Thursday, September 29, 2022

Greek Cuisine Surging in Boston: Xenia Hospitality Group

From Demetri Tsolakis and Stefanos Ougrinis, owners of Krasi Meze + Wine, Hecate and Greco truly Greek fast casual concepts, have announced the launch of Xenia Greek Hospitality, a new restaurant group. This is exciting news as I'm a huge fan of these excellent Greek restaurants, with Krasi, with its superb food and wine list, being one of my Top Three Favorite Local Restaurants. Krasi even has the largest Greek wine list in the country, and you can even purchase their wines at the restaurant to take home. 

As their website states: "At Xenia Greek Hospitality, we are inspired by the ancient Greek concept which is built on guest-friendship. Today, we often forget how important not only the food being served is, but most importantly how it is being served. With a single visit to any of our concepts, you can experience the highest level of hospitality, with care and attention to all our guests, so you feel welcomed in our home."

Xenia Greek Hospitality will also be expanding with additional Greco locations in Boston and beyond, as well as a new restaurant concept, Bar Vlaha, to open later this fall in Brookline. Xenia states: "Bar Vlaha is dedicated to the largest group of nomads in Greece who are called the Vlachs. They are shepherds who wandered and laid the foundation and roots of Greek cooking. This new concept honors the nomadic dishes and hospitality that originated from Central Greece, specifically the remote areas of Epirus, Metsovo and the Pindus mountains. It is to the Vlachs that we owe the ancestry of Greek food."

Xenia Greek Hospitality has also announced the most recent addition, in June, to their team, Culinary Director Brendan Pelley. Pelley has over a decade of experience at the helm of kitchens throughout the local area, including the Webber Restaurant Group, Doretta Tavern, Pelekasis at Wink & Nod, and Zebra’s Bistro & Wine Bar. In addition, Brendan’s has deeply rooted familial connections to Greek cooking. Brendan has already added some new dishes to Krasi and the Greco locations:

At Krasi, on their new Brunch menu, you'll find:  
Yiaourti Me Meli - Greek yogurt, honey, sour cherry spoon sweet, candied walnuts
Rizogalo - coconut milk rice pudding, chia, almond and apricot granola
Tsoureki - merenda (Greek nutella), kataifi crumble, spice roasted plums, whipped cream
Tost - sourdough, seasonal mushrooms, maidanosalata, mizithra
Solomo - smoked salmon, lemon-dill manouri cream cheese, boiled egg, caper berries, hallot toursi, koulouri
Halloumi - shishito, snap peas, radish, fermented green garlic sesame dressing
Spanakopita - 100 layer phyllo, spinach, leeks, feta, egg, dill oil, dehydrated kalamata olives
Omeletta - eggs, potatoes, herbs, kasseri, cured loukaniko

Krasi's new dinner menu items include:
Mavromatika - black eyed peas, roasted peppers, broccoli, turmeric pickled cauliflower, tehinas
Manitaria - paleokerisio roasted mushrooms, smoked paprika yogurt, farro
Lahano - spicy tomato sauce braised cabbage, golden raisins, almonds, puffed black rice
Skordostoumbi - baked eggplant, garlic, tomato yiahni, feta poulenta
Lavraki - sea bass crudo, nerantzosalata, dried Kalamata olives, pepperoncini gel
Xtenia - seared scallops, roasted corn kritharoto, cherry tomatoes, maidanosalata
Pikantiko - chicken, hot and sweet peppers, chickpea revithada

This weekend, on October 1, Brendan will unveil a few new seasonal dishes at all four Greco locations (Newbury Street, Pier 4 Seaport, Milk Street and Hub Hall), including:
Halloumi Pita - grilled Halloumi, skordalia garlic spread, onion, tomato, hot honey, hand cut potatoes (This sounds delicious!)
Naxos Salad - baby kale, pickled red onion, radish, crispy chickpeas, golden raisins, honey vinaigrette
Greco Bowl - crispy Brussels sprouts, cumin yogurt, lemon pilaf, baby kale, pickled onion, radish, skordalia garlic spread (crispy Brussels sprouts with cumin yogurt also available as Greco Side)

I strongly recommend that you check out Krasi Meze + WineHecate and Greco truly Greek. And I look forward to the opening of Bar Vlaha, to experience another aspect of Greek cuisine. Best of luck to Chef Pelley in his new position and it will be interesting to see what he brings to these restaurants.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Waffle Love (With Perogies) In Halifax

On one of the days in Halifax, we spent some time walking around the city, with several planned stops for our wandering. For breakfast that morning, we decided to stop at Waffle Love. The small restaurant, which opened in 2019, is owned by a husband and wife team, Matt Webb and Ania Benko. It's a casual and unpretentious spot, dedicated to the waffle, but with nods to the perogie.

The Menu primarily consists of various Waffle dishes, nine options priced about $12-$15, most which are sweet, such as the Sweet On You Waffle, made with bananas, nutella, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce, and the Oreo Lover Waffle, made with an Oreo-ice cream sandwich, whipped cream, crushed Oreos, and chocolate drizzle. With any of the waffles dishes, you can add scrambled eggs, fruit, maple syrup or vanilla ice cream. They also serve two types of Home-Made Perogies, Potato & Cheese (3/$5, 6/$8, 8/$11) and Potato, Cheese & Bacon (3/$6, 6/$9, 8/$12). 

I opted for The Classic Waffle ($14.75), which was served with two scrambled eggs, real maple syrup fresh fruit, and 3 bacon perogies. The dish is normally served with just the potato & cheese perogies ($14) but I chose the bacon ones instead for a 75 cent upcharge. A hearty breakfast and everything was delicious. The waffle wasn't the typical Belgian waffle, and was softer rather than crisper. I enjoyed its fluffy texture and taste, especially covered with some butter. The fruit was fresh and sweet, and the eggs were cooked just right. 

The perogies were excellent, and quite large, with a creamy and flavorful filling of potatoes, cheese and bacon. The exterior was crisp, with a nice texture, contributing to the quality of these items. Some of the best perogies I've had in quite some time. You don't often see breakfast perogies offered on local menus but maybe that should change. 

While in Halifax, you definitely should seek out Waffle Love, and be sure to enjoy some of their perogies too. Delicious food, reasonable prices, and the service was very good. 

Monday, September 26, 2022

Grand Banker: The Lunenburger (Lobster-Topped Burger)

While vacationing in Nova Scotia, we took a day trip to visit Lunenburg, which in the 18th century was founded as a British port. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a fascinating town to explore, from its waterfront to its colorful historical architecture. We explored the three-story Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, visited a local distillery, and for lunch, chose to dine at the Grand Banker Bar & Grill.

The restaurant, which opened back in 1996, looks out over the water and is a casual spot, with a predominance of seafood on its menu. The menu is broken down into Appetizers (14 options, $9-$24), such as Potato Skins, Nachos, Mussels and Fried Calamari; Entrees (9 options, $13-$50), such as Acadian Cajun Seafood Stew, Fish & Chips, and Seafood Linguini (there are some non-seafood options too, such as Beef Tenderloin and Rack of Lamb); and Burgers & Sandwiches (7 options, $15-$29), such as Lobster Roll, Fish Tacos, and Gourmet Grilled Cheese.

I began with a cup of Traditional Maritime Seafood Chowder ($10.50), which is made with haddock, shrimp, scallops, and clams in a New England clam broth and accompanied by a warm biscuit. The Chowder was more thin than thick, although not overly so and still with a creamy texture. It possessed a delicious flavor, with a plentiful portion of seafood. Seafood chowder is definitely more prevalent in Nova Scotia than clam chowder, and they usually have at least 4 different seafoods in them. . 

I then opted for their famed Lunenburger ($29), which includes 6 ounces of "hand formed fresh local ground beef", smoked mozzarella, smoked bacon, baby spinach (which I had them omit for me), garlic aioli, Nova Scotia lobster (all knuckle and claw meat0, and a tarragon butter sauce. It was also topped by a toothpick holding a bacon wrapped scallop. As you can see from the second pic, there was plenty of lobster atop the burger. Yes, it all worked well together, creating a more decadent sandwich, which was only slightly messy from the butter sauce. Salty, smoky, sweet, beefy and cheesy. The burger on its own would have been excellent, but the addition of the lobster elevated it to a different level. Highly recommended.

The Blue Rocks Fish Cakes ($16.50) was another winning dish. It included two large fish cakes made from haddock, salt cod, salt pork, & potato, sand erved with rhubarb relish and a side salad. The fish cakes had a pleasant crispy exterior, and a great taste, with plenty of fish and not just filler. They were seasoned well, nicely balanced, and definitely something I'd order again. 

If you ever visit Nova Scotia, you should stop in the historic town of Lunenburg, and dine at Grand Banker Bar & Grill. There are plenty of restaurant options in this area, and I wish I could have sampled the fare at some of these other spots too, but I can recommend Grand Banker, especially for their seafood dishes. 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Canteen: Chowder to the Crobster--Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

While in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, just across the water from Halifax, we stopped for lunch at The Canteen, a restaurant which has received many accolades. Chef, and co-owner, Renée Lavallée is very well known in Nova Scotia and even participated in the seventh season of Top Chef Canada. Located in downtown Dartmouth, it seats about sixty people and has a homey ambiance. Their website states they serve "honest, unpretentious food, made with love" and their menu is "influenced by classic French, Italian and traditional Nova Scotian cuisine - with a little bit of Renée's magic thrown in."

From their Tap selection, I opted for the Lake City Cider Neiforth Original Cider ($9). The cidery is located in Dartmouth on Portland Street. The Neiforth is made from 100% Nova Scotian apples, is semi-dry and has a 6.8% ABV. It was quite tasty, with a rich apple flavor, hints of apple pie pieces, and was mostly dry, with only hints of sweetness. 

The Lunch menu includes Sandwiches ($13-$23), such as the The Canteen Burger and The Haddock Burger; Salads & Soups ($13-$17), such as Heirloom Tomato Salad and Snow Crab Dip; and Not Sandwiches ($15-$17), such as Tuna Soba Noodle Bowl and Mussel & Frites. It's a relatively small menu but with plenty of varied options. The Menu is also subject to change, especially dependent on the availability of ingredients. 

I opted for a bowl of The Canteen Chowder ($17), which was made with haddock, smoked haddock, mussels, lobster, bacon, and fresh dill, as well as accompanied by a homemade biscuit. An excellent and complex dish, with fresh seafood flavors, a smoky element, and a delectable broth. Pure comfort food and perfect for all seafood lovers. 

The Crobster Roll ($23) is a blend of Nova Scotia snow crab and lobster, with grainy mustard, truffle aioli, and fresh dill, on a long, toasted roll. The addition of the snow crab was an intriguing extra, providing more seafood sweetness to the sandwich. The sandwich contained plenty of seafood, with only a slight addition of mustard and aioli. Another very tasty option.

My first impressions of The Canteen were very positive, and I'd recommend it to my readers, especially seafood lovers. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Steamers Lobster Company & Lobster Poutine: St. John, New Brunswick

On our recent journey to Nova Scotia, we drove and because of the length of that drive, about 12 hours, we decided to roughly break the trip into two days. So, we chose to stay the night in St. John, New Brunswick. For dinner that evening, we ended up at Steamers Lobster Company, which turned out to be an excellent choice.

It's a very casual spot, with a nautiacal theme, and most of the menu consists of seafood, although there are a few non-seafood options too. For Appetizers, you'll find items like Bacon-Wrapped Scallops, Wild Alsaka Pollock Wings, and Oven Crunch Buffalo Shrimp. Their Deep Fried Platters include dishes like Clams & Chips, Fish & Chips, and a Salmon Burger. The Captain's Favorites include choices like New Brunswick Snow Crab, Poached Salmon Dinner, and a Chilled Seafood Tower.

I began with a cup of tasty Seafood Chowder ($8--all prices are in Canadian dollars). It was filled with plenty of seafood, in a thinner and creamy broth, and was quite tasty. Seafood chowder seems to be a more popular item than clam chowder in these parts of Canada. 

We also ordered an appetizer of Mussels ($13), plump and flavorful mussels in a delicious and light broth, perfect for bread dipping. 

For me, the highlight of the meal was an appetizer which I enjoyed as my entree, the Lobster Poutine ($25) Crisp french fries, topped by a light gravy (likely chicken), cheese curds, and a plentiful amount of lobster meat. A decadent and delicious treat, the fries generally held up well to the gravy, maintaining much of their crispness, and the sweet lobster meat was a fine addition. This would have been an excellent poutine without the lobster, but the addition of the lobster elevated the dish and pleased my palate. Highly recommended!

Unfortunately, I didn't take a pic of the Lobster Roll ($27), but it too was excellent, cold with very light mayo and plenty of sweet lobster meat. 

Service was excellent and this would be a fine, casual spot for delicious seafood if you ever visit St. John.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Dockside Donuts in Nova Scotia: Donut Poutine!

During our recent vacation in Nova Scotia, we stayed one evening at The Inn at Fisherman's Cove, located on the waterfront in Eastern Passage. I was excited to stay here because it meant I was very close to Dockside Donuts, a mini-donut food truck which I raved about last year. 

It's a simple idea, and I continue to wonder why a similar truck doesn't exist in the Boston area. Fresh, hot mini-donuts are prepared to order, and you get your choice of toppings for your donuts. They also serve freshly squeezed lemonade, in a few different flavors. Who wouldn't enjoy such a food truck? The truck is generally open from 1pm-8pm, so these donuts aren't made for breakfast, though you could save them for the next morning. 

The Mini-donuts are available as a 10-pack, with your choice of two favors, for $6, or a 36-pack, with four flavors, for $18. Since last year, the price of the 10-pack rose $1, and the 36-pack rose $3. That is a very reasonable increase considering inflation, and the rising cost of ingredients, fuel, etc. The increased prices are still good values considering the quality and quantity you receive. You should also consider that a 10-pack is roughly equivalent to 3-4 full-sized donuts for $6 is really a bargain.  

There are about 16 flavors available to top your donut, from Bananas Foster to S'Mores, Chocolate with Toasted Coconut to Boston Cream. Above, is the Old Fashioned Plain and the Death By Chocolate. New flavors get added all the time when inspiration strikes and they decide to concoct a intriguing new flavor. The donuts are also hot when you receive them, so you'll want to start eating them as soon as you receive them. At a regular donut shop, it's usually rare to find hot donuts. 

To accompany your donuts, you can get a Freshly Squeezed Lemonade (24 oz/$3.50), in flavors including Regular, Strawberry, Blueberry and Peach. I tried the Peach Lemonade and was delighted by its bright peach flavors, some tartness, and only a mild sweetness. Very refreshing and I would definitely order it again.

While visiting Nova Scotia, I would have stopped at Dockside Donuts anyway, but this time, I had another compelling reason to check them out, to try their Donut "Poutine." There's no Fries, Gravy or Curds, so it's not an actual poutine, but instead it's a fun play on the concept. Donuts instead of fries, sauces instead of gravy, and whipped cream rather than curds. It's essentially a Donut Sundae, so who wouldn't be interested? 

They have made a few different versions of this treat, and I got the banana version. The hot donuts are topped by banana and butterscotch sauces, whipped cream, banana slices and nuts. It was as delicious as I imagined, and I was sure to finish every bite. The sauces were tasty, enhancing the donuts, and the fresh whipped cream was a welcome addition. The nuts add texture and flavor, and the fresh banana slices helped to elevate the entirety. Highly recommended!

If you visit Nova Scotia, I hope you'll stop by Dockside Donuts, And won't some eager entrepreneur in the Boston area open a similar truck? 

Monday, September 19, 2022

Rant: Eat More Mussels!

This past week, I traveled to Nova Scotia for vacation and enjoyed plenty of delicious seafood, from Seafood Chowder to Lobster Poutine. I also ate a seafood that is is inexpensive, delicious, very healthy, and an excellent sustainable choice. I'm referring to Mussels

Mussels are bivalve molluscs, generally from the marine family Mytilidae, and may inhabit both freshwater and saltwater. There are numerous types of mussels, about 17 which are edible, including blue mussels, green-lipped mussels, and zebra mussels. Interestingly, few people now eat freshwater mussels, though the Native Americans used to consume them frequently.

The delectable wild mussel has been consumed for thousands of years. In ancient Greece, mussel shells were used as ballots in voting. Farmed mussels extend back at least to the 12th century, when they were cultivated in the waters off the coast of France. The Pilgrims probably feasted on mussels during the first Thanksgiving, though they also fed them to pigs. In the U.S., during World War II, mussels were a common dish at diners because beef was rationed and thus rare.

Farmed mussels are one of the most sustainable forms of aquaculture, and you would be hard pressed to find any opposition to its practice. First, mussels are both easy and quick to grow, better than probably any other bivalve. Second, mussels are filter feeders, which eat algae, plankton and other microscopic sea creatures, and help to purify the water. They make the oceans cleaner which is a great benefit. Unlike many other seafoods, there isn't a worry about how much other fish are needed to feed them. And these farming operations aren't creating pollution, but instead help to clean the waters.

Mussels are also a healthy choice, one of the best seafoods you can consume. They are a good source of protein, with the added benefit of being low in calories and saturated fats. In some respects, that makes it a better choice than beef. In addition, mussels are a good source of selenium, vitamin B12, zinc and folate. Most importantly, mussels also possess a significant amount of Omega-3 fatty acids, which is important in reducing the risk of heart disease. A 3 ounce portion of mussels contains about 700 milligrams of Omega-3s, placing it high on the list of seafood with significant amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids. Plus, mussels have a far less risk of mercury and PCBs. In many ways, mussels are an excellent nutritious choice and should be a regular visitor to your dinner plate.  

What do mussels cost? Are they expensive? They are actually a very affordable choice, commonly under $5 per pound, making it a good value. Even at restaurants, mussel dishes ate generally relatively inexpensive. With the rising costs of beef, pork and chicken, it makes sense to purchase something like mussels instead. You'll get your protein, as well as all of the other health benefits, from vitamins to Omega-3s. At restaurants, mussel dishes are usually inexpensive as well. Scratch off another objection.

Many people complain that it is too difficult to cook seafood, but mussels are very simple. You can steam them in only 5-10 minutes, and you know they are done when the shells have opened. It couldn't be much easier. Though you can steam them in just water, you can use any liquid, and such liquids can imbue the mussels with a diversity of flavors. Try Sake or beer, or create your own special broth. Mussels are also versatile, and can be prepared in many other methods, in all types of cuisine. 

Another interesting bit of trivia is that you can tell the sex of your mussel based on the color of its meat. The meat of male mussels tends to have a tan color while female mussels tend to be orange. So the next time you enjoy a big bowl of mussels, try to determine their sex.

In 2009, the worldwide supply of farmed mussels was approximately 4 billion pounds, with China accounting for about 40%. In Europe, Spain is the leading producer of mussels. In 2010, the United States imported most of their mussels, with about 47% being imported from Canada and 42% from New Zealand. This was actually the first year that Canadian imports were greater than New Zealand. Within Canada, Price Edward Island (PEI) exports about 88% of all Canadian mussels, with Newfoundland and Nova Scotia occupying second and third place.

U.S. mussel production is only about 700,000 pounds, the majority grown in Maine with a smaller portion grown in the northwest region, especially Washington. The U.S. has much room for growth in this area, and should move forward to expand mussel aquaculture. Instead of importing most of our seafood, we should be finding ways to produce more domestic seafood, including mussels. They are sustainable and good for the ocean.

What is your favorite way to eat mussels? What restaurants have the best mussel dishes?

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Peruvian Taste Restaurant: 2nd Anniversary Specials

Two years ago, as the pandemic raged, Peruvian Taste Restaurant opened in Charlestown. It's located, almost hidden, in a heavily industrial area and it's not a place you would easily stumble upon. However, it's impressive and well worth seeking out. Check out my prior review for more background on the restaurant and a look at some of its delicious cuisine.

One of their specialties is Chifa, a tasty fusion of Peruvian and Chinese cuisines, and Peruvian Taste has more Chifa dishes, easily a dozen, than any other local Peruvian restaurant. Check out my prior article about the history of Peruvian restaurants and Chifa in the U.S. 

For their 2nd Anniversary, only on the weekends of September (and not available for take-out or delivery), they are running a number of food specials including:
  • Conchitas a la Parmesana ($12): Four scallops on the shell baked with parmesan cheese, white wine and butter,
  • Min Pao Special ($15): Chifa steamed bun, inspired by Barrio Chin original recipe containing chicken, pork, steak, quail egg, on a flavorful Chinese sauce.
  • Seco de Cordero a la Norteña ($26): Lamb shank slowly cooked after being marinated overnight with a cilantro sauce and peruvian spices, served with rice, beans and boiled yucca.
  • Causa Acevichada ($18): Traditional cold mashed potatoes with aji amarillo and lime juice filled with avocado and mayonnaise, shredded chicken layered with ceviche and fried jumbo shrimp.
  • Tay Pa ($31): Stir fried chicken, steak, shrimp, pork, mushrooms, snow peas, red peppers, boo choy, Chinese cabbage, string beans and broccoli. 
It's a small restaurant so I advise you to make a Reservation by calling 617-242-5100. If you can't make it for these Anniversary specials, then I highly recommend you dine there another time. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Channel Marker Brewing: A Killer Popsicle Style Sour Ale

As my regular readers know, I rarely write about beer, but sometimes I taste a particular beer which truly excites my palate, and I share that experience. Last week, I tasted just such a killer beer, from a local brewery in Beverly, and I even purchased a four-pack because I enjoyed it so much. 

Channel Marker Brewing is located on Rantoul Street in the Porter Mill building in Beverly, and it was formed by three friends, Justin Negrotti, Jake Crandell, and Tim Corcoran. They initially began brewing beer in Justin's garage in 2013, and launched their brewery in 2017. 

As their website states: "Channel Marker Brewing offers a perpetually changing menu of hand crafted, bright, and explorative microbrews. Our pride in freshness and quality compels us to keep production in-house, brewing everything on our five-barrel brewhouse. This small batch size gives us the freedom to brew experimental beers and our approach allows us to package several fresh batches every week. We have an affinity for brewing heavily fruited, expressive sours and hop-forward New England style IPA’s, but we offer a well-rounded portfolio of beer that includes lagers, stouts, porters, and more."

One of the beers that they are currently producing is Propeller, a Cherry Vanilla Popsicle Style Sour Ale. Popsicle style ales seem to be have been around for at least a few years, although this is the first one I've ever tasted. This particular beer has a 6.3% ABV, and is said to be a "Sour Ale brewed with sweet cherry, tart cherry, vanilla beans and milk sugar." 

Thie ale has a deep, rich pink color, and when you take a sip, the front of your palate is struck by bright cherry flavors, with a hint of tartness, The flavors then transform in your mouth, finishing with creamy vanilla notes, and the cherry taste becomes more subtle. I was enamored with how the delicious flavors evolved over my palate. In addition, it presented with only a mild hint of sweetness, which pleased me as well. Highly recommended!

You should visit their brewery in Beverly, and even though they don't have a kitchen, they usually have a food truck on the premises. In addition, Rantoul Street has some cool restaurants, including Soal Viet Kitchen, Frank, and Butter "Ur" Biscuit.  If you can't make it to their brewery, you can purchase some of their beers, including the Propeller, at Beacon Hill Wine & Gourmet in Melrose.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Jagunić Winery in Plešivica: Tasty Bubbly & Amber Wines

Continuing our visit to the Croatian wine region of Plešivica, our next visit was to the Jagunić Winery, located in Plešivica. We were looking forward to sampling more Sparkling Wines and Amber wines, hoping to continue to find excellent examples from this region. We were certainly not disappointed, and also enjoyed a delightful lunch. 

Jagunić is a family winery, owned and operated by 3 brothers, and our host was the oldest brother, Dominik. Dominik went to school for wine, finishing college in 2011, and he began making wine in 2013. His father "retired" from the operation of the winery in 2017, however he actually still works in the vineyards, and probably won't stop until he is physically unable to do so. True passion for the vine.

Dominik provided us some of his thoughts on the Plešivica region. First, he mentioned that the region can easily grow at least 30 different grapes however it doesn't currently have a signature grape, like many other regions. Even though this may be the case, I think Plešivica could make a case for having a signature type of wine, Sparkling. Dominik noted that the terroir of the region is excellent for bubbly, and it also fills a hole in the market. He also stated that there are few indigenous wineries in the region as most of those grapes are best for Sparkling wines and not still wines.   

Around 10-11 years ago, Jagunić started producing Sparkling wine and now it constitutes about 40% of their production. Annually, they only produce roughly 4,000 cases of wine and grow nearly all of their own grapes. They make three labels of Sparkling wine, including a Blanc de Blancs, made from 100% Chardonnay. Their first vintage for that wine was 2016 and currently only about 1560 bottles of the wine are produced. Nearly all of their Sparkling Wine, except the Blanc de Blancs, are non-vintage. However, the bubbly usually only has about 15% from another vintage so technically they could label it as vintage if they so desired. Dominik also told us, that "If you have a good base wine, your Sparkling wine can be three times better, but if you have a poor base wine, then the Sparkling wine will be five times worse."

In addition to their Sparkling wine, Jagunić also make 4 labels of Amber wines, all 100% varietal, including Pinot Noir, Traminac, Riesling, and Pinot Gris.

From the back porch of the winery, we could look out over their vineyards of Traminac (aka Gewürztraminer), which were planted in 2006, when Dominic started college. They believe the grape is ideal for sweet/dessert wines.  

We began out tasting with the NV Jagunić Three Stars Brut, produced in the Méthode Champenoise, from a blend of 40% Chardonnay, 10% Riesling, and 50% of a field blend of local varieties. The grapes come from three different vineyards, their best sites, and this particular wine was primarily from the 2019 harvest. Each year, the blend varies some, and the wine was a 12.5% ABV.  This wine is their main product, and it's available in Massachusetts, for around $30. It was fresh and crisp, with tiny bubbles, and a pleasing blend of flavors, including green apple, pear, a hint of brioche, and a lengthy finish. An excellent way to begin our tasting.

During the tasting, lunch was served, and we began with a light course of a domestic beef soup with home-made pasta. The broth and noodles were delicious, the broth possessing a nice depth of flavor. A very simple soup but compelling nonetheless. 

We moved onto the NV Jagunić Blanc de Noirs, which was made from 100% Pinot Noir, spent two years on the lees, and had a 12.5% ABV. This was an interesting wine, with upfront cherry notes but with a mild smokiness permeating the rest of the taste. Good acidity, some intensity in the taste, and a richer mouthfeel. A very different Sparkling wine.

The NV Jagunić La Bulle Rose, made from a blend of 70% Blauer Portugieser and 30% Pinot Noir, had a 12.5% ABV. The first vintage of this wine was 2016, and they initially experimented with a 100% Blauer Portugieser wine but found it lacking. Thus, they added some Pinot Noir to fill what they felt was missing. This wine is produced for the summer, and was bright, light and crisp, rwith tasty red fruit flavors. I think this would be another excellent wine for Thanksgiving too.  

A fresh and simple Salad was then served for lunch.

The centerpiece of our Lunch was a platter of veal neck, chicken filet (stuffed with cheese and ham), potatoes, and vegetables, all prepared under a Peka. Check out my prior post for more details about the Peka, such a superb way to prepare a meal. Our lunch was prepared by Dominik's mother, and it was delicious, with very tender and flavorful meats. 

There was also fresh home-made bread, with an excellent crusty exterior and a pillowy soft interior. This was all pure comfort food, and went very well with the wines. 

As for Amber wines, we enjoyed the 2020 Amber Pinot Crni (Pinot Noir), which underwent 7 months of maceration. With a 13.4% ABV, the wine had a light red color, and an interesting nose of red fruit. On the palate, it was bright and dry, intense and intriguing, with tart cherry flavors and hints of spice. A very pleasant and interesting wine.

I was also enamored with the 2020 Amber Traminac Crveni, with a 13.1% ABV. An alluring nose of tropical fruit, herbs and floral elements, all of which also come out on the palate. Firm but restrained tannins, honey notes, bright spices, kiwi and pineapple, and a lengthy, satisfying finish. Such an intriguing wine, bringing new flavors to your mouth with every sip. Highly recommended. 

Our visit to Jagunić Winery continued to confirm my respect for the wines of the Plešivica region, especially their Sparkling and Amber wines. Plešivica is also a region of natural beauty. In addition, we enjoyed a delicious lunch, and if you visit the Dalmatian region of Croatia, you must have a Peka experience, and preferably at someone's home rather than a restaurant.