Monday, June 26, 2023

Rant: Legal Sea Foods, Sake & A Missed Opportunity

I was pleased to see that Legal Sea Foods now carries four different Sakes, all available by the glass. However, I was disappointed in their presentation of their new Sake offerings, which perpetuates a Sake myth and constitutes a major lost opportunity. 

Legal Sea Foods has expanded their Sushi offerings at all of their locations, and now they all offer "rolled and/or pressed sushi." Nigiri, Sashimi and Maki can now be found at their various locations. This new Sushi is presented in their promotion of their "Sushi & Sake Menu," which states, "Sake is the Perfect Compliment to Our Fresh Sushi Offering!

Yes, Sake is an excellent pairing with Sushi, but it's so much more versatile and food friendly. And that is the heart of the lost opportunity. Why promote Sake for just Sushi? Why not promote it for their entire seafood menu? 

As I've said many times before, Sake pairs well with much more than just Japanese cuisine. It's a myth that Sake only pairs well with Sushi. There's not a cuisine that you can't find an appropriate Sake. And the best way to mainstream Sake, to make it more popular with the general public, is to make it available on menus at non-Asian restaurants. Let's see a sommelier at an Italian bistro recommending Sake with a pasta dish. Let's see a Burger or Pizza joint with Sake on their drinks menu.  

Sake and seafood, of all types and preparations, is such an easy and delicious pairing. Legal Sea Foods, in promoting just Sushi and Sake, is perpetuating the myth that Sake is only appropriate for Japanese cuisine. They should be promoting Sake as a pairing for their entire menu, from Oysters to Fish & Chips, from Lobster to Salmon. 

If they did so, they would likely sell much more Sake than just by pushing it for their new Sushi. Why limit Sake promotion to just Sushi, when it would pair so well with the rest of their seafood offerings? With all of their numerous locations, Legal Sea Food could do so much to help mainstream Sake, and all it would take is promoting Sake for their entire menu, rather than simply Sushi.  

Sake. It's for whatever you're eating for dinner.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Warren's Lobster House: First Impressions

On a recent trip to Kittery, Maine, we stopped at Warren's Lobster House for lunch. This was my first time at this restaurant, and it's located next to the Piscataqua River, just across from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It definitely has an old-school feel, and it's website claims that the restaurant was established in 1940, by Warren “Pete” Wurm, making it over 80 years old. 

The Portsmouth Herald, August 31, 1938

The restaurant's roots though might extend back to at least 1938, when Wurm might have first had a retail and/or wholesale lobster business. The above was the first newspaper ad I located concerning this business, and during the rest of 1938, lobster prices would range as low as 19 cents a pound, and never more than 23 cents.

The Portsmouth Herald, June 6, 1940

The above is the first advertisement for the restaurant, Warren's Lobster Co., noting it sold Lobster Patties, Fried Clams, French Fries and more. Their website states that when Warren’s was first opened, it was only a "six-stool lobster stand."

The Portsmouth Herald, October 24, 1940

Here's another of the earliest ads, mentioning that Fried Smelts were a special that week, and that Fried Fish were a common menu item. 

The Portsmouth Herald, July 18, 1941

Could Warren's Lobster House be a year older than claimed? Check out the large advertisement above, noting the restaurant's Second Anniversary, which would mean the restaurant opened in 1939. Plus, check out those prices! In an article in the Portsmouth Herald, July 24, 1941, it was also noted this was their second anniversary. In addition, owner Warren "Pete" Wurm had just opened a new, larger dining room, with a capacity of 100. The restaurant also had a smaller dining room for groups of 30 or less. So, did the restaurant first open in 1939 or 1940?

Today, the restaurant is even larger, with a capacity of 350, and it has seating on an outside deck, looking out on the river. It's a very casual restaurant, and was quite busy on a weekday lunch. It's clear this is a very popular spot.

It has a lengthy menu, which is primarily seafood although there are other options as well, from chicken to steak. There's plenty of fried seafood options, including Gulf Shrimp, Calamari, Sea Scallops, Native Clams, Haddock Chunks, and more (plate prices averaging $25). 

Some of the seafood entrees include Lobster Stuffed Haddock, Seafood Jambalaya, Scampi Casserole, Salmon Au Gratin, and Crab Topped Chicken Oscar. There's also an entire page of Lobster options, from Popcorn Lobster to Lobster Stuff Lobster Tails, Baked Lobster Mac n' Cheese to Double Stuffed Lobster Rolls, and much more. 

Most of the main dishes include the Soup & Salad Bar, which contains over 60 items (another very old school concept). Prices are reasonable, considering the quantity and quality of the dishes, as well as noting the high prices of some seafood items, such as Lobster.

I opted for a Fried Combo Plate of Sea Scallops and Popcorn Lobster ($35). The Popcorn Lobster consists of pieces of fried lobster claw and knuckle meat, with a side of melted butter. The dish came with a side of french fries, as as well as Soup & Salad Bar. The plump scallops were sweet and tasty, with a nice, clean taste. And the popcorn lobster was quite good as well, also sweet and with a nice, clean taste. 

My dining companion ordered the Tails & Claws ($38), a baked stuffed lobster tail and three boiled lobster claws. This dish also included the Soup & Salad Bar. The stuffing was buttery and slightly crisp, and the lobster was tender and delicious. 

I was pleased with our lunch choices, and there's plenty of the menu items I'd like to try on a future visit. It's an old school New England seafood spot, specializing in lobster, and if you're in the area of Kittery/Portsmouth, it would be worth checking out.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

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) In 2020, Chef Brian Poe and Owner and Operator Nick Giannotti announced the launch of Crane River Cheese Club – "a high-quality, chef-curated grocery delivery service featuring expertly curated meats, cheeses, seafood, farm fresh produce and other specialty groceries available." Now, they are pleased to share that they have received a license to sell beer and wines in-store.

As Crane River Cheese Club is located right next to Tip Tap Room, the beer brands that are carried at Tip Tap Room will be mirroring what can be purchased at Crane River. Customers will be able to purchase local brands such as Bissell Bros, Sacred Profane, Deciduous, and Widowmaker, as well as national brands like Jester King and The Veil. For the wide variety of wine, Crane River has hand-selected several French, Italian, and American options that will fit the theme of the shop nicely. Beer and wine offerings will be ever-changing, with new and unique items coming to the store weekly. 

Through our bar program at The Tip Tap Room, we have been able to create relationships with the best of the best in the beer and wine industry. Now that we are able to offer beer and wine at Crane River Cheese Club, we are excited to continue to build those relationships and offer customers a unique offering of beverages that they can enjoy at home,” said Crane River Cheese Club Co-owner, Nick Giannotti. “When paired with our food offerings, this selection of beer and wine will finally give customers the true experience of what both Crane River and Tip Tap are all about.”

2) Bar Pallino, from Chef’s Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette, is a natural wine bar and speakeasy located below coastal Italian hotspot Faccia a Faccia on Newbury Street. They are announcing, in collaboration with Jodie Battles (their beverage director and partner), their Summer Guest Bartenders Series. They will host a variety of guest bartenders this summer, starting on June 15. From 5PM to 9PM, Bar Pallino kicks off their series with Andrea Scacco, bartender at Nola Barcelona and the founder of Spiriti Artigiani, a popular Italian amaro and vermouth brand.

Andrea will be at Bar Pallino curating cocktails that highlight Spirito delle Dolomiti, a slightly balsamic and citrusy amaro, and Not Another Vermut, a vermouth from the portfolio of Spiriti Artigiani. Menu items for the night include:

Tiki Spirits with apple & lime juice, Not Another Vermouth and Spirito Delle Dolomiti
Big Notorious with vodka, pineapple, orange, passionfruit, lime juice and Spirito Delle Dolomiti
Not Another Manhattan with rye whiskey, Not Another Vermouth, orange bitters and lemon
Pinch of the Dolomitis with Sông Cái Dry Gin, Not Another Vermouth and Spirito Delle Dolomiti
Mazarol Old Fashioned with Matchbook Bourboun 102 and Spirito Delle Dolomiti
Angel Face “viso d’angelo” with rye whiskey, Spirito Delle Dolomiti and Not Another Vermouth
Another Funk dark rum, Not Another Vermouth, orange & lime juice and Jerry Thomas Bitters

Monday, June 12, 2023

Rant: Eat More (and Diverse) Seafood

Eat More Seafood! Eat More Seafood! Eat More Seafood! 

Yesterday, I went fishing with friends off the coast of Newburyport, traveling over 20 miles out to sea. Aboard The Wharf Rat, my friend Adam Japko's fishing boat, we had much luck, catching many haddocks, and one lone pollock, and we ended up with approximately forty pounds of fillets. It was a fun day, with excellent weather, and now we all have fresh fresh for dinner this week. I look forward to enjoying this delicious fish. When's the last time you went fishing? 

As I've said repeatedly before, in multiple articles over numerous years (and it continues to bear repeating), Americans need to eat more seafood. Seafood consumption will significantly lessen your chances of dying from the leading cause of death in the U.S., heart disease. That's a powerful reason why you should consume more seafood and it's far from the only reason.

Annual seafood consumption had been on a depressing decline, with seven years of constant decline, down to 14.5 pounds in 2013. In 2014, there was a tiny increase, to 14.6 pounds, but the best news came in 2015 when annual consumption actually increased nearly a pound to 15.5 pounds. The problem is that according to recommendations from the USDA, and many other bodies, Americans should consume at least 26 pounds of seafood each year, essentially meaning you should eat seafood twice a week. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the leading cause of death in the U.S. is heart disease, killing over 614,000 people each year. We all have had family and friends who have died from heart disease, and we should be doing what we can to reduce our own chances of acquiring heart disease. Do you want to die prematurely, leaving your loved ones without your presence? Do you want to die from heart disease when you could have adopted a small lifestyle change which might have saved you?

Seafood consumption
 is a significant key to reducing your chances of heart disease. Since the 1970s, over 20,000 research studies have been conducted on the health benefits of seafood and they have concluded that eating seafood twice a week can reduce your chance of dying from heart disease by about 36%. You won't find another single food that has been scientifically proven to reduce heart disease so much. Low seafood consumption is blamed for 84,000 deaths in the U.S. and 1.4 million globally. Besides helping to reduce heart disease, research has also been providing growing evidence of the health benefits to the brain and bones as well as against cancers and inflammatory diseases.  Eating more seafood is such a simple change to your lifestyle and it can bring so many health benefits.

Some good news has just been released, providing some hope to the situation. The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) just released information on seafood consumption in 2021, and it indicates that Americans consumed 20.5 pounds, a record amount. In 2019, Americans had consumed 19.3 pounds, and in 2020, they consumed 19 pounds, with Covid-10 playing a role in the slight decrease in 2020. 2021 consumption is still 5.5 pounds short of the recommended amount, but the increase in consumption is great news. Let's hope seafood consumption continues to grow over the new few years.

More good news has come out of the NFI report as well. Previously, the Top Ten most popular seafoods constituted about 90% of all seafood consumption. As I've also said repeatedly, Americans need to eat more diverse seafood, to expand beyond the most common seafoods and find the delights of so many different fish. In 2021, the Top Ten constituted only 76% of seafood consumption, a clear indication that Americans have been expanding their palates.

Shrimp stills takes the #1 spot, with Americans eating an average of 5.9 pounds, nearly a 2 pound increase since 2015. Salmon was #2, with 3.38 pounds, an increase of nearly half a pound since 2015. Canned tuna was #3, with 1.9 pounds, a decrease of .3 pounds since 2015. The rest of the Top Ten includes Tilapia (1.04 pounds), Alaska pollock (.78 pounds), Pangasius (.71 pounds), Cod (.6 pounds), Crab (.59 pounds), Catfish (.51 pounds), and Clams (.26 pounds). 

You should eat seafood that's not part of that Top Ten list, checking out the rest of the delicious seafood which is available, from mussels to dogfish. Expand your palate and delight in the wonders of the entire world of seafood.

Step up your game and eat more seafood in general, and be more diverse in the seafood you enjoy. Try to consume seafood at least twice a week. Seafood is delicious, can be prepared in a myriad of ways, and is extremely healthy. And why not go fishing and get some fresh seafood for yourself and your family? 

What's stopping you from reaching your seafood consumption goal? 

Thursday, June 8, 2023

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) Leave the grilling to The Liberty Hotel for Father's Day this year and celebrate dad at their Annual Father’s Day Pig Roast. Taking place on Sunday, June 18th at 3 p.m. on The Liberty Hotel's outdoor courtyard, The Yard, the Pig Roast offers an adult buffet and children's buffet featuring a whole roasted suckling pig served alongside slow-cooked St. Louis pork ribs, spicy creole shrimp and cheddar grits, and a wide variety of other dishes from Executive Chef Daniel Kenney. Guests can wash down the feast with a la carte cocktails, wine and beer. Rounding out the experience, live music will also be provided by DJ Skoolyahd followed by Conscious Reggae Band.

To purchase tickets and view the complete menu, please visit HERE. Pricing options include $85 for one adult cookout meal, $25 for children 12 years or under, and free for children 5 and under.

2) For Father's Day this year, Bistro du Midi is treating dad to a special a la carte brunch menu on Sunday, June 18th. Known for its French cuisine inspired by New England’s coastal region, the menu will feature dishes including a Tomahawk steak special and Fried Lobster French Toast (!!!) served with fresh berries, passion fruit, maple syrup, and crème anglaise. Please visit HERE for more details and to make a reservation.

3) For Father's Day this year, Chef Will Gilson’s Puritan & Co., located in Cambridge’s Inman Square, will be serving up a Prime Rib Dinner Menu in addition to its regularly available menu on Sunday, June 18. The Prime Rib Dinner Menu features a choice of first course, a 10 oz. prime rib, choice of side, and dessert. For the full menu and reservations, please visit HERE.

4) For Father's Day this year, Chef Will Gilson and his team at The Lexington will be offering a special, shareable fried chicken dinner in addition to the regularly available menu on Sunday, June 18. The dinner will include eight pieces of fried chicken alongside brussels sprouts and potatoes. Please visit HERE for more details and to make a reservation.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

A Greek Wine Dinner with Domaine Costa Lazaridi at Ithaki Restaurant

A fun Greek wine dinner introduced me to the culinary delights at Ithaki, which had been a mainstay of Ipswich for about 25 years but had moved to Peabody last year. Owned by Petros Markopoulos, this Greek restaurant has a very good reputation, and it's now located on Route 1, next to the Holiday Inn. Last week, I wrote about Breakfast at Ithaki, and now I'm going to detail a wine dinner, of which I was invited as a media guest to a trade event. 

Ithaki is a large restaurant, with a lengthy bar to the left, elegantly decorated, with a wine room to the rear of the restaurant. 

I liked the detailed octopus mural on one of the back walls.

There were about 12 of us at the Domaine Costa Lazaridi wine dinner, nearly all of who spoke Greek. It was a friendly and welcoming group.

Pictured here is Yianni Mirisis (on the left), the founder of Yiannis Distributing (who is importing the wines), and Petros Markopoulos (on the right), the owner/chef of Ithaki. 

The special guest at the dinner was Gerasimos Lazaridis, the Managing Director at Domaine Costa Lazaridi, a family winery located in Drama, in northeastern Greece. It was his father, Costa Lazaridis, who founded the winery, first planting vineyards in 1979, the first modern linear vineyard in the area. Costa had been previously involved in the marble business, but became interested in wine during his frequent visits to Germany. In 1986, Costa built the first modern winery in Drama. 

Drama has a lengthy history of wine making, extending back about 6,000 years, and it was also an important center of Dionysian worship, the god of wine-making and fertility, religious ecstasy and theater. Its modern history of wine-making though is such shorter and smaller. At this time, there are about ten wineries in the region of Drama, and international grapes dominate, although there are plantings of indigenous Greek grapes as well. Drama is sometimes called the "Bordeaux of Greece."

When Costa planted his first vineyards, about 21 acres, the grapes included Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Assyrtiko. This was risky as those grapes hadn't been planted before in this region, but they thrived and the experiment worked well. International grapes were chosen in large part for commercial reasons, to offer consumers grapes of which they were familiar, and which many people, worldwide, enjoying drinking. 

Today, they own about 300 hectares of vineyards, in four different regions (Adriani, Kali Vrisi, Katafito, and Platania), growing about 2/3 international grapes and 1/3 indigenous Greek grapes. Grapes includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Grenache Rouge, Malagouzia, Vidiano, Agiorgitiko, and Assyrtiko. They also own a distillery in Adriani and a vinegar factory in Kali Vrisi. 

Gerasimos stated that "wine is made in the vineyard," and with about 200 employees, 150 of them are employed in the vineyard. Climate change has affected their vineyards, so they have started planting at higher altitudes to try to avoid the problems of climate change. They currently have three different labels: Amethystos, Chateau Julia, and Domaine Costa Lazaridi.

In 1995, after years of petitions from Costa, Drama finally was awarded a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). 19 international and indigenous Greek grapes are now approved for this PGI.  

We began the evening with the 2021 Chateau Julia Assyrtiko ($22), and I'll note that Julia is the name of Gerasimos' mother. The four wines in the Chateau Julia line are single-varietal wines, both international and indigenous. These are intended to be wines reflective of terroir. Assyrtiko is best known as a white grape on Santorini, and in Drama, the grape takes on a slightly different flavor profile, generally being more fruity and aromatic. 

About 80% of this wine was aged for six months in stainless steel while 20% was aged in barrique. On the palate, the wine had a richer mouthfeel and crisp acidity, with a pleasing blend of flavors, including citrus and lemon, a touch of minerality and a hint of smoke. A satisfying and moderately lengthy finish. This would be an excellent wine paired with seafood, although it would also be a fine summer wine on its own.

We began our dinner with a trio of seafood appetizers, including Marinated Sardines. A delightful taste of the sea, with a delicious briny aspect, enhanced by the clean taste of the olive oil.

Lauraki Tartare, made with Branzino, was also fresh and tasty, with bright, clean flavors. 

The Tuna Crudo was another delicious dish, with silky tender tuna, enhanced with some citrus. All three dishes paired very well with the Assyrtiko. 

Our next wine was the 2022 Amethystos Blanc, which had been first released in 1992 and was now their most exported wine. The word "amethystos" roughly translates as "a person who cannot get drunk" and there's an ancient Greek myth, with a couple different versions, about it. There was once a beautiful maiden named Amethystos and she came to the attention of Dionysus. She rebuffed his advances, and prayed to the other gods for help. The gods transformed her into a white stone and then Dionysus, saddened at the loss, either poured wine upon the stone, or his tears (also made of wine) fell upon the stone. That turned the stone purple in color.

To both the ancient Greeks and Romans, they believed that the amethyst stone could protect you from becoming intoxicated. So, they wore or carried amethysts with them, and even crafted drinking vessels from it, believing such cups would prevent them from getting drunk. If only that were true!

The 2022 Amethystos Blanc is blend of 85% Sauvignon Blanc and 15% Assyrtiko, which was aged for three months in stainless steel. In the region of Drama, the style of Sauvignon Blanc is between Old and New World. It's not as intense as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and shares more in common with Loire Valley. It was pleasant and crisp, with bright grapefruit flavors, some minerality, and touches of lemon and citrus. It was easy drinking and a nice choice for the summer. If you enjoy Sauvignon Blanc, this would be an interesting wine which I suspect you would very much enjoy.

With this wine, we had a dish of Scallops, with a parsnip puree, mushrooms, and asparagus. The Scallops were excellent, tender and sweet, and cooked perfectly. The mushrooms added a nice earthy touch and the parsnip puree countered the sweetness of the scallops with a mild bitter note. And the wine was again a good pairing with this dish.

We next moved onto the 2022 Domaine Costa Lazaridi Rosé ($25), which was first introduced in 2014 and has become an extremely popular Rosé in Greece. This Rosé is made from 100% Merlot, and is more similar to a Provence style Rosé. With a delightful nose, the wine is dry and crisp, with pleasing red fruit flavors and a few hints of spice. Another excellent choice for the summer, or paired with food.

The Rosé was paired with a dish of Kiofte (Beef Kebob), with a confit tomato, onion, yogurt, and paprika. The kebobs had a nice crisp exterior and the interior was moist and tender, meaty and nicely spiced. The Rosé worked nicely with the meat, and it would also do well with a grilled burger. 

The 2022 Chateau Julia Chardonnay, which spent three months in stainless steel, was crisp and fruity, with delicious and bright flavors of apple, lemon and tropical fruit (especially pineapple). It possessed a little richness in the mouthfeel and had a lengthy, satisfying finish. Another wine that would be excellent on its own but paired well with food as well.

A dish of Halibut was accompanied by asparagus, pea risotto, and Harissa sauce. The halibut was moist, tender and flaky, cooked just right, and the spicy Harissa was a nice accompaniment. The pea risotto was also very good.

A palate cleanser, a Lemon Granita, was next brought out. 

Our final savory dish was Short Rib, with eggplant and roasted potatoes. The short rib was extremely tender, easily falling apart with your fork, and was delicious, with a slightly sweet glaze atop it. The potatoes were quite good as well. 

With this meat, we enjoyed the Amethystos Red ($28), a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 10% Agiorgitiko. It was suggested that decanting this wine would be a good option but not essential. It spent about 12 months in oak, 25-30% new oak. It has a very dark red color, with a nose of black fruit, spice and a hint to tobacco. On the palate, it has moderate tannins, ripe black fruit flavors, a spicy backbone, and a hint of tobacco. A lingering and pleasing finish. And a great pairing with the short rib. 

For dessert, we received a plate of Greek cheeses (such as Kefalograviera and Kasseri) with accompaniments. Cheese plates always please me, and this wasn't an exception. I especially enjoyed spreading some fig jam on the various cheese.

Our final drink of the evening was the Methexis Cigar 10 Year Old, a brandy made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc and aged for 10 years in the barrel. The term "Methexis" refers to a "state of euphoria/happiness after drinking." It is also called "cigar" as it's said to be good to drink wile you're smoking cigars. With a 43% ABV, this brandy had a fine, golden color and an alluring, fruity aroma. On the palate, it was strong, but not overpowering, with a complex and intriguing melange of flavors, including citrus and dried fruits, vanilla and spice. Definitely something to slowly savor over the course of time, reveling in the different flavors you experience with each sip. What a fine way to end this excellent wine dinner.

First, I was impressed with the cuisine at Ithaki, each dish well composed, cooked perfectly, and full of flavor. I certainly want to return here to check out more of their menu. Second, the wines of Domaine Costa Lazaridi were also impressive, obviously well made and excellent examples of the grapes of which they're made. As I've often said, I prefer Greek wines made from indigenous grapes, such as their Chateau Julia Assyrtiko, but there's no question that their wines, made from international grapes, are impressive in their own right. Gerasimos Lazaridis was also a fine ambassador for his family's winery, and was personable and knowledgeable. 

Once again, I have to ask, why aren't you drinking more Greek wines?

Monday, June 5, 2023

Rant: Don't Bake Your Wine!

As summer nears, and we've already have some hot temperatures, it's time once again for a vinous warning, a caution to protect your wine. 

During the summer heat, we often hear how we should stay hydrated, use sun screen, and otherwise protect ourselves from the intense sun. We also commonly hear how we shouldn't leave children or pets in a hot car, even if the window is open a bit. 

However, how often do you hear that you should protect your wine from intense heat as well?

It should be illegal, the torture of an innocent wine bottle by the application of intense heat. It's also a far too common crime during the summer season. Please stop this cruel practice, and persuade others to give it up as well. Do you really want to lose that bottle of wine you recently bought? Please save the gentle wine bottle.

Summer is the time for travel, and maybe you'll visit a wine shop or winery. You might buy some wine and then need to transport it with you. Often, the wine is just placed into the trunk, and you might leave it there while you travel quite a distance, or just store it there for a couple days while you are away. You need to realize that your trunk can get very hot and that heat can adversely affect your wine. It needs protection, just like you, your children, or pets.

When I travel, I often bring my metal wine case, which is insulated and holds a dozen bottles of wine. Thus, I can safely transport my wines and it has been invaluable on long trips. You don't need to purchase such a case, though if you often buy wine it can be a good investment. Instead, you can carry some other type of insulated bag, box or other container, the same type you would use to transport frozen food or other perishables. You need to protect the wine from the heat, keeping it at a cooler temperature.

An insulated container has other uses too if you travel. You might find some food you wish to take home, and that too can be protected on your long drive home. How many times have you stopped at a farmer's market or food shop, and wanted to buy something but worried about it surviving the journey home? An insulated container will resolve that issue.

It's an easy solution to a rampant problem. Save the wine bottle from the heat, so that you don't come home and find your wine is ruined. Cherish the insulated container.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Greek Breakfast at Ithaki: First Impressions

Ithaki, a mainstay of Ipswich for about 25 years, moved to Peabody last year. This Greek restaurant, owned by Petros Markopoulos, has a very good reputation, and it's now located on Route 1, next to the Holiday Inn. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, although I strongly suspect that most people aren't aware that it has breakfast. I attended a wine dinner there recently (of which I'll be writing about in the near future), and the food was excellent. And yesterday, I decided to enjoy breakfast there.

There were only about six people dining there yesterday morning, which is a major reason why I don't believe many people know of their breakfast service. I've also spoken to a number of people and they too were unaware. Ithaki's breakfast menu has plenty of the usual breakfast dishes, from Pancakes to Omelettes, French Toast to Eggs Benedict. However, a number of dishes have a Greek flair to them, such as a Greek Omelette and Breakfast Gyros. Prices generally range from about $11-$16, with a few dishes priced less and a few higher. 

We began with one of their starters, the Bougatsa ($11), house-made milk custard wrapped in phyllo, and finished with cinnamon and powdered sugar. I was pleased that they used restraint with the powdered sugar. The warm Bougatsa was delicious, with crispy phyllo and a creamy, sweet custard filling, accented by the cinnamon. It's certainly large enough to share and is a nice way to start breakfast. 

I opted for the Strapatsada ($16), which is made with two scrambled eggs, braised tomato, feta, house cured pork, and tirokafteri. Strapatsada, which is also known as Kayianas or Menemeni, may have been brought to the Greek islands in the Ionian Sea by Sephardic Jews during maybe the 18th or 19th centuries. It's considered a rather simple dish of scrambled eggs and tomatoes, but the version at Ithaki is elevated and impressive. First, there seemed to be more than just two eggs in this hearty dish, and they were within a tasty, savory, and slightly sweet, tomato broth. Second, the pork was very tender and delicious, easily breaking apart under my fork, and adding a salty edge to the dish. Third, the tirokafteri, a spicy feta spread atop the dish, was also excellent, and I spread much of it on the warm toast. I'll also note that this is a Gluten Free dish. Highly recommended!

The Greek Benedict ($17) consists of thick English muffins topped by an ample portion of house-made lamb hash and Hollandaise sauce. It's also accompanied by a side of crisp home fries. The lamb hash was superb, meaty and tender, spiced just right. I'd order that hash as a side the next time I dined here. The poached eggs were cooked perfectly and the Hollandaise was fresh and delicious. Definitely a top notch Benedict dish. And the home fries were cooked well too, tender with a nice crispness to the exterior. Another winner of a dish.

Prices are reasonable for the quality and quantity of the dishes. I saw some other dishes, such as the omelettes, and they too contained an ample portion of food. The other diners, who sat relatively closely to our table were very happy with their breakfasts too. I'd definitely return here for breakfast again, and I hope to spread the word that they do serve breakfast and its worthwhile to dine there. And if you do have breakfast there, at least one of your party should order that Strapatsada.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

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) Taste of Somerville returns to Assembly Row on June 14. The al fresco event – forced to take a three-year hiatus amidst the pandemic – will continue its 26-year legacy of celebrating Somerville’s dining and beverage scene while supporting community organizations. This year’s beneficiary is the Somerville Education Foundation whose mission is to promote learning opportunities for all Somerville residents. 

Taste of Somerville will take place on Wednesday, June 14, from 5:00-8:00pm outdoors at Assembly Row’s Baxter Riverfront Park, 330 Great River Road, in Somerville. In the event of rain, Taste of Somerville will take place on Thursday, June 15, or secondarily on Wednesday, June 21, from 5-8pm. 

This year’s event will feature more than 50 restaurants spanning Somerville’s eclectic offerings complemented by local spirits, wines, and craft breweries. The participating restaurants include: American Flatbread, Carolicious, Celeste, Civility Social House, Elm Street Taproom, Fat Hen, Five Horses Tavern, FoodDys Kitchen, Foundry on Elm, Fuji at Assembly, Gracie’s Ice Cream, Juicygreens, Juliet, Koshari Mama, La Brasa, La Posada Restaurant, Los Amigos Taqueria, Lucky Strike, Machu Picchu Restaurante Turistico, Mike's Food & Spirits, Neighborhood Restaurant, Olde Magoun's Saloon, Orleans, Premiere on Broadway, Redbones Barbecue, Revival, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, Saigon Tiger, Saloon, Salt + Stone, Shake Shack, Smoke Shop BBQ, Somerville Chocolate, The Burren, The Grounds Café, The Independent, Tony C’s Sports Bar & Grill, True Grounds, Union Square Donuts and Vera’s.

To wet the whistle, imbibe in sips from Remnant Brewing, Aeronaut Brewing Company, Sav Mor Liquors and Portico Brewing as well as spirits like Charlestown’s Chattermark Distillers and Aperol. Tito’s Handmade Vodka will serve up mixologist-curated specialties at the main event as well as in the “Tito’s VIP Lounge” where Island Creek Oysters will be shucked.

After three long years, we’re so excited to bring people together again for this celebration of Somerville’s dining and nightlife options,” said Jess Willis, Event Chair for Taste of Somerville which is organized by the Somerville Chamber of Commerce’s Dining & Nightlife Group. Added Stephen Mackey, President of the Chamber: “We created this event in 1997 to spotlight Somerville’s diverse food and beverage communities while supporting a local nonprofit. We’re grateful to be a part of the resurgence of large-scale food festivals.

Tickets and VIP experiences, starting at $55 per person, to Taste of Somerville are available now by visiting Ticket Union. Tickets include admission and unlimited food and beverage tastings. This event is open to all ages with special ticket pricing and activities for children.

2) Summer is finally approaching, and Kane’s Donuts has new flavors to celebrate. The month of June is filled with celebrations such as National Donut Day and Pride Month. Kane’s June flavors of the month include Soft Honey Cruller, Chocolate Sprinkle Donut, Zagnut Donut, Gluten Free Donut, Pride Donut and a Strawberry Vegan Donut.

The Soft Honey Cruller is a yeast dough twisted in the shape of a cruller cooked to a light golden color and then drenched in Kane’s Signature Honey Glaze. The Chocolate Sprinkle Donut is an old-fashioned cake-style donut frosted with Kane’s homemade chocolate frosting, then dipped in chocolate sprinkles. The Zagnut Donut is a yeast donut frosted with Teddy peanuts, then dipped in toasted coconut and topped with lines of our homemade chocolate frosting. The Gluten-Free Donut of the month is a Clementine Donut. Clementines are a deep, orange-colored hybrid fruit, a combination of mandarin and sweet orange; the refreshing flavor is unmistakable! Kane’s folds the fruit into their old-fashioned dough and then dipped in their Signature Honey Glaze drizzle with Clementine Icing. 

The Pride Donut, Love is Love, will be featured Friday, June 9 through the 12th. The donut is a yeast ring frosted with a creamy vanilla frosting festively decorated. This month’s Vegan Donut is a Strawberry Donut with a cake-style donut topped with a frosting made with fresh strawberries!