seek outside the common 10 and use other seafood species, which are similar to the common ones they already enjoy. That is excellent advice, though such a cookbook would probably need to have a list somewhere, grouping seafood species by the generic definitions within the cookbook. For example, the average consumer doesn't know what dogfish is like, so they would need to have some guidance as to what type of recipes it would fit within. Barton also had advice for Chefs, that they should not ask for specific species but should ask for what is fresh. In addition, they should "sell the dish, not the seafood."

Barton then moved on, stating that we need to "end the conversation of wild vs farmed." He feels it is an artificial distinction, that we should treat them both the same and stop arguing about aquaculture. In a recent online article, Barton expanded upon this issue and it is worth a read. He makes numerous valid points and I have long been a proponent of aquaculture as well. You'll find numerous articles on my blog discussing aquaculture.

As Barton says, "Seafood is such an amazing opportunity" and "Seafood sustains us." He also noted how valuable it is for our health, how numerous studies show that eating sufficient seafood can reduce your risk of heart disease by about 36%. A doctor from Tufts once told him of the 3 Ss of good health: Wear Seatbelts, No Smoking, and Eat Seafood.

"Fish lacks story." Barton is not the first sustainable seafood proponent that I have heard make this point, and its validity is without dispute. Barton feels we need to use other methods to connect people to seafood, and shouldn't start with the seafood. We need to connect it more to cultural issues. For example, we can talk about social issues such as the fact that 52% of the people involved in aquaculture are women. Aquaculture provides plenty of jobs and that is a great story. In addition, we should consider the story of how we keep fishermen in business, the civic values of helping members of our community. We all should "Talk about sustainability in any measure that is meaningful to you."

Barton Seaver provided much to ponder and I hope it sparks something within my readers as well. People need to eat more seafood, for an abundance of reasons, from improving your own health to helping local fishermen make a living. Stop treating seafood as an enemy and treat it as you would hamburger or fried chicken.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Joslin Diabetes Center A Taste of Ginger Goes Virtual

Combine a worthy cause and great food and you have a compelling and delicious event.

I have plenty of fond memories of the A Taste of Ginger event, which benefits Joslin Diabetes Center’s Asian American Diabetes Initiative (AADI). The AADI's mission is to raise awareness about diabetes and enhance the quality of life and health outcomes of those living with diabetes in the Asian community through research, education, outreach and improved diabetes treatment. Asian Americans are nearly twice as likely to develop diabetes as the general population – more than 10% of all Asian Americans have diabetes and even more remain undiagnosed. 

A Taste of Ginger brought together numerous local chefs, who each offered a special tasting dish to all of the attendees. I enjoyed many delicious foods at this event over the years. There was also an auction, with many intriguing items you could vie to purchase. And it was often held at the Museum of Fine Arts, an excellent venue for such a fun evening. However, this year, due to the pandemic, A Taste of Ginger has returned, although it will be virtual this time. 

This virtual event will be held on Sunday, May 16, from 7pm-8pm. The event will feature a cultural performance including America’s Got Talent magician Will Tsai, Pianist George Li of the New England Conservatory, and Xiaoyi Chen of the New England Championship Wushu Academy. There will also be cooking demonstrations from local chefs as well as a silent auction.

What about food? You'll still be able to sample dishes from local dishes, as attendees will receive samples delivered straight to each guest’s home. About a dozen local chefs will supply dishes, including Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery + Café, Tracy Chang of PAGU, Jasper White of Summer Shack,, Jimmy Liang of the JP Fuji Group, and more. The guests will receive their sampling box on the day of the event, and each box serves two people. Guests must live within 50 miles of Boston and purchase the appropriate ticket level to be eligible for a tasting box.

Culinary chair Bik Fung Ng has been a committee member of A Taste of Ginger since its creation in 2005; she has more than 30 years of experience in the food industry and has been an activist in the Asian community for many years, often collaborating with the AADI on nutrition-related projects. This year’s event honors Carol & Jeffrey Horvitz who have been involved with Joslin and A Taste of Ginger for many years and were instrumental in the event’s partnership with Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Emceed by NBC10 Boston and NECN anchor and reporter Audrey Asistio, the event will show appreciation for its current and past restaurant partners that have been impacted by COVID-19 and will celebrate the substantial advances the AADI has made through research, education, outreach, and culturally appropriate treatments. This event marks the 16th year that funds raised by supporters of A Taste of Ginger have helped fund the important work of the AADI. 

You may purchase a ticket for $150 (which does not include the tasting box) or a ticket for $250 (which includes a tasting box). Tickets can be purchased here. If you are unable to attend the event, please click here to donate to A Taste of Ginger. This is definitely a tough year for this fundraiser so if you can contribute, it would be worthwhile for many reasons.

Monday, April 5, 2021

2017 Chateau Vartely Individo Saperavi: Saperavi From Moldova

I love Saperavi, an indigenous Georgian grape, and was intrigued while perusing some wine shelves at Baza Gourmet Food & Spirits in Newton, to see a wine from Moldova produced from this grape. I had to buy it, so I could see how it was expressed in Moldova, 

As I wrote in Exploring Moldova Restaurant & Moldovan Wine, "The Republic of Moldova is the least visited country in Europe as well as the poorest country in Europe. However, Moldova has been producing wine for about 5,000 years and currently exports about 67 million bottles annually." I recommend you read my article for more background information about Moldova and its wines. 

Chateau Vartely is a newer, and large, winery, established in 2004, and "Vartley" means "city-fortress." The winery has about 300 hectare of vineyards, located in the regions of Codru and Bugeac, and produces over 4,5 million bottles annually. 

The 2017 Chateau Vartely Individo Saperavi ($16) is part of their Individo collection, which is said "...seeks to satisfy the thirst for individuality. Thus, the entire collection is synonymous with strong emotions." It is made from 100% Saperavi, and its name translates as "paint" or "dye", due to its intense dark red color. It's often compared to Nebbiolo, and is commonly described as brambly and rustic. This wine is aged for about 12 months in oak and has only a 13.5% ABV.

This was a pleasing, easy drinking wine, one which should appeal to many different palates. It possessed a fruity aroma, with only a hint of spice, and on the palate, the fruit was prominent, delicious notes go ripe plum, blackberries and black cherry, with subtle spice notes and a hint of herbs. It was silky and smooth, with a moderately long and enjoyable finish. Simply delicious, although it wasn't a simple wine! You could enjoy this wine on its own, although it would work well with a wide variety of foods, from pizza to burgers. 

A good value wine, this would be a nice choice for grilling this summer, or just if you are feeling adventurous and want to try a different grape from a different country.