Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.. **********************************************************
1) Chef/restaurateur Michael Schlow is setting his sights on opening a new Greek inspired restaurant called Doretta Tavern at the 79 Park Plaza location. The restaurant is set to open in the Fall in what has been Schlow’s ode to rustic Italian cooking, Via Matta. After 13 years, he plans to close the restaurant at the end of May.

This is a bittersweet time” says Schlow. “While it’s with great sadness that after so many years we are closing Via Matta, we are really excited for this new chapter. Boston has so many talented chefs and we’ve become one of the best food cities in the country; the time is right to take this great opportunity and create a restaurant that showcases the beauty and simplicity of Greek cuisine.”

Doretta Tavern will be designed by Michael Nadeau and Andrea Morton. The two have teamed up to take Schlow’s vision and turn it into reality. The space will take on a completely new look and feel with an emphasis on reclaimed woods, beamed ceilings, stone, and worn leather; highlights of the new design include a new center bar, action food stations, a new entrance, and a raw bar.

In true Mediterranean spirit, the cooking will rely on the best quality olive oils, fresh vegetables, ripe fruits, and locally sourced fish and meats. Guests can expect a vast array of raw bar selections, Mediterranean spreads, homemade warm flatbread, interesting small plates, grilled seafood, and slow roasted meats. Schlow will be paying homage to his wife Adrienne’s Greek heritage and will be offering some of the recipes passed down to her from generation to generation. The beverage program will be an interesting mix of traditional and craft cocktails, local beers, and an international, well-chosen wine list.

I'm hoping to see plenty of delicious Greek wines on their list.

2) This May, Anna’s Taqueria continues its commitment to charitable organizations in the Boston community by partnering with Red Sox Pitcher Craig Breslow’s Strike 3 Foundation. Baseball season has arrived and now Anna’s guests can take a swing at childhood cancer when they order the special “Breslow Burrito.”

During the month of May, $3 from every Breslow Burrito purchase will be donated to Craig’s Strike 3 Foundation, which heightens awareness, mobilizes support and raises funding for childhood cancer research. The Breslow Burrito was created by Craig and features Grilled Steak, Cheese, Rice, Black Beans, Salsa, Guacamole and Crumbled Tortilla Chips (no substitutions).

COST: Standard burrito pricing: Regular $5.45 & Super $6.25

3) On Saturday, May 23, from 12pm-4pm, the Cheese Shop of Concord will hold the Battle of the Butters, a free sampling of 8 fresh butters and attendees get to vote for their favorite. Who will prevail as the Top Butter?

The contestants include:
European Style Cultured Butter with Sea Salt Crystals (Cow’s Milk)
Vermont Creamery – Websterville, VT
Inspired by traditional French butter making, VC cultures the freshest, high quality cream from St. Albans Cooperative, a coop of 500 family farms in Northeast Vermont. Churned in small batches, the cream becomes a rich European-style butter with 86% butterfat content and a unique farm-fresh taste. Taking perfection one step further, it’s then topped with Celtic sea salt.

Cultured Butter, Unsalted (Cow’s Milk)
Ploughgate Creamery – Fayston, VT
Marisa Mauro, who’s been in involved with dairying since she was 15, makes this cultured butter at Bragg Farm, which she purchased from the Vermont Land Trust in 2012. Marisa makes both salted and unsalted butters, from St. Albans Cooperative milk. By autumn 2015, she expects to have a herd of 10 cows at the farm, so butter will be produced solely from her own proprietary milk.

Beurre de Baratte, Unsalted (Cow’s Milk)
Isigny Ste Mère - Normandy, France
Isigny butter has been renowned since the 16th century. By the 19th century, the population of Paris alone consumed 800 tons of butter annually. Isigny’s terroir has the advantage of a mild, moist climate near the ocean and enjoys the benefits of nearby marshes. Cows that graze there feed on grass rich in iodine, beta carotene and trace elements. The quality of buttercup yellow Isigny butter is amazing; it is rich in vitamin A and has a faint taste of hazelnuts.

Parmigiano Reggiano Butter, Unsalted (Cow’s Milk)
Delitia, Parma, Italy
This butter, with its fragrant and delicate flavor, is called "Burro di Parma." It is produced with pasteurized creams from the milk collected from family-owned farms in Parma and Reggio Emilia. Its quality is without equal because of extraordinarily rigorous production discipline in those regions. The burro is dense but smooth and spreadable, tastes “clean,” has a uniform color, and melts readily on the tongue.

Buffalo Milk Butter, Unsalted (Buffalo Milk)
Delitia, Parma, Italy
Like its widely known sibling, Mozzarella Di Bufala, the making of this high quality butter is very traditional. Basically, it is made from the cream left behind from the production of cheese. It tastes best when consumed plain, on rustic bread or melted over vegetables, but is also ideal for making cakes or custards. It is pale porcelain in color and intense in flavor.

Les Prés Salés Camargue, Salted (Cow’s Milk)
After churning fresh cream from cows that grazed on the plateau of the Ardennes mountains in Belgium, this butter is blended with large salt crystals from Camargue, a region of the Rhone delta in France, known for its exceptional, hand-harvested sea salt, long prized by gourmet cooks. The crystals remain intact within the butter, allowing for savory bites as they dissolve on the tongue. Perfect for accompanying seafood, meat, fish and cheese.

Lenker Butter (Cow’s Milk)
There is no way to compare commercial butter to the taste of artisanal "kaeserei” (dairy butter). This butter comes from a dairy in Lenk, in the Bernese Alps. The milk is from cows that spend the winter in the valley, which of course, is still in a mountain zone. In the summer, they graze in the alp meadows at even higher altitude. As a result, the quality of the milk is very high, and the butter changes in color and taste according to the seasons.

Goat Butter (Salted)
St. Helen’s Farm – Yorkshire, England
At this farm, a delicious goat butter is made by churning goat cream inside a large stainless steel vessel, which drains off the buttermilk and thickens it. A small amount of carotene color is added for appearance (0therwise it would be snow white), and salt is added for improved shelf life. The butter is then carved into distinctive D-shaped rolls and wrapped in foil prior to shipping.

4) On Tuesday, May 19,  at 6:30pm, Legal Oysteria will host a wine dinner with the Maculan winery. For over three generations, the Maculan family has been selecting and vinifying the best grapes in Breganze, an enchanting village at the foot of the Alps in Italy’s Veneto region. The winery provides the theatre for a marvelous combination of antique traditions and modern techniques using the latest winemaking technology. The fusion of tradition and innovation results in a selection of fresh and fruity whites, well-structured reds and delicious dessert wines.

Legal Oysteria will team up with Owner, Angela Maculan, to host a four-plus-course dinner and the menu will be presented as follows:

Spring Pea & Fava Bean Crostini
Grilled Pizza with Panna, Smoked Salmon, Scallion
Sausage-Stuffed Peppadew Peppers
Maculan Pino & Toi, Veneto, 2013
Sautéed Sole (Ramps, Asparagus, Roasted Potatoes)
Maculan Chardonnay, Breganze, 2013
Herbed Grilled Tuna (Fresh Shell Beans, Dandelion Greens, Coppa)
Maculan “Brentino” Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, Veneto, 2011
Grilled Beef Tagliata (Arugula, Roasted Tomatoes, Parmigiano-Reggiano)
Maculan Fratta, Veneto, 2010
Bônet alla Piemontese (Mocha-Cinnamon Custard, Pine Nut Brittle)
Maculan Dindarello Moscato, Veneto, 2012
Maculan Torcolato, Breganze, 2008

COST: $85 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)
Reservations required by calling (617) 530-9392

5) Puritan & Co. Chef/Owner Will Gilson, Chef de Cuisine Alex Saenz, Sommelier Peter Nelson and the restaurant’s talented team pay homage to France’s sustainable and organic wines in the next installation of “Wine Wednesdays”. Puritan offers guests a taste of France’s finest wines which includes a multi-course dinner prepared by Chefs Will Gilson, Alex Saenz and their talented culinary team.

Sommelier Peter Nelson has selected five chemical-conscious old vine vintages to accompany five courses of Puritan’s signature seasonal New England fare.

WHEN: Wednesday, May 6,. Arrival is 6:45pm and Wine Dinner starts at 7:00pm
COST: The Au Naturel wine dinner is $95 per guest
Reservations are required so please call (617)-615-6195

6) The beverage team at Foundry on Elm is rolling out an eclectic new cocktail menu comprised of signature sparkling, aromatic and sour concoctions. Known as “Cocktails & Angels,” Foundry on Elm’s menu is developed by a unique process that challenges their bartenders to create thoughtful, well-made cocktails each season.

Under the direction of Beverage Director Manny Gonzales, the bartenders’ names are entered into a tin and fourteen key ingredients are added to another such as a spirit, smoked lager or wine. In a third tin, Gonzales adds in styles of cocktails from their three signature categories: sparkling, aromatics and sours. Each bartender crafts two cocktails based on their draws, ensuring that the base alcohol is greater or equal to any other ingredient used and that no additive ingredient is used more than once on the menu. From there, the best cocktails make it onto the menu ($10 each):

--The Dizzy Dame
DSP CA 162 vodka, GrandTen Distillers Angelica liqueur, Lillet Rouge, honey, cava
Barr Hill gin, Alloro liqueur, Bärenjäger, dry vermouth
--American Beauty
Mezcal Amarás, Cocchi Americano, Meletti 1870
--Summer in Algiers
Camus VSOP, Combier, Imbue Bittersweet vermouth, Bittermen’s Citron Sauvage
--Lost in Translation
Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 12 Year Old, Arancione liqueur, Cynar, Orleans bitters, salt
--Oaxacan on Sunshine
Glendalough Single Grain Irish whisky, mezcal, Galliano, agave
--Calculated Risk
Ken Kelly 14 Year Tennessee whiskey, BroVo #4, Aperol
--Jim’s House Sangria
--Carson Punch
Bully Boy vodka, Meletti 1870, Cherry Heering, lemon
--Crazy Legs
Legs Diamond white whiskey, Vermouth del Professore, Aperol, strawberry, lemon
--On Fleek
Tequila Ocho Plata, St-Germain, Averna, grapefruit, lime, mint
--Fuzzy Bunny
Wigle Ginever, Green Chartreuse, carrot juice, cucumber
Ford’s gin, FRUITLAB Jasmine liqueur, sweet vermouth, lemon, honey
--Voodoo Doctor
house rhum blend, Yellow Chartreuse, pineapple juice, lime juice
--Thyme Out
Novo Fogo Cachaça, Lillet Blanc, thyme-infused vermouth, lemon
--The Neck
Downeast cider, Catoctin rye, Gran Classico, BroVo #14, ginger beer, pickled apple

7) From May 13 through June 11, MET Restaurant Group will host its Tenth Annual Soft Shell Crab Festival serving the delicious crustacean 30 ways in 30 days at MET Back Bay. Hailing from Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, soft shell crabs have tantalized the taste buds of seafood lovers across the globe. The MET has explored a variety of flavors and techniques that reveal the best of this culinary creature and will offer a special soft shell crab dish each night from mid-May to mid-June.

Guests will enjoy some very unique dishes including Soft Shell Monte Cristo, Corn meal Crusted Crab with corn silk, favas and pea tendrils, Tempura Fried Crab with soy peanut sauce and cucumber noodles, and Chili Crab Pizza topped with fried crab, sweet chili and arugula. For the purist, soft shell crabs will also be available meuniére style daily.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Wine Connextion: Whiskey & Spirits

From Wine to Whiskey.

The Wine Connextion, a discount wine shop in North Andover, has recently expanded its offerings to include high end whiskey and other spirits. The Wine Connextion opened in 2009 and I raved about it then, praising its low prices. Since then, it has continually been one of my favorite discount wine stores, Now that they offer discounted spirits too, there is even more reason to journey to North Andover to check out this store.

As you wander down the aisles of their wines, you'll see some New Hampshire Price Buster signs, indicating the lower prices found at the Wine Connextion compared to the New Hampshire Wine Outlets. And as you see, the price difference can be significant, such as the $9 on the Stag's  Leap Cabernet Sauvignon.

In the rear left corner of the store, they have broken down the wall and added a small room where they display high end wines and spirits. They still have another, smaller room for some high end wines but this has expanded their space.

These shelves contain a variety of spirits, though heavy on the whiskey, and the prices are definitely better than you will find in most regular liquor stores. I saw plenty of my favorites, from Blanton's Bourbon to Balvenie Scotch. There is vodka and mezcal, vermouth to rum. As this section is still relatively new, I bet they will add even more products in the near future.

This new room also contains a number of large format wines, and Wine Connextion has the largest collection of large formats that I have seen at any other local wine shop. And you probably won't find better prices on these large formats either.

I checked out the new addition on the evening that they held a special East vs. West Whisky Tasting event. They sampled 12 whiskies, pitting 6 Scotches against 4 Japanese and 2 Taiwanese whiskies, and offered some meat, cheese and bread to help cleanse your palate and offset the alcohol. The tasting was well attended, plenty of people intrigued to taste all of these different whiskies. This may have been the store's first whiskey tasting but I'm sure it won't be their last.

The Asian whiskies included the Nikka Coffey Grain ($56.99), Nikka Miyagikiyo 12 Year Single Malt ($94.99), Nikka Taketsuru 12 Year Pure Malt ($58.99), Nikka Taketsuru 17 Year Pure Malt ($129.99), Kavalan Single Malt ($74.99), and the Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask ($74.99). Check out my prior review of the Nikka line as well as my prior review of the Kavalan Whiskey. The Nikka Taketsuru 12 Year Pure Malt remains one of my favorites, especially at its price point.

The only new whiskey to me was the Nikka Taketsuru 17 Year Pure Malt and it impressed. Silky smooth, complex and with a lengthy finish, the whiskey presented intriguing flavors with plenty of spicy notes, some red berry flavors and caramel notes. Highly recommended.

For the Scotch selection, they offered the GlenRothes Select Reserve ($47.99), GlenRothes Alba Reserve ($47.99), GlenDronach Single Cask ($84.99), GlenDronach 15 Year (($89.99), BenRiach 10 Year ($54.99), and the BenRiach 16 Year ($78.99).  Of these six, my two favorites were the GlenDronach Single Cask and BenRiach 10 Year.

The GlenDronach Single Cask, which is cask strength, is a powerful Scotch, with strong spicy notes, caramel and chocolate flavors, and a lingering, satisfying finish. It benefits from the addition of a little water due to its high alcohol content. This is something to slowly savor with some good friends. The BenRiach 10 Year is a peated whiskey, and I loved its smoky aroma. The peat is prominent but doesn't overwhelm, adding an interesting smoky aspect to its flavor, complementing its nutty notes. It is smooth and alluring, complex and bold.

Check out the Wine Connextion for both their wines and spirits, and find some of the best prices in the area. Attend one of their weekly tasting events, such as the Run for the Rosés on May 2 or Zins & Sliders on May 23. Maybe I will see you at one of their upcoming events.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Rant: A Single Country Wine List

Consider this: You dine at a new Italian restaurant and while you peruse it's wine list, you see that they only carry Italian wines. There is no California Chardonnay or Australian Shiraz.  You see listings for Chianti and Prosecco, but you also find wines with unfamiliar grapes, like Grillo, Frappato and Arneis. Does this situation bother you because you can't find the California wines you enjoy?  Does this situation bother you because you don't know much about many of those Italian wines? Or are you pleased with the wine menu, relishing the adventure of exploring the list?

There are restaurants which choose to limit their wine list to a single country, to fit their ethnic cuisine, though locally, they are in the minority.  Most wine lists try to cater to diverse tastes, not willing to take the risk of a single country list. They fear offending some of their customers by not having certain types of wines. Their wine list might be predominately from one country, but there will be a percentage from at least several other countries. Is that really necessary?

I respect a restaurant willing to create a single country wine list, and I know I'm sure to find plenty of wines that will enjoy. I also savor the adventure of exploring such a list, trying wines that are new to me. Sure, wines from all over the world can pair well with Italian cuisine, but if an Italian restaurant only wants to offer Italian wines to pair with their cuisine, I am fully supportive of their desire. It is a way to expose more consumers to the diversity and wonders of Italian wine, to helping to broaden their palates. 

You wouldn't go to an Italian restaurant and expect to find Australian meat pies or Southern-style fried chicken, so why expect to find wines from places other than Italy? You are going for the experience of Italian cuisine, and wine is actually food. Thus, it makes sense that Italian wine is served as part of the Italian cuisine. This applies to any ethnic restaurant which chooses to limit its wine list to the country of it's cuisine. 

For many restaurants though, it is a matter of money. There are consumers who would object to such a singular wine list. They are too set in their ways, and want to be able to get their California Chardonnay no matter what restaurant where they dine. If a restaurant has a single country wine list, they won't attract these type of customers, and that could have negative economic consequences for the restaurant. 

We need to give our support to those restaurant brave enough to have a single country wine list, to dine at such restaurants and enjoy their wine choices. 

What are your thoughts on restaurants with single country wine lists? Do you have any favorite restaurants with such a list?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.. **********************************************************
1) Pastoral Chef/Owner Todd Winer invites guests to learn Italian cooking techniques during his Todd Teaches Sunday School cooking classes which take place monthly. The next class will take place on Sunday, April 26 from 4pm until 5:30pm and the theme is Meatball Madness. Students will learn the basics behind making meatballs. The class is $40 per person and includes wine, samples of the finished dishes, and recipe cards to take home. Space is limited and can be reserved by logging onto

Upcoming class include:
Cooking With Mama- May 10th
Vegetables Steal the Show- June 14th
Fish Feast- Italian fish prepared in Neapolitan style
Knife Skills- how to properly carve poultry, filet fish, chopping vegetables
Italian Casseroles- Learn how to make Lasagna, Mac & Cheese and Eggplant Parmesan

For more information and reservations, please call (617) 345-0005 or visit

2) In an effort to discover who will be mixing up the Seaport District’s best sangria this season, the Seaport Hotel is introducing the first-ever Seaport Sangria Smackdown. Bartenders from various Seaport District establishments will come together on May 13 from 6pm-8pm at Seaport’s state-of-the-art Action Kitchen, where they will bring their sangria A-game; whether an existing recipe from their eatery or a new twist on an old classic. Guests will be the final judge of who will be dubbed the Seaport Sangria Smackdown champion!

For $20 per person, guests will enjoy sangria tastings and light hors d’oeuvres; they are encouraged to vote for their favorite sangria, with one restaurant being crowned the Seaport Sangria Smackdown Champion. Participating restaurants include: City Bar, Empire Restaurant and Lounge, Legal Test Kitchen, MC Spiedo, Sam's at Louis, TAMO Bistro & Bar and The Barking Crab.

TICKETS: Tickets are $20 each and can be purchased online at:

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) Ever hear of Sake Jelly? In an article on Eater,Timothy Sullivan discusses how Sake brewers have recently started to make a new product, Sake Jelly, which he describes as such: "Imagine a drink that pours out like a soft jelly, is mostly clear, sweet and usually has a low alcohol content around 1.5 percent, although certain brands go higher." The article mentions that the Kamotsuru Brewery makes an unflavored version while Ozeki makes a Peach version. I'll note, though it is not in the article, that Ozeki also makes Sparkling Sake Jelly in two flavors, Peach and Berry Mix. Though Sake Jelly isn't available widely in the U.S., Timothy provides a recipe for you to make your own. It's easy to do so you have no excuse not to try it.

2) A Sake brewery coming to the United Kingdom? The Newmarket Journal has recently reported that a Japanese company is hoping to open a Sake brewery in the village of Fordham in Cambridgeshire, England. The company, Dojima, purchased the Fordham Abbey, and is planning to invest plenty of money into the endeavor, ensuring the beauty of the area is retained. Everything is in the beginning stages right now, so it is a story I'll keep an eye on.

3) All-you-can drink Sake? Now that sounds like a fantasy I'd love to see fulfilled, and if I travel to Tokyo, it will become a reality. Rocket News 24 reported that a new spot, the Kurand Sake Market, has opened in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro neighborhood where you can drink all the Sake you want, from a selection of about 100. The restaurant was set to open on March 10, For a mere $25 (3000 yen), you get unlimited refills and you get to choose from one of six different types of cups, though you can change your selection at any time. It is a self-service place, and they serve a few different bar snacks, though you can even bring your own food with you. Just know that you must stand at this restaurant, so be careful you don't drink so much that you fall down. Unfortunately, we'll probably never get such a place in the U.S.

4) New York City & Sake? Edible Manhattan published an intriguing article about the development of the Sake scene in New York City. In just over 20 years, the city has transformed, from a place where there were few Sakes, and mostly low quality, to a place now where you can find around 800 different Sakes, The article talks about the restaurants and importers which helped to bring about these changes to the city, supplying more artisan Sakes to tantalize and delight their customers. Check out this article to get all of the details.

5) Sake in Arkansas? The Japan News recently highlighted Ben Bell, an Arkansas native, who is currently interning at the Nanbu Bijin Sake brewery. He once worked at a liquor store, and promoted Sake there. Ben's plan is now to eventually start a U.S. Sake brewery. You can also read another article about Ben in the Asahi Shimbun which gives more details on his Sake experiences. I only know Ben online but he seems to have a true passion for Sake and I wish him all the best.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Rant: Getting Carded

If you shop at a wine or liquor store, or you dine at a restaurant and order some alcohol, there is the possibility that you will be carded, asked to provide identification to prove your age. You must be at least 21 years old to obtain alcohol in any state in the U.S. If you lack identification, you will be refused service, no matter how old you may be. If they wanted, restaurants and wine/liquor shops could card every single customer. If they fail to card someone who is a minor, they could face sanctions and even potentially lose their liquor license.

When I card customers at the wine shop, the vast ,majority of customers provide me identification without issue. They understand that it is part of my job and there is absolutely no reason to take offense. There is a tiny portion of people though who do not have any identification on them, and who I must refuse service. It is a portion of these individuals who get upset about being carded, who complain, alleging that they are of the proper age. They might be of legal age, but without identification, there is nothing I can do. I must not sell them beer or wine.

What bothers me is why don't these people carry identification?

I don't think all of these people are underage. I'm sure some are, and bluster and storm hoping I will sell them alcohol anyways. However, I bet some of them are of age, yet simply didn't carry a ;license, passport or other i.d. with them. These same people carry money and/or credit cards, so why don't they carry i.d. too? It seems to make no sense, especially if you are going somewhere where you potentially could be asked for your i.d.

I know that I carry i.d. with me all the time, and it seems most people I know do the same. I.D. can be important for numerous reasons. Heaven forbid you get into a terrible accident and are unconscious. If you have an i.d., your relatives can more easily be contacted by the authorities. Without that i.d., the authorities could have a difficult time trying to identify you. If you are driving, you could get into trouble if the police stop you for some traffic offense.

A license isn't a cumbersome item to carry. There really is very little reason, if any, not to carry it with you. It could save you much grief, in numerous ways.  Don't complain if you are asked for your i.d. if you don't have it. The onus is on you to carry it.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.. **********************************************************
1) Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer is celebrating their “Sweet 16” years of success in Massachusetts. This year, some of the area’s premier restaurants and bakeries will be joining forces to help raise money to benefit breast cancer research and care at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. From May 4-10, establishments will help raise money by donating 100% of the sales from a featured dessert or by donating 50% of the sales from their entire dessert menu. In honor of the organization’s 16th anniversary, select venues also will serve up a special “Sweet 16” beverage during the sweetest week in Boston.

This year, these restaurants have pledged to donate proceeds to join in the battle against breast cancer:

Brass Union will donate 50% of sales from their entire dessert menu, including:
o Dark Chocolate Brownie Sundae – housemade hot fudge sauce, ice cream ($8)
o Rich & Creamy Ricotta Cheesecake – seasonal toppings ($8)
o Clafoutis – a spin on the 19th century classic French dessert with seasonal fruit filling ($7)

Cask ‘n Flagon will donate 100% of sales from their featured dessert:
o Semi-Sweet Flourless Chocolate Torte - vanilla bean ice cream ($6.75)

Foundry on Elm will donate 100% of sales from their featured dessert:
o Guinness Brownie Sundae – Irish cream ($7)

The Independent will donate 100% of sales from their featured dessert and “Sweet 16” mocktail:
o Strawberry Rhubarb Tall Cake ($8)
o The Sweet 16 - rhubarb, thyme shrub, grapefruit juice and soda ($6)

River Bar will donate 100% of sales from their featured dessert and “Sweet 16” mocktail:
o Fresh Strawberry Pudding – whipped cream and vanilla wafers ($7)
o Grapefruit & Tarragon Smash ($5)

Saloon will donate 100% of sales from their featured dessert:
o Guinness Brownie Sundae – Irish cream ($7)

The Tip Tap Room will donate 100% of sales from their featured dessert:
o Blackberry White Chocolate Bread Pudding - whiskey caramel glaze ($7.95)

2) Beginning on April 12th, from 11am to 3pm, Davio’s Boston will offer guests an irresistible brunch menu featuring seasonal cocktails and an extravagant tableside Bloody Mary Cart.

Executive Chef Eric Swartz will be offering specialties such as:

Warm Apple Zeppole, Calvados Caramel Sauce ($9)
Lobster Bisque, Lobster Tomalley Buttered Crostini ($12)
Oven Baked Jonah Lump Crab Cake, Whole Grain Mustard ($15)
Crispy Fried Oysters BLT, Baby Lettuce, Tomato, Bacon, House Tartar Sauce ($15)
La Quercia Prosciutto Americano, Salumi, Burrata, Aged Balsamic ($16)
Spaghettini Carbonara, Eggs, Pancetta, Parmigiano, Cream ($19)
Hand-Rolled Potato Gnocchi, Organic Mushrooms, Basil, White Truffle Oil ($20)
Tagliatelle Bolognese, Braised Veal, Beef, Pork, Tomato Sauce ($23)
Belgian Waffle, Berry Compote, Warm Vermont Syrup ($16)
Buttermilk Pancakes, Bananas, Amaretto Caramel Sauce ($16)
Poached Eggs, Country Ham, Popover, Hollandaise ($14)
Country-Egg Frittata, Sweet Sausage, Goat Cheese, Spinach, Tomatoes ($16)
White Cheese Pizza, Bacon, Egg, Scallions, White Truffle Oil ($15)
River Rock Steak Burger, Vermont Cheddar, Bacon, Herb Aioli ($15)
Pan Seared Sea Scallops, Sweet Creamy Corn, Match Stick Potatoes ($37)
Make Your Own Bloody Mary ($12)
Mimosa ($12)

3) To celebrate Earth Day and encourage diners to go green by saving energy, Tempo, a staple on Moody Street for the past ten years, is serving a one-night-only candlelight dinner. Beginning at sunset on Wednesday, April 22, Tempo will be turning off the lights to serve diners its signature dishes by candlelight. Chef-Owner Nathan Sigel, who prides himself on sourcing local seafood and produce, will offer guests Tempo’s spring menu alongside several seafood-focused specials, which he will personally curate from Boston’s fish piers that morning.

To provide extra light in the dining room, Tempo will shake up its new flaming Pain Killer cocktail, which features Navy and Dark Rum, Fresh Pineapple Juice, Sweetened Coconut Cream and Fresh Orange, completed with a hollowed out lime that’s topped with Bacardi 151 and cinnamon before being lit on fire! Additionally, to further promote eco-friendly eating and drinking, Tempo will offer several biodynamic wines by the glass.

Reservations are recommended so please call 781-891-9000

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rant: Why Do So Few Americans Eat Lamb?

Why do so few American eat lamb?

Yesterday, I was one of the judges at the Boston Lamb Jam, a celebration of the unique taste of lamb and put on by the American Lamb Board, I got to sample a diverse selection of lamb dishes from twenty different New England chefs. The public also got to attend this event, to taste the collection of lamb dishes and celebrate its deliciousness. This event is always an excellent opportunity to experience the versatility of lamb.

The holidays of Easter and Passover recently passed, and a number of Americans ate lamb for their meals. For some people, that might be the only time during the year that they consume lamb. Still others won't eat lamb even on these holidays. Lamb consumption in the U.S. has seen a drastic decline over the years and that needs to change. More people need to eat lamb and there are multiple reasons why they should do so. Lamb is nutritious, delicious, versatile, and uses less resources than some other meats, such as beef.

Back in the early 1940s, there were about 56 million sheep and lambs in the U.S. but that number has dropped to just over 5 million, less than 10% of its previous count. In comparison, there are over 90 million cattle in the U.S.  Beef is far more popular than lamb and that is plaint to see. Half of the lamb that is now consumed in the U.S. is imported, primarily from Australia and New Zealand. Interestingly, if the U.S. supply of sheep and lamb only doubled, we might not need to import any lamb.

As for lamb consumption, the average American, during the early 1960s, ate annually about 4.5 pounds of lamb. By 1990, this amount had declined to 1.6 pounds and by 2012, the amount had dropped even more, down to 0.88 pounds. Less than one pound! If we examine who is eating lamb, we also realize that certain ethnic groups, such as Greek, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, and Native Americans, consume far more lamb than others  Lamb consumption also occurs far more often on both the East and West coasts. In the middle of the country, there are plenty of people who never eat lmab. We can also see that lamb consumption, for many, is confined to certain holidays.

Lamb often seems to be a polarizing meat, one you either love or hate. The most common complaint I have heard about lamb is that it possesses a strong, gamey taste which many find off putting. Although some lamb does have a gamey flavor, much of it doesn't possess that nature or only to a very mild degree. It seems to me that much of the opposition to lamb is actually psychologically based, due to misconceptions about its actual nature. Maybe in the past, some lamb had a stronger, gamier taste, but that is largely changed. In addition, much depends on how the lamb is prepared.

There are also sometimes claims that lamb is too expensive and too difficult to cook. First, there are less expensive cuts and preparation of lamb, such as ground lamb. Second, you don't need to eat a large portion of lamb, just as you don't really need to eat a large steak. Smaller cuts of meat are less expensive. As for cooking, it is a versatile meat, which can easily be prepared in a wide manner of dishes. It is not a difficult meat to cook. That is a misconception which needs to be over thrown.

Consumers need to get over their fears of lamb and simply taste more lamb dishes. I'm sure, if they give it a chance, they will find they actually enjoy the taste of lamb. Besides its great taste, it is also a healthy meat. I've spoken often about the health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids, and lamb possesses five times as many Omega-3s as does beef.  It is also a very good source of Protein, Vitamin B12, Niacin, Zinc and Selenium.

Break out of your prejudices against lamb. Embrace it, buy it, cook it, order it at restaurants, explore its versatility, and put it on your plate. It's a healthy and delicious choice. What are you waiting for?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.. **********************************************************
1) In celebration of Khmer New Year (Cambodian New Year), a three day celebration which marks the end of the harvesting season when farmers enjoy the fruits of their labor, Elephant Walk (South End) is celebrating this holiday with traditional Cambodian New Year’s specials in addition to the regular menu from April 13 to April 15.

These are the dishes that I remember most fondly from celebrating our New Year as a child in Cambodia,” said Chef/Owner Nadsa de Montiero.

N’Sahm Chrouk (gluten free) includes natural pork belly, mung beans enrobed in coconut sticky rice, wrapped in banana leaf and steamed; served pan fried with sweet soy and Cambodian pickles ($11). Another dish, Hong Chrouk with PT Farm pork shoulder and belly braised in caramelized pepper-garlic soy broth, with hard-cooked eggs and daikon radish ($20). Lastly, try the N’Sahm Chaek, sweet banana in coconut sticky rice, wrapped in banana leaf and steamed; served warm with coconut cream, fresh coconut and toasted sesame seeds ($8.50).

For more information or to make a reservation please call (617) 247 – 1500.

2) Company Chef/Owner Will Gilson and his at Puritan & Company is celebrating Spring with the unveiling of an enhanced Puritan 2.0. The restaurant concept continues to be that of an urban farmhouse where Gilson presents seasonal, fresh cuisine deeply rooted in New England tradition but Gilson and his team have been working on some changes.

During this tough winter, my team and I started to think of new, fun ways to invite guests back in for the spring. Now, we have a bit of spring fever and so does the restaurant. We wanted to continue our focus of always evolving and moving forward to make sure that Inman Square continues to be an exciting and innovative dining destination,” said Will Gilson.

Some of the noted additions to the Puritan & Company experience this spring include:

· Saturday Meat Market: The space next to Puritan & Company will become the Puritan Meat Market on Saturdays from noon until 2pm. It will be a takeout, quick service “pop up” concept that pays homage to a throwback of New England lunch favorites. Some of the specialties available for takeout will include: an authentic New England Grinder with cheeses, cured meats, and pickled peppers; a meatball sub; corned beef sandwich; and sausage with peppers and onions. Prices will range between $5 and $10. The Saturday Meat Market begins this Saturday.

· Sunday Spotlight on Chef de Cuisine Alex Saenz: Chef Saenz will now have his own spotlight when he takes over Sundays with his own menu influenced from his South Carolina roots. Called “Southern Sundays with Saenz”, he will create different weekly playful and traditional Southern dishes for guests to enjoy. Some of the featured dishes will include Fried Chicken, Catfish Fry, Shrimp and Grits, and many pork dishes prepared in southern-style. He will also be offering fried green tomatoes, house-made pimento cheese and sweet tea.

According to Saenz, “Southern Sundays will be my vision of how I would be cooking food if I was back home in Charleston; whimsical but staying to the roots of traditional southern cuisine, because you don't change something that is already delicious, you just put your own take on it.”

· Chef’s Tasting Menu: Puritan & Company recently started a Chef’s Choice Tasting Menu every night that will be available in both the bar and dining room. The prix-fixe dinner is $70 per person and is six courses that will be selected by Chefs Gilson and Saenz and will change nightly. The entire table must participate to order the Chef’s Choice Tasting Menu.

· Patty Melt: Without a burger on the menu for the first two years, Puritan & Company has recently added a Patty Melt to the bar menu and Sunday Brunch. It started as a special and became a secret burger for guests at the bar. Due to its popularity, it now holds a permanent position on the bar and brunch menus. The Puritan & Company Patty Melt is $16 and is made with a dry aged beef patty, topped with house-made spicy special sauce, Swiss cheese, American cheese, and homemade rye bread.

· Charcuterie Bar: Puritan & Company has re-launched and re-designed its Charcuterie Bar. The six seat area has a special menu of crudo, cheeses, charcuterie, and amaro flights. A chalkboard will prominently feature the daily specials and a leg of ham will be on display. The Charcuterie Bar will also be available for private parties to reserve for charcuterie and amaro tastings.

3) On April 28, at 7:30pm, Legal Harborside will team up with Olivier Humbrecht, Master of Wine at Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, to host an exclusive four-plus-course wine dinner. With over 100 acres of prime estate vineyards, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht is the archetype of its French region and one of the world’s greatest wine producing estates. Since 1620, the winemaking lineage has proved to last as the hallmark of each Zind-Humbrecht wine is its overriding sense of terroir: the taste of the vineyard is always clear and unmistakable.

The menu will be presented as follows:
Razor Clam Ceviche, Fava Beans, Yuzu, Breakfast Radish
Pea Soup, Meyer Lemon Froth
Fluke Sashimi, Satsuma Tangerine, Japanese Mint
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Muscat d’Alsace, 2011
Hamachi Crudo (coconut-curry vinaigrette, edamame, mango)
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Riesling “Herrenweg de Turckheim,” 2011
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Riesling “Herrenweg de Turckheim,” 2001
Five-Spice Lobster Tail (baby bok choy, ginger-verjus emulsion, Thai basil)
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris “Rotenberg,” 2012
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer “Turckheim,” 2012
Tandoori King Salmon (braised chickpeas, grilled apricot, cucumber raita)
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Riesling “Clos Hauserer,” 2009
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (torched pineapple, lychee-buttermilk gelato, cardamom caramel sauce)
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer “Clos Windsbuhl,” 2011

COST: $110 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)
Reservation required by calling 617-530-9470 .

4) Hard Rock Cafe is celebrating spring with a new line of cocktails curated by rock legend Carlos Santana. The limited-edition beverages benefit The Milagro Foundation, a charity created by Carlos Santana in 1998 which benefits underserved and vulnerable children around the world by making grants to community-based organizations that work with children in the areas of education, health and the arts. Milagro means “miracle.” The image of children as divine miracles of light and hope, even as gifts to our lives, is the meaning of the name.

The Black Magic Press and the Maria Maria Coronita both feature Carlos Santana’s Casa Noble Crystal Tequila. The Carlos Santana limited-edition cocktails will be available at cafes around the nation beginning now through Tuesday, May 5. “I'm honored that Casa Noble and I are partnering with Hard Rock Cafe to be a part of their new spring cocktail menu,” said rock legend Carlos Santana. “Like the music of Santana, each ingredient is fresh and new with vibrant flavors that will make guests want to move and celebrate life. Like Santana and Casa Noble, Hard Rock Cafe is committed to helping people, so a portion of the proceeds from this partnership will go directly to helping children in the Las Vegas area.

The Black Magic Press, named after one of Santana’s top hits, features Casa Noble Crystal Tequila, Hard Rock’s made from scratch margarita mix, fresh blackberries, blueberries, lime wedges and mint leaves. The unique cocktail is served in a coffee-press style vessel that infuses the fruit into the cocktail through the drinking process. Guests can also enjoy the Santana-inspired Maria Maria Coronita – made with Casa Noble Crystal Tequila, orange liqueur, mango puree, lime juice and garnished with a Coronita Extra.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Los Abandonados: A Lost Sherry

Eight barrels of a wine were "lost" for about forty years, forgotten by the family which owned them. However, like the adventures of a vinous Indiana Jones, these barrels were finally rediscovered, and now are being shared with the world.

For many wines, this might have been their death, to sit untouched in a wooden barrel for that length of time, but this wine is an Oloroso Sherry, a fortified wine that has the potential to remain and evolve that long in a barrel. What might this wine taste like? What was the effect of that lengthy aging process? This past weekend, I had the exciting opportunity to answer those questions for myself.

Alexander Russan, the founder of Alexander Jules, is similar in some respects to a negociant, visiting Sherry producers and cellar owners and carefully selecting some of their barrels to create a special Sherry. Russan created the Los Abandonados 6/8 Oloroso, using the "lost" Sherry, and sent me a media sample. I previously reviewed three of his other Sherries, as well as provided more info about his company and you should check out my article for additional background on Alexander Jules. Those three Sherries made my 2014 list of Top Ten Wines Over $15 and it is very likely that Los Abandonados will end up on one of my Top Ten Wine lists of 2015.

The original bodega, located in El Puerto de Santa Maria, was once an almacenista for over 100 years, a small family business that matured sherry in various soleras to sell to other companies. The solera for Los Abandonados was begun sometime during the 1820s-1830s, and the barrels became the sacristia, the very best of their Sherry. About forty years ago, the family moved from their original location, and somehow forgot about the eight barrels of this solera. The Oloroso sat in those barrels, losing more than half their contents to the angel's share, getting more concentrated and rich. Could it survive forty years?

A few years ago, the current owner inherited the estate when his father died and it was only then, as he tried to catalog all of the assets did he discover the "lost" solera. Unfortunately, the building which stored the barrels had partially caved in at some point years ago. Trees and other vegetation had claimed part of the building, but the worst part was that sunlight had adversely affected two of the barrels. The other six barrels though were protected from that sunlight and were still in excellent condition, containing an amazing Oloroso.

Russan learned of this lost solera from a person on Twitter, Federico Ferrer, who owns the Cuatrogatos Wine Club. Russan contacted the owner, traveled to the bodega and convinced them to allow him to bottle some of the Sherry, creating a blend from the six good barrels. In October 2014, he produced 770 bottles,which are currently available for sale only in Spain, the U.S. and Japan. He didn't bottle all of the Oloroso in the barrels, so there is the possibility that he could bottle more in the future, but there are certainly no guarantees that will ever occur. This might be your only chance to ever taste this Sherry.

Los Abandonados comes in 500ml bottles (about $70), has an alcohol content of 22%. and is unfiltered, unfined and does not contain any added sulfites. It is probably impossible to determine the average age of this Oloroso except that we know it is old, and that the youngest wine in the solera is at least 40 years old. It is probably a Sherry that should be decanted for at least a few hours before drinking, especially as it might contain some sediment.

Russan originally thought that the Oloroso might pair well with chicken but he found that it was too big of a wine for the poultry, pairing better with beef or some other strong meat. Based on that info, I thought that it would pair well with my Easter lamb dinner so I chose to open it this past Sunday, to be the centerpiece of our dinner. Interestingly, we also were having a roast chicken with our lamb so I could even consider that pairing too.

I decanted the Sherry on Easter morning, finding almost no sediment in the bottle. The wine evidenced a dark mahogany color and possessed an enticing aroma, a complex melange which indicated great promise. I sampled a bit of the wine at that time, to ascertain its taste straight from the bottle, and was struck by its powerful intensity and extremely lengthy finish. That excited me, making me even more eager to drink the wine with the lamb. I left the Oloroso in the decanter for about five hours until dinner.

That length of time mellowed the Sherry to a significant degree, making it far less massive and more silky smooth. The aromas were still as alluring, and the taste was even more complex, with such an intriguing blend of flavors. With plenty of acidity, this dry sherry presented strong briny notes, nutty aspects, and flavors of caramel, dried fruits, leather, and a subtle earthiness. The finish was lengthy, tantalizing and extremely satisfying. Simply put, this was an amazing Oloroso, one which would impress any wine lover. It is meant to be slowly savored, to appreciate all of its nuances.

It was an excellent pairing with the roast lamb, and everyone who tasted this Sherry was impressed. It wasn't the best pairing with the chicken, being a bit too intense for the mild meat, though it actually worked well with the crisp, roasted skin. We finished the entire bottle, and I sipped my final glass very slowly, reveling in the wonders of this treasure. Russan has created another superb Sherry, and it garners my highest recommendation. Anyone who loves a complex, intriguing and delicious wine should seek this out and you won't find many other wines of this age and quality at such a reasonable price.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Rant: 38 Seconds Of Wine

Thirty-eight seconds.

It's not even a full minute. It's a brief span of time, especially to make an informed decision. However, 38 seconds is the amount of time the average person spends to select a wine at a store. With that little amount of time, many consumers are choosing wines based on labels or shelf talkers with points, Or they are choosing the same wine all the time, maybe that bottle of Yellow Tail or Barefoot, ignoring all other wines.

How do we get people to spend more time deciding which wine to buy? How do we get them to choose a wine for reasons other than the animal on the label or a score of 90 points? How do we get them to expand their palate and try something new, rather than the same old wine they buy every week?

Online and print wine articles help to a degree, though such matters appeal more to the more passionate wine lover rather than the average wine consumer. We must understand that these average consumers want the wine buying process to be simple and quick. They may be open to experimentation, to choosing something different, but they need a boost to their motivation. They need a sufficient reason to spend a little more time in their wine buying.

It is the staff of a wine store who are in the best position to intervene with these average consumers, to get them to change their usual buying pattern.

First, a wine store needs a welcoming staff, who inquire whether their customers need assistance or not, They can lead consumers to different wines than what they might have chosen on their own in those 38 seconds. That staff can lead those consumers to expand their palates and buy wines they might never have bought on their own. They can also get them to buy wines for reasons other than labels and points. However, the staff cannot be too intrusive or pushy. They can't act like stereotypical car salesmen but rather must be more facilitators, offering their advice and suggestions if such assistance is desired.

Many of these customers wouldn't ask for assistance on their own. They would just go about their business as usual. However, if they were approached in the right way, with an offer of help that doesn't seem pushy, these customers might then take advantage of the offer and seek assistance in selecting wine. And if the offer of assistance is refused, the staff needs to be polite and walk away rather than remain and pressure the customer to accept their help.

Second, a wine store that holds regular tastings can keep those average consumers in the store longer than 38 seconds. It is hard for many consumers to resist passing by the tasting table,and not sampling something, When these consumers taste those wines, they open their palates to something new, to wines they might not have otherwise selected. If they enjoy the taste of those wines, they may even be motivated to buy those wines. A fair number of people will purchase wines they got to sample, when they might not have otherwise selected those wines on their own.

Third, there are a number of other measures that wine stores can take to affect the buying habits of their customers. The first two measures I mentioned are the most significant, but other actions can have an effect as well. From personal shelf talkers to weekly newsletters, wine stores can do plenty to reach out to their customers, making it easier for them to select wine, yet still breaking out of that 38 second average.

Let's elevate the knowledge and passion of the American wine consumer, person by person.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.. **********************************************************
1) Boston Nightlife Ventures (BNV) is excited to announce Akinto at Wink & Nod, a new culinary collaboration with Executive Chef Patrick Enage that is part of the craft cocktail speakeasy’s rotating pop-up dining program. Focusing on Southeast Asian cuisine, Enage’s six month residency in the kitchen at Wink & Nod begins on Monday, March 30.

The name Akinto means “this is mine” in Tagalog, reflecting Enage’s view of the program as a welcome opportunity to articulate and explore his own distinctive culinary perspective. Enage explains, “I see Akinto as an exciting opportunity to introduce guests to the Southeast Asian flavors and ingredients I grew up with—the flavors that shaped my culinary perspective.”

Enage was born in the Philippines and moved to Los Angeles at a young age. A culinary school graduate, Enage worked in fine dining establishments and hotels across the country before meeting his mentor, current BNV Chief Culinary Officer Bill Brodsky, while working the line at the Wequassett Resort and Golf Club. Prior to joining the BNV team, Enage worked as Chef de Cuisine at Brodsky’s City Landing restaurant in Boston. To prepare for this new project, Enage took a month to travel around Asia this winter, exploring traditions and ingredients at their source.

Akinto will showcase the distinctive flavors and ingredients of Southeast Asian street food from Enage’s native Philippines as well as India, Singapore, Thailand, India, Vietnam, China, Japan and Laos. Designed to encourage sharing, the menu features snack-sized small and medium plates that complement Wink & Nod’s cocktail program, as well as large plates and desserts that will satisfy guests seeking a full meal.

Highlights from the approachably priced menu include:

Small Plates ($7-$10)
--Pork Hash “Sisig” with quail egg, calamansi, and soy
--Traditional Shrimp Bao Buns in a curried mussel liqueur
--Spicy Pork “Drop Wontons” with anise BBQ, toasted sesame-rice wine, & peanut paste
Medium Plates ($11-$18)
--Braised Oxtail and Black Bean Water Spinach with jasmine rice and house chili oil
--18-Hour Pork Belly in a Kabocha-pho broth
--Kabayaki Glazed Swordfish Belly with grilled Taiwan lettuce and salted duck egg vinaigrette
Large Plates ($22-31)
--Teapot Fish Stew with lemongrass-native clam broth
--Steamed Striped Bass with orange miso tamarind glaze and long beans
--Korean Style Beef Short Rib with X0-coconut glaze, calamansi, cilantro, flowering chives, and peanuts
Desserts ($6-$9)
--Green Tea-Almond Chocolate Bar
--Thai Tea Crème Brulee with peanut crackle
--Turon Banana Fritter with jack fruit and smoky caramel

As I have written about before, I have bemoaned the fact that there is so little Filipino cuisine available in the Boston area, so I am very excited to see the arrival of Arinto. I hope you check it out too and let me know your thoughts.

2) On April 13, at 6:30pm, Legal Oysteria will host a Tuscan wine dinner with Wine Expert, Claudio Andreani. Legal Oysteria will team up with Andreani to host an exclusive four-plus-course dinner featuring signature cuisine paired with selections from the Tuscan vine.

The menu will be presented as follows:

Grilled Calamari Salad
Fresh Cod Cakes
Olive Oil Poached Tuna Crostini
Tenuta Campo al Mare Vermentino, 2013
Pan-Seared Trout (fennel purée, warm pine nut dressing)
Tenute del Cabreo “La Pietra” Chardonnay, 2012
Tenuta di Nozzole “Le Bruniche” Chardonnay, 2013
Swordfish Saltimbocca (slow-roasted balsamic turnips & cipollini onions, toasted fregola)
Tenute del Cabreo “Il Borgo” Super Tuscan, 2011
Tenuta TorCalvano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, 2011
Rosemary and Black Pepper Rib Roast (roasted wild mushrooms, grilled asparagus, porcini jus)
Tenuta di Nozzole “La Forra” Chianti Classico Riserva, 2009
Aged Gouda
Pecorino Romano
Tenuta di Nozzole “Il Pareto” Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009

COST: $85 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)
Reservations required by calling (617) 530-9392

3) On Monday, April 20, in celebration of the 2015 Boston Marathon, The Beehive will host the second annual benefit event in support of the Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Fund. From 10am-1am, 100% of the profits will be donated towards the organization’s mission to fuel cutting-edge research and clinical programs in trauma healing and limb reconstruction.

The Reny Family established the Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Fund in gratitude to the doctors at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) that saved their 18 year old daughter’s life and limbs following the explosions at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. The fund fuels innovative research and clinical programs in trauma healing and limb reconstruction to help future patients with traumatic, athletic and disease-related limb injuries regain their strength so they can step strong once again. The Beehive is proud to honor the medical heroes at BWH who treated and saved 39 patients with life-threatening injuries that day and support this effort to turn the tragedy that befell the Reny Family into hope for the future.

Guests will enjoy a day of live jazz performances and cuisine from The Beehive’s Executive Chef Marc Orfaly. Opening for a special holiday brunch, guests can enjoy selections from The Beehive’s brunch menu including: Eggs Shakshuka, poached eggs baked “North African Style” in tomato sauce with polenta ($15), Quiche with hot & sweet Italian sausage, broccoli rabe, caramelized onion, mozzarella ($16.5) and Sirloin Steak & Potato Hash, poached egg, salad ($17.50). For kids ten and under, The Beehive has a “Little Bee’s Kids Menu” featuring scrambled eggs and toast, kiddie French toast and grilled cheese and frites (all $8).

For dinner, guests can indulge including dishes such as: Szechuan Style Beef Brisket with Kung Pao vegetables ($25), Roasted Salmon, truffled savoy cabbage and whole grain mustard broth ($26), The Beehive Prime Burger with frites & slaw ($18) and Cauliflower Parmesan, arugula and pomodoro sauce ($24).

For reservations, please call 617-423-0069

4) The South Boston Neighborhood Development Corporation presents the 13th Annual Taste of South Boston on April 12th from 6 - 9 pm at the Plaza Ballroom at the Seaport Hotel . Don’t miss out on this chance to sample delectable culinary creations from South Boston’s new dining establishments including: Pastoral, Bastille Kitchen, Loco Taqueria, J.P. Licks, and the Juice Box. In addition to these new establishments will be: American Provisions, Barking Crab, Café Porto Bello, Cranberry Café, Empire, Flour Bakery & Café, Jerry Remy's Seaport, Legal Harborside, Lincoln, Local 149, Lucky's Lounge, M.C. Spiedo, Miam Miam Macaronerie, No Name Restaurant, The Paramount, Salsa's, Salvatore's, Stephi's in Southie, Strega Waterfront, Sweet Tooth Boston, Tamo Bistro & Bar, Temazcal, and Trade.

Al's Liquors will be pouring samples of select wines, and Harpoon Brewery will be providing samples of their latest brews.

Purchase tickets today at:

5) As the highly-anticipated premiere of the fifth season of “Game of Thrones” approaches, the show continues to establish itself as a true cultural phenomenon. In response to the excitement among devoted viewers, Violet Thorn, the signature bar and lounge located at The VERVE - Crowne Plaza Natick, will offer a special menu inspired by the fantasy drama during the weekend of the premiere.

On Saturday, April 11 and Sunday, April 12, “Game of Thrones” enthusiasts are invited to enjoy a selection of small plates created by Executive Chef Alastair Mclean and Chef James Booth for the return of the hit series. Fans looking for bold flavors will want to start with Dragons Tail with Fire Breath ($10), an appetizer of crispy pig tails tossed in a spicy sauce, while those seeking hearty fare that’s guaranteed to satisfy even the nobles of Westeros will want to dig into piping hot Beef n’ Bacon Pie ($12), a beef stew topped with a flaky puff pastry. For “Thrones” fans hoping to dine like true medieval royalty, Violet Thorn’s King’s Landing Confit ($10), a dish comprising of turkey leg with giblet gravy, and Baratheon Blood Wild Boar Rib ($12), a plate of ribs with braised tomato sauce, are the perfect fit. Providing a perfectly sweet ending is Sansa’s Homemade Lemon Pie ($8), a light and refreshing dessert drizzled with vanilla icing and topped with roasted almonds.

Guests looking for a complete experience will want to take advantage of The VERVE’s “Game of Throne’s”-themed overnight package that includes the following: two small plates from Violet Thorn’s special menu, a bucket of three beers from Ommegang Brewery, popcorn, and of course, a complimentary in-room viewing of episode one of the season five premier on Sunday, April 12th.

COST: Room package starts at $159 for Saturday, April 11th and $219 for Sunday, April 12th (tax and gratuity not included). Package includes: choice of two small plates from “Game of Thrones”-themed menu, popcorn, and a bucket of three beers from Ommegang Brewery.
For Reservations, please call 508-653-8800

6) On Wednesday, April 22,  The Wine ConneXtion, located in North Andover, is celebrating the opening of “The Back Room at The Wine ConneXtion,” the new high-end wines and spirits room, with a complimentary whisky sampling, “East Meets West.”

Last year Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible named Yamazaki Single Malt Japanese Whisky the best whisky in the world— the first time in its history that a Japanese whisky took the top spot, bypassing Scotch and shocking connoisseurs all over the world. But what are the defining differences between the two whiskys? From 6:30PM to 8:30PM the expert staff will be serving tastes of top-shelf whiskys from Japan, Taiwaan and Scotland, highlighting the subtle flavor differences between the two styles as a result of heating techniques, climate and landscape.

Don’t miss this opportunity to experience the evolving profiles of the whisky world and to support the expansion of The Wine ConneXtion.

COST: Tastings are complimentary and open to the public, 21+ only

7) In lieu of a vacation to Europe this spring, Davis Square watering hole Saloon is going on “Island Time, Scottish Style” as they host a whiskey tasting celebrating the liquid delights of Scotland’s shores on April 21 at 7pm. Emceed by Saloon’s resident malt man and Beverage Director Manny Gonzales, this spirits-based tasting will showcase single-malt scotches from various Scottish islands including Islay, Jura, the Isle of Mull and the Isle of Arran. Complemented by a selection of cheeses and charcuterie, Gonzales will hand-select some of the greatest tastes from Scotland’s premier isles while imparting his wisdom on how these whiskeys are developed in relation to their islandic surroundings.

COST: $35 per person
Advance reservations required. For tickets, please visit:

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Japanese Sushi Contest: Seeking Judges

A Japanese cooking competition that pits two skilled chefs against each other in a challenging, and potentially perilous, endeavor. And two local food writers have the opportunity to be on the judging panel for this unique and exhilarating battle.

Last September, I had the honor to be one of five judges presiding over an epic Sushi battle that was filmed for ABC Asahi Broadcasting, a national Japanese TV network, for a prime time cooking competition. You can read my previous article for background and to learn more about my experience. I have the honor to have been approached again, this time by the Doukeshi Broadcasting Network, to judge another Japanese Sushi contest that will air on Japanese TV. And this time, I have been asked to select two other local food writers to join me on the judging panel.

Once again, a famed Japanese sushi chef will be pitted against a Boston-area judge. Due to confidentiality reasons, I cannot yet reveal the identity of the Boston-area chef except to state that the chef is well known for their skill in seafood preparation, and has been training for the last two months for this upcoming competition.

In partnership with Chicot Seafood, a Japanese based seafood exporter, this culinary competition will focus on a special ingredient, Fugu, Japanese pufferfish. The Japanese have been eating fugu for over 4000 years,and it remains a highly sought delicacy. For the contest, the chefs will prepare fugu in three ways: Sashimi, Nigiri Sushi, and a Maki Roll. The technique of cutting fugu into thin, translucent sashimi slices is known as usudzukuri. It is considered the best way to enjoy this fish.

Yes, you probably are aware that fugu can be poisonous. The organs of the fish contain tetradotoxin, a dangerous poison which paralyzes the body. However, if properly sliced and prepared, you can safely eat the flesh of the fugu. You might feel a slight tingling on your tongue, which is due to residual traces of poison, but it is not a deadly dose and won't even make you ill. In the past fifteen years, less than 30 people in Japan have died from fugu poisoning, and it is almost always because some fool local fisherman decided to make some fugu at home. So, the competition should be completely safe, although you will have to sign a Waiver of Liability just in the remotest of chances that something negative occurs.

This will be an exciting competition and I look forward to judging the results of this endeavor.

If you are a local food writer and wish to participate as a judge, please leave your name and email address in the comments and I will be in touch to discuss that matter. Two judges will be chosen, and you will receive extra consideration if you have experience in Japanese cuisine..

UPDATE: Yes, this was an April Fool's prank post and at least a few people did fall for it. I placed a few hints in the post as to is true nature. First, in the Labels, I placed "holiday" which referred to April Fool's Day. Second, the word "Doukeshi" is a Japanese term that means "clown" or "jester." Third, the word "Chicot" refers to a historical jester who worked for King Henry III. Hope you enjoyed this little joke.