Thursday, October 29, 2020

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I'm back again with a new edition of Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events. For now, some of these events will simply be the opening of certain restaurants, generally ones dear to my heart for a variety of reasons. And I hope everyone dines out safely, and tips well. 
1) The ongoing war in Artsakh has resulted in a humanitarian crisis imperiling as many as one hundred thousand ethnic Armenians living in the region. The elements of basic safety—water, food, and shelter—are all compromised. 

Anoush'ella Kitchen owners Nina and Raffi Festekjian are stepping up and pitching in to help relief efforts -- and so can you by simply ordering a $9.50 “Jingalov Haats” (flatbread wrap) for lunch, dinner or a snack. Starting today, 100% of the sales of the designated flatbread Jingalov Haats will go to, a non-profit coordinating emergency assistance to the region, where an estimated 100 thousand Armenian men, women, and children are currently endangered. All proceeds from the sale of every Jingalov Haats will go to help. 

Jingalov Haats is a traditional Armenian flatbread from Artsakh. It is stuffed with greens that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or enjoyed as a snack. Chef Nina’s version, prepared on Anoush'ella Kitchen’s homemade Saj flatbread, contains nine different types of greens; Spinach, Swiss Chard, Scallions, Parsley, Cilantro, Dill, Dandelions, and Collards. The price is $9.50. 

An Armenian proverb says, “From heart to heart there is a path.” Nina and Raffi Festekjian are hoping sales of Jingalov Haats (which will continue until the current situation is resolved) will help in a small way their brethren in Artsakh survive the ongoing crisis. 

2) Greek Halloween Celebrations! Krasi Meze + Wine will be hosting a Gods & Goddesses Halloween Toga Party on Saturday, October 31 from 10am-3pm. TOGA! TOGA! Krasi will be decorated like ancient Greece this Halloween, and is celebrating with a gods and goddesses toga party. The staff will be in full costume and guests are encouraged to dress the part as well since there will be special treats for those participating. Photo props, polaroids, crowns, projections with toga parties and Greek candy will be abundant and it is the perfect reason to come and try out Krasi's new brunch service which just debuted on October 18. Sip on Aphrodite's Bellini (Greek bubbles, ouzo infused apricots) and feast like the gods with saganaki, koulouri (housemade honey sesame bread with Greek honey butter and spoon sweets) and more! 

Committee Ouzeri will be hosting a Superhero Halloween Brunch on Saturday, October 31, from 10am-3pm, featuring DJ Ryan Brown. Whether you're feeling like Wonder Woman, Batman, She-Ra or Superman you can enjoy Committee's craft cocktails like Voodoo Science (charanda, kalani coconut, loomi cordial, pineapple & turmeric bitters) and their signature Greek Yogurt Pancakes or Breakfast Gyro to kick off a safely social distanced Halloween.

3) Executive Pastry Chef Joshua Livsey and the team at Harvest will host a Halloween-themed Doughnut Pop-Up on October 31 at Harvest. Livsey and his talented team will be serving up Halloween-themed doughnut specials for one day only at Harvest. The box of doughnuts is $13 for four donuts (plus tax) and include the following flavors:
· There’s Peanut Butter in my Chocolate - peanut butter cup
· Tasting the Rainbow – Skittles
· Twicks or Treat – Twix
· Poison Apple – Apple Cider

Orders must be placed in advance by calling Harvest at 617-868-2255 and today is the last day to pre-order. Pick up will be on Saturday, October 31, from 11am-1pm.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

A Food Sampling: Viet Citron, Elm St. Sweets, Tous Les Jours, & Baba Sushi

Over the last couple weeks, I've enjoyed some delicious food and wanted to compile some of the highlights here. What dishes have you enjoyed lately?

Việt Citron, in Burlington, is one of my regular lunch spots and I've previously reviewed the restaurant a couple times. They commonly offer seasonal specials, and I generally order these items, trying something new. Recently, at limited times, they have been offering Xôi Bắp (Ma Homie Sticky Rice), which is composed of "Fragrant hominy corn steamed w/ sticky rice, topped w/ crushed mung beans, fresh fried shallots, and sesame sugar."

In Vietnam, this is a popular breakfast dish although it is also served as a dessert. Some people also enjoy it for lunch or dinner. This was a hearty rice dish, with sweetness from the corn, and a nice crunch from the fried shallots. It comes with a side of sesame sugar so you can choose how sweet you want to make this dish. Without the sesame sugar, it's more of a savory dish, and with plenty of sugar, it becomes a dessert. I can easily see why it makes for a good breakfast dish too. Get yourself to Việt Citron and enjoy their delicious Vietnamese cuisine. 

Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar is well known for its pies and desserts, and those items are now available from the new Elm Street Sweets in Somerville. You can order online a variety of pies, cakes, cookies and other desserts and pick them up later at Rosebud. Options include items like Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, Snickerdoodle Cookies, Blueberry Crumble Pie, Pecan Carrot Cake, Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies, and more. 

A second location of Elm Street Sweets has also just opened this week at 158 Great Street, Bedford, next to the second location of Posto So, now there's a suburban spot to obtain their desserts. They even have a counter where you can see all of the treats, and pick and choose which you'd like to buy. 

I received a media sample of their Banana Bourbon Cream Pie, which is made with a nilla wafer crust, dulche de leche, fresh bananas, banana bourbon custard, vanilla whipped cream, and white chocolate shavings. Aesthetically, it's appealing and very different inside from the traditional Banana Cream Pie, with a darker color inside. It's delicious, with a prominent bourbon flavor, plenty of creamy whipped cream, a rich banana flavor, and a crunchy crust. This would be an excellent choice for the holidays, to adorn your Thanksgiving or Christmas table. Or just for a Friday night treat.

At the H Mart in Burlington, there is the Tous Les Jours, an Asian-French bakery, which is definitely one of my favorite bakeries. From Sliced Pan Bread to Pastry Doughnuts, Garlic Twists to Cornet Pies. They also sell a line of cakes, including the Strawberry Cream Cake (about $36), which I recently bought for a special occasion. 

It had a light sponge cake with layers of sweet and silky whipped cream, as well as thin slices of fresh strawberries. And it was topped by strawberries, raspberries and grapes. I prefer this lighter style of cake to some of the heavier and sweeter cakes with their thick frostings. You can find a variety of cream cakes at this bakery, as well as some special design cakes, such as shaped like a bear's face or a pig. They also carry Buttercream and Mousse cakes. The next time you need a cake for a special occasion, or just a Friday night, check out Tous Les Jours.

Last week, on a trip to Worcester, a friend and I stopped at Baba Sushi for lunch. They have three locations, in Worcester, Sturbridge and Bristol. It's a small spot, with take-out, delivery and inside dining. And based on this lunch experience, they have excellent food and I'd definitely return again. 

The Fried Shumai ($6) were fried just right, with a more tender interior and a nice shrimp taste. 

The Gyoza ($6) were also quite good. 

The Chicken Tori ($7) were two skewers of marinated and broiled chicken pieces, topped with a homemade teriyaki sauce. The chicken was tender and moist with a pleasing teriyaki, with just the right amount of sweetness.

The Beef Tori ($8) also had chunks of flavorful beef topped by their teriyaki.

The Sushi was exceptional, fresh, tender and ample. For Nigiri, there was Maguro (Tuna/$7.75), Hotate (Scallop $7), and Unagi (Eel/$7.75).  All were delicious, and definitely some of the better sushi I've tasted in some time. Their menu has an extensive list of Maki rolls too, from a basic Sweet Potato Maki ($5) to a more complex, and very tasty, Dragon Eel Maki ($13), made with tempura shrimp, cucumber, eel, masago, and kabayaki sauce. Baba Sushi certainly excels with their sushi, and I'd like to try more of their menu too.

If you're in Worcester, you should check out Baba Sushi.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Japanese Sake Bible: A Fascinating New Book For All Sake Lovers

"This book, although it contains technical information, is not a technical guide. Its a dive into the drink's deep culture and long history peppered with vignettes that tell a larger story."
--Brian Ashcraft, The Japanese Sake Bible

There's only a small number of Sake books available in English, so there's ample room for more such books, especially if that book includes more than just the most basic information about Sake. A new Sake book was published last month and it will appeal to both Sake neophytes as well as more knowledgeable Sake lovers. I'd wager that any Sake lover will learn something from this fascinating new book. I received a media hard copy of this book, but also purchased the e-book version. 

I give my hearty recommendation to The Japanese Sake Bible: Everything You Need To Know About Great Sake (Tuttle Publishing, September 2020, $17.99) by Brian Ashcraft and Takashi Eguchi. Ashcraft is a writer, currently based in Japan, who has contributed to a variety of publications. He has also written a few other books, including Japanese Whisky Japanese Tattoos and Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential (all which I own, have read and enjoyed). Eguchi is based in Kyoto, curates the Japanese-language Sake Concierge Report, holds Sake seminars and workshops, and has a Sake Diploma from the Japan Sommeliers Association

The Japanese Sake Bible is a trade paperback book of 256 pages, divided into seven chapters, and there are ample photographs enhancing the text. Overall, the book provides all of the basic information you could desire about Sake in an easily understood, accurate and compelling manner. As such, someone new to Sake can learn everything they might want to begin their delve into this wonderful alcohol. Although this single volume provides a comprehensive introduction for neophytes, there is plenty more for existing Sake lovers too.

Throughout the book are various extra sections which touch on many fascinating topics, from historical stories to tales about various breweries, from interviews to articles on regionality. For example, the first chapter provides some basic information about the nature of Sake, including its comparisons to wine and beer. In addition, there are extra sections on topics such as The Scientist Who Made Barley Sake, The Master Cask Maker, and Sake to Whisky. These extra sections are compelling stories, and even knowledgeable Sake lovers will find something new there. The first chapter also includes intriguing information on Sake seasonality, who has been ignored in some other Sake books.

Chapter Two deals with the production methods of Sake, but includes side sections on topics such as The Rice-Polishing Revolution and an interview with Naohiko Noguchi, who has been brewing Sake for seven decades. Chapter Three delves into the ingredients that make Sake, including Rice, Water, Koji, Yeast, and Soil. There is also a discussion of regional yeasts and regional Sake, as well as descriptions of the Sake producing regions of Japan. Again, plenty of cool information for Sake lovers of all knowledge levels. 

Chapter Four discusses "How to Order and Enjoy Sake," including serving temperatures (hot vs cold Sake), How To Taste Sake, One Cup Sakes, and food pairings. One of my only issues with this book is that I believe the section on Pairing Sake & Food was too brief, providing only limited information, and not addressing the important role of umami in such pairings. More information in that section is devoted to Noma, a famed restaurant in Copenhagen, which has Sake on its tasting menu. 

The main reason for the limited information on food pairings was a lack of space, which is understandable, though I believe more information was still warranted, especially as I feel Sake pairings are a path to making Sake more mainstream. When consumers start drinking Sake with pizza and burgers, when more non-Asian restaurants embrace Sake, it will become more than just a niche beverage. 

Chapter Five is a history of Sake brewing in Japan and I, as a history lover, found it especially fascinating. It includes sections on Japan's Oldest Sake Brand and the eight oldest Sake breweries still in existence. Chapter Six continues with more history, though about Sake outside of Japan, including the first Sake breweries in the U.S. As I previously wrote the extensive A History of Sake Brewing in the U.S., I was especially glad to see this book got this history right, something that not all recent Sake books have done. This chapter also includes information on the status of modern Sake breweries in the U.S. The book clearly has its foots in the past, present and future, and its intensive research is more than clear.

The final chapter is a Buyer's Guide, written by Takashi Eguchi, with Reviews and Tasting Notes for Over 100 Sakes. Many of the Sakes can commonly be found outside Japan, so you might be able to find most of the Sakes in the U.S. Eguchi states, "My notes cover flavor, background on the sake or brewery, and food pairings. To describe a beverage, especially sake, I believe those are essential." He also scores each Sake on a five star system, although none of the Sakes in the book has less than three stars. This is because they wanted to present only Sakes they would recommend. 

The Sake Reviews are separated into three categories: Light Bodied, Medium Bodied, and Full Bodied. Interestingly, nine of the reviewed Sakes are from outside Japan, from countries including the U.S., New Zealand, Taiwan, Brazil, Mexico, and France. Did you even know they made Sake in France? There's a nice diversity to the reviewed Sakes, and each short review still packs in plenty of information about the Sake. The food pairing suggestions include diverse dishes like burgers, spaghetti, cheese, cheesecake, gumbo, fried chicken, bacon, and more, although pizza wasn't mentioned. 

Overall, The Japanese Sake Bible is certainly a compelling book, filled with mounds of information about all aspects of Sake. I would have liked to see more information devoted to Sake & Food Pairings, but that is a minor issue. I definitely learned a number of items about Sake from this books and I'm sure you will too. Ashcraft and Eguchi deserve kudos for their work on this book and its earns my hearty recommendation. Buy it for yourself, or buy it as a holiday gift for someone else. 

Monday, October 26, 2020

Rant: Useless Wine Recommendations

If you're knowledgeable about wine or other alcoholic drinks, then you'll often have family, friends and others asking you for recommendations. They commonly want specific recommendations, to help them better explore or understand a general category. They don't want to be told to just try a Greek wine or a Sake, but they want to know which specific one to purchase. The more specific the recommendation, the easier it is for that consumer, and they often want it to be as easy as possible.  

It's then also simple for you to provide that person a handful of recommendations, to give them a list of several choices. You can hone that list down according to the person's requirements, such as price or flavor style. However, a problem can often arise when that person takes their list of recommendations to their local wine shop. None of those recommendations may be available in that wine store, and that's frustrating. What do they do then? 

The issue is that there are many thousands of different wines available, from all all over the world, and most wine shops only carry a few hundred or so. So, the chances that any specific wine shop carries the specific wines you recommended can be low. Some wine shops might not even carry certain wine categories. For example, your local wine shop might not carry Croatian or Greek wines, so a recommendation for those wines would be largely useless. 

It's possible that these wines could be ordered through the wine shop, but that takes times and not every wine is available in every state. For example, if you're in Arizona and giving wine recommendations to someone in Massachusetts, you should know that each state has its own importers and they will bring in some wines which won't be found in the other state.

So, how you can provide better recommendations, avoiding the issue of a wine shop not stocking your choices? 

I'm often asked for Sake recommendations and it's very difficult for me to provide specific choices as many wine shops carry very little Sake, if any. It's even difficult to provide recommendations when a specific shop carries a decent selection, as they might not carry the particular Sakes I suggest to someone. 

Because of those issues, I've developed a new response to when someone asks me for a Sake recommendation, one which enables me to provide far better choices, and choices which are readily available. This response would work for wine or any other alcoholic beverage, and avoids the problem of your recommendations not being available at a person's local wine shop. 

When someone asks me for a Sake recommendation, I ask them to go to their local shop and take a picture of their Sake selection. Then, they send me a copy of that picture and I can tell them which of those Sakes I would recommend. That ensures they will be able to easily obtain the Sake I recommend, and won't be disappointed by going to a store with one of my recommendations but not being able to find it. If their local shop has only a few Sake selections, none of them might be worthy of my recommendation. Then, I suggest they seek out a different shop, or maybe they need to order it online,

This may be the best way to recommend wines and other alcoholic drinks, to ensure their availability to the requester. It is more helpful than just providing a list of different choices. More people need to be doing this, assisting those seeking wine recommendations. With the holiday season looming, lots of people will be seeking recommendations, for gifts, parties, and more. Do them a service and better help them select the wines that are readily available to them.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I'm back again with a new edition of Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events. For now, some of these events will simply be the opening of certain restaurants, generally ones dear to my heart for a variety of reasons. And I hope everyone dines out safely, and tips well. 
1) Krasia Greek meze and wine bar from Partners Demetri Tsolakis (GreCo, Committee Ouzeri + Bar), Stefanos Ougrinis (GreCo), Theo Tsilipanos (Committee Ouzeri + Bar) and Tasha Breshinsky (Committee Ouzeri + Bar), has recently launched weekend Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

The new meze style Brunch menu continues to celebrate Krasi’s dedication to exploring the lesser known regions, flavors and techniques throughout Greece. Highlights from the new brunch menu include:

Baklava Muffin – walnuts, Greek honey, cinnamon, clove
Bougatsa for Two – semolina custard, phyllo, powdered sugar, cinnamon 
Trahana – bulgar, almond butter, banana, figs, coconut flakes, pistachio, Greek honey 
Lalagites – lemon mizithra filled fried pancakes, honey syrup, sesame seeds 
Saganaki – kasseri, feta, boukovo, cherry tomatoes, barley rusk 
Avga Me Patates – fried egg, louza, goat cheese cream, shredded potatoes 

In addition, Krasi’s wine program is one of the largest all Greek wine lists in the country with over 180 selections and is complemented by an authentic Greek beer and cordial program with over 25 kinds of tsipouro, ouzo, mastiha, tentura and more.

For weekend brunch service, Wine Director Evan Turner has handpicked select bottles of Greek wine for only $30 a bottle. 

Additionally, beverage maven Aliz Meszesi is introducing her own take on classic brunch libations that are made with rare and unusual Greek spirits, such as: 

Krasi Mimosa – Greek bubbles, mango juice, dill 
Otto’s Spritz – Otto’s vermouth, Concord grape syrup, Greek bubbles 
Aphrodite’s Bellini – Greek bubbles, ouzo infused apricots 
Bloody Mitsos – Psychis mastiha, house made bloody mix, spicy feta olives, chicken skin 
Spiked Frappe – Metaxa, Nescafe café, vanilla syrup 
Greek Negroni – grilled pineapple infused tsipouro, Otto’s vermouth, Roots Diktamo 

Reservations are suggested and available via 
Krasi currently has outdoor seating for 28, indoor seating with barriers, and the option for takeout and delivery.

2) The Alpine Restaurant Group has announced that its Mexican kitchen and tequila bar, The Painted Burro, will bring tacos, margaritas, and other mouth-watering dishes to Posto Bedford at a festive pop-up event from October 26th through November 9th.

The Painted Burro has been a Davis Square landmark for nine years, and we’re excited to bring this urban restaurant to the Bedford community so our local guests can experience this creative take on Mexican cuisine,” said Joe Cassinelli, Chef and Owner. “This exciting pop-up event will be the first of its kind in Bedford, giving the local restaurant lovers the opportunity to try something different right in their own back yard.” 

The collaboration between Posto Bedford and The Painted Burro will feature an expansive takeout menu including pizzas, pasta, tacos, margaritas, and, of course, kid’s meals. For example, there will be Appetizers like Nachos con Chorizo De La Casa and Cholo Corn Cob. There will be 6 Tacos, such as Gulf Shrimp Diablo and Pork Carnitas. In addition, there will be 3 Entrees, such as Roasted Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas and Fajitas.

This is a limited time engagement and includes a special celebration of Dia de los Muertos from October 31st through November 2nd. For reservations, please call (781) 271-9100 or visit to schedule an online reservation.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Rant: Drink Champagne With Food!

"You don't need to be a sommelier as sparkling wine pairs with everything."
--Marcello Lunelli

This Friday, October 23, is Champagne Day, an international celebration showcasing French Champagne. Numerous events will be held on this day, though obviously the pandemic will limit some of these celebrations. So, this week's Rant is a perfect place for a Champagne-related topic.

When do you drink Champagne? For most people, it's merely an apertif or for a celebratory toast. Yes, it's excellent on these occasions but it can be so much more. Many people don't realize that Champagne also pairs very well with a wide variety of foods, and can be consumed throughout the course of a meal, from appetizer to dessert. When's the last time you enjoyed Champagne during your dinner?

Even restaurant sommeliers rarely recommend drinking Champagne with your dinner. And that is a mistake. Sure, there are plenty of wines that pair well with food, but why omit Champagne from the discussion? When's the last time a sommelier suggested that you drink Champagne throughout the course of your dinner? 

Wine lovers need to get over their misconception that Champagne is mainly an aperitif or celebratory wine. They need to take the chance and drink it with whatever they choose to eat, from seafood to steak, pasta to Chinese food. It may be one of the most versatile wines when it comes to food pairings, and it can be so delicious. 

When I visited the Champagne region, I experience Champagne paired with nearly all of my food courses, for both lunch and dinner. I found Champagne to pair well with so many different dishes and you really can't go wrong selecting it for your meal. No matter what the cuisine, Champagne would be a fine accompaniment and it doesn't have to be paired only with high-end cuisine. Why not enjoy Champagne with pizza? Or tacos? Or just a bag of salty potato chips?

Champagne is produced in a variety of styles, and its diversity assists in making it friendly with a variety of cuisines. Rosé Champagne is one of my favorite styles, and I've found it great with many different foods. I urge you to experiment with food pairings. Grab a bottle of Champagne and drink it with whatever you're eating. You'll be surprised at how good it tastes with your food. And if you have guests, they'll think you're a wine genius for pairing bubbly with all the dishes.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I'm back again with a new edition of Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events. For now, some of these events will simply be the opening of certain restaurants, generally ones dear to my heart for a variety of reasons. And I hope everyone dines out safely, and tips well. 
1) Will Gilson and his Puritan & Company team will expand their presence to the Shed at Cambridge Crossing (CX), the new development at the intersection of Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston. The three concepts that are being launched by Gilson and his team will be comprised of Café Beatrice, an all-day café; Geppetto, a full-service Italian restaurant slated to open in 2021; and The Lexington, a cocktail bar and restaurant with a rooftop terrace in a new retail building referred to as The Shed. Gilson’s new concepts will be located at 100 North First Street in the new CX neighborhood.

This has been our passion project for about two years now. We are thrilled to introduce three distinct concepts at Cambridge Crossing; Café Beatrice which is an all-day café with Pastry Genius Brian Mercury at the helm, The Lexington which is our second floor restaurant and bar featuring a rooftop terrace and Geppetto, our Italian concept that is opening in 2021,” said Chef/Owner Will Gilson. “We are opening each venue in phases, starting with Café Beatrice and followed by The Lexington with Geppetto to follow at a later date. Our intention was to give guests something for every daypart to fit into their lives.”

The all-day café called Café Beatrice, with Pastry Chef Brian Mercury at the helm, will be the first to open on October 17th to the public. Café Beatrice will offer baked goods, breakfast sandwiches, and a variety of healthy options, supplemented by a grab-and-go component. There will also be catering options prepared by Brian Mercury and Will Gilson and their team, as well. Café Beatrice will be open from 8am-4pm  from Tuesday until Sunday. Café Beatrice will feature a grab and go area, a counter for takeout and ordering, and some café seating for those who want to enjoy their coffee and pastries while in the space. There will also be a patio for those who would like to take their orders and enjoy them al fresco.

For lunch, the menu will transition into sandwiches like an Italian Grinder on a sub roll; a miso roasted broccoli melt; a BLT with Miso Mayo on homemade sourdough; a Niçoise Salad on Ciabatta with Spanish tuna, olive artichoke tapenade, egg, beans, peppers and greens; and roast turkey with an apple onion chutney and cheddar. There will also be a selection of salads and bowls for people to enjoy. For a sweet treat, Brian will have cookies, fruit bars and his popular “everything but the kitchen sink” Rice Krispy Treats. For beverages, there will be coffee, cold brew, iced tea, lemonade, bottled drinks, and a selection hot tea.

Beginning the first week in November, the second dining concept by Will Gilson is slated to open and will be called The Lexington. Open from 4:30pm-10pm every Tuesday through Saturday, The Lexington will be a second-floor restaurant with a rooftop bar where guests can enjoy a quick bite with friends, a date night, or an approachable dinner on the large rooftop patio terrace that overlooks the Common at CX.

Guests will be able to imbibe in crafted drinks and a locally-sourced food menu at The Lexington, with a menu created by Gilson and his team. There will be a “snacks” section of the menu which has items such as baked stuffed clams, onion dip and homemade potato chips. The “appetizer” section of the menu will include crab cakes, Swedish Meatballs and scallop crudo. There will be a salad component and entrees will include glazed short ribs, fish and chips, grilled salmon and wild mushroom lasagna. There will also be a fried scallop roll, a lobster roll served hot and buttered or with mayo, and a Prime Burger with Dukes mayo, pickles, Maine tomato, Gruyere and American Cheese.

2) Check out Toro Cooks for the Jimmy Fund. Join Toro Executive Chef Josh Elliott for a virtual behind-the-scenes experience into the well-known Boston area restaurant. Get into the fall spirit with an exclusive virtual cooking demonstration on Sunday, October 18 at 1pm. Chef Elliott will create his classic Barcelona-style tapas for the autumn season, including a craft oyster dish. Proceeds from this virtual event benefit the Jimmy Fund.

To participate in this culinary demonstration, a $25 donation or more is encouraged. All proceeds from this virtual event will support the lifesaving mission of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The live-streamed event will be hosted by Island Creek Oyster’s Director of Sales, Bill Weiss and can be viewed on Toro’s Facebook page.

3) Tambo 22, the new Peruvian restaurant in Chelsea, now offers Brunch on Sundays, from 11am-5pm. You'll find items like Waffles Con Manjar Blanco (Waffles with Dulce de Leche, Fresh Strawberries and Crumbled Meringue), Pan Con Avi De Gallina (Sandwich with Pulled Chicken & Creamy Aji Amarillo Sauce), and Huevos Fritos (Pasture Raised Fried Eggs with Huacatay Hash). They also offer Brunch Cocktails including Mimosa (Classic, Passionfruit, Guava, or Apple Cider), Bloody Mary con Rocoto, and Cafe con Leche Martini (Organic Vodka, Kahlua, Organic Peruvian Espresso, Milk, Cinnamon Sugar.

Check out my recent review of Tambo 22, and I'll note I was impressed with their cuisine and would highly recommend the restaurant for dinner or brunch. 

4) Time Out Market Boston has now added Taqueria El Barrio. Though it's brick and mortar restaurant recently closed, it has been resurrected here. Taqueria El Barrio initially debuted in 2019 from Chef Alex Sáenz and hospitality veteran Servio Garcia. With flavors and ingredients reminiscent of Northwestern Mexico, Taqueria El Barrio serves up authentic favorites such as their iconic tacos, gourmet nachos and delicious quesadillas filled with a savory, flavor-packed array of lovingly-prepared meats. Taqueria El Barrio stuffs their flour tortillas, made in-house, with a tantalizing assortment of meats (carne asada, pastor, carnitas, chicken, fish, birria) and spicy vegan chorizo.

We are excited to bring our cherished Taqueria El Barrio concept to Time Out Market Boston, where guests can experience our very personal take on an authentic taqueria inspired by the Sonora region in Northwest Mexico,” says Chef Alex Sáenz. “We recently expanded BISq’s menu at Time Out Market, and then decided to do a Taqueria El Barrio pop up for Labor Day weekend and we are so grateful for all of the support.”

This is great news all around and I wish the best of luck to Sáenz, Garcia and the rest of their crew.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Rant: Don't Be Lazy When Buying Wine As A Gift

As the holidays near, plenty of people will buy wine as a gift, or to bring to a party, but I implore you to  not be lazy or cheap about it. There's a better way, which will take only a minimal amount of time and doesn't have to significantly hurt your finances. It takes a little faith and is a bit riskier, but then the rewards are much greater too.  

How many times does it happen? Someone attends a holiday party and brings a cheap, mass produced wine, one that is boring and uninspiring. In fact, a number of people at that party probably brought similar ones. And at the end of the night, some of those bottles will remain full and untouched. They will often be the last choice that the other guests drink. Even the person who brought the wine will probably drink something else, some of the more expensive wines at that party. 

Those same cheap-ass wines may also be given as gifts to friends and family, wines which generally evidence little thought. They might have even been purchased at the last minute, a quick after thought, where the buyer was simply seeking the cheapest bottle they could quickly find.  

Stop doing that! Choose a more meaningful wine. 

With a little more effort, you can buy wine that will stand out at your party, or will greatly please the recipient of your gift. And that should be your objective. Stop being lazy in your gift giving and be willing to take a little time to choose a proper gift.

What you should do is stop at your local wine shop and ask for recommendations, for more unusual and different wines, for wines that are excellent values. It shouldn't take the wine shop staff long to show you some recommendations, and it certainly is much better than just picking up the cheapest bottle you see. The wine shop likely has value wines at all price points, dependent on your budget. For example, not all $10 wines are the same in quality and taste. You can find some $10 Portuguese wines that are superior to many other similarly priced wines.

You may not find those value wines unless you ask the wine shop staff. Or it may just take you longer to locate them than if you simply asked for a recommendation. If you seek a wine off the beaten path, something different but delicious, you will shine at your next party. Your wine might be the first one that everyone else drinks. And that is the wine they will talk about all night. And if you give such a wine as a gift to family or friends, they will better appreciate the time and effort that went into the choice of the wine.

Invest some thought into your next wine gift.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I'm back again with a new edition of Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events. For now, some of these events will simply be the opening of certain restaurants, generally ones dear to my heart for a variety of reasons. And I hope everyone dines out safely, and tips well.
1) Some Encore Boston Harbor news. On Deck, a sports bar and burger bar, is launching weekend brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 7am-3pm. The brunch menu, created by Chef Jackie Bullio, offers a wide array of savory and sweet dishes. 

Some of the dishes include: Traditional Clam Dip with potato chips; smoked salmon platter; cheesesteak and egg tater tots; Cinnamon Swirl French Toast; Crab Cake Benedict; a Breakfast Burger with a beef patty topped with a fried egg, hollandaise, and bacon served on an English Muffin; and a sSacked Breakfast Sandwich served on an everything bagel.

The drink menu includes a 24 ounce “Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar”, for $23 that includes a selection sheet for you to check off your preferences. Those include starting with a choice of tomato juice (San Marzano, “Filthy” San Marzano, Yellow Heirloom and Green Tomatillo). Spirit Selections include preferred vodka, gin, tequila, Mezcal or bourbon. The garnish choices include everything from meat and cheese skewers, an array of pickled vegetables, blue cheese stuffed olives, bacon, shrimp cocktail and more.

2) Tuscan Kitchen in Burlington is rolling out fall specials, which will be available both indoors in Tuscan’s dining room and bar as well as their outdoor space, dubbed “Il Giardino.”

Prix Fixe Lunch: Weekdays from 12pm-3pm, they offer a three-course Prix Fixe Luncheon Menu ($25) which allows you the option to customize your lunch. For starters, there is Bruschetta with heirloom tomatoes, grilled ciabatta and aged balsamic or Caesar Salad with hearts of romaine, focaccia croutons and Sicilian white anchovy. Entrees come fourfold: Manzo Panini with rosemary, balsamic, garlic-marinated sirloin, roasted red peppers, fontina and arugula; Fusilli Primavera with seasonal vegetables, sautéed garlic, EVOO and lemon; Orecchiette with fresh rustic pasta, Tuscan fennel sausage, seared broccolini and toasted garlic; or Pollo Panini with chicken Milanese, fresh tomato, basil pesto and mozzarella fresca. To end with something sweet, choose between one of three Cannoli creations: orange zest and impastata ricotta; caramelized hazelnut; and dark chocolate chip.

Happy Hour: Weekdays from 3pm-6pm, they offer a collection of half-off appetizers as well as $10 pizzas. The sharable starters include options like Burrata della Casa ($9), Grilled Octopus ($8), Assaggi ($8/11), Arancini ($7), Mozzarella en Carozza ($6) or the signature Salumi e Formaggi platter ($9/13). There are also a quartet of pizzas: Margherita; Melanzana (herb ricotta, roasted eggplant, capers, roasted garlic aioli and fresh arugula); Polpetto (signature meatballs, San Marzano tomatoes, oregano and herb ricotta); and Fichi (black mission fig, rosemary, burrata and prosciutto di parma).

3) The new Malden Center Fine Wines, on the new Pleasant Street extension in Malden, has an excellent selection of Wine, Sake and Spirits. They are now holding Tastings each Friday evening, from 5pm-7pm. You need to go to Eventbrite to sign up for their tastings, or check out their Website. Each ticket is free and is good for a ten minute time slot. They advise that you please be mindful of social distancing while tasting of not just the other attendees, but for the people pouring as well. 

Upcoming Tastings include:  
October 9th 5-7pm: Wines of the Month with Dominic 
October 16th 5-7pm: Sake with Justin from Scoperta Imports 
October 23rd 5-7pm: Spirit Tasting with Jim from Atlantic 
October 30th 5-7pm: Georgian Wines with Kosta from Georgian Toast 
November 6rd 5-7pm: Spirits Tasting with Deanna from Burke 
November 13th 5-7pm: Wine Tasting with Joe from Hangtime

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Ryujin "Dragon God" Junmai Daiginjo Namazume Sake: A 400+ Year Old Brewery

A 400+ year old Sake brewery named after a mythological Dragon God, the Lord of the Sea. 

The Ryujin ("Dragon God") Shuzo, founded in 1597, is located in the Gunma Prefecture, which is interesting as it is a landlocked, and mountainous, region so not where you would expect to see the Lord of the Sea. It is a small brewery, with only six members in its the brewing team, and it produces handcrafted Sake, as well as craft beer. Their underground water is very soft, so requires different production methods than the usual hard water used to make Sake. 

The Ryujin Junmai Daiginjo Namazume Sake ($43/720ml) is produced from Yamadanishiki rice, often considered the King of Sake Rice, which has been polished down to 50%. With a 15.5% ABV, it also has a Sake Meter Value (SMV) of +1, and an Acidity of 1.4. This Sake is a Namazume, which means it only undergoes a single pasteurization rather than the usual two. It is pasteurized before it undergoes a year of aging, skipping the pasteurization that commonly occurs just prior to bottling. 

This is a compelling and delicious Sake, with an alluring aroma of white flowers and citrus. On the palate, it is bright and fresh, with a hint of sweetness and flavors of citrus and pineapple. It is silky and light, complex and intriguing. This Sake can easily be enjoyed on its own, although it will also pair well with a variety of foods, from seafood to chicken dishes. I'd like to pair this with Fish Tacos too. Locally, this Sake can be found at Malden Center Fine Wines. Kanpai!

Monday, October 5, 2020


It couldn't be any simpler so listen carefully. This is one of the most important pieces of advice you will receive this season. Please give this your full attention. 

If you've had too much alcohol to drink, if there is any doubt in your mind, don't drive. Just don't do it! Any questions? 

Once again, I step forward with probably my most important Rant of the Year. It's an absolutely vital issue for everyone who enjoys alcohol of any type, from wine to beer, from Scotch to hard cider. With the imminent advent of the holiday season we reach a potentially dangerous period for those people who over indulge, who drink too much at parties, feasts and gatherings. There is nothing wrong with that, and you can drink as much as you desire, as long as you give up your keys to someone who is sober, and do not drive. 

As I've said multiple times before, and which I'll repeat year after year, "If there is any question, no matter how small, whether you are too intoxicated to drive, then don't. If your family or friends think you have had too much to drink, don't drive. Just don't. It is not worth the risk by any calculation." Err on the side of caution so that if you have any doubt of your capacity to drive, then please do not drive. Take a taxi or Uber, catch a ride with someone else, walk or sleep it off. Just don't drive! 

Rationally, we all know the dangers of drinking and driving. We endanger our own lives as well as the lives of others. Every year, we hear multiple news reports about terrible auto accidents, some with fatalities, that occur because a driver was intoxicated. Families are torn apart, lives are ruined, and much more. Why don't we learn from all these incidents? Even if you don't get in an accident, you might get arrested for drunk driving, with all the attendant high costs, and not just economic. You might even end up in jail. 

About 17,000 people are arrested for drunk driving in Massachusetts each year. That is a huge figure, showing that far too many people still don't understand that they should not drink and drive. Did you know that if you only had two drinks in a hour, you might still have a blood alcohol level over the legal limit? How difficult is it to understand? DON'T DRINK & DRIVE! I'm sure drunk driving incidents in other states are just as significant. 

As a more sobering statistic, 10,511 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in 2018. That is far too many deaths and needs to be changed. Of those fatalities, 61% involved the drunk driver, 28% involved other occupants and passengers , and 11% of non-occupants. In 2018, about 1038 children, aged 14 or younger, were killed in automobile crashes and 22% of those children died in drunk driving accidents. Since 2007, when there was a high of 13,041 drunk driving fatalities, the number of fatalities has decreased but there is far much more work that needs to be done.

Each time you drink and drive, you endanger yourself, your passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, and people in other vehicles. Let someone else drive you, whether it be a friend or family. Take an Uber or public transportation. Leave your car where it is parked as you can always pick it up the next day. You have plenty of options so there is absolutely no reason to drink and drive. Be responsible. 

I don't want to lose any family or friends this year due to a drunk driving accident. I don't think anyone wants to lose their loved ones either. Your family and friends would rather you didn't drink and drive as they don't you to die in a terrible drunk driving accident. So please just don't!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Fukucho "Seaside" Junmai Sparkling Sake: A Female Toji & Brewery Owner

Prior to the Meiji Era (1868-1912), in the Hiroshima Prefecture, Sake breweries were finding some difficulties in the brewing process.  During the Meiji Era, Sanzaburo Miura was said to be the first person to realize the problem, that the water in Hiroshima was very soft, low in mineral content. The brewers had been using techniques perfected for harder water, such as that in the region of Nada. Sanzaburo journeyed to Kyoto, which also had soft water, and learned new techniques, more appropriate for their region. He shared that knowledge with all the brewers of Hiroshima, and their Sake acquired a much higher quality. 

The Imada Shuzo, which was founded in 1868, in located in Akitsu in the Hiroshima Prefecture. Akitsu once had seven Sake breweries, but now there are currently only about three. The current brewery owner and Toji, master brewer, is Miho Imada, whose great-grandfather started the brewery.  Interestingly, Sanzaburo provided the brand name, Fukucho ("Forever fortune") for the brewery. It is rare for a woman to not only own a Sake brewery, but also act as its Toji. Her brewery is small, producing only a relatively tiny amount each year. They specialize in Ginjo Sake, in small batches, and very traditionally and naturally made. 

One of their products is the Fukucho "Seaside" Junmai Sparkling Sake ($33/500 ml), made with Nakate Shinsenbon rice that was polished down to 70%. This Sake underwent a secondary fermentation in the bottle, with no dosage, and they added a little white koji, to give it citrus flavors. This is because the seaside area of the Seto Interisland Sea is famous for lemons and limes so the Toji wanted the Sake to reflect those flavors. 

I found contradictory information concerning its Sake Mere Value (SMV) and Acidity. The SMV could be either -3 or -40, and the Acidity may be 3.0 or 6.0. There is agreement that it only as a 13% ABV. In general, the SMV is more indicative of a dry Sake, and the Acidity is high, at least two to three times the average amount. The Sake has a slightly cloudy color, although it is not a Nigori Sake.

This Sparkling Sake has a fruity nose, especially citrus notes, with a touch of the scent of fresh bread. On the palate, it is lightly bubbly and very dry, with a complex melange of flavors, especially lemon, lime, green apple, melon, and pear. A pleasing and well balanced fruit salad, accented by a mild rice taste. It is also very crisp and fresh, a fine accompaniment to seafood, from oysters to lobster. This Sparkling Sake can be used merely to celebrate, to raise a toast, but it is also a fine pairing for a variety of cuisines, especially with its very high acidity. One of the better Sparkling Sakes I've tasted and Locally, it can be found at Malden Center Fine Wines.