Tuesday, July 31, 2018

World Baijiu Day Is August 9--Celebrate at Sumiao Hunan Kitchen

Have you ever tasted Baijiu, a Chinese spirit which is actually the most popular spirit in the world? Many Americans haven't tasted it and know little, if anything about it. When is the last time you saw a Boston-area writer pen an article about Baijiu? It is a rarity, indicating that more attention should be paid to this spirit. Not enough people are writing and talking about this unique beverage, despite its fascinating history, production methods, and customs. We need to change this and World Baijiu Day can help spread the word, and maybe entice more writers to talk about Baijiu.

Next Thursday, August 9, is World Baijiu Day, a holiday created by Jim Boyce, who runs the nightlife blog Beijing Boyce and wine blog Grape Wall of ChinaThe intent of the day is to raise awareness of Baijiu, to highlight its wonders beyond the borders of China. Jim does a great job year-round to promote Baijiu and his site is a wealth of information. As I've said before, Baijiu seems to be the Durian fruit of the spirits world, both having a reputation for funkiness which turns off some people, while others become fervent fans. It is a compelling beverage and I strongly encourage everyone to seek it out and sample some of its wonders.

I've written eight articles about Baijiu, covering a diverse selection of topics, from Baijiu reviews to a detailed explanation of its production methods. Check out these articles to learn some basics about Baijiu.  

Baijiu: The Durian Fruit Of The Spirits World (Part 1)
Baijiu: Its Unique Production Process (Part 2)
Baijiu: Drinking Etiquette & Some Reviews (Part 3)
Baijiu: Cocktails, Boston & World Baijiu Day (Part 4)
Baijiu: Food Pairings (Part 5)
Vinn Bajiu: Made in Portland
Baijiu: The Essential Guide To Chinese Spirits by Derek Sandhaus
Taizi Baijiu: A New Zealand Treasure

In celebration of World Baijiu Day, there will be events held all over the world, from Beijing to Alsace, Marseilles to Vancouver. Within the U.S., you'll find special events being held in Los Angeles, New York City, Portland (Oregon), Washington D.C. and Cambridge (Massachusetts). Hopefully other places will decide to host events for World Baijiu Day too.

In Kendall Square, Cambridge, Sumiao Hunan Kitchen is once again celebrating this holiday. First, from August 6th to 12th, they are offering a special dish, Sizzling Baijiu Shrimp, for $30 per serving.

This dish is prepped table-side on a sizzling hot plate that is loaded with shrimp, splashed with Baijiu and oil, and then covered.

Once uncovered, they get drizzled with a mix of soy sauce, scallions, and red and green peppers. This looks intriguing, and I'm very curious how the shrimp will taste with the Baijiu. And that dish has tons of shrimp!

In addition to popping baijiu by the bottle including Maotai ($288), Wuliangye ($160) and Luhzou Laojiao ($98), the team at Sumiao also offers tastings of baijiu in one-ounce pours from the Hong Kong ($11) and Jiannanchun ($12) bottlings. Sumiao’s baijiu cocktails are great options for those seeking a sweeter taste of Chinese culture, including Sumiao’s Side Car mixing Hong Kong baijiu, Hardy VS cognac, cointreau, lemon reduction ($12); as well as the Perpetual Motion made with Mianzhu Daqu, blood orange, lime, elderflower liqueur and mint ($13).

Baijiu still isn't easy to find in the Boston area so Sumiao might be one of your best options for celebrating this holiday and learning more about this compelling spirit. Expand your palate and try something different and more unique. Drink some Baijiu and celebrate World Baijiu Day!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Rant: Can Chefs/Restaurant Owners Afford To Speak Out?

Within the last few years, social media has become seemingly dominated by the discussion of political and social issues. There are some chefs/restaurant owners who have been vociferously vocal about such matters while others have remained mostly silent. And other chefs/restaurant owners fall somewhere with this range. Chefs/restaurant owners who speak out risk losing potential customers who are offended by what is said. With the razor-thin margins that most restaurants operate under, can chefs/restaurant owners afford to lose a percentage of their customer base?

If you offend 10%, 20% or even more of your potential customer base, how will that affect your bottomline? The simple math would seem to indicate it could be a serious problem. Can you count on your supporters making up for your lost business by dining at your restaurant more frequently? Restaurant costs have been increasing so is now really the proper time to offend potential customers and turn away their business?

Every time a chef/restaurant owner speaks out on a political or social issue, they risk losing some customers. It is a complicated matter though, and much depends on exactly what is said, what isn't said, and how it is said. Some positions are relatively noncontroversial. The more inflammatory the language you use, the greater the risk. If you denigrate and insult those who possess an opposing viewpoint, your risk increases even more. You could even end up offending those who might agree with your basic position, but dislike how you present your views.

Even if a chef/restaurant owner remains largely silent about their political and social views, some people will be upset, thinking they should speak out on certain issues. It can be a no-win situation, where you risk losing potential customers whether you speak or remain silent. It is no longer sufficient to simply provide good food, drink and service. Now, a number of customers want to judge you based on your political and social positions.

Chefs/restaurant owners need to very carefully consider what they say, and don't say, on social media.   Before you post, or choose not to post, take time to consider how that might reflect on your business. Are you willing to risk losing customers over what you say or don't say? Is there a better way to say what you want to say, which won't be as offensive but will still depict your position? Remember that your words, or silence, could ultimately affect everyone who works for you.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

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) il Casale Cucina Campana + Bar teams up with Lexington’s own Wilson Farm for an authentic, farm-to-table, Summer Harvest Dinner. On Saturday, August 4th, starting at 5pm, the team at il Casale Cucina Campana in Lexington showcases a five-course rustic Italian dinner with the fresh and local produce of Wilson Farm’s summer harvest.

Chef Dante de Magistris encapsulates the crisp, natural, and uncomplicated feeling of summertime for this exclusive experience. The event is a must attend with each course carefully paired with fresh, white wines exclusive to the il Casale family - including a beautiful sparkling rose from Greece. The full menu is:

First Course
Involtino di Zucchine (Oregano Marinated Grilled Zucchini, Local Field Greens, Haricots Verts, Pecorino Aioli)
Coda di Volpe, "Phoenix", Contrada, Candida, Italy (2016)
Second Course
Bruschetta di Sogliola (Lemon-Sole Bruschetta, Native Heirloom Tomatoes, Spicy Basil-Garlic Pesto)
Fiano di Avellino, "Phoenix", Contrada, Candida, Italy (2016)
Third Course
Risotto di Barbabietole (Roasted Beet Risotto, Watercress, Baked Vermont Goat Cheese, Crispy Beet Chips)
Grechetto, "Grecante", Arnaldo Caprai, Umbria, Italy (2013)
Fourth Course
Sulla Spaggia Americana (Cape Cod Grilled Striped Bass, Stuffed Heirloom Tomatoes, Grilled Corn on the Cob)
Greco di Tufo,"Giallo d'arles", Quintodecimo, Campania, Italy (2015)
Fifth Course
Magna Grecia (Watermelon, Greek Feta, Phyllo Nests Dipped in Honey, Fresh Mint)
Sparkling Rose, Xinomavro, Kir-yanni Akakies, Greece (2017)

Price is $75 per person exclusive of tax and gratuity.
Space is limited – please call 781-538-5846 to make a reservation.

2) Saturday, July 28 is the official 20th Anniversary of the opening of Taberna de Haro, a Spanish restaurant in Brookline. This is one of my favorite spots, and they possess a fantastic Spanish wine list, including plenty of Sherry.

To commemorate this Anniversary, they will offer a free glass of Cava o diners that evening, July 28. Also, Chef/owner Deborah Hansen has created a section on the menu called “Favorites from the Past 20 Years” in which she offers some of the best-loved dishes. This section, which includes dishes such as ‘orange-scented rabbit with olives & marcona almonds’ and ‘grilled langostinos with spicy pimentón mayonnaise’, will continue throughout the year. Unique Wine Tasting Seminars will be held in the fall to further celebrate this big birthday. 

Taberna de Haro opened in July of 1998 with the simple goal of serving the most authentic Spanish food in Boston. After twenty years Taberna de Haro is still the go-to place for discerning diners who seek high quality, authentic Spanish food in a friendly environment, accompanied by the most interesting Spanish wines. Back in 1998, the wine list consisted of about 40 Spanish wines. Today, the list is 40 pages long and offers 315 wines, all from Spain, making it one of the largest all-Spanish wine lists in the country. 85 of those entries are sherry. Hansen carefully curates the list, thoughtfully tasting each wine and then writing an elaborate description for every one of them. “The aim is to inform and to tempt,” says Hansen. Guests often remark that the literary style and the detail of the descriptions invite them to try wines completely unfamiliar to them. The prices are notably fair, and the wine program has garnered local, national, and international acclaim.

The cuisine offers a taste of the humble Spanish food that you find on a family’s table or a local tavern’s menu. Yes, there are tapas, beloved items such as jamón croquetas, saffron & salt-cod balls, stuffed little piquillo peppers, spicy garlic shrimp,etc.; but there are also lovable main dishes that show off the heart of Spanish cuisine, such as pan- fried sole, free-range chicken half, Madrid-styled meatballs, lamb chops with garlic- vinegar splashed french fries, and more. The sizable, satisfying dishes of Spain can get overlooked in the tsunami of tapas in any given city, and Deborah wants to give them their proper recognition as an integral part of classic Spanish dining. She visits Spain at least once a year to keep her repertoire broad and her recipes faithful.

Although initially opened by partners Deborah Hansen and Julio de Haro, Taberna de Haro has been owned and led solely by Deborah Hansen since July of 2007 when she and Mr. de Haro parted ways. (He went on to open Estragon Restaurant). In 2012, Deborah expanded her 36 seat restaurant to 60 by taking over the adjacent real estate. The expansion included upgrading to a full liquor license and the creation of a 13-seat bar in the airy new space. The backbar that dominates the room is of local historical note. Purchased in an architectural antique store, the stunning piece that now holds sherry and gin bottles was once the marquee for the Paramount Theatre in Boston. You can see the tell-tale ‘P’ on the stained glass panels that flank the structure.

Although not technically Spanish, Ms. Hansen has spent enough time in Spain to have mastered the art of warm hospitality and loving preparation of traditional Spanish food. Over the eight or so years that she lived in Madrid, Deborah travelled to all corners of this culinarily diverse country eating the local foodstuffs and drinking the wines unique to each zone. After receiving a B.A. from Bates College and an M.A. from NYU (in Spanish, and Spanish and Latin-American literature, respectively), Deborah also received her Sommelier title in Madrid while co-owning a restaurant there called Cornucopia.

3) Post 390 is celebrating Shark Week the best way possible – with their very own Charc Week Sharkuterie Menu. From July 22 – 29, guests are welcomed to stop in and grab some of the following bites at Post 390’s tavern:

--Cape Shark Pastrami - house-baked marbled rye, spicy brown mustard, fermented cabbage
--Pickled Herring Rollmops*- beetroot, watermelon radish, spent grain bread, cultured butter
--Chilled Smoked Mussels - herb aioli, pickled allium, breadcrumbs
--Scallop Mortadella - pistachios, smoked pork fat, sweetcorn relish, petite pain de mie
--Dill-Cured Bluefish Gravlax*- mini everything bagel, chive cream cheese, capers, pickled fennel, red onion
The full board is $35, or diners can order one item for $8 each.

You can also pair your charcuterie with selections fro, Post 390’s extensive beer menu, including Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and Cisco Brewery Shark Tracker Lager.

4) Dave Cagle, co-owner of The Automatic, welcomes dear friend Chef Jamie Bissonette to The Automatic for the return of PAELLA ON THE PORCH on August 5. Jamie will be cooking up a huge pan of his award-winning paella as he takes over The Automatic’s porch. The public is welcome, reservations are recommended, this event sold out quickly last year. “We are stoked to welcome Jamie back to The Automatic to cook up his over-the-top paella for one hot summer night” says Cagle. “What’s better than hanging out on your porch, drinking some cocktails and having a friend whip up some amazing paella for you and a crowd? This is fantastic!

I attended this event last year & it was delicious & fun. Check out my previous article, Paella Showdown, and see some pictures of the paella and details on last year's event. I highly recommend you attend this event. Who doesn't love a good Paella?

When: August 5, 5pm onward til the paella runs out
Reservations: Strongly Recommended so please call 617-714-5226

5) Chef Will Gilson, along with notable Boston-area chefs, and the Puritan & Co. team invite guests to join them for a delicious, multi-course meal inspired by culinary legend Julia Child. Other participating chefs include: Cassie Piuma of Sarma, Tony Messina of Uni, Nick Calias of Brasserie Jo, Douglass Williams of MIDA, and Rebekah Cote of Puritan & Company

On Wednesday, August 15th, from 6:30pm-9:30pm, Puritan & Co. will team up with area chefs to celebrate the life and culinary adventures of one of the culinary world’s greatest heroes, Julia Child. Guest chefs from around Boston will prepare their favorite recipes from, “The Art of French Cooking” and present guests with a unique multi-course meal. Taking place on Julia’s birthday, the dinner will celebrate the birth of one of the most important culinary visionaries in history.

This event will be seated in a communal style at larger tables, though each dish is served individually. Carafes of wine on each table will be kept full for all to share with full wine, beer, and cocktail lists available for purchase.

Tickets can be purchased at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/julia-child-dinner-tickets-48342924990

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Committee: The Democratization Of Wine Pop-Up

"Wine is best in its natural state--when it's a pure expression of its traditions and origins, without the gloss of additives or industrial winemaking."
--Lauren Friel, Wine Director at Committee

Let me ask you once again: Why aren't you drinking more Greek wines?

An excellent spot to gain experience with Greek wines is at Committee Ouzeri + Bar, located in the Fan Pier area, and one of my favorite restaurants. As I previously mentioned, Committee has taken a bold step forward, honing their wine list until now it is 100% Greek Wine and 100% Natural Wine. Their wine list is broken down into two menus: By The Glass and By The Bottle, though all of the By The Glass options are also available by the bottle.

The By The Glass list includes two Sparkling wines, two Rosé wines, three Whites and 3 Reds (priced $11-$16/glass and $44-$64/bottle). The By The Bottle list has a total of 27 wines, broken down into 11 Whites, 3 Orange wines, and 13 Reds, with 19 wines costing $60 or less. As you can see, their bottles prices are reasonable, with a few splurge-worthy wines at higher price points. The list ranges across the varied regions of Greece, and include wines made from numerous indigenous grapes including Vidiano, Aidini, Roditis, Savatiano, Mandilaria, Limnio and more. Wine Director Lauren Friel has put together a well-focused, diverse, intriguing and delicious wine list. I've previously tasted some of the wines on the list, and all of those wines are excellent choices.

In addition this summer, Committee is holding a Natural Wine Bar Pop-Up on their patio every Wednesday night, starting at 5pm, and running through August 29. Each week, they will offer a small list of special Greek wines, which will change regularly, including some rarer selections. At last week's Pop-Up, I attended as a media guest, enjoying the four Greek wines which were offered. The weather was perfect that evening, so it was a delight to sit out on the patio and enjoy some fine Greek wine and food. The patio was quite busy, and I saw a significant number of people enjoying the wines that were being offered.

Lauren moved from table to table, describing the wines to those who were interested, sharing her wealth of knowledge and experience. A great opportunity for any wine lover to learn about Greek wine. The full dinner menu is available on the patio so you have plenty of choices to pair with the various wines, and Lauren will give you recommendations if you so desire. I very much enjoyed all four wines that were offered, each providing its own unique taste profile.

First, I sampled the 2015 Ktima Parparoussis Assyrtiko ($13 glass/$52 bottle). At an average retail price of $28 retail, the bottle price is less than twice the retail cost which is a good value in the restaurant world. I previously attended a wine dinner hosted by the winery's founder, Athanassios (Thanassis) Parparoussis so you can check out my prior article, Parparoussis Winery & Greek Delights, for background on the winery. I also got to meet Dimitra & Erifyli Parparoussis, the daughters of Athanassios, and taste more of their wines, and you can read about that in An Odyssey Greek Wine Tasting with Cava Spiliadis

From the Achaia region of the Peloponnese, Lauren states this is "Assyrtiko off the beaten path," as most Assyrtiko is from the island of Santorini. As such, the Parparoussis Assyrtiko has a different profile than most Santorini Assyrtiko, with a fuller body and riper fruit. There are tastes of melon, pear and citrus, with good acidity, and hints of floral notes. There is a nice complexity to the taste and a long, satisfying finish. A very pleasant summer wine, this would go well with seafood, light chicken dishes, and cheeses.

The 2017 Papras 'Oreads' Black Muscat ($11/glass, $44/bottle--about $22/average retail) is produced by Papras Bio Wines, the first winery in Greece to be certified as organic back in 1990. Stergios Papras was the oenologist from the start, and helped to give fame to the grape Black Muscat of Tyrnavos. Though Black Muscat grows in various parts of the world, the grape in Tyrnavos has its own unique characteristics. Tyrnavos sits on a plain at the base of Mount Olympus. The name "Oreads" refers to mountains nymphs in Greek mythology.

The Papras 'Oreads' is a rare blanc de noirs, which was vinified in stainless steel, with indigenous yeast and almost no skin contact but 70% of the stems were reintroduced into the fermentation tank and then removed once it was completed. The wine was both unfiltered and unfined, which accounts for the cloudy nature of its appearance. On the nose, there is a strong aroma of Muscat spice and they too are prominent on the palate as well. The palate is more savory, with subtle notes of peach and citrus, and a touch of spritz. A very unique flavor and texture profile which should appeal to wine lovers seeking something different. 

From the same winery as above, the 2017 Papras 'Coccinella' Rosé ($11/glass, $44/bottle) is also made from Black Muscat of Tyrnavos. This wine was fermented, with indigenous yeast, in stainless steel and was a surprising wine to me. The nose presented with alluring and bright red fruit aromas yet on the palate, the wine was much more savory and spicy, with only subtle red fruit flavors. Such a dichotomy between the aromas and taste, but that isn't a bad thing. The taste was complex and intriguing, delicious and intense. Definitely a Rosé to slowly savor, marveling in each sip, especially while sitting on a patio on a fine summer evening.

The 2014 Thymiopoulos Naoussa Xinomavro ($12/glass, $48/bottle--about $25 average retail) is produced by a family which has owned vineyards in this region for several generations, selling their grapes to other wineries. It was only recently though that Apostolos Thymiopoulos, upon his graduation with a oenology degree from the University of Athens, started their own label Thymiopoulos Vineyards. Lauren told me that this was one of her top favorite Greek wines of all time.

The wine is made from 100% Xinomavro, from 30 year old vines, and it spent about twelve months in oak. It is unfiltered and has a low 12.5% ABV, making it easy to have a second or even third glass. It has a nice, dark red color with a compelling and complex nose of red fruit, earthy spice, and a touch of vanilla. On the palate, it is silky smooth and elegant, with well-integrated tannins and excellent acidity. The complex melange of flavors include ripe plum, cherry, olive, and vanilla, with elements of earthiness and deep spice. It is full bodied with a delightful, lingering finish. An excellent and well-balanced wine, I highly recommended it!

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention some of the delicious food I enjoyed while sipping these wines. The Feta ($14), which is sesame encrusted with honey, is a perennial favorite, with that crispy, nutty coating, and the salty feta balanced by the sweetness of the honey. It is hard not to order this dish every time I dine at Committee.

A new dish for me was the Kalamboki ($10), which is an ample-sized dish of sautéed corn with Kalamata olive butter and shaved graveria (a Greek cheese). Quite tasty, there was a nice blend of sweet butter with the salt of the cheese and the olives. It elevated the corn to become an even more comforting dish, with a Greek flair.

The Crab Kataifi ($16) consists of shredded phyllo, forming a type of nest, golding chunks of lump crab and tipped by a sliced plum. The phyllo sits atop some whipped feta. The various textures and flavors blended well together, from the crunch of the phyllo to the sweet plum. The sweet crab remained prominent, enhanced by the slightly salty touch of the whipped feta. Another winner of a dish.

The Keftedakia ($14) are chicken meatballs with smoked honey and sitting atop warm hummus. The meatballs had a slight crunch to the exterior, and the inside was moist, meaty and flavorful, with hints of smoke and sweet. Another well-balanced dish, it went very well with the Xinomavro wine.

For dessert, there was Xinomavro Chocolate Cake ($10), with merenda, vanilla ice cream, and a Nescafe crumble. They even put a candle on it for my birthday. The cake was rich and fudgy, perfect for any chocolate lover, and I've really become a fan of merenda. A fitting end to a wonderful evening on the patio.

I've previously given you Ten Reasons To Drink Greek Wine and once again strongly encourage you to drink more Greek wine. And Committee is a perfect spot to enjoy a diverse selection of natural, Greek wines and to expand your knowledge through the experience of Wine Director Lauren Friel. On Wednesday nights this summer, check out their Wine Pop-Up, and I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Rant: Beets, Dirt & Enjoyment

Beets are a polarizing vegetable, with a significant number of people hating them, believing that they taste primarily like dirt. There are plenty of others though that love beets, specifically seeking them out on restaurant menus or at the grocery store. Beets are especially healthy and nutritious, making them a great choice for your diet. If you can only get past them tasting like dirt.

It's probably not a surprise that I'm not a fan of beets. Yes, I believe they taste like dirt, and not in a good way. I enjoy earthiness in my wines, but I feel there is a different type of earthiness in beets, one that doesn't appeal to my palate. I don't enjoy beet salads, no matter what other ingredients are included in such a salad. And I'm definitely not alone in my opinion of beets.

Could a chef find a way to get me to enjoy beets? The possibility exists, no matter how remote. Then, last week, that possibility became a reality.

While dining at Committee, a Greek restaurant in the Fan Pier region, they always provide you with a complimentary meze, usually a special Dip of the Day with warm pita slices. Their Sun Dried Tomato & Feta Dip has long been one of my favorites. Last week, their complimentary meze was a Beet & Garlic dip, and I winced a little when it was brought to the table. I assumed I wouldn't enjoy it because it was made with beets. Dirt-tasting beets!

However, I made the effort to taste it, to open my mind to the possibility that maybe I would like it. I did have high expectations but there were reasons to hold out a tiny bit of hope. First, I know the talent that Committee has in the kitchen, the culinary skills that transform ingredients into delicious and interesting dishes. As I've long said, a great chef can make me eat just about anything. Second, I wanted to be open, to be willing to at least try something new and different. I've often encouraged my readers to do the same, to be willing to eat or drink new things, to broaden their palates.

So, I slathered some of the beet & garlic dip upon a slice of pita, and took a tentative bite. And then another, and then another. It actually was tasty, with more of an earthiness rather than a dirt taste. It was enhanced by the garlic, and there was even a hint of sweetness to the dip. I was enjoying something made with beets! I ate and savored a good portion of the dip, and have to give kudos to the Chef and kitchen staff at Committee for creating such a tasty little dish.

When you go out to eat and drink, take chances. You never know where they might lead.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Perfection In A Bottle: Bodegas Yuste Conde de Aldama Amontillado Sherry

Is this Sherry truly perfection in a bottle? 

In my own personal view, it was perfection, though I'll qualify that declaration by stating the sense of perfection came through due to a variety of factors, from the friends who shared that bottle with me to the lengthy history of this bottle. However, on its own, without all of those other factors, this Sherry is exceptional, maybe the best Sherry I've ever consumed. It very likely may be the best wine I drink this year. I can't recommend it highly enough and I hope to acquire more of it one day. If you ever find this Sherry on a wine store shelf, don't hesitate: BUY IT!

Before getting into the history of this Sherry, I should give a brief explanation of the Solera system, a process of fractional blending that is essential to the production of Sherry. A solera consists of a number of different tiers of barrels, known as criaderas. The oldest tier is commonly located on the floor of the bodega and progressively younger tiers are placed above this oldest tier. At various times during a year, Sherry will be extracted for bottling from the oldest tier, commonly 10%-15% of the barrel though it may be as much as 35%. Then, Sherry from the next oldest tier will be added to refill the oldest tier, and this process is then repeated for each tier as it is used to refill another tier. As such, the oldest tier eventually becomes a blend of Sherries of many different ages.

Now, onto the fascinating history of this very old Sherry. The origin of the Bodegas Yuste Conde de Aldama Amontillado Sherry extends back to the early 18th century, when the solera system first started to be used by the Sherry industry. The bodegas of Aguilar y Cia were established in 1740 in Sanlúcar, and the solera that would eventually result in the Yuste Amontillado was founded sometime between 1740-1750. Just take a moment to consider its age, before even the U.S. acquired its independence, and maybe during King George's War.

We then consider the family of León Aldama y Respaldiza, which came to Sanlúcar from the province of Álava, part of the Basque region. In 1823, León took possession of the bodegas of Aguilar y Cia, acquiring their old barrels of Sherry. His family became quite famed in Sanlúcar, especially for their vast vineyards and fine wines. When León died in 1863, his two nephews, Pedro Aldama Gaviña and José Gabriel Aldama Camba, became his primary heirs. Eventually, José became the first Conde de Aldama ("Count of Aldama") and seems to have taken primary control of the family's wine holdings and production.

During the 1880s, the dreaded phylloxera came to the Jerez region, destroying numerous vineyards and causing a number of bodegas to close. José lost some of his valuable vineyards and though American rootstock was used to save Spanish vines, José found fault with these new vines. He didn't care for the wine made from the new grapes and refused to add the wine to nearly all of his soleras, except for a few test cases. He basically stopped producing any further wine, and only purchased pre-phylloxera wine to add to his established soleras. Around 1888, José finally decided to seal at least some of this oldest soleras, such as those acquired from Aguilar y Cia, behind plaster, allegedly to protect their value and prevent them from being adulterated with wine from new grafted vines.

When José passed away, his nephew, Antonio Aldama Mendivil, the Marqués de Ayala, acquired the estate. Antonio took well to the Sherry business, acting as an almacenista for a number of other companies, and he also invested in other business, from mining to banking. The old soleras, hidden behind the plaster, remained untouched. Eventually, around 1921, there were significant changes and Antonio's financial situation came down crashing as he had started paying insufficient attention to his businesses, being distracted by other matters such as his philanthropy.

Due to his bankruptcy, Antonio was forced to sell off most of his businesses and investments. It then appears that in 1927, the old solera from Aguilar y Cia that had been hidden behind plaster was finally unearthed and then sold to Manuel Argueso Hortal, a wine company that no longer exists. Even under that new ownership, the solera remained essentially untouched, eventually being sold to Valdespino and then later being acquired, with a winery, by a property developer.

Bodegas Yuste was founded by Francisco "Paso" Yuste Brioso, and in 1991, he purchased the historic Bodega Santa Ana in Sanlúcar, and then in 1998, he bought the Viña La Alamedilla, 46 hectares of vineyards in the Jerez pago Carrascal. Around 2001, the property developer who acquired the old solera and winery from Valdespino sold it all to Bodegas Yuste, which took the materials to reconstruct the Bodega Los Ángeles, located in Sanlúcar. This became the home for the ancient solera begun so long ago by Aguilar y Cia.

To this point, the only wine that entered the solera was a small amount to compensate for natural evaporation. Bodegas Yuste later chose to bottle two Sherries from this solera, an Amontillado and, due to some barrel variation, a Palo Cortado. The average age of these Sherries is estimated at 130-150 years old.

Have you ever tasted a wine that old? And how much would you expect to pay for such an old wine?

Last fall, while visiting Chicago with my friend Adam, we stopped at a wine store and I noticed the Bodegas Yuste Conde de Aldama Amontillado Sherry (500ml/$210) on a shelf. As a passionate lover of Sherry, it was difficult to resist the siren call of this unique Sherry. I've previously enjoyed some old Sherries but nothing this old. I also loved the nature of the bottle, almost like a decanter (and I've kept it now that the Sherry is gone). I bought the Sherry and then fervently hoped it would make the flight home safely, which it fortunately did.

To me, the price was extremely reasonable considering the age and uniqueness of this Sherry. Sherry is too often under-appreciated so it can be an excellent value. You would be hard pressed to find another type of wine, of a similar age, at this price point. I also felt that this might be my only opportunity to purchase this Sherry, considering it is a very low production wine.

The next important question I needed to consider was when to open the bottle. Obviously, this was a special wine, and should probably be opened for a celebratory occasion. I finally decided that I would open it for my birthday this year, a kind of a milestone event. Though I could have easily stored it away for several years, I wanted to experience this Sherry, to drink and enjoy it. I didn't want to wait too long. I couldn't deny the siren within this bottle beckoning to me.

And as I've said many times before, wine is meant to be shared, and tastes better when consumed with family and friends. Thus, I needed to make the hard decision of who to share this Sherry with, especially considering it was only 500ml, about 17 ounces. It was extremely difficult to narrow down my list of wine-loving friends to a mere handful, and I hope that I can share another bottle one day with others of my friends.

Now, how can I describe this unique Sherry when words are truly inadequate to depict its totality? First, it is easiest to begin with the Sherry's color, a rich mahogany. Then, after pulling out the cork stopper, it becomes more difficult to describe the nose, a rich and complex melange of harmonious aromas that seduced and tantalized me. Such an intensity and it was easy to sit there and continue to sniff the glass for a time, seeking everything within the aromas. You could identify some of the aromas, such as almonds, citrus, and tobacco, but then there were wisps of more exotic spices and aromas, which sometimes were tougher to identify, but pleasant nonetheless.

And the taste. Wow! Wow! Once again, there was complexity and harmony, a diverse melange of flavors, both familiar and not. So much concentration and bright intensity, yet still remaining elegant and subtle in certain aspects. There was the brine of the ocean, almonds and walnuts, caramel and vanilla, citrus and dried fruit. There were also hints of more exotic spices as well as a touch of earthiness. Each sip brought something new to my palate, exciting me with each taste. The finish lingered on and on, almost endlessly, with sharp acidity and more enticing flavors. I never wanted to stop drinking this Sherry and have never tasted a Sherry as good as this one.

Considering its extreme age, high quality and exquisite taste, I highly recommend this Sherry and consider it an excellent value, even at its price point. This Sherry truly made my birthday a most memorable occasion.

(For more information about Sherry, check out my 40+ articles at All About Sherry)

Thursday, July 19, 2018

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) All kids want to have fun. But for millions of sick children currently cared for at local Children's Miracle Network Hospitals® (CMNH), fun is on hold. The Dairy Queen®system wants to help those kids get out of the hospital sooner and back to having fun again.

DQ® will once again bring communities together to support CMNH during the 13th Annual Miracle Treat Day on Thursday, August 2. On Miracle Treat Day, $1 or more from every Blizzard® Treat sold at participating DQ Grill & Chill® and Dairy Queen locations throughout the U.S. will be donated to the local Children's Miracle Network Hospital. Funds raised during Miracle Treat Day support critical treatments and healthcare services, pediatric medical equipment and charitable care to help save and improve the lives of local children.

"We want to make Miracle Treat Day the most fun, most meaningful day of summer. The kids at children's hospitals across America are depending on us," said Maria Hokanson, executive vice president of marketing for American Dairy Queen Corporation (ADQ). "Miracle Treat Day is a celebration of how our communities come together to help the kids treated by Children's Miracle Network Hospitals so that they can be at home with their family, having fun and playing with their friends as soon as possible."

Every minute, 62 children are admitted to a Children's Miracle Network Hospital. One in 10 children in North America are treated at Children's Miracle Network Hospitals each year.

Last year, DQ® operators across the U.S. and Canada contributed more than $4 million on Miracle Treat Day alone in support of local Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. Since 1984, the Dairy Queen system has raised more than $135 million for the charity through fundraising efforts including Miracle Treat Day, the Miracle Balloon campaign and other local initiatives.

The featured Miracle Treat Day Blizzard Treat of the Day is Oreo®, the most popular Blizzard Treat to date. The Blizzard Treat of the Month for August in the U.S. is the new TWIX® Blizzard Treat. All other Blizzard Treats, including those on the new Summer Blizzard Menu, are also available that day.

2) As French Bistro Les Zygomates enters the quarter century mark, owner Mark Tosi combines the old with the new to create an exciting atmosphere of wine tastings, small plate dining and live entertainment.

Starting on Monday, July 23, newly appointed executive chef Guara Pimenta (formerly of Ambrosia, Restaurant L, & Blue Ox) will feature a small plates menu of globally inspired dishes. Complementing the new menu will be live entertainment from a variety of Americana artists.

Les Zyg will continue to celebrate its 25th year with a soon to be announced series of complimentary wine tastings hosted by former owner and celebrated sommelier Lorenzo Savona highlighting wines from the Loire Valley, Beaujolais, Burgundy among other Parisian favorites.

The New Small Plates Menu:
Lamb Lollipops (Herb Marinated, Zyg’s Chimichurri 2/$5)
Mediterranean Olives (Citrus, Chili Flake, Rosemary, Garlic $7)
Crispy Mini Crab Cakes (Jonah Crabmeat, Pequillo Pepper Couli $5ea)
Blistered Shishito Peppers (Lime $7)
Chicken Meatballs (House Made Breadcrumbs, Coconut Curry 3/$3.50)
Hot Dates (Medjool Dates, Bacon, Gorgonzola Dolce, Balsamic Glaze $2ea)
Honey Spiced Carrots (with Bleu Cheese $7)
Fried Polenta (Crispy Polenta Lardons, Putanesca Sauce $9)
Roasted Cauliflower Almondine ($7)
Chicken Souvlaki (Yogurt Marinade, Sumac Spice $3.50ea)
Grilled Asparagus ($7)
Zyg’s Stuffed Sliders (Gorgonzola Dolce, Brioche Bun, Bacon–Tomato Jam $4.50ea)
Roasted Mixed Mushrooms ($7)
Parmesan Truffle Frites (Hand-cut Aged Idaho Potatoes, Parmesan Cheese, Truffle Oil $7)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Cheers To The Quinta Santa Eufemia 20 Year Old White Port

Many Americans are familiar with Ruby and Tawny Ports but they have much less familiarity with White Port, known in Portuguese as Porto Branco. White Port is made with a wide variety of white grapes, such as Arinto, Cercial, Codega, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato, and Viosinho. It is generally produced in the same manner as Red Ports but, they are usually fermented without any skin contact and commonly aged, for two to three years, in 550 liter oak pipes. White Ports range from dry to sweet, and the sweetest versions are sometimes known as Lagrima. There is also a special category called Leve Seco ("light dry") which has a lower alcohol content, about 16.5%.

White Port is usually consumed slightly chilled and it's very common to mix young White Ports with tonic to make a Port Tonic cocktail. With the heat of the Douro, a Port Tonic is a very refreshing libation and would make for an excellent drink this summer.

A much smaller and unique category of White Ports are those specifically aged for 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years, similar to Tawny aging categories. They are difficult to find locally though at least some are available in Massachusetts. For example, the aged White Ports of Quinta Santa Eufemia (including their 10, 20 & 30 year olds) are available at Julio's Liquors, which is where I purchased a few bottles. And I highly recommend you buy those aged White Ports.

Quinta Santa Eufemia was essentially founded in 1864 by Bernardo Rodrigues de Carvalho and it is now managed by the 4th generation. Located on the left side of the Douro River, the vineyards occupy more than 50 hectares, planted with field blends of 20+ grapes. They produce both table wines and Ports, including a 10, 20 and 30 year old White Port. At this time, they do not produce a 40 year old White Port. I've previously reviewed their 10 Year Old White Port ($25), noting "With a beautiful amber color, it possessed an alluring nose of floral and herbal notes, and on the palate the taste was complex and intriguing, a bit of an oxidative style. It had a tough of honeyed sweetness though it finished dry, and that finish lingers long in your mouth. It is surely a Port to slowly savor, enjoying the multitude of flavors that pass over your palate."noting

For one of my birthday celebrations, I opened a bottle of the Quinta Santa Eufemia 20 Year Old White Port ($25). It too is a blend of at least Malvasia Fina, Gouveio, Moscatel Galego, and Rabigato. It is fermented in traditional lagares, granite treading tanks where the grapes are trod on by foot. It was aged for about 9 months in stainless steel and then for at least more 20 years in wooden casks. Only about 60 cases of this wine are produced each year, so supplies are very limited.

Sniffing your glass, you'll be seduced by an alluring blend of honey, floral and herbal scents, with wisps of citrus. On the palate, the complexity of the aromas is still evident, with each sip bringing something new to your mouth. There is a mild sweetness, well balanced by its acidity, with bright honey notes, citrus flavors, and touches of herbs. It is more full bodied and rich, with a long, lingering finish that soothes and satisfies. It would work well with a variety of desserts, though you could also sit and savor it on its own. An amazing Port, I highly recommend this to all wine lovers. It is well worth the effort to seek it out, especially due to its complexity and superb taste.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Crémant D'Alsace Rosé: Domaine Camille Braun & Alsace-Willm

For any celebration, it's great to open some bubbly, and there's a wide choice of sparkling wines you can select. For my birthday celebrations this year, I enjoyed three different sparkling wines. One of these was a Grower Champagne, the excellent Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Brut Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru, which I drank at Island Creek Oyster Bar in Burlington. I've visited that winery before and love their Champagnes, all which are made from 100% Chardonnay. It was a great way to begin my birthday dinner at ICOB.

The other two sparkling wines were similar, both Crémant D'Alsace Rosé though from different producers. As I've said multiple times people, Americans need to drink more Crémant d'Alsace, and in fact, they need to drink more wines, of all types, from Alsace. They often provide excellent value and taste. They are enjoyable while young but can also age well. They can provide a sense of history, as well as showcase state of the art wine making. They pair well with a diverse variety of foods and cuisines. And at their most basic, they are absolutely delicious.

For more background on Crémant d'Alsace, check out some of my previous articles where I share my passion for this tasty bubbly, including: Crémant d'Alsace & The Spartans At ThermopylaeSchoenheitz Winery: A Taste Of BeautyPuritan & Co.: Alsatian Wine AdviceGustave Lorentz: More Alsatian Wine TreasuresAlsatian Wines & Pheasant at Craigie On Main, Crémant d'Alsace: A New Year's Eve Recommendation, and Starting the New Year With Crémant d'Alsace & Lobster.

The history of the Domaine Camille Braun extends back to 1523 in Alsace, and they have been producing wine in the village of Orschwihr since 1902. Currently, the owners, Christophe and Chantal Braun, own about 13 hectares of vineyards in or near Orschwihr, including the famed Grand Cru site Pfingstberg, which has been documented since 1299. The vineyards are now certified organic and Biodynamic, and their total production is only about 8,000 cases annually.

The NV Domaine Camille Braun Crémant D'Alsace Rosé ($25) is made from 100% Pinot Noir, the vines averaging about 30 years, as it is the only grape permitted in Alsace Rosé. Made in the méthode champenoise, the wine remains on the lees for about 18-24 months and only about 10,000 bottles are produced. The Rosé had a pleasing nose of red fruits and on the palate, the red fruits were more subtle and delicious, with hints of spice. It was dry and creamy, with a nice crispness to it as well. The fine bubbles helped to cleanse the palate and cut through the richness while I enjoyed this bubbly with a lobster dinner. An excellent choice for this pairing.

Maison Willm's fame began before it ever started making wine, and it centered on a compelling recipe, Escargots à l’Alsacienne, in which the snails were cooked in a broth of spices and white wine. Around 1896, the Willm family established a wine estate in the town of Barr, located at the base of the Grand Cru Kirchberg ("hills of the church") de Barr. This is a prime area in Alsace for vineyards. In the 1930s, they were one of the first wineries in Alsace to export to the U.S., allegedly becoming a favorite of the gangster Al Capone! I've previously enjoyed a couple other of their crémants, including the NV Willm Crémant d’Alsace Blanc de Blancs Brut and the NV Willm Cremant d'Alsace Blanc de Noirs Brut. 

The NV Willm Crémant d’Alsace Rosé ($18), made from 100% Pinot Noir, is produced by the méthode champenoise and remains on the lees for about 12 months. With an appealing nose of red fruits and a touch of spice, this was a delicious and lush Crémant with ripe flavors of strawberry, cherry and raspberry. Dry, crisp, and clean, with a fine effervescence, this was a true crowd pleaser. At this price, it is an excellent value for the taste and complexity found within the bottle. Highly recommended!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Born Tokusen Junmai Daiginjo: A Sake Worthy Of Celebration

As I've been celebrating my birthday for the last several days, I've opened a number of special bottles to commemorate the occasion. Of course, there had to be a Sake in that mix and it ended up being incredibly special and amazing. That shouldn't have surprised me as I know the brand and they produce superb Sake, including one of my favorite Sakes ever, the Born Muroka Nama Genshu Junmai Daiginjo. They produce Sake which will appeal to most wine lovers.

The Born brand is produced by the Kato Kichibee Shoten brewery,which is located in the Fukui Prefecture and was established in 1860. The company originally was involved in money exchange, but eventually the village headman chose to enter the Sake business. They use the term "Born" as in Sanskrit, it is roughly translated as "purity/striking truth, and represents the brewery's strong belief in second changes and karmic rewards for hard work." During the early Showa era, which began in 1926, the Born brand was drank at imperial ceremonies, festivals, and presented to special guests.

The Born Tokusen ("Special Selection") Junmai Daiginjo ($57) is produced from the highest quality Yamada Nishiki rice from Special Region “A” in Hyogo Prefecture. The rice was polished down to 38%, a significant amount less than the 50% minimum required for a Daiginjo. It also possesses a Sake Meter Value of +5, Acidity 1.3, and a 16% ABV. What helps to make this Sake more unique is that it was aged for at least two years at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the freezing point of water. Very little Sake is aged like that, but I've found such aging can add more complexity to the Sake.

The aroma of this Sake was alluring and seductive, with rich fruit smells, floral accents and hints of spice. And on the palate, the complexity of its taste thoroughly impressed. There was a rich mouthfeel, an intense depth of flavor including tastes of citrus, melon, grapefruit, pear, vanilla, and licorice. It was silky smooth and elegant, with a lengthy, pleasing finish. Every sip brought something new to my mouth and made me crave the next sip. This Sake paired great with seafood though I could easily see it pairing well with other dishes as well, from cheese to chicken. A superb Sake at a very reasonable price considering its high quality and taste. Highly recommended!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

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) Vialé in Central Square, Cambridge is enthused to announce the next event in their new, seasonal dinner series in collaboration with Cambridge School of Culinary Arts (CSCA). The next CSCA Takeover at Vialé will be held on Wednesday, July 18, from 5pm-10pm. As with all of the dinners in the series, this dinner will pair Vialé chef/co-owner, Greg Reeves (CSCA graduate) and the Vialé team with a different CSCA student/chef. For this event, Chef Reeves will team with Samantha Loos and Chris Miller, from the Professional Chef's Program, serving their own unique plates alongside Vialé's usual dinner menu.

Make reservations for this fascinating CSCA Takeover at Vialé.

2) Bin Ends is proud to announce the summer celebration of the 10-year anniversary of their Braintree store, and the 5-year anniversary of their sister store in Needham. The concurrent anniversaries are being celebrated with the launch of a new website for expedited online purchases, a community dinner, and special events in both stores.

Bin Ends is a local, independent retailer of fine wine, craft beer, and artisan spirits founded in 2008. Managing Partner, John Hafferty, with nearly 30 years of experience in the fine wine trade, has dedicated his career to the idea that a bottle shared can quickly turn strangers into lifelong friends. Before opening Bin Ends, John worked for nearly a decade as fine wine portfolio manager and buyer for M.S. Walker, one of New England's largest and most respected fine wine wholesalers.

I've been going to Bin Ends since its beginnings, and it remains one of my favorite wine stores. John is a great guy, personable, knowledgeable and down-to-earth. You'll find plenty of bargains at Bin Ends, as well as a nice diversity of wines, spirits, ciders, and beers, from all over the world. You really need to shop at Bin Ends!

A couple of their upcoming events include:

Bin Ends Fine Wine Estate Sale 
Bin Ends in Needham: Saturday, July 14th from 2-5 PM: Featuring an eclectic selection of wines from all across California. Try before you buy & save 20% or more. This is a Complimentary event and No Reservations are required. You must be 21 to attend.

Bin Ends Fine Wine Flea Market 
Bin Ends in Braintree: Sunday, July 29, from 1-5 PM. Try-before-you-buy a great selection of wine from around the world - all at a savings of 20-50%! Join upwards of six of Bin Ends fine wine vendors along who will be sampling alongside our own Bin Ends Selections table. This is a complimentary event and no reservations are required.  You must be 21 to attend.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

All Greek, All Natural: New Wine Program At Committee

"Nothing more excellent or valuable than wine was every granted by the gods to man."

Why aren't you drinking more Greek wines?

I've previously given you Ten Reasons To Drink Greek Wine and I've also highly recommended that you drink and dine at Committee Ouzeri + Bar, a killer Greek restaurant which had a primarily Greek wine list. I've enjoyed plenty of delicious and diverse Greek wines at this restaurant (along with lots of excellent food). Well, Committee has taken a bold step forward, further honing their wine list until now it is 100% Greek Wine and 100% Natural Wine. Get there now to check out their new wine list!

Wine Director Lauren Friel created this new wine list, one of her latest endeavors in a very busy vinous career. She consults for other restaurants (such as the acclaimed Dirt Candy in NYC where she created a wine list of all female owned wineries), is a freelance writer, and will soon be opening Rebel Rebel (an all natural wine bar) at Bow Market in Somerville. Lauren was generous enough to take a little time to answer some questions about the new wine list at Committee.

1. Why have you moved to a 100% Greek wine list?
Lauren: "I believe in writing wine programs with a point of view. An all-Greek wine list aligns with Committee’s concept and menu, and it showcases what I believe to be some of the most exciting wines being made in the world today. "

2. What challenges do you foresee with your guests because of a 100% Greek wine list?
Lauren: "Certainly, there’s an initial hurdle to overcome when guests take a look at the list and don’t immediately recognize regions or varieties, but the wines speak for themselves. Once guests have a glass in front of them, that all falls away."

3. What are the advantages to a 100% Greek wine list?
Lauren: "The wines are natural pairings with our cuisine, so the challenges of pairing internationally styled wines with traditional cuisine goes out the window. Greek wines also haven’t caught up to other regions in terms of market cost, so we’re able to offer extremely well-made, rare and unique wines for a fraction of what they would cost coming from, say, France or California."

4. Why have you moved to 100% natural wines?
Lauren: "I’ve worked exclusively with natural wines for every other wine program I’ve written. For a while, we didn’t have access to naturally made Greek wines in Massachusetts. That’s changed in the past year or so, as I’ve worked hard to get these natural Greek portfolios into distribution. Now that they’re available, it makes sense to showcase them - they’re pure expressions of Greek terroir, they’re low-impact from an environmental perspective, and they don’t contain the additives of industrial wines."

5. What challenges do you foresee with your guests because of a 100% natural wine list?
Lauren: "None. DRC is technically natural, and nobody talks about that. People have this idea that all natural wines are weird or funky, and that’s simply not true. Well-made natural wines are as clean and expressive as conventionally made wines."

6. What are the advantages to a 100% natural wine list?
Lauren: "I know I’m providing guests with the best wines I have access to."

In addition to the new wine list, Committee is also holding a Natural Wine Bar Pop Up on their patio every Wednesday night, through August 29, starting at 5pm. A modest list of Greek wines will be served each week, offered at a much lower mark up than usual. There will also be rare selections that are hard to find and will change monthly. The pop up will offer wine flights and accompanying meze. This will be on a first come, first serve basis on the patio only.

With the great diversity of Greek wines, every wine lover will be able to find a wine that appeals to their preferences. And they also will be able to explore such a wide variety of intriguing and exciting wines. Go to Committee, delve into Lauren's new wine list, and expand your palate's horizons.

"Where there is no wine there is no love."

Monday, July 9, 2018

Birthday Fundraiser for Alzheimer's Association

No Rants today. Rather, I come seeking assistance from my readers.

Though Facebook has its issues, maybe one of its most compelling features is that you can turn your birthday into a request for donations for one of a myriad of charities. There is no charge for the donations and all of the money goes to the charity. Facebook makes it very simple to set up as well.

My birthday is later this week and I have chosen a Birthday Fundraiser for the Alzheimer's Association. All you have to do is go to that link and you can donate to this cause. I set a modest goal of $200 and have already received donations of $270. But, I encourage others to donate as well, to raise more money for this worthy cause. I hope you'll consider contributing as a way to celebrate with me. Every little bit helps.

Alzheimer's is an insidious disease that robs people of their minds. It can be a slow deterioration, losing bits and parts of your memory every day. And for the caretakers, it can be a tough experience, watching your loved one fall deeper into the illness's grasp. As our population lives longer and longer, it seems that more and more people fall victim to this terrible disease.

I currently live with a family member who has Alzheimer's and I see its effect every day, on everyone  in the family. And this is not the first family member who has had this terrible disease either. As this disease may be, in at least some part, hereditary, it is scary to see family members succumb to it as you worry that you too might get it one day.  

Please donate, if you can, to help fight this disease, so that maybe we can eliminate it one day.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

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/Owner Will Gilson and the Puritan and Company team is excited to announce a very special upcoming wine dinner with COS winery of Sicily. Join them on Thursday, July 19, from 6:30pm-9:30pm, for the rare opportunity of tasting four vintages of COS Cerasuolo di Vittoria followed by a memorable roasted lamb dinner prepared by chef/owner Will Gilson.

COS is Sicily's only DOCG, the highest level of quality following the strictest rules of Italian wine. Don't miss out on this unique opportunity to taste four consecutive vintages of their noble wine along with an exquisite dinner featuring 2016 Frappato, 2013 Pithos Rosso, fermented and aged in amphorae, then bottled without sulphur, and two vintages of the singular Ramí, a skin-contact white. The event will also feature Tiziana Forni of Domaine Select, the importer in attendance for discussion about these particular wines, and much more!

Space is limited for this dinner, don't wait. Tickets are inclusive of dinner, wine, and gratuity and are available at EventBrite. Please email rebecca@puritancambridge.com if you have any allergy or dietary restrictions that chef should be aware of.

Puritan & Company's Azienda Agricola COS Wine Dinner includes:
Antipasti/Degustazione Verticale
2011-2014 Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico
Antipasto platter & shared small bites (selection of marinated and grilled vegetables, olives, cured meats, fresh cheese, and breads, caponata bruschetta, arancini, sardines or anchovy or mackerel)
Piatto primo
2013 Pithos Rosso
Grilled tomato and smoked swordfish fusilli with charred octopus and fried capers
Piatto Principale
2016 Frappato
Whole roasted lamb (fennel confit with bay and saffron, salsa verde with parsley and basil, panelle (chickpea or polenta squares), tomato jam with lemon and orange)
2013 & 2015 Ramí
selection of hard, semi hard and soft Sicilian cheeses

2) TAMO Bistro + Bar is offering three Fishbowl Cocktails this summer, Panther Bowl, Raffi Bowl and Coconut Bowl. Each 51-ounce, made-for-two cocktail costs $35. Enjoy them on the TAMO terrace all summer.

Inspired by Marvel's “Black Panther”, TAMO Panther Bowl is made with Cruxland Gin – a unique gin from South Africa made with the Kalahari truffle. This rare and exotic truffle can only be found at certain times of the year, when rain causes it to swell, creating cross-shaped cracks in the ground surrounding it – a tell-tale sign to experts only. This small batch gin is distinctly South African, grape-based and cold filtered for an extra smooth taste. Mixed with Bacardi Rum and Viniq Fusion Vodka, the Cruxland Gin gives the Panther Bowl a savory hint of earthiness. It also includes hyperlocal honey from The Seaport Hotel's very own bee colony. Nearly one million bees live in seven hives and thrive under the loving care of Chief Beekeeper Edwin Medrano. The sweet honey produced by his bees is masterfully incorporated into the hotel's unique cocktails, including the Panther Bowl.

The Raffi Bowl, made with Bacardi Banana Rum, Pillar Blonde Rum, pineapple, pomegranate and lime juice and Pillar Dark Rum Floater will surely satisfy your taste buds. Those with a sweet tooth should indulge in the Coconut Bowl – a masterful creation of Bacardi Coconut Rum, Amaretto, grenadine, prosecco, pineapple and orange juice.

3) Bella Luna Restaurant & Milky Way Loungea neighborhood restaurant in Jamaica Plain,  is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, an exceptional achievement. It is a female-owned restaurant that was established in 1993 by Kathie Mainzer and Carol Downs in response to area gang activity and gun violence. As Jamaica Plain residents and non-profit professionals, the restaurant’s founders were concerned about the growing crime in the community and sought a solution that could simultaneously bring together the neighborhood and support its charitable causes. A boarded-up space on Hyde Park’s Centre Street was the answer, and, thus, Bella Luna Restaurant was born.

25 years later, Bella Luna Restaurant & Milky Way Lounge has experienced significant growth and change, but remains steadfastly committed to its founding principles. Having outgrown its 19-seat Centre Street space in Hyde Park, Bella Luna & Milky Way Lounge relocated to a larger space better suited for accommodating its guests in 2009. Currently located at 284 Amory Street in Jamaica Plain, Bella Luna Restaurant & Milky Way Lounge is a full-service restaurant and event venue with 175 seats, 45 employees, entertainment space, and outdoor patio.

Bella Luna Restaurant believes strongly in the democracy of food- that delicious, gourmet cuisine can be offered at affordable prices, and offers a menu that reflects this philosophy. Bella Luna offers its guests a wide variety of affordable fare including “cosmic pizzas,” “supernova sandwiches,” “celestial salads,” and “interplanetary entrées.” Bella Luna is open for dinner seven nights a week and lunch on Friday and Saturday. The restaurant also offers nightly takeout and delivery to Jamaica Plain residents.

In addition to its restaurant offerings, Bella Luna’s adjoining Milky Way Lounge plays host to a variety of private functions, fundraisers, community-building events, poetry slams, live music, theme nights, and entertainment seven nights a week.

Continuing to build upon the community-focused mission it was founded on, Bella Luna strives to “build a better Boston” by supporting work of neighborhood groups and non-profits. Bella Luna and Milky Way restaurant’s event space and accommodating team have been, and continue to be, valuable resources for local charities and organizations in need of event space or fundraising partnerships- regularly offering food and use of its space to charities at ZERO cost. Additionally, Bella Luna donates 1% of its total sales to local non-profit organizations every year.

Weekly Events include:
--Every Sunday: Live Irish Sessions and Kids Eat Free
Enjoy live Irish music in the lounge with Eamon Sefton and Friends from 5 to 8 p.m. while kids eat free all night from 5 to 9 p.m.
--Every Monday: Off-the-Wall Mondays
Off-the-Wall Mondays at Bella Luna featuring tunes by DJ J-Wall from 6 to 8 p.m. with $8 sliders and fries, followed by Stump Trivia at 8. All free, all ages.
--Every Tuesday: Teacher Tuesdays and Dirty Water Saloon Line Dancing for Queer Folks, Friends, and Allies
     As a thank you to educators, teachers can enjoy ½-off appetizers at Bella Luna every Tuesday. Valid teacher identification required.
     Did you love the Electric Slide as a kid? Are you always the one teaching Aunt Sherry Cotton Eyed Joe at family weddings? Well, put on your best dancing shoes and head to Bella Luna’s Dirty Water Saloon Dancing. Learn country-western two-step, west coast swing and line dancing to Lady Gaga, Pussy Cat Dolls, Marvin Gaye every Tuesday night from 7 to 10 p.m. for only $10 cover charge.
--Every Wednesday: Tropical Lounge on the Patio
Take a mini-vacation on Bella Luna’s patio every Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m. featuring live Latin, Reggae, Jazz and more!
--Every first Thursday of the month: The A-Beez at Bella Luna
Bella Luna & The Milky Way present a brand new residency, every first Thursday of the month with one of Boston’s best, The A-beez…Amy (Bowles) and Aaron Bellamy (The A-Beez) began their musical collaboration in 2003 as core members of the Sam Kininger Band. In addition to successful careers as sidemen, the Bellamy’s have co-led a ten year residency at Boston’s renown Wally’s jazz cafe, developing their unique blend of hip-hop, jazz and soul. The A.B.’s have performed with artists such as Chaka Khan, Cody Chesnutt, Martin Luther, Cee Lo Green, Akrobatic, Elan Trotman and many more.
--Every first Friday of the month: La Boum Queer Dance Party
Come on down to La Boum where dreams are a reality and get into the groove with DJ Stella every first Friday at 10 p.m.! Pop from the 80s / 90s freestyle / 00s / dance jams / house-inspired stuff / a lil disco / maybe sisqo / madonna / missy / yoncé / prince / whitney / robyn / throwbacks / and more!

Upcoming Special Events
--FistFulla Hits Presents: A Benefit For the People of Flint, Michigan (July 13th at 10 p.m.)
FistFulla HITS presents its fourth multi-band showcase, this time to benefit the people of Flint, Michigan. FistFulla HITS (FFH) returns to Bella Luna/The Milky Way in Jamaica Plain, welcoming a powerful nine-band lineup with live performances by: Mystikal Misfits, Thoughts & Prayers, Los Gallos Locos w/Krista Page, Mara Bel, Ray Liriano, Woza Moya, Roger Nicholson, Ordinario, and Steven Lawrence. But wait, there’s more! Guests can purchase original small artworks generously donated by area artists at our “8X8 VISUALS” gallery during the evening, as well as buy CDs, T-shirts, and other merchandise. All event proceeds go to the Flint Water Fund via the United Way of Genesee County.
--El Yunque, a fundraiser for Puerto Rico, featuring Ramirez (Roots & Spirits / Beats Manuever, Washington DC) (July 27th from 10 p.m; to 1 a.m.)
Roots & Spirits and DashRock, in association with Bella Luna & The Milky Way, present El Yunque, a fundraiser for Puerto Rico, featuring Ramirez (Roots & Spirits / Beats Manuever, Washington DC). Join Bella Luna oas Ramirez takes you on a musical journey through the finest deep, soulful, and underground house music. ($10)
--Hear Me Roar Women’s Pop-Up Market (July 28th from 12 to 4 p.m.)
Bella Luna & The Milky Way is proud to host a brand-new pop-up art market, Hear Me Roar. Hear Me Roar is a community of local female creatives whose objective is to support and encourage one another, provide opportunities, network, inspire, celebrate, and help each other grow. The show aims to provide locals with an introduction to some noteworthy women enriching their communities: women who are business owners, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, and others. Art will be available from several artists who bring a variety of styles and mediums while they themselves are women of different ages and backgrounds.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Rant: Snickerdoodle, The Best Cookie In The World!

What is the Best Cookie in the world? It has to be the Snickerdoodle. And no matter what contender you wish to put forth, it will lose. Snickerdoodles reign supreme!

Well, that is all actually hyperbole. I couldn't say what was the Best Cookie unless I had tasted all of the possible options. And in this matter, "Best" is really a subjective term. How do you compare different cookies to determine which is better? There are no objective guidelines and it all comes down to personal preference. The same applies to all foods, so I'm not a huge fan of "Best" compilations because they don't really judge what they say they do. Such lists are based on the personal preferences and biases of those who compose the lists.

However, I am a big fan of Snickerdoodles. The origins of this cookie are ambiguous, with some believing it has a German or Dutch origin, and others believing it originated in New England. It is alleged that the oldest known recipes date back to New England in 1889. In The Home-Maker, Vol.2, April to September 1889, an illustrated monthly magazine edited by Marion Harland, there is a section labeled "Choice Recipes" and you'll find a Snickerdoodles recipe. The ingredients include 2 eggs, 1/2 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 1 cup of milk, 3 cups of flour, 2 teaspoonfuls cream tartar, 1 teaspoonful soda, and 1/2 teaspoonful of salt.

I also found a 1891 reference in the Morning Journal and Courier (Connecticut), August 28, 1891It provided a recipe for Snickerdoodles that included the following ingredients: 1/2 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, 3 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 level teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 3 teaspoons powdered sugar. Note that this recipe didn't include cream of tartar. The Plymouth Tribune (Indiana), November 28, 1901 provided another recipe, but it did include cream of tartar. The article also stated, "Snickerdoodles is the somewhat fantastic name of quickly made little cakes especially dear to the children's heart."

The use of cream of tartar helps to differentiate the Snickerdoodle from a basic Sugar cookie. This ingredient helps make the Snickerdoodle more chewy, rather than crunchy like most Sugar cookies. In addition, it provides a certain tangy flavor to the Snickerdoodle.

Locally, my favorite Snickerdoodles are made by the Quebrada Baking Co., with locations in Arlington, Belmont and Wellesley. I've tasted them from all three locations and they have been of equal quality. Their Snickerdoodles have a slightly crunchy perimeter with a soft and chewy interior., and just a perfect dusting of sugar and cinnamon on top. Each bite of such a cookie is pure bliss to me. I enjoyed some last week as my travels took me to Belmont.

So, Snickerdoodles might not be the Best cookie in the world, but they are certainly one of the best. And I highly recommend you check out the Snickerdoodles at Quebrada to sample what I think are the best I've ever tasted. Have you tasted their Snickerdoodles? If so, what do you think?