Thursday, August 31, 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) Bar Vlaha, part of the restaurant group Xenia Greek Hospitality, will launch weekend brunch service this weekend on September 2.

Bar Vlaha debuted in Brookline earlier this year in March and is the first concept dedicated to honoring the Vlach people, who founded and nurtured the roots of Hellenic cooking and hospitality. The experience at Bar Vlaha is a chance to rediscover Greece, and this new brunch service is a way to rediscover brunch.

The new brunch service at Bar Vlaha continues to tell the story of the Vlachs who are a nomadic group of shepherds from the rural mountains, lakes and villages of Central and Northern Greece. The Vlachs bestowed the legendary virtue of philoxenia which is the ancient Greek art of hospitality in its purest form - the custom of offering generosity and shelter despite social class or background, and turning strangers into friends. The Vlachs are known for providing refuge, food and drink to weary travelers passing through their villages. Today Xenia Greek Hospitality lives by these same pillars of hospitality that start with a meal, kindness and conversation

The first part of the Bar Vlaha brunch menu is centered around boukies with smaller bites to share such as the traditional staples of Tahinopita with tahini, phyllo, cinnamon, whipped cream, berries and Saganaki with fried vlahotyri cheese, Metaxa, spoon sweets and pistachio. There is a section of the menu Eggs & Breakfast which showcases traditional dishes of the region such as Sfougato which is a baked egg casserole with zucchini, kefalotyri cheese, parsley, dill and mint and Breakfast Hilopites a housemade pasta with poached egg, Metsovone, brown sugar and olive oil. 

Another section called Dikoi, which translates to trays, offers three different styles of brunch trays that are a symbol of Vlach hospitality as food and drinks were commonly shared on trays when brought to the table. The three trays are Greek Breakfast, Shakshouka and Make Your Own Gyros with chicken or lamb souvla. And it would not be a Vlach experience without Pita. The brunch menu includes the traditional sweet Bougatsa with phyllo, custard and cinnamon and also a savory Kimadopita with minced ground beef, cumin and coriander.

At Bar Vlaha, Beverage Director Lou Charbonneau has amassed a lively celebration of Greek spirits that embody the terroir of the region with playfully named yet seriously crafted combinations. The Bloody Melpo, a traditional Vlach name and take on a Bloody Mary, is made with Tsipouro and a house Greek style mix, and can also be served as a larger format brunch tray with lamb chop garnishes. There is also a Mimosa tray with a bottle of Vlach sparkling wine and selection of Greek juices such as mandarin, blood orange, peach, sour cherry vyssino, kiwi and banana. The Kalambaka Fog uses Stray Dog Greek gin, Italicus, Earl Gray, vanilla bean, nutmeg, oat milk and egg white which makes for a powerful brunch libation after its namesake town. Most of the dishes range from $10-$20

Bar Vlaha weekend brunch will be open on Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. To celebrate the launch, Bar Vlaha will also be open on Monday, September 4 for Labor Day. Reservations can be made online at

The Menu looks quite interesting, and I'm eager to visit Bar Vlaha for their new Brunch.

2) Night Shift Brewing is raising a stein to Oktoberfests’s triumphant return! Their celebration dates have dropped so you can eat, drink and yodel at each of their spots. The annual Oktoberfest festivities have exclusive new releases and events at the Night Shift Beer Gardens, Everett taproom and Lovejoy Wharf waterfront restaurant. Night Shift’s Oktoberfest features a Stein holding competition, live music, festive bites and lots of fun for all. The brewery is also rolling out more Oktoberfest inspired releases than ever before with various styles:

Owltoberfest - German-style Helles - our clean and crushable flagship beer of Oktoberfest weekend. Brimming with notes of fresh bread, tangelo, and yellow peach. A hoot with every sip.
Prost Malone - unfiltered Munich-Style Lager that sings a smooth harmony of malty richness, toasted bread, and subtle, earthy hops. Brewed with rockstar flair and chart-topping flavor.
Chill Zwickelson - German-Style Zwickelbier that tees off with a fairway of bready malt flavor, subtle grassy hops, and a hint of citrus. A hole-in-one for your palate.
Kolsch Encounters - German-Style Kolsch that beams down a cosmic blend of crisp, light malts, and otherworldly refreshment. Hints of apple, pear, and a close encounter with deliciously fruity hops.
Dunkel John's Band - Munich-Style Dunkel that honors a legendary band with its name and label artwork. Smooth and delicious, with notes of rye bread, toasted grain, and zesty hops. It pairs best with good friends, warm blankets, and a crackling fire. This is one jam you won’t want to miss. Also, $1 from every 4-pack sold will be donated to the Community Music Center of Boston.

The Night Shift Beer Gardens at the Esplanade and Allston locations kick off the Oktoberfest celebrations on Friday, September 22, from 4-10pm. Enjoy the Oktoberfest inspired beers while you’re in the outdoors. The first 25 people at both locations will receive a free Oktoberfest t-shirt. The Allston location will also be serving One Mighty Mill pretzels.

The Everett Taproom hosts their Oktoberfest celebration on Saturday, September 23, from Noon to 11pm. In addition to the exclusive beer releases, the festivities include live music from the Hofbrau Polka Band and Intergalactic Kegger Time. Alongside the new Night Shift Eats food truck, The Sausage Guy, Far Out Ice Cream, and Lobster Proper will also be on site for the party.

Tickets to the Stein Holding Competition are $30 and include a 1 Liter Night Shift Brewing Stein and pour of Owltoberfest. Night Shift Brewing Oktoberfest Steinholding Competition will abide by the Official U.S. Steinholding Association Rules and 1st, 2nd and 3rd places prizes will be awarded for both the Men’s and Women’s Competition. The event is open to the public. Tickets are available at: 

The Lovejoy Wharf Oktoberfest celebration is taking over their namesake patio on Sunday, September 24, from 11:30am-8pm. In addition to the exclusive beer releases, the Hofbrau Polka Band will be playing and The Lovejoy Wharf team will be cranking out a variety of Oktoberfest themed menu items, plentiful with brats and pretzels and more!

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

The Origins & Early History of White Port

In Portugal during the summer, White Port & Tonic (Porto Tonico) is a common cocktail, being light and refreshing. However, many Americans are unfamiliar with White Port, known to the Portuguese as Porto Branco. Americans generally know about Ruby and Tawny Ports, often believing that all Port must be red. That's understandable as only about 10% of all Port production is White Port, and it can be difficult to find in the U.S.

White Port can be made from a wide variety of white grapes, with over 45 authorized types, such as Arinto, Cercial, Codega, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato, and Viosinho. It's generally produced in the same manner as Red Ports but they are usually fermented without any skin contact and commonly aged, for two to three years, in 550 liter oak pipes. White Ports range from dry to sweet, and the sweetest versions are sometimes known as Lagrima ("tears"). There's also a special category called Leve Seco ("light dry") which has a lower alcohol content, about 16.5%.

Most White Ports are released when they are young, but there's also a small category of aged White Ports. There's White Ports with an Indication of Age, similar to Tawny age categories, including 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 Year Old Ports. The 50 Year Old category is new, having just been introduced in 2022, and includes both Tawny and White Ports. Kopke has bottled a 50 Year Old White Port, as well as a similarly aged Tawny.   

You can also find Colheita White Ports, made from a specific vintage, and as an example, Kopke also produces a full line of Colheita White Ports. Finally, there's another relatively new category known as Very Old White Port, which includes old White Ports that don't fit into the other categories. Vieira de Sousa produces a unique Very Old White Port. 

I've previously enjoyed a number of Aged White Ports, such as those of Quinta de Santa Eufemia, and I find them to be complex, fascinating and delicious. They are well worth seeking out. And they also have raised a question in my mind. 

When was White Port first produced?   

That appears to be a question not addressed in the most common books about Port. Google searches also aren't too helpful. You can easily discover that Taylor Fladgate claims to have been the first, in 1934, to create a dry White Port, which they called Chip Dry White Port. You might also find a few references to White Port from the end of the 19th century. So, I endeavored to delve deeper into the history of White Port, to get more clarity, if possible, on the question of its origins.

The results of my research were relatively successful, as well as fascinating. In short, White Port appears to be probably as old as Red Port, extending back to the late 17th century. White Port was first exported to the U.S. in the first half of the 18th century, and those imports included old White Ports as well as Vintage White Ports! So, let's explore the early history of White Port. 


It was around 1680, that the first wines from the Douro region of Portugal became known as "Port Wines." England was initially the primary export market for these Port Wines. Were these initial wines only Red Ports, or were White Ports also being produced at this time?

During my research, the first reference I found to White Port was in The Lombard-Street Lecturer’s Late Farewell Sermon, Answer’d: Or, the Welsh Levite by David Jones (London, 1692), which mentioned, “… , the Guilt of the Husband, when he trespasses on the benevolence of his Pious Comfort with a buxom Harlot over a pint of White Port in a Hedge Tavern;...” A hedge tavern was generally a lower class establishment, and apparently white port was a common beverage in such places.

This reference is only about 12 years after the first mention of Port Wines, but it's clear from the context that White Port had existed before 1692. There was no effort to define "White Port," and it was apparently assumed that the readers would know it. Thus, it seems likely that White Port was created around the same time as Red Port. So, the known history of White Port extends back over 330 years. 

Over the next twenty years, Dr. William Salmon (1644–1713), an English doctor and author, wrote several books that mentioned White Port. Some of the books recommended White Port as an ingredient in certain medicinal elixirs, while one of his books mentioned it as an ingredient in various food recipes. He obviously saw White Port as a versatile wine, for health benefits as well as adding taste to various dishes.

His first book to mention White Port appears to be Dr. Syndenham’s Practice of Physick (London, 1695). One of the medicinal elixirs was made as such, “Take White Port Wine six spoonfuls, Powers of Lavender, Rosemary, and Limons, of each half a dram; white Sugar two ounces: mix for a Dose.” Additional medicinal uses of White Port were also mentioned in Ars Chirurgica: A Compendium of the Theory and Practice of Chirurgery (London, 1699), Botanologia: The English Herbal: Or History of Plants (London, 1710), and the Praxis Medica: The Practice of Physick (London, 1716)

In Salmon's The Family Dictionary: Or, Household Companion (London, 1696, 2nd edition), there were about 10 of so food recipes which used White Port as an ingredient, while the 4th edition (1710) expanded on this, with over 40 recipes such as a Sauce for Capons & Turkies, Veal Stewed, Buttering of Shrimps, and Fried Lamb Steaks.

One of the earliest British newspapers to mention White Port was the Newcastle Weekly Courant (England), September 7, 1723, which printed an advertisement for wine, which included, “Port white Wine, and red Port Wine.” During the rest of the 18th century, there were numerous advertisements in British newspapers mentioning White Port, but little description of this wine was provided. 

The Ipswich Journal (England), November 8, 1735, advertised Red and White Port, both available for  6 shillings. Another ad in the Gloucester Journal (England), December 14, 1736, had White Port for 6 shillings but Red Port was 6 shillings, 6 pence. The Gloucester Journal (England), October 29, 1751, advertised, for wholesale, Old Red Port (a dozen bottles for 19 shillings) and Old White Port  (a dozen bottles for 18 shillings). The Ipswich Journal (England), November 2, 1751, advertised Red and White Port, both for 5 shillings, 6 pence per gallon. These prices would remain the same in a similar ad in this newspaper in 1756.

During the 1760s and 1770s, Red and White Ports were generally sold for prices ranging from 5-6 shillings per gallon. In the 1780s, these ports started being sold for about 7 shillings.  

As for the United States, the first newspaper reference to White Port seems to be in the South Carolina Gazette (SC), December 7, 1734. There was an advertisement in the newspaper, listing the cargo of an merchant ship, which included Red and White Port. So, we see that White Port has been available in the U.S. for nearly 300 years.


As a brief inside, many resources claim that the first mention of “Vintage Port” was in a Christie’s auction catalog (dated 1773), which referred to a 1765 vintage port wine. However, my own research found earlier mentions. I'll note that at this time period, there weren't any specific regulations for the use of the term "vintage," and it just meant Port from a specific year. 

The Gloucester Journal (England), September 9, 1755, advertised an auction of wines, rums, and arrack. The offerings included "Six Pipes of curious Red Port, of the year 1752" as well as one from the year 1750. There were also "Six Pipes of White Port, of the year 1752." In addition, they had "A Parcel of Old Bottled Port, of the Year 1748." Although the term "vintage" wasn't mentioned, it's clear that these ports were made from a specific vintage, with 1748 being the oldest mentioned. 

The Boston-Gazette (MA), November 6, 1769, published a wine advertisement, which offered, “Red and white Port of the Vintage of 1764.” This ad actually used the term "vintage," and predates the information in the Christie's catalog. 


During the rest of the 18th century, there were numerous ads for White Port in U.S. newspapers, and nearly all provided little descriptive information about these wines. A couple exceptions though mentioned old White Ports. The Daily Advertiser (NY), June 4, 1788, mentioned “A choice cargo of White Port Wine, twelve years old, of a superior quality to any ever imported to this country.” The Maryland Gazette (MD), October 28, 1790, also had an ad for “White Port, fourteen years old.” White Port wasn't just a simple, sweet wine, but could be found in Vintage and aged styles.

Also during the 18th century, White Port made its appearance in Canada and Ireland. The first mention of White Port in Canada might have been in the The Derby Mercury (England), October 20, 1749, which published a letter from someone in Nova Scotia. The writer mentioned being able to buy Red and White Port for a shilling per bottle. As for Ireland, the Freeman’s Journal & Daily Commercial Advertiser (Ireland), June 15, 1775, had maybe that country's first advertisement for White Port. 


During the 19th century, the newspaper advertisements began to be more descriptive, offering for sale Vintage and aged White Ports. Let's begin with a review of several British newspapers during the first half of the 19th century.

The Leeds Intelligencer & Yorkshire General Advertiser (England), January 12, 1807, printed an ad selling “very FINE OLD WHITE PORT, warranted upwards of Four Years in Bottles, and nearly equal to the best Madeira.” This was obviously intended to be high quality White Port, although it was only aged for four years in the bottle. The Observer (England), July 6, 1834, presented an ad which included a White Port that had spent 15 years in the bottle.

As for Vintage White Port, the Chester Chronicle (England), September 2, 1814, mentioned an offer for sale of a “Parcel of Red and White Port wines, of the vintage 1812.” The Morning Chronicle (England), May 23, 1826, offered for sale, “...curious old White Port, vintage 1815.” The 1815 Vintage is now known as the Waterloo Vintage, as it was the year when the Battle of Waterloo was fought. In 2015, a bottle of 1815 Vintage Red Port was sold at auction for 6,800 Euros. I'll also add that The Norwich Guide and Directory by G.K. Blyth (London, 1842), printed a wine ad for, “White Port. Vintage 1798.” A White Port that was over 40 years old!

Some intriguing information on White Port production was provided in The Vintner's, Brewer's, Spirit Merchant's and Licensed Victualler's Guide by A Practical Man (5th edition, London, 1838). It stated,  “To Fine White Port Wine. White Port is a very stubborn wine, and requires to be fined and racked two or three times before it will become soft and pleasant. When the wine has been for some time in the vault, take two ounces and a half of isinglass, beat it very small with a hammer, and put it into two quarts of stale cider or perry, for forty-eight hours; then whisk it up into a froth in a can with some of the wine, and if the weather is temperate, out into the finings a gill or marble sand, stirring it well about again for five minutes. Leave the bung loose for three days afterwards bung it up for a fortnight, and rack it off into a Madeira pipe, using less of the finings than before. By this method the wine will be much improved.”

A bit more description on the nature of White Port was presented in an advertisement in The Morning Post (England), November 26, 1842. It started, “White Port, having the unmingled expression of the white grape, which flourishes in high perfection on the heights of the Douro, is rich, redolent, and vinous in flavor, and combines every luxuriant attribute that wine can possess.” 

Let's now move onto a review of several U.S. newspapers during the first half of the 19th century, which provided a bit more description of the White Ports offered for sale.   

The Philadelphia Inquirer (PA), March 14, 1837, printed an ad offering “..., old white Port of choice quality.” The Philadelphia Inquirer (PA), February 15, 1841, then offered “Extra Sup. Old Red Port, ‘Vintage 1815,’ wine wholesale; Extra Sup. Old White Port, ‘Vintage 1820.’ Both from Burmester’s private stock, at Oporto direct.” More Vintage White Port! This is also one of the first mentions in an advertisement of the actual source, Burmester, of the White Port offered for sale. Previous advertisements never mentioned the producer.

The Boston Evening Transcript (MA), October 24, 1850, mentioned, “London Dock Port and White Port, very superior.” And the Daily Republic (D.C.), November 18, 1850, in an ad for a wine shop in Philadelphia, offered “rare delicate WHITE PORT.”


During the second half of the 19th century, more British newspapers provided a bit of additional description of the White Ports offered for sale. However, mentions of White Port decreased over the course of the last 20 or so years of the 19th century.   

The Daily News (England), April 19, 1864, mentioned for sale a “white Port, bottled in 1840, a very choice specimen.” A 24 year old White Port!

The Newcastle Daily Chronicle (England), September 28, 1867, described White Port in general,  stating, “This wonderful wine may be found genuine and rich, fruity, and of excellent body, soft, delicate, and nutritious, of light and stimulating character, with fine aroma and choice bouquet, much crust, and a great deal of wing, and above all of a dry and silky finish.”

More Vintage Ports! The Western Morning News (England), December 19, 1867, printed a wine ad offering 8 bottles of White Port, vintage 1815, the Waterloo Vintage. The Daily News (England), August 18, 1869, had an ad for, “very fine white port, vintage 1851.”

The decrease in mentions of White Port was addressed in the Daily Post (England), October 22, 1869, which mentioned, “White Port. This rare Wine, once so much prized, has of late years dropped entirely out of sight and use, why it is difficult to say.” The reasons seem elusive, but its popularity would return in the early 20th century.

And in the second half of the 19th century, a number of U.S. newspapers provided additional descriptions of the White Ports offered for sale.

The Alexandria Gazette (VA), May 20, 1853, printed an article where the writer travelled to Portugal. He sampled some wine, and wrote,  “White Port, a delicious and very rare wine, somewhat resembling in flavor the dry Bual of Madeira.”

The Portland Press Herald (ME), August 16, 1856, then ran an ad offering, “choice White Port, very rich and sweet.” The Daily Exchange (MD), May 3, 1858, also had a wine ad, noting, “Port Wines—Sandeman’s competition red and white Port, in wood and in glass.” So, Sandeman is another of the few producers of White Port mentioned during this time period. And the New York Daily Herald (NY), June 21, 1873, offered “Old White Port, very rare.”

In an examination of an extensive wine cellar, a writer for The Philadelphia Times (PA), January 18, 1880, encountered a White Port. The article noted, “The White Port, of which there was a small quantity, had the appearance of a milky-like fluid of vinous odor and slight acidity. Such port was, I believe, and still is, in favor as an extreme curiosity of unusual value.” It also noted, “Others have supposed that its color or rather its want of color, was owing to the grape from which it was made.”

White Port in Ireland? The Baltimore Sun (MD), March 4, 1885, noted: “...the white port at one time so popular in Ireland.” The Irish newspapers I researched didn't make it seem that White Port was especially popular in Ireland, and I didn't find a huge amount of wine ads offering White Port. This is an area that could use additional research. 

The alcohol content of White Port? The Dayton Herald (OH), September 17, 1887, published a table noting the average alcohol contents of various liquors. For example Red Port was 23% while White Port was only 15%. So, there was a significant difference in the amount of alcohol in these two types of Port. 

The Chicago Tribune (IL), June 13, 1890, printed an ad for Port Wine, including, “Delicioso. White Port, fruity, delicately rich, a Ladies’ Wine par excellence.” This is the first mention of White Port being a "Ladies' Wine," and it might refer only to this specific brand. 

Russia and White Port. The Kansas City Times (KS), March 22, 1898, printed an article where the writer visited a large commercial wine and spirits cellar in Kansa City. He wrote, “Here is some white port wine and it is the first time it was ever brought to Kansas City. We imported it direct from Portugal and there are very few places in this country where it is used at all. It finds its principal consumption in Russia, where the wealthy classes are very fond of it.” It seems White Port was popular for a time in Russia, and that would be supported by other sources. 

One such source, Port and the Douro (4th edition, 2018) by Richard Mayson, noted, “In 1907, saw the loss of the lucrative Russian market which had favoured sweet white Ports. In an effort to boost sales of their own wines, the Russian authorities raised the duty on Port to the equivalent of £60 a pipe.” 

Fake Port! The Muncie Morning News (IN), December 18, 1898, presented an ad for The California Wine Company which sold “California White Port,” vintage 1886. White Port must have been so popular in the U.S. that California wineries decided to emulate it, creating their own versions. At this time, California was creating their own version of many famed wines, such as Champagne, Sherry, Tokay, and Madeira, 


During the first half of the 20th century, some British newspapers offered additional interesting information about White Port.

The Tamworth Herald (England), February 3, 1900, described the Menu for the Prince of Wales’s Derby Day dinner. The dessert was to be accompanied by a “royal tawny port, fifty years old, royal white port, also fifty years old.” A 50 year old White Port! 

The Manchester Courier (England), November 27, 1908, noted that white port was “a wine which is not in fashion in these degenerate days,..” Although there were more mentions of White Port in British newspapers at this time, it still appears that it wasn't as popular as before.

Another curious version of White Port. The Daily Mirror (England), November 16, 1925, presented an advertisement for Dr. Rutland’s White Invalid Very Old Port. The ad stated, “The reason why the majority of doctors now prescribe White Port instead of Red Port for invalids is because of its infinite superiority as a nutrient and restorative. Being free from tannin and acidity it is readily digested. Dr. Rutland’s White Invalid is a port of the highest possible degree of purity and has all the body and flavor of the finest red port without the latter’s heaviness and blood-heating properties. Hence it is the wine par excellence for gouty and rheumatic subjects. Made solely from the finest white grapes grown in the Douro Vineyards of Portugal and matured in cask for many years before bottling, guaranteed full strength.” In addition, the ad mentioned, “the Port that carries the certificate of the British Analytical Control.” 

This elixir would be offered for nearly the next fifteen years, with its last mentions in 1939. As we already saw, back in the 1690s, White Port was an ingredient in a number of medicinal elixirs, so it's not   surprising that it might show up again as a health product. However, Dr. Rutland's White Port seems to be only a Port, without the addition of any other ingredients. It's unclear how it might have differed from other White Ports. 

The Stockport County Borough Express (England), November 26, 1925, had an ad for Beverly’s Wine & Spirits Merchant, which offered their own white and red ports. Their No.8 White Port, was noted as, “It is a fine, sound wine of a light nature that is refreshing and beneficial to drink. It has the delicious sweet flavor of Portugal finest, sun-ripened white grapes, the juice of which is well matured in the wood.” They were said to sell direct from the vineyards of the Douro. 

White Port was popular again! The Daily Mail (England), December 2, 1927, mentioned “Clubland White Port” and noted, “This is the very finest specimen of White Port shipped to England to day, and is in immense demand all over Europe.” 

As for the U.S. in the first half of the 20th century, although there were plenty of advertisements for White Port from the Douro, it seemed that California White Port Wine garnered much more attention.

The Spokane Chronicle (WA), February 6, 1900, had an for White Port Wine, selling for $1.25 per quart but which was also available for 12.5 cents a glass.

The Star Press (IN), June 23, 1900, printed, The California Wine Company are the sole proprietors of the famous California White Port Wine. None genuine unless bearing our signature. Beware of imitations.” Obviously other producers were starting to make California White Port, but the California Wine Company was trying to claim precedence, ignoring the fact that they had copied Portuguese White Port. 

The Muncie Daily Herald (IN), December 7, 1900, printed an ad for a drug store that sold “Pure White Port Wine” for 50 cents a quart. This Port may have been sold for health purposes, considering the fact this was a drug store.  

The Omaha Evening Bee (NE), June 17, 1902, presented a wine ad for a White Port Wine, that was “a genuine California White Port—not a cheap wine manufactured in some eastern rectifying house, but a fine beverage made from selected grapes.” The brand of this wine is not made clear, and it's unsure whether this referred to the California Wine Company or not. 

California was not the only U.S. state to produce their own version of White Port. The Kansas City Star (KS), January 19, 1905, advertised a "New York State White Port," a quart available for 75 cents. New York White Port would be produced throughout the 20th  century.

The Hartford Courant (CT), May 14, 1907, also presented an for California White Port Wine, with the bold claim, "Better than an imported one."

The Los Angeles Evening Post-Record (CA), October 18, 1907, presented an ad for Star Wine & Grocery, which sold various California wines, including White Port. Their White Port was described as “One of the finest wines on the market today. Unexcelled as a tonic or fall stimulant. Guaranteed absolutely pure; per gallon $2.00.” 

The Lead Daily Call (SD), November 26, 1912, printed a sale ad, offering "Five year old White Port" which was made by "the Italian-Swiss Colony people of California, the largest wine and Brandy distillery in the world,..

The Boston Evening Transcript (MA), February 19, 1912, had a large sales ad, which offered bottles of Vintage 1885 White Port (from Portugal) for $1.30 a bottle. 

So, we can see that the history of White Port essentially parallels the history of Red Port. Vintage White Ports and aged White Ports were available during the 18th and 19th centuries, and were considered rare and compelling. Apparently, White Port fell out of favor during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and in the U.S., that might have occurred due to the rise of American-made White Ports, such as those of California and New York. 

Today, White Port is probably much less popular than it once was, but there seems to be a growing interest in aged White Ports. There are plenty of excellent White Ports being produced, and the new categories, like 50 Year Old White Ports and Very Old White Ports, are helping to bring attention to White Port. I'm enamored with aged White Ports, which present such a different and intriguing flavor profile than Red Ports. Wine lovers should embrace White Port, as as apertif, an after-dinner drink, or even paired with food.   

What's your favorite White Port?

Monday, August 28, 2023

Rant: Does A Restaurant Deserve A Second Chance?

Last week, a friend and I dined at a restaurant which was new to me. The menu looked very interesting, with some more unique offerings, so I was curious to visit. We ordered several appetizers, but I was disappointed that the dishes were just average, at best. They didn't live up to my expectations based on the descriptions in the menu. I had hoped for so much better.

After this experience, I probably will never dine there again. Even though the cocktails were good, the service was good, and I liked the decor, it wasn't sufficient to overcome the average food. There are so many other restaurants that I can patronize, places which offer much better than average food. There's no real reason why I should return to this restaurant. 

Restaurants may have only a single opportunity to satisfy a customer. There are a number of problems which could potentially stop that customer from ever returning to the restaurant. The service could have been atrocious, cleanliness might have been an issue, pricing might be too high, etc. There is so much competition in the restaurant industry, so customers have plenty of options. Why accept mediocre food when you can easily go elsewhere? 

What would cause me to give this restaurant a second chance? 

As the food was the issue, there isn't much that might convince me to return, unless maybe they got a new chef who did some major renovations to the cuisine. Even then, I might wait to see the restaurant reviews, to determine whether any positive changes had occurred with the new chef. 

This happened once before, as I stopped dining at a certain restaurant, returning only when they took on a new chef, someone I knew and whose culinary skills I very much respected. And when I returned, the cuisine was so much better, and I was pleased I gave the restaurant a second chance.

However, second chances are a rarity. We should be willing to give restaurants a potential second chance, but they need to convince us how they have changed for the better. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

A Tavola: Compelling Italian Cuisine in Winchester

As I've mentioned multiple times before, the Italian cuisine of Chef Joe Carli of A Tavola in Winchester is as good as anything you'll find in Boston's North End. It also made my list of 2022: My Favorite Restaurants. And if you live in the suburbs north of Boston, it's far easier to reach A Tavola than battle the traffic and parking issues of the North End. 

Last Friday night, I dined once again at A Tavola, sitting at the Chef's Counter, which looks directly into their small kitchen. It's a small and intimate restaurant, with a patio so you can dine outside if you so desire. Their menu often highlights local and seasonal ingredients, and a blackboard in the restaurant mentions those local producers. Their wine list concentrates on Italian wines, and there are many very good choices. They also have a full liquor license so you can opt for a variety of cocktails too. 

I opted for a bottle of wine to accompany our dinner, and I selected the 2016 Marco Bonfante Albarone. The winery was founded in 2000, but the family has been involved in wine production in Piedmont for eight generations. This wine is made from 100% Albarossa, a cross between Chatus and Barbera, and this grape became part of the Piemonte DOC Albarossa in 2009. About 70% of the grapes in this wine are first dried, similar in some respects to Amarone (hence the name "Albarone."). The wine then ages for about 24 months in French and then for another 12 months in the bottle.

With an alluring aroma of black fruit and spice, the palate presented elegance and restrained power, with a complex and delicious melange of blueberry, plum, black berry, spices and a touch of balsamic. The tannins were restrained, and it had a smooth and rich mouthfeel. The finish was long and pleasing, the acidity was excellent, and overall, it was an exceptional wine. 

For a first course, we began with two dishes, including this Burrata, with thyme roasted peaches, hot honey and EVOO. What a fine combination of flavors and textures, with the creamy burrata, the firm and sweet peaches, and the sweet, spicy honey. A taste of summer! 

Chef Carli is a wizard with home-made pasta, and you'll never go wrong with any of his pasta dishes, which are available as either half or full orders. I like getting a half-order of a pasta dish as a first course/appetizer. The Ravioli were parmesan filled, with a corn brodo, charred corn, sun-dried tomato and oregano. Another amazing pasta dish! Well balanced, full of flavor, and also with a summery taste. The ravioli were delicious, enhanced by the rich corn and tomato, and I even sopped up the last bits of it with my bread. I think the corn brodo, charred corn and sun-dried tomato would also be great atop scallops. 

For my entree, I chose the Crispy Pork Milanese, topped by a mizuna salad, lemon, and shaved parmesan. That was a huge piece of pork! The Pork Milanese was exceptional, incredibly tender with a delicious, and almost buttery, crunchy coating. Each bite was a pure delight and I made sure to finish it off, not wanting even a single bite to go to waste. One of the best Milanese dishes I've enjoyed in quite some time. Highly recommended. 

A Special for the evening was Blue Fin Tuna, seared rare, served atop basically a Greek salad. The Blue Fin consisted of two large and thick pieces of tender, rich and flavorful tuna. The knife sliced so easily through the tuna. The salad ingredients were fresh and tasty, and this dish also was a summery delight. 

For dessert, I decided on the S'mores, made with chocolate custard, graham cracker, and topped with toasted fluff.  A satisfying ending to dinner, with smooth, rich chocolate custard, crunchy grahams, and the sweet, thick and toasty fluff. 

I definitely need to dine here more often, and highly recommend it to all of my readers. It's a restaurant well worthy of your support, and it provides excellent Italian cuisine in a small, intimate setting. I've been a fan of this restaurant since soon after its opening, and its quality hasn't diminished in the least. If anything, it's only gotten better. 

A Tavola also has a couple wine dinners coming in the next few months. I've been to prior wine dinners and they were also impressive events, with lots of tasty food and wine. First, on September 27, there will be a wine dinner with Fantasy Fine Wines, and then on November 8, there will be a wine dinner with Vietti & M.S. Walker. You can get more information on their Calendar page.

So go and make a reservation for A Tavola

Monday, August 21, 2023

Rant: The Future of Wine Depends on Women

"Men collect, women appreciate--discuss."
--"Collecting: It's A Man's World" by Rosi Hanson. Decanter, May 2008

According to a new Gallup Poll, in the U.S., Beer is the most consumed alcohol (37%), with Spirits in second place (31%), and Wine in third (29%). In addition, men are two times more likely than women to consume beer, while women are three times more likely than men to drink wine. However, this statistic doesn't tell the whole story, as wine buying patterns has its own twist.

Another study noted that women buy about 61% of wines that cost less than $20, but men buy about 72% of wines that cost over $90. Overall, men spend more on wine, even though they may consume less wine, than women. In multiple articles, it's been noted that men, not women, tend to be more wine collectors, seeking more expensive bottles for their cellars. Women tend to buy wine that they will consume within a relatively short time. They tend to be more drinkers, not collectors. 

However, changes are underway, as more and more women get more passionate about wine, and are becoming collectors. The more women who get involved in the wine industry, from wineries to wine shops, sommeliers to wine educators, will lead to more collectors. Male wine collectors tend to be older, so who will replace them in the future? As younger generations are starting to move away from wine, the future of fine wine may be women. 

Are you a woman who buys and/or collects wines over $90? How long have you been doing so? Do you have a wine refrigerator or cellar? How many wines have you collected? 

If you do not buy or collect such expensive wines, why not? What might persuade you to start doing so?  

Thursday, August 17, 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) I'm excited that Greco Truly Greek is coming to Burlington! Xenia Greek Hospitality is expanding to the suburbs, opening a branch of their Greco Truly Greek eatery at The Burlington Mall, and it's currently slated to open in early 2024.  The new restaurant will consist of a 2,400 square foot indoor space, which will seat for 54 people, as well as a 625 square foot seasonal patio which will seat 34.

Greco Truly Greek eatery embodies the neighborhood that the owners Demetri Tsolakis and Stefanos Ougrinis grew up in, the stories they heard and the people they love. Greco shares all of their tastes of home. Greco is their “meraki,” the need to remember and create. Together with Culinary Director Brendan Pelley, the team at Greco has found a way to blend quality and convenience, and take Greek street fare to a whole new level.

The menu at Greco showcases a mix of customizable pita wraps, plates, salads, homemade sauces, soups, sides and loukoumades (basically Greek donuts!). I'm a big fan of their food, finding it delicious, fresh, and flavorful. Greco currently has four locations in Boston, and there are more to come.

2) On Friday, September 8, the Liberty Hotel will bring a bit of Cape Cod to Beacon Hill with a traditional New England lobster bake in the hotel’s private courtyard, The Yard. CLINK. Executive Chef Daniel Kenney has created a buffet feast with a raw bar, lobster, artisan dishes, dessert and signature cocktails to toast the end of summer. 

Menu highlights include hard shell Maine lobster, Wellfleet Harbor Oysters,clam chowder, herb roasted Gloucester swordfish, sweet corn on the cob, make-your-own strawberry shortcake, and more. The meal will be coupled with yard games, beer and wine. Tickets, available HERE for purchase, are $110 for adults (includes dinner, dessert and drink ticket) or $40 for children (includes kid’s clambake or item from CLINK’s kid’s menu).

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Hot-Dogs & Ketchup: A Historical Look

Last month, I posted Rant: Why The Hate For Hot-dogs & Ketchup?, in which I gave my support to the use of ketchup atop hot-dogs. There is still a contingent of ketchup haters, and their hate seems to have little logical basis. They will post comments from "Dirty Harry," President Barack Obama, and the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, to support their position, yet none of those three actually offer a rationale for their position.  

I decided to look into the history of hot dogs and ketchup, to try to determine the origins of the antipathy towards ketchup. In the end, it seems to me that such ketchup hatred is of more recent origins, and that initially, ketchup was a very common condiment for hot-dogs, its validity never questioned. 

The origins of hot dogs are murky, with multiple claimants alleging they were the first to offer hot dogs on rolls. They obviously were derived from German sausages brought to the U.S. during the 19th century. In the second half of the 19th century, these were known by a variety of names, including wienerwurst (or wienerworst), frankfurter sausages, dachshund sausages, wieners, red hots, and more. Differentiating the differences between these terms isn’t always easy.

Even the origin of the term “hot dog” is in dispute. Some claim it wasn’t invented until 1901 by a sports cartoonist. However, that cannot be true as the term existed for nearly 20 years before that. The earliest reference I found was in The Evansville Daily Courier (IL), September 14, 1884. In an article about Minneapolis and its new Mayor, it was noted he was cracking down on saloons and more. “Even the innocent ‘wienerworst’ man will be barred from dispensing hot dog on the street corner.” So, wienerworst was apparently a synonym for “hot dog” at this point.

Prior to this time, and throughout the rest of the late 19th century, hot dogs were commonly sold from wagons and stands, on streets and at fairs, at resorts and baseball games. Hot dogs seemed to become popular fairly quickly.  

Lunch wagons, offering hot dogs, especially at night, were a major component in the popularity of the hot dog. These lunch wagons may have had their origins in 1840, when Charles C. Dearbault, in Colorado, used a prairie schooner to sell eatables. Then, during the 1880s, these wagons apparently arose in Massachusetts, and quickly spread to other regions. 

The Worcester Daily Spy (MA), October 22, 1884, noted, “A new novelty upon the streets of the city is a lunch wagon, which goes about the streets until midnight with hot coffee and sandwiches.” Generally, these wagons operated at night, sometimes until the early morning hours, and they sold various sandwiches and coffee. According to a history in The Sunday Herald (MA), October 21, 1894, a 20 year-old former assistant janitor opened his own lunch wagon on January 7, 1890. The article noted, “It also introduced the juicy Frankfurter and the long roll that went with it.” It was also said that his customers would commonly say, “Give us a dog!”

The Sunday Herald (MA), October 21, 1894, published the above picture of a lunch wagon, noting “..the remarkable work of art which illumines the streets of our cities, the night lunch wagon.” Such wagons generally cost about $600-$1000. The article continued, noted how the lunch wagons had since spread to nearly every New England city, made inroads into the Central and Southern states, and had spread west as far as Minneapolis. 

Most of their sandwiches, including the frankfurter, were only 5 cents each, except for chicken and sardine sandwiches which were 10 cents. “The Frankfurter is cooked in a neat little broiler in the wagon, and placed smoking hot in a roll freshly cut. The combination does not differ from that of Coney Island fame, except that it provides more than two good mouthfuls. Every lunch cart has a big call for this eatable.” So, we see that hot dogs were very popular, and that the ones available in Massachusetts were probably larger than those found on Coney Island. 

Some of these lunch wagons also served Boston Baked beans, pies (commonly apple, squash and mince—and usually served with cheese), and Cheese sandwiches (for 10 cents). In addition, “Every lunch wagon man prides himself on the coffee he serves, sweetened and milked.” It was said that 9 out of 10 customers ordered a cup of coffee, with the tenth person ordering milk.

What condiments were served with these hot dogs? Unfortunately, most of the newspaper mentions of these lunch wagons and hot dog vendors didn’t mention anything about the condiments, simply mentioning the hot dog and its roll.

As an aside, ketchup has a lengthy history, but until the 19th century, it wasn't a tomato-based sauce. Then, in 1876, Heinz produced its own version of ketchup, initially called "Catsup," a blend of tomatoes, distilled vinegar, brown sugar, salt and spices. It was sold in glass bottles and started to get popular at the same time as hot dogs started making their mark.

One of the earliest mentions in a newspaper of a condiment with a hot dog was in The News (NJ), February 15, 1894, which mentioned a “hot-dog” peddler who served a “succulent frankfurter” with horseradish. That is more of a German culinary tradition. In a similar vein, and also following in a German culinary tradition, the Fall River Daily Herald, September 7, 1895, noted, “Peddlers of hot frankfurter sausages in Newark are not compelled by competition to give sauerkraut with their meat, but they are worried for fear the custom will be introduced from New York.” 

So, we can see that some of the initial hot dogs might have been served with horseradish or sauerkraut, a hold-over from their German heritage. 

Different condiments! The Buffalo Courier (NY), September 24, 1895, mentioned, “A dog is a long, narrow roll cut through the center and filled with a hot wiener and a dab of mustard.” No mention of horseradish or sauerkraut, although the use of mustard also owes much to its German heritage.

However, ketchup was a common condiment at a Massachusetts hot dog spot. The Boston Globe (MA), October 9, 1895, referenced “The Bowery” in Salem, Massachusetts, which was at a “famous rendezvous for ‘hot dogs’ and coffee.” The restaurant was said to have plenty of ketchup bottles, which were most likely used for their hot dogs. There was no other known reason for why they had all that ketchup. 

The Milton Rays (VT), October 6, 1898, also mentioned, “A man will guzzle 10 quarts of beer, a score of drinks of whiskey, eat cheese, onions and hot-dogs, putting ketchup on his mustard,..” So, we see one place where both mustard and ketchup were put on hot-dogs.

The Boston Globe, April 30, 1899, printed that, “The ‘frankfurters,’ sometimes known as the ‘wiener-wurst,” is a domestic product and comes in winding links, like a strong of elongated beads. It is not a pork sausage, but is supposed to be—well, no one really knows just what enters into the wiener-wurst—but it is very highly seasoned,…” There was then a mention of a combination of frankfurters, rye bread and horseradish.

Ketchup on hot dogs became hugely popular! The Press of Atlantic City (NJ), February 13, 1923, noted, “Every hot dog has its day, but the red sauce that so many favor to further flavor the said hot dog demands a whole week to retain its place in the public mind. This is Ketchup Week.” It's now clear that many people added ketchup to their hot dogs, and there's no mention that anyone objected to the use of this condiment on hot dogs. 

The Miami Herald (FL), January 27, 1924, in discussing a hot dog stand, mentioned, “Ask him for mustard and ketchup and onions and pickles.”

Glorifying the hot dog! The Greensboro Record (NC), November 9, 1927, mentioned that, “Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., has made known her latest fad—a small thing which provides for some $40,000 to be used exclusively for sponsoring a movement to “glorify the American hot-dog.” Most folks don’t eat hot-dogs, sometimes known by the nickname of “weiner,” but some do. So eating emporiums wherein the culinary delicacies are to be dispensed, amid mustard, ketchup and other acrid and appetizing condiments,…” This seems to indicate that hot dogs weren't that popular at this point, but ketchup was clearly a common condiment. 

Although many know of the hate of Chicago for ketchup on hot dogs, it actually seems more of a modern creation than something that extends back many years. For example, other areas in Illinois had no issues with ketchup on hot dogs. The Pantagraph (IL), July 10, 1938, stated, “Garnished with mustard or ketchup and placed in a bun, the ‘hot-dog’ is the great American sandwich!” There was a large Heinz ad in the Rock Island Argus (IL), September 15, 1938, which noted it went well on hot dogs. The Daily Chronicle (IL), January 6, 1939, mentioned that hot dogs, “By adding relish, mustard, or ketchup they make a fine lunch item.

The Daily Calumet (IL), August 7, 1948, noted,“But our great love for summer is hot dogs. Some folks like them with ‘the works’…ketchup, pickles, mustard, and just about everything they can think of.” And the Cardunal Free Press (IL), July 22, 1975, stated, “Yes, Virginia, beneath the onions, pickles, relish, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, mustard and ketchup there is a hot dog on the bun.”

Even the Chicago Tribune (IL), May 15, 1980, in discussing the Chicago-style hot dog, didn’t deny ketchup a place on the hot dog. “No one agrees on what constitutes a classic Chicago hot dog, but Chicagoans, whose habit supports more than 3,000 stands throughout the city, contribute unselfishlessly to the 19 billion franks consumed annually by Americans.” The article continued, “Ask for a dog ‘with everything’ and one can expect condiments like mustard, chopped onions, sweet relish, a dill pickle spear, sport peppers (those bulbous green cousins to the jalapeno variety), and sliced tomatoes. Celery salt, sauerkraut, and catsup are optional.” No hate for ketchup here, even by a major Chicago newspaper! 

The history of ketchup atop hot dogs extends back at least 125 years, but the hate for that combination is far more recent. If you don't want ketchup on your hot dog, there's nothing wrong with that. However, don't tell anyone else that they are wrong for wanting ketchup on their hot dog. They have the weight of history on their side.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Rant: Should All-You-Can Eat Buffets Return?

Two years ago, as restaurants began to reopen after being closed during the pandemic, most of those which once offered all-you-can-eat buffets decided not to reopen those buffets. Such buffets were seen as too dangerous, a health hazard, and justifiably so in many cases. It almost seemed as if such buffets would never return, or if they did return, they would need to drastically change. 

During the last two years, some restaurants have never reopened their buffets, and have no plans to ever bring it back. However, some buffets slowly began to return until now when's there's a myriad of articles touting that such buffets are making a major comeback. The pandemic didn't destroy the buffet. 

According to IbisWorld, an industry market research company, in 2022, buffets were a $5.5 billion industry, up 9% from 2021. Some believe it's partially due to the low prices for these all-you-can-eat spots, especially when inflation is such a major issue currently. As many restaurants get more expensive, these cheap buffets offer an alternative which appeals to many. This is supported by the fact that buffets started to get much more popular around March 22, as food prices rose. Other people feel that as such buffets often offer much more comfort food, it's what makes people happy. 

These buffets generally have tried to take measures to make them more hygienic, with sneeze-guards and more. That won't assuage the worries of everyone, but it seems clear that plenty of people are now willing to take the risk. Some restaurants will never bring back their buffets, but other restaurants will fill that gap. Buffets are returning and in a major way.

Not all of the all-you-can-eat restaurants offer a buffet table where you select your food. For example, at Maki Maki, in Woburn, you receive an extensive menu of all the available foods and you tell your server which foods you would like to eat. And once your finish that dish of food, you can order more off the menu until you're full. The food is always served hot and you know no other customer might have interacted with the food. It's a much safer version of a buffet, and one I prefer.

Most recently, I checked out the new Endless Hibachi & Sushi in Peabody, which has a similar concept to Maki Maki, where you order off a menu, but they also add Hibachi options. For only $20.95 for lunch ($34.95 for dinner), you can order sushi, Japanese appetizers, soup, salad, and your choice of Hibachi (steak, chicken, calamari, or vegetables at lunch). With the Hibachi option, they provide you as much food as you would receive at any usual Hibachi spot, including fried rice and veggies. It's an excellent value and the food was tasty.   

Have you visited any buffets recently? What are your thoughts on the buffets you visited? Why do you visit buffets? Is it primarily their lower price? Do you believe it's a good thing that buffets are returning? How can we make buffets safer? 

Thursday, August 10, 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) Saperavi, Khachapuri, and Plăcintă! What a delicious trio. On Thursday, August 17, at 7pm, the Moldova Restaurant, in Newton, will hold a Blind Tasting of Saperavi wines, a Saperavi Battle, with wines from Moldova, Georgia and the USA.

Joining the Moldova Restaurant will be:
Sommelier Erika Frey (CS, CWE, DIPLOMA WSET) lead presenter, representing USA
Importer/Distributor Kosta Chernikov from Saperavi Brothers, representing Georgia
Importer/Distributor Andrei Birsan from Wine of Moldova USA, representing Moldova

Immerse yourself in the rich flavors and aromas of this unique Georgian grape variety. Discover the diverse range of Saperavi wines and experience a true taste sensation. During the Saperavi Battle, you'll have the opportunity to sample different Saperavi wines, compare their characteristics, and vote for your favorites. 

Where there's Saperavi, there's Georgian Khachapuri. Moldova Restaurant will prepare these famous Georgian pies, as well as the Traditional Moldova pies called Plăcintă. Guests will also be able to order additional food from the dinner menu if they choose to.

You will be able to purchase wines to take with you. Restrictions apply. 21+ only event. You can purchase tickets, for $75 per person, HERE.

2) Charcuterie is commonly cured meats (especially pork), terrines, galantines, ballotines, pâtés, confit, and similar items. A charcuterie plate may also have cheese, bread, crackers and more. However, some restaurants have created more unique charcuterie plates, relying primarily on seafood rather than pork products. These seafood charcuterie dishes are especially good choices during the summer. 

Legal Sea Foods has introduced a new menu, which they call Sea-Cuterie, a seasonally changing selection of shellfish and roe to salads and cocktails. Items can be ordered individually, including Smoked Salmon Spread, Crab & Caviar Deviled Eggs, Shellfish Salad, and more.  Or you can order the Grand Board-Full Selection, so you can sample all of the individual dishes. In addition, Legal Sea Foods will soon be bringing back their Smoked Bluefish Paté. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Farm Grill & Rotisserie: New Bowl Menu, Same Excellent Food

For over 25 years, the Farm Grill & Rotisserie, a casual Greek restaurant in Newton, has been serving the public and their menu has changed very little during all that time. It has remained true to its more healthy, Mediterranean cuisine. Savvas Iliades, the founder of the Farm Grill, immigrated from Greece in the mid-1970s, beginning his career as a roofer and steel worker. However, he eventually transitioned into the restaurant industry, which led him to opening the Farm Grill in 1996. 

Back in 2020, I wrote about my initial impressions of Farm Grill, noting "Reasonable prices, freshly made dishes, and excellent taste make this a fine spot for a casual lunch or dinner. And if you want to have a small holiday gathering, you could purchase plenty of dishes here rather than cook at home. I understand why the Farm Grill has been so popular for nearly 25 years. If you've never been there, I highly recommend you check it out." 

Since then, I've dined there a few additional times, and recently was invited back, as a media guest, to check out a new addition to their menu, their new Bowls. A new addition to their menu is unique, but the Bowl addition fits in well with their culinary philosophy. 

Alex Iliades (pictured above), is the son of Savvas, and now runs the restaurant. I met him back in 2020, and got to chat again with him on my most recent visit. Alex, who attended Johnson & Wales, previously owned a donut shop and then a pizza shop for almost twenty years. He's personable and humble, and clearly passionate about Greek cuisine. Plus, he's the essence of hospitality, genuine in his manner, a true professional. He makes you feel like a valued customer, and you'll leave Farm Grill with a smile on your face.

Their regular menu has much to offer, for both lunch and dinner. I was there for lunch, on a Tuesday afternoon, and it was quite busy, both for dine-in and take-out. Alex told me that since COVID, their dinner crowd has changed drastically, with most people getting take-out rather than dining in. He is thinking of ways to attract more people to dine-in at night. 

As for their new Bowl Menu, Alex previously stated, “We’re excited to change up our menu while still offering the best in traditional Greek cuisine, from chicken lemon soup to baklava.” The Menu includes three standard, pre-made bowls, including the Athenian, Greek, and Vegetarian, but you can also create your own bowl, selecting from a list of choices. Each bowl costs $16.95, with the option of an extra $1.00 for feta cheese. 

The standard bowls include:
  • Athenian: Rice, chicken, pork, grilled mixed vegetables, spicy feta, and tzatziki
  • Greek: Rice, gyro meat, tomatoes, roasted potatoes, tzatziki, and mustard
  • Vegetarian: Tabouli, grilled mixed vegetables, chickpeas, beets, artichokes, and hummus
If you want to create your own Bowl, you select one item from each of the following categories: 
  • Grain: Rice, orzo, or tabouli
  • Protein: Chicken, gyro meat (beef or chicken), or shrimp
  • Vegetable: Grilled mixed vegetables, roast potatoes, or chickpeas
  • Sauce/dip: Hummus, tzatziki, spicy feta, or Greek dressing
  • Optional extra: Top with feta cheese
I opted to build my own bowl, selecting rice, chicken gyro meat, potatoes, hummus, and topped by feta. It was an ample-sized bowl, with lots of fresh and delicious food. I love their flavorful chicken gyro meat, and the potatoes were seasoned well. The creamy hummus was tasty and the feta was a pleasing addition. These bowls are definitely more healthy choices, and great choices for lunch or dinner, dine-in or takeout. 

The bowl was accompanied by a side of grilled pita, perfect for the hummus. 

My dining companion ordered the Vegetarian Bowl, and very much enjoyed the dish. It too was ample, and would please any vegetarian. 

I also got to try one of their Specials, the Grilled Lamb Kabob ($23.95), with rice and Greek salad. Lamb had been taken off their menu for at least eight months because the price had been too high. Recently, they have changed their recipe a bit, using a different cut of lamb (similar to a leg of lamb), and sourced from Australia or New Zealand. I love lamb and was impressed with the taste of this kabob. The meat was tender, juicy and flavorful, without any gamey taste. Even if you think you dislike lamb, you might change your mind after tasting these. Highly recommended.

Alex also mentioned that they are now working with a new, local farm, where they can get fresh meat, with the ability to source many different animals for their restaurant. 

The Farm Grill also serves Greek wine and beer, and I had a glass of Assyrtiko with my lunch. The wine was bright, crisp, and lemony, a good pairing for my Bowl. 

For dessert, I had some warm Rice Pudding, reminiscent of smooth tapioca pudding, and it wasn't overly sweet. Alex is working on creating a few new desserts, such as something like a Baklava "chip,"  thinner and crisp. I'll be keeping an eye on when those new desserts are released so I can check them out.   

The Farm Grill also has an extensive Catering menu for your summer parties, or the upcoming holidays. You can order items such as Mousaka, Pastistio, Greek Salad, Kabobs (lamb, beef, chicken, swordfish, shrimp, vegetable), Gyros, Side Dishes and desserts. Skip the cooking and let the Farm Grill cater your next party.

Farm Grill & Rotisserie made my list of 2022: My Favorite Restaurants, and will certainly make my 2023 Favorite Restaurant list as well. Their new Bowl Menu is an excellent addition to the restaurant, ample, delicious and more healthy. The quality of their food hasn't diminished in the least since my first visit back in 2020. Alex Iliades is continuing the fine culinary legacy of his father. If you visit the Needham/Newton area, you definitely should check out the Farm Grill.  

Monday, August 7, 2023

Rant: Instant vs Cook & Serve Pudding?

Instant vs Cook & Serve Pudding
? Cold vs Hot Pudding? Where do you fall on those choices?

For myself, the only choice is hot pudding, which means Cook & Serve Pudding mix. Yes, it takes longer to prepare it than Instant Pudding, but I believe the extra time is worth it, making the pudding more flavorful and rich. 

Instant pudding just requires a couple minutes of mixing it with cold milk, but the taste and temperature never satisfies me. I'd rather take the time to mix the cold milk and cook & serve powder in a pan, bringing it to a boil. Once the cook & serve pudding is ready, I'll top it with whipped cream, a nice contrast to the hot pudding. 

However, I'm starting to think I'm in the minority on my pudding preference. It seems that most grocery stores now carry very little, if any, cook & serve pudding boxes. You'll find plenty of flavors of instant pudding, but you're lucky if you find one flavor of cook & serve, and it's usually chocolate. 

Jell-O produces a variety of cook & serve flavors, including chocolate, chocolate fudge, vanilla, tapioca, butterscotch, lemon, banana cream, and coconut cream, but they also produce more flavors in their instant pudding line. It's rare to find the cook & serve flavors for tapioca, banana cream, and coconut cream at local grocery stores. However, the various cook & serve puddings are available on Amazon.

Why do grocery stores carry so little cook & serve pudding? Is it a matter of low demand? Is it a regional thing, where cook & serve pudding is simply much less common in Massachusetts? Is instant pudding more versatile (or simply quicker and easier), able to be added to various other desserts, from triffles to pies?  

Hot pudding may seem a more appropriate dessert for cooler weather, but I enjoy it during the summer as well. What are your thoughts on hot pudding?