Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting wine and food items that are upcoming. **********************************************************
1) Bergamot Chefs Keith Pooler and Dan Bazzinotti along with Beverage Director Kai Gagnon will make Valentine’s Day even more romantic with their aphrodisiac inspired multi-course menu. The Valentine’s Day menu includes six courses for $95 with a wine pairing available for an additional $60.

The menu includes:

First Course:
Broiled Oyster with poblano pepper, sweet potato and black barley
Second Course:
Scallop Sausage with fennel, blood orange, mascarpone, and Marcona Almonds
Third Course:
Lobster with avocado, yellow-eyed peas, grilled vegetable mole
Fourth Course:
Pomegranate Glazed Quail with Sausage, Broccoli, and Garlic
Fifth Course:
Long Island Duck Breast with Bread Pudding, Pickled Persimmon, Maitake Mushrooms, Walnut, and Chervil
Sixth Course:
Chocolate Éclair with apricot, burnt sugar, hazelnut, orange and chocolate sorbet

WHEN: Saturday, February 14. Seatings begin at 5pm
For reservations, please call 617-576-7700.

2) Puritan & Co. Chef/Owner Will Gilson and his talented team pay homage to Italy’s Bubble Belt in the next installation of “Wine Wednesdays”. On  Wednesday, February 4, at 7pm, Puritan & Company offers guests a taste of Italy’s Bubble Belt that includes everything from frothy reds and sparkling whites. The wine dinner is $65 per guest and reservations are recommended. Featured wines include Lambruscos and natural-made wines from Piedmont, Liguria and Veneto. Each wine will be paired perfectly with small plates prepared by Puritan and Company’s award-winning kitchen staff.

The selections featured are:
Podere il Caliceto, Emilia-Romagna:
2013 Bianco dell’Emilia “BiFri”
2013 Lambrusco di Sorbara “Falistra”
Fondo Bozzole, Lombardy:
2013 Lambrusco Montovano “Incantabiss”
2013 Montova Rosso “Le Mani”
2013 Vino Spumante Rosato “Cocai”

For reservations, please call (617)-615-6195

3) It’s Mardi Gras in New England which generally means restaurants will be adding the word “Creole” and “Cajun” in front of dishes on menus everywhere. But, how true is this to authentic Mardi Gras fare? Chef Paul Turano, chef/owner of Tryst restaurant in Arlington, has taken it upon himself to bring authenticity to his special Mardi Gras dinner being held on Tuesday, February 17, from 5pm-10pm.

Served in addition to Tryst’s regular menu, Mardi Gras diners can look forward to experiencing a three-course prix fixe menu available for $30 per person featuring items such as blackened catfish with red beans, rice & celery root remoulade, fried green tomato “BLT” with pork belly, lettuce & ranch dressing and Cinnamon-Sugar Beignets with Cinnamon-Bourbon caramel and milk jam. That’s not all, guests will be able to enjoy authentic cocktails and Hurricanes galore.

Reservations are strongly recommended so please call 781-641-2227.

4) On Tuesday, February 10, at 6:30pm, Legal Harborside will team up with Cyril Chappellet, Chairman of the Board of Chappellet, to host an exclusive four-plus-course wine dinner. Located in the heart of Napa Valley, the Chappellet family’s romance with Pritchard Hill’s vineyards started more than four decades ago when Donn and Molly Chappellet first glimpsed its magnificent vista of forests and wildflower-filled meadows. From these vineyards, the Chappellets have been crafting extraordinary, age-worthy wines since 1967. The rugged terroir has become legendary for producing wines with great intensity and depth—qualities that define the world's finest Cabernet Sauvignons. As a result, Chappellet wines have consistently received the highest praise from critics, and are sought after by the world's premier collectors.

The menu will be presented as follows:

Duck Liver Mousse (apricot mostarda, toasted brioche)
King Crab (Meyer lemon panna cotta, pickled fennel)
Speck Wrapped Pears (local honey, hazelnut crumble)
Lobster Cappuccino (tarragon foam, puff pastry)
Chappellet “Donn Chappellet” Signature Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2013
West Coast Geoduck Clam (torched sashimi-style, winter melon, guava vinaigrette, shiso leaf)
Chappellet “Molly Chappellet” Signature Chenin Blanc, Napa Valley, 2013
Moroccan Braised Lamb Belly (pomegranate molasses, stewed chickpeas, sumac-scented yogurt)
Chappellet “Donn Chappellet” Signature Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2012
Creekstone Farms Charred New York Strip Steak (brown butter sunchoke purée, smoked cipollini butter, black garlic bordelaise)
Chappellet “Pritchard Hill” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2011
L’explorateur Triple Crème Cow’s Milk Cheese (chocolate brioche, kumquat preserves, minus 8 vinegar)
Chappellet Zinfandel, Napa Valley, 2012

COST: $125 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)
Reservation required by calling 617-530-9470

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blue Kudzu Sake: Artisan Brewering In Asheville

Kanpai y’all.”

As the popularity of Sake grows in the U.S., interest in establishing Sake breweries within the U.S. also has risen. Initially, these breweries were primarily on the West Coast, in California and Oregon, but they have now spread all across the country, from Texas to Minnesota. There are ongoing plans for Sake breweries in Maine, Massachusetts and Connecticut. In the South, there are 2 breweries in North Carolina, with plans for additional breweries in other Southern states. I'm intrigued by these new, artisan Sake breweries, and wish them the best.

This past December, I learned that Mary Taylor, one of the four partners of the Blue Kudzu Sake Company in Asheville, North Carolina, had ties to Stoneham, Massachusetts (the town in which I live), For the Christmas holiday, Mary was planning to travel to Stoneham, to spend some time with family. Mary and I spoke, and she was able to spare some time to visit me, to talk about Blue Kudzu, and share some of their Sake. It was a pleasant and informative visit, and I came away with a vision of the potential of this Sake brewery.

The four partners of Blue Kudzu include Mitch Fortune, Cat Ford-Coates. Mary Taylor and Preston Coleman, who had been bartenders and the first three had also been homebrewers. They ran a regular dinner club, where each of them would choose a specific dinner theme. For one of those dinners, in 2010, Mitch chose a Japanese theme, and during that dinner they drank a good amount of Sake, including some Momokawa, which is made by SakeOne in Oregon. During their dinner conversation, they discussed trying to brew their own Sake, figuring that if it could be done in Oregon, that they could do it in North Carolina too. I'm sure the challenge appealed to them, the next step in their homebrewing interest.

They began researching how to homebrew Sake, and started experimenting, eventually creating a Sake which they felt was delicious. Their passion for Sake grew and they eventually desired to construct a full-scale, commercial Sake brewery. Mitch, the head brewer, even traveled to the Oomuraya Brewery, in the Shizuoka Prefectuire of Japan, to learn about Japanese brewing techniques. This brewery produces the well known Wakatake Onikoroshi Sakes, some of my favorites.

After numerous difficulties and obstacles, Blue Kudzu finally opened in October 2013, though their first Sake wasn't sold until May 2014. For example, obtaining all the necessary permits took about three times longer than was expected. Why did they choose the name "Blue Kudzu?" The "Blue" refers to the Blue Ridge Mountains where Asheville is located. Kudzu, which was originally imported from Japan, was initially planted to help prevent erosion, and it was also beneficial to the soil. However, it is sometimes seen as an invasive species, a nuisance, especially by older people.

Sake availability in North Carolina is very limited, but Asheville has been an excellent choice for the location of a Sake brewery. First, Asheville is a significant craft-brewing center in the Southeast region, having more breweries per capita than any other city. There are over 20 craft breweries in Asheville, which now includes two Sake breweries, and the people of Asheville love to support local products, Premium Sake is usually gluten-free and that is also an important aspect for the people of Asheville. Gluten-free menus are very prevalent in the city, and gluten-free products are in great demand. Finally, it is claimed that North Carolina may have the highest number of Asian restaurants per capita, and that means Sake can easily fit many of their menus.

As Blue Kudzu is still a small operation, producing about 500 cases annually, the four partners generally work under many different hats. Mitch is the head brewer, though Cat and Mary both assist in brewing. They use Calrose rice, from California, and have it milled before it gets to their brewery. Their water comes from the mountains and their production techniques reflect Japanese methods. It is challenging for them to acquire brewing equipment on a budget. For example, they currently use a laborious hand press, and hope to some day purchase a mechanical press which will save them much effort.

They are seeking consistency in their Sake production, though they are also engaged in frequent experimentation. For example, they have been trying to create some new flavors of Sake, pondering working with different types of rice, as well as working on creating carbonated Sake. They have even been working on packaging Sake in pouches, making it easier to carry when traveling. It is important to them to attract newcomers to Sake, to give these people a reason to try and enjoy their Sake.  

Mary mentioned that it is a challenge to educate the general public about Sake, a sentiment I have often voiced as well. There are many misconceptions about Sake, and it can take time and effort to get people to realize the truth about Sake. Mary stated that she would like the public to know that brewing Sake is a lengthy and laborious process, that it is not quick and simple. She also would like them to know the versatility of Sake, such that it works well in cocktails too. These the the same challenges that everyone else making, selling or promoting Sake face.

You can visit their brewery, which has a small tasting room and restaurant, which is open for lunch and dinner. They recently hired a new chef, Connor O''Dea, and try to utilize local ingredients to create Asian-inspired dishes, from Sweet Scallion Buns to Ramen. Besides selling their own Sake, they also sell about 20 other Sakes by the bottle.

Three Sakes are currently available for purchase, including the "Spirit of the Sky" Junmai Ginjo, "Thundersnow" Ginjo Nigoti, and "Snow Bunny" Coconut Ginjo Nigori. Each is sold in a 750ml bottle for $25. Interestingly, their Sake uses Nomacorc synthetic corks as a closure, rather than the usual screwcaps. Sake cannot use regular corks as it would adversely affect the product, but the synthetic corks don't cause that problem. Mary brought me samples of the Spirit and the Thundersnow, but not the Snow Bunny. The Snow Bunny is a sweet Sake, meant to be an introduction for those who prefer sweeter alcohols. It might also be a good mixer for certain cocktails, like a Sake Pina Colada.

The "Thundersnow" Ginjo Nigoti, at only 12% alcohol content, is also intended, in part, to be an introductory Sake as it too has a degree of sweetness, though far less than the Snow Bunny. It had a pleasant creamy coconut taste, though the sweetness was very much under control. It might pair well with a spicy Asian dish, its sweetness helping to moderate the spiciness of the dish. I found it to be less sweet than a number of other Nigoris I have tasted, and I think it can act as a stepping stone for a newcomer to Sake.

The "Spirit of the Sky" Junmai Ginjo Sake, with an alcohol content of 16%, has a 60% Semibuai, The bottle I tasted was from Batch #4, an experimental brew in which they produced the Sake without a Shubo, a yeast starter. The Sake had also been bottled on November 12, so it was still very young when I tasted it just after Xmas, and really needed additional time to come into its own. As such, I tasted more the potential of the Sake rather than how it would taste after some proper aging. The Sake had a very pleasant aroma, some steamed rice and fruit, and on the palate, it was dry with prominent melon flavors. With time, I think it would acquire some additional complexity. Overall, I was pleased with the quality of the taste of this Sake, indicative of its positive potential, and I would recommend people check out their properly aged Sake.

Though their Sake is primarily available at their brewery in Asheville, a greater availability is in the works. They recently signed with a distributor in Florida and are seeking distribution in other states too. With the new wine shipping law changes in Massachusetts, it could even be possible in the future to order directly from their brewery.

I was pleased to see Mary's passion for Sake, and I was glad to get a chance to taste the potential of Blue Kudzu. They are still a very new brewery, but their respect for Japanese brewing techniques, as well as their willingness to experiment, are promising. I'll be keeping an eye on their progress and wish the four of them all the best.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How To Cook Seafood, Vol.3

Are there reasons why you don't cook more seafood at home?
Do you have difficulty, or feel intimidated, preparing seafood at home?
Do you know how to best cook fish and shellfish?

As I have previously said, on repeated occasions, Americans don't eat enough seafood. You should eat seafood at least twice a week, garnering its significant health benefits. A significant reason why people don't eat enough seafood is that many are not comfortable cooking seafood at home. They feel intimidated, and don't want to potentially ruin an expensive piece of fish. I have found that even some of my more food-oriented friends still are not confident cooking seafood. So how do we change that? How do we give people more confidence in preparing seafood at home?

Welcome to the third edition of How To Cook Seafood series where I present advice and recipes for seafood from chefs. The advice is geared for home cooks, simple suggestions and recipes that most anyone can do at home. My hope is that it will spur on more people to cook seafood at home. If any chef is interested in participating in this series, please contact me.

For this edition, I am showcasing a few chefs who were featured at the Mohegan Sun WineFest. which was held this past weekend. They participated in free chef demonstrations held within the Grand Wine Tasting hall. With their seafood cooking advice presented here they are also providing a suggested wine pairing for their recipes.

Chef Michele Ragussis,, a native New Englander, has worked as a chef for more than 18 years, and uses the influences of her Greek and Italian heritage in her cooking. Her skills have been displayed on a number of television cooking shows, including Food Network Star, Chopped, Beat Bobby Flay, NBC's Food Fighters and Midnight Feast.  Michele states:

"My favorite Fish (Shellfish), all year round, is clams. I always have clams on one of my menus and consider them to be such a versatile food. In the winter, I love to make them a little heartier so I make a Steamed Littleneck dish with Portuguese Chourico, Kale and White Beans. It is almost like a hearty seafood stew. Growing up in New England, and living by the water clams, were a staple in my family and this is a recipe I love to make. Pair it with some crusty bread and you can’t go wrong."

12 Littleneck or Cherrystone Clams
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup white beans
1 stick chourico
1 bunch kale
1 bottle of Portuguese Vinho Verde wine
1 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon butter
Salt & pepper

In a large Saute pan, add 1 teaspoon blended oil. On medium heat, add diced onion, garlic, and chourico, Cook for about three minutes, until the onions are slightly cooked and the chourico is rendered. Add the clams, chopped kale and white beans. Add salt & pepper and then a cup of the wine. Cover and let it steam until the clams open, which should take about 8-10 minutes. Then, add the butter and cover for another two minutes. Before you serve, add the parsley and get your crusty bread ready. With this dish, enjoy the same Vinho Verde wine that you used for cooking.

Chef Robert Sisca, a resident of Rjode Island and a graduate of Johnson & Wales, honed his culinary skills in New York City at One If By Land, Two If By Sea before becoming Sous Chef at the famed seafood restaurant, Le Bernardin. Currently, Chef Sisca is the Executive Chef Partner at Bistro du Midi, Robert states:

Cooking seafood at home can be a daunting task, but by following three simple rules it can a much more enjoyable experience.

1. Always buy fresh fish. Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin taught me that the #1 rule of cooking is that all starts with the ingredients. Make sure it is always fresh, and then just let the food be the superstar on the plate. Always ask your local fishmonger to smell the fish. If their product is top quality, they will be confident in what they are selling and should have no problem letting you do this.

2. Do not overcook your fish. This is one of the biggest pitfalls when it comes to cooking fish at home. Don’t be so afraid of cooking fish all the way through, this will most likely only lead to it being dry. The best method to cook fish properly is to temper it. Tempering the fish omits the possibility of the overcooking the outside and having a raw center. To temper the fish, first let it sit at room temperature for approximately 10-15 minutes. Second, use a cake tester or skewer to gauge the internal temperature. This is another trick of the trade that I learned from Chef Eric Ripert. During a regular service at Le Bernardin, we would cook anywhere from 800-1000 portions of fish and every piece had to be checked with a skewer. When you think the fish is cooked, simply put the skewer into the thickest part of fish. The skewer should not be hot or cold, hot means the fish is overcooked and cold means it is undercooked. It should be warm.

3. Consider the seasons and resources available to you when deciding to cook fish. Deciding how you want to cook your fish, before you decide what type of fish you will cook is always a great starting point. Different types of fish taste better utilizing various cooking methods such as grilled, baked, seared or poached. The best method depends on characteristics such as how much natural fat is in the fish.

Recipe: Pan-Roasted Monkfish with Grilled and Roasted Eggplant

Step One: Slice an Eggplant thin, about 1/4 inch, and then marinate in 50 grams of olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic and 1 spring of thyme, for up to 30 minutes. Grill each side, rotating 90 degrees once just long enough to create grill marks and set aside.
Step Two: Sweat 2 cloves of Garlic and 2.5 tablespoons of Olive oil in Sauté Pan until aromatic and slightly translucent. Add 500 grams of chopped canned whole tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes. Peel and dice two eggplants. In a second sauté pan add 2 cloves of Garlic and 2.5 tablespoons of Olive oil, and cook diced eggplant until tender. Combine Tomato and Eggplant into one pan add 1/2 bunch of sage, 1/2 bunch of basil, and 2 springs of thyme, and cook until desired consistency. When ready to plate add 10 grams of capers and 50 grams of tomato sauce and season well.
Step Three: Pre-heat oven to 475 degrees. Heat 3 tablespoons of blended oil in heavy bottomed oven safe sauté pan over med-high heat. Dust lightly one side of four, 5 ounce monkfish filets with flour (all-purpose or Wondra). Add fish to pan flour side down and immediately put in oven until internal temperature reaches 115 degrees for medium rare or 125-130 for more medium (cooked through). Remove from oven and rest fish with sear side up for additional minute or two. To slice, place on cutting board sear side down and slice ¾ inch slices.
Step Four: Place grilled eggplant slices on plate, spoon tomato and eggplant mixture onto sliced eggplant. Place monkfish on top of tomato and eggplant mixture. Season monkfish with salt and pepper and garnish with micro greens.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Rant: Snowmaggedon & Deflategate

As a fan of the New England Patriots, I'm looking forward to their Super Bowl appearance next Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, I think it's going to be an excellent game, a true clash of football professionals. Unfortunately, the media has been over-saturated with the issue of Deflategate, partially due to the NFL's slow progress in their investigation. As such, it seems I should dedicate this week's Rant to Deflategate, but that isn't going to happen. There are much more important issues to address, rather than talk about some deflated balls.

Snowmageddon! Snowpocalypse!

The weather reports are indicating a potential blizzard to begin tonight and continue all day tomorrow. We could potentially receive more than two feet of snow, sending plows out all day and night to try to remove snow from the roads. Individuals may be using shovels or snow blowers to clean their driveways or parking spots. It will be an inconvenience, and travel on Tuesday could be difficult. Some of your plans might be disrupted for that day.

In preparation of that potential blizzard, the supermarkets yesterday were packed, and today, they will likely be packed as well. It happens before every possible storm. A sudden rush for bread and water, a stockpiling of alleged necessities. You would think people were preparing for being locked in their houses for a week or more, or that they expected the supermarkets to shut down for a week. Is all of that necessary?  Not really.

For the vast majority of us, these snow storms won't be any more of a single day problem. The city's response is quick enough that the roads should be accessible within a day of any snowstorm. Even if homeowners lose their power in their home for an extended time, they will still be able to drive to a supermarket, restaurant or hotel if necessary. A repeat of an extended shutdown, like that caused by the Blizzard of 1978, will probably never happen again. And if we are only looking at a single day problem, then there is no need for the urgent stockpiling.

Who doesn't have enough food and drink in their home to last through a day or two? There are too many people stockpiling food who really don't need to do so. It is far too often based on an irrational fear. And it can be a problem for those people who might actually have a true need to purchase basic supplies. Stop the unnecessary worrying each time a storm approaches. If you live in New England, you should be used to winter storms, and have prepared for them long before they even approach. Stop crowding the supermarket the day or two before a storm, picking up food and drink that you probably don't even need.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting wine and food items that are upcoming. **********************************************************
1)  This Valentine’s Day, Saturday, February 14, “Top Chef” star Tiffani Faison is closing her restaurant for normal service to host her annual “Valentine’s Day Meat Market.” Beginning at 8pm, Sweet Cheeks will be transformed from an authentic Southern BBQ destination into a prom night to remember.

For all you single ladies and gentleman, or for the Valentine’s Day sweethearts that are searching for an alternative night, Sweet Cheeks has you covered. Upon arrival, rock your old prom dresses and baby blue matching suits and pose for the prom photographer. A BBQ dinner will be served before you dance and mingle with friends while sipping on spiked punch bowls without the fear of your high school teachers catching you.

COST: $75 per person RSVP:
Must be 21+ to attend and consume alcohol; valid government ID required.
To purchase tickets visit:

2) Legal Crossing will celebrate their first Valentine’s Day with a three-course customizable menu featuring the best from land and sea throughout Valentine’s Day weekend.

The menu will be presented as follows:

She-Crab Soup (blue crab, oloroso sherry, crab roe)
-choice of-
Oysters & Pearls (hackleback caviar, myer lemon-crème fraiche sorbet)
Coquilles St Jaques (black trumpet duxelle, lobster veloute)
-choice of-
Lobster Mousseline Stuffed Dover Sole (potato duchess, herbed baby carrots, champagne beurre blanc)
Chateaubriand (sauce béarnaise, potato duchess, herbed baby carrots)
-choice of-
Warm Chocolate Ganache Fondue (long stem strawberries, dried figs, baby bananas, housemade marshmallows)
Baked Alaska (almond brittle ice cream, candied cherries)

WHEN: Friday, February 13 through Sunday, February 15
COST: Three-course prix fixe: $50 per person
Reservations can be made by contacting 617-477-2900

3) On February 10, Legal Sea Foods in Park Square will host a four-course pairings menu as an early celebration for Valentine’s Day. For one night only, guests will indulge in this romance-inspired chef’s tasting menu with exclusive wine pairings to delight their palates.

The menu will be presented as follows:

Oysters on the Half Shell (Champagne Pomegranate Mignonette)
JCB “No. 21” Cremant de Bourgogne, Burgundy, NV
Seared Diver Scallops (Frutti di Mare Risotto, Béarnaise Sauce)
Bonny Doon “Le Cigare Blanc,” Beeswax Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, 2008
Grilled Tuna Steak (Leek & Cheddar Potato Au Gratin, Cipollini Onion Jam)
Lemelson Vineyards “Thea’s Selection” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 2001
Strawberry-Rhubarb Bread Pudding (Chocolate, Crème Anglaise)
Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui, Piemonte, 2012

COST: $40 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)
Reservation required by calling 617-530-9397

4) On Thursday, January 29, from 6:30pm-9:30pm, CHOPPS American Bar and Grill will host a Bourbon Dinner, a 5 course tasting menu that is paired with Bourbon based cocktails. You'll enjoy a dinner prepared by Chef David Verdo, paired with different types of bourbons. They will discuss different characteristics of Bourbons, its popularity, and have some great laughs as well.This sounds like an excellent event and I recommend it.

Cost: $70 per person
To purchase tickets, please visit

5) This Valentine’s Day, The Beehive will indulge lovers with “Three Days of Lovin’” - a three-day long event featuring Valentine’s Day inspired dishes from Executive Chef Marc Orfaly, drink specials from Moët & Chandon and Domaine Chandon, and live jazz and soul performances from Friday, February 13 through Sunday, February 15.

On Saturday, February 14, guests can enjoy a special prix fixe menu for $65 per person. Chef Orfaly will be serving romantic specials including: Crispy Oysters; Escargot Risotto; Herb Crusted Prime Rib with whipped potatoes, english peas, roasted cipollini onions and red wine sauce; Swordfish Puttanesca with tomato, capers, olives, lemon and linguine; and Confit Lamb Shank with gnocchi, grilled heirloom carrots and broccoli rabe. The meal will end on a sweet note as guests share desserts such as Chocolate Truffle Pot De Crème and Strawberry Cheesecake. The prix fixe menu will be served exclusively on Saturday, February 14.

Why limit the love to one day? Guests can enjoy luxe specials in addition to the regular menu on Friday, February 13 and Sunday, February 15 as well as a lover’s weekend brunch on both Saturday and Sunday from 10AM to 3PM. All weekend long guests can get in the mood with one of The Beehive’s Valentine’s Day drink specials featuring Moët & Chandon and Domaine Chandon, and wine enthusiasts will appreciate The Beehive’s extensive wine list featuring exceptional sparkling and reserve wines. Reservations are highly recommended.

COST: Menu specials à la carte. The prix fixe dinner menu on Saturday is $65 per person.
Reservations are highly recommended by calling 617-423-0069

6) For Valentine's Day, check out M.C. Spiedo, where chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier have crafted a 3-course Valentine¹s Day menu, for $49 per person, featuring both house-favorites and decadent specials (all items also available a la carte).

Some of the menu highlights include, but are not limited, to:

· Grand Trencher: selection of meats and cheeses ($15)
· Fluke Crudo: Maine uni, passion fruit, crispy black olives, radish
· Braised Pork Belly Cassoulet: pork sausage, crispy duck, roasted pear ($34)
· Grilled Filet Mignon: seared scallops, baby turnips, beech mushroom, horseradish cream ($38)
· Wild Atlantic Salmon: roasted fennel, pinenut sauce ($29)
· Affogato: espresso ice cream, anise cookie crumble, whipped cream, coco nibs ($7)
· Gianduja Cheesecake: chocolate-hazelnut cheesecake with shaved hazelnuts, raspberry sauce, meringue ($7)

7) For Valentine's Day, you could check out Coppa, where  chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette will celebrate Valentine¹s Day with a 3-course menu for $55, with the option of an additional $35 for wine pairing and $15 for a cheese supplement (including the return of their Lady and the Tramp spaghetti and meatballs)

Highlights include but are not limited to:

1st Course
· Zucca Passata: Italian pumpkin hummus, pomegranate, salsa verde, cucumber
· Crudo of Scallop: N¹duja impasto, harissa, crispy quinoa
2nd Course
· ³Lady and the Tramp² Spaghetti e Polpette: Coppa spaghetti and meatballs
· Cappelletti con Pastinaca: Parsnip-filled pasta, bra duro, smoked hazelnut, rye
· Porchetta Spalla: Slow roasted pork shoulder, hay smoked carrot, sunflower seed puree
3rd Course
· Sundae: Olive oil cake, pistachio gelato, luxardo cherries
· Tiramisu: House-made espresso and Frangelico soaked ladyfingers, mascarpone and cocoa

8) Executive Chef Chris Coombs and Chef de Cuisine Adrienne Mosier introduce a new dish to delight the senses for guests of Deuxave. The latest menu addition is a Perigord Truffle Studded Roast Giannone Chicken ($99). All of Giannone’s chickens are organic and grown naturally and free range. At Deuxave, these qualities are enhanced with the addition of 10 grams of Black Perigord Truffles. The luxurious date night dish serves two and is presented tableside along with Robuchon potatoes, heirloom carrots, crispy mushrooms, Brussels sprouts leaves, red watercress and truffle honey juice.

WHEN: Available daily, for a limited time only
Sunday – Wednesday: 5pm-10pm; Thursday – Saturday: 5pm-11pm
To make a reservation, please call 617-517-5915

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Seafood Expo North America: Reasons To Go

Thousands of creatures from the sea are going to descend on Boston in two months, A deluge of seafood which will make it one of the top events of the year. This epic event occurs each year and I'm planning to attend once again, and hope that you will do so too.

From March 15-17, the Seafood Expo North America (SENA) will return to Boston, probably the largest seafood event in the country. If you are a writer, from freelancer to a blogger, and cover any topics related to seafood, from recipes to sustainability, then I strongly encourage you to attend. As I have said repeatedly before, "the seafood show is fertile soil for a myriad of story ideas as each exhibit booth has its own unique and interesting story." Any writer who attends this show should easily find the seeds for at least a dozen stories, and likely many more. Last year, I wrote over 20 articles inspired by SENA.

SENA is a huge trade show, and there will be over 1000 exhibitors, from over 40 countries, showcasing a wide diversity of products and services. Even if you attend all three days, you still won't have enough time to visit all of the booths. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about a myriad of seafood issues, to talk to numerous seafood businesses, to explore the seafood industry. You can discovery more about different countries, such as by visiting the pavilions for Japan or Iceland. In addition, the show is fun, with plenty of delicious seafood samples, from lobster to oysters. Ever had salmon bacon? Fried alligator? You never know what might be available to sample at SENA.

We all know that seafood is at the crux of some of the most important food issues in the world. The range of seafood topics touches on so many crucial matters, from sustainability to health. Not only is it delicious, but it provides numerous health benefits. It is integral to the economic health of many local businesses, from fishermen to restaurants. The potential extinction of certain fish species is a major concern that needs to be addressed. These are all issues which need more coverage by the media, and which you can make your own contributions.

Why do I care? First, I view our local writers and bloggers as a community and I believe we all benefit by helping each other, giving recommendations for excellent events. Second, I feel that seafood is a vital topic which more people need to write about so that we raise attention to all of its urgent issues. That will benefit all of us in many ways. It is with greater exposure and cooperative efforts that we can cause change in the seafood industry.

And as another incentive, SENA is also held in conjunction with the New England Food Show, where you will find a plethora of food and drink related products and services, from wine to cheese, spirits to locally produced foods. You can easily visit both shows, and the Food Show will give you fodder for even more stories. If you go to both of these shows, you won't be able to complain about writer's block for months at least.

So I hope to see you this year at the Seafood Expo North America. And if you want to read more about SENA, check out my posts from last year's show.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Rant: Life's Most Persistent & Urgent Question

Life's most persistent and urgent question is, "What are you doing for others?" If we just touch one life through an act of kindness, we can make a difference. Who knows what someone else will accomplish because you helped them, or you inspired them to do the same?
--Martin Luther King, Jr.

So, what are you doing for others?

I write about food & drink, which on the surface may seem to be a rather inconsequential topic, especially when measured against some of the world's most compelling problems. It might seem my writing is primarily about luxury items, none of which are essential to the lives of my readers. However, if you look deeper at my writings, if you look more closely at the nature of the topics I address and my reasons behind my articles, you'll realize I address more consequential issues, doing my small part to make this a better world.

So, what are you doing for others?

When I write a positive restaurant review, wine review, spirit review, book review, or event review, part of the reason behind that review is to support and promote the object of my review. I want the object of that review to succeed because I believe they are worthy of my support and promotion. My review remains neutral and unbiased, but it can still be considered a reward of sorts to an object which has proven itself deserving. For example, if I enjoy a restaurant, I want my readers to patronize that business so that it succeeds and remains around for many years. If I love a wine, I want others to buy it as too so that the winery does well, and stays in business, continuing to make delicious wine. And when my reviews provides criticism, it is because I want the produce to succeed  and am offering my advice and suggestions as to how they can accomplish such.

So, what are you doing for others?

I often promote charitable events, especially in my Sips & Nibbles column, that are connected to the food & drink world. I want my readers to contribute to such charities, to help others in need. In the local area, we have plenty of excellent chefs who devote much time and effort to charitable matters and they deserve our support in those endeavors. If I can persuade my readers to attend some of those charitable events, or even just to contribute to the cause, all the better.

So, what are you doing for others?

Through some of my more serious Monday Rants, I address vital issues which I want my readers to consider, and sometimes take action. These Rants are offered to help people, to direct them to proper action and thought. For example, every year, my most important Rant is to tell people Don't Drink & Drive. It is a sentiment that also ends up in other posts during the year, and my intent is to help try to prevent a tragedy. When discussing alcohol, it is a vital issue to address and I always hope that people listen when I raise this topic.

So, what are you doing for others?

Every Tuesday, I write about a seafood-related topic and many of those posts have serious intentions, from promoting sustainability as well as providing health advice. These are issues which affect all of us, no matter our station in life. Eating seafood can reduce your chance of cardiovascular disease by 33%, and who wouldn't benefit from that? Protecting seafood species is also vital to our world's survival, so promoting sustainability is an essential issues.  

So, what are you doing for others?

I want you to understand that writing about food & drink doesn't have to be inconsequential. It too can discuss some vital issues, and lead to positive change. It can help and support others.It can make a difference in someone's life. It can inspire others to take action. And doing this with my writing makes me feel better about my own life.

So, what are you doing for others?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thursday Sips &Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting wine and food items that are upcoming. **********************************************************
1) Take a tip or two from the 21 artisan cheesemakers of the 16-month-old MA Cheese Guild members below, and seek out a locally produced cheese to savor when National Cheese Lover’s Day rolls around on Tuesday, January 20:

"“I’ve never tasted anything like Berkshire Blue’s hard-to-find Smoked Blue Cheese, and if you can get your hands on some, you’ll agree."
--Peter Lovis, proprietor, The Cheese Shop of Concord

"“In addition to our own well-regarded Asiago, I highly recommend the handmade mozzarella from Wolf Meadow Farm in Newbury, MA. Of course, you can’t beat Great Hill Blue from Marion, MA either."
--Nancy Lawton, owner/milk mistress, Foxboro Cheese Company

“"Here at The Old Inn, we assemble selections of our favorite local cheeses, but we have a soft spot for Rawson Brook goat cheese, which is made a few miles up the road from us in Monterey, MA. Cheesemaker Susan Sellew is passionate about caring for her herd of Alpine goats and producing the best possible fresh goat cheese. The results are delicious.”"
--Peter Platt, chef-owner, The Old Inn on the Green, Guild Charter member

"“I’ve only gotten to taste cheeses from Chase Hill and Robinson Farms, so I guess I’d suggest folks look out for the delicious Robinson Family Swiss, which is made by a husband-wife team in Hardwick, MA."
--Allen Healy, cheesemaker at Mermaid Farm, Chilmark

The MA Cheese Guild is comprised of three distinct branches. Artisan members are commercial cheesemakers who certify use of Massachusetts milk. Trade membership (retailers/wholesalers/distributors/ journalists) and Enthusiast membership is also available. Join the MA Cheese GuildThe MA Cheese Guild is funded by its members and supported by the MA Department of Agricultural Resources and the MA Dairy Promotion Board.

2) The Massachusetts Restaurant Association and Harpoon Brewery invite Boston’s hospitality industry and food loving Bostonians to enjoy beers and bites from more than ten of Boston’s notable chefs including Chris Coombs, Jody Adams, Michael Leviton, Andy Husbands, and Mary Dumont . Net proceeds will benefit the No Kid Hungry campaign.

The Massachusetts Restaurant Association and the Harpoon Brewery are teaming up to present ‘The Holiday Hangover to End Childhood Hunger’ event, a new post-holiday hospitality industry bash that brings together Boston’s top chefs and hospitality professionals with the MRA’s experienced industry leaders.

This event will showcase some of Boston’s leading culinary talents including Chris Anderson (Clover); Chris Coombs (Boston Chops), Michael Leviton (Area Four, A4 Pizza, and Lumiere); Andy Husbands (Tremont 647); Jay Murray (Grill 23); Mike Zentner (Gaslight Brasserie du Coin); Rodney Murillo (Davio’s); Josh Ziskin (La Morra); Mary Dumont (Harvest); Jamie Mammano and Anthony Wall (Teatro); and Jody Adams (Rialto). During the event, chefs will serve carefully crafted tastings to be perfectly paired or prepared with one of Harpoon Brewery’s acclaimed craft brews like Boston Irish Stout, UFO White, Rye IPA, UFO Raz, UFO Gingerland, and more.

Net proceeds will benefit No Kid Hungry, which is ending childhood hunger in America by ensuring that kids start the day with a nutritious breakfast and families learn the skills they need to shop and cook on a budget.

WHEN: Monday, January 26, from 7-10 p.m.
WHERE: The Harpoon Brewery, 306 Northern Avenue Boston,  617.456.2322
MORE: Tickets are $40 for the general public or $30 with a restaurant industry discount code. The ticket price includes admission, 2 beers, and tastings of the chefs’ dishes with beer pairing samples. To purchase tickets of learn more, please visit

3) On Wednesday, February 11, at 7pm, guests will take a virtual culinary wine tour of Australia, New Zealand, Chile and South Africa at Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro’sSouth of the Equator” wine dinner. Designed to both educate and entertain, Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro’s (BHHB) wine dinners are aimed at individuals of all experience levels. This event is about “wonderful wines, creative food and good friends,” says Cecilia Rait, proprietress and wine director of the BHHB.

Beginning at 7pm, diners are invited to visit all four regions without leaving the comfort of their seats. Cecilia and Tracy Burgis of M.S. Walker act as virtual tour guides, moving from region to region expanding the history, curiosities and nuances of each selection. During this educational dinner guests will sample diverse wines from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa & Chile. The dinner will showcase a variety of wines as well as the culinary artistry of Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro’s Executive Chef Lucas Sousa, whose dishes are designed to complement each featured wine.

This intimate adventure is set in communal seating to encourage conversation, laughter and fun. For $65.00 per person (tax and gratuity not included), guests are treated to four wines, a four-course dinner and Cecilia's and Tracy's good cheer, humor and expertise. Reservations are encouraged, as the event will sell out fast, so please call  617-723-7575.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sake News

Kanpai! Here is another short list of some of the interesting Sake articles that have been published lately. It is great to see more and more coverage for Sake, though I recommend that anyone seeking to publish a Sake article check it at least a few times for accuracy. A few basic errors continue showing up in introductory Sake articles, and those errors would be easy to eliminate if you had a knowledgeable Sake person check your facts. Let us also hope that we see more than just introductory Sake articles in the future. Sake has many depths and all those varied facets make great material for articles.

1) Scottish Sake? Last April 2014, I mentioned that Arran Brewery, a Scottish beer brewery located on the isle of Arran had purchased land in Dreghorn, planning to construct a Sake brewery. They had already been brewing a tiny amount of Sake but now wanted to take it to a commercial scale. BBC News is now reporting that Arran's plans have now been approved and they can move forward with their Sake brewery.

Curiously, Arran plans to export most of their Sake to Japan, partially thinking that the popularity of Scotch whiskey in Japan will extend to Scottish Sake too. As Sake consumption in Japan has been decreasing over the years, maybe it isn't the best market for Scottish Sake. Sure, there would be the novelty of the Sake at first, but could it hope to compete with all of the domestically produced Sake? That seems doubtful. Arran Brewery might be better served trying to primarily sell to the European market, or even the U.S. market. They could then export a smaller portion to Japan and see how well it does there before committing a larger portion of their production.

2) The Asahi Shimbun discusses the Terada Honke brewery, a small Sake kura, which produces Sake which is unlike much that is on the market. Masaru Terada, the 24th generation owner of the brewery, is trying to emulate Sake brewing methods from the Edo Period (1603-1868), such as the kimoto method. His father-in-law, Keisuke Terada, had been the first to institute similar changes to the brewery, creating their signature Sake, Gonin-musume ("five daughters"), which is produced from locally grown rice free without any agricultural chemicals.Terada's Sake is "cloudy, full of body, fungal not fruity and decidedly more sour than sweet." It is not a clean and refined Sake that many prefer. Though they had some difficulties at first selling their Sake, they now can't make enough of it. Some Sake lovers are seeking out Sake that goes beyond the norm, something more unusual and distinctive. Such diversity should be embraced.

3) Sake cocktails? The Japan Times claims that Sake cocktails are leading to more Sake converts. Some Japanese bars and tasting events are trying to use Sake cocktails to appeal to young people and women. However, the article is short on statistics or evidence showing that these cocktails are leading to greater Sake consumption. Food & Wine magazine recently noted that a mixologist in New York City has been making hot Sake cocktails, both savory and sweet. It seems clear that Sake cocktails are popular, and getting even more prevalent, and I encourage the trend. The bigger question though is whether these cocktails will lead to more consumption of Sake on its own.

Sherry consumption in the U.S. had been very low, and most of that consumption was of sweet Sherries. Recently though, there has been a boom in Sherry cocktails which has revived interest in Sherry, including plenty of media coverage about Sherry. It has apparently led to at least a small boost in Sherry consumption on its own, and hopefully that will continue in the near future. This example should give some hope that Sake cocktails will boost Sake consumption.

4) Rice tech? Tech In Asia has reported on the efforts of the Asahi Shuzo, which produces the well known Dassai Sake,brand, to help farmers grow more Sake rice, primarily Yamada Nishiki, considered by some to be the best rice for Sake/.There is currently not enough rice available to meet the demand, so Asahi teamed up with Fujitsu, an electronics firm, to create Akisai, a service to collect information on rice growing practices and techniques, to benefit growers all across Japan. By collecting data from existing farmers, they hope to discover the best ways to cultivate Yamada Nishiki and provide that info to future growers. It is still a new project, but already has garnered lots of attention. It sounds like a great idea to me, and hopefully will benefit rice many growers and lead to the creation of better Sake.

5) Princess Gingko Sake? The Asahi Shimbun wrote about a new endeavor between the Aichi Center for Industry and Science Technology’s Food Research Center and the Naito Jozo Sake brewery to create a Sake usin local ginkgo flower yeast. Inazawa is the largest ginkgo nut producing city in Japan. The Sake, named Prrincess Gingko, is a Junmai that uses ginkgo flower yeast and white koji. The rice is Aichi no Kaori, the prefecture’s signature rice, and it is polished down to 60%, which technically would qualify it as a Ginjo. This new Sake is supposed to have a "mellow, fresh acidic flavor" and be "on the sweeter side."  It is also lower in alcohol, and should be available in Japan in the spring. The article doesn't mention whether any will be exported or not.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sushi Titans Battle! The Results

The results can now be announced!

Back in September, I had the honor to be one of five judges presiding over an epic Sushi battle, pitting local Chef Tim Cushman, of O Ya Restaurant, against Chef Hisayoshi Iwa, of Sushi Iwa in Japan. The event was held at the Clarke Studio in Milford and was filmed for ABC Asahi Broadcasting, a national Japanese TV network, for a prime time cooking competition. You can read my previous article for more background and to learn more about my experience.

At that time, because of reasons of confidentiality, I couldn't reveal the judges' decision and tell you who won the competition. However, the television show has now aired in Japan so I'm now free to reveal the winner.

Before I mention the name of the winner, you might want to watch the show yourself and see who wins. The televised competition is available in two YouTube videos. On the first video, coverage of the Sushi contest begins around the 33 minute mark. The second video continues coverage, ending around the 25 minute mark.The videos are in Japanese, though if you listen very carefully, you will be able to hear some English in the background. The videographers taped much more content than is what is presented in these two videos. Plenty of coverage ended up on the cutting room floor.

The five of us judges didn't discuss who we each thought had won the competition. Our decisions were made on our own. Of the five judges, I first revealed the name of who I thought won the competition. However, this is what I said previously about my decision. "These were two very different experiences. Simplicity vs complexity. Subtlety vs boldness. Purity vs Harmony. Both experiences were equally compelling, but for different reasons. Trying to compare them is a formidable task. In some respects, it may devolve down to a matter of personal preference. In other respects, it may come down to the tiniest of differences. I certainly faced an enormous dilemma in trying to determine a winner, and my own difficulties were mirrored by the other judges. A winner had to chosen though."

In the end, I voted for Chef Iwa, opting for his purity of flavors. It was a damn difficult decision and Chef Cushman did a fantastic job. The next two votes from the judges were given to Chef Cushman, giving him a 2 to 1 lead. Then, the fourth judge voted for Chef Iwa, tying it up. The final vote, which decided the winner of the event, was for....Chef Iwa! The Japanese panel on the television show were on the edge of their seats as the votes were cast, eventually bursting forth in loud cheer when they learned Chef Iwa had won.

As I also said previously, "What I can say is that both of these chefs are winners, having created excellent dishes which any Sushi lover would thoroughly enjoy. They each gave it their all, valiant competitors who showcased their skills and experience. Each chef should be absolutely proud of their efforts and hold their head up high." It truly was an epic battle, and both skilled contenders put forth a championship effort.

If you ever visit Japan, you can visit Chef Iwa's sushi restaurant, and locally you should make a visit to O Ya and see Chef Cushman. Sushi is a versatile  dish, which can range from simple to complex, and as long as it is delicious, that is all that really matters.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rant: More Bread Pudding, Please

I'm sick and tired of cupcakes and froyo. It's time for something else, another dessert to take the world by storm. My vote for a replacement goes to Bread Pudding. It is a perfect comfort food, and is versatile so that you can create many different flavored bread puddings.

The origin of bread pudding extends back to the 11th century, as people tried to find ways to use their stale bread. A couple hundred years later, in England, it was known as "poor man's pudding" because it was popular with the lower classes. Essentially, bread pudding is made with some type of bread over which a custard-like sauce is poured before it is cooked. Numerous other ingredients can be added, from nuts to fruits, and you can use any type of bread, or bread-like food, such as muffins or donuts. It is relatively easy to make and can be absolutely delicious.

Back in December 2013, I made a wishlist for what I wanted to see more of in 2014, and one of those items was more bread pudding. I mentioned that there was a bread pudding bakery in California, Schulzie's Bread Pudding, which now has two locations. I wanted to see some local bakeries open which specialized in bread pudding. That hasn't happened yet but there has been some good news. Last week, Nation's Restaurant News reported on an increase of bread pudding during the past year. Part of my hopes have come true, there actually had been an increase of bread pudding during the course of 2014, though hopefully it will continue to grow in 2015.

The Nation's Restaurant News reported bread pudding had increased restaurant menu penetration for 5%, though there was not a discussion of its presence in bakeries. The article mentioned two restaurants which were serving bread pudding, including the Temple Bar in Harvard Square, which added a Coconut Bread Pudding with roasted pineapple and crème anglaise to their fall menu. This increase in menu penetration is a positive sign, and hopefully that the trend will spread beyond restaurants to include more bakeries too.

Where have you enjoyed bread pudding? And would you like to see a local bakery concentrating on bread pudding?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Advice For Upcoming Grand Wine Tasting Events

You're confronted with the opportunity to taste hundreds of different wines. There's no way you can taste all of them, or even a large percentage, so what should you do?

In the New England area, it's now the season for two huge wine tasting events, the Mohegan Sun WineFest (MSW), which will be held January 23-25, and the Boston Wine Expo (BWE), which will be held February 14-15. I'm planning on attending both of these events and suspect I'll see a number of my wine-loving friends there too.

Both events have a Grand Tasting which showcases hundreds of different wines, and present a unique tasting opportunity, the chance to experience a diverse selection and hopefully find some new favorites. Though there are some differences between the two events, there are plenty of similarities as well. As such, I want to offer some advice and suggestions for everyone who may be attending either of these two events.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed at these Grand Tastings. People attend these events for a number of different reasons. Though many don't like to discuss it, there is always a contingent that goes just to get drunk. I don't advise anyone to do this. Instead, have fun, taste wine, but don't over do it. You will want to remember what you experienced. Use this opportunity to learn about wine, to find new favorites, and to socialize with other wine lovers.

What is my best advice for attending these Grand Tastings? Like many endeavors, the key is in your preparation. Don't just show up and drink, especially if you want to learn anything.

1) Make a plan of which wine regions and/or specific wineries you want to visit. You cannot taste every wine, or probably even 10% of the wines. So you need to be very selective as to what you taste. If you don't go with a plan, you may waste time wandering around the hall, and might even miss a winery that you really wanted to check out. With a plan, you can best take advantage of your limited time. The BWE has a detailed list of Exhibitors on their website which makes such pre-planning easier. The MSW also has a list of Exhibitors.

2) At the BWE, you will find primarily only wine available for tasting, with possibly a handful of exceptions. At the MSW, you will also find beer. cider and spirits available, with a separate area for beer and cider. The spirits are presented within the wine tasting room, and I recommend tasting them after you have already tasted the wines you wish to sample.

3) Don't drink wines you already know and like. You can do that anytime and anywhere else. Instead, take this opportunity to expand your palate and try different wines, hoping to find new wines to enjoy. Never had Portuguese wines? Then make an effort to venture to their tables and try some of their wines, from Vinho Verde to Altejano reds. With all the diversity of wines available, it makes little sense to spend your time drinking the same wines you drink at home all the time. Be willing to experiment and taste something different.

4) To avoid the greatest crowds, go on Sunday rather than Saturday. Saturday in the Grand Tastings are more crowded with the huge hordes of attendees. Sunday though does not attract as large a horde of wine lovers. It will still be crowded, but is more manageable. And it is worth getting to the event as soon as it opens, as it tends to get more crowded later in the day.

5) Dress comfortably, noting that there is always the potential you might spill wine on your clothes. So leave those white shirts, blouses, pants,etc. home. Wear comfortable shoes as you will be on your feet for several hours, walking around the tasting hall.

6) Don't wear perfume or cologne as they will interfere with your ability to smell the wine, and will also interfere with the ability of other people to do the same. So show consideration for your fellow attendees and please don't wear it.

7) Eat a hearty meal before going to these events. If you are going to be tasting all that wine, you want to have a full stomach to help nullify some of that alcohol. If you go on an empty stomach, the alcohol will hit you harder and quicker, and you won't last long. There will be some food available at these events, but it is better to start off with a fully belly before you even get there.

8) How will you get to these events? Remember that you will be tasting lots of wines so you may not be able to drive home safely. No one should ever drink and drive! So, if you can, take public transportation, book a nearby hotel room, or have a designated driver. Please don't drink and drive. That is the most important advice in this entire post. DON"T DRINK & DRIVE!!

9) When you are tasting wines, please spit. Every sip you swallow adds to your alcohol level and if you do not spit, you will soon find yourself intoxicated. Even small sips can add up quickly. Once you are intoxicated, all of the wines will start tasting good to you and you probably won't learn anything. Spitting is the only way to navigate through a large number of wines, trying to discern which new wines appeal to you. So spit, spit, spit!

10) While you are tasting wines, take frequent breaks to drink water and eat snacks to help cleanse your palate. There are numerous food vendors at these events, many offering free samples, so there is no excuse why you can't find something to nibble upon. Water is also necessary to stay hydrated. All of this will help keep your palate sharp, and also try to limit the effect of all that alcohol.

11) If you find a new wine you enjoy, how will you remember it? You can take notes, writing down the name of the wine, or use your smart phone to take a picture of the wine bottle label. Nothing is worse than tasting a great wine but later forgetting its name. You will taste plenty of wines at the Expo so the only way to ensure you remember which ones you enjoyed are to take notes or pictures.

12) If you really enjoy a wine, ask questions about whether it is available or not. Unfortunately, not all of the wines poured at these events is yet available in Massachusetts. If it is available, they should be able to tell you the name of the distributor. Write that info down as it will help you locate the wine later. You can go to your local wine store with that info and they should be able to get the wine for you.

13) At the BWE, consider attending one of the Wine Seminars. They can be an excellent way for more directed wine education, in a more intimate forum. Check out seminars such as Iconic Wines of Spain, Sake..Is It Just For Japanese Cuisine, Wines of Uruguay and The Modern Wines of Ancient Greece..

14) At both events there are free Chef Demos, where you can watch chefs, many local, demonstrate recipes and you often get to sample what they prepare. At the MSW, the chefs will also do book signings of their cookbooks. This can be a fun break from all of your wine tasting.

15) For more advanced wine lovers, both events have higher-end wine tasting events, with more expensive wines available for tasting. You can check out the BWE Vintner's Reserve Lounge or the MSW Elite Cru event. You have to buy a separate ticket for these events, and they are pricey, but they are compelling. I attended last year's Vintner's Reserve Lounge and I found it to be well worth the price, with an excellent selection of high-end wines as well as plenty of food.

16) Make sure you have fun!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting wine and food items that are upcoming. **********************************************************
1) This January, do good and eat well by dining at numerous top restaurants during The Greater Boston Food Bank’s (GBFB) 33rd annual Super Hunger Brunch. With a growing list of nearly 20 restaurants, diners can choose sweet and savory dishes from menus designed especially for Super Hunger Brunch weekend, January 24th – 25th. Prices are set at $25, $35 and $50 per person and for every dollar spent, three nutritious meals will be provided to our neighbors in need.

According to Catherine D’Amato, GBFB President and Chief Executive Officer, members of the food and hospitality industries are among the hunger-relief organization’s most generous and dedicated benefactors. “The food community has always come together in support of The Greater Boston Food Bank. At this time of year in particular, everyone from chefs and servers to farmers and purveyors contribute to the success of our Super Hunger Brunch fundraiser. We appreciate their willingness to help us end hunger here in eastern Massachusetts.”

In 2014, over 1,800 people participated in Super Hunger Brunch, raising enough funds to provide 219,000 meals to men, women, children, families, college students, senior citizens and veterans in 190 cities and towns throughout eastern Massachusetts.

Chefs Jody Adams of Rialto and Trade, Gordon Hamersley, Mary Dumont of Harvest Restaurant, Andy Husbands of Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel, Tony Maws of Craigie on Main and Kirkland Tap & Trotter, Frank McClelland of New France, Ming Tsai of Blue Ginger and Blue Dragon and Brooke Vosika of The Bristol Lounge at Four Seasons Hotel Boston are longtime champions of The Greater Boston Food Bank and serve on the Super Hunger Brunch Culinary Committee.

Participating restaurants include:
· Burtons Grill of Burlington
· Kirkland Tap & Trotter
· Blue Ginger
· Nix's Ten Center
· Precinct Kitchen + Bar
· Grill 23 & Bar
· 80 Thoreau
· Craigie on Main
· La Morra
· Post 390 Restaurant
· Rialto
· Stella Restaurant
· Dillon’s
· Michael’s Harborside
· The Fireplace
· Tosca

Generous in-kind donations have been provided by Cabot, Backyard Farms, Broccoli Associates, Inc., Carol’s Organic Eggs, Costa Fruit & Produce Company, Dragone, Cold River Vodka, Garelick Farms and Ripe.

For more information about the 2014 Super Hunger Brunch and for advanced ticketing, visit To view menus and make reservations visit the websites of participating restaurants.

2) On Wednesday, January 28, at 6:30pm,, Legal Sea Foods in Park Square will host a wine dinner with selections from Buehler Vineyards. Founded in 1971, Buehler is a small, family-oriented winery located in the mountains east of St. Helena in the heart of Napa Valley. Situated north of Pritchard Hill and Conn Valley, near the base of Howell Mountain, the hillside vineyards primarily produce Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel varietals. Buehler combines extensive experience, minimalist winemaking techniques and meticulous practices which produces complex wines with depth for wine lovers at an affordable price point.

Legal Sea Foods will team up with Owner, John Buehler, to host an exclusive four-plus-course dinner featuring signature cuisine paired with his selections from the Buehler vine. The menu will be presented as follows:

Scallop Mousse, Brioche Toast Points
Crab, Spinach Spanakopita
Warm Buttered Langoustine, Romano Tart
Lemon Butter Poached Grey Sole Rollatini (Baby Mache Salad, Asian Pear Vinaigrette)
Buehler Vineyards Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, 2013
Gorgonzola Encrusted Tuna Steak (Mushroom Risotto Cake, Mission Fig Compote)
Buehler Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2012
Barbacoa Braised Short Ribs (Yukon Gold & Aged Cheddar Mashed Potato, Grilled Portobello Mushroom)
Buehler Vineyards “Estate” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2012
Vermont Dandy, Tarentaise, Smith’s Cave-Aged Gouda (Spiced Walnuts, Pomegranate Compote, Grilled Francese)
Buehler Vineyards Zinfandel, Napa Valley, 2012

COST: $75 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)
Reservation required by calling 617-530-9397

3) In honor of National Soup Month, Legal Sea Foods will be declaring January 15 as “Chowda Day.” Available at all Legal Sea Foods locations during normal operating hours, $1 cups of their signature New England Clam Chowder will be served up with the purchase of an entrée. Legal Sea Foods’ iconic clam chowder recipe has been dished out at every Presidential Inauguration since 1981.

If you can’t make it into Legal Sea Foods, their online fish market will be offering a quart of clam chowder for the special price of $11 on January 15. The clam chowder can be shipped anywhere in the continental US overnight and regularly retails for $21.95. A taste of New England is never far away.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Eating More Mussels

Make a New Year's resolution that you'll want to keep, a resolution that will improve your health in a most delicious way.

Eat More Mussels.

Last summer, I posted Want Cheap, Tasty, Healthy & Sustainable Seafood? Choose Musssels, explaining numerous reasons why you should eat more mussels. The title of that post sums it up well, though I should add that mussels are also easy to cook. Recent news articles I have been reading about mussels have been very positive and it seems that more people are enjoying mussels and I fervently hope that this trend continues.

SeafoodSource posted about the results of a Nielsen Perishables Group report, noting that "Average mussels dollar sales increased 5.4%", which is good to hear although there is more than ample room for growth. That same report also stated that "approximately 1.1% of households purchased mussels" which is far too low, and many more households need to embrace the tasty mussel. The peak time for mussel purchases were during the holiday weeks of Christmas and New Year's, showing that mussels are seen more as a holiday item. However, due to the low cost of mussels, they should not be seen as a holiday luxury, and more as a seafood to be consumed year round.

In my prior post on mussels, I stated that the U.S. imports most of their mussels,primarily from Canada and New Zealand. Within Canada, Price Edward Island (PEI) exports about 88% of all Canadian mussels, with Newfoundland and Nova Scotia occupying second and third place. U.S. mussel production is only about 700,000 pounds, the majority grown in Maine. I recommended that the U.S. should move forward to expand mussel aquaculture, and that now seems to be happening, which also makes me pleased.

The Journal Pioneer reported on new U.S. efforts to  expand mussel aquaculture into federal waters. Each state has jurisdiction over the waters up to three miles off their coast, and the federal government is responsible for the waters past that point. Until recently, there hadn't been any regulations concerning mussel aquaculture in these federal waters, but now an experiment is being conducted to assess its viability. The government issued a permit this past October to a shellfish farming operation which is located about 4 miles off of Cape Cod.

The Ellsworth American provided more details about this new mussel operation. The permit is for a 28.5-acre site, in 55-65 feet of water, and will consist of three suspended long-line units, each which can grow up to 10,000 pounds annually. The permit was issued to Santoro Fisheries Corp, which is based in Chatham, and if successful, the operation could eventually increase to 25 lines. Let's hope this operation succeeds, which will lead to even more mussel operations in federal waters, creating more local mussels.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Rant: Food, Drink & Friendship

"There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship."
--Thomas Aquinas 

This is supposed to be my first Rant of 2015, but I don't want to start the New Year with negativity. Instead, I want to concentrate on something positive, which may actually be stating the obvious but which should be said anyways. It is an issue which often touches upon my work during the year, which affects the food and drink I experience. And I'm sure that applies to most, if not all, of my readers.

Last month, I posted 8 lists of my Favorites, from my favorite wines to my favorite restaurants. As I compiled those lists, reviewing my posts from throughout the past year, I found a common element which bound a number of my most favorite experiences. It didn't surprise me. In fact, I would have been surprised if I hadn't found that common element. In 2015, I'm sure that common element will once again be involved in some of my favorite dining and drinking experiences.

That common element is friendship.

It is a given that the circumstances surrounding us when we eat and drink will affect our perception of that food and drink. If you're vacationing in Europe, drinking local wine at a picturesque cafe, you'll probably think the wine is stunning, partially a reaction to your amazing surroundings. If you had that same wine at a dirty, noisy and crowded little restaurant, you might not enjoy it as much. Besides your surroundings, the people with you at the time will also play a role in your enjoyment. When you are dining with the people you most love, those closest to you, you're more likely to have a better experience.

My good friend Adam Japko, of WineZag, is a fellow aficionado of fine food and wine, During this past year, we have shared plenty of excellent dining and drinking experiences, from Boston to Las Vegas. We have shared numerous compelling wines, whether at a poker game or a specialized tasting. When I look at my Favorites of 2014, Adam figures into more of them than any other person. As I have repeatedly said before, good food and drink is even better when shared. And sharing such matters with Adam has enhanced them for myself.

I sincerely hope that you have at least one good friend who enhances your own dining and drinking experiences. As this new year begins, maybe you should thank those friends for enriching your life. I also hope that you do the same for your own friends, making their own food and drink taste better. Appreciate the friends in your lives as make your life even better. Without friends, your life is empty and shallow.

"Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief."
--Marcus Tullius Cicero