Monday, January 17, 2022

2020 Fakin Malvazija Istarska: An Istrian Delight

In Croatia, the term "fakin" generally means a scamp or rascal, however the terms's origin is in the Italian word facchino, which referrs to a porter, someone who carries luggage. This particular wine is imported by Mirena Bagur and Win Burke of Croatian Premium Wine Imports, and Mirena's grandfather, who also owned a small vineyard, was a facchino, carrying luggage for a train station. 

Fakin Winery was established in 2010 by Marko Fakin, in Bataji, very near the medieval town of Motovun. It's said that the mythical Jason and the Argonauts traversed the Mirna River at the foothills of the Motovun,  Motovun has a rich medieval history, and in the present, it was also the birthplace of the famed race car driver Mario Andretti. Marko Fakin and his wines have become very famous in the last couple of years, winning numerous awards at Croatian wine competitions. 

The winery has about 30 hectares of vineyards, primarily growing native Istrian grapes including; Malvazija Istarska, Teran and Muškat. Their website states, "The white soil, microclimate and hilly terrain configuration gives our grapes the minerality, freshness and expressive characteristics specific to these varieties."  Croatian Premium Wine Imports currently brings in Fakin's 2020 Malvasija, 2018 La Prima Malvasija, 2019 Teran and 2017 Teran Il Primo

I received a media sample of the 2020 Fakin Malvazija Istarska ($29), made from 100% Malvazija Istarska. Malvasia Istarska comprises almost two thirds of the total wine production in the Istrian region, and is the second most planted variety in Croatia after Grasevina. It is also thought to have been grown in the area for centuries. This wine also has a 13% ABV and spent about six months aging in stainless steel. 

On the nose, it has an alluring nose of peach, herbs and spices. On the palate, it is fresh, dry and crisp, with delicious citrus and stone fruit flavors, spice notes, a mild floral element and a backbone of minerality. It's medium bodied, with a very pleasing finish, and is certainly enjoyable on its own although it would pair well with food as well. I would like to try this wine with oysters or a light chicken dish, or maybe even some Asian cuisine. 

I've been becoming a fan of the Malvazija Istarska grape and this is a fine example. You should be exploring Croatian wines, which have so much to offer any wine lover. 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Doris Wang & Her Famed Peking Duck Returns For A Special Popup!

Doris Wang and her famed Peking Duck returns!

Frenchie owner Sandrine Rossi is pleased to announce beloved Chinatown restaurateur Doris Wang will host a very special, one-night-only, Peking Duck Popup on Tuesday, February 1st celebrating the kickoff to Chinese New Year -- the Year of the Tiger. Doris's China King closed in December 2020 after 15 years and this will give fans a taste they have been craving.

Doris’s New Year’s dinner will feature her famous Scallion Pancakes, Shumai Dumplings, and a Three-Course Peking Duck feast —Crispy Duck Skin and Homemade Pancakes, Duck and Noodle Stir-Fry, and Duck Soup. Each duck dinner serves 2-3 people and will cost $88 per person (includes tax and gratuity). Guests can accompany their meal with wines from Frenchie’s extensive cellar, including bottles from Sandrine's family vineyard in Medoc Bordeaux. To celebrate Chinese New Year, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne will be offered for $90 dollars.

Like Julia Child (who Doris has actually cooked for), Sandrine Rossi’s favorite cuisine (after French) is Chinese. “I lived and worked in Beijing for 18 months in 2013-2014 as an engineer,” she says. “Doris’s incredible food reminds me of that special time.”

The China King Peking Duck Popup at Frenchie will be reservations only, beginning at 5 PM on Tuesday, February 1, with final seatings at 10 PM. Guests will be required to make a reservation via Eventbrite and post a credit card charge due to the preparation and time that will go into the dinner. Per order of the City of Boston, proof of vaccination is required for admittance to the event.

For more info on the history of Peking Duck, in the local region and Chinatown, as well as info on Doris, check out my prior article.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I'm back again with a new edition of Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food and drink events. I hope everyone dines out safely, tips well and are nice to their servers.
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1) Levain Bakery has made its name for 26 years as the purveyor of crispy outside, ooey-gooey middle, giant cookies. This February, they will make their Boston debut, in the heart of Back Bay, at 180 Newbury Street. 

Levain Bakery was founded in 1995 by best friends Connie McDonald and Pam Weekes on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. What began as a tiny neighborhood wholesale bakery, Levain has since built a passionate fan base and avid following worldwide for its decadent, mammoth cookies. Levain has expanded to nine retail bakery locations in the northeast, with Boston soon to be added to the list. The upcoming Newbury Street bakery marks Levain’s first-ever New England location and its second foray into a new region outside of New York, following their two recent bakery openings in the Washington, DC area.

Having lived in Boston for a couple of years, I had fallen in love with its charm, energy and of course the great food,”said Connie. “And as we considered expanding to a few select cities, both Pam and I agreed that Boston - and in particular, Back Bay - would be a dream neighborhood for us. We’re overjoyed that we’re finally able to bring our treats to Boston and share our cookies with this incredible city.

The Newbury Street location will serve up Levain’s five signature cookie flavors: chocolate chip walnut, dark chocolate peanut butter chip, dark chocolate chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and two-chip chocolate chip, plus chocolate chip walnut made with gluten-free ingredients — all baked fresh in-house daily all day long. In addition, the bakery will also feature pastries, loaf cakes, bread and rolls, and decadent sticky buns, as well as tea, coffee and espresso beverages. Levain will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

2) In celebration of Valentine's Day, on Monday, February 14, Lola 42, a lobally-inspired bistro and sushi bar is introducing a sensual Sushi Platter for Two  ($75). The platter will include Toro Nigiri (3-pieces), Toro Sashimi (3-pieces) and Toro Tartare topped with Osetra caviar - beautifully plated with wasabi and a fresh orchid. 

In addition, lovers can spice up the evening with The Aphrodite cocktail ($21) - a concoction of Añejo tequila, lemon, honey, passion fruit and strawberry puree shaken with a Thai Chili and served in a citrus chili rimmed rocks glass.

For reservations, please call 617-951-4002.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Rant: I Want Breakfast For Dinner!

It's an artificial division, a tyranny of the plate. Many people have been conditioned to follow an unwritten rule about what is proper to eat at different times during the day. The seeds of revolution exist though, and there are rebels who seek to cast down the old rules, and ignore the authorities who try to dictate what we eat. I fully support these rebels and I firmly believe that the time has come to destroy these barriers.

I, and others, desire to enjoy "breakfast" foods all day long. No longer should we be limited by the time of day to enjoy bacon & eggs, a stack of pancakes, or a savory waffle. Why are such foods relegated only to the morning? There's no rational reason why they must be so limited. Throughout history, the type of foods served during breakfast have varied greatly and there's no reason breakfast dishes can't be served at other times. Let us enjoy them in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Let us enjoy them any time during the day we want.

A 2014 Reuters article found that 72% of U.S. adults wished restaurants would offer breakfast items all day. What a huge percentage of people who want to destroy the barrier of what some believe should only be for breakfast. The MarketWatch (July 2020) noted the popularity of breakfast items at chain restaurants such as 25%-30% of sales at McDonald’s, 20% at Jack in the Box, 13-14% at Burger King and 8% at Wendy's. More restaurants need to exploit this desire for breakfast items, and not just in the morning.

Of the independent breakfast spots I know, which usually also serve lunch, they commonly close in the early afternoon and aren't open for dinner. Why not? They serve breakfast for the entire time they are open, in the morning and afternoon. So why not extend it to the evening as well? They don't even have to provide the usual dinner items. Just serve breakfast foods.

A few restaurants seem to understand, adding dishes to their dinner menus which have breakfast items, like the popular Chicken & Waffles dish.  A creative chef could easily concoct all sorts of compelling dishes using traditional breakfast foods. Let's see a dinner Omelette, a sandwich using Pancakes as the bread, or even a Waffle pizza. Stop thinking breakfast foods have to be served only in the morning. Give the people what they want, explore your culinary creativity, and let's see what new dishes you can concoct.

Do you have any favorite restaurants which serve breakfast items for lunch or dinner?

Friday, January 7, 2022

New Sampan Article: Who Invented the Egg Roll?

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

For over a year, I've been contributing to Sampan, the only bilingual Chinese-English newspaper in New England. It is published in print as well as online, available in both Chinese and English. I've previously written thirty articles for Sampan, and you can find links here

My newest article, Who Invented the Egg Roll?, is now available in the new issue of Sampan. Two Chinese chefs in New York City are the main contenders for being the inventor of the iconic egg roll. However, after my own research, it appears one of those contenders has a far stronger case than the other, with far more documentary evidence to make his case. So, which contender most likely invented the egg roll? You'll have to read my latest Sampan article for the answer. 

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!