Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Pizza & Pornography?

Does pizza and pornography go together?

It would not seem to be a natural pairing but at least one restaurant thinks it goes together. CBC News reported on Porno Pizza, a new restaurant in Winnipeg, Canada. Each pizza comes with a pornographic photo though customers must show identification to prove they are 18 years old. Porno Pizza also gives suggestive names to its combination pizzas, such as Missionary Position, Beaver, Climax and Bareback.

Though there is some opposition to the store, the owner states that the majority of his customers are actually women. The owner is also selling franchises in Canada.

Would this idea go over in the U.S.? I guess much would depend on the laws of the specific states. It is probably an idea that would be popular with many customers though there would be a vocal opposition as well. There is a topless donut shop in Main so a pizza shop with porno does not sound too much out of line.

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Pastrana Manzanilla Pasada

I will admit that I don't know much about Sherry. I am still learning. I know the basics but have not had much opportunity to taste good Sherries from Spain. Though I have enjoyed the ones I have tasted.

Catavino's July Virtual Tasting is on Sherries. And I just fit this bottle in under the wire. I should also mention that Catavino has several articles on Sherry this month that you can check out. Check out "Sherry Questions-Answers-Ideas", "Timeline of Spanish Sherry", "Sherry-Spain's Cure for Summer Heat" and "Website Review: Enjoy Sherry."

The Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Pastrana Manzanilla Pasada, Single Vineyard ($22) is produced from only free run juice. It has an alcohol content of 15.5%. This Sherry is extra aged until the flor begins to die off. Thus it is supposed to result in a deeper, richer flavour.

I found this Sherry to be light and crisp with a nutty and salty flavor. It has a nice golden color and kind of a nutty nose. It has a long finish. It has more complexity than the other Sherry I recently tasted.

I paired this Sherry with a dinner of seared scallops (cooked in olive oil and sea salt), atop a bed of shoepeg corn and bacon. The Sherry was a nice match, especially with the salt of the bacon and the scallops. The nutty flavor became more subdued and the Sherry mellowed. I had some more of the Sherry after dinner, without any food, and I enjoyed it then as well.

I recommend this Sherry as a Drink & Buy. And I will continue to try other Sherries.

Monday, July 30, 2007

2005 Sutton Cellars Syrah

It is such a joy to find a enjoyable, new wine. Last evening, I tried one of the new wines I had acquired on my recent trip to the Lower Falls Wine Co. This was a wine that had intrigued me when I first saw it and which one of the wine store employees had also recommended.

The 2005 Sutton Cellars Syrah, Bennett Valley ($20), is made from 88% Syrah and 12% Carignane. The label states the Carignane is added for “structure, complexity and utter slurpability.” Only 79 cases of this wine were made.

Sutton Cellars is a small, artisanal winery in California that was founded in 1996. The winemaker, Carl Sutton, used to be a wine salesman and cellar worker. He started making his own wine in 1990. The main label concentrates on small lots of single vineyard wines from primarily Sonoma Coast and the Russian River Valley. They also sometimes use grapes from Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, and Bennett Valley. All of Sutton Cellar's wines are unfiltered and gravity filled by hand. Total output of the winery is only around 3500 cases, with no single wine being made in over 300 cases.

I should note that the winery website is of very limited use. It currently contains only a single page, giving little more than prices for their 2003 & 2004 wines.

The Syrah had little of a nose and it was a bit lighter in color than I expected. It surprised me on my palate. Maybe I was expecting a big, bold Syrah. Instead, I got more of a Rhone style wine. It was incredibly smooth, like liquid velvet. There were great fruit flavors of blackberry and blueberry. This melded into a spicy finish though the spice was a bit subdued. It had a very long finish. The more I drank, the more I enjoyed this wine. It was complex, balanced and just delicious.

I drank the wine with cheeseburgers and potato salad and the wine went well with the beef. It probably would make a good BBQ wine as well.

At its price, I think this is an excellent value wine, a highly recommended Drink & Buy. You won't find many low production wines of this quality at this price.

I can't wait to try their Carignane!

Sutton Cellars
PO Box 14697
Santa Rosa, CA 95402
Phone: (877) 863-4633

No More Rat Wine

I previously noted that Disney was going to market a wine called "Ratatouille" and bearing the likeness of Remy, the rat, on the label, through Costco. The wine was to be a French Chardonnay from the Burgundy region and will retail for $12.99.

Well, it seems Disney has now canceled those plans. The LA Times has reported that Disney & Costco. decided to cancel the wine after meeting opposition from California winemakers and opponents of underage drinking. Disney claimed the California winemakers were upset that a French wine was being promoted though they denied that was a factor.

I think this was a good move on Disney's part.

I do wonder though if any bottles were labeled and still exist out there. They certainly would be major collectibles.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Restaurant Service

Today's Boston Globe Magazine has a series of articles concerning restaurant service. There is an article listing 29 restaurants with excellent service. There are also a few small essays on restaurant service.

One essay, which does not seem to appear online, is called "It's Bad All Over." It states that poor restaurant service occurs all over, and not just in Boston. It is considered to be the largest problem in the restaurant industry. A couple reasons are stated for this problem. One is that waiters are considered low on the food chain. It is the chefs that get all the publicity and fame. There are few, if any, famous waiters. In Boston specifically, the number of college students waiting tables is thought to be one of the causes of the problem. Most lack experience.

To me, bad restaurant service certainly can ruin a dining experience, even if the food is excellent. And no type of restaurant is immune from bad service. Even the best restaurants can have service issues. Conversely, a restaurant with excellent service will definitely elevate the quality of your dining experience.

A single bad serving experience can make some people never return to a restaurant. So, it is imperative that a restaurant does it best to provide good service. If you have service problems, should you speak to the management? If there are only a couple minor glitches, it is probably not worth speaking up. You can always just adjust the tip accordingly. A few minor issues could arise anywhere and anytime. We can't expect perfection always. But, if there is a significant service issue, then definitely speak up. You are paying for the experience so you should expect good service.

Most restaurants want to hear legitimate criticism so that they can correct the problems. And usually they will do something to remedy the issue. If not, then that is a restaurant you should not return to.

If you receive excellent service, you might also want to speak to the management, to tell them how pleased you were with your server. Good service should be rewarded and acknowledged. I have done this before. Why not encourage excellent service?

Vermont Wines

In today's Boston Globe, there is an article concerning the wine industry in Vermont. The first winery in Vermont opened in 1985 and there are currently fourteen wineries in the state. Many of their wines are made from something other than grapes. Apples are still the most commonly used fruit. Seven of the wineries use grapes. But, a number of wineries have begun planting special hybrid grapes which are resistant to cold temperatures.

Vermont has a new Vermont Grape and Wine Council. The intent of the council is to assist the state's wine industry, including marketing, tourism and more. They had their first meeting on July 11.

It will be interesting to see how the Vermont wine industry grows, especially now that they have some more official state support.

Wine Class--Aug.4--Spaces Still Available

Just a reminder about the upcoming Wine Education event.

On Saturday, August 4, at 3:00pm, there will be a Wine Education class at the OurGlass wine Store in Saugus. I am collaborating with OurGlass on this fun and informative event.

The class will be about "Off The Beaten Track" Whites. Many are familiar with Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Riesling. We shall try wines you may not know, such as Albarino, Godello, Torrentes, Vernaccia, Vermentino, just to name a few.

Cost is $25 per person, which will include cheese and breads as well as special Tasting discounts. This is a great opportunity to taste some new and different wines and meet other local wine lovers in the area.

You must call OurGlass to book your reservation. Please do so ASAP as space is limited.

OurGlass Wine Co.
124A Broadway (Rt. 1 N)
Saugus, MA
Phone: 781-941-8068

Dali: Always Consistent

There are some restaurants that are consistently excellent, where you know that you will always have a delicious meal. You have no qualms about recommending the restaurant to others as you know that they will enjoy it. You look forward to dining there, knowing it will please. Dali is one such restaurant.

We dined there last night with another couple who had never been there before. We all had a fabulous dining experience.

I have discussed Dali here a few times before. You can see those reviews here and here. They are consistently good and this time was no exception.

We arrived early, prior to their 5:30pm opening. On Saturdays, they do not take reservations unless you have a party of 6 or more. And then, they only take reservations until 6pm. Thus, unless you want to wait for a table, you go early and wait for their opening. Usually there is a line outside by the time the doors open. Last evening though there were only a few people waiting outside. Though the restaurant would fill up quickly soon after.

The ambience of the restaurant is one of its strengths. You feel as if you have been transported to another world. It is a friendly place, a place of enjoyment. It can also be a very romantic spot, especially a couple of tables near the windows. You can ask specifically to be seated there and those tables should not disappoint. The staff are all welcoming and personable, from the hostesses at the front to the waiters who will serve you.

We specifically asked to be seated in Gateau's section. He is our favorite waiter and he has been our server many times. We know that the service will be impeccable and that he will ensure we have a good time. He is very personable and a fine man. I should mention that the rest of their staff is also very good. We have never had any service issues here.

Prior to our dinner, we ordered a few drinks. I began with a glass of Manzanilla sherry, La Gitana. This is a dry white wine, with a nutty and salty taste, almost a taste of the sea. A nice start prior to the meal. The others ordered the Mojito Especial. This is not your usual mojito but their own special concoction. It is made from Gran Torres Orange, Anisette, Mint Liqueur, Lemon Juice, and Mint leaves, Everyone very much enjoyed them. I tasted the Moijto and thought it was excellent too.

With the drinks, we also got a basket of sliced bread. The bread was very fresh and has a nice thick consistency. It is great for dipping into sauces or spreading something on it. They give you a chickpea and mushroom spread which many people really enjoy. They will always bring you more bread or chickpea spread if you run out.

We then ordered our first round of Tapas. We were not in any rush so we chose to order in stages. We began with the Plato Mixto, a selection of Spanish cheeses, Serrano ham, olives and peppers. This dish certainly went well with my sherry. You also get plenty of food on this dish, plenty for four people. We also had the Ensalada Mixta, a large fresh salad. I was hesitant when the Pulpo a la Vinagreta arrive, the Octopus in a vinegarette. I generally don't eat Octopus but I did try it. And it actually was very good. It was tender, not rubbery at all, and the vinegarette added a nice flavor. This is a Tapas I would order again. We also ordered the Gambas al Ajillo, shrimp in sizzling oil and garlic. This has long been one of my favorite Tapas. The 0il and garlic go well atop their bread. Our final Tapas for this stage was one of their specials, Tigres, which were Mussels stuffed with Serrano Ham, Shrimp & Béchamel sauce. These were superb! Three large mussels covered by a mound of the stuffing ingredients. Very tasty.

While enjoying these dishes, we ordered a pitcher of Sangria. Their Sangria is still my favorite of any I have had in any other restaurant. It is certainly popular as you will see it on almost every table at the restaurant. It has just the right combination of flavors and the alcohol taste is very subdued.

Onto the next stage of culinary delights. We tried some more of their special Tapas. The Bola de Patatas is a Potato & Pork Croquette served with an Onion-Paprika Sauce. This was a large Croquette with a nice crisp fried exterior and plenty of meat and potato inside. The Brocheta Vacuna consisted of two Grilled Marinated Beef Skewers. This skewers were in some type of wine sauce. Maybe a Rioja wine. The beef was very tender and the sauce was exceptional. I could have eaten a dozen skewers. The Vieiras con Queso de Cabra y Bacon were Broiled Scallops with Goat Cheese & Crispy Bacon. Another superb dish, with a mix of such great flavors. The creamy goat cheese with the smoky bacon and the tender scallops.

From the regular menu, we ordered the Patatas Bravas, the Fried Potatoes with a Piquant Tomato Sauce and drizzled with Alioli. Nice crisp potatoes with a spicy sauce. We also ordered one of the meals, the Valenciana Paella. This is a Spanish rice dish with meat, poultry and seafood. This dish was loaded with food, from mussels and squid to chicken and sausage. Great spices, perfectly cooked rice. Just a great melange of tastes. It certainly pleased everyone at our table.

A couple of us still had some room left so we ordered two more Tapas. We had the Codorniz de Castilla, Broiled Herb and Garlic Quail stuffed with Bacon. A delectable little bird with plenty of smoky bacon. We also had the Vieiras al Azafrán, Scallops in a Saffron Cream. This is another of my favorites. The sauce is superb, great for dipping your bread.

The couple with us very much enjoyed the food. They had enjoyed every dish and had no complaints at all. But we still were not quite done. Dessert still remained!

We ordered the Tarta de Santiago, a Flourless Almond Cake with Coffee Cream Sauce. That was delicious, with a great consistency and nice taste. We also ordered the Fresones, three huge Strawberries wrapped in Sherry Batter and served with Crema Catalana & Chocolate Ice Cream. This was a special dessert and is excellent. The strawberries are sweet and the thin batter is delicious. A decadent pleasure.

We spent over three hours there, savoring a leisurely dinner. We were not rushed at all. Great food, great service, great company. All the ingredients for a superb dining experience. I cannot recommend Dali enough. It is consistently excellent. It has all the earmarks of passion that I seek. If you have been there before, then return. If you have never been there before, then give it a try. You won't be disappointed.

415 Washington St.
Somerville, MA
Phone: 617-661-3254

Dalí in Somerville

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Poll #2 Results

Poll #2: What is your favorite BBQ grilled meat?

The winner was Steak, though Ribs and Sausage were tied at a close second.

So, onto Poll #3. What is your favorite wine region?

Will the Old World beat the New World? How will fare France? Let us see.

Gekkeikan Horin Ultra Premium Junmai Daiginjo

Most Sake is produced in Japan but there are now a few Sake breweries in the U.S. One such brewery is Gekkeikan, located in Folsom, California. Gekkeikan is a Japanese Sake brewery which chose to open a branch in the U.S. They now sell U.S. made Sake as well as Sake imported from Japan. Their basic U.S. made Sake is available in many wine and liquor stores and is inexpensive, often under $10 a bottle. I am not a fan though of that Sake. I am picky in my Sake tastes.

But, I am a big fan of one of their imported Sakes, the Horin Ultra Premium Junmai Daiginjo ($30). First, this Sake is packaged well and would make a great present. The bottle comes in a black box with gold Kanji lettering. The neck of the bottle is covered in gold foil and tied with a lace. It has a type of flip top opening and they give you a cork which you can use to seal the bottle. But it is not all style over substance.

The sake itself is superb! It is a very high quality drink, smooth, with a nice taste of rice and some mellow fruit flavors. Served chilled, this is definitely a drink that will please a sake aficionado. If you have never tried a premium Sake, this might be a good choice to start.

As this is a Daiginjo, it is the highest quality level Sake. The rice is polished to 50% of its original size. Daiginjos usually sell for more than $30 so this is a good value Sake as well. A definite Drink & Buy.

Friday, July 27, 2007


Snickerdoodles! One of my fav0rite cookies and my favorite place to get them is the Quebrada Baking Co. I had the opportunity to visit that bakery yesterday in Wellesley and bought a batch of their Snickerdoodles.

Their Snickerdoodles have a hard perimeter but the inside is soft and chewy. They have a dusting of sugar and cinnamon on top. They are simply delicious. I really like the softness of the interior of the cookie. They cost $10 a pound so they are not cheap but they are a superior product.

What is the origin of Snickerdoodles? You would think that with a strange name like that you could easily find its origin. Not so. No one seems to know where it came from. Some food historians think it originated in New England in the 19th century. Others think it came from England or Germany. Whatever their origin, they are tasty.

I was only aware of their Wellesley location but when I checked their website, I found they also have an Arlington location. I will have to check it out.

Besides Snickerdoodles, they have many other baked goods including muffins, scones, breads, croissants and more. You can see their menu online.

Quebrada Baking Co.
Two locations

272 Washington St.
Wellesley, MA
Phone: (781) 237-2111

208 Mass Ave.
Arlington, MA
Phone: (781) 648-0700

2006 Panarroz

I received an email from Gordon's Fine Wine announcing the release of the 2006 Panarroz. This is a Spanish wine from the Jumilla region, which is known for their wines made from the Monastrell grape (also known as Mourvedre and Mataro). This 2006 blend is made from 58% Monastrell, 26% Garnacha and 16% Syrah. It sees no oak.

This has long been one of my favorite wines, especially because it sells for less than $10. It was the first Highly Recommended Wine of the Real World Winers. It is a smooth, easy drinking wine with lots of great fruit. It has a lot of character for such an inexpensive wine. A great value wine.

Gordon's will be receiving this wine on August 2 and is selling it for only $7 a bottle. You can preorder or reserve this wine by emailing them at dailyflash@gordonswine.com or calling them. I am sure other local wine stores will get this in stock as well. If you want a great wine for under $10, definitely check this wine out!

Gordon's Fine Wine
894 Main St.
Waltham, MA
Phone: (800) 696-9463

Help Wanted

Want a job working at a wine store? Well there are openings in Belmont for Permanent Part-Time Sales Associates.

As reported previously, the Spirited Gourmet wine store in Winchester is going to expand, opening a second store in the Cushing Square section of Belmont. So, they are looking for people to work at this new store in October.

The job primarily entails assisting customers with their food and beverage purchases, with other activities (stocking, light cleaning, etc.) as required. Qualified applicants will have some level of product knowledge, a passion for our products, and enjoy interacting with people.

If you are interested, forward your resume to Elena at their Winchester location.

The Spirited Gourmet
600 Main St.
Winchester, MA
Phone: (781) 721-WINE

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Case Corini Wines

This evening I went to a special wine tasting at the Lower Falls Wine Co.. Eileen Wright, of Il Capriccio and Adonna Imports, was there presenting wines from an all-organic winery, Case Corini. As I have mentioned before, I am a big fan of Adonna Imports. They sell mainly Italian wines, and they are usually very good. They concentrate on small Italian producers and find many excellent producers.

Case Corini is owned by Lorenzo Corino who make organically farmed Barbera d'Asti in the town of Costigliole in Italy's Piedmont region. He is the fifth generation that has lived amongst the vineyards. Lorenzo is a soil scientist and is concerned about the health of the ecosystem in his vineyards. He believes that much of the wine is made in the vineyard so he does not subject his wines to lots of technical manipulation.

The wines at the tasting included:
2001 Monferrato Rosso "Achille" ($65)
2003 Barbera d'Asti "La Barla" ($75)
2001 Barbera d'Asti "Bricco" ($65)
2001 Barbera d'Asti "La Villa" ($75)

They also provided some good cheese and bread with the wines. Overall, these were excellent wines. They were Old World style, well balanced and had lengthy finishes. They would be fine on their own, or paired with food. They probably could be paired with many different foods as well, from Italian food to game like duck or even venison. Though I could also just sit and drink these wines on their own, savoring their flavors.

2001 Monferrato Rosso "Achille": This wine was a blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera. A very smooth and easy drinking wine. Lots of nice fruit flavors.

2003 Barbera d'Asti "La Barla": My favorite of the four wines. This is 100% Barbera from old vines. Great structure, complex and just a silky pleasure. Nice concentration and a very lengthy finish.

2001 Barbera d'Asti "Bricco": This is 100% Barbera, with a mix of old and young vines. This was a fruitier wine that felt a bit less complex but still was an excellent tasting wine.

2001 Barbera d'Asti "La Villa": This is also 100% Barbera, with a mix of old and young vines. This wine seemed to be somewhere in the middle between the La Barla and the Bricco. It certainly shows how the same varietal can create several different style wines.

Adonna Imports certainly found another top notch group of wines! They are not every day wines, but they certainly would impress. For a special occasion, you won't go wrong with any of these wines.

Lower Falls Wine Co.

I visited the Lower Falls Wine Co. this evening to attend a special wine tasting. I don't get the opportunity to visit this wine store enough. I have mentioned this store before but have not really gone into full detail before so let me correct that now.

Lower Falls Wine Co. is easily accessible from Rt.128 and has its own parking lot. It is a small wine store that has primarily wine though it does stock some beers and spirits as well. Because of its smaller size, it must be selective about what wines it stocks. And they choose their wines quite well.

Their wines are probably more expensive on average than many other wine stores. They do carry some wines that are $10 and less but they concentrate on more expensive wines. They do have a fair selection of wines from $15-25. The prices for their wines are average but there are often special discount too. In addition, they give you a 10% discount if you buy a mixed case of wine. They do have a special section for their most expensive wines, including some top notch Bordeaux.

One of the reasons this wine store is well worth the visit is their choice of wines. They choose very interesting, high quality wines. I often find wines here that I have never seen elsewhere. Yes, they may be a bit more expensive, but they are usually well worth the price. They are good values. And you probably won't find these wines for a cheaper price elsewhere. They do not choose their wines because they are more expensive. They choose them because they are good wines. Their stock of wines indicates a true passion for wine.

A second reason why this wine store is well worth the visit is their staff. Their staff are very knowledgeable, helpful, personable and passionate. If you ask them a question, they will gladly try to help you and usually know the answer. And listening to them talk, you can feel their passion for wine, including the wines they stock. They don't push any wines on you. They just try to make you a more informed consumer.

They hold complimentary wine tastings every Saturday from 12pm-4pm. They also have additional free tastings on a sporadic schedule. You can find out about these special tastings if you are on their email list, which I highly recommend you sign up for. These special tastings are often very interesting, sometimes held with the winemakers. And they sometimes taste some very exceptional wines, which you may never get another chance to taste.

Lower Falls recently updated their website and made it much more user friendly and informative. Definitely check it out and sign up for their e-newsletter.

I have previously bought many excellent wines here. This evening I bought a case of wine, nearly all of them wines I had never had before. I bought a couple wines from Sutton Cellars, their Syrah and Carignane. They looked interesting to me and were recommended by one of the staff. I do have faith in their staff recommendations. If you can find a wine store where you trust the staff, then you have found an excellent store. I also picked up some Spanish wines, a couple wines that I had never seen before elsewhere.

Overall, I highly recommend this wine store. Don't go there to find a bottle of Yellow Tail. Do go there to find some unique and interesting wines. Ask the staff for their recommendations. Maybe you will find some new favorites!

Lower Falls Wine Co.
2366 Washington Street (Rt. 16)
Newton Lower Falls, MA
Phone: (617) 332-3000

Winecellar of Silene

Today I made a trek out to a special wine tasting and first made a stop at the Winecellar of Silene in Waltham.

Located in a small strip of stores, the Winecellar of Silene is located just off Rt.128. The wine store has a number of parking spots in front of the store that are only for the wine store. As the parking lot can be quite crowded at times, especially during the holiday season, these parking spots can be quite an advantage.

The Winecellar is a large wine store with a diverse selection of wines from all over the world, including lesser known wines from countries like Israel and Hungary. There are plenty of inexpensive wines plus a couple cases of very high end wines. They also have a fair amount of half bottles available. They also carry many different beers and spirits.

They put out a monthly newsletter and you can get it emailed to you if you send an email request to orders@silenewine.com

Free wine tastings are held every Saturday from 1-5pm. The newsletter gives you the theme for each upcoming tasting.

If you are in the Waltham area, check out this store.

Winecellar of Silene
475 Winter St.
Waltham, MA
Phone: (781) 890-2121

2004 Hard Core

I now come to the finale of my tasting of some of the wines from the Core Winery.

I began with the 2005 Turchi Syrah, which I enjoyed very much. But then I was disappointed with the 2004 Core Red 163. Now, on to the 2004 Hard Core ($38). Would it be a pleasure or a dud?

The 2004 Hard Core is a blend of 43% Grenache, 32% Mourvedre, and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. Only 285 cases were made of this wine. This was a powerful wine, a dark and complex wine. There are dark berry flavors combined with an earthy taste and some black pepper and maybe even a bit of cinnamon. It had a very long finish. All of the flavors are well balanced and it is a very pleasurable wine. It actually paired well with a BBQ chicken pizza. This wine would stand up well to BBQ, game meats or even a nice steak.

I was very impressed with this wine and its price is reasonable for the high quality of this wine. A definite Drink & Buy.

Wine Class: Aug.4--Sign Up Now!

Just a another reminder about an upcoming event.

On Saturday, August 4, at 3:00pm, there will be a Wine Education class at the OurGlass wine Store in Saugus. I am collaborating with OurGlass on this fun and informative event. The class will be about "Off The Beaten Track" Whites. Many are familiar with Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Riesling. We shall try wines you may not know, such as Albarino, Godello, Torrentes, Vernaccia, Vermentino, just to name a few. Cost is $25 per person, which will include cheese and breads as well as special Tasting discounts.

This is a great opportunity to taste some new and different wines and meet other local wine lovers in the area. You must call OurGlass to book your reservation. Please do so as soon as possible as space is limited.

OurGlass Wine Co.
124A Broadway (Rt. 1 N)
Saugus, MA
Phone: 781-941-8068

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Plastic Wine Bottles?

Many people won't buy wine in a box. So, would they buy wine in a plastic bottle?

The Daily Mail has an article discussing that the store Sainsbury's, in Great Britian, will soon start selling a couple wines in plastic bottles. The Australians though were the first to bottle some wines in this fashion.

One benefit of the plastic bottles is that they are recyclable and thus good for the environment. They also weight significantly less than glass bottles, 2 ounces as opposed to 14 ounces. So, a case of wine in plastic bottles would weigh 144 ounces (about 9 pounds) less than a case of glass bottles.

For now, only a few inexpensive wines will be bottled in plastic. But, if they sell well, then other wines might be bottled so as well. I am not sure whether many people would be willing to buy plastic wine bottles. It might be fine for a picnic or so, but probably not for elsewhere.

There is a potential problem of chemicals in the plastic tainting the wine, though there is not much information on that danger.

Banana Gel-O Shot

Instructables has some interesting, and sometimes, weird ways to create various food items. I frequently check it to see what might be of interest. I previously posted about a Bacon Placemat I found there. Now I found something new.

Check out: Gel-O-Shot INSIDE A Banana!

Basically you receive instructions for turning the inside of a banana, while it is still in its skin, into a Gel-O like substance. There is even a video. You should note that these instructions make an alcoholic Gel-O, using vodka, though other hard liquors could be used instead.

So Many Wine Tastings

Each week I get an email from Astor Wine & Spirits and it makes me wish we had such a wine store locally. Many wine stores have wine tastings once a week. A very few have two tastings a week. This week, Astor has 4 wine tastings! And that is usual for them.

Let's look at their line-up for this week:

Thursday, July 26th: Tasting of some Spanish wines, Beaujolais and Tommy Bahama white and gold rums from Barbados.
Friday, July 27th: Try some French wines, small Italian producers, and a Bambu Mojito made from Bambu ultra-premium white rum, fresh mint, lime, and a splash of soda.
Saturday, July 28th: Try some Spanish wines, more small Italian Producers, and V2 VodkaGet, made of V2 energy vodka and lemonade.
Sunday, July 29th: Try some Muscadets.

All of the tastings are free and there are discounts for the wines being tasted. So why can't a local wine store give us as many options?

Astor Wines
399 Lafayette at 4th St,
New York, NY
Phone: (212) 674-7500

TV Diner vs Phantom Gourmet

Which do you prefer, TV Diner or the Phantom Gourmet?

Today's Boston Globe has an interesting article comparing the two television shows and discussing their rivalry. The article has some intriguing facts concerning the shows. I do watch both shows.

First, the Phantom Gourmet makes their guests agree not to appear on TV Diner for a few months after their appearance. The exact amount of time is not specified. TV Diner does not make this same demand of its guests. Dave Andelman claims this restriction is a usual television practice. I have heard of some other shows restricting their guests in the same manner. But, I am not sure it is necessary. Would it really negatively impact the Phantom that much if they did not have the restriction? I think that, if anything, it might hurt the public. I am sure some restaurants don't like the restriction and thus won't appear because of it.

Second, TV Diner is said to feature more high end-restaurants than the Phantom. Based on my viewing, I do believe that to me true.

Third, the Phantom seems like it caters more to men, with its emphasis on topics like the best steak and cheese or best burgers. This is an interesting idea, and I do have to agree with this as well. You see far less women on the Phantom. TV Diner has women regularly on their show, including doing regular segments.

Fourth, TV Diner is planning a future "community event" though no details are given. The Phantom has their upcoming food festival in September.

I saw that MenuPages did discuss this article too. I also made a recent post on the Phantom Gourmet. My personal preference though out of the two shows is TV Diner. I probably see more restaurants on TV Diner that interest me than the Phantom. I do like some of the special segments on TV Diner such as the cooking.

I believe there is plenty of room for both shows in our area. The competition is good for the public.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

2004 Core Red 163

I am continuing my tasting of wines from the Core Winery. Previously I reviewed their 2005 Turchi Syrah. I now have moved onto the 2004 Core Red 163 ($30).

The 2004 Core Red 163 is made of 60% Grenache, 28% Syrah, and 12% Mourvedre. Only 620 cases of this wine were produced. The grapes were grown at an elevation of approximately 3200 feet.

This wine is very fruit forward with lots of cherry and maybe some strawberry up front. Once past the fruit, you taste spice including some cinnamon and clove. The finish is moderately long. It is an easy drinking wine which should not offend anyone. It is definitely a New World wine, and not like the French Rhone wines, though the blend is reminiscent of a Rhone style. It is a good tasting wine but at this price point I was hoping for more. I had hoped for more complexity and not such a bright, fruity wine. So, I was disappointed with this wine. This is a Drink but I would not buy it again.

I await my tasting of their Hard Core, which is supposed to be more complex.

Recommended Introductory Wine Books

Would you like to learn more about wine? Would you like an introductory overview of the world of wine?

There are several excellent books available that can educate you about wine. Here are a few of my recommendations for such books. These books are all easy to understand but are very informative.

"Windows on the World: Complete Wine Course" by Kevin Zraly. This book is frequently updated and the 2007 edition is currently available. You might be able to find the 2006 edition on the discount rack at your local bookstore. The 2007 edition is a large hardcover book and retails at $24.95. It covers all the basics about wine, the different countries and varietals, recommended wineries and producers, and much more. In addition, it provides alot of wine trivia. It is an easy read and contains alot of interesting and valuable information. Most people will find they learn something from this book.

"Great Wine Made Simple" by Andrea Immer Robinson. This is a revised edition, in hardcover and retails at $29.95. This is also an easy read with lots of interesting and valuable information. It also tries to downplay the wine lingo and talk in more plain English. It goes more in depth in some areas than the Zraly book. It also presents you with some wine tasting suggestions that will help you better understand wine.

"Jancis Robinson's Wine Course" by Jancis Robinson. This is a trade-sized paperback and retails at $29.95. The first half of the book is all about wine while the second half goes into details about the world's different wine regions.

"Oldman's Guide To Outsmarting Wine" by Mark Oldman. This is also a trade sized paperback that retails for $18. This book is a bit more ecletic than the others but contains information you may not find in the other books. It is an easy read and contains numerous wine recommendations as well.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's Pie is one of my favorite comfort foods but I am very picky about what goes into my pie.

It is a traditional English meal that usually consists of minced lamb topped my mashed potatoes. In the U.S., it is usually made with ground beef and may then be called "cottage pie" or "cowboy pie." In the U.S., a layer of corn is commonly added too. A number of other vegetables, such as peas, onions and beans, are sometimes added to the ground meat. Shepherdess Pie is a vegetarian version.

For me, I enjoy ground beef, corn and mashed potatoes. I don't like any other veggies in my Shepherd's Pie. Trying to find that type of Shepherd's Pie though can be difficult. But, I have found one store that has exactly what I want. And their Pie is delicious.

J. Pace & Sons Inc. sells a home-made Shepherd's Pie. It is large enough to feed two people and costs only around $9. What a bargain! They don't make it every day though so it is not always available. You just have to take it home, heat it up and then serve. A quick meal. It has a nice crusty top, soft potatoes and flavorful beef.

I'm having some tonight. Yum!

J. Pace & Sons Inc.
333 Main St.
Saugus, MA
Phone: (781) 231-2741

2002 Marques de Gelida Cava

Cava is Spanish sparkling wine, made in the same manner as French Champagne. But there are some differences as well. For one, the Spanish Cava regions generally get a lot more sunshine than Champagne so Cavas are often softer with riper fruit flavours. Cavas also usually use some indigenous Spanish grapes, including macabeo, paralleda, and xarello. These varietals commonly make a light, fruity wine.

I prefer Cava to Champagne because I do not care for the yeasty flavors of many Champagnes. I prefer a fruitier wine. It is my experience that others who dislike thay same yeasty flavor also tend to enjoy Cavas. Many people though are not familiar with Cavas, though they would like them if they tried them. Cavas are usually cheaper than Champagne which is nother advantage.

The 2002 Marques de Gelida Cava Brut Exclusive Reserva ($15) is an excellent example of Cava. It has a fine fruitiness with only a touch of sweetness. It is refreshing with a medium length finish. This is one of the better Cavas that I have had and it is a good value at this price. This is a definite Drink & Buy!

If you have not ever had a Cava, try this one. Even if you dislike sparkling wines, give this a try as you might be surprised.

Lower Falls Wine Tasting-Thursday

This Thursday, July 26, from 5-6:30p.m., there will be a free wine tasting at the Lower Falls Wine Co.

They will be tasting new arrivals from the all-organic winery, Case Corini. Eileen Wright, of Il Capriccio and Adonna Imports, will be there to pour a selection of Corini's finest!

The wines to be tasted include:
2003 Barbera d'Asti "La Barla"
2001 Barbera d'Asti "Bricco"
2001 Barbera d'Asti "La Villa"
2001 Monferrato Rosso "Achille"

Wines poured will be available during the event at a special discounted price.

I have not tried these wines before but I have much faith in Adonna Imports. They often find great Italian wines, from small producers. This should be a good event and I may be there.

I should also mention that the Lower Falls Wine Co. has recently updated their website. It is more informative now so check it out.

Lower Falls Wine Co.
2366 Washington Street (Rt. 16)
Newton Lower Falls, MA
Phone: (617) 332-3000

Sunday, July 22, 2007

1999 Coturri Assemblage Millenaire

While wandering through The Wine Emporium in the South End of Boston, I found several bottles of the 1999 Coturri Assemblage Millenaire ($25). I have never seen this wine before, or even heard of it before. I am a fan of Coturri Winery which makes some excellent organic wines. Their wines are usually low production wines and very reasonably priced. You can find some of my views of other Coturri wines on this blog. As the Assemblage Millenaire was new to me and seemed intriguing, I bought several bottles.

Now, the Coturri website says almost nothing about the Assemblage Millenaire. And I could not find much else online either.

This Assemblage Millenaire is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot. Only twenty cases were made so this was a very low production wine. I opened a bottle a few nights ago with my local wine buddies.

The wine is very dark in color, almost inky. Initially, this wine had a funky aroma, very earthy and almost a barnyard smell. My initial tastes of this wine began with a gush of very grapey flavors. It transformed into a more earthy taste on the finish, which was fairly long. What this wine really needed was to sit and breath for awhile. For later on, after some time had passed, the wine really smoothed out. The funky aroma largely vanished, though still being mildly earthy. The grapey flavor became much more subdued to nice blackberry and dark cherry flavors. The wine became very smooth with a complex layer of tastes. There were some spicy elements on the finish that emerged and the earthiness largely vanished. I was very impressed with the wine after it had sat for a time. It became very much a Bordeaux-style wine.

My friends all enjoyed the wine as well, especially after it sat for a time. I would recommend this as a Drink & Buy. I do look forward to my other bottles as I will get to taste even more of the wine then, rather than split it with five others.

For a wine of such low production, which is also all organic, I think this is an excellent value wine. You may not be able to find this wine because of its rarity, but if you do, buy it! If you have never had any Coturri wines, I recommend you try some. You may find some new favorites.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

2002 Saintsbury Reserve Pinot Noir

When I dined at Porchai, I brought a bottle of 2002 Saintsbury Reserve Pinot Noir ($40). I knew I would be eating duck and prefer a Pinot Noir. I have long been a fan of Saintsbury Pinots. The 2002 Reserve is the last vintage to bear the "Reserve" label. Saintsbury will now create a Vineyard series of specific vineyard bottlings, hoping to capitalize on different terroirs in the Carneros region.

I found this wine to be superb. This was a darker Pinot Noir than many and reminiscent of a more Burgundian style. There were great fruit flavors of raspberry & cherry. But there were also nice spicy components. The wine is complex and well balanced, with a lingering finish. It is a silky smooth wine that is pure decadent pleasure. It was a great match to the duck. Though this is a wine you could easily drink alone, savoring its intricacies.

A highly recommended Drink & Buy.

Candy Apples

I got my candy apple last night. I stopped by the Stoneham Summer Festival (which ends today) at the Redstone shopping center. I found one vendor who had candy apples and they were actually making them at the time. The were not selling candy apples that had been prepackaged or been sitting around all day. They had both red candy and caramel apples. I got a couple of the red candy apples with coconut. At $3 each, they were not cheap.

The candy shell was very good, that hard sweet redness, but there could have been more coconut on the exterior. The apple was good, fresh and firm. Overall, it was a good apple, though not great.

Porchai: Dinner

So I couldn't wait to try the duck!

Last night, I made a trek back to Porchai for dinner.

We began with the Pot Stickers which were just as could as the previous evening. We also had the Thai Wonton Soup ($3.50). This is described as shrimp & pork in wontons in a light clear broth. This is not fully accurate as the broth also contains cabbage and scallions. There were three wontons in the soup, which seemed to be to resemble oversized shumai. They were filled with meat and very tasty. The broth has a fishy flavor and was good as well.

We did bring a bottle of our own wine. And there was no corkage fee at all. They provided a couple of nice wine glasses and a cork screw. Being able to bring your own wine, and not having a corkage fee, certainly makes the evening more affordable.

For our entrees, we ordered two different duck dishes, the Siamese Ruby Duck ($18) and the Centre St. Crispy Duck ($18). The Siamese is in a red wine sauce and the Centre St. in a lemongrass sauce with white wine. Both dishes contained a large amount of duck with some accompanying vegetables. They certainly did not skimp on the portions of duck. The duck was meaty, with little fat, and the skins were cooked very well. The red wine sauce was delicious and nicely complemented the duck. The Centre St. duck had a nice crispy skin and its sauce was also very good too. The duck comes with rice, white or brown. Both dishes were excellent and I would order either of them again.

So, my second visit Porchai made a good impression on me as well. I do recommend Porchai for some good, and reasonably priced, Thai.

19 Centre St.
Wakefield, MA
Phone: (781) 213-9933

Porchai Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Come Learn About Wine!

On Saturday, August 4, at 3:00pm, there will be a Wine Education class at the OurGlass wine Store in Saugus. I am collaborating with OurGlass on this fun and informative event. The class will be about "Off The Beaten Track" Whites. Many are familiar with Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Riesling. We shall try wines you may not know, such as Albarino, Godello, Torrentes, Vernaccia, Vermentino, just to name a few. Cost is $25 per person, which will include cheese and breads as well as special Tasting discounts. This is a great opportunity to taste some new and different wines and meet other local wine lovers in the area.

You must call OurGlass to book your reservation. Please do so as soon as possible as space is limited.

OurGlass Wine Co.
124A Broadway (Rt. 1 N)
Saugus, MA

Friday, July 20, 2007

Poll #1 Results

Our first Poll has ended and here are the results.

What is Your Favorite Summertime Drink?
With 24 votes, the favorite was Sangria (9 votes) though it was close. #2 was White Wine (7 votes) and #3 was Rose Wine (6 votes).

So, time for a new Poll. The new question: What is your favorite BBQ grilled meat?


In Wakefield, the hottest Thai restaurant is probably The Duck Walk. But it is not the only Thai restaurant. There is also Porchai, located only a short distance from The Duck Walk. I thought I would go for dinner and see how it measure up.

Porchai is a much smaller restaurant, with three small dining rooms on three different levels. It is more plainly decorated and does not have a bar. In fact, it does not have a liquor license. But, you can bring your own wine or beer and there is no corkage fee. That is a definite plus.

Their menu is fairly lengthy with a nice variety of available dishes. There are appetizers, soups, salads, noodle dishes, fried rice dishes, and many different entrees. Prices seem very reasonable (and usually much cheaper than Duck Walk). Entrees range from $10-$13 and their signature dishes range from $13-19. All very affordable. They have most of the usual Thai dishes as well as many more unique dishes. They even have a list of 19 lunch specials, all for $6-$7.

I started with an appetizer of Pot Stickers ($6), which were pan-fried chicken dumplings. You get four large dumplings. They were cooked just right, not being overly cooked. And they tasted very good. They were actually one of the better pot stickers that I have ever had. A nice start to my dinner.

I then ordered the Massaman Curry with Chicken ($11). This is one of my favorite Thai dishes and a good way to compare Porchai to other Thai restaurants. I received a large dish of food. There was plenty of chicken, thin pieces of cutlet, and pieces of sweet potato. The dish also has onions and peanuts. The sauce was very good, with a nice coconut flavor giving it a bit of a sweet flavor. You get either white or brown rice with this dish and I chose the rice. The only minor complaint is that some of the peanuts seemed to have been overcooked and had small almost burn marks on them. Overall though, this was a very good dish and I would order it again.

So, Porchai made a good impression on me. If you want a more affordable Thai meal, you should try Porchai. I am very interested in returning to try some of their Duck dishes such as the Siamese Ruby Duck.

19 Centre St.
Wakefield, MA
Phone: (781) 213-9933

Want $1 For An Empty Wine Bottle?

Start saving your empty wine bottles as they are worth money. A mere can will only get you a nickel but an empty wine bottle can get you $1.

The Vineyard has a new program, lasting until August 30, where you can bring them your empty wine bottles and get $1 in merchandise credit for each bottle. You can bring as many as 120 bottles per day. You can then spend your credits up through September 15. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me and I will start saving my wine bottles.

Plus, you will be helping the environment. The Vineyard will recycle the bottles or find an appropriate "re-use" for the bottles. This is an excellent recycling program where everyone involved will benefit.

I think this is a great deal and would love to see other wine stores running similar programs.

The Vineyard
554 Turnpike St. (Rt. 114)
North Andover, MA

New Spirited Gourmet Store

The Spirited Gourmet wine store in Winchester is one of my recommended wine stores. This fall, they are going to expand and open a second store in the Cushing Square section of Belmont.

Their announcement included the following: "Previously a "dry" town, Belmont approved retail licenses after Elena presented our store concept to the town at their town meeting last Fall. On Monday evening we pitched our store against three other applicants and were granted an all liquor license by unanimous vote. We greatly appreciate everyone who wrote to Belmont in support of our application as well as our incredible customer base that has allowed us to present an award-winning store."

So, this is good news for Belmont and anyone in that area.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Amphora-Fermented Wines

Wines & Vines has a fascinating article concerning a California winery, Del Dotto Vineyards, that has started to use terra cotta-lined amphorae to ferment some of their wines. This is a practice that stems back to the ancient days of winemaking. But, there may only be one other wine maker in the world that uses such clay vessels, Friuli's Josko Gravner.

The first release, possibly in September, will be a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon which will also be bottled in clay magnums. It should retail for around $100.

Supposedly wines fermented in this manner have an earthier taste, something very different from what many are used to in their wines.

This certainly sounds very interesting and I am curious how the wines would taste. It reminds me somewhat of Sean Thackrey who uses many medieval winemaking methods at his own winery. And I very much enjoy his wines.

But, Del Dotto Vineyards, at least based on this article, seems a bit more concerned with making money. He talks about how this is a great marketing opportunity. I would rather see a man passionate about winemaking, who is experimenting, rather than someone simply seeking a new gimmick.

Maybe this will lead to other wineries trying clay vessel fermentation. I will have to look more into the wines of Josko Gravner.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

2005 Turchi Syrah

The Core Wine Co. is located in Santa Barbara County in the Cayuma Valley. Their Alta Mesa Vineyards are about 3200 meters in elevation and are planted primarily with Mourvedre, Grenache and Syrah. They make several different wines including Hard Core, Core and Turchi Syrah. The wines are small production wines and have been receiving many positive reviews. I recently purchased a few of their wines and have begun tasting them.

I have started with their 2005 Turchi Syrah ($20), their lowest end wine. Their goal with this wine was to make a reasonably priced wine that would pair well with many different foods. The wine is a blend of 83% Syrah, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Malbec. It is supposed to be inspired by northern Rhone wines. Only 1800 cases were made.

This is a dark colored wine with a fruity aroma. On the palate, you get the full flavor of blackberries and blueberries with a touch of spice. It is a smooth wine with mild tannins. It has a medium length finish with some pepper on the end. It has some complexity though is not overly so. It is more of an everyday drinking wine. The wine paired well with a bacon cheeseburger calzone. I did like this wine and felt it was different from the typical Australian Shiraz. It was a nice change and I would recommend this as a Drink & Buy.

I look forward to trying the Core and Hardcore.

I should note as well that Core Wine Co. considers wine bloggers to have a lot of positive impact on their sales, behind only the impact of Robert Parker.

Stoneham Summer Festival

Starting today, and extending through July 21, the Stoneham Summer Festival is being held at the Redstone shopping center. Fiesta Shows is hosting this event and you can find coupons online. This carnival will have various rides and games.

I will likely stop by the carnival but not for the rides or games. I will be seeking out food, especially candied applies. All the usual carnival foods should be available, from fried dough to cotton candy, from sno-cones to corndogs. But my favorite are the red candied apples, covered with shredded coconut. I like the hard candy shell better than the soft caramel covered apples. They are a guilty pleasure that I have only rarely as they are not easy to find any longer.

So, what about you? Going to the carnival for any guilty pleasures?

The Danish Pastry House: Part 2

The Brioche Braid. Soft, flaky and buttery pastry covered with sweet cinnamon and almond slivers. $2 for this large pastry. Very delicious and even better when heated. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to visit the Danish Pastry House in Medford.

They have a cafe and bakery at their Medford location. They sell salads ($5.25-$5.50), sandwiches ($5-$6), soups ($3-$6), paninis ($6.75) and crepes ($5.50-$8.50). I find tried to get a crepe but they stated it was not the day for crepes. They must have certain staff who make the crepes and it is not every day. I settled on a Prosciutto Passion sandwich ($6) which contained prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, basil, extra virgin olive oil and oregano. It was on a fresh, soft sub roll. I thought it was a very good sandwich. I also had a ham & cheese croissant and they heated it for me, though they left it in the oven a bit too long and it was slightly burnt. It still tasted very good. My mother ordered a Glorified Grilled Cheese Panini which contained Granny Smith apples, Vermont Cheddar and Caramelized Onions. She enjoyed her sandwich very much.

There is a diversity of lunch choices and prices are reasonable. The freshness of their ingredients is quite evident.

They also have many different drinks available, including various coffees and teas. They have fresh brewed iced tea which was very good and their hot green tea was excellent as well.

Besides the lunch entrees, they have tons of baked goods and pastries, as well as ice cream. The ice cream can be topped with maybe two dozen different candies, nuts and foods. My nephew enjoyed a dish of cookie dough ice cream topped with rainbow jimmies, M&Ms and bubble gum.

The baked goods looked quite enticing. We have a couple of warm Brioche Braids while we were there and then bought some pastries to take home. It appears that they did not have all of their pastries in stock as I did not see any of the cookies I had seen at the South End Market. I also did not see some of the items listed on their menu. They do carry various breads and bagels though there were few available when I was there. Besides the individual pastries, they do have larger cakes, cheesecakes, tortes and pies. All of them are visually appealing and certainly would impress guests if you served them.

Pastry prices start at about $1.75. This seems in line with the higher end bakeries. Generally, with the large size of many of the pastries, prices are reasonable. For example, the Brioche Braid is a good buy. A couple of the pastries though seem a bit pricey. There was a peach almond cake slice that cost $3.75 which seemed high as it was not really large. Though it did look tasty.

I definitely will return here to try more of their foods and baked goods. It is a good place to grab lunch. Stop by and give it a try.

Danish Pastry House
330 Boston Ave.
Medford, MA
Phone: (781) 396-8999

Danish Pastry House on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Dining In a Rut

Has your dining out become a rut? Do you go to the same restaurants all of the time? Do you get the same dish everytime you go to a restaurant?

If so, break out of your rut and try something new!

Try going out to a new restaurant. Try a different dish. Do something different and take a risk. You never know what treasures you might find. You might stumble upon a new favorite restaurant or dish. You might find a new culinary pleasure. But you won't do so unless you take that risk.

Sure, you might find a dud as well. You might go to a new restaurant that you dislike, or try a new dish that is horrible. But that is part of the risk.

You can lessen that risk to some degree though. You can check reviews on new restaurants or dishes. You can speak to friends that have already eaten there. But, I think the risk is worth the potential bad meal you might get. For the immense pleasure you get when you find a culinary gem is well worth it.

I love trying new restaurants and new dishes. And the number of successes I have had far outweigh the disappointments. I have found so many new pleasures from trying different dishes. Just think past weekend, I tried a new bakery, the Danish Pastry House, and a new restaurant, Toro. And both were absolute successes.

With summer here, people travel a lot. You may end up in cities and towns where you don't know the restaurants. Or you may only know a couple. Well, take a chance. Try something new! Even if you don't go anywhere, try a new local restaurant. Break out of your rut.


A new Italian restaurant, L'Andana, should be opening this September in Burlington.

Famed Chef Jamie Mammano created the Commonwealth Restaurant Group which owns a number of exciting restaurants, including Mistral (French/Mediterranean bistro), Teatro (casual Italian bistro), Sorellina (regional Italian-Mediterranean cuisine), and The Federalist (fine French-American cuisine). L'Andana will be his fifth restaurant and is said to be an Italian country grill, possibly a higher end dining destination. Chef David Blessing, who has cooked at Mistral and Sorellina, will be the chef de cuisine at L'Andana.

As Chef Mammano's restaurants are both popular and well reviewed, it bodes well for L'Andana.

Customer Appreciation Day--Grapevine Travelers

Grapevine Travelers won the 2007 WBZ A-List "Best Wine Shop of Boston." As their thanks to old and new customers alike, the store is inviting everyone to their "Customer Appreciation Day" on Sunday, July 29, from 12pm-6:00pm. Everyone will receive 10% OFF their entire purchase of wine and beer, with a $20 minimum purchase. This cannot be combined with any other sale or promotion item.

This would be a good time to check out this wine store and maybe find something new. They do have an excellent selection of wines from all over the world.

Grapevine Travelers
18 High Street
Medford, MA
Phone: (781) 396-8463

Monday, July 16, 2007

2002 Onyx Kroon

The 2002 Darling Cellars Onyx Kroon ($25) is from the Groenekloof region of South Africa. "Kroon" means "Crown." It is a Cape blend made of 55% Shiraz, 35% Pinotage, 5% Grenache, and 5% Cinsault. This is their Flagship wine so they use only their best grapes for this blend. It is also supposed to be a low production wine.

This evening, I opened a bottle with my dinner, a couple Kobe beef burgers (bought from the Butcher Shop in the South End). The wine is dark and rich, a powerful wine with a spicy finish with touches of smoke and even bacon. It is a bold wine and definitely paired well with the Kobe. Though I enjoyed this wine, I am not sure it is worth its price. For though it is very good, it is not exceptional. I would definitely Drink this wine anytime, but I don't think I would buy it again. The Hill & Dale Pinotage ($8-10) is a much better value from South Africa.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


While in the South End, we were going to stop at Seiyo, to check out their wines and get some sushi. But it was closed. Luckily I noted that Toro was open. I was a bit surprised as I had thought that Toro was only open for dinner. Well, it was open for Sunday brunch too. So we eagerly went there.

Toro is one of Chef Ken Oringer's restaurants and is well known as an excellent place for Spanish food, especially Tapas. I had not yet been to Toro though it certainly was on my To Do list. I guess this was my Chef Oringer weekend, as I had also been to Clio on Friday night. This weekend has certainly given me a greater appreciation for Chef Oringer.

There were several tables outside Toro and most of them were filled. Inside, most of the tables were taken as well. It certainly was a popular spot. We sat at some empty chairs at one end of the bar. The mood in the restaurant seemed jovial and friendly.

I checked out the drink and wine list. There are about 16 Spanish wines available by the glass ($5-10) plus a number of Sherries. There are many more wines available by the bottle, starting at $20 and rising to $625 for a bottle of the Vega Sicilia Unico. There are plenty of affordable and good tasting wines on the list, covering many different Spanish D.O.'s. They also have beers and specialty cocktails.

I had a glass of the 2005 Vi de Nulles Tempranillo Rose from Tarragona ($8). This was a refreshing Rose, with a nice strawberry flavor. The fruit did not overpower and it was perfect for the summer day. I had never had this wine before but would definitely order it again.

As we had already been eating this day, we decided just to order light. We had a Tortilla Espanola, the Spanish omelet. It came with an intriguing salad that had greens, pine nuts and sweet yellow raisins. Everything was excellent and plentiful. We also had the Kobe burgers, two small sliders, that came with potatoes. The burgers were very juicy and tasty. I had also ordered a side of patatas bravas so we had plenty of potatoes. The patatas bravas though came in a spicy mojo sauce. These potatoes were cooked perfectly, nice and crisp on the outside and soft inside. There were all relatively simple dishes but done very well. Prices were reasonable.

Our server, Christina, was personable and attentive. We had no complaints at all about our service. The rest of the staff were very nice as well.

I view this Brunch as bit of a teaser as to the quality of Toro. It certainly whetted my appetite to return for dinner very soon. It certainly is a very good place for a Sunday brunch. I recommend that you check out Toro.

1704 Washington St.
Boston, MA
Phone: (617) 536-4300

The Danish Pastry House

I spent the day today with my mother and nephew wandering around Boston, Cambridge and Somerville. It was certainly a beautiful day for a bit of culinary adventuring.

We started in the South End, visiting the South End Open Market. There were a few food vendors there, mainly bakeries and a fruit/veggie stand. I was particularly intrigued by the stand belonging to the Danish Pastry House. They had a number of incredible looking baked goods, including huge cookies, cinnamon brioche rolls, ham & cheese croissants, muffins and more. I bought a box of pastries to go and ate a few there as well. Everything was obviously very fresh, and delicious. The ham & cheese croissant was flaky, and stuffed with lots of cheese and ham. The cinnamon brioche rolls were very tasty.

I was unfamiliar with this vendor but have now checked out their website. They have stands at six local markets, as well as a cafe in Medford and a bakery in Watertown.

I do know that I will soon be making a trip to Medford to check them out more closely. Stay tuned for a future report.

Turtle Creek Winery

Have you ever had wines from the Turtle Creek Winery? There is a good chance you have not but you should seek out their wines.

On Saturday, a fine summer day, I organized a private tour and tasting of this winery for some members of the North Shore Winers. Turtle Creek Winery is not generally open to the public but they do sometimes run private tours. We were lucky enough to partake of one of these private tours.

Turtle Creek Winery is located in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Kip Kumler, the owner and winemaker, led our tour. Turtle Creek is a modest operation, producing only 500-1000 cases of wine per year. Thus, each of their separate wines consists of less than 100 cases. So, these are very limited production wines. There are several wine stores that carry their wines plus some can be ordered from the winery itself. But, as these wines are so limited in production, it can be difficult to find the wines. Which is why many people may be unfamiliar with their wines.

We began our tour outside near some grape vines where Kip gave a short talk on growing grapes in Massachusetts. He discussed some of the problems that grape growers in the region encounter including harsh winters, fungis/pests and a short growing season. Grapes can be grown but one has to deal with the potential problems. Kip detailed some of his methods for overcoming the limitations of the region. He does rely on technology to help overcome these matters, and does much research and testing to develop new and improved methods.

Presently, Turtle Creek plants Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Riesling. They also purchase grapes from California and New York. Kip discussed some of his growing practices, indicating that he aims for better grapes at the expense of yield. He clearly is not trying to mass produce grapes but rather is aiming for a superior product. This is a common denominator at Turtle Creek, the pursuit of excellence rather than the mass production of a mediocre product.

It was very clear from the outset that Kip is very passionate about his wines. He truly seeks to make an excellent product. That is clearly one reason why his wine production has remained so low for these years. He certainly seems to work very hard at ensuring the only wine he sells is some of his best. He mentioned that he has destroyed wine that did not meet his standards. He would not simply use the inferior wine for blending. It would end up a buried mistake.

Our tour then went inside where we got to see the fermentation area, the wine cellar, laboratory and more.

This is a photo of Kip next to the fermentation tanks. The tanks are specially made to maintain certain temperature levels.

This is a photo of Kip in front of his bottling machine. This is where the wines are also corked and labeled. Again, Kip uses technology to assist his work and make it easier to bottle and label. For example, the bottler does the corking in a vacuum so that the air pressure inside a corked bottle is proper without the need to sit out and wait.
This is part of the laboratory where Kip does testing and research. Again, he uses technology to assist him in his endeavors. It is clear he has invested much in his efforts to make a superior product.

Our final stop was the tasting room, where barrels of wine are stored against the walls. We got to taste five different wines and most of them were quite impressive. Four of the wines, except for the Cabernet Franc, were made from grapes shipped to the winery. The Cabernet Franc was grown on the premises.

I should mention that Kip aims for a more Burdgundian style in his wines. He does not want his wines to be like California wines. He aims for a more subtle style, an Old World style, rather than some fruit bomb.

Their 2005 Chardonnay was delicious. It sees only a minor amount of oak so is not overly buttery. The fruit flavors are more dominate, such as apple and apricot. It was crisp and refreshing. Though I am not a big fan of white wines, this was definitely a white wine I enjoyed. And I did buy a couple bottles as well.

The 2005 Pinot Noir was also good. It is a light colored wine with lots of bright cherry flavors. I have had others of their Pinot Noirs and have always enjoyed them.

The 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon was a darker colored wine, more full bodied with lots of fruit and spice flavors. It would have gone perfectly with a steak. This is a wine you could easily cellar for a few years. I should note that his 2005 won a gold medal at a recent competition in California.

The 2005 Zinfandel was a big, bold, spicy wine. It was vibrant with flavor and complexity. This was a favorite of a number of the North Shore Winers.

The only wine I did not care for was the 2000 Cabernet Franc, which was the first bottling of their own grown grapes. It had too much of a vegetal taste to me. Kip though acknowledged that this wine had not really been as good as he hoped it would be. He is looking forward to making better Cabernet Franc in the future.

What makes these wines even better is their cost. I don't think any of the Turtle Creek wines cost more than $20. Most are priced from $16-18. For such low production wines, these costs are unbelieveable. And when you consider the high quality of these wines, then these wines give you a great value. These wines are well crafted and you certainly can't go wrong with them. The Winers certainly enjoyed the wines and a number of them bought the Chardonnay, the only wine available. I know if the other varietals had been available, cases of the wine would have walked out that door.

Kip certainly is a good spokesman for his wines. He was very knowledgeable, personable and accomodating. He evidences a true passion for his work and it shows in his products.

If you want to try some excellent wines, especially good values ones, then seek out Turtle Creek wines!

Saturday, July 14, 2007


For my birthday, I could choose any restaurant I wanted for dinner. Would it be an old favorite or some new hot spot? After much consideration, I chose Clio. Why Clio? I had never been there before yet had read much positive press about it. It was always one of those places on my To Do list but that I had not yet visited. I wanted something special, a place that had innovative cuisine. From a review of the menu on the Clio website, I was very intrigued.

The Chef at Clio is the famed Ken Oringer, who also runs several other local restaurants, including Uni, Toro, La Verdad and KO Prime. Uni is a sushi/sashimi bar located in the same building as Clio. Toro is a Spanish tapas restaurant which has received much acclaim. His two newest places, La Verdad and KO Prime, are respectively a taqueria and a steakhouse.

Clio is located beneath the Eliot Hotel and they do have valet parking ($15). We were nicely greeted when we entered. The restaurant is very modern looking and elegant with a small bar near the front door and the dining area to the left. To the right, you can go to Uni. The room is designed well so that you really do not hear the other diners near you. This helps provide a more intimate feel.

The food menu contains some very diverse choices with appetizers, about $15-20, and entrees, about $20-40. You can also choose the Tasting Menu ($135) which contains 12-13 courses. You can get wine pairings ($100), about ten different wines, with the Tasting Menu. We opted for the Tasting Menu but without the wine pairings. I wanted to experience many different dishes and flavors, to see the range of the restaurant.

The wine list is very diverse as well, with wines from all over the world. There are few wines below $60 but this seems more that they have chosen better wines than just being overpriced. Based on a few wines that I knew their retail price, it appears Clio may only double the price, or even a bit less. As an example, the wine list had the 2004 El Nido Clio (a very appropriate named wine) which retails for $50-55. It is also a superb wine which I happen to enjoy greatly. Clio sold it for $90, which is less than twice the retail.

I should also mention that they have a full bar and a menu of special drinks, including some Liquid Nitrogen made concoctions. I did not that a couple of the drinks had Sake as an ingredient, yet the wine list did not include any Sakes. I did ask if they had a Sake menu, which they did though it appears it is used mainly in Uni though all the Sakes are available in Clio. I do think the Sake list should be added to the Clio wine list. I feel it would give even more options and the Sakes would pair well with many of the dishes in Clio.

For the first wine of the evening, I selected the Poochi-Poochi Junmai Sparkling Sake ($20 for 330ml). This is a nice alternative to Champagne though it reminds me more of a Spanish Cava as it tends to me more sweet than yeasty. It has a mild carbonation and a nice, refreshing taste. It was a good choice. I should note that they served the Sake in small Sake cups and kept the bottle chilled in an ice bucket. Nice touches.

Then the procession of courses from the Tasting Menu began to arrive. In all, we ended up with about fifteen courses, depending on what was considered an actual course. They did not rush us at all, and we were at the restaurant for over three hours. It was nicely paced.

I should start by mentioning that our dinner presented many examples of what is known as "Molecular Gastronomy." This is basically the application of science in cooking and can lead to interesting ways to prepare food, from foams to powders, the use of liquid nitrogen and such. It can lead to the creation of many culinary wonders that look as great as they taste.

We started off with the "Soda Inspired By Nature." This dish consisted of a special soda, one being a ginger beer and the other a lemon verbena. Then you had a "cone" which contained popcorn, cheese and more. You ate the entire cone and it was very tasty, though a bit messy. finally, there was a tiny chocolate bon bon. A very intriguing way to start our dinner.

Next we had the Tomato Water Martini with Basil Oil, Caper Berry and Tomato Popsicle. This is what it says, a drink in a Martini glass, that is rather clear but has a definite tomato flavor. It too was very interesting and delicious.

We then had a sashimi dish, a plate of Isaki with Green Yuzu Kosho and Papaya Salsa. Isaki is Japanese Three Line Grunt. I had never had this type of fish before. It actually has three differently colored areas, from a whitish part to a reddish area. It was delicious, with a nice smooth texture, melting like butter in your mouth. I would certainly order Isaki elsewhere if I saw it on the menu.

The next course was completed tableside. This was the LN2 Gazpacho with Wild Strawberry, Anago and Pistachio. They made like a strawberry sherbet tableside using liquid nitrogen and this then topped a plate with the pistacho sauce/soup and fruits and veggies. The strawberry was not really sweet but gave more of a vegetable flavor, complementing the rest of the dish. Very inventive and a nice variation of traditional gazpacho.

Once we finished our Sparkling Sake, I then ordered a bottle of the Mizu No Shirabe Ginjo ($55 for 720 ml). This is a superb Sake, both light and smooth. It complemented the food well and certainly did not overpower anything. This is the type of Sake I could drink all night long.

Our salad course was a Composed Abstract of Yellow and Red Watermelon with Heirloom Tomatoes, Green Garlic Scapes and Bitter Almond. A very interesting dish with a nice mix of flavors. Everything tasted vey fresh and there was plenty of watermelon.

We then moved on to the Ribbons of Tairagai with Honeydew Melon, Trout Roe and Dehydrated Serrano Ham. Tairagai is a Pen Shell Clam, another type I have not had before. It is different from the traditional claim and actually consists of a long strip like a ribbon. It was tender and tasty, especially with its accompaniements. I am usually not as big Roe person but enjoyed them in this dish. I was glad to get to taste fish that I never had before.

Next was a Garden Sorrel Soup with Mussels, Chamomile and Potato Feuillantine. Another excellent dish, flavorful and different. The Mussels were tender and tasty.

Our next course was a Two-Hour Egg with Asparagus, Ham Foam and Foraged Mushrooms. Yes, they actually slow cooked the egg for two hours. The yolk was still soft. Great flavors and such an intriguing idea. We are both quite happy at this point, savoring each and every dish that has been brought, and anticipating what might come next.

Then came the Maine Butter Poached Lobster with Mousserons, Sea Beans, and Vin Jaune D'Arbois. This included meat from a lobster claw and a tail. It was so succulent and buttery. Pure bliss! They have this as an entree of their main menu and I would highly recommend it. Such amazing flavors.

We did order another bottle of wine, this time choosing a 2004 Mas De Can Blau ($75), a Spanish red from the Montsant region. This wine was a blend of Mazeulo, Garnacha and Syrah. I thought it was a superb wine, with rich berry flavors and smooth tannins. It had a long, satisfying finish and was not too heavy. It would go very well with our next dishes.

We moved on to one of Clio's signature dishes, the Lacquered Foie Gras with Rhubarb, Strawberry Jam and Lavender. I love Foie Gras and this was one of the best I have ever had. Silky, buttery smooth. Great mesh of flavors. I could have eaten an entire plate of this. Another highly recommended dish.

Next came the Elysian Farm Rack of Lamb with a Melange of Vegetables, Chocolate Mint and Haricots Coco. We were told that only five restaurants in the country have this type of lamb. Well, it was wonderful. Tender, delicious and meaty. It went very well with our wine. This is on their main menu and I would definitely recommend this as well. If you love lamb, then this dish will satisfy you.

We then moved onto a Cheese Selection before a couple of desserts. The desserts included a Blueberry Tart with Cream Cheese Sorbet & Passion Fruit and a Chocolate Sorbet with Cucumber and Chartreuse Soup. All three of these courses were very good. A very nice ending to our meal.

We did get one final treat. I had booked my reservation online at Open Table, mentioning it was my birthday. They did take notice and presented me with a banana "lollipop" with Happy Birthday written on the plate in chocolate. A great touch and good to know they pay attention to what is written in Open Table.

The food was all fresh, inventive, delicious, and flavorful. I especially enjoyed how the dishes combined several different flavors together, flavors you might not normally put together, but which worked well. There was plenty of food. We left very satisfied.

Service was impeccable. Our main waiter, Christopher, was attentive, personable and knowledgeable. He certainly enhanced our dining experience. The rest of the waitstaff was excellent as well. They were attentive as well without being overbearing.

Overall, this was a superb dining experience and I am extremely pleased I chose this restaurant for my birthday celebration. Yes, it is expensive but you definitely get your money's worth. Phenomenal food, great wines, excellent service. This is a place that will impress and is worthy of any special occasion. Clio receives my highest recommendation.

370 Commonwealth Ave.
Boston, MA
Phone: (617) 536-7200

Clio in Boston