Thursday, August 30, 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) Kings Bowl Dedham, James White, Boston Medical Center, and Blue Sky Sports & Entertainment invite guests to join them for a charitable evening of food, fun, and bowling. Grab your bowling shoes and balls - Sitters Without Borders will be holding a bowling party and benefit on Wednesday, September 5, from 6:30pm-8:30pm, at Kings Dining & Entertainment in Back Bay.

This is the perfect time to grab your friends and have fun while helping to support advancing mothers into economic independence. Sitters Without Borders, Inc. ("SWOB") is a first of its kind non-profit organization that offers free to low-cost weekly babysitting services to low-income mothers attending college in the Greater Boston area. SWOB volunteer sitters are committed to assisting mothers with childcare responsibilities, allowing them to pursue higher education and elevate their economic position.

The evening will feature bowling, pizza and fantastic raffle prizes. Tickets are available at the door and online at All ticket options include bowling, pizza and soft drinks, and are available in the following:

SUPPORTER: $40 Individual Ticket
MENTOR: $100 2 Entry Tickets - 3 Raffle Tickets
CHAMPION: $175 3 Entry Tickets - 4 Raffle Tickets
COACH: $250 4 Entry Tickets - 10 Raffle Tickets
SUPER COACH: $500 6 Entry Tickets - 25 Raffle Tickets
CHANGE AGENT: $1000 8 Entry Tickets - 75 Raffle Tickets

2) A new feast is hitting the streets of the North End this September to wrap up feast season- the Feast of San Gennaro! Taking place from Friday, September 21st through Sunday, the 23rd, the feast will feature a plethora of Italian food vendors, entertainment, and live music from The Jersey Boys, Sal “The Voice” Valentinetti, and the New York Bee Gees. The venue will be on the last block of Hanover Street (near Commercial St.) and Battery Street, similar to the site for the St. Agrippina’s Feast and Madonna Della Cava Feast.

In addition to the Feast of San Gennaro, September feast revelers and saint devotees can also enjoy a North End procession for Saint Rosalia di Palermo on September 9th and a procession and Mass honoring St. Padre Pio on the last day of the Saint Gennaro feast, Sunday, September 23rd.

See the full North End feast schedule here:

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Porto: Stories From Portugal's Historic The Bolhão Market--A Fascinating New Book

"Porto's food culture is profoundly rooted in these regional grandmother recipes. And no other place embodies this spirit more organically than the city's oldest open-air market, Mercado do Bolhão." (p.4) 

I've long had a special place in my heart for the wines of Portugal, constantly recommending them to family, friends and my readers. And of course I've also enjoyed the cuisine of Portugal, from the hearty Francesinha sandwich to Lapas Grelhada, grilled limpets. However, I've not yet traveled to Portugal, though hopefully that will change in the near future. So, for the time, I must live vicariously through others who have traveled to or live in Portugal, to teach me more about this fascinating country.

Recently, I've thoroughly enjoyed a forthcoming, new book about the culinary world of Northern Portugal: Porto: Stories From Portugal's Historic Bolhão Market by Gabriella Opaz Sonia Andersson Nolasco, with photography by Ryan Opaz. This is a hardcover book of 230 pages ($29.95 hardcover or $28.45 e-book) by Agate Surrey. The hardcover has been released and the e-book will be available on September 4. (Pursuant to full disclosure, I received a media copy of this book, and Gabriella & Ryan Opaz are friends. I have endeavored not to allow that friendship to affect my review.)

"This reminds us that the human heritage of Bolhão should be as valued as the architectural heritage of the market's beautiful structure, currently protected as a public interest monument." (p.92)

Gabriella and Ryan Opaz, who live in Porto, are the founders of Catavino, which began as a wine blog dedicated to Spanish wine and has since evolved into a boutique travel agency, focusing on the food and wine of Portugal and Spain. Gabriella is also a speaker, writer and consultant while Ryan is also a photographer and writer. Sonia Andersson Nolasco, who works for Catavino, is a journalist, editor, and publicist, primarily working with food, wine, travel and art in the promotion of Portugal.

"Bolhão is more than a market; it's an identity. It's a cultural reference and a strong brand that connects the city to the near and faraway places that supply it." (p.9)

Porto: Stories From Portugal's Historic Bolhão Market is a culinary journey through Northern Portugal, with a concentration on the historic Bolhão Market. The market was designed in 1914 although the area had previously been an open air courtyard where diverse goods were sold.  goods. The term "Bolhão" means "big bubble," a reference to a spring that allegedly runs under the market. The market once had over 400 vendors but that decreased to less than 100, partially due to the deterioration of the buildings over time. The market is currently closed, undergoing an extensive renovation which is supposed to be completed around July 2020. The vendors have been temporarily relocated during the renovations, though some have chosen to either move on or retire.

"More than an open-air market, it's a historical monument and a place to source old stories. Bolhão is a philosophy that stands for an impassioned lifestyle and a sense of sustainability that extends far beyond its four walls." (p.10)

Because of these renovations and relocations, it is especially timely for the release of this book. The authors have been able share the stories of numerous long-term vendors, preserving their compelling stories. These are tales and histories that might have otherwise been lost, and that truly would have been a great loss to the culinary landscape of northern Portugal. In some respects, this book is a culinary time capsule, preserving fascinating stories for future generations. Hopefully too, it will act as inspiration for other food markets, including the renovated Bolhão once it reopens.

"Portugal's endless repertoire of pork recipes is so incredibly diverse that you would rightfully assume that mastering pork has been the country's ultimate culinary mission." (p.173)

The book is broken down into seven Chapters, each dedicated to a food group, including Bread; Fruits & Vegetables; Fish & Seafood; Poultry; Meat; Cured Meat; and Pastries & Coffee. Each chapter describes various Portuguese foods, dishes and ingredients, including some of their intriguing history. In addition, there are descriptions and stories of the various cooks and vendors from the Bolhão Market that specialize in these items. Spread throughout the various chapters, you'll also find recommendations for restaurants and food shops in northern Portugal. There are also 11 different recipes, from Arroz De Pato A Antiga (Old-Fashioned Duck Rice) to Sapateira Recheada (stuffed stone crab). Each chapter is loaded with interesting and valuable information.

"Selling at the market gives them a chance to do what Portuguese women do best--care for others." (p.30)

Throughout the book, there is a strong emphasis on the women of Bolhão, though men feature prominently in the Meat chapter, and this is partially due to the fact that approximately 75%, if not more, of the vendors are women. And their stories are fascinating, especially those who have worked at the market for many years. They are culinary experts in their chosen field, dispensing their experience and knowledge to their many customers. You can be confident in their products, feeling their passion. These are human stories, worthy of your attention, and which will touch your heart and soul.

"Admittedly, the Portuguese are bread worshippers, passionate experts in all things glutinous and doughy." (p. 18)

Each chapter will stimulate your appetite as you read the delectable descriptions of Portuguese foods, from Açorda à Alentejana (a bread-based stew) to the famed Pastel de Nata (egg custard tarts). The diversity of Portuguese cuisine is made clear, and you'll find plenty of interest. This is a compelling guide to the culinary treats of northern Portugal and may lure you to visit the country. The various recommendations, for restaurants and food shops, within the book would also help your travel plans. As a history lover, I was also entranced by the historical information found within each chapter, such as the origins of certain foods. You'll learn plenty within those pages.

"The Portuguese are distinctly aware of the dangers at sea, a key reason why they prize their seafood so highly." (p.82)

The book is an easy and compelling read, well written with a certain poetry to the language, indicative of the passion of the authors. This is not some dry travelogue but rather a seductive lure intended to convert you into a culinary lover of northern Portugal. It will work well as a reference guide as well, something to turn to from time to time to better understand Portuguese food. And the compelling stories of Bolhão Market are inspirational. Ryan's photography well complements the writing, with numerous, alluring photos of various foods and great portraits of numerous vendors. There is a sense of joy in the various vendors which Ryan has well captured.

"...Portugal has just as much to offer meat-adoring foodies as it does seafood lovers." (p.162)

Overall, I highly recommend this love letter to the cuisine of northern Portugal, as exemplified through the Bolhão Market. Informative and fun, tantalizing and seductive, inspirational and touching, Porto: Stories From Portugal's Historic Bolhão Market belongs on the book shelf of any food lover. Gabriella, Sonia, and Ryan have put together a fascinating book well worthy of your attention. I am now even more interested in traveling to Portugal, to experience all that country has to offer. I want to eat and drink my way through northern Portugal, and with this book, I have a blueprint of Portugal's culinary treasures.

"We see Bolhão as a path to getting our souls and hearts closer to what we've been straying from all of these years. In the end, our wish is that this book will do its small part in reviving respect for markets like our Bolhão." (p.212)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Rant: When Labor Day Arrives, Don't Stop Drinking Rosé

Labor Day weekend nears and for many, this is a signal of the end of summer. As such, you'll stop seeing media advertisements for Rosé wine. Wine distributors will generally stop recommending Rosé to their accounts. Many wine shops will stop carrying Rosé until the springtime. This is all part and parcel of the myth that Rosé is a "summer wine." The reality is that Rosé can and should be consumed year-round, no matter what the season.

It's interesting that many of the individuals responsible for promoting this Rosé myth actually know better. They understand the truth, that there is absolutely no reason you should stop drinking Rosé just because fall arrives. Rosé is appropriate year-round, especially because it pairs so well with a diverse selection of foods. For example, it works very well with Thanksgiving dinner. If you can drink white wine in the fall and winter, there is absolutely no reason you cannot drink Rosé too. I drink Rosé all year round and strongly encourage everyone else to do so as well.

The situation has slowly improved during the last several years but significant change is still needed. There are some wine stores which stock Rosé throughout the year and if your local shop doesn't, then you should recommend that they stock some. And if they don't bring in some Rosé, then seek elsewhere for this wine. Share some Rosé this fall and winter with your friends, showing them the potential of this delicious wine. Don't ask if they want Rosé but just pour them a glass. Once they taste the wine, they'll probably come to the realization of what they have been missing.

We also need more wine writers to pen Rosé articles during the fall and winter, to persuade consumers that this pink wine is appropriate during every season, and not just during the summer. Raising consumer awareness is vital to spreading a passion for Rosé year round. We need to correct their vinous myth.

Drink more Rosé, now and throughout the fall, winter and spring.

Thursday, August 23, 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) Post 390 is pulling out all the stops beginning with a special summer Après Beach Party, inspired by the latest menu, on Thursday, August 30 in Post 390’s Tavern from 4:30PM – 8:00PM. The festivities include fun swag, summer games such as corn hole, passed appetizers specially inspired by the new Après Beach menu, and refreshing libations. Guests are welcomed to stop by and check out all the fun at Back Bay’s dining destination.

The full Après Beach menu is as follows:
· Marinated Brandt Bavette Steak Tips - anchovy focaccia toast
· Ham & Cheddar Macaroni Salad - salt & vinegar chips
· Smoked St. Louis Pork Ribs - pineapple-fresno bbq, fried dill pickles
· Sliced Hot Italian Sausage - sautéed longhorn peppers & onions, griddled toast, beer mustard
· New England Lobster “Roll” - buttered brioche, dollop of mayo, b&b pickles
· Crispy-Fried Whole Belly Clams - cape-style tartar sauce
· Sweet & Spicy Korean Fried Chicken Oysters - gochujang hot sauce, toasted sesame
· Mexican Street Corn - corn chip, grilled corn, lime & cumin aioli, cotija cheese, cilantro
· Hawaiian Brick Oven Pizza - pineapple, jalapeno, house-made ham
· Crab & Corn Brick Oven Pizza - creamed corn, crispy bacon lardon, fresh local crab

2) On Monday, September 10th, Kings Bowl Dedham, along with New England Patriots Running Back James White, Boston Medical Center, and Blue Sky Sports & Entertainment, will be hosting the 9th annual Sweet Feet for Strikes fundraiser, formerly the Mayo Bowl, to benefit the Boston Medical Center.

As the largest professional athlete-attended event in New England, the tournament attracts over 400 attendees and high-profile sports celebrities annually, including many past and present New England Patriots. In 2017, Sweet Feet for Strikes raised over $400,000- contributing to the $2.3 million it has raised since it’s 2010 inaugural event to fund medical care at Boston Medical Center for Boston’s inner-city youth.

Beginning at 6 p.m., the evening’s schedule of events includes:
6:00pm - Red Carpet & Team Check In
7:00pm - Celebrity Introductions
7:15pm - Bowling Tournament Begins
8:30pm - Live Auction
9:00pm - Silent Auction Closes
9:30pm - Award Ceremony

A limited number of GA tickets are available for purchase here: Sponsorship opportunities are also available. All guests must be 21+.

3) On September 13, Legal Sea Foods’ will bring half-shell hedonism to mollusk mavens and oyster newbies during their 10th Annual “Oyster Festival.” For four weeks, a sequence of in-restaurant menu features and two special events will celebrate everything oyster and all are invited who share the belief “the world is your oyster.”

Bivalve specialties will be available for the duration of the Oyster Festival and include Fried Oysters (three for $10) in four preparations (buffalo, BBQ, sriracha lime and BLT); Baked Oysters (three for $12) available in a quartet of options (lobster spinach, crab & cheese, scampi and roasted); and the Legal Sea Foods teams will shuck seasonal standouts at their raw bars daily for those who opt to go au natural. Legals also suggests washing it down with the official drink of the 2018 Oyster Festival, the Deadrise, with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, muddled cucumber, lime and grapefruit bitters ($11).

On September 15 at 2pm, Legal Sea Foods’ al fresco Charles Terrace (20 University Road, Cambridge) will host their annual “Shellfish Shindig” event that has shucked oysters by the bushel for only $1 per slurp. Followed by a “Mollusk Mania” extravaganza at Legal Harborside (270 Northern Avenue, Boston) on September 23 at 1pm, featuring a raw bar of six varieties as well as four prepared appetizers available first-come, first-served; get 'em while they last! (Complimentary admission.)

The Oyster Festival is celebrated at all Legal Sea Foods locations throughout Massachusetts, with the exception of airport venues.

WHEN: Oyster Festival: September 13-October 10, 2018
Shellfish Shindig: September 15 from 2pm-4pm
Mollusk Mania: September 23 from 1pm-3pm

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Jay's Pizza in Malden: Jhol Momos!

What is it about the pizza joints in Malden? I previously wrote about Classic Pizza, a typical pizza & sub restaurant but which also has a small, delicious and intriguing menu of Indian cuisine. You would never know from the outside that you would find inside tasty Chicken Tikka Masala or Paneer Pakora. Now, I've stumbled on another typical pizza and sub joint, Jay's Pizza & Ice Cream, which also is hiding a fascinating speciality.

Jay's is a tiny spot, with only a handful of tables and seats, but has a lengthy menu of the usual suspects, from pizza to subs, chicken fingers to calzones. However, you'll also note a small sign advertising Jhol Momos, a Nepalese dish. Who would ever have suspected this pizza joint would sell Nepalese dumplings? Maybe this is due to the recent change in ownership.

Momos are indigenous to South Asia, especially Tibet, Nepal, parts of India, and Bhutan, though the word itself seems to have Chinese origin, and simply means "steamed bun." They can be filled with a variety of ingredients, from yak to pork, chicken to vegetarian. Now, you can find momos in at least a few restaurants in the Boston area but Jay's offers a type of momo which is much less commonly found in the local area.

In Nepal, especially its capital Kathmandu, jhol momo are an extremely popular street food. "Jhol" roughly translates as "liquid" or a "liquid-like consistency," and the dish itself are momos in a cold broth. The broth may include ingredients such as sesame, garlic, tomato, onion, lemons and achar (an Indian condiment of pickled fruits and vegetables with spices). It may taste hot, spicy, sour and/or tangy, dependent on the specific ingredients and their ratios.

At Jay's, the Jhol Momo dish costs about $8-$9 and you receive 10 hot Momos in a cold broth. The dichotomy between the hot and cold was initially a little jarring, as it isn't a usual combination you find in many cuisines. You might get a room temperature sauce for other dumplings, but it is almost never a cold sauce. And even then, you can add as much or as little of the sauce you desire. In this case, the momos are sitting in the cold broth. However, after the initial trepidation, I found that the combination actually worked well.

The momos themselves possessed a fairly thin dumpling wrapper that had just the right amount of consistency, and they were filled with an ample portion of a tasty pork and spice mixture. You can also opt for chicken or vegetation momos. On their own, the momos make an excellent dumpling. Now, the cold broth was intriguing, with a strong and complex curry taste, and it added to the flavor of the momos. The broth seemed to have lowered the temperature of the momos, transforming the hot dumplings into a dish that worked well on a hot summer day. Highly recommended.

So what other Malden pizza joints are concealing special culinary treasures?

Monday, August 20, 2018

Rant: Beauty, Wine & The Beast

"Wine is, at its best, an agent of beauty, and the writer does well to engage with it on that level."
--What Makes A Wine Worth Drinking by Terry Theise

I've begun reading an advance copy of Terry Theise's new book, which is due out in November. The Introduction, which many people commonly skip when reading a book, is a fascinating read, full of intriguing ideas and poetic language. The above quote is in the introduction, and I suspect it will be elaborated further within the book. However, it is a concept which Theise touched on in his prior book, and which others have advanced as well.

The quote brought to mind one of my old posts too, which dealt with beauty, and I felt it was warranted to bring it back as the ideas are timeless and worthy of reflection. What are your thoughts on beauty and wine?

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

The tale of Beauty and the Beast is well known, and its theme and basic framework have been used many times, in books, movies, television shows, plays and more. It teaches us to look past the shallow surface, to find the beauty within, and it would not have had such an impact if beauty were not an important value. There is probably not a single human culture which does not possess a concept of beauty, though what they consider to fit their definition of beauty can vary widely. In the end, it boils down to cherishing what we find to be aesthetically pleasing.

Beauty, of whatever kind, invariably excites the human soul to tears.
--Edgar Allan Poe

The appreciation for beauty often seems to get lost in discussions of food and wine, though its importance there should not be underestimated. I am talking about beauty in all its aspects, not solely the visual, which can touch any of our senses. And I am not discussing any particular definition of beauty either, but merely the aesthetic concept which can encompass all of the diverse definitions. We need to embrace beauty, to praise it, to savor it, to share it.

Beauty in things lies in the mind which contemplates them.
--David Hume

Last week, I mentioned Ernesto Catena who possesses a Japanese aesthetic, which influenced the creation of his Alma Negra winery. An appreciation of beauty is one of his primary motivations, and his passion for that beauty is infectious. He relishes the beauty of nature, of simplicity, of balance. Fred Minnick, a friend of mine, is an accomplished photographer, often taking wine and food related pictures. He has an excellent sense of aesthetics, drawing out the beauty of his subjects, whether they are people or inanimate objects. Even the most grotesque of subjects can be transformed into a beauty through a skilled photographer's eye. Terry Theise, wine importer and author, wrote Reading Between the Wines, which contains many beautiful phrases and sentences, showcasing the aesthetics of language.  

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
--John Keats

Writers understand the beauty of language, and how a special turn of phrase can elevate a story to another level of aesthetic appreciation. A wine bottle may possess an ugly label, yet the wine within might be indescribably beautiful, a sublime sensory pleasure. A plate of food which is presented beautifully will often seem to taste better than a messy, unappealing looking plate. It is often said we eat through our eyes, and there is some truth to that. There is no endeavor where beauty does not play some role, and we should endeavor to cherish beauty where ever we encounter it.

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
--Rachel Carson

To that end, I would like to see more food and wine writers embrace the beauty, in what they experience as well as how they present themselves. Let your writing highlight beauty while you also attempt to make your words beautiful. Eaters and drinkers, don't just swallow and guzzle, but take time to appreciate the beauty of what is on your plate and in your glass. Take time to allow your senses to properly savor everything. Beauty elevates our experiences so we should be eager to seek it out.

Beauty awakens the soul to act.
--Dante Alighieri

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Thursday Sips & Nibble

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) National Clear Out The Shelters Day, a unified campaign dedicated to helping families bring home a furry friend, will soon be here and Harvard Gardens wants your help. Join the Beacon Hill bar on Saturday, August 18, from 11ma-3pm, for specialty cocktails, food specials, and raffles, all in the name of a cause you can feel good about.

All proceeds from the raffles will be donated to cover adoption fees at local shelters for dogs and cats in need of a loving home. Some prizes will include: a class pass to Soul Cycle, jewelry from Crush Boutique, something sweet from Beacon Hill Chocolates, an assortment of gift cards to local restaurants, and more!

Every year millions of companion animals end up in shelters, and that number continues to rise. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, about 1.5 million dogs and cats combined, are euthanized due to overcrowding. This number can be reduced dramatically if more people adopted pets instead of buying them. So stop by Harvard Gardens next Saturday to help these animals find a home!

For more information, please visit
To book a reservation please call (617) 523-2727

2) During the month of September, Kendall Square’s Sumiao Hunan Kitchen will be shaking up its specialty Mai Tai cocktail for only $5. Sumiao’s Hunan-style Mai Tai is an interpretation of the spirit-forward worldwide classic, paying homage to the original cocktail recipe from Trader Vic Bergeron but with subtle changes to complement its signature Hunan cuisine.

Because Hunan cuisine employs many spicy elements, Sumiao has increased the sweetness of its Mai Tai without adding the abundance of fruit juice that’s often found in a traditional Mai Tai. Complex flavors such as clove, cinnamon, citrus and molasses come with each sip as a result of the decadent Chairman’s Spiced Reserve Rum.

WHEN: Available during normal operating hours throughout the month of September.

3) On Wednesday September 12th, at 6pm, guests can enjoy a genuine taste of Sicily. The Lexington il Casale team has curated a very special experience featuring olive oil from Lexington native Giuseppe Taibi of Olio Taibi. The evening showcases a special 5 course menu of dishes with Olio Taibi’s handcrafted oils, such as his fruity Nocellara and peppery Biancolilla. The dishes are also complemented with il Casale’s in house wine from the same region. The full menu for the evening is as follows:

Insalata di Finocchio all'Olio Taibi "Nocellara" **
fennel, arugula & nocellara olive salad dressed with Olio Taibi's "Nocellara" olive oil
Chardonnay, stemmari, sicily, italy
Bruschetta al Pesce Azzurro
smoked bluefish pate, grilled garlic bread bruschetta finished with Olio Taibi "Biancolilla"
Rose, nero d'avola & planeta, sicily, italy
Maccheroni al Pesto Siciliano **
homemade tube pasta, sun-dried tomato pesto, almonds, pecorino pepato siciliano D.O.P finished with Olio Taibi "Nocellara"
Gnero d'avola, noto, feudo maccara, sicily, italy
Agnello al Forno alla Saracena, Cous-cous al Pistacchio con Olio Taibi "Nocellara"
oven roasted lamb saracene style, pistachio cous-cous, crispy artichokes & Olio Taibi "Nocellara"
Cerasuolo di vittoria, cos, sicily, italy
Torta della Nonna all'Olio Taibi "Biancolilla"
Grandma’s olive oil tea cake, whipped ricotta, candied orange peel
Passito di pantelleria, donna fugata, sicily, italy

All courses marked ** are vegetarian
All courses can be made nut free

Tickets for the five-course meal are $85 (exclusive of tax and gratuity) and can be reserved over the phone at 781-538-5846.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Sousaku Bistro in Malden: First Impressions

Malden is home to numerous interesting & tasty restaurants, including a significant number of ethnic spots, from Vietnamese to Haitian. It would take you plenty of time to explore all of them, meaning you might miss out on some of the best places. For example, though Sousaku Bistro, a Japanese restaurant, has been open since the end of 2015, it was only until recently that I dined there a couple times for lunch.

Located at 166 Eastern Avenue, and set up a little from the road, it can be easy to drive by and miss this spot. And it isn't in an area that seems to get much foot traffic. Around the corner, on Ferry Street, you''ll find several other restaurants and most of the foot traffic is there. As such, Sousaku seems to fly under the radar and you need to intentionally seek it out. It is open six days a week, closed only on Tuesdays.

Sousaku has a quite large menu of Japanese cuisine, from Sushi to Yakitori, Kushikatsu to Rice Bowls, and so much more. Many of these are traditional dishes, but there are also plenty of more innovative dishes where the chef has created his own unique takes. Prices are generally reasonable considering the quality and quantity of the dishes. They have a fully stocked bar, including Sake (with several good options) and Japanese Whiskey.

The Sushi Lunch ($12) includes 5 pieces of Nigiri Sushi and a Tuna Roll, accompanied with Miso Soup and Salad. The miso and salad were good, with a light and tasty dressing atop the salad.

The Sushi was good-sized, tasted fresh and was very satisfying. Two pieces of Maguro are usually $7.50, meaning their Sushi is a bit more expensive than many other spots, but still less expensive than some high-end places. And based on the size and quality, the price is fair. This lunch special is a very good deal.

The Sweet Potato Tempura (3 pieces for $2.95) was exquisite, just perfect crispy tempura batter covering the tender sweet potato. I often judge a Japanese restaurant by the quality of their tempura and in this regard, Sousaku is a big winner. I would probably order some tempura every time I dined here.

The Tatsuta-Age ($6) is deep fried marinated fried chicken in a light batter, and it was tender and moist with a nice taste to the flavor, with hints of possibly ginger. This has a much lighter batter than "chicken fingers" and it is more about the chicken than the batter.

The Boky Bun ($6) is a roasted pork bun, served with lettuce, fried scallion & their special barbecue sauce. However, the menu doesn't mention there is also mayo on the bun, which was a fail for me. Otherwise, it was a delicious sandwich, with tender pork, a soft bun, and the fried scallions added a nice little crunch.

The Chashu Pork Noodle Soup ($9.25) is made with slices of roasted pork, shiitake mushroom, fried onion, scallion, corn, half-boiled egg, sesame, and wakame. You then have the choice of a Curry Broth or Tonkotsu Broth. You also have the option of Soba, Ramen or Udon noodles. I opted for the Tonkotsu with Ramen, and it was okay but nothing special. Presentation was lacking and it lacked the depth of flavor you find in better Ramen soups.

The Yakitori menu has 12 options ($3-$10 per skewer), and you order by the individual skewer, though there is a Combo plate available.  I tried the Matsusaka Pork, Oyster Mushroom Wrapped in Bacon, Scallop, and Chicken. I liked the barbecue sauce on each grilled skewer, with the nuttiness of the sesame seeds, and the meats and seafood were cooked well, being moist, tender and flavorful. A nice variety of flavor and textures, and I would like to try more of the skewers.

The Dessert Menu has 4 choices, such as Fried Ice Cream and Mochi, and I enjoyed the Fried Banana ($5). A nice, crispy light batter covered the sweet, slightly mushy banana pieces.

Sousaku is worthy checking out, though maybe their menu is too large and they might be better off concentrating on less. Service was excellent on both of my visits. I will be returning there to check out more of their offerings and would like to hear from anyone else who has dined there.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Rant: Making Hospitality Better With A Japanese Proverb

Servers, consider this hypothetical: You have been asked to serve a once-in-a-lifetime table of customers. How would your service differ in this experience over your usual service?

Take some time to ponder your answer. Be honest with your answer. You aren't giving a public response so there is no need to put up a front.

Now, if you answered that your service might be better, more extensive, more accommodating, more personable, or something similar, then maybe you need to change your mindset concerning service. Maybe you need to learn some Japanese.

Ichigo ichie is a Japanese proverb that can be literally translated as “one time, one meeting,” or more loosely translated as "one chance in a lifetime" or "never again." The underlying meaning of the proverb is that you need to cherish every encounter in your life as if it will never be experienced again, as if it were a once-in-a-lifetime event. Even if you meet the same people at multiple encounters, each of those encounters is unique in its own way, and you never know if that meeting will be the last one.

This proverb is a central component of Japanese hospitality, also known as Omotenashi. I'm not going to go into depth on the concept of omotenashi in this post, but will concentrate on ichigo ichie. Japanese servers cherish the moment with each guest, understanding this might be their only encounter with this person so they want to present their best face and give their best service. You give your all, for every guest, at all times. You don't adjust your service as to whether you feel someone is a big tipper or not.

This is far from an easy concept to enact, especially considering what we are taught in our American culture. In addition, for this concept to best work, customers need to embrace it as well. They need to accept each restaurant visit as something unique, a once in a lifetime meal. There needs to be a mutual respect between customer and server. The customer needs to strive to be the best they can be as well. And it might be far easier to get servers to change than customers. How many customers are going to be open to lessons in how they can be a better customer?

Let this be a starting point for further discussion. The Japanese certainly have fascinating thoughts on hospitality and maybe they can be adapted for the U.S. hospitality industry. Or maybe the U.S. isn't ready for such a change.

Thursday, August 9, 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) The Table at Season to Taste is proud to host the first-ever Boston Chefs for Gun Safety dinner at Wright-Locke Farm in Winchester on September 17, at 6:00PM. Chef Carl Dooley and Pastry Chef Mary Edinger of The Table are delighted to welcome some of the city’s best chefs to participate in this event at the picturesque barn at Wright-Locke Farm for a very special dinner benefiting an important and all-too-real cause.

VIP Guest chefs creating a memorable five course dinner paired with wine include: Alex Saenz/BISq, Cassie Piuma/Sarma, David Bazirgan /Bambara and Lydia Reichert/Sycamore. Guest speakers at the dinner will include representatives from Moms Demand Action Massachusetts and the Survivors Network. All proceeds will benefit Everytown for Gun Safety.

The Table’s Chef Carl Dooley explains why the restaurant felt it was important and necessary to host this first-time event. “After the Parkland shooting in February, I asked our team if we could donate all the profits from that night’s sold-out dinner service to Everytown for Gun Safety. We all felt strongly that it was important to put our money where our hearts were, and that shooting, like each one before it, just made no sense at all. When the opportunity was presented to host another benefit with our friends at Wright-Locke Farm this year, this just felt like exactly the right cause for us to put our time and energy behind. I never felt scared going to school. This was something I never thought about, and now that I have a daughter, I hate that kids don’t have that same sense of security in their learning environment that I had.”

Rina Schneur of Moms Demand Action, MA says, “We are extremely grateful to The Table at Season to Taste and the participating chefs for their decision to donate the proceeds of this unique event to Moms Demand Action and Everytown. We are a volunteer-based organization and this donation will help us greatly with materials and expenses related to our efforts to recruit and mobilize members, and lobby for sensible gun safety laws. "

Robert Harris, owner, The Table at Season To Taste shares, “We are excited to work with Wright Locke Farm for this event. They share our passion for sourcing from our local growers, and they are a leader in providing agriculture education in the town of Winchester. They care about families and communities. We’ve hosted several events at this beautiful venue over the years and we are so grateful Wright-Locke Farm has agreed to host us for this event. This is such an important cause, I am glad we can create a memorable dinner and experience for everyone participating, from the setting to the food to the live music, it will be a one-of-a-kind evening.”

This first-time event is an RSVP/Ticket event. Please reserve your tickets at

2) The Bodega Canal teams invites guests to celebrate Taco Tuesday with delicious taco deals every Tuesday evening. Steps away from TD Garden, new Mexican hotspot Bodega Canal celebrates Taco Tuesday with special deals.

Every Tuesday evening, from 4:30 to 10 p.m. (unless otherwise noted in case of TD Garden event), Bodega Canal offers a $1 rotating taco and $2 specialty rotating taco. On event nights at TD Garden, Taco Tuesday specials are available beginning at the event start time.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Brunch at Ledger Restaurant & Bar: Bloody Mary, Cinnamon Roll & Fried Chicken

Ponder this: Is Brunch just an excuse to have a cocktail for breakfast? 

This past Sunday, I wanted to check out a Brunch and after perusing the interesting menu for Ledger Restaurant & Bar in Salem, I decided to dine there. Ledger serves Brunch on both Saturday and Sunday, starting at 10am, and you can opt to sit on their patio or inside the spacious restaurant. It was fairly busy on Sunday, though we didn't need a reservation to be seated. Though I'd had some cocktails at Ledger when it first opened, I hadn't dined there yet.

There are 6 cocktails on their Brunch menu, including a Mimosa, Paloma and Sangria. Most are priced at $9-$10 except for their 22 oz Bloody Mary ($14), which is pictured above, and garnished with celery, an olive, a gherkin, and a hot pepper. It was a well made drink, with a pleasant spiciness and some other intriguing spices that were hard to identify, but which helped to make this cocktail different from many other Bloody Marys.

We began our meal with a couple Sides, which are priced from $4-$6. One of their Sides is their Daily Donut ($5), and its flavors vary week to week. Their two flavors this week didn't appeal to us so we opted for a couple others, including the Cinnamon Roll ($4), smeared with an ample portion of creamy, sweet frosting. The Roll itself was fresh, soft and flaky, with plenty of cinnamon. An excellent way to begin your Brunch. My only minor complaint is that they didn't need the light touch of powdered sugar. That is certainly a pet peeve of mine as I see no real reason for its necessity.

And the Banana Bread ($4) also didn't need the powdered sugar either. Slightly warm, the banana bread was moist and flavorful, with a rice banana taste. Another very good way to start your brunch, or end it, dependent on when you choose to have your sweet.

The menu has 14 Entrees, priced at $10-$17 except for the Prime Skirt Steak & Eggs ($29). You'll find items such as the House-Cured Pastrami Hash ($15), Breakfast Burger ($17), Fried Chicken Thigh Sandwich ($12), and Maple Glazed Pork Belly ($14). I am also intrigued by the Banana Bread Foie-ster ($15) which consists of grilled banana bread, rum caramel sauce, seared bananas, & foie gras butter. I also ordered that but will likely do so on a future trip to Ledger.

The Eggs Bendict ($14) has house-made Canadian bacon, soft poached eggs, & smoked hollandaise atop a megamuffin with a side of breakfast potatoes. The hollandaise sauce was done well, contributing to the excellent taste of this dish. The potatoes were also cooked just right, making this a hearty and delicious dish.

I opted for the Chicken & Waffles ($14), which included buttermilk fried chicken, a corn waffle, green chile butter, hot honey, and a side of pickles. The fried chicken was superb, with a great, crisp and clean coating, moist chicken with an added sweetness from the honey. The waffle too was very good, with only a mild corn flavor, enhanced by a subtle spice from the green chile butter. One of the best Chicken & Waffles dishes I've enjoyed in some time, and it is highly recommended.

Service was excellent, and out server was pleasant, personable and accommodating. Prices were reasonable considering the quality and quantity of food. My first impression of the Ledger's cuisine was certainly very positive and I look forward to dining there again soon.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Rant: Restaurant Success & Failure

What is the secret to restaurant success?

Recently, Taberna de Haro celebrated their 20th Anniversary, a huge milestone, and during those years it has earned numerous raves and accolades. Though there have been some changes to the restaurant over the years, it has remained true to its original concept, serving Spanish food and wine. Taberna has the best Spanish wine list in the Boston+ area, and maybe even all of New England, and also they also offer a large list of Sherries, again more than any other restaurant in the area. I know that if I am in the area, I usually stop there.

On the other hand, Les Sablons, in Harvard Square, has closed, after only about one year in business.  The restaurant was owned by the same team that owns the successful Island Creek Oyster Bars and Row 34. Les Sablons received much acclaim and accolades, for both its cuisine and wine list. It would have seemed to have a bright future so its sudden closure is puzzling, and the owners have not publicly released any reasons for that closure. Why did it fail? We might never know the exact reasons.

Two well acclaimed restaurants. Why does one last for 20 years while the other lasts only 1?

I certainly don't have the answers, and I'm not sure anyone else does either. If the answers were that easy, then far less restaurants would close after a relatively short time. There are certainly though some known factors which contribute to a restaurant's success. At the most basic, a restaurant needs a sufficient number of customers and that would seem obvious. However, how do you bring in those customers? A good location is important, an area that might have good foot traffic, or where the restaurant is easily visible by those driving in the area. Customers need to know of a restaurant's existence, and some places can be open for years but some people still don't know anything about it.

Social media has a role too, helping to alert potential customers to the restaurant's existence, and providing reasons why customers should go there. That includes not just posting on social media but also interacting with potential customers, sharing their reviews, addressing their concerns, and being seen as a place that cares. It can also be as easy as having a restaurant website that clearly lists your hours. This weekend, I went to the website of a local pizza shop and their hours weren't listed. I placed an online order and didn't learn until almost an hour later, that the restaurant was closed all day. A major fail not to have their hours listed, and to allow me to order online despite their being closed.

Owning a restaurant isn't easy. It is more than just being a good chef. You need excellent business skills too, juggling your costs against your income, acquiring and managing your staff, dealing with landlords and investors, and much more. Many close within the first three years of operation. You would almost have to be a masochist to open a restaurant.

If you are a customer and love a restaurant, then please support them in whatever manner you can. Spread the word, telling your friends and family, telling strangers that want to know where to dine. Dine there as often as you can. Tip well. Try to understand restaurant costs and why they might need to raise their prices to stay in business. Even your favorite restaurant might close so do what you can to help them survive.

Thursday, August 2, 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) SRV’s co-executive chefs of Kevin O’Donnell and Michael Lombardi bring back their popular cicchetti takeover series with guest chef, David Punch of Buttonwood, Little Big Diner & Sycamore on Wednesday, August 1st from 5:30pm – 7:30pm. This culinary event series invites a local chef to step into the cicchetti station and serve up a creative and complimentary take on the Venetian-style small bites for guests of the bar to enjoy.

Guests will be treated to Punch’s spin on cicchetti to the likes of; Calabrian Hot Link (peppers & pecorino pienza), Compressed Heirloom Melon (iberico ham & basil), Local Goat Cheese (Mountain Honey & Fennel Pollen), Sweet Corn & Jonah Crab Croquettas (”remoulade”), and Marinated Littleneck Clam (avocado & chili crisp).  Chef Punch will join O’Donnell & Lombardi in SRV’s sleek bar and bacaro area of the restaurant where guests can pair their gratis bites with Italian-inspired cocktails, amaro or a variety of wine by the glass and bottle.

Reservations are not required. Featured cicchetti will not be available in main dining room. For more information, please contact (617) 536-9500.

2) CHOPPS American Bar and Grill welcomes guests for an evening of fun backyard cornhole games and tasty treats garnished with a dollop of friendly competition and a generous serving of philanthropy, as they fundraise to support Mass General Hospital Children’s Cancer Center.

On Thursday, August 16, from 5pm-8pm, guests are invited to join a team and compete in a cornhole tournament for a grand prize as they support Mass General Hospital Children’s Cancer Center on the Terrace at CHOPPS. Whether you’re tossing the bean bag or cheering on your team, CHOPPS has prepared a night of entertainment for all. Guests can sit and unwind while listening to live music by the talented Jay Psaros and enjoy lager-than-life tastings from local Massachusetts breweries such as Lord Hobo, Sam Adams, Night Shift, and Ipswich Ale Brewery.

CHOPPS’ Executive Chef Steve Zimei will offer his crowd-favorite small bites, while Sean Lynch from Natick’s Ice Haus will cure anyone’s sweet tooth with his famous creamy gelato. Guest Bartender Michael Ray from Proximo will also be onsite to shake things up with craft cocktails you won’t want to miss.

100% of proceeds from the silent auction will go to the Children’s Cancer Center. Eight teams will compete beginning at 5:00 PM and finalists will take the stage at 7:00PM. Tickets can be purchased via Eventbrite for $35, with proceeds benefitting Mass General Hospital Children’s Cancer Center. CHOPPS will provide T-shirts, bean bags and cornhole boards all adorned with competing companies’ logo.

To enter your team into the tournament, contact Bianca Dickey via email at, or call 781-221-6684

3) Dine Out Boston (formerly Restaurant Week Boston) will be held August 5-11, and August 12-17. It is ponsored by the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau and American Express twice a year, providing locals and visitors a chance to enjoy some of Boston's finest dining at special prices. Some Restaurants offer more interesting choices than others so you should carefully look through the listed menus to find what you like best.

Let me give you a few of my own preferences:

CHOPPS American Bar and Grill: Their menu includes a 3 course dinner, for $38 (plus tax & gratuity), with dishes such as Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho, Grilled Double Cut Bacon, Seared Bronzino and Plum-Cardomom Crumble.

Pabu: Their menu includes a 3 course dinner, for $38 (plus tax & gratuity), with dishes such as Tokyo Fried Chicken Kara-age, Salmon Oyako Donburi, Waygu Flank Steak and Mochi Ice Cream.

Select Oyster Bar: Their menu includes a 3 course dinner, for $38 (plus tax & gratuity), with dishes such as Maine Lobster Caprese, Roasted Arctic Char, and Smoked Bluefish Pate.