Monday, January 27, 2020

Does A Food & Drink Blog Matter?

During the past year, I've lost several family members and friends, including two people who were younger than me. It makes you ponder your own mortality, the realization that any of us could be gone at any time. From cancer to Alzheimer's, there are many threats we all face. I know I'm not alone, as I know other friends who have faced similar losses recently.

With all I've been pondering, I've thought about my food and drink blog, questioning whether it matters at all. I've written about some important issues, from sustainability to drunk driving, but I've also penned plenty of reviews of restaurants, wines, and other drinks. Is that largely irrelevant in the larger scheme of things? Or is there a connection to more important issues, making it worthy to continue writing?

We all eat and drink, and sometimes it is merely an ingestion of fuel, something we don't think about beyond getting basic nutrition. However, food and drink can also be integral to our interactions with other people, contributing to the creation of memorable experiences. We dine out with family and friends, sometimes for special occasions, and sometimes for no particular reason though the dining experience still becomes memorable. As I've long said, wine is best when shared with others, again creating memories.

When a loved one passes on, we are left with our memories, and I suspect a number of those memories will include food and drink. One of my family members passed a little over a week ago, and we have plenty of excellent memories to cherish, and a number of those memories involve food and wine, from the wines she regularly enjoyed to the Rappie Pie parties that brought our family together. Yes, food and drink have been important in our lives, and the memories we hold of our loved ones.

So, though writing reviews of food and drink might see superfluous on the surface, it actually connects to the larger issues of our lives, often being an important element of our favorite memories. It helps to bring people together, to share with loved ones, to form a foundation for many life events. And that is not even considering how such reviews affect those creating and producing the food and drink we consume. These reviews can benefit restaurants, bakeries, wineries, distilleries, and much more, helping them thrive.

Yes, a food and drink blog can matter. Maybe more than you initially think. The best things in life are often our experiences, and food & drink often fit into those experiences. And please also try to live your life the best you can, knowing that our lives could end at any time.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

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) The Lunar New Year is this Saturday, January 25 and Empire Boston and Red Lantern Boston are both offering dining specials to celebrate. Empire Boston is hosting a Lunar New Year party on Saturday, Jan. 25th at 10pm. There will be dragon dancing and music by XKaliber. They are also mixing up two drink specials included below.

Let the Lights Dim Sum $85
Served in a Dumpling Basket with Dry Ice
3 shots of “The Real Green Tea
Peach Schnapps
Green tea
Lime agave
3 shots of “The Golden Touch”
Gold Apricot Vodka infused with Gold Pearl Shimmer
2 Squeeze of Lemons
3 Shots of “Hot Night in Bangkok
Avión Silver Chili

Opium Dream $16
Black Sesame Simple Ron Zacapa Rum
Coco Rial
Served with 2pcs of Chinese Buttermilk Candy

Red Lantern Boston is offering two unique dishes this weekend (Friday & Saturday) – a Steamed Whole Fish ($39) with soy, ginger, scallion and cilantro and a Whole Peking Duck ($108) served with a large bowl of duck cabbage and tofu soup. Enjoy Baiju two ways with the special ShùNian for two - the first Baiju is made with lychee, mango, citrus, and bubbles and the second Baiju is made with strawberry, Szechuan syrup, rose liqueur and citrus

2) Bring your date to Davio's Northern Italian Steakhouse, located at Market Street in Lynnfield for a romantic rendezvous this Valentine’s Day. In addition to the regular dinner menu, Davio’s is offering a special three-course prix-fixe menu. The menu will be available Friday, February 14th and Saturday, February 15th.

Valentine’s Day Menu
Shucked Oysters, Osetra Caviar, Chilled Shrimp Louis, Lemon
Egg Tagliatelle, Nantucket Bay Scallops, Parmigiano Cream, Black Truffles
Piatti Del Giorno
Center Cut Filet Mignon, Fresh Maine Lobster, Creamy Potatoes, Asparagus, Pepata
Crab Meat, Sole, Soft Polenta, Spinach, Sherry Cream
Dessert Sampler (Mini Warm Chocolate Cake, Passion Fruit, White Chocolate Macaroon, Tiramisu Cream Puff)

COST: $85 per guest (excluding tax & gratuity).
Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 781.944.4810.

3) Named for its latitudinal location, LoLa 42, located at Twenty Two Liberty is offering a special three-course Prix Fixe Bistro menu for $49 or the option of a nightly bento box of sushi offerings for $30 in addition to its regular menu. The globally inspired Prix Fixe menu of appetizers, entrees and desserts offers a nice selection of LoLa 42’s most popular dishes including Hong Kong Lettuce Cups, Lobster Risotto, Korean Beef Bulgogi, The LoLa Vegan Burger, and the Tres Leches dessert, among others. The Winter Prix Fixe Bistro Menu and Bento Box special is available now nightly throughout the winter months.

LoLa Burger in Boston’s Seaport District is offering relief from the winter doldrums in the form of irresistible winter dining deals: Satisfy your wing & brew craving with $1 wings (min order of 6) and $3 beers; or enjoy the LLB Combo featuring your choice of either a Classic Burger, Falafel, or Wings (10 per order) PLUS a beer of your choice from a specified list of beers, all for only $10. The classic burger and the falafel come with a side of fries. These winter specials are available now and will be available every day, all day throughout the winter months.

4) Boston Harbor Hotel and Share Our Strength partner for a special charity reception as part of the 31st Annual Boston Wine Festival. The event will raise funds to support Share Our Strength’s mission of ending childhood hunger and poverty. The event will be hosted by designer and television personality Taniya Nayak.

The Boston Harbor Hotel is proud to host the second annual Uncorked for a Cause event at the Boston Wine Festival. For the second year in a row, the Boston Wine Festival has partnered with Share Our Strength for an evening of delicious food, incredible wine from around the world and live music to support a great cause. Guests will enjoy small bites and inspired food stations from Chef Daniel Bruce while dancing to tunes from the Kahootz band.

Share Our Strength’s mission is to end hunger and poverty through campaigns such as No Kid Hungry. The Uncorked for a Cause even with be hosted by Taniya Nayak and guests will be able to take home their own bottles of wine with a fantastic wine auction, enjoy sips from the event’s custom wine wall, and enjoy incredible auction items to benefit all to benefit Share Our Strength.

DRESS CODE: Black-tie Optional
WHEN: Friday, February 28, 2020, 7:00PM-10:00PM
COST: $115 per person. Tickets are available at

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

2017 Hyland Estates Old Vine Pinot Noir: "Land Not Hand"

It's one of the oldest wineries in Oregon, and its vineyards were initially planted with Pinot Noir, which may have been originally sourced from Alsace. An intriguing origin tale.

Hyland Estates, located in the McMinnville AVA of the Willamette Valley, Oregon, was first planted in 1971 by four families, the Kreimeyers, Markleys, Welches, and Trenhailes. One of the original Pinot Noir clones that was planted was the mysterious Coury clone, named after the pioneer Charles Coury, who came to Oregon in 1965, believing the area would be excellent for Pinot. It is believed that around 1964, Charles brought Pinot Noir cuttings from Alsace, and these became known as the Coury Clone, said to possess a "signature spice and elegant texture." Today, Hyland Estates grows over 30 acres of the Coury clone.

The estate is also now owned by Laurent Montalieu, Danielle Andrus Montalieu, and John Niemeyer, with Laurent acting as winemaker in conjunction with Anne Sery. Ranging over 200 acres, the vineyards are planted on red volcanic Jory soil, which is also the state soil of Oregon. Though Pinot Noir is their primary specialty, and they grow a number of different clones, their vineyards also grow a variety of other grapes, such as Chardonnay, Riesling, and Gewurtztraminer.

They practice Biodynamic agriculture and their grapes are LIVE certified grapes, indicative of their environmental and socially responsible winegrowing. The estate has also adopted a "land not hand" philosophy, a minimal interventionist stance, believing that the wine is primarily made in the vineyard, not in the winery.

The 2017 Hyland Estates Old Vine Pinot Noir ($45) is a single vineyard wine, made from a blend of different Pinot Noir clones, some as much as 48 years old, including 65% Coury clone. With a 13.3% ABV, this wine spent about 9 months in French oak and only about 1968 cases were produced.   Their goal was to "showcase the entire vineyard and the best of the clones planted throughout." With a medium red colorist possessed an appealing aroma of red fruits and subtle spice notes. On the palate, it was compelling and elegant, complex and silky, with delicious flavors of cherry and raspberry, with a mild spiciness, balanced acidity, well integrated tannins, and a touch of earthiness. The lengthy finish was satisfying and alluring, and beckoned for you to take another sip. An excellent Pinot, this earns my hearty recommendation.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Rant: Giving Restaurants A Second Chance

Sometimes you decide to no longer patronize a restaurant. Maybe the food was subpar, the service atrocious, cleanliness was an issue, or some other problem. There are certainly plenty of other options available to you, different restaurants which will be happy for your business.

However, what might get you to give a restaurant a second-chance? What might cause you to put aside your prior issues and dine once again at that restaurant? Or would you never give a restaurant a second-chance?

In part, those answers might depend on the reasons for why you no longer patronize a place. Some issues are easier to fix than others. For example, I once dined at a new restaurant where I witnessed the chef/owner engage in a rather unhygienic act in the open kitchen. It turned me off so much that I've never returned there. Except for getting a new owner, there's nothing else that could be done to get me to dine there.

There's another restaurant which I once enjoyed but I felt that the quality of the food had declined over time. I didn't return there, until very recently, for at least a couple years. What persuaded me to give them a second-chance? They hired a new chef, someone I knew and whose culinary skills I very much respected. A number of appealing photos of some of his dishes posted on social media further convinced me to dine there once again.

This might be the one of the main reasons why diners would give a second-chance to a restaurant, especially if the food quality had been an issue. A new chef can provide the added boost which elevates the level of the cuisine, correcting prior faults. I'm sure there's some people who wouldn't even be persuaded by this, but they might be doing themselves a disservice, missing out on a delicious opportunity.

When I returned to this particular restaurant, I was impressed by the cuisine from the new chef, hearkening back to a time when I very much enjoyed this place. It brought new life to this restaurant, boding well for the future, and I plan on returning in the near future, to try more of the menu. It will be the subject of a future restaurant review, and I'll be glad to recommend it once again.

Sometimes restaurants are deserving of a second-chance. And we should be willing to give them that chance to convince us that they are a worthy destination once again.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

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) On Tuesday, January 21, with a reception starting at 6:30pm, Rebel’s Guild invites you to attend a special dinner and wine pairing with Orin Swift Winemaker Dave Phinney. The culinary team has prepared a carefully curated menu of dishes to pair with Orin Swift specialty wines, making for an experience foodies and wine lovers won’t want to miss.

The full dinner menu is as follows:
Rebel’s Rockefeller (Roasted Duxbury Oysters with Creamed Spinach and Smoked Bacon)
Blank Stare
Tots (Crisp House Made Tater Tots Made with Lobster Meat and Maine Potatoes Served with a Side of Bearnaise) Sauce
Roasted Brussels (Brussels Sprouts, Olive Oil, Sea Salt and Chickpeas)
Twin Chops (Domestic Lamb Chops, Oven Roasted Butternut Squash with Toasted Farro and Black Currant Reduction)
Eight Years in the Desert
Sizzl’n Steak (Seared Sirloin Served Rare with Parsnip Puree, Duxbury Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper)
Vanilla Ice Cream with Special Sauce (Second Glance American Whiskey, Spiced Pecan Praline and Candied Cherries)

Tickets are available for $100 per person and can be purchased via Eventbrite. All attendees must be 21+ with a valid ID.

2) For Valentine's Day, consider Forge & Vine in Groton, where Executive Chef Patrick Bassett will prepare special "aphrodisiac" dishes exclusively for the occasion. From starters to desserts, guests will dine on selections like Duxbury Oysters with pomegranate mignonette, green apple, decadent Maine Lobster Carbonara with bucatini, pancetta and brussels sprouts, Local Mushroom Risotto, Wood-Grilled Filet Mignon with caramelized onion agrodolce, bayley hazen blue and fingerling potatoes, Pan Seared Atlantic Halibut with miso, shimeji mushrooms, boy chop & yuzu, and a Black Forest Pavlova for Two with dark chocolates creme.

For wine & spirit enthusiasts, Forge & Vine will also offer a special wine flight highlighting four wines for $24 from Italy, France and South Africa in addition to a special signature cocktail The Love Potion - a combination of Godiva Vanilla Vodka, Creme de Cocoa, Godiva White chocolate liqueur, cream and muddle strawberries.

To make Reservations, please call 978-488-9200

3) Scampo has a new Brunch menu and updated hours, now offering Brunch on Sundays from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. The new menu includes items such as the Egg Bowl with Smashed Avocado and Smoked Bacon Spiced Aioli, an Omelet with Lobster, Classic Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon, Scampo Bacon Cheeseburger with sweet relish & fries, Waffles with Banana Flambé, and more.

Additionally, each week the menu will feature Lydia’s Sunday Savory Secret Selection, which will be hand-picked by Scampo Chef/Owner Lydia Shire.

To make reservations, please call (617) 536-2100

4) In preparation for the opening of Café Beatrice at Cambridge Crossing, the Puritan & Co. team, led by Executive Pastry Chef Brian Mercury, will host two pop up bakeries that will serve as previews of the forthcoming Café Beatrice. The take out-only café will feature breakfast sandwiches, sweets, and savory bites, such as an Italian Grinder Croissant.

When: Saturday, January 18 and Saturday, January 25
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – breakfast sandwiches and sweets
12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. – savory and sweet bites

WHERE: 1164 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA (Right next to Puritan & Co.)

5) Encore Boston Harbor has recently launched Encore Cantina, a taco truck that is stationed on the casino floor. The menu features tacos, burritos and burrito bowls, salads and a selection of desserts and treats.

Encore Cantina Menu
Nachos $7
Pickled onion, radish, lime crema, cotija cheese, cilantro, roasted tomato salsa
Add: beef barbacoa $3 | chicken asado $3
Taco Salad $7
Romaine lettuce, crisp tortilla, corn salsa, black beans, pickled jalapenos, queso fresco, buttermilk dressing
Add: beef barbacoa $3 | chicken asado $3
3 Tacos $9
Beef barbacoa – cotija cheese, pickled jalapenos, salsa verde
Chicken asado – marinated grilled and diced chicken, chipolte slaw, fresh cilantro
Vegetable – Portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, bell peppers, poblanos, roasted tomato salsa
Burrito or Bowl $9
Brown rice, cilantro, borracho beans, queso fresco
Choice of Beef barbacoa | Chicken asado | Vegetable
Meal Deal $12
Tacos | Burrito | Bowl
Side of tortilla chips and choice of beverage
Cupcakes $4.50
Ice Cream (Double scoop) $5