Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Pammy's: A Compelling Restaurant of Creative Simplicity

With so many restaurants open, a sheer myriad of available options, and also due to the pandemic, I haven't always dined at all of the places I wish I could. I'm making an effort now to visit some of these spots, and one of my most recent explorations was at Pammy's in Cambridge, located not too far from Harvard Square. I'd previously heard many raves about Pammy's and it certainly lived up to my expectations. I want to provide my initial impressions of the restaurant, and I'm sure I'll be returning again to sample more of their menu. 

Pammy's was opened in July 2017 by Chris & Pam Willis, husband and wife, and their website states it's "a New American restaurant inspired by the feel of an Italian neighborhood trattoria." Their website also states, "In defining his approach to food at Pammy’s, Chris believes in power of simplicity. Showcase just a few star ingredients in a dish and allow the care, knowledge and skill to shine through. Together, Chris and Pam’s goal is to serve unfussy, great food and channel their natural knack for hospitality.
The restaurant is very cozy, with such a welcoming ambiance. There are a couple tables next to a fireplace, which certainly would be great spots for a date or special occasion. There's also a 14-foot long communal table, various smaller tables, and larger booths. We sat at the communal table, which gave us a central location in the restaurant.   

Currently, the restaurant serves a prix-fixe menu, where you select any 3 dishes from their menu for $69. Their bar and lounge serves an A La Carte version of their menu. Their menu has about 14 different options, and there were also two specials on the night I dined there. In addition, you could get the addition of Black Burgundy Truffles atop any dish for an additional $35. There's plenty of diversity on the menu, from vegetables to seafood, pasta to poultry. And as you select your own 3 items, you can create any type of dinner you desire. You could opt for all seafood, three pasta dishes, or just vegetable dishes.  

Their wine list is intriguing, with plenty of excellent options, especially more organic/sustainable options from small wineries around the world. There are about 14 wines available by the glass, including Sparkling, Rosato, and Orange wines. Their wine list by the bottle has plenty of options, with many priced under $70. You'll find primarily wines from Italy, but there are other fascinating wines from places including Vermont and Maryland, Oregon and California, and more.

We began our dinner with a glass of the 2020 Marangona Chiaretto Rosato, a delicious blend of Groppello, Marzemino, Barbera, & Sangiovese. It was fresh, dry and crisp with tasty red fruit flavors. And it went well with our initial food dishes. Next, we ordered a bottle of Palmento Costanzoa Etna Bianco 'Mofete', a blend of Carricante (70%), Catarratto (25%), Minnella & Trebbiano (5%). An excellent white wine, with great acidity, and a complex melange of peach and pear flavors, strong minerality, and some floral notes.   

Onto the food...

The meal began with some sliced bread and olive oil, and I just wish the bread had been served warm, although that's more a personal preference. The fresh bread has a crustier exterior with a soft interior with a firm texture, great for dipping into various dishes like the mussels.

Shaved Brussel Sprouts, with honey crisp apple, tonnato, and tonkatsu. It's not my type of dish, but my dining companion loved it! A fine blend of sweet and bitter, with some crisp textures. A great elevation for this vegetable. 

Lobster Biscotto, with Rose Harissa and Pugliese crouton. There was plenty of plump, sweet lobster in a tasty broth, with floral notes and spices. The broth wasn't too thick and was bursting with flavor. On a chilly evening, this was a nice way to begin the evening. 

Seared Foie Gras, with Concord Grapes and Milk Bread ($8 supplement). The decadent Foie was everything you want, being silky rich and flavorful. The Milk Bread was a nice addition, almost like a soft French Toast, and the fruit added some acidity to help cut through the rich Foie. A dish sure to please. 

Lumache, with Bolognese sauce and Gochujang. This is a famed Pammy's dish which has received many accolades, and rightfully so. Gochujang is a Korean condiment, which is sweet, spicy and savory with a strong umami component. It works so well with the Bolognese, raising the spicy element, and upping the umami game. The Lumache pasta was perfect for this dish, and cooked just right. A beautifully composed dish and highly recommended. 

Sea Scallops, with Grilled Avocado and 'Nduja Vinaigrette. Plump, sweet scallops, seared perfectly,  were complemented well by the 'Nduja Vinaigrette. Another excellent dish.

Marshall Cove Mussels (grown in the waters of Maine), with Squid Ink Arancini and Lime Leaf Aioli. Delicious plump mussels in a compelling broth, excellent for dipping in bread. The Arancini were an excellent addition, a black, fried rice ball, with a pleasing savoriness and hints of the sea. The Arancini alone could have made a fine appetizer. 

Rather than dessert, we opted for after dinner cocktails. The Gin & Juice ($14) is made with summer gin, salted watermelon, serrano and lime. It was refreshing, well-balanced and tasty with a nice blend of herbs, citrus and heat. 

The Fevre Dream ($15) is composed of tequila, cachaca, passionfruit, coconut and Thai chili.  It was also well-balanced with a tropical flair, a hint of heat, and a noticeable bite of tequila. 

I was impressed with my dinner at Pammy's, from the wine to food, and I understand the reasons for all its raves. Service was excellent, I loved the ambiance, and the idea of choosing any three dishes for your meal is very cool. The Lumache was my favorite dish although all of the dishes were excellent. I highly recommend you check out Pammy's. 

Monday, November 29, 2021

A Brief History of Rappie Pie In the U.S.

As I wrote about in today's other post, Rappie Pie is a traditional Acadian dish of Nova Scotia. Many people in the U.S. know little, if anything, about this dish. I was curious as to when U.S. newspapers might have first written about Rappie Pie, and how it was viewed in those early articles. I was surprised to find the earliest mention reached back to 1936. 

The Daily News (NY), April 12, 1936, published a recipe for Pate A La Rapure ("Rappie Pie") as part of their "$5 Daily for Favorite Recipe" column. This recipe was submitted by Miss Marguerite Correau, of Bear River, Digby County, Nova Scotia. The Acadian origins of the dish weren't mentioned, and the recipe was simply presented without further context. The above photo provides the ingredients for the recipe, which uses chicken, maybe the most common type of meat for rappie pie.

And these are the directions for the recipe. I wonder how many home cooks might have tried this recipe. It certainly isn't a quick dish to make and if you've never had the dish before, it can be difficult to assess whether the dish is properly cooked or not. 

Over 20 years would pass before there was another mention of Rappie Pie. The Grand Rapids Press (MI), August 20, 1958, stated, “Don’t call it ‘rappie pie.’ Call it ‘pate a la rapure,’ if you want to make a good impression upon Clare Acadians.” They explained that it was “A dish prepared with grated potatoes, squeezed dry through a cotton bag, then scalded with alternate strata of previously cooked and well-seasoned meats or clams, pate a la rapure is to the Acadians what haggis is to the Scots, spaghetti to the Italians and bouillabaisse to the French.” As to the origin of its name? “Who started calling it rappie pie no one knows. But the Acadians consider the corruption of the name of their favorite dish ‘shocking.’ 

Locally, the Boston Globe (MA), May 3, 1959, first made a very brief mention of Rappie Pie on a full page of information on travel to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. There was a small ad for the Diamond Restaurant which served “Acadian Rappie Pie.” No description of this dish was provided.

Nine years later, the Boston Herald (MA), April 2, 1968, noted, “The pie you refer to is called rappy pie (pate a la rapure) and pronounced rawppy pie.” They then printed a recipe for Rappie Pie, using chicken, which had been submitted by a reader. So, over 53 years ago, a Boston newspaper first printed a Rappie Pie recipe. The Boston Record American (MA), December 17, 1970, also published a different recipe for Rappie Pie, with chicken, that once again was submitted by a reader.

In the News Journal (DE), November 14, 1973, there was an article on the specialties of Cape Breton Island. While exploring the area, the writer stopped at a restaurant in a French section and found “Rappure Pie, 70 cents” on the menu. The writer's dining companion said it “was some sort of French meat pie.” They asked about the dish, and their choices were either chicken or clam, and they decided to order one of each. However, they weren't impressed.

The article voiced the writer's displeasure. “It was dreadful. A Plateful of greyish gook, rather gummy and tasteless, with the black necks of the clams giving mine its only color, if you could call it that. Instead of a crust, there was a brownish chewy sort of stuff on top. We gave it the old college try, but is was no use…we sent it back. So if you see signs along the road up there (and you will if you go) be warned about Rappie Pie. It’s bad news unless you happen to be a born Bay of Fundy Acadian.” 

To be honest, there were plenty of Rappie Pies during that time which resembled a greyish goop. It wasn't a visually appealing dish, although fortunately that has changed over time. However, it's important to note that this was the first and only time the writer ate Rappie Pie, and he might have just gone to a restaurant which didn't make it well. If your first experience with pizza wasn't good, would you write off all pizza? No, you probably wouldn't. 

A different writer's opinion. The Naugatuck Daily News (CT), July 2, 1977, printed, “Ever hear of something called ‘Rappie Pie?’ Yes, it’s something to eat and we can vouch for the fact that it’s tasty and filling.” Great to see a positive review! The article continued, “Rappie pie is a real old Acadian dish, to be found only in occasional places outside the Annapolis Valley, where the modern day descendants of the original Acadians still live.” In addition, it was noted, “Rappie pie turned out to be not unlike German kugel, made with grated potatoes, onions, seasonings, etc.—except that it is rolled out and filled with chicken and browned something like a huge turnover, large enough to fill a dinner plate.

The Record (NJ), April 27, 1980, briefly noted, “One popular dish in Acadian restaurants is pate a la rapure, or rappie pie. It is made of meat and grated potatoes.” The Hartford Courant (CT), May 11, 1980, also briefly stated, “In Comeauville, on the ‘French Shore,’ the Acadian dish, pate a la rapure (ask for rappie pie) first gained commercial recognition. Made up of meat and grated potatoes from which much of the starch has been removed, rappie pie is available at many restaurants in the area.

On another positive note, the Boston Globe (MA), July 27, 1980, printed,  “.., many English speakers have been won over to the French Shore’s great specialty: ‘Pate a la Rapure Acadienne’ better known to non-Francophones as ‘Rappie Pie.’ A very filling dish, it consists of potatoes which have been grated, squeezed to remove moisture and starch, mixed with chicken broth to form a paste, and then baked with layers of chicken meat."

A number of newspapers during the 1980s would also publish various Rappie Pie recipes, which although shared much in common, they had some minor differences as well, especially the amount of the various ingredients. Chicken was the primary meat, although in Nova Scotia there are plenty of variations, from clams to rabbit.

The Boston Globe (MA), October 15, 1980, provided a recipe for Rappie Pie, compliments of the Rapure Acadienne Ltd. of Church Point, Nova Scotia. The Columbus Dispatch (OH), January 13, 1982 and January 20, 1982, provided two different recipes for Rappie Pie.

The Times-Picayune (LA), June 21, 1984, stated, “Probably the most popular of all Acadian recipes is Pate a la Rapure, commonly called Rappie Pie, It is still served on festive occasions, and in many homes, for Sunday dinner.” The article also provided a recipe for Rappie Pie. Additional recipes could be found in the Sacramento Bee (CA), October 3, 1984 and Times-News (ID), August 6, 1986.

Nowadays, making Rappie Pie is much easier as you can purchase packages of frozen potatoes which have already been grated, having the excess moisture and starch removed. So, the laborious work of squeezing the potatoes through a cheese cloth isn't necessary. However, some people prefer to do it on their own, sometimes using machines, like juicers, to squeeze their potatoes. We generally use the frozen potato packages, saving much time, and the Rappie Pie also doesn't end up looking like a gray goop. 

It was fascinating to see the first Rappie Pie recipe in a newspaper back in 1936. And the first local Rappie Pie recipe was in a 1958 Boston newspaper. Rappie Pie seemed to become popular in the early 1980s, as various newspapers across the country, from Idaho to California, published recipes. I still wonder though how many people, without connections to Nova Scotia, tried to make Rappie Pie at home. 

Rant: Preserving Family Traditions

This past Thanksgiving, we had a nontraditional dinner, without even a drumstick of turkey. We enjoyed a large pan of Rappie Pie, also known as Pate a la Rapure, although many people may not know this dish. 

Rappie Pie is a traditional Acadian dish. Around the 17th century, the Acadians were the earliest European settlers of Canada, having originated in France, and primarily settled in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Unfortunately, the English expelled most of them in the 18th century, with numerous Acadians relocating to Louisiana.  Rappie Pie may have made its first appearance in Nova Scotia around 1755 when the Acadians were expelled. There are a few legends though that it's creation may actually extend back to the 1500s. 

Rappie pie is a made from grated potatoes or in French, "patates râpées." The French word râper means "to grate." Thus, that became transformed into "rappie" pie. Once the potatoes are grated, most of the water and starch is removed. This used to be done by squeezing the potatoes in a cheese cloth, a laborious process, so that it took two to three days to make rappie pie. Then, broth would be added along with meat, onions and pork fat to make a casserole type dish. Nowadays, it is easier and quicker to prepare as you can buy frozen packets of potatoes where the water and starch has already been removed. 

There are a number of variations on this basic recipe, some people using different types of meats or even seafood like clams. People may top their rappie pie with butter or molasses, and there is an old adage that the English use butter and the French molasses. Some people may top their rappie pie with other items, such as even ketchup, but that is much less common.

In our family, Rappie Pie was usually made for special occasions, and often at large family events, a time for everyone to gather together, catch up on our lives, and enjoy great food and drink. This was a fine tradition, and an excellent way to keep Rappie Pie relevant. However, to keep this tradition alive, the new generations need to learn how to make Rappie Pie, so they can eventually take the lead and prepare this Acadian dish for future generations, 

Fortunately, there are members of our newer generations who have taken up the gauntlet, to learn how to prepare Rappie Pie. When my sister-in-law prepared the Rappie Pie for Thanksgiving, her son helped her, learning how to make this dish. Earlier this month, other members of the newer generations were also given lessons in making Rappie Pie. It's a tradition that will live on for future generations and that is a wonderful thing.

Preserving such family food traditions is important, to ensure those old and treasured recipes don't die out, and to also help brings families together. Sometimes these recipes are oral only, and it is vital for someone to write them down, to record them so they can continue. Younger generations need to step up and learn how to prepare these family traditions, to prevent them from dying out. I'm sure many of my readers have their own family food traditions and I hope that they will continue to be cherished by the newer generations. 

For our family, Rappie Pie will live on!

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving: Giving Thanks

Today, all across America, many of us will celebrate Thanksgiving although it will still be different than years pre-pandemic. With the pandemic continuing to be a serious issue, even with vaccines available, most celebrations will probably be smaller. However, the celebrations are likely to be larger than last year.  

This year is an excellent time to remember the deeper meaning of the day. Beyond the turkey and pecan pie, the stuffing and cranberry sauce, Thanksgiving is a day for reflection upon our lives, to ponder and be thankful for all of the positive things in our lives. We need to appreciate the goodness in our lives, to be happy with everything we have (and I don't mean in a material sense). No matter what troubles or adversities we might face in our lives, I am absolutely sure there is also much to bring us joy.

That is especially true during these troubling times. We need to embrace the positivity that we do possess, rather than wallow in despair. We must see hope in the future, and we must cherish the good in our lives.  Our focus today, and actually how it should be every day, should be on the positive aspects of our lives. 

Savoring the positive in our lives can brighten the darker parts of our lives, and place everything in perspective. Complaining and criticizing often accomplishes little and instead we should concentrate on solutions. We can make our lives better if we truly desire to do so. It may take time and effort, but we can accomplish much with a positive mindset.

I am thankful for many other things in my life, including family, friends, health, and much more. I am thankful for all my blog readers. It would take too long to list every single thing I am thankful for here, but I will take the time to reflect upon all of them today. I will try not to dwell on the negative elements in my life. It will hopefully be a day of appreciation and reflection, of hope and a brighter future.

I fervently hope that everyone else can embrace the positive, rather than dwelling on the negative. Share your positive feelings with your family and friends. Tell them that you love them, thank them for being in your life. You might not be able to see them in person this year, but see them on the computer, or talk to them on the phone. You'll never regret sharing your feelings with your loved ones.

I'm going to enjoy a relatively quiet day of drinking and eating, with a small family group. I'll open a couple of special wines and savor the day. And I'll spend time remembering everything I should be thankful for in my life. I hope my readers do the same.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Wednesday Sips & Nibbles

I'm back again with a new edition of Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food and drink events. This week, due to the holiday, this column is on Wednesday. I hope everyone dines out safely, tips well and are nice to their servers.
1) Da LaPosta, a pizzeria, and restaurant officially opens this week at 825 Washington Street in Newton. Executive Chef/Owner Mario LaPosta, is a seasoned pizzaiolo who has over 20 years of experience perfecting the art (and championing the authenticity) of wood-fired pizza, including an apprenticeship in Naples and Rome. At da La Posta, Mario continues his “never-ending pursuit of the perfect pizza”—whether he’s eating it, or making it.

Every element of da LaPosta pizzas has been carefully selected to ensure the integrity of every pizza. From the wood-fired Marra Forni Neapolitan brick oven (which bakes the pizza in 60-90 seconds) to the flour (blended from Central Milling in Utah the oldest continuously operating company in the State of Utah since 1867), Bianco di Napoli California tomatoes, and house-made mozzarella. In addition to a traditional Margherita pizza of tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella, da LaPosta will offer a dozen other pizzas including Cacio e Pepe Pizza with Black Truffles, Bagna Cauda Pizza with Sausage & Escarole with roasted garlic and anchovies, and Pizza Fritta with slow cooked tomato sauce and grated cheese. Their mozzarella will be house-made with naturally fermented cheese curds from Pennsylvania.

Da LaPosta will also serve a carefully curated menu of Italian dishes that feature local ingredients and/or top-of-the-line Italian imports. Fritto Misto with local squash, calamari, and fresh-shucked Wellfleet oyster. Daily pasta and large plate offerings may include; Tomato mozzarella suppli, Roman-style arancini; polpette alla Nonna (Grandma's meatballs) in Sunday sauce with smoked ricotta; house-made scialatielli, a pasta typical of the Amalfi coast, made alla frutti di mare; Chicken Parmigiana made with half chicken and mozzarella di bufala.

Da LaPosta's bar program, with a full liquor license, will feature classic Italian-inspired cocktails, a wine list that takes a deep dive into the wines of Campania and Southern Italy. The beer list focuses on local craft beers.

Inaugural opening hours are dinner only, but in the next couple of weeks, da Laposta will be opening for lunch and the hours will be as follow: Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 am-11 pm, Friday and Saturday, 11 am to midnight. closed Mondays.

2) Hanukkah starts on Sunday, November 28th and ends on Monday, December 6th. For these eight days Kane’s Donuts will be offering Sufganiyot, the mini jelly donuts traditionally eaten during the celebration of Hanukkah. These deep-fried Israeli delicacies commemorate the miracle of one night of oil lasting for eight in the ancient Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Kane’s Sufganiyot are filled plump with black raspberry jam, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and dolloped with raspberry on top.

In modern Israel, over 18 million sufganiyot are consumed in the weeks around the holiday. More people enjoy the fried treat than fast on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. The Israeli Defense Forces also purchase more than 50,000 of the donuts each day of the eight-day holiday to boost the morale of its troops.

These donuts are available for online pre-order by the dozen ($25/dozen) as well as by singles for in-store pick-up during Hanukkah (November 28 – December 6). Kane’s Sufganiyot are available for pick up at their Route 1 location only and all orders must be made at least 48 hours in advance.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

2020 Bott Frères Rosé d'Alsace: Great For the Holidays

With Thanksgiving this week, many people are thinking about which wines to drink with their turkey dinner. It's important to realize that Rosé is not just a summer wine, especially considering how well it pairs with a wide variety of foods. Rosé works well on your Thanksgiving table, and it will pair well with other holiday dishes during the rest of this year. 

I love the wines of Alsace, from their Crémant d'Alsace to their intriguing White wines. You might not realize that they make some delicious Red wines too. Pinot Noir is the only authorized grape for AOC Red wines, and that applies to their Rosé wines as well. Unfortunately, very little is currently imported into the U.S. although hopefully that will change.  

Within Alsace, Pinot Noir is planted in nearly 11% of their vineyards, and they produce about 105,000 hectoliters of wine with Pinot Noir, which appears to include Crémant d'Alsace, Rosé and Red still wines. Pinot Noir has a lengthy history in the Alsace region, with some claiming it extends back to the ancient Romans. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Alsace Pinot Noir was even more valued than all of their white wines. For unknown reasons, that changed over time so that their wine wines came to dominate.

Within the various terroirs of Alsace, it has been learned that Pinot Noir grows best in their clay and limestone soils, while Pinot Noir grown in more gravel and sandy soils is best suited for use in Crémant d'Alsace and Rosé. In addition, due to climate change, temperatures in Alsace have risen, making it easier to ripen their Pinot Noir. Some of the best areas to grow Pinot Noir are also designated Grand Cru, but only for white wines. Currently, Pinot Noir cannot be designated as Grand Cru though there are efforts to change this and it seems likely that within several years, Grand Cru Pinot Noir will be authorized.

In general, Alsace Pinot Noir tends to present bright red fruit flavors, crisp acidity, and vibrant freshness. Many are intended to be consumed while young though some have the potential for aging. Oak aging is sometimes used, and when it is, it is more of a light touch, allowing the fruit to take center stage. Curiously, their Pinot Noir is usually bottled  in "flutes," those bottles you most commonly see used for Riesling.

The Bott Frères winery was founded in 1835 by Philippe Louis Bott, the son of a brewer and an winegrower. It's primarily located in Ribeauvillé, an old medieval town known for the ruins of three fortified castles. The winery currently has about 50 acres of vineyards, sustainably farmed (and moving towards organic), and produces only about 15,000 cases of wine annually. 

The 2020 Bott Frères Rosé d'Alsace ($20) is made from 100% Pinot Noir, from 20 year old vines in chalky soil, and was aged in stainless steel tanks for about 8-10 months. With a 14% ABV, the wine has a rich pink color and an appealing aroma of fresh red berries and floral notes. On the palate, it's fresh and crisp, with tasty red fruit flavors, especially raspberry and strawberry, with a floral accent, and a nice streak of minerality. Well balanced, complex, and with a lengthy finish, this Rosé is absolutely delicious, perfect on its own or paired with food. This is an excellent holiday wine which will impress your guests.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Rant: Don't Be A Selfish, Greedy Glutton

With the holiday season here, food and drink blogs are ramping up their holiday coverage. You'll read epic tales of sumptuous feasts, accompanied by expensive and rare bottles of wine. You'll read plenty of holiday recipes, describing how to prepare some of the most decadent dishes. You'll read of pricey gifts received, from costly electronics to tropical vacations. Colorful photos will display all of these hedonistic pleasures in their luxuriant glory.

However, I want to see something else, something more meaningful. Are you up to the challenge?

I don't want to be regaled by selfish, greedy gluttons. Instead, I want to hear about charitable efforts to help those less fortunate. This should be a time of generosity and charity, of giving to others rather than feeding our own gluttony. Though many love the holiday season, it can be a very sad time for those with little or nothing. Every community has some people who find it difficult merely to pay for basic essentials. Share your largess with others, helping those who truly need it.

Even for those of us who are having tough economic times, we all probably can help out others, even if only in little ways. If you cannot spare money, then donate your time or make something to give to others, maybe bake a pie, cookies or casserole. Donate old clothes or other durable items which you no longer use. There are many different ways to help out others besides just monetary donations. All it takes is a little creativity and thought.

During this season, there are numerous restaurants, chefs, stores and others which are holding special charitable events. Promote those events on your blogs, spreading the word far and wide. Attend those events, encouraging others to do the same. Give to your favorite charities, whatever they might be. Just don't revel in selfish, greedy gluttony, ignoring the plight of others.

This applies to our readers as well and I encourage all of you to be charitable as well, in whatever way that you can. Be creative in your efforts, even if your own finances are tight. That would be the best gift I could receive from my readers, the knowledge that you have all helped out those less fortunate.

I will do my own part to help the less fortunate, to share what I possess. Year round, I promote numerous food and wine-related charitable events and probably will promote even more this season. I will give to several charities as well, even if I only can give small amounts, to those which are personally close to my heart. I will try to help in a number of different ways and I strongly encourage all of my fellow bloggers and writers to do the same this season.

Let us share with all during this joyous holiday season.

Friday, November 19, 2021

New Sampan Article: Vermont Wagyu: Pure Breed, Pure Deliciousness

"The most interesting feature of Chinese life to me was that on board their boats, or sampans, as they are called....Upon these boats live whole families of three and even four generations."
--The Fall River Daily Herald, November 20, 1888

For over a year, I've been contributing to Sampan, the only bilingual Chinese-English newspaper in New England. It is published in print as well as online, available in both Chinese and English. I've previously written thirty articles for Sampan, and you can find links here

My newest article, Vermont Wagyu: Pure Breed, pure Deliciousness, is now available in the new issue of Sampan. Wagyu is a breed of Japanese cattle, and there's a small place in Southern Vermont, the Spring Rock Farm, which raises pure-breed Wagyu. This artisan operation produces some amazing beef, highly marbled and healthier for you than the beef produced by the huge factory farms. You can get their Wagyu beef products shipped to you, and it's well worth doing so. You should support small, local farms, especially when they produce a superior and more flavorful product. Learn much more in my latest Sampan article.

What is a "sampan?" The newspaper's site states, "A sampan is a popular river boat in traditional China. This small but useful vessel, by transporting cargo from large boats to the village ports, creates a channel of communication among villages." And like that type of boat, Sampan delivers news and information all across New England, and "acts a bridge between Asian American community organizations and individuals in the Greater Boston area."

Sampan, which was founded in 1972, is published by the nonprofit Asian American Civic Association, "The newspaper covers topics that are usually overlooked by the mainstream press, such as key immigration legislation, civil rights, housing, education, day-care services and union activities. These issues are crucial to the well-being of Asian immigrants, refugees, low-income families as well as individuals who are not proficient in the English language."

There is plenty of interest in Sampan which will appeal to all types of readers, from restaurant reviews to historical articles, from vital news stories to travel items. In these current days when racism and prejudice against Asians and their restaurants is high, it's more important than ever that accurate information about the Asian community is disseminated and promoted. We need to combat the irrational prejudices that some possess, and support our Asian communities just as we would support any other element of our overall community. We are all important aspects of a whole, and we need to stand together.

Support Sampan!

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

China Pavilion Restaurant: Only A Sign Remains

While walking down Hudson Street in Chinatown, you may come upon a large empty lot. Back in the summer of 2019, the Chinese Historical Society of New England worked with the Boston City Archaeology Program on the first archaeological dig in Chinatown in this lot. They were primarily digging at the former location of 6 Hudson Street, where Ruby Foo's Den had been located. 

At the end of the lot is 16 Hudson Street, a building which once housed the Ginza Restaurant. On the exterior wall of this building, facing the empty lot, is a sign for the China Pavilion (pictured above). This restaurant doesn't exist any longer although their sign remains. I want to provide some information about this former restaurant, although I'll note that the local newspapers gave scant coverage to this location. 

The China Pavilion, Inc. was incorporated on October 28, 1968, with Henry Tom, of Newton, being designated as the President, Treasurer, and Secretary.  The corporation would be dissolved on December 31, 1990. So, the restaurant last for about 22 years.  

The first advertisement for the restaurant was printed in the Boston Globe, April 20, 1969. It noted that the restaurant, located at 14 Hudson Street, would hold its Grand Opening on April 24. As it was “The Year of the Chicken,” the restaurant chose to offer some specials. On the Grand Opening, and the 14th of each month, if you ordered any dish containing chicken, you would receive a duplicate take-hone order FREE. You also could get a 20% discount on all chicken dishes every Saturday and Sunday. These  specials would be in effect through October 24, 1969, when you dined between 3pm-12pm. 

The ad also mentioned “Free Take-Hone Orders.” It's possible that other Chinese restaurants were charging extra for take-home orders. 

The Boston Globe, May 22, 1969, had a legal notice, noting a transfer of the liquor license from The Snifter Corporation to the China Pavilion, which was noted as having two rooms and a kitchen.

The Mass Media, March 27, 1972, published an article titled, A Gourmet’s Guide Chopsticking. It described a few of their favorite Chinese restaurant, including the Chinese Pavilion. It noted, “There is no end of the good things that we can say about this restaurant, for it is one of our favorites.” The article continued, “The atmosphere is conducive to anything from planning political intrigues to general hacking off. The food is well prepared and moderately priced.” It also raved about their Luncheon Specials, such as the No.5 ($1.25), which included chicken fingers, butterfly shrimp, pork fried rice, tea and fortune cookies.

There was a brief mention in the Boston Globe, February 4, 1982, that the China Pavilion had some excellent Dim Sum dishes, like their “large fried pork dumpling.”

Finally, the Boston Globe, September 22, 1983, noted the restaurant was open till 4am, and was “amusingly decorated with lanterns and mirror, and the tables are covered with the brightest red cloths." They had an extensive menu of Cantonese and Mandarin-Szechuan dishes, and also served "potent cocktails" for under $3.50. Finally, it was mentioned the restaurant “occasionally serves a gelatinous coconut confection after midnight to satisfy the sweet tooth.”

The restaurant closed in 1990 and their sign remains, 30 years later. The restaurant survived for over 20 years, so it must have done well, and it might have been innovative by offering free take-home orders. It was likely a popular late-night destination, being open until 4am. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Origins of the Chinese Buffet

Having closed during the worst of the pandemic, Chinese all-you-can-eat buffets are starting to slowly return. For lunch, you can commonly order the buffet for about $10-$15, with dinner buffets often running $20-$30. For those prices, there might be 20-30 dishes available to sample and you certainly can eat your money’s worth. They offer you the opportunity to sample dishes you might not usually have ordered, but which could become new favorites. Over the years, I've certainly patronized numerous Chinese buffets. 

Who invented the first Chinese buffet?

It's an intriguing question, and a quick online search will locate different answers. Some claim that the  Joyce Chen Restaurant, which was located in Cambridge, invented the Chinese buffet around 1960. In Asian Dining Rules by Steven A. Shaw, there was a quote from Betty Xie, the editor in chief of Chinese Restaurant News magazine, that, “The first Chinese buffets started in Canada, and then they came to New York.” Through my own research, I haven’t seen sufficient evidence to support either of those origin tales.

I believe that the first Chinese buffet, served in a restaurant, was likely in California in 1949, although its ancestry extends back over 100 years.


At least as early as 1837, you could find all-you-can-eat dinners. The Charleston Daily Courier (SC), June 13, 1837, noted that on some local steam ship lines, you could pay $12.50 for “all you can eat of roast beef, boiled mutton, &c. vegetables, and a few trifling et ceteras for dinner, and coffee, tea, &c. morning and night—“ However, the article added, “The truth is about one half of the passengers, upon an average, do not, in consequence of sea sickness, consume one dollars worth of eatables during the passage,..”

Plenty of other places would offer similar deals throughout the rest of the 19th century. As an example, in the Hartford Courant (CT), May 15, 1873, the Charter Oak Dining Rooms offered dinner for 50 cents, from 12pm-3pm, noting, “No small plates, but all you can eat.” So, the basic idea behind a Chinese buffet, of being able to have "all-you-can-eat," has a lengthy history in the U.S. The Chinese buffet certainly didn't invent this innovation. 

Also during the later part of this century, the “smorgasbord” made its appearance. The Reading Times (PA), April 4, 1876, provided a good description in an article titled, Hearty Eating in Sweden. “The one national custom which I particularly remarked among the Swedes and Finlanders was their eating of what is called ‘smorgasbord,’ that is standing and partaking of a lunch before sitting down to the table. At the entrance of the dining-room in every hotel and on board every steamer is a side table furnished with bread, butter, sardines and other fish preserved in oil, several kinds of cold meat, nor forgetting a good supply of ‘knackebrod,’ a hard-baked, thin and brittle sort of brown bread, made I should think, of course oatmeal. At this table every one as he enters the dining room stops and takes merely an appetizing bite, but what I should call a full meal, which he is sure not to forget to moisten with a glass or two of raw brandy or other strong liquor, also upon the table; after this he immediately seats himself at the table and commences his regular meal.”

It was also noted, “..; the Swedish workman, I am told, indulges in five or six meals a day.” This is also a precursor to the buffets which would eventually sprout up in the U.S. The previous all-you-can-eat dinners were generally served at your table, dish by dish. There wasn’t a central table where all of the food was presented, like the smorgasbord. But this idea caught on in the U.S., although initially, it maintained its connection to Swedish cuisine.  

For example, the Centralia Enterprise & Tribune (WI), April 2, 1898, noted that the Men’s Club of the Congregational Church would sponsor its annual Smorgasbord dinner. The Smorgasbord would make its appearance in numerous restaurants across the country during the first half of the 20th century as well. 

As an aside, the first half of the 20th century, also saw many more "all-you-can-eat" restaurants, although again it was generally served at your table. A fascinating article on this phenomenon appeared in the Commerical Appeal (TN), June 21, 1931, in an article from Chicago. “We knew it all the time, but now it is announced officially that women are hungrier than men. According to the manager of a State Street department store, which recently inaugurated an ‘all you can eat’ for 65 cents policy, women shoppers outscored the men three to one in the amount of food they consumed under the blanket price plan. A check on the first two days showed that the women consumed at least twice as much food as the men.” The article also stated, “Three of four helpings of an entrée for a woman was not unusual...

During the 1940s, there were a number of restaurants offering a Swedish smorgasbord, or something similar. The San Francisco Examiner (CA), August 30, 1941, presented an ad for Bit of Sweden restaurant, stating, “Try Smorgasbord with dinner $1.55. Smorgasbord only, $1.10” The Minneapolis Star (MN), Janaury 18, 1942, stated, “Smorgasbord, torsk and lutefisk for many years have been a part of Minneapolis hospitality,…

The Miami Herald (FL), October 17, 1946, published a brief ad for Fassa Morocco, which served “Smorgasbord Dinners.” The Asbury Park Press (NJ), January 3, 1947, had an ad for The New Ross Fenton Farm, mentioning “All You Can Eat. Music and Dancing Included. Buffet Dinner Smorgasbord In The Best Swedish Style.”

It was also during the 1940s that the idea of Chinese buffets started to arise, although they were primarily held at social clubs, church socials, and special events. For example, the Santa Cruz Evening News (CA), February 8, 1940, noted, “The house committee at Pasatiempo has announced a Chinese buffet supper to be served tomorrow evening.” This was a popular idea during this decade and a diverse selection of groups across the country held such events.

Restaurants providing a Chinese buffet would come later, so it's the case that their origins also began with these events held at social clubs and others. These events helped to persuade consumers of the value of Chinese buffets, helping to form a customer base for when restaurants finally opened them. 

A Chinese smorgasbord! The Akron Beacon Journal (OH), November 16, 1948, presented the first mention of a "Chinese smorgasbord," noting the, “Akron Order of Rainbow and DeMolay members are planning an unusual type of covered dish dinner. It is called ‘Chinese Smorgasbord and Sweater Hop’ and will be held Friday…


Allegedly, the first restaurant that offered an all-you-can-eat buffet was in the El Rancho Vegas Casino in 1946. It’s claimed that Herbert "Herb" Cobb McDonald, a publicity and entertainment manager, inspired the idea of the buffet. The earliest newspaper reference I found to such a buffet was from 1949. The Pittsburgh Press (PA), December 11, 1949, stated that the Hotel El Rancho Vegas offered a “chuck-wagon breakfast,” on the house, from 3:45am-7:30am. At this time, that buffet was only available for breakfast. 

According to The Tribune (PA), May 2, 1953, “The chuckwagon (in the swankier gambling places) is the old-fashioned free lunch in high hat, white tie and tails. For $1.50 you may fill your plate with samples of everything on the menu and keep coming back all night for the same buck-fifty.

Next, the Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV), July 17, 1955, presented an advertisement for the El Rancho Vegas, offering the Buckaroo Buffet, from 11:30am-2pm for $1.00. So, the casino had now made the buffet available for lunch, and there wasn't a mention of any chuck-wagon breakfast. 

In July 1956, the lunch period was extend from 11am-5:30pm and Buckaroo Chuck was also offered for dinner and late-night, from 6pm-4am, also for $1.00. It’s important to mention that none of these early articles credited McDonald with originating the buffet, and those claims wouldn’t come until many years later. 

However, someone else received credit for inventing the buffet during this period. The Okmulgee Daily Times (OK), August 13, 1951, reported that Chef Arne Hansen Rom, of the Railroad Pass Casino, introduced chuck wagon food to Las Vegas. This was supported by the Las Vegas Review Journal (NV), January 21, 1952, which printed, “Chef Rom, who first introduced the ‘chuckwagon’ buffet to Las Vegas, is well known among local gourmands.”

For more details, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, March 1, 1951, had mentioned that Chef Arne Rom was back in charge of the dining room at the Railroad Pass Casino, having recently purchased it. For the prior five months, Rom had operated the dining room at the Hotel Nevada. Before that, he spent two years at the Railroad Pass and one year operating the El Rancho Vegas Dining room.

So, it’s possible that Chef Arne Rom invented the buffet while he was working at the El Rancho Vegas, although Herbert McDonald might have claimed credit for it, especially considering he was involved in the publicity business. After its introduction into Las Vegas, numerous other Vegas hotels and restaurants started offering their own buffets.

As for a Chinese buffet, the honors for its invention may go to Peter Chang, of Chang’s Restaurant, in Los Angeles in 1949. The Los Angeles Evening Citizen News (CA), December 10, 1949, published an ad for Chang’s Restaurant, located at 8730 Sunset, which noted, “Chinese Buffet. First Served in U.S. Over 20 Delicious Selections.”

More details were provided in the Mirror News (CA), January 3, 1950. First, the article mentioned that Peter Chang, a former banker and his wife, a leader of the China Womens’ Association and a prominent social worker, were recent arrivals from China. They brought their household chef, Ah Poo, with them.

Then, it was noted that the buffet at Chang’s Restaurant, which cost $2.85, started with soup and fried rice, and made available a choice of 20 entrees. “There is a rare chicken cooked in oyster sauce and whisky, which is a delight, if you are looking for the really unusual. You can have roasted fish, shrimp rolled in bacon, almond duck, almond chicken, soybean cake, fried dried Chinese strong bans, Shanghai style omelette, pineapple beef, sweet and sour spare ribs, Chentu tomatoes with fish and onions, and Peking style noodles with beef.” You could also find Chinkiang Lion Head, a meatball. This wasn't chop suey and chow mein. 

The Daily News (CA), January 18, 1950, presented a brief notice, “A Chinese restaurant, Chang’s, on the Sunset Strip, serves ‘Chinese Smorgasbord.” This notice would be repeated in newspapers all across the country, exposing many Americans to the idea of a Chinese buffet.  It certainly may have given inspiration to other Chinese restaurants to start their own buffets as well.

More information on Peter Chang was provided in the Daily News (CA), February 7, 1950. Food was always a hobby for Peter and Jean, his wife encouraged him to open a restaurant in the U.S. It was also mentioned that the Changs “were able to liberate our own family chef, Ah Woo, from Shanghai, and he is on charge of our kitchen.” The article continued, “Ah Woo is the master of a thousand ancient and modern dishes of China. We are serving for the first time in American the delicacies of the upper classes of China, the exquisite dishes of Shanghai, Soochow, Nanking, Pekin and Chungking.” Finally, the article mentioned, “They serve a Chinese smorgasbord, which includes 20 different dishes, with no two dishes being served the same week."

And more info was detailed in the Daily News (CA), April 1, 1950. Peter Chang, age 42, was an ex-millionaire and former bank president. In Shanghai, he had been a big celebrity, "sort of a Chinese Orson Welles in the financial world." By the time he was 37 years old, he was the president of 2 banks and had earned $1 Million. In addition, he was a bigwig in the Nationalist government and owned a textile mill. 

However in 1948, when the Chinese communists came, Peter had to flee China for the U.S. Unfortunately, most of his money remained in China, his property confiscated, and the Changs had to start over, choosing to open a Chinese restaurant on the Sunset Strip. Peter told the newspaper that when the Communists left, he would “...move in as the movie czar of all China.” He planned to build theaters throughout China, get Chinese rights to all the old Hollywood films, and make his own movies. 

Unfortunately, there was a lack of continued references to this restaurant, so it's unknown how long the restaurant lasted in Los Angeles.

Another restaurant with a Chinese Smorgasbord! The New Tribune (WA), December 30, 1950, published an ad for the China Pheasant Club, noting “Chinese Smorgasbord each Sunday, 6-8pm. All The Food You Can Eat For A Dollar." It was cheaper than the $2.85 buffet at Chang's Restaurant. 

The Times Colonist (Vancouver, B.C.), June 23, 1951, had an ad for Mandarin Chinese Food, with a Chinese Smorgasbord, stating "It's New--It's Different--It's Good!" It cost $1.50 per person, but seemed to be a more a limited menu. 

The News Tribune (WA), October 4, 1952, printed an ad for the Bali Hai, which offered a Chinese Smorgasbord as a Sunday Special, "All You Can Eat $1.50."

More restaurants across the country would start offering a "Chinese Smorgasbord." The Chicago Tribune (IL), January 11, 1953, had an ad for Tom Brown’s restaurant, which offered a Chinese Smorgasbord on Wednesdays. 

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (NY), June 15, 1954, discussed Joe Kuscher, the owner of the Lincoln Terrace Tavern. “Wednesday night is ‘Chinese Smorgasbord Night,’ featuring chow mein, egg roll, egg foo young, fried rice, noodles, and all the trimmings.” In addition, “Every Monday and Wednesday Joe throws a smorgasbord party in his tavern, absolutely free, with only one stipulation—that every patron who partakes of the luscious spread must donate at least a nickel to the Cancer Fund.

The Miami News (FL), July 3, 1955, printed an ad for the Fu Manchu restaurant, which served Chinese Smorgasbord. The Sioux City Journal (IO), July 26, 1956, had an ad for Bamboo Inn Café, which offered a Chinese smorgasbord dinner every Thursday, from 5:30-8:30pm. The Daily News (NY), September 7, 1956, noted, “The Night Cap tavern at 570 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn, offers ‘Chinese Smorgasbord’ Every Wednesday Night.

Finally, we return to the Boston area. The Boston Globe, March 30, 1960, published a brief ad for Joyce Chen, which noted its “Original Chinese Buffet” for 99 cents, for lunch and dinner. Joyce Chen opened her first restaurant in Cambridge in 1958, and there would be claims that she invented the Chinese buffet, but as we have already seen, they existed before Joyce Chen's first restaurant opened so she couldn't have invented it. Joyce Chen's Chinese buffet may have been the first to exist in the Boston area, but it certainly wasn't the first in the U.S.

A number of different threads, from "all-you-can-eat" restaurants to the Swedish smorgasbord, helped to inspire the Chinese buffet. The basic idea of a Chinese buffet also caught on as special events held by numerous social and professional groups before it appeared in any restaurant. In 1949, Peter Chang's Restaurant, in Los Angeles, was likely the first restaurant to offer a Chinese buffet. And it didn't take long for other Chinese restaurants to do the same. 

Monday, November 15, 2021


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, please, please give this your full attention. 

If you've had too much alcohol to drink, if there's 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, 10,142 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in 2019. That is far too many deaths and needs to be changed. 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!

Friday, November 12, 2021

2017 Fronton de Oro Tinto: Wine From the Canary Islands

Over 25 years ago, I toured a vineyard in the Canary Islands and was taken by its uniqueness. Vines were placed into circular enclosures, surrounded by a short wall of stone, to protect them from the intense Sahara winds. And the wines were very tasty. I didn't appreciate wine as much at that time, and I'd love to return there to better explore their vineyards and wineries. 

Fortunately, some Canary Island wines are available locally and they are well worth your exploration. Recently, I enjoyed a bottle of the 2017 Fronton de Oro Tinto (about $20). I'll buy more of it and recommend it to my readers as well.  

In the 1970s, D. Antonio Ramirez established an estate in the hills of La Lechuza on Gran Canaria, planting vines and vegetables. His sons, Pedro and Antonio, who have been operating the estate since the early 2000s have transformed it into about 6 hectares of vineyards and a winery, concentrating on indigenous grapes. The estate name, “Fronton de Oro,” refers to a huge rock that shines with sunlight. The vineyards, which are organic (although not certified) are planted at high elevation, many over 3,000 feet, and the soil is primarily volcanic/clay.

The 2017 Fronton de Oro Tinto is a blend of Listán Negro and Tintilla de Rota (also known as Graciano). Listán Negro is the primary red grape of the Canary Islands, and is known for being aromatic. Tintilla de Rota is well known throughout Spain, and also is known for its aromatics. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks, and then aged in mostly used American oak for about three months. With only a 13.5% ABV, only about 4,000 cases of this wine are produced. 

This is a medium-red colored wine, with an appealing nose of red fruits, floral notes, and hints of spice. On the palate, there's a freshness to the wine, with delicious and juicy tastes of cherry, blackberry, and plum. Good acidity, nicely balanced, a hint of earthiness, and on the finish, there's a nice peppery kick. With a nice complexity, this wine very much appealed to me. It would pair well with burgers to pizza, barbecue to salmon. Seek out this wine!

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I'm back again with a new edition of Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food and drink events. I hope everyone dines out safely, tips well and are nice to their servers.
1) The Cousins Maine Lobster food truck will be Burlington, at the Wayside, on a few dates in November and December, including November 24, December 8 & 22. The truck will be there from Noon-7:00 pm each of those days, offering Lobster Rolls, Lobster Tacos, Lobster Grilled Cheese, Chowder and much more. Their menu even has Chowder Tots, tater tots covered in chowder, grated cheese & bacon.

2) The Greek International Food Market, of West Roxbury, is offering customers even more reasons to get cooking with a premium olive oil giveaway from Olivartia Ltd, a family-run olive oil company located in the Messara Valley in the heart of Crete, Greece. Following a long tradition of olive oil production, Olivartia promises superior quality and taste and offers complete traceability from grove to bottle.

From now until December, shoppers who purchase a three-liter tin of Olivartia olive oil, both in store and online will be entered to win 12 tins of their exceptional Greek olive oil. Winnings can be collected in person or through the online shop as well, shipping not included. Each purchase equals one entry, and customers may enter as many times as they like, with more opportunities to win by showing their love on Instagram @greekinternational. Customers will enter their name and number for a randomized drawing, and winners will be announced on Facebook and with a call from the shop on December 16th, just in time for the holidays.

Olivartia olive oil is grassy and buttery with a bright finish, all for an unbeatable price! We are excited to give one lucky customer enough to last them all year and then some,” says Katerina Iliades, CEO and founder.

Olivartia is a delicious and affordable choice, with a special price of $29.99 for Extra Virgin Olive Oil and $39.99 for PDO (Protected Destination of Origin). Please note that the giveaway is open only to customers in the United States.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

More Baco Noir from Nova Scotia: Blomidon Estate & Domaine de Grand Pré

In a recent post, I reviewed the 2020 Saint-Famille Lost Bell Baco Noir, providing information and history about the Baco Noir grape. Now, I've tasted two more Baco Noir wines from Nova Scotia, giving me a bit more experience with how this intriguing grape is being produced in this region.  

The first of those two wines is from the Blomidon Estate Winery, and you can find more background on this winery in another of my recent posts, a review of a Blomidon Crémant. The 2019 Blomidon Estate Baco Noir ($22) is made from 100% Baco Noir, but the winery's website lacks any details of its production process, although it seems like it has seen some aging in American oak and it only has a 12% ABV. 

The wine has a medium-red color with pleasing aromas of red and black fruit with a touch of spice. On the palate, it was smooth and juicy, with rich black and red fruits, including some cherry and blackberry, complemented by some vanilla and other spices. Mild tannins, good acidity, and a nice finish. A very tasty wine, it was my favorite of the three Nova Scotian Baco Noirs wines I've tasted recently. It had more character and complexity than the other two, and would be excellent on its own or paired with food. I enjoyed it with some turkey tips, and it would go well with plenty of dishes, from pizza to burgers. 

The original Domaine de Grand Pré winery was founded in 1979, making it the oldest farm winery in Atlantic Canada. In 2000, the winery was reopened by Hanspeter Stutz, a native of Switzerland, with his son, Jürg, a Swiss trained winemaker. The 2019 Domaine de Grand Pré Baco Noir ($16) might be a new product for this winery as it isn't even listed on their website. It's a simple, easy drinking red wine, with strawberry and black cherry flavors, and a touch of pepper. The tannins are a bit stronger than the Blomidon, so this wine is probably better served with food.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Crazy For Krasi Meze & Wine: A Greek Paradise

From Octopus Mortadella to Trahano Kroketes, my recent dinner at Krasi was amazing, from the food to wine. It earns my highest recommendation and I was pleased yesterday to learn that someone who went there based on my recommendation thought the food and wine were "spectacular."

Krasi, a Greek word for "wine," is a 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). The Executive Chef is Valentine Howell (Mastro’s Ocean Club, Legal Harborside and Locke Ober) and their Wine Director is Evan Turner (Helen Greek Food & Wine in Houston). I've long been a big fan of Committee and GreCo, and Krasi is a worthy addition to those Greek restaurants.

For more background information, check out my prior article, Krasi: First Impressions of This New Greek Restaurant

On a chilly Saturday evening, Krasi was packed, and even their patio was filled to capacity. This is certainly a popular restaurant, and if you desire to go, I'd suggest you make a reservation. We had reservations, and sat in a secluded table next to the front window. 

For wine, we began with glasses of the 2017 Sarris Vineyards "V is for Vostilidi," a compelling white wine which I recently reviewed. We also had a bottle of the 2018 Dalamara Naoussa, made from Xynomavro, which was also a delicious wine. Excellent acidity, a complex melange of flavors typical of the grape, and a pleasing finish. It paired well with some of the later dishes during our dinner. 

The Krasi menu is essentially all small plates, meant to be shared, and allowing you to sample a variety of their creative and delicious dishes. There wasn't a single dish which I didn't thoroughly enjoy, and there were other dishes on the menu that I wanted to try but was too full to order. 

We began with a couple of their bread selections, especially as I love fresh, warm home-made breads. The Lalangia ($6) is a fried dough, topped by thyme honey, and has a nice crunchy exterior and a soft, fluffy interior. It has a mild sweetness from the thyme honey, and the creamy, honey butter. 

The Tiropita Rolls ($2 each), are made with halloumi, graviera, and olive oil. These type of rolls originated in Central Greece, and served with honey butter with sea salt, churned in-house. A tasty soft roll, filled with plenty of melted cheese, was elevated by the creamy, honey butter. Such a fine way to begin our dinner.

We then moved onto some charcuterie and cheese. The Akrokolion ($14), made with lamb, garlic, and black pepper, is a Greek version of prosciutto, and was tender and flavorful, with a rich, meaty taste. Delicious! The Octopus Mortadella ($12) is house made, with pistachio, peppercorns, and lamb suet. The silky tender octopus is enhanced by the crunchy pistachios and peppercorns. Such a unique creation, and even if you think you don't like octopus, because you think it is too rubbery, this mortadella will change your mind. 

The Kalathaki ($8), from the PDO Lemnos, is a sheep's milk cheese (at the top of the photo), which brings to mind feta as it is soft and briny.  The Ladotyri ($7), from the PDO Levros, is a semi-hard cheese made from sheep's milk and olive oil. Pleasing and flavorful, with a mild pepper note. 

With the charcuterie and cheese, there was a platter of accompaniments, including slices of bread, gherkins, fig spread and more. The fig spread on the Ladotyri was a fine pairing.  

The Taramasolata ($16) is a traditional dip made from salted and cured roe. This dish is made with white tarama, topped with trout roe, and accompanied by sweet potato crisps. It was creamy, with a taste of the ocean, and the crisps were delicious, especially dipped into the taramasalata. It also came with slices of grilled sourdough so you could smear the dip atop the bread.

The Trahano Kroketes ($14) reminded me of a Greek version of arancini. It's made with sour trahanas (an ancient grain product), a gemista filling (tomatoes, peppers and rice), caramelized briam (roasted vegetables) and creamy feta. The fried exterior was crunchy, with a clean flavor, and the interior was creamy and flavorful, with plenty of melted feta. Absolutely delicious and I'd definitely order these again.

Moving onto the heartier dishes, we opted for the Souvla, the Greek rotisserie which varies each day. On our visit, they had Chicken, which was moist and tender, flavorful and delicious. A simple but compelling dish, cooked perfectly. 

Makaronia Me Kima ($20) is usually a Greek version of Bolognese, made with ground beef or lamb. At Krasi, Chef Valentine chose to create his own version using seafood and it was a major success. The dish was made with ground monkfish, smoked eel tomato sauce, fides pasta, and grated horseradish. Such wonderful flavors, well-balanced and compelling. Tender monkfish, a smoky aspect, and a little bit of spicy heat. This could be one of my Top Ten dishes of 2021. Highly recommended!

The Sofrito ($22) is one of my favorite dishes at Krasi, and I've enjoyed it a few times there. It's a slow-cooked veal, made with homemade vinegar, shallots, garlic, parsley, and comes with carrots and potatoes. This dish comes from the island of Corfu, where they do a lot of braising. With such a great depth of flavor in the sauce, the tender veal, carrots and potatoes, make a tasty, hearty dish, perfect for the fall and winter seasons. This is some of the most tender veal I've ever tasted.

This was a wonderful dinner, with exceptional Greek food and wine. The food menu offers plenty of delicious options, no matter what your preferences. The wine list, the second largest Greek list in the country, is amazing. Wine lovers will find so many interesting and delicious wines. Service was excellent as well, The restaurant offers creative Greek cuisine, with its roots in tradition but it's not afraid to experiment. Krasi receives my highest recommendation!