Monday, January 31, 2022

WeSake: A Canned Junmai Ginjo

Sake in a can? Japanese Sake, especially in Japan, comes in a variety of different packagings, from cans to tetra-paks. It's also not just inexpensive Sake that comes in these alternative packagings. Premium Sake, the top 25% of all Sake, can be found in cans and tetra-paks. Some of those alternative packagings are available in the U.S. and I've previously enjoyed a number of them. 

One of the newest canned Sakes to hit the U.S. market is the WeSake Junmai Ginjo, and I recently received a media sample.  WeSake was established by Pablo Rivera, who formerly worked at ZX Ventures/AB InBev. He thought Sake wasn't as popular in the U.S. as it should be and wanted to change its perception, to make it more accessible and alluring to U.S. consumers. Certainly a worthy sentiment, and one I have long supported. 

The rice for this Sake is grown in Tagocho, by local farmers, although the type of rice is not identified. Then, the Sake is said to be brewed by a "280 year old brewery in Kobe, Japan." That brewery is not specifically identified although it's likely Hakutsuru Brewery, which was founded in 1743, and will thus be 280 years old next year. 

As a Junmai Ginjo, this is a premium Sake, produced with only four ingredients: rice, water, yeast and koji-kin. In addition, the rice was polished down to at least 60%. It's also vegan friendly, sulfite free, gluten free, and non-GMO. Their website states: "We brew Junmai Ginjo style sake because it’s elegant enough for seasoned sake drinkers, but also bright, fun and easy for all those who are starting to drink it.

The Sake is packaged in a 200ml can, has a 13% ABV, and costs about $18.99 for a four-pack. The traditional single serving size of Sake is 180ml, known as 1 go. The usual Sake bottle consists of 720ml, or 4 go, and is known as a yongobin. In comparison, the normal wine bottle has 750ml. So, the WeSake can has a little more than a traditional single serving of Sake. It is also lower in alcohol than most other Sake, which generally runs from 15%-17% ABV. 

How does it taste? It is quite tasty, being smooth and medium-bodied, with pleasant flavors of melon, steamed rice, and tropical fruit. I enjoyed it chilled with a dinner of Sockeye Salmon, and it went well with the fish. This is a Sake that would work well with many different foods, even burgers and pizza. It has more body than many other Ginjo Sakes, and I think it would taste well warmed too. I''ll have to experiment with that another time. There's enough Sake for a full glass and you might want a can for each person. 

The WeSake Junmai Ginjo is a premium Sake in a can, and is delicious on its own or paired with food. As it's in a can, it can travel well, whether to the beach, the mountains, on a boat, or anywhere else. Give it a try and experience the marvels of Sake!

So why aren't you drinking more Sake?

Thursday, January 27, 2022

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) For Valentine's Day Dinner, several local restaurants are offering specials.

Select Oyster Bar is celebrating from Friday, February 11th through Monday, February 14th from 11:30am-9:30pm with a special prix fixe menu designed for two that is available for take-out or dine-in. For $75 per person, guests can enjoy the special prix-fixe menu or order off the regular menu for a beautiful seafood-focused feast created by Chef Michael Serpa featuring specials like Faroe Islands Salmon Crudo and Icelandic Arctic Char. Reservations recommended, and please call (857) 239-8064.

Grand Tour will be celebrating February 11th through Monday February 14th from 11:30am--9pm. There will be a special, three-course prix fixe menu that is priced at $75 per person and is available for takeout or dine in and will feature specials like gougère, endive salad, and steak frites. Guests can also order off of the regular menu that is created by Chef Michael Serpa. Wine pairings will be offered for an additional fee. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 857-277-0800.

Puritan & Company. on Valentine's Day, os offering a $75 prix fixe menu will include multiple options per course and offer a wine pairing for an additional cost. Course options will include Foie Gras Brûlée with griddled muffin, spicy pineapple chutney and currant; Wagyu Beef Carpaccio with horseradish, watercress, soy pearls and oyster emulsion; Marinated Lobster and Shrimp Salad with blood orange, mint, basil and lemongrass dressing ($10 supplement); and Beef Tagliatelle with ricotta salata black kale and candied walnut crumble. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling (617) 615-6195.

Bistro du Midi is celebrating from Friday, February 11th through Monday, February 14th, offering a five-course prix fixe menu for $125 per person, with an additional wine pairing available for $175. The delicious menu will feature choices like an Island Creek Oyster Trio, A-5 Japanese Wagyu Duo tartare, Black Truffle Tagliatelle périgord,and Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée. To make a reservation, please visit

Rochambeau, for Valentine's Day,  will be offering French-inspired specials including torchon of foie gras with pomegranate strawberry gelee, preserved fruit conserve, and toasted brioche; black tie scallops with truffle,roasted cauliflower, caviar citron butter, surf and turf with rilled filet of beef, butter-poached lobster, potato galette, and sauce perigourdine; poached cod with chorizo shellfish mousseline, potato ecrasse, vermouth emulsion. Reservations are recommended and can be made at

2) Chef Will Gilson invites guests to celebrate Valentine’s Weekend with a special meal at Cambridge Crossing’s The Lexington and Geppetto. Featuring seasonal, chef-driven fare, Gilson’s The Lexington will offer a four-course menu for $75 on Friday, February 11th and Saturday, February 12th. Newly opened, Italian-inspired Geppetto will offer lovebirds a five-course menu for $85 on Friday, February 11th and Saturday, February 12th.

The Lexington’s four-course, $75 per person Valentine’s Weekend menu includes:
First course: Steak tartare with salsa verde, cured egg yolk, salt and vinegar chips -or- Cauliflower flan with mushroom ragout, crispy onions, fried rosemary
Second course: Pumpkin bisque with parmesan foam, sage, pumpkin seeds -or- Burrata with poached pears, pear butter, delicata squash, truffle vinaigrette
Third course: Grilled bavette steak with potato gratin, confit leeks, peppercorn jus -or- Pan-roasted ora king salmon with sweet potatoes, squashes, saffron butter
Dessert: Taza with key lime

Geppetto’s five-course, $85 per person Valentine’s Weekend menu includes:
First course: Tuna tartare with green olive, lemon, pistachio -or- Smoked beef carpaccio with tonnato, capers, arugula
Second course: Grilled romaine salad with potatoes, stracciatella, black truffle vinaigrette -or- Burrata and chicory salad with cara cara, hazelnuts, basil
Third course: Parsnip ravioli with taleggio fonduta, marjoram, fennel pollen -or- Campanelle with crab, ‘nduja, olives, toasted garlic
Fourth course: Cranberry and soy-glazed short rib of beef with tempura broccoli rabe, brussels, celery root -or- Grilled swordfish spiedini with seared radicchio, bagna cauda, pickled peppers
Dessert: Tiramisu with coffee, spiced cocoa nib tuile, chocolate -or- Fiori panna cotta with cara cara, basil, almond

3) In celebration of Lunar New Year on Tuesday, February 1, Encore Boston Harbor’s Cantonese-style restaurant Red 8, will be offering a prix fixe, Lunar New Year feast from Monday, January 31st through Sunday, February 6th. Available in addition to Red 8’s regular menu for and portioned for either two, four, or six guests, Michelin-starred chef Richard Chen’s Lunar New Year menu, priced at $90 per person, includes:

Braised Sliced Beef Shank
Seasoned Jellyfish
Fried • Steamed Mushrooms • Tofu Sheet
Sliced Five-Spice Duck
Crispy Shrimp and Taro Roll
Braised Fish Maw Soup wolfberries
Braised Pork Knuckles sea moss with golden oysters
Steamed Fresh Loup de Mer with ginger, scallion, soya broth
Crispy Chicken
Pea Leaves, Bamboo Pith
Fried New Year Sweet Cake
Bird Nest Egg Custard
Chrysanthemum Jelly Cake

Reservations can be made by calling 857-770-7000.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

2019 Black Island Merga Victa Pošip: A Famed Croatian White Grape

In New England, we love our seafood and Croatian white wines, made from the indigenous Pošip grape often make an excellent pairing. Pošip is primarily produced in the Dalmatian region, where seafood is prominent, and I can attest to how well it goes with a variety of seafoods.  

The Pošip grape is indigenous to the Croatian island of Korčula, which derives its name from an ancient Greek colony named Melaina Korkyra, Black Corfu. The origin of the term Pošip is a bit ambiguous, with two main theories. The first is based on the elongated shape of the grape while the other theory is the grapes once grew closely near pomegranate trees, known as šipak. Though some believed that Pošip was brought to the island by those ancient Greeks, DNA analysis has shown that Pošip was born from two other grapes, Bratkovina Bijela and Zlatarska Bistrica, both which are indigenous to Korčula.

It's said that around 1880, a farmer on Korčula, Marin Tomašić (nicknamed Caparin), from the village of Smokvica, found a wild grapevine, Pošip, growing in the forest. He was intrigued and planted some of it in his own vineyard, eventually becoming enamored with the grape. He eventually shared his find with others. 

In 1967, Korčula became a legally protected appellation, making Pošip the first Croatian white wine to be part of such an appellation. Though Pošip originated on Korčula, it has since spread throughout the Dalmatian region, becoming one of the most common and popular white grapes in this region. It is an early ripening grape, versatile and expressive of its terroir. You can find a wide variety of expressions, from stainless steel to oaked, fresh & dry to sweet dessert wines.

In general, Pošip wines can range from medium to full-bodied, possessing flavors of citrus to tropical fruits, and commonly have fresh acidity. They may have mineral notes, a taste of almonds, and might also have a high alcohol content, over 14% ABV. Much will depend on the terroir and winemaking style and I often preferred the unoaked versions of Pošip. It definitely is a fine pairing with seafood, from shellfish to grilled white fish, though it would also work with light chicken and similar dishes.

I received a media sample of the 2019 Black Island Merga Victa Pošip ($25), which is from a winery on Korčula, owned by a Swedish financial fund, and operated by two oenologists, Igor Radovanović and Nikola Mirošević. The brand, Merga Victa, takes it name from a term that refers to "freshwater ponds," said term extending back to when Latin was the official language in Dalmatia. The term means “a path for water.

The grapes are supplied by 25 local family farmers, from vineyards located on the outskirts of Smokvica, with rich, reddish-brown soil. The grapes for this wine are from vines that are at least 15-year-old. This wine is produced from 100% Pošip and has a 13.5% ABV. 

On the nose, there were delightful notes of stone fruits, citrus and floral elements. When I tasted this wine, it was intriguing and delicious, fresh and crisp, with a nice melange of flavors, including peach, pear, and orange, accompanied by a prominent floral aspect with herbal notes. It's probably the most floral Pošip I've ever tasted, and reminded me in some aspects to Viognier, Muscat and Gewurtztraminer. The finish was long and pleasant, and overall, the wine was nicely balanced and compelling. 

I paired this wine with some home-made chicken noodle soup, rather than the usual seafood, and it worked well. The spices and flavors of the soup broth went well with the various elements of the Pošip. Sure, pairing Pošip and seafood is an easy decision, but it pair well with other foods as well. 

However, Pošip & Mali Ston Oysters is still an exquisite marriage. 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Charles Shue: Chinese Merchant, Restaurant Owner & Justice of the Peace

Charles K. Shue, also known as Chin Shue, Chin Quong, and Chin Que Shue, who lived in Boston’s Chinatown, was a wealthy merchant, restaurant owner, and the first Chinese justice of the peace in the United States. He would also be the first Chinese man in the U.S. to win a nomination to public office. However, significant legal woes would also plague him during this life. His tale is a fascinating one, a complicated individual who became successful and wealthy, but not without some problems.

Shue was born in Seattle, Washington around 1874, and came to Boston almost twenty years later, about 1893. The first mention I found of Shue was in the Boston Globe, July 3, 1893, where it was mentioned that he had been baptized, with three other young Chinese men, at the Bromfield Street Church. All four of them were placed on probation for 6 months before they would be able to become full members of the church.

The next mention was in the Boston Globe, February 25, 1896, as it was reported that the Bromfield church celebrated the 5th Annual New Year’s reception of their Chinese Sunday school. The event was attended by about 150 Chinese and Shue was mentioned as one of their “Sunday school scholars.” His intelligence seems evident here. 

In 1899, Shue married a “pretty California girl,” proposing to her on only the “third day of their acquaintance.” Although her name was never mentioned in the newspapers, she was the daughter of a missionary, Lee Tong Hay of San Francisco, who was also a member of the Methodist conference. She was born in the U.S., and was the first Chinese child baptized by an American bishop as well as the first Chinese child admitted to public schools.

The Boston Evening Transcript, April 4, 1900, noted that the Mrs. Shue gave birth to a son, who was named Russell Bates Shue Chin, in honor of Lieutenant Governor Bates. Bates himself was unable to attend the christening of the baby, but he sent his wife and daughter to the event.

The Boston Sunday Post, April 8, 1900, published photos of Shue and his wife, and a drawing of their new son.

It was noted in the Boston Sunday Post, July 1, 1900, that Shue was a partner in S.Y. Tank & Co., along with Goon Dong and Fong. Both of those men also had Chinese wives and lived on Harrison Avenue.

A few years later, the Topeka Daily Herald (KS), March 26, 1903, reported on the funeral of Chin Thong of Boston’s Chinatown. I was noted that Shue, a merchant at 18 Harrison Avenue, was the master of ceremonies. It was also said that he spoke English, was an interpreter and wore American-style clothes. There was also a brief mention in the Boston Post, February 12, 1906, that Shue was the president of the Chinese Merchants Association.

A lengthier article in the Boston Herald, April 29, 1909, reported on Shue’s major accomplishment. “The first Chinese justice of the peace in the United States was created yesterday afternoon, when Gov. Draper signed a commission for Charles K. Shue, a well known resident of Boston’s Chinatown.” Interestingly, Shue’s powers as a justice of the peace allowed him to “take oaths, issue writs and take depositions” but he wasn’t permitted to perform marriages. The article didn't explain why this power was omitted. “There is demand,…, for a Chinamen who is authorized to take oaths and depositions, and it is to meet this that Mr. Shue was commissioned.”

The article also mentioned that Shue owned a Chinese restaurant on Washington Street, “one of the largest and most ornate of its kind in the city,” although it wasn’t named. It continued that Shue “holds a commanding position as one of the chief merchants of Chinatown.” Shue lived on Harrison Avenue, with his wife and 2 children, and “maintains of the of the most sumptuous homes in the district.

The Butler Citizen (PA), May 20, 1909, provided a photo of Shue, noting he was a partner “in one of the largest and best known importing houses at the Hub.” The article also mentioned that his two sons were 6 and 9 years old.

However, less than two months after becoming a justice of the peace, Shue was arrested! The Boston Globe, June 8, 1909, reported that Shue had been arrested the day before for allegedly assisting in smuggling Chinese into the U.S. It was alleged that in August 1906, a yacht, the Bonita, smuggled Chinese into the U.S., landing in Marblehead. Shue proclaimed his innocence and at his arraignment, was held on a $3,000 bail until a further hearing on June 18.

The Boston Evening Transcript, June 25, 1909, provided a little more information, noting that the matter has been postponed to July 12. Alfred Ames, who had been using the name James Ryder, had been arrested, and was a witness against Shue.

After that next hearing, the Boston Evening Transcript, July 13, 1909, reported that Shue was held for a Federal Grand Jury. More details of the incident were released. The Bonita had brought 33 Chinese from Newfoundland into Marblehead in August 1906. Several witnesses claimed that they witnessed Shue in Marblehead when the Chinese arrived. Alfred Ames, who was a sailor on the Bonita, stated he couldn’t identify Shue as being there. Shue would also finally get out on bail on July 15, after having spent over a month in jail.

Shue’s trial began in January 1910. The Boston Evening Transcript, January 20, 1910, stated that various witnesses testified, several placing Shue in Marblehead at the time of the smuggling. Alfred C. Ames, a cabin boy aboard the Bonita, testified that when the yacht landed, he heard Mr. Kaiser speak to Shue, telling him to warn the Chinese not to make any noise and to lie down in the grass. Another witness, James B. Lehnemann, who was also part of the crew, alleged that Shue met the ship of smuggled Chinese. The government rested their case and then the defense mainly called character witnesses.

Shue was fortunate as the Boston Globe, January 22, 1910, stated he had been found not guilty by a federal jury. This terrible situation was now over for him. It seems the credibility of the witnesses against Shue may have been an issue.

Over two years later, Shue sought public office. The Fitchburg Sentinel, September 26, 1912, stated that Shue was the first Chinese to seek public office and he was nominated as a Representative in the primaries by the Republicans in Ward 7. However, it was also mentioned that Ward 7 had never elected a Republican before. Shue faced a formidable challenge. 

The Boston Globe, September 26, 1912, provided more information, stating Shue was the “only man of Chinese parentage who has ever won nomination to public office in this country.”; He was the Republican candidate in the primaries for the House of Representatives from Ward 7, which included all of Chinatown. He would oppose John L. Donovan in the election, and it would be a very difficult battle. “Ward 7 is one of the smallest in the city and has so few Republican voters that the politicians call it a walkover Democratic ward.” A definite formidable challenge. 

The article also mentioned that Shue, who now has three children, had been voting for 15 years and claimed to be the second voter Chinatown ever knew. Currently, there were about 6 registered voters in Chinatown.

Maybe as a way to appeal to the greater number of Democrats in Ward 7, Shue tried to change his party designation. The Boston Globe, October 22, 1912, reported that Shue had filed nomination papers under the designation “Democrat Progressive,” attempting to distance himself from being seen as a Republican. However, his opponent, the Democrat, John L. Donovan, protested that Shue could not use term “Democrat” as he was the Republican nominee. The State Ballot Law Commission heard the protest, and ruled against Shue, who had to remain as the Republican nominee. Shue subsequently lost the election, which wasn’t unexpected.

More legal troubles for Shue! The Boston Evening Transcript, September 14, 1915, reported that Shue, the “so-called mayor of Chinatown,” was arrested by Federal authorities as a fugitive from justice. Shue was indicted on charges of “unlawfully receiving, buying and selling and unlawfully facilitating the transportation of two tins of smoking opium in December 1914.” It was alleged that Shue wanted to open a Chinese restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, and wanted to force Edward Wong out of business, the owner of a Chinese café on Weybosset St,

So, it was alleged that Shue hired two private detectives to conceal opium in Wong’s restaurant but the restaurant was raided before that happened. The two detectives were caught with the opium on them. Shue pled not guilty and was held on a $2,500 bail. It was also noted that Shue was still a justice of the peace, and connected with the Quong Shue Lung Company, and a local trust company.

The Lowell Sun, June 8, 1916, published an article on the final disposition. The article claimed that Shue ran into trouble when he tried to start a Chinese restaurant in Providence. “His arrival was not looked upon favorably by Providence Chinse merchants, it was stated, and his enterprise was blocked. Following this, Shue, in an alleged attempt to get revenge upon his Providence enemies is said to have participated in a plan to sent smuggled opium here, which, it was claimed, was to be ‘planted’ in the restaurant of one of the Providence Chinamen.”

Shue was found guilty and sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $300 for conspiring to facilitate and conceal the transportation of smuggled opium.

Shue remained largely out of the newspapers for the next eight years, except for a brief mention in Boston Globe, May 27, 1924, noting that Shue was the president of a chain of Chinese restaurants.

Sadly, Shue died on December 23, 1926 and in his obituary in the Boston Globe, December 27, 1926, it was stated Shue, who had lived at 19 Harrison Avenue, had been one of the wealthiest Chinese merchants in Boston, owning Chinese restaurants in Boston, Chicago and Providence. He had been a pioneer in some respects, paving the way for future opportunities for the Chinese in the U.S. As a businessman, he was quite successful, except for his one opium incident. It's an intriguing historical tale.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

2020 Benvenuti Teran Rosé: Another Istrian Delight

Yesterday, I reviewed an Istrian wine, from a winery near Motovun, and today I'm here with another Istrian wine review, from a different winery near Motovun. 

The Benvenuti Winery is located in the small village of Kaldir, and was established in 2003, although the Benvenuti family has been involved in winemaking since 1946, when Pier Benvenuti, first planted a vineyard. The winery primarily grows three indigenous varieties, Malvasia Istriana, Teran and Muscat, over 20 hectares of vineyards. They have some white soils which have plenty of clay and limestone, helloing provide some minerality to their wines.

The 2020 Benvenuti Teran Rosé ($24) is produced form 100% Teran. Teran, also known as Terrano, is a red grape, native to the Istrian region of Croatia, Slovenia and Italy. It's known history extends back nearly 700 years, to a document dated from November 1340. I've enjoyed some Teran red wines before, although I want to sample more, to understand its diversity. 

With a 13% ABV, this Rosé has a bright pink color and an appealing nose of red fruits and mild citrus. On the palate, it was crisp and dry, with tasty flavors of strawberries and raspberries, with a hint of citrus, a backbone of minerality, and some herbal touches. Nice complexity and a pleasing finish. An easy drinking, food friendly wine which would help usher in the spring a bit early. This wine can be found locally at Bin Ends for $19.20.

Why aren't you drinking more Croatian wines?

Monday, January 17, 2022

2020 Fakin Malvazija Istarska: An Istrian Delight

In Croatia, the term "fakin" generally means a scamp or rascal, however the terms's origin is in the Italian word facchino, which referrs to a porter, someone who carries luggage. This particular wine is imported by Mirena Bagur and Win Burke of Croatian Premium Wine Imports, and Mirena's grandfather, who also owned a small vineyard, was a facchino, carrying luggage for a train station. 

Fakin Winery was established in 2010 by Marko Fakin, in Bataji, very near the medieval town of Motovun. It's said that the mythical Jason and the Argonauts traversed the Mirna River at the foothills of the Motovun,  Motovun has a rich medieval history, and in the present, it was also the birthplace of the famed race car driver Mario Andretti. Marko Fakin and his wines have become very famous in the last couple of years, winning numerous awards at Croatian wine competitions. 

The winery has about 30 hectares of vineyards, primarily growing native Istrian grapes including; Malvazija Istarska, Teran and Muškat. Their website states, "The white soil, microclimate and hilly terrain configuration gives our grapes the minerality, freshness and expressive characteristics specific to these varieties."  Croatian Premium Wine Imports currently brings in Fakin's 2020 Malvasija, 2018 La Prima Malvasija, 2019 Teran and 2017 Teran Il Primo

I received a media sample of the 2020 Fakin Malvazija Istarska ($29), made from 100% Malvazija Istarska. Malvasia Istarska comprises almost two thirds of the total wine production in the Istrian region, and is the second most planted variety in Croatia after Grasevina. It is also thought to have been grown in the area for centuries. This wine also has a 13% ABV and spent about six months aging in stainless steel. 

On the nose, it has an alluring nose of peach, herbs and spices. On the palate, it is fresh, dry and crisp, with delicious citrus and stone fruit flavors, spice notes, a mild floral element and a backbone of minerality. It's medium bodied, with a very pleasing finish, and is certainly enjoyable on its own although it would pair well with food as well. I would like to try this wine with oysters or a light chicken dish, or maybe even some Asian cuisine. 

I've been becoming a fan of the Malvazija Istarska grape and this is a fine example. You should be exploring Croatian wines, which have so much to offer any wine lover. 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Doris Wang & Her Famed Peking Duck Returns For A Special Popup!

Doris Wang and her famed Peking Duck returns!

Frenchie owner Sandrine Rossi is pleased to announce beloved Chinatown restaurateur Doris Wang will host a very special, one-night-only, Peking Duck Popup on Tuesday, February 1st celebrating the kickoff to Chinese New Year -- the Year of the Tiger. Doris's China King closed in December 2020 after 15 years and this will give fans a taste they have been craving.

Doris’s New Year’s dinner will feature her famous Scallion Pancakes, Shumai Dumplings, and a Three-Course Peking Duck feast —Crispy Duck Skin and Homemade Pancakes, Duck and Noodle Stir-Fry, and Duck Soup. Each duck dinner serves 2-3 people and will cost $88 per person (includes tax and gratuity). Guests can accompany their meal with wines from Frenchie’s extensive cellar, including bottles from Sandrine's family vineyard in Medoc Bordeaux. To celebrate Chinese New Year, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne will be offered for $90 dollars.

Like Julia Child (who Doris has actually cooked for), Sandrine Rossi’s favorite cuisine (after French) is Chinese. “I lived and worked in Beijing for 18 months in 2013-2014 as an engineer,” she says. “Doris’s incredible food reminds me of that special time.”

The China King Peking Duck Popup at Frenchie will be reservations only, beginning at 5 PM on Tuesday, February 1, with final seatings at 10 PM. Guests will be required to make a reservation via Eventbrite and post a credit card charge due to the preparation and time that will go into the dinner. Per order of the City of Boston, proof of vaccination is required for admittance to the event.

For more info on the history of Peking Duck, in the local region and Chinatown, as well as info on Doris, check out my prior article.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

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) Levain Bakery has made its name for 26 years as the purveyor of crispy outside, ooey-gooey middle, giant cookies. This February, they will make their Boston debut, in the heart of Back Bay, at 180 Newbury Street. 

Levain Bakery was founded in 1995 by best friends Connie McDonald and Pam Weekes on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. What began as a tiny neighborhood wholesale bakery, Levain has since built a passionate fan base and avid following worldwide for its decadent, mammoth cookies. Levain has expanded to nine retail bakery locations in the northeast, with Boston soon to be added to the list. The upcoming Newbury Street bakery marks Levain’s first-ever New England location and its second foray into a new region outside of New York, following their two recent bakery openings in the Washington, DC area.

Having lived in Boston for a couple of years, I had fallen in love with its charm, energy and of course the great food,”said Connie. “And as we considered expanding to a few select cities, both Pam and I agreed that Boston - and in particular, Back Bay - would be a dream neighborhood for us. We’re overjoyed that we’re finally able to bring our treats to Boston and share our cookies with this incredible city.

The Newbury Street location will serve up Levain’s five signature cookie flavors: chocolate chip walnut, dark chocolate peanut butter chip, dark chocolate chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and two-chip chocolate chip, plus chocolate chip walnut made with gluten-free ingredients — all baked fresh in-house daily all day long. In addition, the bakery will also feature pastries, loaf cakes, bread and rolls, and decadent sticky buns, as well as tea, coffee and espresso beverages. Levain will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

2) In celebration of Valentine's Day, on Monday, February 14, Lola 42, a lobally-inspired bistro and sushi bar is introducing a sensual Sushi Platter for Two  ($75). The platter will include Toro Nigiri (3-pieces), Toro Sashimi (3-pieces) and Toro Tartare topped with Osetra caviar - beautifully plated with wasabi and a fresh orchid. 

In addition, lovers can spice up the evening with The Aphrodite cocktail ($21) - a concoction of Añejo tequila, lemon, honey, passion fruit and strawberry puree shaken with a Thai Chili and served in a citrus chili rimmed rocks glass.

For reservations, please call 617-951-4002.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Rant: I Want Breakfast For Dinner!

It's an artificial division, a tyranny of the plate. Many people have been conditioned to follow an unwritten rule about what is proper to eat at different times during the day. The seeds of revolution exist though, and there are rebels who seek to cast down the old rules, and ignore the authorities who try to dictate what we eat. I fully support these rebels and I firmly believe that the time has come to destroy these barriers.

I, and others, desire to enjoy "breakfast" foods all day long. No longer should we be limited by the time of day to enjoy bacon & eggs, a stack of pancakes, or a savory waffle. Why are such foods relegated only to the morning? There's no rational reason why they must be so limited. Throughout history, the type of foods served during breakfast have varied greatly and there's no reason breakfast dishes can't be served at other times. Let us enjoy them in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Let us enjoy them any time during the day we want.

A 2014 Reuters article found that 72% of U.S. adults wished restaurants would offer breakfast items all day. What a huge percentage of people who want to destroy the barrier of what some believe should only be for breakfast. The MarketWatch (July 2020) noted the popularity of breakfast items at chain restaurants such as 25%-30% of sales at McDonald’s, 20% at Jack in the Box, 13-14% at Burger King and 8% at Wendy's. More restaurants need to exploit this desire for breakfast items, and not just in the morning.

Of the independent breakfast spots I know, which usually also serve lunch, they commonly close in the early afternoon and aren't open for dinner. Why not? They serve breakfast for the entire time they are open, in the morning and afternoon. So why not extend it to the evening as well? They don't even have to provide the usual dinner items. Just serve breakfast foods.

A few restaurants seem to understand, adding dishes to their dinner menus which have breakfast items, like the popular Chicken & Waffles dish.  A creative chef could easily concoct all sorts of compelling dishes using traditional breakfast foods. Let's see a dinner Omelette, a sandwich using Pancakes as the bread, or even a Waffle pizza. Stop thinking breakfast foods have to be served only in the morning. Give the people what they want, explore your culinary creativity, and let's see what new dishes you can concoct.

Do you have any favorite restaurants which serve breakfast items for lunch or dinner?

Friday, January 7, 2022

New Sampan Article: Who Invented the Egg Roll?

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, Who Invented the Egg Roll?, is now available in the new issue of Sampan. Two Chinese chefs in New York City are the main contenders for being the inventor of the iconic egg roll. However, after my own research, it appears one of those contenders has a far stronger case than the other, with far more documentary evidence to make his case. So, which contender most likely invented the egg roll? You'll have to read my latest Sampan article for the answer. 

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!

Monday, January 3, 2022

Rant: Forget Useless Predictions

It's now 2022 and you'll hear plenty of predictions for this New Year, but not from me.

As I've said before, predictions for the New Year are basically useless. At the end of the year, nearly all of those predictions will have failed to come to fruition and even those that did are probably due more to luck than any actual ability to predict the future. You would have just as much success by reading tea leaves or the entrails of goats. I know that if I devised my own predictions, they too would probably fail. 

We all hope that 2022, once we get a better handle on battling the new pandemic surge, will usher in positive changes to the local food & drink industry. Instead of offering any predictions, I'm going to provide a list of ten of my desires, those trends, issues and items which I would love to see step forward and take precedence in 2022, though I'm not predicting they will actually come to fruition. Some of these items I've been wanting for many years to happen and they still haven't become a trend. I think we would all benefit if any of these desires were fulfilled.

We possess the ability to make these desires come true. They pose valuable opportunities for entrepreneurs and others to step up and make their mark. They are matters we can demand and promote, matters we can hound restaurant owners, legislators and others to pursue. We can make our future become a reality.

1) More Civility At Restaurants
We've seen far too many instances of bad behavior at restaurants, entitled customers who get upset over the smallest of issues. Restaurants have been struggling hard these last couple of years, and customers need to be far more understanding and respectful. When a restaurant is simply enforcing the regulations and laws that are in place, they shouldn't be attacked, verbally or physically, for doing so. When a restaurant is doing their part to make dining safer for their customers, they shouldn't be attacked for doing so. It costs nothing to be civil and polite.  And if you can't be civil, then just stay home!

2) More Bread Pudding  
Bread pudding is relatively easy to make and can be inexpensive as it can be made with day old bread. Plus, it is a diverse dish that can be made in a wide variety of flavors, with different sauces, and accompaniments. I've had some superb bread puddings at local restaurants, and would like to see more restaurants offering it on their dessert menus. However, I also think there is a great opportunity for an enterprising baker to open a Bread Pudding Bakery. They exist in other parts of the country so why not in the Boston area? Skip opening another damn cupcake bakery, think outside the box, and opt for a bread pudding bakery instead. I've been pushing for this for numerous years and it still hasn't caught on. Why not?

3) Less Powdered Sugar
Stop using so much powdered sugar, covering pancakes and French toast, adding even more sweetness to sweet desserts. It doesn't make those dishes look more appealing to have a plain white powder on them. In fact, it acts to hide the natural look of the desserts, concealing their true nature. And adding it to sweet desserts is unnecessary as they are already sweet enough. It's overkill. Yet chef after chef still uses it and that needs to stop, especially its use on pancakes and French toast. Find other ways to make your food look better. Find a better way to make your desserts sweeter if that is what you really want to do..   

4) More Breakfast Pizza
A breakfast pizza, such as with potatoes, bacon, cheese and a fried egg, can be absolutely delicious. It isn't a difficult dish to create yet you won't find it available on many menus. Think of all the pizza joints you know and then consider which ones make a breakfast pizza. You might know one or two, at best. So why isn't it more popular and available? It is puzzling to me and it seems such a no-brainer. People love pizza so why wouldn't they also love a breakfast pizza? This too seems to be a missed opportunity for many so I hope more restaurants decide to add these to their menu.

5) More Duck Wings
Chicken wings get all the attention and you can find them in many different restaurants, often as an appetizer. There are even restaurants that specialize in chicken wings. Part of the reason for their ubiquity is likely that they are usually inexpensive. However, duck wings can be so much tastier than chicken wings, yet it is very difficult to find restaurants which offer them. Let's see more restaurant start offering duck wings on their menu, showing their taste and versatility. 

6) More Filipino Restaurants & Dishes
This is another matter I've been ranting about for several years. There is a dearth of Filipino cuisine both locally as well throughout the U.S., though a few regions seem to be opening several new Filipino restaurants. With only a few Filipino restaurants in the Boston area, there is a huge opportunity here for more Filipino spots. Or if even not an entire restaurant, maybe we could see more Filipino inspired dishes on other menus. This is also applicable to a number of other cuisines of which Boston doesn't have enough representation, like Peruvian, Croatian and Georgian. 

7) More Local Seafood
Something is seriously wrong as the U.S. imports over 90% of their seafood. Where is the love for domestic seafood? There is plenty of sustainable and delicious domestic seafood available and more of it needs to be served at restaurants and eaten at homes. For example, why serve Asian shrimp, especially considering problems such as the Thai slavery scandal, when Gulf shrimp can be just as good? We should support local fishermen and our local economy by buying more local seafood. Local seafood is also more traceable, so you know where it has been counter to imported seafood which can have a much murkier origin. Price alone shouldn't be the reason to opt for imported seafood.

8) More Sake At Non-Asian Restaurants
In the Boston area, Sake is largely confined to Asian restaurants and there is no reason why that should be the case. Sake pairs well with all sorts of cuisines, from Italian to French, Barbecue to Burgers. I've previously written about The Science of Sake & Food Pairings, explaining reasons why it pairs so well with varied cuisines. For Sake to become more popular and mainstream, we need more restaurants to carry and promote Sake. Tasting Counter is one of the courageous outliers, a non-Asian restaurant with multiple Sakes on their menu. Sake is not just for Sushi!

9) More Love For Niche Wines
So many excellent wines get largely ignored by the general public, and even by a significant number of wine lovers. I want to see more people willing to expand their palates and explore these niche wines, from Sherry to Georgian wines, from Crémant d'Alsace to Croatian wines, from Port to Greek wines. Why do you restrict your drinking when you could be sampling all of the world's wine bounty? We need more restaurants adding these niche wines to their lists, and then promoting them to their customers. We need more wine bloggers to write about these wines, persuading their readers to check out these niche wines. You'll find so many interesting and delicious wines if you break out of your usual drinking patterns and try something new.

10) More Food Pairings With Bubbly
Sparkling wine actually pairs well with numerous food dishes yet most people drink it only as a celebratory wine or as an aperitif. More people should try pairing sparkling wine with a variety of dishes, to learn how well it can pair with their dinner. We also need restaurants and wine sommeliers to start making recommendations for sparkling wine for various menu items. Whenever I've sought a wine recommendation from a sommelier, only rarely have they have offered a Sparkling wine recommendation. Sparkling wine even pairs well with simple foods, like potato chips! Why not set up a Sparkling Wine tasting with various flavored potato chips. 

What food & drink trends would you like to see in 2022?