Saturday, October 31, 2009

Olde Redding Butcher Shoppe

The Olde Redding Butcher Shoppe, a new butcher shop, is now open at 169 Haven Street in Reading. The store is owned by Greg Chesnulovitch, a Reading resident and a former butcher at the defunct Atlantic Super Market. In fact, most, if not all, of their employees also used to work for Atlantic. So they bring many years of experience to this new business.

I spoke with Greg, and he indicated that the butcher shop will be similar in many ways to that which existed in the former Atlantic. He wants to provide quality meats, at reasonable prices, and with excellent customer service. The shop will offer custom cut meat (prime and choice), deli items, and some prepared foods. It is a small store but still relatively well stocked, and willing to do special orders, such as turkeys for Thanksgiving.

On the right wall are the prepackaged meats, including hot dogs, bacon, ham, lamb, chicken, beef, and more. Many of those meats have been cut and packaged on the premises.

On the left side of the store is the first deli case, containing a variety of deli meats, most Boar's Head. Greg felt that brand is the best for most of the deli meats, though he has chosen a few other brands when he felt the meats were better.

The second deli case also contains a variety of home made salads, from tuna salad to potato salad. In addition, they sell hot soups, usually chili and two other soups each day. Plus, they sell sandwiches and subs, from cold cuts to hot subs. You'll find items like BBQ Chicken Breast, Hot Pastrami, Meatball, Chicken Caesar, and Chicken Parmesan.

I tried a Roast Beef and Swiss on a bulkie roll ($3.99) and it had a thick pile of tender and flavorful roast beef. A very good sandwich and I will certainly return to try more of their choices. This could be a convenient place to grab a quick sandwich or sub for lunch or dinner.

Lastly, there is the meat case where you can order whatever amount you desire, from a pound and a half of burgers to three pounds of filet mignon. Prices seem reasonable, such as Sirloin Tips $5.99/lb., Filet Mignon $12.99/lb., and Ground Sirloin $4.99/lb. The meats all looked very good to me. Plus, this case also contains some prepared foods, such as Meat Loaf $4.99/lb., Chicken Cordon Bleu $3.99/lb., and Stuffed Chicken Breast $3.99/lb.

I was pleased with what I found here and also like the fact it is local people, running a small, local business. I think they will excell in customer service and cater well to the local community. Why not stop by and see what they have to offer.

Thanksgiving: Aura

Families looking to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with each other look no further than Thanksgiving Day at Aura at the Seaport Hotel. Chef Rachel Klein prepares a special three-course prix-fixe menu and dessert buffet, as well as an all-natural, healthy menu for children.

Seatings start at 12pm.
Cost: $60/adult; $22/children; free for children under 6 years old


First Course:
Buttercup Squash Bisque, Ginger, crème fraîche, chive

Baked Oysters, Pancetta, leeks, Mornay sauce

New England Clam Chowder, Chive, cracked pepper

Second Course:

Organic Turkey, Cranberry sauce, cornbread pudding, Brussels sprouts, whipped sweet potatoes

Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Farrotto, wild arugula, candied pecans, bleu cheese, spiced cherry demi-glace

14-oz Bone-In Ribeye, Roasted root vegetables, potato puree, bordelaise

Dessert Buffet:
Pecan Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Chocolate Mousse
NY-Style Cheescake
German Chocolate Cake
Crème Brulée
Apple Pie
Dried Cherry Bread Pudding

Children's Menu:
All-Natural Turkey, Stuffing, mashed potato, gravy

Crispy Chicken Fingers, Sweet potato fries, honey mustard or gravy

Mac ‘n Cheese, Aged cheddar, broccoli florets, toasted breadcrumbs

Friday, October 30, 2009

Wine ConneXtion: Incredibly Low Prices

A new wine store, Wine ConneXtion, opened this week in North Andover and of course I was very curious to check it out. Fortunately, I was invited to a special blogger event at the store last night. I arrived early though, to do a little surreptitious reconnaissance on the store. I wanted to see what it would appear like to an ordinary consumer who walked in off the street.

Wine ConneXtion is run by Wine Director Sam Messina and Business Manager Tina Messina (Sam's sister). Sam has over 30 years of experience in the industry and Tina has over 20 years. So they are not newcomers to the wine world. They bring with them lengthy experience and plenty of knowledge.

I got to meet both of them and chatted at some length with Sam. He was very personable, down to earth and showed that passion for wine which I always seek. He is definitely not a wine snob and I see much potential for this new store. He is also very open to suggestions and constructive criticism. The store is a work in progress, which will grow and develop over the next few months.

The store presents a warehouse atmosphere, the wines displayed in their own cardboard boxes. There are almost no fancy wine racks. This no frills ambiance would lead you to believe that this is a place for bargains. And that is exactly what you will find there. Their wine prices are some of the best you will find in Massachusetts, even better than BJs and Costco, and they are even competitive with the prices in the New Hampshire liquor stores.

For example, they sell the 2007 Caymus Cabernet for $56.99, which I know is cheaper than New Hampshire. Also consider their prices on the following other examples: 2007 Caymus Conundrum $17.99, 200 Silver Oak, Alexander Valley $59.99, 2006 Panarroz $7.49, and 2008 Tres Picos $12.29.

Face it, the average consumer is very concerned about prices, especially with the new tax on alcohol in Massachusetts. New Hampshire has become a chance for some wine lovers because of their low prices and no taxes. But now you don't have to go to New Hampshire because even with the tax, the prices at the Wine ConneXtion are still lower.

But price alone does not carry the day for other consumers. So what else does the store have to offer? First, they carry around 700 different wines, a fairly diverse selection of wines from all over the world. Wine lovers will recognize most of the labels but Sam stated they will start adding some more unique and esoteric wines in the future. They had a short time to stock the store so purchased what they could quickly. Second, the wines are not close outs or bin ends. They are the current vintages of all of the wines. Though once a wine is sold out, it may or may not be able again. Third, in 2010, the store will also start to stock some of the better spirits, though they will not carry beer. Fourth, and something which really thrilled me, is that they will eventually carry Japanese sake!

Each wine is accompanied by a descriptive sheet, which includes Drinkability and Food Pairings. That is a good idea and should help the average consumer looking to buy wine, especially if they want to pair something with dinner. One issue I did detect is that some of the signs bear the wrong vintage, not the vintage of the actual wine available for sale. That issue though should be fixed in the near future. On the pricing, the "compare at" price does appear fairly accurate. They did not artifically inflate that number to make their own prices look better. Please also note that you do not receive a "case discount" as the wine are already significantly discounted.

Wine ConneXtion even has a small, enclosed room for their more higher end wines, from Opus One to Cristal. Those wines also are significantly discounted. No matter how much you can spend at this store, you will find wines to match your budget. There are plenty of bottles priced under $10, as well as a few priced over $100. And if you do not see the wine you want, they might be able to special order it for you, with a similar discount. The store has a Tasting Station area, which is not fully completed yet. It will allow customers to taste some of the wines. It may end up as a type of self-serve area.

I think the store accomplishes what it has intended to do, to be a customer-friendly place with excellent values. And as they institute some changes in the near future, it should become an even better place for wine lovers. This is definitely a store I will return to and I highly recommend that my readers check it out as well.

Wine ConneXtion
117 Main Street
North Andover, MA
Phone: 877-469-5025

Thanksgiving: Temple Bar

Check out Thanksgiving Day dinner at Temple Bar. The three course meal costs $39 per person with optional wine pairing for an additional $20. Reservations are recommended, so please call 617-547-5055


Cauliflower Cream Soup: Stuffing-Style Croutons, Smoked Cheddar & Sage Tuile

Honey Walnut Dressed Salad: Black Truffle & Mascarpone Crostini, Brullee’d Butternut Squash

Tartlet of Cured Duck Confit: Sweet Garlic Cloves, Gruyère Custard, Roasted Pear Salad

Braised Beef Shortribs: Yukon Gold Puree, Thyme Roasted Carrots, Braise Reduction

Sage Grilled Pork Tenderloin: Heirloom Apple Chutney, “Garlicky” Spaghetti Squash Cakes

Brined & Roasted Turkey Breast: Creamy Spinach, Scelfo Family Mushroom Stuffing, Pan Drippings, Sweet Potato Puree & Cranberry Relish

Pan Roasted Steelhead Trout: Silky Parsnips, “Bacony” Beluga Lentils, & Apple Frites

Spice Roasted Pumpkin Gnocchi: Wild Mushrooms, Roasted Cranberries, & Caramelized Onions

Curried Pumpkin Cake: Pine Nut Streusel & Cranberry Ice Cream

Heirloom Apple & Quince Crisp: Honey Thyme Semifreddo

Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie: Cardamom Cream

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cafe Giorgio: Las Vegas

It is so pleasing when you stumble upon a restaurant that you know nothing about, decide to eat there, and then have a delicious meal. While walking through the Mandalay Bay to the Luxor, we wanted to get a bit for lunch. As we pondered over where to eat, we passed by Cafe Giorgio, an Italian place of which I was unfamiliar.

But the menu looked good so we chose to give it a chance. I would later learn that it is one of the restaurants owned by restaurateur Piero Selvaggio, who also owns Valentino, located in the Venetian Resort. is widely considered one of the modern fathers of Italian Cuisine in America. I previously dined at Valentino and had an quite a good meal. Cafe Giorgio is a more casual restaurant, presided over by Sardinian Executive Chef Nico Chessa.

The lunch menu has many familiar items, from pizzas to lasagna. Sandwiches range $7-$9, pizzas $13-$16, pasta dishes $13-$17, and entrees $15-$17. And before your food arrives, you receive fresh bread.

We started our lunch with the Antipasto Combo ($15) which has prosciutto, smoked prosciutto, Parmigiano, olives, tomato bruschetta and caprese with fresh basil. It is plenty large enough for two people and I was impressed with the freshness of the ingredients. The prosciutto was delicious, and obviously high quality. An excellent start to our meal.

Then, our pizza came, a cheese pizza with bacon (about $14). Again, the ingredients seemed to be very fresh and the pizza was very tasty. It was more of a thin crust, and the crust was very good, cooked perfectly. It had real bacon atop it, and not artificial bacon bits. We finished the entire pizza, not wanting to waste a single piece.

We got lucky, finding a very nice, casual restaurant with delicious food. Service was excellent, and I would return here again. I expect the rest of the menu items are probably equally as good. If you want some casual Italian in Vegas, then stop by here.

Cafe Giorgio
Mandalay Bay
3900 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV
Phone: (702) 262-4000

Cafe Giorgio on Urbanspoon

Thanksgiving: Grafton Street

Check out Thanksgiving Day dinner at Grafton Street. The three course meal costs $38 per person. Reservations are recommended, so please call 617-497-0400.


Sweet Potato Bisque: Curried Green Apple & Fried Sage

Autumn Greens Salad: Hearty greens, Red Pear & Spiced Walnuts in Great Hill Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

Whole Roasted Fresh Turkey with Apple Cornbread Stuffing, Mashed Potato, Glazed Carrot with Giblet Pan Gravy & Cranberry Chutney

Honey Glazed Country Ham with “Garlicky” Almond Green Beans, Candied Yams, “Spiked” Pineapple Sauce

Grilled Wild Salmon with Potato Scallion Pancakes, Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Apple Horseradish Cream Sauce

Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Rosemary Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus & Béarnaise Sauce

Apple-Cranberry Crisp: Vanilla Bean Ice Cream & Caramel

Pumpkin Pie with Fresh Whipped Cream

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Minus 5 Ice Lounge: Las Vegas

Contrary to the photo, Minus 5 Ice Lounge is not a penguin haven, though they might enjoy it. It is actually a Vegas lounge where everything is made of ice, from the furniture to the scupltures, and even including the glasses. It received its name as the lounge is supposed to be maintained at a temperature of minus five degrees Celsius (twenty-three degrees Fahrenheit). The concept for this lounge originated in New Zealand, and the Las Vegas outpost opened in September 2008.

The idea intrigued me so I knew I had to check it out when I visited Vegas. It is open during the day as well as the evening, though obviously it is much quieter than the day. It costs $15 to enter the ice lounge, and you are provided the use of an insulated coat, gloves and boots. For $25, you also receive an ice cocktail, from a list of about 8-10 choices. You can purchase a few other extra items as well, such as a fur coat. You are only permitted though to spend 30 minutes within the lounge, supposedly because of the low temperature.

The lounge itself is actually a small room though intriguing with all of the ice items. There are several ice benches, each covered by thin deerskin, and a few ice scupltures, including one of Elvis. The scupltures change on a constant basis, and the furniture also must be replaced regularly. The room did not really feel too cold. I had shorts on and my legs felt fine, plus I could not see my breath when I exhaled.

The cocktails come in a glass made completely of ice. You really need to hold the cup with two hands or the chance of dropping it is high, as it is a bit slippery. The cocktails are primarily mixed vodka drinks, and tasted ok, though nothing special. You can order other drinks, or just vodka shots. But you are limited to three drinks during any 30 minute period. Interestingly, the ice glasses are transported, in shipments of 20,000, from New Zealand! Is no one in the U.S. capable of making such glasses?

You cannot bring your own camera into the lounge. Instead, they have a photographer inside who takes a few photos of you, which are available for purchase once you leave the lounge. Yes, another way for the lounge to make money though at least when you buy the photo, you also receive a digital copy.

It was an interesting experience and I had fun, though I doubt it will become a regular stop for me, especially considering the 30 minute time limit. Plus, as it is small, it could become very crowded if it were busy. Stop by if you want to try something different, just don't plan on spending a long time there.

Minus 5 Ice Lounge
Mandalay Bay
3950 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV
Phone: (702) 632-7714

Minus 5 Ice Lounge on Urbanspoon

Thanksgiving: The Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro

Leave the cooking to someone else this Thanksgiving and come into the Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro on Thursday, November 26th, from 1pm–9pm. Come experience a multi-course feast prepared by Executive Chef Jason Bond.

Cost: $53 Per Person. Optional Wine Pairing For An Additional $27. A 20% Gratuity Will Be Automatically Added To Your Bill

Reservations are necessary. Please call 617-723-7575 to do so.

* * *
Musque de Provence Squash Soup, Pumpkin Seed Oil, Hazelnuts, Sichuan Spices

Lobster Bisque with Maine Crab Salad with Blue Permaine Apple Mousseline

Boston Bibb Lettuce with Pomegranate, Chevre, Fines Herbes

Duck Liver Mousse, with Black Lentils, Quince Purée

Brandad À la Pole, Three Celery Salad

Paired with the 2006 Espelt “Vailet” (Catalonia, Spain) or 2006 Château Pesquié Les Terrasses Rouge (Rhône Valley, France)

* * *
Roasted Local Turkey Breast, Sage and American Chestnut Stuffing, Roasted Onion and Kale

Massachusetts Raised Beef Stewed in a Rich Broth, Parsnips, Carrots, Green Mountain Potatoes

Smoked Tamworth Ham, House-Made Bacon Braised Cabbage, Pickled Ramps, Pommes Château

New England Salt Cod Stew, Celery, Sassafras Leaf, White Flint Corn

Roasted Buttercup Squash, Sunchoke Purée, Winter Greens, Black Lentils, and a Soft Farm Egg

Paired with 2007 Domaine Pellehaut Chardonnay (Gascogne, France) or 2005 Louis Latour “Chanfleure” Pinot Noir (Bourgogne, France)

* * *
Selection of Our Pies and Tarts or Local Farmstead Cheese

Paired with 2005 Haut Charmes, Sauternes (Bordeaux) or N/V Quinta de Noval, 10 Year, Old Tawny Porto (Douro)

* * *
Holiday Accompaniments for Two ($6 each)
Creamed Snap Peas and Onions • Roasted Buttered Squash • Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes with Gravy • Pickled Cranberries • Green Beans and Almonds

Stoneham Sun: A Wine Juice Box?

My new column of "A Passionate Foodie" can be found in the October 28 issue of the Stoneham Sun newspaper. This is a weekly column that concentrates on reviews of local restaurants though it also sometimes touches on other food and wine topics.

The new column has been published today and will be available online soon. The new article discusses Yellow+Blue Wines, organic wines packaged in Tetra Paks. They are producing quality value wines, which are also better for the environment. They are definitely wines you should check out.

If you have any questions or comments about my column, feel free to add them here.

Drink with passion

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ginger Park: Brunch

Most Sundays when I visit the South End, I decide to have brunch at either The Beehive or Myers & Chang. This past Sunday though, I decided to try a new restaurant, Ginger Park, which replaced the former Banq. Chef Patricia Yeo was enticed to come to Boston from New York City to preside over Ginger Park.

Their menu is "modern Asian," has plenty of interesting sounding dishes and I wanted to check it out. It is located not too far from Myers & Chang, though the menus share little in common except they are both Asian inspired. I knew Ginger Park served brunch but did not know what they served as their brunch menu is not listed on their website yet. I assumed, which turned out to be wrong, that it might be like a dim sum menu, or at least have plenty of Asian options.

In fact, their Brunch menu is more traditional, with plenty of egg dishes, French toast, pancakes and omelettes. They do put their own spin on many of the dishes, but it is nothing like the dim sum brunch at Myers & Chang. It reminds me far more of the brunch menu at The Beehive. Entrees range from $9-$14, which seems usual for many Boston brunches. Some of the entrees include: Huevos Rancheros; Shirred Eggs, Merguez Sausage & Goat Cheese Grits; Thai Omelette with Pee-Wee Prawns, Chillies & Herbs, Jasmine Rice; Lemon Souffle Pancake, Blueberries, Orange Honey Butter; and Hangover Burger, bacon, cheese & fried egg, hand cut fries.

Before our brunch arrived, we received complimentary slices of warm, house-made banana bread with a dish of soft butter. This was a nice start to the meal. It was good banana bread, a lighter style than some.

I chose to order the Croque Madame ($12), with house cured ham, Gruyere cheese and an over easy egg. I love this sandwich, though I am also very particular about it. My favorite is served at L'Express in New York City and it is the ideal to which I compare all other such sandwiches. Unfortunately, Ginger Park's sandwich did not measure up in my opinion. First, the bread seemed too dry and just didn't appeal to me. Then, the ham was too thick. It tasted fine, but there was too much of it, making the sandwich a bit chewier than I think it should have been. Other people might enjoy this sandwich, but it was not a style that appealed to me.

The Chicken Schnitzel & Arugula Salad ($11), with sunny side up egg and warm bacon dressing, was a better dish. The delicious Schnitzel was a large piece of lightly breaded, moist chicken. The dressing was also tasty, a nice accompaniement to the arugula. That is a dish I would recommend. The side of Thick Cut Bacon ($5) consisted of 3 pieces of bacon, slightly thicker than normal bacon. Nothing special. The Buttermilk Biscuit ($5) is good-sized but still seems expensive for a mere biscuit. At other places, you can get an egg and cheese sandwich on a biscuit for that price.

I saw someone else order the Hangover Burger and it looked very good, a thick burger that would be difficult to put your mouth around. If I returned for brunch, I might order that.

Service was very good. I am a bit ambivalent though about brunch here. I was hoping for more of an Asian flair to the menu. I would like to return here, but for dinner sometime to try their Asian dishes.

Ginger Park
1375 Washington St.
Boston, MA
Phone: (617) 451-0077

Ginger Park on Urbanspoon

Thanksgiving: Asana

Celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends at Asana in the Mandarin Oriental. The menu is available on Thursday, November 26, from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. The cost is $76 per person, $34 for children.

Reservations are recommended. Please call (617) 535-8800 to do so.


Amuse bouche

First Course:

Roasted duck consommé with foie gras gyoza

Prince Edward Island mussels & pumpkin soup with curry flan

Second Course:

Five spiced poached seckel pear with La Pearl blue semifreddo and candied walnut

Seared foie gras with cinnamon donut, apple and Vermont maple syrup

Ginger beet cured salmon with watercress, eucalyptus gel & Meyer lemon

Third Course:

Roasted free range turkey with Yukon potato, brown sugar braised chestnut, dressing and autumn vegetable

Braised veal osso buco with marrow, potato gnocchi and baby carrot & turnip

Seared Nova Scotia halibut with crispy bean curd, daikon, bok choy and a tamari - hajiki broth

Butternut squash & apple risotto with pecan milk


Granny smith apple & pecan pie with maple ice cream

Pumpkin cheese cake with cranberry ginger chutney

Jivara milk chocolate ‘napoleon’ with caramel crème brulée

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rant: Forget Your Carbon Footprint

With the looming threat of climate change, the primary method of combating it seems to be to reduce our carbon footprint, to cut CO2 emissions. From our governmental policy down to the efforts of concerned individuals, efforts are directed at ways in reducing those emissions. Such efforts, especially on the governmental level, can be quite costly. It may also be the wrong direction if we truly want to reduce the negative effects of climate change.

Rather than blindly accept that this is the proper path at preventing climate change, we should take the time and evaluate whether the positive gains are worth the cost. We also need to ask ourselves whether there is a better alternative. Maybe such an alternative exists but it has largely being ignored.

Bjørn Lomborg, the author of Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming, believes that reducing carbon emissions is the wrong choice. His position is certainly controversial, but I believe warrants careful consideration.

In Esquire magazine (August 2009), Mr. Lomborg wrote an article, Mr. Gore, Your Solution to Global Warming Is Wrong. Essentially, the article states that there are better and more cost-effective ways to fight climate change, rather than simple CO2 reduction. Mr. Lomborg presents a persuasive case for his position.

He noted that recently at the Copenhagen Consensus, a meeting of some top climate economists, it was found that if "we spent $800 billion over the next ninety years solely on the Gore solution of mitigating carbon emissions, we would rein in temperature increases by just 0.3 degrees by the end of this century." That is a ton of money for an extremely low return.

This is even described in better detail with a specific example, malaria. With climate change, the threat of malaria will increase. Yet Gore's solution would only reduce malaria risk by 0.2 percent. But, if only $3 billion were invested in mosquito nets and medicine, we could reduce malaria cases by half within ten years. It is easy to see where the money should be actually invested. Malaria is but one example of a specific problem that could be better alleviated with an investment of money, gaining a far better return that simply reducing CO2 emissions.

Lomborg offers his own alternative to funding carbon emission reduction. Our money should instead be invested in researching and developing alternative energy, renewable sources like wind, solar, geothermal, and wave. It would also include developing second-generation biofuel from biomass, investing in energy efficiency, fission and fusion, and carbon capture and storage. Lomborg believes the return on these investments would far outweigh any minor benefits derived from simply reducing carbon emissions.

So what are you doing about climate change? Are you blindly following the mantra of reducing your carbon footprint? Or are you really considering the alternatives that exist, which just very well could be a far better solution?

A Few, Delicious South African Wines

I am a big fan of South African wines, especially Pinotage, so when I found a table with such wines at the Wine Riot 2, I just had to taste their wines. I was even more excited when I found a wine using a grape that I had never tasted before, Bukettraube.

Heritage Link Brands is an importer and distributor of wine produced by indigenous African vintners and people of African descent throughout the world. I tasted wines from two of their producers, M'Hudi and Seven Sisters.

M'Hudi is derived from the Setswana word, “mohudi” meaning “harvester”. It is also the name given to the heroine of a great African story. The 2006 M'Hudi Pinotage ($17.99) is made from 100% Pinotage and comes from the Stellenbosch region. I enjoyed this wine with its dark berry and smoky bacon taste. There were some hints of vanilla as well, along with a moderately long finish. Definitely a food wine, especially wild game or BBQ.

The Seven Sisters are members of the Brutus family, evicted from their home at a young age and forced to move out of their small fishing village. Twenty years later, the sisters reunited, choosing to produce wine. Each of their wines is said to "match the styles and personalities of each sister" and "celebrate their bond and devotion to one another."

The 2007 Seven Sisters Pinotage/Shiraz-Dawn ($14.99) was pleasant, a smooth wine with lots of dark berry and spice flavors with a smoky finish. It is a simple wine but with plenty of taste. The 2008 Seven Sisters Bukettraube-Odelia ($12.99) is made from 100% Bukettraube, a grape I had never tasted before. The grape has Germanic origins, though South Africa currently produces the most wine using the grape. This wine had an intriguing floral and herbal nose, almost a cross between Viognier and Gewurtztraminer. The taste was exotic, with the floral and herbal elements present as well as some pear, honey and melon flavors. Such an interesting character to this wine, and an excellent bargain at this price.

If you have not tried many wines from South Africa, you really should do so. They are producing some very good, and sometimes very different, wines that are worth checking out.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hitori Musume Sayaka Junmai Saké

While perusing the shelves at the new Beacon Hill Wine & Gourmet, I found they carried several different Sakés, so I bought a few. They will be getting more varieties of Saké in the future, so this shop may become a place for Saké lovers to visit.

The Hitori Musume Sayaka Junmai Saké ($10/300ml) comes from the Ibaraki prefecture and its means roughly translates as "only one daughter." There is little information on the bottle's label about the Saké and online searches did not derive much info either. It has an alcohol content of 14.5% but I don't know the Sake Meter Value, the type of rice used, or the polishing rate.

I felt that this Saké was rather simple but enjoyable. It had a full and smooth mouthfeel with plenty of fruity flavors, including some pear and melon notes. It tended a bit more on the dry side, but not overly so. Probably a good pairing for seafood or just a pleasant drink on its own. It should also appeal to those new to Saké due to its general mellowness. At its price, it is worth checking out.

Boony Doon Vineyard: 2008 Albarino

As a last minute addition to the line-up at the Wine Riot 2, Bonny Doon Vineyard was permitted to set up a table. Their maverick winemaker, Randall Grahm, was even present and it was my pleasure to meet this unique individual. Randall has just released a new book, Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology, and was in town promoting it. I have not read the book yet, but eagerly look forward to it.

I have enjoyed a number of Bonny Doon wines in the past but had yet to try their 2008 Albarino, Ca' Del Solo Estate Vineyard, Monterey County ($20). This wine is a blend of 75% Albarino, 21% Loureiro and 4% Treixadura. The vineyard is biodynamic and only 2500 cases were produced. It also has an alcohol content of only 12.8% alcohol.

The wine had a light greenish-yellow color with a very alluring smell of citrus, spice and mild floral notes. It was a bit more exotic and aromatic than the usual Spanish Albarinos I have had. It is the type of wine that you might just sit and smell for a while, savoring the aroma before even tasting it. Its taste though is equally compelling with a complex melange of flavors, including lemon, grapefruit, herbs, and savory spices. It is dry with plenty of acidity. The finish was lengthy and satisfying, and you definitely wanted to drink more.

This is a wine I could easily drink on its own, though it would also pair well with seafood or a light chicken dish. Though it does remind me of Spanish Albarino, it certainly has its own unique character and is a very good value for the price.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Triumvir Wines: A Virtual Winery

Can a virtual winery compete with actual wineries? Can a virtual winery produce high quality wines? At the Wine Riot 2, I discovered at least a partial answer to these questions. And what I found was very positive.

Triumvir Wines is a Crushpad virtual winery, and I know from previous news stories that some of these virtual wineries have done very well. Triumvir is a collaboration between three friends, and I got to meet two of them, Mike Castle & Brian Blomerth. They certainly seemed to be passionate people to me. And they have chosen a challenging road for themselves.

They only produce about 25 cases of each of their wines and the wines are only sold online or through their wine club. Plus, the wines are not cheap, typically selling for $38-$44 a bottle. At this time, they are only producing Pinot Noir and Syrah. They have received a bit of a boost as the Wine Spectator reviewed their 2007 Pinot Noir and gave it 92 points.

I tasted three vintages of their Pinot Noir, from 2006 to 2008. The grapes come from the Amber Ridge Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, an excellent place for Pinot. This particular vineyard is located on hilly terrain in the central Russian River Valley. "The vineyard is characterized by cool morning fog which yields to warm afternoon sun. Overnight temperatures cool significantly which is favorable to achieving perfect ripeness in the grapes."

The 2006 Pinot Noir ($42) was my favorite of the three vintages. It had a very pleasing nose, subtle fruit smells of strawberry and cherry with a touch of earthiness. On the palate, it was velvety smooth, with very mild tannins, and delicious red fruit flavors punctuated with spicy notes. It was very Burgundian in style and very much impressed me. Its lengthy finish was very satisfying and I could easily drink this on its own or with a nice meal of duck. This wine is worth the price.

The 2007 Pinot Noir was left in contact with the skins for a bit longer so it had more concentrated flavors and was also spicier. It did seem a bolder wine and I enjoyed it, though my personal preference was the more subtle 2006. The 2008 Pinot Noir had only recently been bottled and really needs some more time in the bottle before it is ready, but I could detect the promise in its taste. At this point, it reminded me of the 2007 than the 2006.

I got to taste two vintages of their Syrah, 2006 and 2007, which come from different vineyards as well. The 2006 Syrah ($38) is from the Eaglepoint Ranch in Mendocino County (also where Sean Thackrey gets some of his grapes). The Syrah was a big, bold wine with intense black fruit, pepper and spice flavors though it was also complex and well balanced, with a long finish. This is definitely a food wine, something for a thick steak or a roast. This wine impressed me and I believe it is worth its price too. The 2007 Syrah is from the White Hawk Vineyard in Santa Barbara and is an even bigger and bolder wine, though maybe it will mellow a bit with some aging.

So, Triumvir is making some delicious wines, obviously of high quality. But, as the wines are only available online, what does that mean for the poor Massachusetts consumer, barricaded by our oppressive wine shipping laws? Fortunately, Triumvir can legally ship to Massachusetts so we are in luck! Such great news. I will be ordering some of their wines and strongly recommend that you check out their wines as well.

The Lupec Boston Tiki Bash

On November 14, the Boston chapter of LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) will transform the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts into a 1950's-themed Tiki party featuring retro-libations, live entertainment, dancing, delicious canapés, and prize raffle. This is LUPEC Boston's third annual fall fundraising event, created to benefit On The Rise, a Cambridge-based non-profit that supports the initiative and strength of women living in crisis or homelessness.

Tickets are $35 in advance/ $45 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at Grand in Somerville, Toro in the South End, Drink in Fort Point, Trina’s Starlite Lounge in Somerville, Buckaroo’s Mercantile in Cambridge, or online at

With out-there names and kitschy vessels, Tiki drinks are apt to inspire a giggle among cocktail neophytes,” said LUPEC Boston President Misty Kalkofen. “In their original incarnation, these were palatable drinks built upon rum, fresh juices and exotic syrups. They inspired a cocktail craze that lasted longer than any other in history, a flavor-packed counterpoint in the era of vodkatinis and the ‘Man in the Gray Flannel Suit’. With our fundraiser we hope to invoke a bit of that whimsy – and turn modern drinkers back on to Tiki.”

This event will pay tribute to the 1950’s theme with of-the-era cocktails, Tiki cocktail demonstrations by some of Boston’s best bartenders, and live entertainment including acts by Thru the Keyhole Burlesque, Boston-based ukulele sensation Uke Springsteen, and more. DJ Brother Cleve, a Boston institution, will spin ‘50s-era music throughout the evening between sets.

Light cocktail party fare will be provided for the evening by some of the city’s most highly regarded culinary talent, including Mike Smith from Toro, Greg Reeves from Green Street, Island Creek Oysters will be on hand shucking their acclaimed “Duxbury Pearls” and The Boston Derby Dames will skate around with sweets provided by Taza Chocolate.

A prize raffle will feature gift baskets from St-Germain and Brix, a one-of-a-kind handmade handbag from Nani designs, gift certificates donated from Toro, Trina’s Starlite Lounge, The Franklin Café, Fresh Hair Salon, Vee Vee, and more.

The event will take place at the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts (85 W. Newton St., South End, Boston), with generous support from sponsors St-Germain and Sazerac Spirits Co, among others.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Yellow+Blue Wines=Green

At Wine Riot 2, I found a number of wines that intrigued me and which I thought might be of interest to others as well. One of the first tables I stopped at belonged to Yellow+Blue Wines. What caught my eye was that the wines were in tetra paks, pictured above. I previously extolled the delights of boxed wines, and tetra paks share some similarities. Kind of a more adult juice box.

Tetra Paks are better for the environment. They are made from 75% paper harvested from responsibly managed forests. For shipping purposes, they are lighter and less bulky than bottles. A case of bottled wine weighs about 40 pounds and holds 9 liters of wine while a case of Yellow+Blue weighs 26 pounds and holds 12 liters of wine. The Tetra Paks actually hold one liter of wine, as opposed to the usual 750ml bottle. Plus, Tetra Paks are very portable, with the danger of broken glass. Great for camping trips, taking on a boat, etc.

The colors Yellow and Blue combine to make Green and this company is devoted to being environmentally conscious, beyond just the Tetra Paks. Their wine makers only use certified organically grown grapes as well as traditional, natural winemaking processes.

But all of that means little if the wines don't taste good. And Tetra Paks wines in the U.S. don't have a good reputation. They are often seen as simple, commercial plonk. So what about the Yellow+Blue wines?

They currently have three wines, a Rosé (Spain), Malbec (Argentina) and Torrontes (Argentina). Each sells for $10.99 for 1 liter. I tried the Rosé and Malbec.

The 2008 Rosé comes from the Alicante region of Spain and is a blend of 80% Monastrell and 20% Syrah. It was fermented in stainless steel, sees no oak and has an alcohol content of 13.2%. It has a nice pink color with a pleasant nose of strawberries and some citrus. On the palate, it was a definite Old World style Rosé, dry but with delicious fruit flavors, strawberry, watermelon and almost peach. It was crisp, had some mineral notes and a good finish. A very good Rosé, and an excellent value at this price. I highly recommend it.

The 2008 Malbec comes from the San Juan Province of Argentina. It is made from 100%, was fermented in stainless steel and then age for six months in large, oak barrels. It also has an alcohol content of 13.5%. The Malbec had a fruity nose with hints of spice. It had a very bold taste, spicy with black fruit flavors and hints of chocolate. The tannins were mild and it had a lengthy finish. Another very good value wine.

The Yellow+Blue should please many wine lovers, and it is good to see Tetra Paks of this quality now being made, especially when the wines are also organic. I suspect Yellow+Blue will produce more wines in the future and I will keep my out for them. They certainly are very good values at only $10.99 for a liter. I recommend that you check them out.

With box wines and Tetra Paks, will the wine bottle become an endangered species?

Halloween Destinations

Are you seeking a place to feast or party for Halloween? Here are several local options, places offering special food, drinks and parties for this ghoulish holiday.

Da Vinci Ristorante
162 Columbus Avenue, Boston, Phone: 617-350-0007
From 5pm-10:30pm
Da Vinci Ristorante’s revelers will be treated to their choice of a complimentary Pumpkin Soup starter or Pumpkin Gelato dessert, each carved into a festive mini-pumpkin. Da Vinci Ristorante has also custom-created four chilling cocktails ($8 each)—their “boos” for the night—available on this night only: Blood Red Sangria (Port Wine, Pinot Noir, Southern Comfort, Cointreau, Stoli Blackberry, fresh lemon juice); Da Vinci’s Halloween Punch (44 North Cherry Vodka, Limoncello, fresh orange juice, grenadine); Leonardo’s Fallen Angel (Bombay Sapphire Gin, White Crème de Menthe, fresh lemon juice, dash of bitters); and, Il Salaino (Rosa Regale, Splash of white crème de cacoa).

40 Edwin H Land Blvd., Cambridge, Phone: 617-497-4200
From 10pm-2am ($15 per person; ages 21+)
The Restaurant dante crew is hosting a late-night Halloween bash at its Cambridge restaurant. It’s an evening of tricks and treats at the spooky soirée, which will feature ghoulish cocktails, passed hors d’oeuvres, a DJ and prizes for the best costume. Enjoy the evening with your favorite witches and ghosts on Restaurant dante’s festively decorated patio.

Spirit of Boston
200 Seaport Boulevard #75, Boston, Phone: 617-748-1499
Board: 6:30pm; Cruise 7pm-10pm ($83.90 per person)
If Trick or Treating isn’t your thing, join the spooktacular festivities on the Spirit of Boston’s Halloween Dinner Cruise. For those looking to celebrate the spooky holiday with dining, dancing, and Halloween fun, the Spirit of Boston’s Cruise is sure to be an ultimate Halloween bash. With a complimentary spooky boarding cocktail, a lavish buffet feast, live DJ entertainment and dancing, and an optional costume contest, the Spirit of Boston’s Halloween Dinner Cruise will be a night of sheer fun.

Vox Populi
755 Boylston Street, Boston, Phone: 617-424-8300
From 6:30pm-1am ($20 per person; ages 21+)
At Vox’s 7th Annual Halloween Bash, guests will enjoy a complimentary VIP cocktail reception until 8pm dripping with ghastly concoctions prepared by Bacardi. See what your future holds by visiting the tarot card reader, capture a memorable moment in the photo booth, and enjoy frighteningly delicious appetizers all night while doing your best Monster Mash to the live DJ entertainment. Ongoing prizes and giveaways will be featured, including a $1,000 cash prize for the best costume.

The StarChefs Rising Stars Revue: Nov.3

The Rising Star Revue returns to Boston for the first time since 2006. The Rising Star Awards recognize up-and-coming chefs, pastry chefs, sommeliers, and mixologists from around the country that represent future leaders of the national culinary scene. Candidates are nominated by the StarChefs Advisory Board, previous winners, local media, StarChefs’ editorial research and through the website. Winners are chosen by the StarChefs editorial team.

They tasted food, pastry, cocktails, and wine pairings from over 75 talented chefs, pastry chefs, mixologists, and sommeliers across Boston, and only 14 of them earned the title of Rising Star. So what makes them shine? Creativity, ambition, exquisite presentation, and, most importantly, a stellar dish win each up-and-coming culinary star the Rising Star Award. What's more, each Rising Star has attributes that make us believe they will be the future leaders of the country's culinary scene.

Boston chefs are all about community, whether it’s rallying behind a cause, helping a chef in need, or just hanging out and cooking together—the support and camaraderie there is unlike that in any other city. Our 14 Rising Stars represent the best of the next generation of chefs in the city,” says Antoinette Bruno, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of’s 2009 Boston Rising Stars include:

Chef Jamie Bissonnette {Toro}
Chef Chris Chung {Uni}
Chef Wil Gilson {Garden at the Cellar}
Chef Andres Grundy {Clio}
Chef Mike Pagliarini {Via Matta}
Chef Chris Parsons {Catch}
Chef Rachel Klein {Aura}
Pastry Chef Jiho Kim {L’Espalier}
Sommelier Theresa Paopao {Oleana}
Bar Chef Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli {Craigie on Main}
Restaurateur Joanne Chang {Flour, Myers + Chang}
Restaurant Concept Award Maura Kilpatrick {Sofra}
Community Award Louis DiBiccari {Sel de la Terre}
Sustainability Award Richard Garcia {Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro}
Host Chef Jodi Bernhard {Longwood Events}

The Revue will be held on Tuesday, November 3, from 7:00 -9:30 pm (VIP Reception begins at 6:00 PM).

General Admission - $85 per ticket
VIP Reception - $125 per ticket*
To purchase tickets, visit
*Come earlier and mingle with the honorees at the VIP Champagne & Caviar Reception, hosted by The Liberty Hotel Chef Joseph Margate, which will include Palmes d’Or Champagne from Nicolas Feuillatte and Petrossian caviar.
A portion of the Proceeds will be donated to the Greater Boston Food Bank.

The event will be held at State Room, 60 State Street, Boston, MA.

At the event, there will be a special Revue Gala Tasting Menu, which certainly sounds phenomenal to me.

Jamie Bissonnette {Toro}
Island Creek Oyster Escabeche with Grains of Paradise and Lovage
Chris Chung {Uni}
Abalone and Porcini with Aka Curry and Pickled Negi
Will Gilson {Garden at the Cellar}
Seared Foie Gras and Doughnuts with Rhubarb
Andres Grundy {Clio}
Vegetable Crudités with Green Goddess Dressing and Avocado
Mike Pagliarini {Via Matta}
Muscovy Hen Breast with Apple, Turnip, Spiced Pistachios, and Swiss Chard
Chris Parsons {Catch}
Taylor Bay Scallops with Scallop Roe, Soy Beans, and Smoked Red Pepper Puree ***
Community Award: Louis DiBiccari {Sel de la Terre}
Baby Octopus with Charred Pepper Vinaigrette, English Peas, Radish, and Croutons
Sustainability Chef Award: Richard Garcia {Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro}
White Vanilla Gazpacho
Pastry Chef: Jiho Kim {L’Espalier}
Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta “Capsule” with Cranberry Gelée and Yogurt Sorbet
Sommelier Theresa Paopao {Oleana}
Wine pairings with each chef’s dish
Mixologist Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli {Craigie on Main}
Camino CocktailNorthern Lights (featuring Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky)
Hotel Chef: Rachel Klein {Aura at The Seaport Hotel}
Scarlet Borscht, Smoked Sable, Candy Striped Beets, and Sour Cream
Restaurateur: Joanne Chang {Flour Bakery, Myers + Chang}
Asian-Braised Short Rib Taco with Asian Pear and Sesame-Cilantro Salsa
Restaurant Concept Award: Maura Kilpatrick {Sofra}
Kunefe with Vanilla-Bay Leaf Syrup
Host Chef: Jodi Bernhard {Longwood Events}
Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb with Lamb-Fennel Sausage, White Bean Capelletti, and Brussels Sprouts
VIP Host Chef: Joseph Margate {Clink at the Liberty Hotel}
Small Caviar Bites

I will be at this event so hopefully I will see some of my readers there.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wine Riot 2: Metal Detectors & No Cash

How does a Wine Riot differ from a Wine Expo? Can you expect a wilder, rowdier crowd at a Riot? Is a Riot even safe? I recently had the opportunity to answer these questions when I attended Wine Riot 2, a grand tasting event managed by The Second Glass.

The Wine Riot was held in three sessions, a VIP night on Friday and two sessions on Saturday. The VIP session cost $65 and was limited to only 500 tickets. The Saturday sessions cost $45 each and the afternoon session was limited to 750 tickets while the evening slot was limited to 1000 tickets. Already, you can see that the Riot is less expensive than the Boston Wine Expo, as well as smaller in scale. It is better that you don't have to fight thousands of people to get a taste of wine.

The event was held in the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse on the waterfront in Fort Point Boston. Certainly a strange venue for a wine tasting. Plus, this is the first time I ever attended a wine tasting where I had to first pass through a metal detector. The event took place on two different levels, and it was a spacious area with a beautiful view.

The centerpiece of the Wine Riot was a tasting of about 250 wines, a fraction of the number of wines available at the Boston Wine Expo, yet certainly an impressive amount of wines nonetheless. Even if you went to the Expo, it is unlikely you would taste more than 250 wines. The Wine Riot also had free wine seminars, a DJ, photobooth, lounge, and a few restaurants. Plus, you could purchase the wines, at a 20% discount for a mixed case.

I attended the Saturday afternoon session, including the special trade hour. Though it was relatively quiet during the trade hour, it was also very low key later during the regular session. I rarely had to wait at any table to get a taste of wine. And there was plenty of opportunity to talk to the wine makers, distributors and others manning the tables. It was very pleasant to walk around the event, much better than fighting the crowds at the Boston Wine Expo. There was a good variety of wines, enough for any taste, and I found some intriguing ones which I will post about in the near future.

The wine seminars, which were free, were basically 30 minutes classes, and they usually included wine tasting. They covered a nice diversity of topics, and the wine and chocolate seminar seemed to be the most popular. These are a good addition to the main tasting event.

My only complaint concerns food at the Riot. First, there was almost no free food available. It would have been nice to have at least some cheese and crackers at some of the wine tables. Second, though there were a few vendors selling food, they were not ready to sell anything for at least an hour after the event began. Third, none of the vendors took cash! By some arcane and twisted law, the vendors were prohibited from accepting cash since it was a court house. We did not have advance notice of this so there were people who did not have credit cards (or were unwilling to use them) to buy food. I hope they work on the food issues for the next Wine Riot.

Overall, I was very pleased with the Wine Riot. It was not a wild and crazy event, but was certainly fun. And there were plenty of good wines to taste and educational seminars to attend. It was a more comfortable event than the Boston Wine Expo and well worth its cost.

Wine Riot 3 will be held next year on April 16 & 17, 2010. Keep those dates open and plan to attend.

Da Vinci Ristorante: The Evening of Perfect Pairings

On November 10th, Da Vinci Ristorante and Mionetto’s Area Sales Manager Pamela Crowley will team up to host “The Evening of Perfect Pairings.” This five-course specialty Italian wine dinner promises an evening of Executive Chef Peppino’s culinary creations paired with Crowley’s choices for the perfect wine compliment. Pamela Crowley will introduce each course and provide a brief commentary on the selections, alongside Chef Peppino.

This complete five-course menu is available for one-night only and will be presented as follows:

Mushroom Scallops (Scallop wrapped in phyllo dough, stuffed with mushrooms, served with pancetta corn ragout and finished with pomegranate reduction)
Paired with Mionetto Prosecco

Quail Raviolo
(Raviolo stuffed with quail and served with a veal demi glaze cherry tomato sauce)
Paired with Conti Zecca Donna Marzia Primitivo

(Pan seared halibut served with lobster risotto cake finished with Mionetto Prosecco sauce)
Paired with Collavini Friulano

Rack of Lamb
(Grilled rack of lamb served with mushroom and fingerling potato ragout and Tuscan kale finished with a pesto cream sauce)
Paired with Pertinace Barbera d’Alba

Apple Crostata
(Served with vanilla gelato)
Paired with Mionetto Moscato Dolce

Cost: $65 per person
When: Tuesday, November 10th at 6:30pm

For more information or reservations, please call 617-350-0007

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Le Piane: Wine Maker Christoph Künzli

Christoph Künzli, the winemaker of Le Piane in the Boca region of the Northern Piedmont, has a rather unique wine making approach. He "makes wines with his mouth." I'll explain that philosophy later in this post.

Recently, Jeannie Rogers and Eileen Wright of Adonna Imports hosted a special wine tasting with Christoph. This was not the first time that I had met Christoph. Last year, I attended a wine tasting and wine dinner with Christoph, and was very much impressed with both he and his wines. About three years ago, Adonna Imports were the first to bring the Le Piane wines into the U.S. market. If you have not tasted these wines, you definitely should do so.

Now, Adonna Imports was hosting the first tasting of the wines of Antonio Cerri. When Christoph first came to the Boca region, he was introduced to Cerri by Paolo de Marchi, a famed Tuscan wine maker who owns the winery Isole e Olena. Christoph tasted Cerri's wines and was very impressed. He wanted to purchase Cerri's vineyard, but Cerri resisted for a number of years. Eventually though, in 1995, after having a stroke, Cerri changed his mind and sold his vineyard and wine to Christoph.

Cerri, who only sold his wines locally, was very selective in his vineyard, carefully choosing only the very best grapes. Plus, he held onto his wines for years before releasing them. He had plenty of patience, which seems to be lacking in some modern wine makers who rush to release their wines. When Christoph bought the winery in 1995, he found that Cerri still had wines in barrels, vintages extending back to 1984. He was unsure how those wines would be, but after tasting them he realized they actually were quite good so he bottled them, which was not an
easy task.

We began our tasting with some of Christoph's wines, the 2000, 2001, 2003 & 2004 Le Piane Boca. We then proceeded to taste through Cerri's wines, including the vintages of 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1990, & 1991. All of Cerri's wines are made from old vine Nebbiolo. It was fascinating to compare the wines, to see how Cerri and Christoph were similar and different. There was a clear evolution of the wines, a progression attributable to changes instituted by Christoph.

The 1991 was still very fresh, and you might not even realize it was 18 years old. It had a rich ruby color and a lush dark berry smell with hints of leather. The complex flavors were pleasing, with black cherry, raspberry and plum. The tannins were restrained, there was plenty of acidity and a lengthy finish.

The 1990 had tinges of orange in its color and the nose was more muted. On the palate, it was more acidic than the 1991 and had some earthier notes amidst the red fruit flavors. It was smooth, with a long finish.

The 1989 had a light red color with a dusty, earthy nose and delicious red fruit flavors though it did not seem as complex as the 1991. Yet some of the others at the tasting were very much impressed with this wine.

The 1987 was disappointing to me, with a musty smell and a so so taste. I felt like it was past its prime, on the downward side.

After disappointment came great joy. The 1985 was my favorite of the tasting, an exceptional wine that would be sure to please any wine lover. It had a darker red color than the 1987, with a compelling nose of red fruit and earthy notes. The concentrated flavors had subtle complexities and there were hints of mushrooms and violets. The tannins were mild and the finish was extremely long and very satisfying. This is a wine to savor slowly, to relish every sip. This wine strongly reminded me of an aged Burgundy. In fact, most of the Cerri wines seemed to resemble Burgundy.

The 1984 had almost as much color as the 1985 and it had more of a mushroom smell. Its taste was similar to the 1985 except that it was more acidic and tannic. For a wine of this age, it was still relatively vibrant. For many of the attendees, their favorite wine of the tasting was either the 1984 or 1985.

The Cerri wines are clear ancestors to Christoph's wines, though Cerri's wines tend to be more acidic. This is partially due to the fact that Cerri's grapes came from a vineyard that is of lower altitude than Christoph's vineyards. Christoph has been planting new vineyards, which are now the highest vineyards of Nebbiolo in the Piedmont. He has also been planting better Nebbiolo clones. The height of the vineyards are supposed to lead to better acidity, more freshness, softer tannins, mineral notes, and be more fragrant.

Like Cerri, Christoph tries to do the least amount of wine making and uses little technology. As I mentioned earlier, Christoph "makes wines with his mouth." He is not an enologist, he is just Christoph. To him, the most important part of wine making is taste. He will taste the wine at various stages during the wine making process, assessing the quality of the wine from its taste. He learns through experience, growing in knowledge with each vintage.

Christoph used an analogy to explain this process. Consider a chef who can make the same recipe hundreds of time in a year. But the wine maker does not have that many opportunities. He is very limited in the amount of wines he can make in a year, and thus has less opportunity to learn. So it takes him longer to improve. Christoph continues to learn, experimenting, trying to find ways to make better wines. He has even produced an Erbaluce passito, though he had none for us to try. Maybe the next time he visits the U.S.

This was a fun and informative tasting, a rare opportunity to taste some compelling wines. Adonna Imports continues to offer an excellent portfolio, showcasing some intriguing and passionate small producers. Christoph Künzli is certainly very passionate about wine and produces top wines which I highly recommend.

Plus, the Cerri wines will eventually be available in Massachusetts. They will be priced similar to the Le Piane Boca wines, about $65-75. They will be of limited availability and I think they are a good value, especially considering their age. I will be sure to buy some when they are released.

Turner's Seafood: Lobster Fest

Did you know?
During the 1700’s, a law was passed forbidding the serving of lobster to prisoners and household servants more than twice a week. Being forced to eat lobster, which washed up on Massachusetts’ shores so plentifully that it was used as garden fertilizer, was considered cruel and unusual punishment.

Are you a lobster lover? I certainly am so I am looking forward to November. Turner’s Seafood Grill & Market in Melrose will be holding a Lobster Fest throughout November. They will be showcasing lobster in a variety of dishes, prices from $6-$29.

You will find items including:

* Open-Faced Lobster Ravioli -- new chef’s creation with ricotta, mushrooms and leeks stacked on crispy wontons with tarragon buerre blanc (see the recipe below)
* Lobster Bisque (add one extra ounce of lobster meat for $4)
* Lobster Mac and Cheese (orecchiette with asiago, gruyere and cheddar-Yum!)
* Lobster Taco with chipotle mayo and tomato-lime salsa
* ½ Lb. Hot or Cold Lobster Cocktail
* Lobster Salad over mesclun greens
* Mini or Major Lobster Roll
* Oven-Baked Lobster Pie
* Classic Lobster Thermidor
* Steamed Chicken Lobster
* Baked Seafood-Stuffed Stuffed
* Blackboard Special du Jour

Open-Faced Wonton Lobster Ravioli
serves 4 as an appetizer

½ c. leeks, well-washed and thin sliced
¾ c. white mushrooms, thin sliced
2 sprigs fresh tarragon (or substitute 1/4 tsp. dried)
½ tsp. garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
1 TB. sour cream
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
8 square wonton sheets (sold by the package in most supermarkets)
2 cups vegetable oil
¼ c. plus 1 TB. unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. lobster knuckle meat
¼ c. red pepper, finely diced

For the wontons:
In a pan, heat the oil to 350 degrees and fry the flat wonton wrappers until crisp on both sides. Set aside on a layer of paper towels to drain and cool.

For the sauce:
In a small sauce pan, reduce the white wine by 50%, then slowly stir in the ¼ cup butter. When it’s melted, stir in the sour cream, then the tarragon. Set aside and keep warm but not hot, as this could cause the sauce to break down.

For the filling:
In a large non-stick skillet on medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter and sauté the leeks, mushrooms and garlic until tender. Add lobster meat and cook until just hot.

Heat the ricotta cheese in the microwave for about 45 seconds or until hot. Spread 1 tablespoon on each wonton. Place wonton on a small plate, spoon lobster filling over cheese, then place another wonton on top, creating a tower. Add more lobster filling then top with sauce. Garnish with red peppers.

Turner’s Seafood Grill & Market
506 Main St.
Melrose, MA
Phone: 781-662-0700

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Beacon Hill Wine & Gourmet: Now Open

Beacon Hill Wine & Gourmet, a new wine store in Melrose, is now open! Last month, I told you about this forthcoming store, and it sounded very promising. They officially opened yesterday, and I stopped by to check it out. I was very pleased by what I found.

The store is owned by Gene and Rebecca Beraldi, the owners of Beacon Hill Wine and Spirits in Boston, and I got to speak with both of them at the Melrose store. Both were evidently passionate about this new endeavor, and have high hopes for the store. It is still a work in progress, which will adapt to its clientele.

The store is elegant, yet welcoming, with large windows looking out onto the street. It is very aesthetically pleasing and certainly looks like an intriguing boutique wine store. Near the entrance, is a glass case of Riedel glassware.

The wooden wine racks were quite full, and the store has over 440 different wines. At the top of the racks, in the middle, are five high-end wines locked into the display. The wine selection ranges from Yellow Tail to expensive Bordeaux, from big commercial wines to small producers. They have a strong French presence and also carry Sherry, Port and Sake. Plus, they are open to suggestions as to wines they should carry. Prices are average, and actually less than what you would find in Boston.

Behind the cashier is a display with lots of half bottles of sparkling wine, something you don't often see.

The coolers stock plenty of different beers, as well as keeping some wines chilled.

Though they currently cannot sell cheese, their cheese counter is in place, and I eagerly await its opening. Cheese and wine are such a delicious combination and being able to buy cheese where you buy wine is very convenient. The store sells other gourmet foods as well, from ravioli to sauces. I am sure they will continue to stock even more foods over time.

Overall, I really liked the store. It has a cool look, a good variety of wine, some interesting gourmet food, and a couple passionate owners. It is a destination for wine lovers and I recommend you check it out. The store is open Monday to Thursday, 10am-8pm, Friday & Saturday, 10am-9pm, and Sundays, 1pm-6pm. They have free wine tastings on Friday evening and a full tasting schedule will soon be available.

I'll keep you update on the status of the store.

Stoddard's Fine Food & Ale

Stoddard's Fine Food & Ale opens next month at 50 Temple Place in Boston’s Ladder District. Located in a 1868 building, painstakingly researched and rehabilitated for the past two years, Stoddard's contains enough artifacts, ephemera and ambiance to satisfy the most demanding history-architecture-mixology buffs.

Stoddard's gastropub menu, developed by local chef Mark Cina (who has worked at KO Prime, Central Kitchen, Ivy, Rendevous and Craigie Street Bistro) is designed to complement Baroque era cocktails, select wine list, five cask ales and 140 beers. Appetizers and entrees are seasonal and extensively house-made. Dinner will be served nightly Tuesday through Sunday from 5pm-1am and the bar will be open from 4pm-2am. Sunday Cask Ale Brunch will be served for $24 prix fixe

Their debut menu will include some of the following:

Appetizers such as: House Charcuterie Plate (housemade pates, terrines, and salami with pickles and toast); Smoked Trout & Endive Salad (pickled grapes, quince-almond vinaigrette), Aged Gouda & Cask Ale Pudding (English style cheese pudding made with local cask conditioned ale served with toasted brioche and housemade pretzel bites); Bergamot Glazed Veal Cheek (porcini-marrow sauce, pickled chanterelles) and Clams Casino (stuffed with shrimp and bacon, served with lemon remoulade).

Entrees such as: Stoddard's Burger (prime chuck and short rib burger, chiffonade lettuce, smoked tomato jam, fresh onion. B&B pickles); Ballotine of Vermont Rabbit (boneless rabbit stuffed with rabbit mousse and wrapped in prosciutto. Served with glazed salsify and stewed prunes); Mushroom Stuffed Quail (Calvados glaze, quail egg sausage, sage and chestnut bread pudding, apple brown-butter emulsion); Saddle of Roast Monkfish (pecan sauce, sweet potato gnocchi, cippolini onion, house made pancetta); and Grilled Hangar Steak over Braised Oxtail (pomme frites, three peppercorn aioli, brandy jus).

Sure to raise some eyebrows and controversy, there will also be a gentlemen-only Friday Club at Stoddard's, on the lower level with a private entry (by invitation only) reminiscent of a speakeasy. How long will it take before the protests start? It should be interesting.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rant: Airline Food & Drink

Airlines have been cutting down on extras and raising prices on other items, such as luggage. Free meals, which used to be standard on many airlines for long flights, are basically nonexistent now. And as for wine selection, you can almost forget about it.

I recently flew on Delta to Las Vegas. I got my choice, for free, of peanuts, cookies or pretzels. All tiny packages. Surely not enough to satisfy someone on a 5+ hour flight. There were a few additional items that you could purchase, roughly for $5 or more, including a cheese plate. As for wine, the menu gave you a choice of "red or white." It didn't provide you the name of the producer, and I certainly did not want to take a chance on some cheap, unknown wine. Even when you order a soda, you only get a plastic cup, and not a whole can or bottle.

There are a few airlines that do much better. So why can't all of them do better?

Do you have your own complaints about airline food or drink? Or can you praise specific airlines?

One World Cuisine: Indian Cuisine

Are you a fan of Indian cuisine? I certainly am so it is always interesting to me to learn of new endeavors in that area. One World Cuisine is a group of restaurants, nightclubs and stores in the local area providing Indian Cuisine, Catering, Nightlife, Foods & Spices, and Wine, Beer and Spirits. One World Cuisine has a new corporate chef, Ranveer Brar, who will oversee recipe development, quality control and consistency among OWC restaurants.

Bukhara Indian Bistro: Jamaica Plain
Vegetarians flock to this airy, comfortable corner spot for a plethora of fulfilling, nutritious dishes in tune with this lifestyle. Specialties from Bangalore and Madras are also worth noting.

Cafe of India: Harvard Square, Cambridge
The oldest OWC property -- located on Brattle Street for more than 20 years -- has an extensive luncheon buffet, open sidewalk windows, speedy take-away, and modest prices.

Diva Indian Bistro: Davis Square, Somerville
Due to popular demand, an American style, all-you-can-eat brunch is now being served from 11am-3pm on Saturdays and Sundays for $11.95, with a live omelette station and other favorite brunch options in a casual setting, plus intriguing Tamarind Bloody Marys. The Diva Lounge, at the same location, serves $1 Indian “tapas,” from from noon to midnight. Make a meal of more than a dozen flavorful bites like Kerala-style satays, griddled parathas, mini cheese dosas, lamb sliders, allspice beef meatballs, and more.

Dosa Factory: Central Square, Cambridge
This tiny place, located deep inside Shalimar Indian Food and Spices, serves dosas. These are rolled crepes made of rice and lentils holds a variety of fillings – from BBQ chicken or lamb to coconut-y tamarind -- and packs a hunger-busting punch for around $10. Each dosa comes with chutney and soup.

Kashmir: Boston’s Back Bay
For almost 20 years, this busy indoor-outdoor favorite on Newbury Street gathers a crowd for its generous luncheon buffet. By night, the dining room lights glow in a sensual henna’d pattern.

Mantra: Boston’s Downtown Crossing
One World Cusine is pleased to introduce Executive Chef Jerry Pabla, as this stunning and urbane restaurant enters its 10th year of culinary accolades.
Highlights of the all-new fall menu of French-Indian cuisine, served nightly from 5:30 PM:
Crab Cake in a Poppadum Cup with mango, jicama, cilantro, mesclun $18
Pomegranate and Peppercorn Crusted Tuna with tomato chutney $28
Cumin-Dusted Muscovy Duck Breast with Calvados-spiced cranberry jus $28
Pan-Fried Vindaloo Yorkshire Pork Chop with masala butternut mash $25
By day, Mantra serves downtown workers a simple prix fixe buffet, or they may choose among unique Chef’s Specials ($15-19) unavailable anywhere else: Bagarey Baingan, Quail Masala, Coconut Goat Curry, Duck Jhalfraizie.

The latest innovation at Mantra is their Naan Bar, where Boston’s only dedicated tandoori bread ovens are spotlighted. Choose from over a dozen custom-baked sweet or savory naans priced at $6-8, or let your imagination soar with super-creative appetizers ($8-16) like: Malabar Pepper Prawns, Tequila and Green Chile Mussels, Foie Gras & Chicken Momos, Kofta Sliders, and Jonah Crab Spring Rolls. Plus, every Tuesday at 5:00 PM beginning on November 3, The Naan Secrets class features instruction on the history, basics, and spicing of India’s famous breads. A demonstration and sampling of several filled Indian breads is included for $25 per person.

Mela: Boston’s South End
The new Weekend Brunch Buffet ($12.95) presents fresh-squeezed fruit juices, a dosa station, and even more selection than its daily lunch buffet. Contemporary Indian meets classic Indian at Mela, with out-of-the-box recipes like lamb shank curry joining tamer fare like beef kabobs. New windows open to Tremont Street will soon debut.

Shalimar Indian Food and Spices: Central Square, Cambridge
A delicious and educational weekend event will debut in November at this Massachusetts Avenue shop. At 11 AM on the first Saturday of every month, foodies will meet here for a chef-led, aisle-by-aisle tour of Boston’s best Indian grocery shelves. Learn what’s what and how to cook it. Family recipes will be shared. The one hour tour costs $20 and ends at The Dosa Factory in the back of the store for a sit-down sampling of savory dosas. To reserve a spot on the tour, call 617- 868-8311.

New Indian restaurants will be opening in the near future in Woburn, Waltham and Brookline.